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Civil Disobedience at Health Insurance Fat Cats' Confab

On March 9, 2010, around noon, about 14 pro-Healthcare Reform activists were arrested at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in down town Washington, D.C. They attempted to cross a police line set up at an entrance to the hotel, where the Fat Cats of the Health Insurance Industry were holding a conference. Earlier, the protesters had convened at Dupont Circle for a rally. Then, they paraded down to the hotel, about ten blocks away. The crowd was estimated at about 5,500. The event was staged by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), along with more than 50 major Labor, grassroots and religious leaders. Background here.

The D.C. police decided, for their own reasons, not to place criminal charge against the parties that were detained at the hotel. Four of the 14 reportedly arrested were: an official from the SEIU union; Jonathan Tasini, Democratic candidate for U. S. Senate in NY; Jeff Blum of US Action and Sean Dobson of Progressive Maryland. The crowd shouted chants, like: 'Healthcare, now!' and 'Arrest the real criminals!"

Party Time: Where Your Healthcare and Jobs Dollars are Going

Party Time: Where Your Healthcare and Jobs Dollars are Going
By Ralph Lopez | Daily Kos

Rep. Dennis Kucinich is currently asking for a flood of calls to trigger a debate on war spending, through "yes" votes on his resolution now on the floor calling for U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of the year. A 3 hour debate and vote will take place tomorrow.

Just happened across a startling piece, even for me, by the Nation's Jeremy Scahill which details how Afghanistan has become U.S. private contractor piggy land even by Bush administration standards.

"In Afghanistan, the Obama administration blows the Bush administration out of the privatized water. According to a memo [PDF] released by [Sen. Claire] McCaskill’s staff, "From June 2009 to September 2009, there was a 40% increase in Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan. During the same period, the number of armed private security contractors working for the Defense Department in Afghanistan doubled, increasing from approximately 5,000 to more than 10,000." Read more.

Billonaires For Wealthcare, Plus!

On March 9, 2010, a rally was held in Washington, D.C. championing Healthcare Reform. The spirted demonstration began at Dupont Circle, at 10: 30 AM, and then moved south, about 10 blocks to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Fat Cats from the Healthcare Insurance Industry were holding a conference at that site. The protest action was organized by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), along with more than 50 major Labor, grassroots and religious leaders. For background go here. Featured in this video are: Billionaires for Wealthcare; David Patterson, the youngest delegate to the DNC; and the Rhythm Workers Union. The latter group has been at just about every rally/protest action worthy of the name in the Washington, D.C. area going back at least to October, 2002.

Will Jerry Brown Sign Single Payer?

That's the question, and there's no answer here, and aparently no serious effort anywhere to get one. But there is some good outlining of what will happen if he does sign it: READ MORE.

Campaign Announced for California’s Single Payer Health Care Reform Legislation -- Santa Barbara Event

Massive Netroots, Grassroots Campaign
Features New 30-second TV Ad Each Day for Year

The California OneCare coalition launches their ambitious campaign to pass a new health care plan this year for all residents. Celebrities, political leaders, health care activists and victims are featured in a 365-day TV Ad campaign for single-payer legislation, Senate Bill 810, authored by Senator Mark Leno.

CBS Dan Rather on MSNBC: "Obama Couldn't Sell Watermelons"

From NewsOne: Not sure if Dan Rather is racist, inconsiderate or just used bad phrasing. Here’s what he said on the Chris Matthews show Sunday. “ Listen he just hasn’t been, look at the health care bill. It was his number one priority. It took him forever to get it through and he had to compromise it to death. Listen he’s a nice person, he’s very articulate but he couldn’t sell watermelons if it, you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic.”

ABC News: Kucinich: We Need a Public Option

The interview with Rep. Kucinich starts about 4 minutes into the 10 minute video. Rep. Kucinich clearly outlines his position on health care reform, saying that the bill should include a "robust" public option, as it's defined here and here. A "robust" public option would offer all Americans, regardless of their state residency, the option to opt into a single payer system, like Medicare for all.

In addition, Rep. Kucinich reinforced his position that the health care reform bill shouldn't prohibit states from doing their own "single-payer" systems through the "ERISA exemptions," as noted by Rep. Tammy Baldwin, in 2007:

"Clearly, on the subject of health care for all, we're not at a loss for words or ideas, but we still haven't figured out how to get the job done," she said. "But where we are seeing the job get done is at the state level. Innovative proposals in states such as Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Oregon, California and Wisconsin demonstrate a clear desire on the part of the states to reach an agreement and move forward," she noted. She added, though, that states are constrained by federal laws and regulations.

Media Blackout on Agent Orange: Coverage Ignores Effects on Vietnamese Victims

By Dave Lindorff

From Extra!, January 2010

In mid-October, hundreds of thousands of Vietnam-era veterans got some good if grim news: The Veterans Administration announced it was adding three more diseases to the 11 others it automatically presumes to have been caused by exposure to Agent Orange, the dioxin-laced herbicide spread by the U.S. military across much of South Vietnam to deny crops and cover to North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters during the war.

Newspapers and radio and TV news programs across America ran stories announcing that veterans of the jungle war who now suffer or may eventually suffer from Parkinson’s Disease, ischemic heart disease or a type of cancer called hairy-cell leukemia will henceforth automatically be offered free medical care by the VA if they’d spent at least one day in uniform on the ground in Vietnam.

Kucinich Talks Health Care With Neil Cavuto

Rep. Kucinich still manages to get his points across despite Neil Cavuto's talk overs and Massa-baiting.

Real News Video: Single-Payer Healthcare in the States

By the way, how would you like to give $5 to without having to, you know, give up $5. In fact you can give somebody else's $5 to the Real News by texting the word 'news' to 85944. Try it!

Sex & the Lack of Congressional Consensus

No Consensus in Definitions of 'Had Sex,' Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Mar. 4, 2010) — When people say they "had sex," what transpired is anyone's guess. A new study from the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University found that no uniform consensus existed when a representative sample of 18- to 96-year-olds was asked what the term meant to them.

Is oral sex considered sex? It wasn't to around 30 percent of the study participants. How about anal sex? For around 20 percent of the participants, no. A surprising number of older men did not consider penile-vaginal intercourse to be sex. More than idle gossip, the answers to questions about sex can inform -- or misinform-- research, medical advice and health education efforts.

Kucinich Becomes Target Of Health Care Whip Campaign

Kucinich Becomes Target Of Health Care Whip Campaign
By Sam Stein | Huffington Post

With the real possibility that a handful of lawmakers -- or even a single vote -- in the House of Representatives could end up deciding the fate of health care reform, advocates are suddenly targeting the chamber's most progressive holdout.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio.) has firmly staked out his opposition to health care reform's passage, citing the timidity of the legislative language and, specifically, the unwillingness of lawmakers to seriously consider a single payer system.

For months, leadership had assumed his position was unalterable. But with an "all hands on deck" whip operation now in progress, Kucinich is getting a burst of attention. Read more.

John Marty, MN Gubernatorial Candidate, Looks To Future With Single-Payer Bill

Marty looks to future with single-payer bill
By Lori Sturdevant | Star Tribune

The possibility that Americans would join hands and buy health care all together has found no traction in Washington. But at the DFL-controlled Minnesota Legislature, the idea has been quietly marching through committees, three in the Senate, one in the House.

The Minnesota Health Plan is propelled in the Senate by former and current DFL gubernatorial candidate John Marty, a seven-term legislator from Roseville. Marty recognizes that with GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty in office, a single-payer health plan has no chance to become law this year.

But health care politics will change rapidly in the next few years as the status quo becomes increasingly untenable, the senator predicted. Read more.

Kill Bill: Death to Obamacare!

By Dave Lindorff

I’m with Marcia Angell, editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. The Obama plan for health care “reform”, as well as the two versions passed by the House and the Senate, are all devious disasters that do nothing to solve the nation’s burgeoning health care crisis, and in fact, will make it worse.

The only thing to do at this point is to take the whole stinking pile of paper and put it in the compost heap. Kill it.

This whole effort was never about reform from the day last March when the new president called on Congress to begin deliberations on health care reform. It was about catering to the wishes of the big players in the Medical Industrial Complex--the big pharmaceutical multinationals, the hospital companies, the physicians and, most of all, the insurance industry. People and their health care needs had little or nothing to do with this.

Medical Billing Advocates Could Help You Save Big

Medical Billing Advocates Could Help You Save Big
Why Using an Advocate Makes Sense Even If Your Insurance Pays a Contracted Rate
By Elisabeth Leamy | ABC News

Excerpts: can save thousands by hiring a medical billing advocate to find and fight hospital billing errors for you. Eighty percent of hospital bills contain errors, according to Medical Billing Advocates of America.

Millions of Americans...have health insurance plans that charge "coinsurance" rather than a flat co-pay. Coinsurance means you are charged a percentage of your medical care. The most common cost-sharing arrangement is an 80/20 plan, where the insurance company pays 80 percent of your bill and you pay the other 20 percent. Twenty percent of a big bill for a major hospitalization is a lot of money.

Insurance policies have maximum lifetime limits that they will pay out. Often, those lifetime limits are not as generous as they should be, and you may have no choice if you are insured through your employer and not given many options. Therefore, you want to keep your costs down as much as possible to stay away from that lifetime limit on coverage. Read more.

Homeland Healthcare Threat Code Color ???

Hepatitis B and C Remain Public Health Issue -- Up to 5.3 Million Americans Infected

ScienceDaily (Mar. 4, 2010) — A recent report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) confirmed that 3.5 to 5.3 million people (1-2 % of the U.S. population) have chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. Despite efforts by federal, state and local government agencies to control and prevent these diseases, they remain a serious public health concern. The major factor impeding efforts to control HBV and HCV is lack of knowledge and awareness among health care providers, social service professionals, members of the public, and policy-makers.

End-of-Life Warning at $618,616 Makes Me Wonder Was It Worth It

End-of-Life Warning at $618,616 Makes Me Wonder Was It Worth It
By Amanda Bennett | Bloomberg


Along with my colleague Charles Babcock, I spent months poring over some 4,750 pages of documents collected from six hospitals, four insurers, Medicare, three oncologists, and a surgeon. Those papers tell the story of a system filled with people doing their best. And they raise complex questions about a health-care system that consumes 17 percent of the economy.

Days to Decipher

As I leafed through the stack of documents, it was easy to see why 31 percent of the money spent on health care goes to paperwork and administration, according to research published in 2003 by the New England Journal of Medicine. That number has either stayed the same or grown, said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a co-author of the study cited by the journal. Some bills took days to decipher. What did “opd patins t” or “bal xfr ded” mean? How could I tell if the dose charged was the same as the dose prescribed?

The documents revealed an economic system in which the sellers don’t set and the buyers don’t know the prices. The University of Pennsylvania hospital charged more than 12 times what Medicare at the time reimbursed for a chest scan. One insurer paid a hospital for 80 percent of the $3,232 price of a scan, while another covered 24 percent. Insurance companies negotiated their own rates, and neither my employers nor I paid the difference between the sticker and discounted prices.

‘It’s Completely Insane’

In this economic system, prices of goods and services bear little relation to the demand for them or their cost to make -- or, as it turns out, the good or harm they do. Read more.

What States Need from Congress to Make State Single-Payer Healthcare Work

From PNHP:

We, the single payer movement, are very concerned that the current legislative language in the Senate bill prohibits states from passing state-based reform such as single payer until at least 2017. Several states are poised to pass single payer this year and next year. This will be an important step in moving towards national single payer. We need the following language in the final legislation through the reconciliation process. We hope that you will work with us to insert this language or find members who are willing to stand together to fight for this important language. I hope to touch base with you soon to discuss this matter.

Language for a Real State Single Payer Option or "ERISA + 4"

A real state single payer option would meet the following minimum criteria.

Disturbing Story Of Fallujah's Birth Defects

Disturbing story of Fallujah's birth defects
By John Simpson | BBC News

Six years after the intense fighting began in the Iraqi town of Fallujah between US forces and Sunni insurgents, there is a disturbingly large number of cases of birth defects in the town.

Fallujah is less than 40 miles (65km) from Baghdad, but it can still be dangerous to get to.

As a result, there has been no authoritative medical investigation, certainly by any Western team, into the allegations that the weapons used by the Americans are still causing serious problems. Read more.

Ask These Reps to Oppose Healthcare Bill Unless States Rights (Single-Payer) Language Restored

Ask 14 congress members to withhold support for a healthcare bill unless language is restored allowing states to create healthcare solutions.

What States Really Need: Chuck Pennacchio Replies to David Sirota

Chuck Pennacchio has the following response to this column by David Sirota:

Interesting piece, David. Thank you.

It's conceptually compelling. But, in detail, the US Senate healthcare bill to which you refer would undermine state innovation, especially state-based single payer legislative campaigns that are making tremendous headway all across the nation.

The US Senate's poison-pill language preempting state initiatives/reforms until 2017 would lock in industry control over HC funding (and, thus, delivery); provide a mandate-driven, ready-made market of some 30M new "consumers" to a predatory, profit-first insurance industry; and, perhaps worst of all, tie the hands of some 20 state-based single payer legislative campaigns working closer and closer to enact the proven Single Payer Solution as both a model for other states and the national government.

"It Isn't Nice," Sung by Margaret Flowers

On Thursday morning, Feb. 25, 2010, a sidewalk summit advocating “Medicare for All,” was staged in Washington, D.C., at Lafayette Park, North, not far from the White House. To close the rally, Dr. Margaret Flowers sang her rendition of “It Isn’t Nice,” a ballad authored by the late, great songwriter and activist, Malvina Reynolds. Dr. Flower was introduced by activist Katie Robbins. For background on the Sidewalk Summit, go here.

Overview of Single-Payer Healthcare in the States, Thanks to Kathlyn Stone

Kathlyn Stone has done what I should have done and collected my recent postings on state level single-payer healthcare on her blog.

imageThe question isn’t if a state will enact true health care reform before Congress, but which state and when.

Forget Congressional action on meaningful health care reform. It’s clear that whatever national health care legislation is passed, its main intent will be the preservation of a for-profit system.

Actual delivery of health care to all Americans who need it remains a lesser priority than keeping the system profitable. The federal plan will protect the insurance CEOs’ eight- and nine-figure salaries and the system of monthly premiums, which with promised rate hikes, will soon equal or exceed our monthly housing payments. Individuals will continue to fund the insurance industry’s marketing and bureaucracy through taxes and premiums. As an added bonus for the industry, citizens could be fined if they refuse to purchase its insurance.

The real reform action is taking place in the states.


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