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Extraordinary Baltimore HealthCare Now! Town Hall Shows Growing Single Payer Coalition
By Diane Wittner | June 1, 2009
On Saturday, May 30th, Healthcare-Now of Maryland, Maryland Physicians for a National Health Program (Md. PNHP), and partner groups* with the Maryland Coalition for Health Security sponsored an extraordinary Baltimore Town Hall Meeting on Single Payer.
It was an unusual Town Hall because the ninety seven people present - at 9:30 a.m. on a beautiful Saturday morning - exemplified the growing and increasingly diverse number of Americans who are in favor of Single Payer. The event was part of a National Day of Action organized by HealthCare-Now, and was one of fifty Single Payer actions around the country.
Conspicuous by their absence were two local Congress members, Rep. John Sarbanes (D) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D).
Marylanders in attendance were disappointed in these two public servants for two reasons; Rep. Cummings is a co-sponsor of H.R. 676 (Rep. John Conyers' Single Payer bill), and this popular citizens' gathering took place in Rep. Sarbanes' Congressional District.
Funded with a grant from The Presbyterian Church USA and moderated by Dr. Margaret Flowers, co-chair of Md. PNHP, the Town Hall attracted an audience from: Veterans for Peace, United for Peace and Justice, B'more Housing for All, Health Care for the Homeless, United Workers, Progressive Democrats of America, as well as worried health care providers, parents, college students, farmers, lawyers, retirees, teachers, and folks seeking employment. Three members of the now-famous Baucus 8 were also present: Dr Margaret Flowers, Adam Schneider, and Kevin Zeese.
Six major health care organizations submitted a 28-page proposal Monday to President Barack Obama detailing how they could save $2 trillion over 10 years.
Some of the savings proposed Monday mirror ideas already under consideration in Congress, including reducing the number of hospital readmissions, increasing the use health information technology and preventing chronic diseases. They also propose streamlining administrative processes, reducing medical errors and promoting comparative effectiveness research.
...The six groups include the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Advanced Medical Technology Association and Service Employees International Union.
Health care coverage in this country has become a tightrope walk for too many Americans who struggle to balance the high cost of health care and the cost of supporting a family on a thin budget.
You may worry when you get sick because you are one of the 45 million people in this country who have no health insurance at all. Or you may worry because you don’t have adequate health insurance and can’t afford the necessary treatments to help you get better. Or you may worry that if you lose your job, you’ll lose your insurance and not be able to take your sick child to the doctor. Or you may have been in the same job for years without a raise because you are paying more each year to keep the insurance that protects your family.
You are not alone. According to a study at Harvard University, medical costs play a role in as many as 46 percent of all personal bankruptcies. Many parents fear that they are only one major illness away from not being able to put food on the table for their children, losing their home or risking their family’s future financial security.
One of the biggest weaknesses of our system is that since health insurance coverage typically comes with employment, people cannot take their coverage with them when they leave their jobs, or they are simply without health insurance. So I have developed a proposal that helps to unlock access to affordable health coverage by requiring insurance companies in every state to offer a low-cost health insurance policy to every person, regardless of his or her health or what job he or she has.
This plan is not like the phony insurance you’ve seen advertised on TV. It is real major-medical insurance that covers the most significant health problems any one of us may face. It provides coverage for the preventive care we all need to stay well, and it includes incentives to encourage healthful behavior. Most important, it is guaranteed to be available to everyone.
To ensure that premiums, co-payments and deductibles are affordable, this plan includes subsidies for low-income individuals. Of course, some will want to purchase more generous coverage, and nothing in my private market plan prevents that option. In fact, the roughly 160 million Americans who have insurance through their employers will not even notice a change in their coverage or benefits. Finally, those without any insurance will find a new peace of mind that affordable health care coverage is now within reach.
By Dave Lindorff
Sunday’s cowardly assassination of abortion doctor George Tiller demonstrates once again that the US is not all that different from Pakistan.
One thing that these two violent societies share is having a group of rabid religious fundamentalists who are each on a jihad against those in their nation with whom they disagree, and who are ready to kill and maim their enemies without mercy or hesitation. The other thing—perhaps the more dangerous thing—that they share is a government apparatus in which certain elements are overtly or surreptitiously supportive of the jihadists, and in which other elements are cowed into silence and inaction.
In Pakistan it is the Taliban and related organizations and groups, which have the tacit support of some elements within Pakistan’s military, police and intelligence services and political parties. These elements encourage, assist and protect Taliban terrorists in their attacks on the larger society.
Senator Max Baucus and the Finance Committee are feeling the pressure
By Kevin B. Zeese
This Wednesday Sen. Baucus will meet with a delegation of leading single payer national health plan advocates.
The delegation includes: Dr. David Himmelstein, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), Dr. Marcia Angell, Senior Lecturer, Harvard Medical School and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Oliver Fein, Associate Dean, Cornell Weill Medical School, and President of PNHP, Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, and Geri Jenkins, president of California Nurses Association.
This step would not have occurred without the consistent and growing pressure being put on Senator Baucus and the Finance Committee. This is a victory for single payer advocates.
By Linda Milazzo
The following is an excerpt of an article I published after attending a Sarah Palin rally in Southern California where I witnessed reinvigorated anti-abortion fanatics spurred on by Palin's inflammatory rhetoric. At that time, as evidenced by the text of my earlier article (below), it was clear to me that a similar threat of domestic terrorism to that inflicted on this nation by convicted anti-abortion murderer Eric Rudolph, was probable and undeterred by Sarah Palin -- the latest charismatic leader in the anti-abortion movement.
By Vince Devlin, Missoulian
PABLO - Sen. Max Baucus' insistence that consideration of a national single-payer health plan at this point will squander a golden opportunity for health care reform in the United States continues to be met with stiff resistance from many of his constituents.
"The word 'insurance' does not equal health care," Janelle Kuechle of Polson said at a meeting here Thursday. "If I have to pay a $900 premium to have health insurance with a $10,000 deductible, that is not health care."
But Baucus - whose staff has fanned out across Montana this week for two dozen "listening sessions" on the subject - was also hit from another angle when he sent a representative to the Flathead Indian Reservation.
"I hope any plan does not forget about the nation's first people," said Dr. LeAnna Muzquiz of St. Ignatius.
DOJ: Attorney General Holder and HHS Secretary Sebelius Announce New Interagency Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Team
Attorney General Holder and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced the creation of a new interagency effort, the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), to combat Medicare fraud. Holder and Sebelius also announced the expansion of Strike Force team operations to Detroit and Houston. Medicare Fraud Strike Forces, currently in operation in South Florida and Los Angeles, fight Medicare fraud on a targeted local level.
New Report Casts Exclusion of Single Payer Option as a Question of Democracy and Human Rights | Press Release
NEW YORK - May 28 - At a critical moment for health care reform in the United States, The National Economic & Social Rights Initiative has published an in-depth assessment of single payer proposals, finding that a single payer system goes further towards meeting key human rights principles than market-based plans.
The question of whether national leaders will consider a single payer system as an option for health care reform has become a question of basic democracy. Despite most Americans supporting a single payer solution, the Obama Administration and congressional leaders have denied it consideration. Key stakeholders such as health care professionals, patients and single payer advocates have been excluded from hearings regarding health reform, prompting courageous civil disobedience actions by health care advocates. One of the protesters at the recent Senate Finance Hearings, Dr Margaret Flowers of PNHP Maryland, said: "We have entered a new phase in the movement for health care as a human right: acts of civil disobedience. It is time to directly challenge corporate interests. History has shown that in order to gain human rights, we must be willing to speak out and risk arrest".
In a recent article, Donna Smith of the California Nurses Association critically suggests that any health care reform bill that comes out of Washington will be falsely advertised as a "human rights victory". But what would a true human rights victory look like? NESRI's report addresses that question.
The report analyzes four bills (Conyers HR676, Sanders S703/McDermott HR1200, Vermont S99/H100 and Minnesota SF118/HF135) against key human rights principles such as universality, equity, affordability and comprehensiveness. It shows that if health care reformers are serious about achieving a system that respects human rights, single payer proposals must be given consideration as they would vastly increase access to quality care for all individuals and secure long-term financial sustainability.
NESRI's report is intended to support the efforts of human right to health care advocates by providing a serious analysis of the benefits of a single payer plan. Cathy Albisa, co-founder of NESRI, said: "We have a fundamental choice to make as a country; we can either be guided by human rights that reflect our founding values or we can continue down the path of special corporate interests. The kind of health care system our government puts in place and what weight is given to the opinion of the American people in the upcoming debate is an important barometer of the health of our democracy and our ability to move towards a more equitable society."
"A Human Rights Assessment of Single Payer Plans" is available for download (PDF).
By Susie Madrak
I have a friend who's working in D.C. on health care reform, and she added some context to that "people are happy with the insurance they have" claim that's bandied about. She says their focus groups show that when people say that, they mean they don't want to have to fill out a lot of paperwork the way their parents have to do with Medicare - ever since the pharmaceutical companies took control a few years ago. (As someone who's watched her mother struggle with the Plan D paperwork, I know exactly what they mean.)
They're saying given a choice between what they already have and know, and some unknown plan that requires a lot of paperwork, they'll stick with the devil they know. It means they want a simple, easy-to-use benefit - in other words, single payer. It certainly doesn't mean they're "happy" with their insurance, as this exchange from yesterday shows (h/t DC Blogger):
From Washington Stakeout
From Single Payer Action:
UnitedHealth Group is America’s largest insurance corporation.
Today, at a press briefing at UnitedHealth’s Washington, D.C.
headquarters, the company released a report titled “Federal Health Care Cost Containment — How in Practice Can it Be Done?”
The report lists 15 options.
Incentivize members to use high quality providers.
Reduce avoidable and inappropriate care.
Incentivize physicians to encourage high quality care.
Apply evidence-based standards to reimbursement policies.
What did not make the list?
Get rid of the hundreds of health insurance companies.
Replace them with one single payer.
Save $400 billion a year in overheard costs and profits.
No more bills, co-pays, deductibles.
No more 60 Americans dying every day from lack of health insurance.
Why didn’t single payer make UnitedHealth’s list of options?
President Obama has gone to extraordinary lengths to suppress advocates of single-payer health care. He has choreographed a grand theater of faux-change, in which he "seeks to create a façade of unity along lines that do not threaten corporate power." The goal is to "sidetrack, possibly for decades, the most broadly supported idea in American politics, today." This "requires elaborate reconstructions of reality," starting with "methodically erasing single-payer advocates from the picture, with the enthusiastic collaboration of the corporate media." Thus, Obama and compliant Democrats on The Hill stage "summits" and "public roundtable discussions" on health care from which majority U.S. opinion is totally excluded.
Bill Moyers' Journal once again just covered a position backed by the majority of Americans but shut out by Congress (with NO more filibuster excuse for the Democrats) and by the corporate media. In this case: single-payer healthcare and the rallies, protests, and forums on behalf of single-payer documented here.
Donna Smith of CNA and PDA was absolutely terrific! Get her on Youtube and send it everywhere!
(But why keep calling Baucus the Democrat who's taken the most money from health insurance and health corporations when Obama's taken so much more?)
David Himmelstein and Sidney Wolfe were wonderful as well. Get them on Youtube!
Watch the whole show at Bill Moyer's Journal.
At a health care briefing in the House Rayburn Office Building, on May 20, 2009, Dr. Carol A. Paris of Leonardtown, MD, shared her feelings about her role as a member of “The Baucus Eight,” and its importance to the cause of Single Payer. She added: “Single Payer is...Medicare Expanded!” Dr. Paris was arrested on May 5, 2009, for challenging the current rigged health care system at a hearing in the Senate Dirksen Office Building. On that date, Single Payer advocates were barred from having their voices heard by the very undemocratic Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, one Max Baucus (D-MT). Only the “Fat Cats” from the HMOs, Insurance and Pharmaceutical Industries were welcomed at Sen. Baucus’ table.
Click "Read more."
Bill Moyers' Journal
Friday, May 22, 9:00pm
Why single-payer health care isn't among the health-care reform plans under consideration. Guests include Donna Smith (California Nurses Association), Dr. Sidney Wolfe (Public Citizen) and Dr. David Himmelstein (Physicians for a National Health Program).
President Obama's mission to keep the U.S. health care system safe for the profiteering classes got waylaid last week by - the profiteers, themselves. The health care industry "refused to corroborate Obama's claim that they had agreed to reduce health care spending by $2 trillion dollars over ten years." Worse, some of them pointed out that, in point of fact, Obama doesn't have a fully developed health plan. The president's business allies' failure to back up his fiction means Obama will have to pick another occasion to proclaim that the private sector has made sacrifices, and it's time to take the axe to "entitlements."
Please go right now and vote for the "Will You Fight for Single Payer?" question. The following is from Congress Matters:
Got a question for Congress?
Tue May 19, 2009 at 07:14:25 PM PDT
Here's an idea: Use Internet technology to enable an improved level of two-way communications between the public and Members of Congress.
What do you think?
Yeah, yeah, we're already sort of doing that with blogs. But this is more specific. You'll like this. It's the Feedback Forum of ProgressiveCongress.org.
You go there, and you answer this question:
In response to what she described as an enormous amount of feedback/flak she got on her so-called comprehensive program about the health care/insurance situation, Diahn Rehm is devoting this hour (10-11 this morning) entirely to single payer.
Adrienne Campbell of Dearborn, MI, was diagnosed with cervical cancer at age 22. Her insurer denied coverage for a highly suspect legal reason. Ms. Campbell went $8,000 in debt to cover the cost of her treatment. At age 26, and uninsured, she developed ovarian cancer.
Hospitals and insurance companies said Thursday that President Obama had substantially overstated their promise earlier this week to reduce the growth of health spending.
Mr. Obama invited health industry leaders to the White House on Monday to trumpet their cost-control commitments. But three days later, confusion swirled in Washington as the companies’ trade associations raced to tamp down angst among members around the country.
After meeting with six major health care organizations, Mr. Obama hailed their cost-cutting promise as historic.
Note: Baucus has taken money from health insurance companies as well as pharmaceuticals, but very little compared to Obama! Don't believe much of what Obama says. He ignores the question and talks about how healthcare costs too much -- blames it for the military-created national debt even! -- but avoids the fact that single-payer would reduce costs. When the crowd repeatedly cheers for single-payer Obama calls them "the little single-payer advocates".
Washington is abuzz with news from the Senate Finance Committee's recent Health Care Roundtable Discussions and President Obama's announcement on Monday that he supports proposed voluntary action by the insurance industry and its allies to cut health care cost inflation by 1.5% per year.
However, as the National Coalition on Health Care points out, health care costs are actually rising at a rate of more than 6%.
“Since the first days of his administration, Obama has methodically erased single-payer advocates from the picture.”
The president feigns amazement at popular demands for a change in the industrial world’s most expensive and dysfunctional health care system. "We're doing some stuff on health care because I think the country is geared up, businesses are geared up, families are geared up to go ahead and start solving some our extraordinary health care system problems," Obama fairly gushed, as if his own corporate-friendly proposals accurately reflect the public will. In reality, the Administration is engaged in an elaborate charade designed to sidetrack, possibly for decades, the most broadly supported idea in American politics, today: single-payer health care.
Obama has gone to extraordinary lengths to suppress advocates of a single-payer or “Medicare for all” system, which polls have consistently shown to be favored by at least six in ten Americans, including majorities of doctors and other health care professionals. HMOs, insurance companies and pharmaceutical corporations rank among the most despised institutions in the land – causing Obama to take on the mission of saving them from the public’s wrath. As the reigning impresario of theatrical faux-change, Obama choreographed last weekend’s parade of industry troglodytes (and one very wayward union) promising to “save” the homeland from their predatory selves to the tune of $2 trillion over the next ten years by reducing the growth of the percentage they gouge from the economy.
We’ve Lit a Fire, Now We Need to Fan It
A Populist Health Care Rebellion is Brewing
By Kevin Zeese | Campaign for Fresh Air and Clean Politics
Last week when I was one of the Baucus Eight, so-named because eight of us were arrested before Sen. Baucus, I hopped others would join us. Yesterday, they did. And, the single payer movement grew stronger.
Before the hearing I joined nearly 50 people in a spirited protest outside the U.S. senate letting all who entered know we wanted a single payer national health care plan.
And, inside there were a series of protests.
As the hearing began, and Sen. Baucus was speaking a group of about 30 nurses, dressed in their red hospital uniforms, stood up and turned their backs on Baucus. They had pinned to their backs: “Nurses Say: Stop AHIP. Pass Single Payer.” (AHIP is America’s Health Insurance Plans – the health insurance industry lobby.)