Single Payer Health: It’s Only Fair

It is certainly a step forward that the new health reform law is projected to cover 32 million additional Americans, out of the more than 50 million uninsured today. Yet projections suggest that roughly 23 million will still be without insurance in 2019, while healthcare costs will continue to skyrocket.

Twenty-three million Americans still without health insurance after health reform is implemented? This is unacceptable. And that is why, this week, Representative Jim McDermott and I are announcing the re-introduction of the American Health Security Act, recognising healthcare as a human right and providing every US citizen and permanent resident with healthcare coverage and services through a state-administered, single payer program.

Let’s face it: until we put patients over profits, our system will not work for ordinary Americans.

Bernie Sanders | CommonDreams.org

Why being a foodie isn’t ‘elitist’

The cheapness of today’s industrial food is an illusion, and the real cost is too high to pay. While the Farm Bureau Federation clings to an outdated mind-set, companies such as Wal-Mart, Danone, Kellogg’s, General Mills and Compass have invested in organic, sustainable production. Insurance companies such as Kaiser Permanente are opening farmers markets in low-income communities. Whole Foods is demanding fair labor practices, while Chipotle promotes the humane treatment of farm animals. Urban farms are being planted by visionaries such as Milwaukee’s Will Allen; the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is defending the rights of poor migrants; Restaurant Opportunities Centers United is fighting to improve the lives of food-service workers; and Alice Waters, Jamie Oliver and first lady Michelle Obama are pushing for healthier food in schools.

Calling these efforts elitist renders the word meaningless. The wealthy will always eat well. It is the poor and working people who need a new, sustainable food system more than anyone else. They live in the most polluted neighborhoods. They are exposed to the worst toxic chemicals on the job. They are sold the unhealthiest foods and can least afford the medical problems that result.

A food system based on poverty and exploitation will never be sustainable.

Eric Schlosser | The Washington Post

Insurers Getting Rich By Not Paying for Care

Contrary to what insurance company bigwigs try to make us believe, it is not snow, sleet and freezing rain or mild flu seasons that enables these companies to blow Wall Street’s estimates out of the water. What they will not admit is that their companies are making record profits by pushing more and more of us into benefit plans that require us to pay a whole lot more out of our own pockets before they will pay anything for our medical care.

And I’m betting that if the insurers had to disclose their rates of claim denials and the number of procedures their medical directors are refusing to pay for, we would see that those numbers are increasing, and maybe substantially. Medical directors know they play a key role in meeting Wall Street’s expectations, and they’re rewarded with raises, bonuses and, yes, stock options, if management is pleased with their job performance. The less money these companies pay out for care, the more is left over to reward shareholders and a bunch of corporate executives.

Wendell Potter | PR Watch

Republican and Democratic Plans for Medicare and Medicaid Misguided: Push for Privatization Will Accelerate Costs and Deaths

Privatization of health care is a failed experiment in the United States.

The United States differs from other nations in allowing investor-owned corporations to profit at the expense of human suffering and lives. After decades of experience with this unique privatized model of financing health care, the results are clear and startling.

The United States has the highest per capita health care costs, the highest prices for medical goods and services (and lower overall usage rates) and no control over health care spending. Despite attempts to patch the current health care situation, the number of uninsured and those with skimpy health insurance that leaves them unable to afford health care or at risk of medical bankruptcy continues to grow. Suffering and preventable deaths are higher in the U.S. than in other industrialized nations.

In addition, there have been no significant gains in important measures of health such as life expectancy and infant and maternal mortality rates. Our health disparities continue to grow, especially for those who have chronic conditions. And our health care workforce continues to be inadequate as health professionals quickly burn out from trying to practice in our complex and irrational health care environment.

It is time to recognize the failure of the market model of paying for health care and embrace comprehensive and effective health reform. The model for our ‘uniquely American’ solution lies in traditional Medicare, a single payer health system for those who are 65 years of age and over. Since its inception 45 years ago, Medicare has lifted seniors out of poverty and improved their health status.

Dr. Margaret Flowers | CommonDreams.org

Corporate Healthcare

The health care bill is one of the most flagrant advancements of this corporatism yet, as it bizarrely forces millions of people to buy extremely inadequate products from the private health insurance industry — regardless of whether they want it or, worse, whether they can afford it (even with some subsidies).

In other words, it uses the power of government, the force of law, to give the greatest gift imaginable to this industry — tens of millions of coerced customers, many of whom will be truly burdened by having to turn their money over to these corporations — and is thus a truly extreme advancement of this corporatist model.

It’s undeniably true that the bill will also do some genuine good, as it will help many people who can’t get coverage now to get it (though it will also severely burden many people with compelled, uncontrolled premiums and will potentially weaken coverage for millions as well). If one judges the bill purely from the narrow perspective of coverage, a rational and reasonable (though by no means conclusive) case can be made in its favor. But if one finds this creeping corporatism to be a truly disturbing and nefarious trend, then the bill will seem far less benign.

Glenn Greenwald | Salon

First They Came for the Banksters

With apologies to Pastor Niemöller:

First they came for the banksters, and showered them with money and put them in the Administration in a way that was not change we could believe in.

Then they came for the military industrial complex, and sent more and more of our children to die in faraway lands that had never attacked us in a way that was not change we could believe in.

And now they’ve sold out our hope for a national health care system not run by millionaire gangsters in suits. And who is left to speak for us?

Thom Hartmann | CommonDreams

America’s Defining Choice: Endless War or Healthcare?

President Obama and Congress will soon make defining choices about health care and troops for Afghanistan.

These two choices have something in common – each has a bill of around $100 billion per year. So one question is whether we’re better off spending that money blowing up things in Helmand Province or building up things in America.

Nicholas Kristof | The New York Times

Why the Current Bills Dont Solve Our Health Care Crisis

Now we know why they’ve stopped calling this health care reform, and started calling it insurance reform. The current bills advancing in Congress look more like rearranging the deck chairs on the insurance Titanic than actually ending our long health care nightmare.

Some laudable elements are in various versions of the bills, especially expanding Medicaid, cutting the private insurance-padding waste of Medicare Advantage, and limiting the ability of the insurance giants to ban and dump people who have been or who ever will be sick.

But, overall, the leading bills and the Presidents proposal are, like the dog that didnt bark, more notable for what is missing.

Michael Moore | HuffPost

Why Mr. Kyl Needs Maternity Coverage

Just before the Senate Finance Committee wrapped up for the long weekend, members debated one of Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R-AZ) amendments, which would strike language defining which benefits employers are required to cover.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) argued that insurers must be required to cover basic maternity care. (In several states there are no such requirements.)

“I don’t need maternity care,” Kyl said. “So requiring that on my insurance policy is something that I don’t need and will make the policy more expensive.”

Stabenow interrupted: “I think your mom probably did.”

This little slice of Senate life goes right to the heart of America’s healthcare crisis.

Extensive maternity care for all — from family planning through delivery — is an essential proponent of any sensible healthcare system. Nations with universal coverage typically include generous maternity leave prior to and after birth, providing the new parents with several layers of support.

The benefits to the parents are obvious: they receive all the care they need and they are able to spend time with their new baby, away from work, and without having to worry about money.

The benefits to society are just as important: expectant mothers who do not receive essential care have poorer outcomes, in part because of the missing care, and in part because of the disabling force of financial stress. A society peopled by a significant percentage of “poorer outcomes” suffers a range of ill effects, including unhealthy citizens who need far more medical care/spending than was “saved” by scrimping on maternity care.

Most everywhere but America they’ve figured this out and have better medical outcomes while spending less money.

Mr. Kyl and his buddies call this socialized medicine, a pronouncement that can stop all rational thought and serious discussion in America. They prefer instead the practice of Anti-Social Medicine, where everybody is on their own, where nobody should have to care about anyone beyond their own family, and where sickness profiteers make everything so expensive that only the rich get decent care.

Senator Stabenow’s reply did not go far enough: we shouldn’t insist on full and generous maternity benefits in all coverage plans because our mothers, wives, and daughters might need it, but because when we do not extend equal care to every newborn we violate the principles that inspired America — all are created equal and are equally endowed….

Michael Sky | Thinking Peace

Last Call for Obama

Tomorrow is Obama’s big healthcare speech. This is his last chance to significantly alter the downward spiral of American culture.

We are dying a slow death of poison-by-status-quo. The way America has been doing things — financially, militarily, medically, and environmentally — is not only not working, in each area our actions are so unsustainable that continuing on the same path can only lead to massive chaos and human suffering.

In each of these areas, Obama came with a sense that he definitely got it and was prepared to usher in monumental change. Financially and militarily he has been, at best, a continuation of Bush. Bankers are still getting richer while the rest of us get poorer, and we’re still dropping bombs on Iraqi and Afghani civilians in pursuit of policies that benefit no one but military contractors.

Environmentally, he has been better than Bush, barely. But mostly he’s still defending status quo industries like coal and automobiles when, again, what the planet needs is monumental change.

Healthcare “reform” has been the hardest to watch. When we discount the people’s voice right from the outset — strong majorities of patients and doctors favor a single payer system — it’s a clear sign that the status quo is ruling the day.

The unsustainable status quo in American healthcare is insurance and pharmaceutical industry profits, including shareholder dividends. That is the main reason American healthcare costs too much. It is unconscionable to have a great nation brought to ruin, and for its people to needlessly suffer, so that a small overfed elite can make money.

That’s what Obama needs to say. When they scream “Socialism” he has to say “Yes, when it comes to healthcare, that is the best way.” He has to unequivocally remove the profit motive from American medicine.

If he fails, then the status quo rules, and a once great nation continues its downward spiral.

Michael Sky | Thinking Peace