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Wait, You Mean If You Leave the Health Insurance Corps In Charge They'll Still Screw Us Like Before? Who Knew?
Health insurers shifting costs ahead of law: report
By Susan Heavey, Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some of the largest U.S. health insurers are changing their accounting practices to book administration costs as medical costs in an attempt to circumvent new industry reforms, according to a U.S. Senate panel's report released on Thursday.
Under the healthcare law passed in March, insurers must adjust their spending habits to meet new requirements. For example, large group plans must spend at least 85 cents of every premium dollar paid to them on actual medical care as opposed to administrative costs, while individual and small group plans must spend 80 cents.
Wall Street closely watches such spending levels, known as medical-loss ratios, or MLRs, as a sign of potential profits. Major health insurance stock indexes fell after the report.
Happy Tax Day: Are Americans getting our money's worth?
By Steven Hill
Most Americans seem to regard April 15 -- the day income tax returns are due to the Internal Revenue Service -- as a recurring tragedy akin to a Biblical plague. Particularly this year, with US government deficits soaring, everyone from the teabaggers to Fox News and Senate Republicans are sounding the alarm about a return to "big government." Recently former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani even stated that President Obama was moving us towards -- gasp -- European socialism.
Europe frequently plays the punching bag role during these moments because there is a perception that the poor Europeans are overtaxed serfs. But a closer look reveals that this is a myth that prevents Americans from understanding the vast shortcomings of our own system.
A few years ago, an American acquaintance of mine who lives in Sweden told me that, quite by chance, he and his Swedish wife were in New York City and ended up sharing a limousine to the theater district with a southern U.S. Senator and his wife. This senator, a conservative, anti-tax Democrat, asked my acquaintance about Sweden and swaggeringly commented about "all those taxes the Swedes pay." To which this American replied, "The problem with Americans and their taxes is that we get nothing for them." He then went on to tell the senator about the comprehensive level of services and benefits that Swedes receive.
"If Americans knew what Swedes receive for their taxes, we would probably riot," he told the senator. The rest of the ride to the theater district was unsurprisingly quiet.
The fact is, in return for their taxes, Europeans are receiving a generous support system for families and individuals for which Americans must pay exorbitantly, out-of-pocket, if we are to receive it at all. That includes quality health care for every single person, the average cost of which is about half of what Americans pay, even as various studies show that Europeans achieve healthier results.
By Margaret Flowers
It was with a sense of déjà vu that I watched the latest Frontline documentary about health care. “Obama’s Deal” endeavored to reveal the significant influence of health industry dollars on our political process; however, as in Frontline’s Sick Around America, the producers did a disservice by the failure to educate the public about the bigger picture of the health care situation in this nation and the range of possible solutions.
Video: Victory for Single Payers: Charges Dropped Against Doctors Paris and Flowers On April 14, 2010, in Eastside District Court, in Baltimore, MD., criminal charges against Single Payer champions, Dr. Carol A. Paris and Margaret Flowers, were dropped by the prosecutor. Attorney Kevin Zeese explained what happened inside the court room. Then, Doctors Paris and Flowers shared their feelings about the outcome of the case. Background: On Jan. 29, 2010, Doctors Paris and Flowers were arrested outside a hotel, at the inner harbor, where President Barack Obama was slated to give a speech. They were on a sidewalk holding a banner. The doctors had a letter that they wanted to give to the President and/or one of his aides, re: "Medicare for All". They were arrested for trespassing and for refusing to obey a police order. Check it out here. For information on Single Payer, go to these websites: PNHP, Prosperity Agenda US and Health Care NOW.
I had been covering veterans' issues for several years and thought I'd developed a thick skin. But the pain on the other end of the telephone line was difficult to stomach. Sergeant Chuck Luther, now back from Iraq, was describing his journey to hell and back. The worst part, he said, wasn't battling insurgents or even the mortar blast that tossed him to the ground and slammed his head against the concrete — it was the way he was treated by the U.S. Army when he went to the aid station and sought medical help.
In gruesome detail, Luther described what happened to him at Camp Taji's aid station. He thought he would receive medical care. Instead he was confined to an isolation chamber and held there for over a month, under enforced sleep deprivation, until he agreed to sign papers saying that he was ill before coming to Iraq and thus not eligible for disability and medical benefits. "They wanted me to say I had a 'personality disorder,'" Luther told me.
Luther's call did not come out of the blue. For two years I had been investigating this personality disorder scandal: how military doctors were purposely misdiagnosing soldiers, wounded in combat, as having this pre-existing mental illness. As in the civilian world, where people can be locked out of the insurance system if they have a pre-existing condition, soldiers whose wounds can be attributed to a pre-existing illness can be denied disability benefits and long-term medical care. Read more.
Dr. Margaret Flowers is a Maryland pediatrician and Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program, a single payer advocate and a musician. See: http://www.pnhp.org/ She was one of the speakers at a National Press Club event, Murrow Room, on April 13, 2010, in Washington, D.C. The forum dealt with the influence of coporate lobbies on U.S. elections. Dr. Flowers called for unity within the progressive movement in the struggle to “shift the power away from the corporations back into the hands of the people.” The affair was sponsored by the Green Party of Florida and the People’s Lobby Coalition for Public Funding Only for All Elections. Ms. Jennifer Sullivan, who is the coordinator of the People’s Lobby and the regional representative for the Green Party of Florida, served as the moderator.
By Dave Lindorff
If you’re like me, now that we’re in the week that federal income taxes are due, you are finally starting to collect your records and prepare for the ordeal. Either way, whether you are a procrastinator like me, or have already finished and know how much you have paid to the government, it is a good time to stop and consider how much of your money goes to pay for our bloated and largely useless and pointless military.
The budget for the 2011 fiscal year, which has to be voted by Congress by this Oct. 1, looks to be about $3 trillion, not counting the funds collected for Social Security (since the Vietnam War, the government has included the Social Security Trust Fund in the budget as a way to make the cost of America’s imperial military adventures seem smaller in comparison to the total cost of government). Meanwhile, the military share of the budget works out to about $1.6 trillion.
WRITING ABOUT THE UNSPEAKABLE (AIDS, the CIA and bio-warfare)
By H.P. Albarelli Jr. | TVNewsLIES
I don’t like having to write this article. I don’t like even thinking about it, but over the past few months its subject has come up repeatedly. Many television and radio hosts who have interviewed me about my new book, A TERRIBLE MISTAKE: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments, have, on their own, brought up the subject of AIDS and Fort Detrick and the connection between the two. Nearly the entire ten years I worked on the book, this subject consistently loomed in the background like some malevolent poltergeist, and was essentially considered unspeakable by practically everyone I interviewed. Now things are different.
Just a few days ago, one radio host, who had actually read my entire book, asked about the many trips various Fort Detrick bacteriologists and biochemists took throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and beyond to locations in Africa. Trips were to locations like the Belgian Congo and Burundi and French Equatorial Africa. A few media hosts have remarked about the thousands of rhesus monkeys and chimpanzees that Fort Detrick went through in their countless experiments during these same years; resulting in so many mutilated and dead primates that one former Army scientist, Dr. Henry Eigelsbach, told me that sometimes their bodies had to be “scooped up with a back-hoe and loaded into dump trucks” and then carted off for disposal and incineration.
Only yesterday, a very well informed radio host in California, Cary Harrison, at KPFK-FM, asked me about well-documented reports concerning the 1969 testimony of a high-level Pentagon biological warfare official before the U.S. House of Representatives.
Nobody in their right mind wants to think or believe that the American government had a hand in producing the dreadful disease AIDS, certainly not me. My father, as a dedicated and conscientious histologist, worked for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in the 1950s, and went on to devote his life to helping people in any way he could. He would have never done anything to hurt anyone, yet now there is strong evidence that other scientists with the U. S. Army may have done just that. Before his recent death, I asked my father about these reports. He sadly shook his head, and said, “I don’t know what’s happened to this country. I don’t understand it at all. It’s not the country I went to war for; it’s not the same country I was willing to die for.” My father was always a confident man. It distressed me to see him bewildered, but I too was bewildered. I didn’t at all like thinking about Fort Detrick and AIDS. Read more.
PACIFIC TIME: PDA LEADERSHIP HEADS TO CALIFORNIA TO PUSH ‘HEALTHCARE NOT WARFARE’ | Press Release
WASHINGTON, DC – The national leadership of Progressive Democrats of America will be in California next week for a series of events to support PDA-backed candidates and organize support for the Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign at the state Democratic convention.
“With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still open-ended tragedies, and a new health insurance law that will not solve the healthcare crisis in this country, the Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign is taking on added urgency every day,” said PDA National Director Tim Carpenter.
Carpenter and national PDA team members Laura Bonham, Conor Boylan, Kimberly Buchan and David Keeler will attend a series of meetings and events in California from April 13 to 18, with a focus on the Democratic convention that begins April 16.
The trip will start with a “Meet and Greet” with PDA-endorsed congressional candidate Tracy Emblem in San Diego at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 13, at the home of Mike and Jill Copass, 4042 Mount Blackburn Ave. Carpenter will be joined by PDA board member Steve Cobble for this event.
On Wednesday, April 14, a reception to benefit the Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign will be in Newport Beach, beginning at 6 p.m. at the home of Carl and Barbara Mosen, 7 Current, Newport Coast. The event will also feature PDA national Chair Mimi Kennedy, Healthcare NOT Warfare co-chair Norman Solomon, and actor and activist David Clennon.
The California Democratic convention will be held April 16-18 at the Los Angeles Convention Center and nearby JW Marriott Hotel. Dozens of PDA members from up and down the state will be in attendance as delegates; other members will attend convention meetings, and still others will help at the table PDA is sharing with the California Nurses Association.
To top off the week, PDA will sponsor a panel discussion, “The Fight for Journalism and Democracy in the 21st Century,” featuring John Nichols and Robert McChesney, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Venice United Methodist Church, 2210 Lincoln Blvd., in Venice. Featured guests will include Kennedy and PDA-endorsed congressional candidate Marcy Winograd.
“The week will be exciting and energizing, as we work within the California Democratic Party and with outside grassroots groups throughout the state on our shared progressive priorities,” said Carpenter.
Progressive Democrats of America is one of the nation’s fastest-growing grassroots political organizations; it recently celebrated its fifth anniversary and has active chapters in 45 states. PDA is dedicated to reviving the progressive tradition of the Democratic Party through grassroots organizing and working with elected Democrats to advance peace, justice and social, economic and environmental responsibility. More information is available at Progressive Democrats of America.
Healthy Vermont Bill Passes in Senate
Bill calls for custom-designed health care system
By Doug Racine, Candidate for VT Governor
MONTPELIER, VT — With an overwhelming 28-2 vote, the Senate today passed the Healthy Vermont bill (S.88). Senator Doug Racine (D-Chittenden) and the Health and Welfare Committee brought the bill to the Senate floor.
FDA, VA approve drug despite its link to soldiers’ deaths
By Martha Rosenberg | Nieman Watchdog
Seroquel is a widely-prescribed medication, with almost $5 billion in sales last year. But survivors of dead servicemen, torn and angry, question its use as part of a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sgt. Eric Layne's death was not pretty.
A few months after being prescribed a drug cocktail with the antidepressant Paxil, the mood stabilizer Klonopin and AstraZeneca's controversial antipsychotic drug Seroquel, the Iraq war veteran was "suffering from incontinence, severe depression [and] continuous headaches," according to his widow, Janette Layne, at FDA hearings for new Seroquel approvals last year.
Soon he had tremors. " … [H]is breathing was labored [and] he had developed sleep apnea," said Janette Layne, who served in the National Guard during Operation Iraqi Freedom along with her husband. On the last day of his life, she testified, Eric stayed in the bathroom nearly all night battling acute urinary retention. He died while his family slept.
Sgt. Layne had just returned from a seven-week inpatient program at the VA Medical Center in Cincinnati where he was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A video shot during that time, played by his wife at the FDA hearings, shows a dangerously sedated figure barely able to talk.
Sgt. Layne was not the first healthy veteran to die after being prescribed medical cocktails including Seroquel for PTSD.
In the last two years, Pfc. Derek Johnson, 22, of Hurricane, West Virginia; Cpl. Andrew White, 23, of Cross Lanes, West Virginia; Cpl. Chad Oligschlaeger, 21, of Roundrock, Texas; Cpl. Nicholas Endicott, 24, of Pecks Mill, West Virginia; and Spc. Ken Jacobs, 21, of Walworth, New York, have all died suddenly while taking Seroquel cocktails. Read more.
The Republican Party and major corporations have joined forces in the first major rearguard attack on health care reform, charging that the cost of complying with "Obamacare" is resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in added business expenses.
The crime that reform is guilty of: Slashing corporate welfare.
Under the previous system, major corporations were subsidized by the government to provide prescription drug coverage to their retired employees. At the same time, corporations could claim on their tax returns that it was they -- not the taxpayers -- who paid for the drug coverage, and could write the expense off as a tax deduction.
Health care reform cuts out that fat. The corporations still get taxpayer money to help pay for their drug coverage, but they can no longer continue the fiction that they're using their own money to do it. Read more.
Note: Although this topic was previously published, this article explains how corporations benefit while taxpayers pay much more clearly, especially toward the bottom of Ryan's article.
The regional and national leadership of Progressive Democrats of America will be in Pennsylvania this week for a series of events to support a state improved-Medicare-for-all, single-payer healthcare system.
"The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which recently became law, will not solve the healthcare crisis in this country," said Tim Carpenter, PDA national director. "The Medicare system proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that government can do some things much better than the private sector," Carpenter explained. "Healthcare corporations exist only to deliver profits for their stockholders--they do not actually provide healthcare."
The Medford Mail-Tribune reports this morning that Senator Alan Bates (D-Ashland) will propose a public option for Oregon - using a feature of the new health reform law created by Senator Ron Wyden.
From Damian Mann at the M-T:
A much debated public option that died amid the creation of a new national health care plan could be brought back to life in Oregon.
Oregon Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, is spearheading an effort to create a state-run health care plan that would provide a public option, paving the way for universal coverage within three to four years.
An amendment to the federal health care plan by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., created a provision that allows states to enact their own health care program, including the creation of a public option. The provision allows states to apply for a waiver from the federal law as long as the state health plan has provisions for cost containment and improving delivery of services.
After studying Wyden's provision, Bates, a physician who practices in Medford, said he believed the amendment would allow Oregon to expand its progressive health care program, called the Oregon Health Plan. Read more.
Insurance Industry Already Finding Ways To Game New System
By Dan Froomkin | Huffington Post
The insurance industry's attempt to weasel out of one of the few provisions of the new health care reform law that took effect immediately is a harbinger of what's to come.
In this case, the companies that were balking at covering sick children quickly relented under media, congressional and White House pressure.
But far from being satisfied with a windfall of new customers and massive government subsidies, the nation's insurance companies appear to already be busy devising ways to game the new system. Their goal, as ever: Maximizing profits by paying out as little on actual health care as possible.
And next time they start to weasel, Congress and the White House -- and the media -- may not be paying attention anymore.
"This is what you're going to see as each element in this plan comes up for implementation," said Marcia Angell, a former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine who now teaches at Harvard Medical School. "This insurance industry is going to give up nothing."
In the short run, companies are expected to keep doing what they've been doing, which means, among other things, jacking up their rates. "There's nothing to stop them from raising their premiums, and that's what they're going to do," said Angell, a supporter of "single-payer" health insurance.
The new law's ban on discriminating against adults with preexisting conditions doesn't kick in until 2014. Read more.
In forming his administration, President Obama abandoned the movement that had begun during his campaign for deal-making and a pragmatism that hasn't worked. That movement is still possible and needed now. Here is look at what is required, and how a version of it is forming in California.
We begin with this week's triple whammy.
Freedom vs. The Public Option
Which would you prefer, consumer choice or freedom? Extended coverage or freedom? Bending the cost curve or freedom?
John Boehner, House Minority Leader, speaking of health care, said recently, "This bill is the greatest threat to freedom that I have seen in the 19 years I have been here in Washington. . . It's going to lead to a government takeover of our health care system, with tens of thousands of new bureaucrats right down the street, making these decisions [choose your doctor, buy your own health insurance] for you."
This is exactly what Frank Luntz advised conservatives to say. They have repeated it and repeated it. Why has it worked to rally conservative populists against their interests? The most effective framing is more than mere language, more than spin or salesmanship. It has worked because conservatives really believe that the issue is freedom. It fits the conservative moral system. It fits how conservatives see the world.
The Democrats have helped the conservatives. Their pathetic attempt to make any deal to get 60 votes convinced even Massachusetts voters that government under the Democrats was corrupt and oppressive, not just inept, but immoral.
All politics is moral Read more.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today told Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) that he would work to ensure a Senate vote "in the coming months" on a health insurance public option.
In a letter to Sanders and Merkley the majority leader said: "I am a strong supporter of a public option, and I included the HELP Committee's public option in the bill I brought to the Senate floor last year. I was very disappointed when it became clear that we did not have the votes to keep it.
"Nevertheless, like you, I remain committed to pursuing the public option. . . As we have discussed, I will work to ensure that we are able to vote on the pubic option in the coming months."
Sanders said: "I very much appreciate Majority Leader Reid's continuing support for a public option and I am grateful for his commitment to bring legislation before the full Senate within the next several months. It's imperative that we have a vote on this issue and I'm glad that is going to happen.
"We need to add the public option to health care reform because the American people must have the right to choose a Medicare-type public option as opposed to just private insurance company plans. Further, a public option will provide much needed competition to the insurance industry and help us hold down skyrocketing premiums. It is my judgment that a majority of members in the House and Senate would support a public option when it comes up for a vote."
To read the letter from Sen. Reid, click here.
Discharged soldiers sue for millions over Anthrax experiment
By Vered Luvitch | Ynetnews
Dozens of soldiers who took part in experiment in early 1990s aimed at determining efficacy of Anthrax vaccine demand $80,000 each in damages. 'Physical harm was passed down to our children,' plaintiff says
Sixty-four former IDF soldiers are suing the Defense Ministry for NIS 18 million ($4.8 million) over what they claim is damage caused to them during Anthrax vaccine experiments in the early 1990s.
The experiments, which were meant to determine the efficacy of an Anthrax vaccine, were carried out in light of what was then defined at the time as the "strategic threat of a surprise biological attack facing Israel."
Nicknamed "Omer 2," the experiments included 716 IDF soldiers picked out of a pool of 4,000.
The lawsuit, filed with the Petah Tikva District Court, is based on the principle according to which anyone who decides to take part in an experiment must do so willingly and after considering the risks involved.
As part of the lawsuit the soldiers are demanding that the state reveal the ingredients of the serum that was given to them, in addition to NIS 300,000 (about $80,000) in damages to each plaintiff for mental anguish and emotional distress resulting from the involuntary use of one's body and medical negligence.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs cited an Israel Medical Association (IMA) report according to which the experiments were unjustifiable. Read more.
The language of violence always presages violence. I watched it in war after war from Latin America to the Balkans. The impoverishment of a working class and the snuffing out of hope and opportunity always produce angry mobs ready to kill and be killed. A bankrupt, liberal elite, which proves ineffectual against the rich and the criminal, always gets swept aside, in times of economic collapse, before thugs and demagogues emerge to play to the passions of the crowd. I have seen this drama. I know each act. I know how it ends. I have heard it in other tongues in other lands. I recognize the same stock characters, the buffoons, charlatans and fools, the same confused crowds and the same impotent and despised liberal class that deserves the hatred it engenders.
“We are ruled not by two parties but one party,” Cynthia McKinney, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket, told me. “It is the party of money and war. Our country has been hijacked. And we have to take the country away from those who have hijacked it. The only question now is whose revolution gets funded.”
The Democrats and their liberal apologists are so oblivious to the profound personal and economic despair sweeping through this country that they think offering unemployed people the right to keep their unemployed children on their nonexistent health care policies is a step forward. They think that passing a jobs bill that will give tax credits to corporations is a rational response to an unemployment rate that is, in real terms, close to 20 percent. They think that making ordinary Americans, one in eight of whom depends on food stamps to eat, fork over trillions in taxpayer dollars to pay for the crimes of Wall Street and war is acceptable. They think that the refusal to save the estimated 2.4 million people who will be forced out of their homes by foreclosure this year is justified by the bloodless language of fiscal austerity. The message is clear. Laws do not apply to the power elite. Our government does not work. And the longer we stand by and do nothing, the longer we refuse to embrace and recognize the legitimate rage of the working class, the faster we will see our anemic democracy die.
The unraveling of America mirrors the unraveling of Yugoslavia. The Balkan war was not caused by ancient ethnic hatreds. It was caused by the economic collapse of Yugoslavia. The petty criminals and goons who took power harnessed the anger and despair of the unemployed and the desperate. They singled out convenient scapegoats from ethnic Croats to Muslims to Albanians to Gypsies. They set in motion movements that unleashed a feeding frenzy leading to war and self-immolation. There is little difference between the ludicrous would-be poet Radovan Karadzic, who was a figure of ridicule in Sarajevo before the war, and the moronic Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. There is little difference between the Oath Keepers and the Serbian militias. We can laugh at these people, but they are not the fools. We are. Read more.
ScienceDaily (Mar. 29, 2010) — Iraqi children born in areas affected by high levels of violence are shorter in height than children born in less violent areas, according to a study at Royal Holloway, University of London.
The level of violence has varied across the provinces and districts, with the south and centre of Iraq being most affected and it is in these areas that estimates show children are on average 0.8cm shorter than their peers growing up elsewhere in the country.
Not long ago, the most prominent supporters of the public option were touting it as essential for healthcare reform. Now, suddenly, it’s incidental.
In fact, many who were lauding a public option as the key to a better healthcare future are now condemning just about anyone who insists that the absence of a public option makes the new law unworthy of support.
Consider this statement: “If I were a senator, I would not vote for the current healthcare bill. Any measure that expands private insurers’ monopoly over healthcare and transfers millions of taxpayer dollars to private corporations is not real healthcare reform.”
That statement is as true today as it was when Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, made it three months ago in a Washington Post op-ed. But now, a concerted political blitz is depicting anyone who takes such a position as a menace to “real healthcare reform.”
After devoting vast amounts of time, money, energy and political capital to banging the drum for the public option as absolutely vital during 2009 and through this winter, countless liberal organizations and prominent Democrats in Congress have made a short-order shift.
You are now to understand that the public option isn’t essential—it’s expendable. And all of the sudden, people who assert that a public option is a minimal requirement for meaningful healthcare reform are no longer principled—they’re pernicious. Read more.
The United States spends almost twice as much per person on health care as any other country in the world, and yet has some of the worst health outcomes of all developed nations. This means we spend a lot on care that does not contribute to better care, and there is extraordinary room for cost control that does not reduce access to or quality of care. However, we often pursue cost control strategies that are not based on evidence, and are designed to limit political opposition from the health care industry, for which our high costs are its high income. These efforts either don’t work at all, or don’t work on a scale that will have a noticeable impact on a system with double-digit premium inflation.
To a large extent, our high spending is due to a fragmented system where providers deal with hundreds of different insurers, all with different rules. This drives up administrative costs in the system, and means we lack what other jurisdictions have to effectively control costs: the ability to budget the health care system and publicly plan the allocation of limited resources to the communities and areas of care that need them most. This is why only nations with uniform payment systems and an extraordinary level of public oversight have been able to “bend the cost curve’’ without hurting health outcomes. Read more.
Here's the mp3 of the March 29, 2010, edition of "Connect the Dots".
Bill Moyers Journal: The Nation's John Nichols & National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill
Bill Moyers takes a closer look at the newly signed health bill and explores the future of health care reform with THE NATION's John Nichols and National Organization for Women president Terry O'Neill.
BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the JOURNAL. There was justification for those high-fives and victory signs at the White House this week. Passage of the health care reform bill was a big political win for a president and party, who, with midterm elections eight months away, desperately needed a few points on the scoreboard.
But the road to success is littered with casualties, most of them Obama's progressive allies. Among them, the women who worked so hard for his election. After all the White House hoopla was over and the lights and cameras were gone, the president quietly signed an executive order continuing a ban on federal funding for abortions, part of the deal he made with pro-life Democrats to get their votes. Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, NOW, was outraged. She said "feminist, progressive principles are in direct conflict with many of the compromises built into and tacked onto this legislation."
Terry O'Neill is with me now. An attorney, law professor and social justice activist, she became president of NOW last June.
Joining us is John Nichols, author, political journalist and Washington correspondent of The Nation magazine. He wrote this article on The Nation's blog headlined, "Now That Obama's Signed It, Let's Reform the Reform."
Both of them are progressives who prescribed a much stronger dose of health care reform than we got. So my question to them is, "Where do we go from here?" John, Terry, welcome to the Journal....
TERRY O'NEILL: Thank you.
BILL MOYERS: This is the most sweeping piece of legislation passed since Medicare in 1965. What do you think of it? Watch the program.
Update: There are now 80 cosponsors of the Public Option Act. Here is the current list: Reps. Baldwin, Berkley, C. Brown, Capuano, Carson, Castor, Chu, Clarke, Wm. Lacy Clay, Cleaver, Cohen, Cummings, D. Davis, DeGette, Delahunt, Doyle, Edwards, Ellison, Engel, Farr, Filner, Frank, Fudge, Garamendi, Green, Grijalva, Gutierrez, Hall, Hare, Hastings, Hinchey, Hinojosa, Hirono, Holt, Honda, Israel, Jackson-Lee, Jackson Jr., E.B. Johnson, H. Johnson, Kaptur, Kennedy, Kilpatrick, Kucinich, Lee, Lewis, Maloney, McDermott, McGovern, Meeks, James P. Moran, Nadler, Napolitano, Norton, Olver, Payne, Pierluisi, Pingree, Polis, Rangel, Richardson, Rush, Sablan, Sanchez, Robert “Bobby” Scott, Schakowsky, Shea-Porter, Speier, Sutton, B. Thompson, Tonko, Towns, Velazquez, Waters, Watson, Weiner, Welch, Woolsey, Wu.
Congressman Alan Grayson, D-Fla., today announced that 50 Members of Congress have signed on as cosponsors of his Medicare You Can Buy Into Act. The bill opens up Medicare for anyone who can pay for it.
Congressman Grayson said, “WOW! 50 cosponsors in less than 48 hours, including five Committee Chairs. I am thrilled, but not surprised, that so many of my colleagues support this bill. We all believe it deserves a vote.” Read more.
Health Reform and the Imaginary Conservative Majority
By Peter Hart | FAIR
One of the main assumptions of the final weeks of coverage of the congressional debate over healthcare reform was that the public was opposed to the White House plan. But some polling analysis shows that this wasn't the case. Barry Sussman noted this at the Nieman Watchdog on March 5. A McClatchy/Ipsos poll from late February told the usual tale: 41 percent supported the plan, 47 opposed. Sussman wrote:
But the pollsters went a step further, asking those opposed--509 people in all--if they were against the proposals because they "don't go far enough to reform healthcare" or because they go too far. Thirty-seven percent said it was because the proposals don't go far enough.
So a good number of those who answered in the negative were actually saying that they thought the White House was too timid. A subsequent CNN poll asked the same type of follow-up question, and found a similar result--as noted by the blogger Digby (3/24/10), Wolf Blitzer explained it to his CNN colleague Rick Sanchez like this:
Well, you know, when people are asked, we did that poll, CNN Opinion Research Poll, that said, "You like this healthcare bill, or not like it"; we just assumed, a lot of us, that the people who said they didn't like it didn't like it because it was too much interference, or too much taxes or whatever.
But if you take a closer look at people who didn't like it, about 12 percent of those people who said they didn't like it they didn't like it because they didn't think it went far enough. They wanted a single-payer option, they wanted the so-called public option, they didn't like not from the right, they didn't like it because it wasn't left or liberal enough.
That's how you got 50 percent of the American people who said, "we don't like this plan." But only about 40 or 38 percent were the ones who said it was too much government interference.
If reporters had understood and/0r explained this earlier, we could have had a very different debate. Then again, a corporate media that dismissed single-payer and derided the public option as out of the mainstream would be unlikely to do much better.
Noam Chomsky on Healthcare and the Media
By Peter Hart | FAIR
Via an interview with Raw Story (3/22/10):
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor added that it's a damning referendum on American democracy that one of the most highly supported components of the effort nationally, the public insurance option, was jettisoned. He partly blamed the media for refusing to stress how favorably it's viewed by the populace.
"It didn't have 'political support,' just the support of the majority of the population," Chomsky quipped, "which apparently is not political support in our dysfunctional democracy."
The provision has consistently polled well, garnering the support of 60 percent of Americans across the nation in a CBS/New York Times poll released in December, days after it was eliminated from the reform package. Democratic leaders deemed it politically untenable.
"There should be headlines explaining why, for decades, what's been called politically impossible is what most of the public has wanted," Chomsky said. "There should be headlines explaining what that means about the political system and the media."
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, t r u t h o u t
That wickedly satirical Ambrose Bierce described politics as "the conduct of public affairs for private advantage."
Bierce vanished to Mexico nearly a hundred years ago - to the relief of the American political class of his day, one assumes - but in an eerie way he was forecasting America's political culture today. It seems like most efforts to reform a system that's gone awry - to clean house and make a fresh start - end up benefiting the very people who wrecked it in the first place.
Which is why Bierce, in his classic little book, "The Devil's Dictionary," defined reform as "a thing that mostly satisfies reformers opposed to reformation." So we got health care reform this week - but it's a far cry from reformation. You can't blame President Obama for celebrating what he did get - he and the Democrats needed some political points on the scoreboard. And imagine the mood in the White House if the vote had gone the other way; they would have been cutting wrists instead of cake.
Give the victors their due: the bill Obama signed expands coverage to many more people, stops some very ugly and immoral practices by the health insurance industry that should have been stopped long ago, and offers a framework for more change down the road, if there's any heart or will left to fight for it.
But reformation? Hardly. For all their screaming and gnashing of teeth, the insurance companies still make out like bandits. Millions of new customers, under penalty of law, will be required to buy the companies' policies, feeding the insatiable greed of their CEO's and filling the campaign coffers of the politicians they wine and dine. Profits are secure; they don't have to worry about competition from a public alternative to their cartel, and they can continue to scam us without fear of antitrust action.
The big drug companies bought their protection before the fight even began, when the White House agreed that if they supported Obama's brand of health care reform - not reformation - they could hold onto their monopoly. No imports of cheaper drugs from abroad, no prescriptions filled at a lower price by our friendly Canadian neighbors to the north.
For one doctor practicing in America's heartland, the new health care law and its incentives to keep doctors on the farm is a start, not a solution, to the medical care crisis afflicting rural America.
"It's good that there will be an increase in Medicare and Medicaid payments to primary care doctors who work in underserved areas," said Dr. Downs Little. "But there is still a lot of work to be done."
For Little, 60, these new measures came too late.
Little, a primary care internist, closed his Lottsburg Va.-based practice on Dec. 31. Lottsburg, located in Northumberland County, is in one of the nation's designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA).
The decision to shutter his practice after 10 years left 1,200 patients scrambling to find a new doctor and his wife Mary, a former banker who became his office administrator, three part-time clinicians and a full-time receptionist out of a job. Read more.