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Bending the cost curve: Regulating healthcare middlemen
By David Balto | The Hill
One of the most prominent and urgent goals of health care reform is to reduce costs. At each point of service in the health care industry, middlemen like health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) reap enormous profits. Frequently they make the claim that they offer a unique service in their ability to negotiate lower costs, and that health care costs would rise unfettered without them. The facts show us, though, that the exact opposite is true: while the profits of major health insurers and PBMs have skyrocketed over the past few years and premiums continue to rise, our country is in an undeniable health care crisis. The largely unregulated health care industry costs us about one-sixth of our GDP, and this number is only projected to grow until it surpasses even the size of the federal budget.
We clearly need to take action. Nowhere better to start than the PBM industry, which has a long history of deception and fraud and has cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. PBMs are middlemen that use the purchasing power of their members and large scale to negotiate rebates on drug purchases and, in theory, lower costs for enrollees. By managing formularies and making use of their bargaining power, PBMs have the potential to negotiate significant savings. This potential is unfulfilled, however, because of a lack of competition and transparency. PBMs represent the most rapidly growing segment of health care spending, and yet they are the only part of the health care market that is still unregulated. Without regulation and oversight, PBMs do not provide the service corporations, unions, governments and other plan sponsors hire them to do: to secure the lowest drug costs possible for plan sponsors. Read more.
By Linda Milazzo
The extreme Right wing fringe, in desperate fear of their new Black president, are in a panic over the speech below. They believe this person who's the president who was born in Kenya and who may be the anti-Christ is bound and determined to indoctrinate their children and maybe make them Black by listening - or lefties - or parent haters - or Kenyans - or vegans - or environmentalists - or seekers of public assistance - or socialistcommunistfascist Hugo Chavez Fidel Castro Cubanezuelans - or readers - or lovers of science - or atheists - or lovers of education - or independent thinkers....
NO!! NOT INDEPENDENT THINKERS!!! NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Here's the speech:
Arlington, Virginia September 8, 2009
Martial Law Alert Over Swine Flu
By Stephen Lendman
- no Swine Flu threat exists;
- reported H1N1 infections and deaths are uncorroborated;
- WHO predicting a global pandemic affecting "as many as two billion people....over the next two years" is falsified hype unless a diabolical depopulation scheme (by vaccines or other means) plans to create one;
- vaccines don't protect against diseases they're designed to prevent and often cause them;
- all vaccines contain harmful toxins, including mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde, phenoxyethanol (antifreeze), and squalene adjuvants that weaken and can destroy the human immune system, making it vulnerable to many annoying to life-threatening illnesses; and
- evidence suggests that the H1N1 strain was bioengineered in a US laboratory, and the vaccines being produced for it are extremely hazardous and potentially lethal.
No “Trigger”!! “Health Lobby” has Already Pulled the Trigger on American Lives Since Truman!! | Press Release
- 77% of ALL Americans Still Want the Choice of a Single-Payer “Public Option” NOW -- OVER 250 Community Groups JOIN: and Mobilize For
- Water-Only Fasting Vigil -- at Senator Feinstein’s West LA Office -- on DAY 17
Today, thousands and thousands of Americans die --after it is found that the “health insurance” that was supposed to cover themwhen they got sick is, actually, merely “profit insurance:” for the companies they paid their hard-earned wages to -- and only so they could be allowed to die -- because of trumped up excuses about things like “pre-existing conditions.” Even more have no coverage at all.
Today, healthcare in America is more than just broken: it is a disaster that cannot wait to be fixed.
We strongly oppose letting the Industry lobby now to have their fingers on any proposed “triggers” – that will literally mean years of more
deaths. The American Public, right now, simply still is demanding that this new Congress and President FINALLY end the abuses of this disgusting “death industry” -- built on how many deaths, and how much suffering from ill health, that it refuses to be accountable for. This President and Congress must stand for real reform, not “triggers.” A strong vote in the House on H.R. 676 is vital to standing up for America's healthcare now.
WorkingDemocracy! Is a small group of poor and homeless Los Angeles pacifists, and has been working for humane social justice for over five
years. They recently began a 24/7 “Camp Healthcare” in front of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s West Los Angeles office; and are holding nightly vigils in this location –and other Southern California actions for a single-payer “public option.” One activist in the current group, David Busch, is now on day 17 of a 24/7 water-only fast that he vows to continue until Congress votes on the healthcare issue.
Administration Seeks to Keep Terror Watch-List Data Secret
By Ellen Nakashima | Washington Post
The Obama administration wants to maintain the secrecy of terrorist watch-list information it routinely shares with federal, state and local agencies, a move that rights groups say would make it difficult for people who have been improperly included on such lists to challenge the government.
Intelligence officials in the administration are pressing for legislation that would exempt "terrorist identity information" from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Such information -- which includes names, aliases, fingerprints and other biometric identifiers -- is widely shared with law enforcement agencies and intelligence "fusion centers," which combine state and federal counterterrorism resources.
Still, some officials say public disclosure of watch-list data risks alerting terrorism suspects that they are being tracked and may help them evade surveillance.
Advocates for civil liberties and open government argue that the administration has not proved the secrecy is necessary and that the proposed changes could make the government less accountable for errors on watch lists. The proposed FOIA exemption has been included in pending House and Senate intelligence authorization bills at the administration's request.
"Instead of enhancing accountability, this would remove accountability one or two steps further away," said Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy. Read more.
Family members said this week that Atlantic high school officials forced five teenage girls to remove their clothes during an investigation into a theft.
The girls' families and their lawyers said the incident at Atlantic High School amounts to a strip-search, which is illegal in Iowa schools.
But school officials said the search was "allowable" under board rules. Read more.
The man expected to become the AFL-CIO's next president said Monday that lawmakers would pay a political price if they abandon a government-run option in any health care overhaul.
"We need to be a labor movement that stands by our friends, punishes its enemies and challenges those who, well, can't seem to decide which side they're on," said Richard Trumka, currently the AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer.
In remarks to the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, Trumka singled out lawmakers "who say they are all for health care reform, but refuse to stand up for a public system that puts people before profits."
Trumka's remarks came in a broader speech that outlined his goals for making labor unions more appealing to younger workers and stemming the historic decline of union rolls.
Labor unions have been among the most vocal boosters of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. But Trumka and other labor leaders have expressed frustration with signs that Obama and other lawmakers are wavering in their support of a public option that would cover millions without health care insurance.
"I think they need to understand that that you can have a bill that guarantees quality, affordable health care for every American, or you can have a bill the Republicans will vote for," Trumka said. "But you can't have both." Read more.
Even the least of us deserves justice and accountability starts with you. So why don't you send out a reminder. Even Cheney deserves all the justice he can get and we should ensure he gets his day in court.
Use these images as a 4 PAK and send 4 different cards to the same person; or, choose your favorite and send the same postcard to 4 different persons.
It's easy. Each individual postcard is formatted to the dimensions of 4.25"x5.5". Quarter a sheet of paper and combine the cards as you like. Don't forget to print the other side. Remember the postage stamps. Then mail one to your best beloved, your friends and neighbors, some acquaintance--your politicians and their parties. Show someone you care about them and about justice.
"With millions unemployed, and health care costs rising through the roof, and the only answer ever given to unemployment is 'go back to school', why are there still so few medical schools that 1/3 of our doctors are imported and Americans who want to be doctors frequently have to resort to joining the military in order to be trained? We should have a doctor on every corner, competing with each other." 
The above quotation is an excerpt from a recent article regarding the economics of health care reform. My aim here is not to dispute those views but to expand upon them. The article cited above makes some key points regarding what economists call "perfect competition", specifically "many buyers and sellers" and "freedom of entry and exit". In addition to all the screaming and yelling about moral and ethical issues, if the American people would approach the health care debate from a truly "free-market" economic perspective, there probably wouldn't be anything left to "debate". According to the Office of Health Economics in London:
"An efficient free market requires producers to be operating under conditions of perfect competition. This requires a stringent set of conditions - perfect information, many buyers and sellers, a uniform product and freedom of entry and exit - which ensure that firms are price takers, producing for the lowest possible cost in the long run and only earning normal profits." 
In health care, not only is the number of sellers deliberately and artificially restricted (manipulated), but the number of buyers is uncontrolled and virtually infinite. Moreover, the ever-increasing number of buyers have no "freedom of exit" from health care, as everyone is forced to engage at some point in their lives: "You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave", (Hotel California, The Eagles). These factors along with extreme asymmetry of information, the monopoly power of hospitals, and the inherently non-uniform (customized, personalized) nature of health care are clear violations of the "perfect competition" requirements of any "free market". Read more.
By Linda Milazzo
I was out last evening. I tried to escape, just for a while, back to the days of (Taking) Woodstock when we who worked to end the Vietnam war did so as a united, free-spirited force. I readily admit that in today's times of racism disguised as patriotism, religious perversion, rampant ignorance, unhinged media menaces, and growing hostility amongst Americans, I yearn for that long ago era of 'peace and love.'
Enroute home after my wistful evening, I glanced at my phone and saw a Washington Post alert saying Obama's Green Jobs appointee, Van Jones, had resigned. I was shocked. I knew Jones was being assaulted by the right, but I didn't think he'd resign, and I didn't think the Obama administration would so readily sacrifice this brilliant advocate for the environment and the poor. After all, Jones is a person in the Obama administration who personifies the term "public servant." For progressives, Van Jones' appointment was, and is, Obama's tour de force gift to America of a high level appointee free of corporate entanglements who cannot and will not be bought. Jones is a man for the people in an administration where for the corporation is the norm.
The resistance to the military coup in Honduras has entered its 71st straight day of direct action in the streets of that country. Meanwhile, the United States Department of State still has yet to officially declare the events a 'military coup', an identification that would require, under US law, the cutting of all financial aid and diplomatic ties. For this reason and others, Manuel Zelaya came back to Washington to get additional commitments from Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. While Clinton did make some commitments on suspending more visas and not recognizing the upcoming elections in Honduras, the story of the US involvement in resolving the coup is still dominated by the support the US provides to the de facto regime. This was further deepened by the revelation that the International Monetary Fund, itself largely controlled by the US Treasury Department, has allocated $150 million to the coup government. Zelaya spoke to George Washington University about his view of Honduran democracy and why that led to his forced expulsion from his country.
The Associated Press is distributing a photo of a Marine fatally wounded in battle, choosing after a period of reflection to make public an image that conveys the grimness of war and the sacrifice of young men and women fighting it. Read more.
US: Gates Sells Afghan Strategy Amid Growing Unease
By Stephen Morris | IPS News
U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Michael Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) remained tight-lipped about the contents of a confidential report on the future of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan in a wide-ranging Pentagon briefing on Thursday.
The report, authored by U.S. Afghanistan commander General Stanley McChrystal, is expected to lay the groundwork for a recommendation that President Barack Obama authorise an increase in combat troop numbers to help stabilise the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. McChrystal has previously called the situation on the ground "serious" yet salvageable.
The report is due to be discussed with the president some time next week as a matter of urgency resulting from the growing public dissatisfaction with the conduct and progress of the war.
The press conference, however, offered little illumination on the potential surge in troops, rumoured to be as many as 25,000, as Gates and Mullen evaded reporters' questions probing the actual contents of McChrystal's report.
Gates denied that control of the war was slipping through the administration's fingers while acknowledging indications that U.S. public opinion is fading fast.
Mullen said that the situation necessitated a sense of urgency and that there was "a limited time for us to show this [new] approach is working."
According to a CBS poll this week, 41 percent are now calling for a reduction in troop levels – an eight point rise since April. The number who believe that the U.S. should commit additional troops has correspondingly declined 14 points, leaving only 25 percent who believe a higher commitment is necessary. Read more.
The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the Conservative government's appeal of orders to seek the return from a Guantanamo prison of 22-year-old Omar Khadr.
In addition, the high court agreed to a federal request to weigh the matter on an expedited basis, setting a date of Nov. 13 and raising the prospect of the court hearing the high-stakes case during a threatened federal election. The Liberals have already raised Khadr's treatment as a reason to reject the Conservative government.
"We feel very strongly that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, said Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in Vancouver. He said the government never should have resisted a "range of court decisions" compelling it to act.
"We find it extraordinary that the Conservative government would take this right up to the Surpeme Court when we're talking about a Canadian citizen," Ignatieff said.
"Canadians have different views about Mr. Khadr's conduct, but that's not the issue. This man is a Canadian citizen. Guantanamo needs to be closed. Canadians believe we should do our part in closing Guantanamo. And why is the Conservative government resisting something that's clearly in Mr. Khadr's interest, and in the interest of global peace and security? Guantanamo's not exactly been a bright star in global human rights." Read more.
Kucinich Condemns NATO Strike in Afghanistan | Press Release
Says Command should be Held Responsible
Washington D.C. (September 4, 2009) -- Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a leading Congressional voice calling for an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq, today released the following statement after media reports that a U.S. airstrike on two stolen fuel transport vehicles left as many as 90 dead, including 40 civilians and a ten-year old child:
“News reports covering today’s attack by the U.S. command southwest of Kunduz province show that the good intentions of NATO forces in Afghanistan are not sufficient. If we want to avoid killing innocent civilians, we must end the war,” said Kucinich
After two fuel tankers were reportedly stolen by Taliban insurgents, a U.S. airstrike was carried out that took the lives of an unknown number of innocent Afghans.
The innocent appear to have been in harm’s way because the Taliban encouraged them to siphon off the fuel in the trucks which were immobilized in mud. The free fuel would be a natural draw to the citizens, given the level of poverty in the area. Corruption plaguing Afghanistan has ensured very little aid gets to Afghans in need.
“The NATO command claims to have checked for civilian presence before authorizing the air strike. When deadly force is used at high altitudes at high speeds, there is an even greater moral responsibility to be absolutely certain that no civilians will become casualties of military action.
"There is little hope for a truly independent investigation because the Karzai Government is compromised and NATO forces are digging in for the long term based on the Administration's policy. The war in Afghanistan is quickly developing into a tragedy of monumental proportions. It is time for the U.S. to end this war and bring our troops home.”
American Monetary Institute 2009 Conference: “We Shall Prevail”
by Richard C. Cook
The world’s most important gathering of monetary reformers takes place each year in Chicago at the American Monetary Institute’s annual conference. This year’s event takes place September 24-27 at Roosevelt University. Chairing the conference is Stephen Zarlenga, AMI director and author of the landmark book “The Lost Science of Money.” For information and the list of speakers, including monetary economist Michael Hudson, see the AMI website. While personal matters will prevent me from appearing on-site, I have sent the following remarks. Segments of my six-part DVD, “Credit as a Public Utility,” will also be shown.
It is not difficult to come up with methods to solve today’s economic crisis through monetary reform. Many of us are doing it. The key, as I have been writing for the past several years, is to treat credit as a public utility, not the private property of the world’s financial elite.
If we truly adhered to this concept, we would be able to see that a debt-based monetary system, where money only comes into existence through bank lending, can succeed only in isolated circumstances when a growth bubble outpaces the ability of the public to pay interest charges for the privilege of having money to spend and thereby to survive.
Grijalva: "Without a Public Option, the Bill Is Not Real Reform"
September 2, 2009, Tucson, AZ
Congressman Raùl M. Grijalva released the following statement today, concerning the Obama Administration making reported calls, to advocacy organizations, stating that they will cease supporting the public option portion of the upcoming health care reform legislation:
“I have grave concerns about calls reportedly being made from the Administration to health care reform advocacy organizations supporting the choice of a public option insurance plan.
“I truly expect the President to live up to the promises he has made to America about real change and that he truly stands for uninsured Americans and working families that need and are demanding a choice of a competitive public option when he addresses Wednesday's joint session of Congress.
“Without a public option, this bill is not real reform. Real reform would lower and contain health care costs, precisely what inclusion of a public option would achieve. Without a robust public option, reform will enrich pharmaceutical and insurance companies because it will lack any significant competition and incentives to drive down health care costs for consumers."
Congressman Grijalva is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a PDA advisory board member.
Aides to President Barack Obama are putting the final touches on a new strategy to help Democrats recover from a brutal August recess by specifying what Obama wants to see in a compromise health care deal and directly confronting other trouble spots, West Wing officials tell POLITICO.
Obama will address a joint session of Congress on health care reform in prime time on Wednesday, Sept. 9, a senior official tells POLITICO, and the president plans to give lawmakers a more specific prescription for health care legislation than he has in the past, aides said.
And although House leaders have said their members will demand the inclusion of a public insurance option, Obama has no plans to insist on it himself, the officials said. Read more.
Erasing Katrina | Fairness in Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)
Four years on, media mostly neglect an ongoing disaster
August 29 marked the fourth anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The devastation wrought by both the hurricane itself and the government's inept response prompted remarkably critical corporate media coverage that promised to fight for Katrina survivors and change the way we talk about poverty and race (FAIR Media Advisory, 9/9/05).
As NBC's Brian Williams told the St. Petersburg Times (3/1/06), "If this does not spark a national discussion on class, race, the environment, oil, Iraq, infrastructure and urban planning, I think we've failed." But four years later, corporate media outlets seem to have largely forgotten about Katrina and its survivors, let alone the conversations about race and poverty that were supposed to accompany it.
The Institute for Southern Studies issued a report (8-9/09) in which more than 50 Gulf Coast community leaders graded officials on their response to the ongoing disaster; the Obama administration received a D+, while Congress received a D. (George W. Bush received a D- in an earlier survey.) One million people are still displaced, rebuilding continues at a glacial pace, and the levees being rebuilt have been judged insufficient to protect New Orleans from another Katrina-level flood. Read more.
Portland & Seattle Kickoff Rallies Tuesday 9/8 For Mad As Hell Doctors National Care-A-Van; WH Says Stop Single Payer Letters
- Join us on September 8 in Portland Oregon for a huge rally and kickoff.
10am in Downtown Portland at Pioneer Courthouse Square Map
Live music and special guest speakers
- Join us in Seattle later that day.
Join the caravan as we ride into Seattle to our big event:
We'll arrive at St. Francis Hospital between 2:30 and 3pm, and then lead the Care-A-Van into Seattle at 3pm.
34515 9th Ave S, Federal Way, WA 97205 Map
- We'll be heading to our event that evening:
5pm at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center
104 17th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98114 Map.
Our Sequim, Washington event was attended by 700 people! At one point in the evening all 700 stood up and shouted “We’re as Mad As Hell and We’re Not Going to Take This Anymore!” Click here to see footage of the people speaking during the Mad As Hell Minute.
Our National Creative Director Adam Klugman received a call from The White House recently. A staffer asked him to take down the letter of support for our meeting request with the President. Apparently, so many of you have written to the White House that it is clogging up their system. We have their attention, they know what we want, they just haven’t realized how important single payer health care is to the American people. And we won’t settle till we have an appointment with President Obama. If you haven’t sent one, do it today, go here and click on "Letter to Obama" to send one.
Former senator Daschle argues in the WSJ that the senate should use reconciliation to get a healthcare bill past a filibuster, and should talk about (as opposed to caring about) "majority rule." If Daschle gave a damn about majority rule he would support gathering up 51 senators and ending the filibuster rule. But no, he'd LIKE for representatives of 12 percent of Americans to be able to block some bills in the future, especially if a different party is in charge. And this is a key reason why a different party is likely to be in charge sooner rather than later. Can anybody me one honest reason for keeping the filibuster rule in place but squeezing this one bill past it.
The Obama administration told a judge late Monday that it will continue to withhold information regarding past detainee policies for national security reasons, a decision assailed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which had been seeking Bush-era documents “including a presidential directive authorizing CIA ‘black sites,’” CIA inspector general records, Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel documents about the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation techniques.”
In the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, U.S. District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York had ordered the Obama administration to either turn over various documents pertaining to detainee policies by August 31 or provide justification for withholding them. Read more.
Berkeley Demonstration Against War Criminal Yoo Tomorrow, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009, Noon-1 PM at Sproul Plaza
More Protest at UC Berkeley: Demonstrators Call Law Professor a War Criminal | Press Release
Event: “Information in Action" (Speak Out Against Torture – Fire John Yoo!)
Where: UC Berkeley, Sproul Plaza
When: Noon to 1 PM, Thursday September 3, 2009
BERKELEY– As debate flares over the newly-released CIA Inspector General’s report from Dick Cheney and the halls of Congress to the radio talk shows, World Can’t Wait has announced another protest at the UC Berkeley campus on Thursday, September 3 to challenge UC’s employment of former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo. World Can’t Wait will be joined by other protesters from religious and progressive organizations; they will again call for Yoo to be fired, disbarred, and prosecuted for war crimes as “the legal architect of the Bush-Cheney torture state.”
The “information in action” event on Sproul Plaza will begin at noon.
In August on the first day of classes at UC Berkeley Law, a press conference and protest drew over 60 people to the steps of Boalt Hall, where Yoo currently teaches Civil Procedures. At that press conference, prominent lawyers and psychologists representing four generations of alumni of UC and its law schools denounced the presence of John Yoo on the UC faculty. [Audio of statements by attorneys Dan Siegel, Anne Weills, Sharon Adams, Ann Fagan Ginger, Marc-Tizon Gonzalez, and psychologist Ruth Fallenbaum can be found here.
By Linda Milazzo
It's a GREAT DAY in America when heralds of hate, specifically Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin, are booted from their Amazon best seller slots on DAY ONE of the publication of progressive leader David Swanson's breakthrough tome, DAYBREAK - now at Number One on Amazon's non-fiction best seller list. From this terrific response to Swanson's new book arises my sincere hope that DAYBREAK attracts a good many of Beck and Malkin's readers, so they, too, will have the opportunity to absorb the depth of information and dedication to solutions that David Swanson offers.
Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales on Tuesday defended the decision of his current successor, Eric H. Holder Jr., to investigate alleged prisoner abuse by CIA interrogators over President Obama's desire to look forward.
"As chief prosecutor of the United States, he should make the decision on his own, based on the facts, then inform the White House," said Mr. Gonzales, who was appointed to the post by President George W. Bush in 2005 and resigned in 2007.
Mr. Gonzales also said Bush administration lawyers clearly defined what interrogation techniques were legal and the few who went beyond the rules should be investigated, despite the so-called chilling effect it might have on future intelligence-gathering. Read more, hear audio clip.