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Republican and Democratic Plans for Medicare and Medicaid Misguided: Push for Privatization will Accelerate Costs and Deaths
Leadership in Washington recognizes the damage our soaring health care spending is doing to our entire economy. Although their rhetoric differs, recent budget proposals from both Republicans and Democrats mistakenly place the blame on Medicare and Medicaid. Cuts to and privatization of these important public insurances will place us on a dangerous path that will leave health care costs soaring and more patients unable to afford necessary care.
Medicare and Medicaid must be left out of the discussion entirely until leadership has the courage to address the real reasons why our health care costs are rising, the toxic environment created by investor owned insurances and the profit-driven health care industry.
Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee, unveiled two proposals this week which if enacted would constitute a mortal threat to our nation’s health – particularly to the health of our seniors and our most vulnerable populations.
The first proposal, Senate Joint Resolution 10, would amend the Constitution by imposing rigid and arbitrary restraints on federal spending. The second, his fiscal year 2012 federal budget resolution (misleadingly and eerily called “The Path to Prosperity”), would essentially kill the Medicare program and gut Medicaid, among its other nasty effects.
Both proposals should be emphatically rejected.
I just returned from Madison, Wisconsin. The assault on the working class there is about much more than taking away workers’ rights to represent themselves and to demand fair compensation for their labor. It is a full assault on the lives of working families and on all but the richest people in Wisconsin. Jobs will be cut. Pensions will be cut. Health care and education will be cut. The state will be sold off in piecemeal fashion to the highest bidders as families will struggle to feed and house themselves. More and more will be given to the rich as the rest will face austerity measures.
It is all based on lies. The state has a solid pension fund and the deficit was largely created through recent tax breaks for the wealthy. (See http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2011/02/unions_arent_to_blam...)
Today I stood with 200 activists at the gates of Quantico Marine Base to protest the imprisonment and torture of a young patriot, Bradley Manning, who has not been convicted of any crime. It was the right way to spend the day set aside to remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Manning, 23, is alleged to have provided Wikileaks with documents that expose war crimes and other unethical behaviors being committed by the United States. He reportedly first went to his commanding officer when he saw that Iraqis were being imprisoned and tortured at the behest of the US military for simply publishing a document which questioned where the money went in Iraq. He was told to get back to work. Apparently when he saw more evidence of war crimes, he felt that the American public must know what is being done in its name. Manning is said to have joined the military because he believed in his country.
A cloak of sadness hangs heavy on my shoulders. It drapes to the very roots of my being. Approaching 70, in many ways I have every reason not to be sad. I am grateful to be still physically strong, energetic ,and vibrant. I have not lost much muscle mass, my mental and emotional faculties are still intact, I have a beautiful, intelligent daughter, doing well in college. My finances aren’t that great but I have plenty to eat, a roof over my head, my daughter has earned almost a complete scholarship at one of the best schools in the country, I have a dog and two cats; my girlfriend, also a dedicated activist, loves me; I have wonderful friends. Why on earth does this sadness permeate every cell in my being? Why can I never escape from it?
A new year and a new political party in power in the House of Representatives provide a new opportunity to keep pushing for a single payer/Medicare for all national health program. For Americans suffering through the increasing cost of health insurance and its decreasing coverage, the health care crisis continues and the health debate has not ended.
On December 16, 2009, I stood in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building with about a dozen single payer supporters. We were holding signs and standing vigil on the eve of the first time in U.S. history that a single payer bill would make it to the floor of either body in Congress. Senators Sanders, Brown and Burris introduced an amendment that would have substituted a national single payer health insurance for the health bill being created in the Senate at that time.
We celebrated that night because it was a victory, though a small one. Despite all of the corporate dollars and the teams of industry lobbyists opposing single payer, our persistence in pushing for the amendment, which included lobbying, letters, emails and protests at the Senate building, had paid off. The amendment was introduced on the floor of the Senate on December 17th, although it was pulled before it came to a vote.
What do you care about?
I became a physician because I care about people’s health. Specifically, I became a pediatrician because children are our future and I wanted to be part of the community that gives each child tools for a healthy, productive and fulfilling life.
Sadly, I discovered during my pediatric practice that the health environment in this country, unlike every other industrialized nation, is heavily corporatized and so places tremendous barriers to care. This makes high quality care difficult for physicians to provide and patients to receive. Now I advocate full-time for a national health program, Medicare for all, so that every person living in the United States will have access to the same standard of high quality medical care.
“Let us be dissatisfied!”
These words, taken from a speech by Dr. King, were the refrain of a speech today by the actor Wendell Pierce. He was the one of few speakers at the One Nation rally who began to express what I and my colleagues have experienced since George Bush left the White House. We must be dissatisfied until we have social and economic justice for all in this nation. Dissatisfaction fuels our drive to end the great inequalities in this nation until we succeed.
The United States is an outlier, abnormal when compared to other industrialized nations in so many ways. We have the greatest income inequalities (except for Singapore) and this inequality is associated with poor performance in many areas of social wellbeing. We spend the most on health care and we leave the greatest percentage of our population either completely uncovered (50.7 million) or partially covered and at risk of financial ruin in the face of a serious accident or illness.
Thousands of people are expected to arrive in Washington, D.C. on October 2nd, 2010 to participate in the One Nation Rally. This rally for Jobs and Justice could be simply a gigantic photo opportunity for the Democratic party to prove the strong support of their "base" in spite of the failure of the Democratic party to address the real needs of the population. Or it could become an effective demand by the people to insist on real reform for the environment, the economy, peace, health care, you name it.
Single payer supporters will be arriving from around the country to march together with the message that "we still have a health care crisis and we still need single payer health reform!" We invite you to join us and show solidarity. If you work in health care, please wear attire that shows it such as scrubs or a white coat.
Join us at the following events:
Friday, October 1st
Single Payer Party
6 to 8 pm
Busboys and Poets
5t and K Sts, N.W.
New York City Assistant District Attorney Reopens Dismissed Cases of Healthcare Activists, Re-arrest Imminent
What to Do:
Call the office of Cy Vance, Manhattan District Attorney, to Demand "No new charges for healthcare activists."
Ask to speak with Erin Duggan, Communications Director, (212) 335-9400.
What to Say:
"I'm calling because I'm concerned about ADA Eric Kratzville's decision to re-file charges against healthcare activists Kate Barnhart and Joan Pleune. These activists were already charged, and their cases were dismissed by a judge. The ADA is wasting city resources by pursuing charges against this nonviolent protest. Instead, he should prosecute real criminals, like insurance companies that deny people lifesaving medical treatment. ADA Eric Kratzville should NOT re-file charges against Kate and Joan."
A close reading of the new health care legislation, which will conveniently take effect in 2014 after the next presidential election, is deeply depressing. The legislation not only mocks the lofty promises made by President Barack Obama, exposing most as lies, but sadly reconfirms that our nation is hostage to unchecked corporate greed and abuse. The simple truth, that single-payer nonprofit health care for all Americans would dramatically reduce costs and save lives, that the for-profit health care system is the problem and must be destroyed, is censored out of the public debate by a media that relies on these corporations as major advertisers and sponsors, as well as a morally bankrupt Democratic Party that is as bought off by corporations as the Republicans.
The following text is the testimony that Dr. Margaret Flowers presented to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform at its June 30 hearing in Washington. Dr. Flowers is congressional fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program.
I am Dr. Margaret Flowers and I am here today on behalf of Physicians for a National Health Program, the leading physician research, education and advocacy organization in support of a truly universal single-payer health system in the United States. I will speak specifically about the contribution of health care costs to our national deficit and the evidence-based remedy to control these costs.
When compared to health care in other advanced nations, the United States excels in only one area – the amount of money spent per capita per year. Despite our high spending, the U.S. leaves a third of the population either uncovered or underinsured and thus vulnerable to financial ruin.
On May 5, 2009, 8 health advocates stood up to the members of the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Senator Max Baucus, to expose the exclusion of the health reform favored by the majority of people in America: a single payer/national improved Medicare for All health program. Industry lobbyists were invited to testify before the committee while single payer leaders were excluded despite a request to participate. The advocates, who became known as the Baucus 8, gathered one year later to discuss their motivations for speaking out on that day.
Please view this short video and check out the longer piece linked at the end if you would like to learn more about getting involved in the movement for true health reform:
Some people find my words on activism abrasive. My words are not welcome to all audiences. However, present realities compel me to say them. And I hope that for those who are shocked, that they feel some internal conflict, that my words stir their too comfortable minds to stretch and think.
My words are based on my direct visualization of the realities in a nation that is now a plutocracy, an empire ruled by corporate power. This is not the time to go through the motions of activism. The ruling class no longer hides its excess, but acts boldly and dares us to challenge it. Every day we see increasing abuses against our land and people but are fooled by the kool-aid of hope and change, hope and change. Isn’t that what we voted for and won?
Hope and change require more than voting. We must reflect honestly on the factors that brought us to this point in time and commit to effective change. Corporate power controls the media and our government. What we must do to shift power back to the people is based on the principles of clarity and uncompromising independence.
We must be clear about exactly what we require as a people. We can no longer be lulled by fantastical words like hope and change. We must know what we mean in concrete terms and have the courage to demand it. For too long in this nation, we have been accepting crumbs. We’ve been grateful for tiny increments of change because we are told that it is all we can have.
We must be uncompromising in our demands. We are talking about our livelihoods, our families, our future, our lives. Every inch that we concede means more for the ruling class and less for the people who are struggling to make ends meet and who are demoralized by the lack of respect for their wellbeing.