Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign

While heath care reform dominates the national debate, there is a 14 year-old boy in Kansas City, Kansas named Eduardo Loredo who could die any day.

Eduardo is being denied a heart transplant because he does not have health insurance (or enough money) to pay for a heart transplant and follow up care. Eduardo was diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy, a serious disease in which the heart muscle becomes inflamed and eventually stops working altogether, and was hospitalized at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO beginning in July 2009. Eduardo was sent home from Children’s Mercy Hospital on October 14, 2009 and told that he had the potential to live another two or three years, but that he could also die any day.

Missouri’s Medicaid program is generally available only to citizens and certain legal immigrants who meet a five year waiting period. These restrictive rules prevent Eduardo from qualifying for health insurance that would cover both the transplant procedure and the long-term follow up care required to ensure a successful transplant. Without this coverage, the total cost of the transplant would cost his family $500,000. Children’s Mercy Hospital told Eduardo that without an up-front payment of $100,000, he would not even be able to get on the waiting list for a heart transplant. While Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, MO originally offered to perform the transplant surgery for no cost, this offer was later retracted. His family is simply being told that his life is not a priority.

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These human rights include necessities such as housing, education, food, and health care. Although the United States signed this declaration, we are still waiting for our government to guarantee these rights.

Martin Luther King, Jr declared: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Whoever we are—whatever the color of our skin or how much money we have in the bank account or where we come from—we all deserve the chance to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. And so does Eduardo.

The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) calls on hospitals, doctors, health clinics, politicians, religious people, and all people of conscience to take responsibility for Eduardo’s life, and help him to live. Please contact Cheri Honkala, national Organizer of PPEHRC, at 267-439-8419 or cherippehrc@hotmail.com to help us save Eduardo.

As our government continues the battle to reform our health care system, may they look at Eduardo and declare: ENOUGH.

Enough people have died as a result of being barred from medical care that could have saved their lives.

Not one more Death. Health Care is a Human Right!

by Katie Robbins & Andy Coates –

Healthcare-NOW!

Two weekends ago, after the bait and switch of a vote on single-payer for a vote on an anti-abortion amendment, we felt wizened to the possibility of unknown threats in the legislative churn on health reform. As insurance and pharmaceutical companies, Catholic bishops, and the right wing throw in dollars, lobbyists, and pressure for no votes on the final bill, it is clear we who are in the business of protecting and improving our rights to access to health care, including abortion, must remain vigilant and ready to challenge these threats.

First, a little history is in order. In mid-July Rep. Kucinich passed in the Education and Labor Committee an amendment to the House bill for health insurance reform that would make single-payer easier to enact at the state level. On July 31st Rep. Weiner and 6 other members of Energy and Commerce Committee brought to committee an amendment to that would substitute the text of HR 676, the national single-payer bill, for the House bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered a floor vote on single payer — if Rep. Weiner would withdraw the amendment from committee.

Single-payer advocates embraced these efforts wholeheartedly. And we counted upon our champions in the House of Representatives to stand with us.

Vigorous activity ensued, a fourteen week campaign involving millions of people in phone calls, petitions, forums, local protests and vigils, emails and faxes, op-eds and letters-to-the-editor and personal visits. There were conscientious objectors. 158 single-payer supporters were arrested performing acts of civil disobedience, peaceful sit-ins to register their outrage in the offices of health insurance companies and Congress across the nation.

As the grassroots clamor rose, Reps. Weiner and Kucinich sought to surf the wave. The crescendo grew and grew, until one day before the House vote on health insurance reform.

And then — poof! — single payer was back off the table.

Rep. Kucinich’s state-based amendment was out of the bill, “dead as a doornail.” And Speaker Pelosi explained that the substitute amendment couldn’t possibly have a debate and vote, for if it did, amendments to restrict health care for women and undocumented immigrant workers would also get to the floor. Congressional leaders suddenly opined that a losing vote for a single-payer amendment would be “tantamount to driving the movement off a cliff.” Even the President weighed in to discourage a vote on single payer. Rep. Weiner withdrew the amendment.

Yet the next day the Speaker allowed the anti-abortion amendment to the floor, where it passed and was added to the bill. In the end, the only progressive Democrats to vote against the House bill, abortion ban and all, were Reps. Kucinich and Massa, both single-payer supporters.

The people expected universal health care, and the House of Representatives delivered an anti-abortion bill.

Worse, the Democratic Party traded away fundamental women’s rights for a Massachusetts-style mandate, a law to criminalize the uninsured and subsidize unaffordable private insurance premiums with tax money, something we know already will not reduce costs and will not cover everyone, will not lessen disparities and will not improve the health of the nation.

It is astounding to think the Democratic Party has made a bid for the United States to join a few shameful nations that severely restrict women’s access to abortion. Earlier this year we watched, with great dismay, when Mr. Obama chose not to strike the Hyde Amendment from his federal budget proposal. The President has now gone farther, re-affirming the prohibition of federal funding for abortion as a “principle.”

Reproductive rights cannot be bargained away for any reason. Autonomy over our bodies is essential to health care and to democracy.

No nation on earth can call itself a democracy without equal and full access to health care. No nation on earth can call itself a democracy without allowing full personal autonomy over all health decisions, including abortion. These values are severely threatened under the proposed legislation. It is time for protest.

As single payer advocates, we firmly believe that health care decisions must be made between the provider and the patient, with full protection of privacy. Women must be able to access abortion if determined necessary — by either the patient or the doctor.

We call upon the President and the Congress to start from scratch and ask you to join us. Senator Bernie Sanders will introduce a single payer bill in the United States Senate in the coming weeks. Demand that your Senator vote for this bill. In addition, join the National Organization for Women, strong single-payer advocates, in organizing days of action in DC and Pennsylvania to protest the Stupak-Pitts amendment.

The solution to the health care crisis must provide personal freedom from a dysfunctional and unsustainable system that ties health care to the employer and to the spouse. When Medicare was enacted, it reduced poverty in those over 65 by 60%. By this measure, a universal, single-payer system would also provide economic freedom, by raising over 22 million people out of poverty, while providing each of us with full and necessary access to health care. Nothing less will do.

Katie Robbins is National Organizer of Healthcare-NOW! Andy Coates, MD, is a member of Physicians for a National Health Program.

By Kevin Gosztola for OpEdNews.com

Myth #1Public option will help control costs

Dr. Margaret Flowers with Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) explains that Americans have been led to believe that “the public option is going to keep companies honest and help control costs.”

Obama and Congress are taking an approach that has failed to control costs time and time again.

“We’ve already had states that have tried this type of approach over the past few decades,” says Flowers. “Every state that has tried this approach has had these grandiose hopes where they had said we’re going to cover this many of hundreds of thousands of people in this time period and not a single one of them has succeeded. They’ve all fallen far short and then gone under financially.”

Self-employed doctor, Dr. Matt Hendrickson, who risked arrest in a MobilizeforHealthcare.org action at the Cigna Offices in Glendale, CA, cites examples “from the last 20 years of states that have attempted a public option.” He explains that Tennessee, Oregon, and Massachusetss (twice) have tried the public option.

“In each case, the number of uninsured went down briefly then returned to the baseline for one reason: cost,” said Hendrickson. “There’s no way to control cost as long as you allow private insurance industry to add a 25% surcharge to all healthcare transaction and to continue divert money to avoiding the sick, marketing and advertising, to avoid the sick and try to dump them onto a public plan.”

Anesthesiologist Dr. Samuel Metz, who is with the Mad as Hell Doctors, explains, “Massachusetts has been held up as an example of a state that has come closest to providing universal health insurance. However, not only has it failed to provide universal health insurance. It is also now the most expensive place on the planet for healthcare. It leads the U.S. in annual cost per person.”

The public option, “will not reduce the cost of healthcare,” says Metz. “In fact, it’s anticipated it will add $800 billion more into a system that’s already twice as expensive as the average industrialized nation.”

Myth #2The public option is a “public” option

The public option that came out of the House, according to Dr. Flowers, is “even worse than we could have imagined because they’re predicting that maybe 2% of the population will be able to go into that public option, that it will be run by private insurance companies, and that it will actually cost more than private insurance.”

What’s so public about something only open to 2% of the population?

As Kevin Zeese from the Prosperity Agendaexplains, “No matter how much you hate your current insurance, no matter how much they’ve abused you with premiums, co-pays, denials of care, no matter what they’ve done to you, you can’t leave your insurance and go to the public option,” said Zeese. “90% of Americans can’t even choose it. So much for choices.”

Flowers adds the government would be subsidizing the purse of private insurance to try to help people buy their products. Government would be putting public dollars into the pockets of private insurance companies. And, a private corporation would be allowed to run the public option.

How many Americans really think putting reform in the hands of those who have created this crisis in health care in America will ultimately work or produce any favorable results?

Myth #3 Public option will make single-payer possible

Doctors, nurses, and patients following the de-evolution of health care reform closely know that the public option (especially the idea of a robust public option) is a carefully calculated political carrot being offered to progressives so they will sit down, shut up about single-payer, and support this current corporate giveaway to private insurance companies, which is moving through Congress right now.

Hendrickson explains, “The reason why the public option was introduced, according to congress people that have spoken to the single-payer movement, was because of the single-payer movement. There was such an upswell in the progressive part of this country for single-payer that they opted for some compromise that would not have been given if there wasn’t so much support for single-payer.”

If you ask Zeese, this won’t do anything to get us closer to single-payer.

This bill will “enshrine and deepen the power of the insurance industry.” Hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenue, according to Zeese, will now be available for corrupting and influencing Congress.

It will be even harder to get single-payer if a weak public option remains in the bill. And the money government gives away will help private insurance fight any additional reforms to legislation passed by Congress and Obama.

Metz concludes that the public option will make it impossible for us to achieve universal coverage for at least a decade.

“Every passing year we’ll see more Americans with worse health and nobody will do anything because we will point to our legislation and say give it another couple years to work,” says Metz. “And in five years, we will have exhausted the financial resources of the government, we will have exhausted taxpayers, we will have exhausted the good will of voters, the patience of voters, and no one will want to attempt health reform again.”

November 24, 2009 by Healthcare-NOW!
Filed under Healthcare-NOW! Updates

On November 14 and 15, 2009, 125 single-payer activists met in St. Louis, MO to hash out the strategy for building the Healthcare-NOW! (HCN) network. Despite the passing of the House bill with the Stupak amendment, and the bait and switch of the first vote in the House on single-payer, the energy for going forward was high.

For those of you who were there, and for those who couldn’t make it, we have a comprehensive report back from the panels, workshops, and resources for all to use in their single-payer advocacy.

Video from the conference is at the bottom of this page.

Healthcare-NOW! 2009 Nat. Strategy Conference

This annual conference is meant to bring together activists from across the country to build the movement. Highlights included:

1. Firm commitment to oppose the legislation in it’s current form HCN would oppose the House Bill in its current form but do so in a manner that was respectful of the diversity of views within HCN, clearly distinguishes our position from that of right-wing teabaggers and is mindful of our strategic imperative to reach out to potential allies who realize that the public option movement has reached a dead end. A committee is working on a statement to circulate to HCN activists. If you would like to contribute to this effort, please contact Jeff Muckensturm at jeff@healthcare-now.org.

2. Firm commitment to support the Sanders efforts. Along with the Mobilization for Health Care for All Campaign, we are putting together a call to action to deliver letters to Senators offices, and organizing a day of action around Human Rights Day on Dec 10th. We will be announcing more details soon.

3. 6 new Healthcare-NOW! board members! We welcome Rita Valenti, Lindy Hern, Mikuak Rai, Edith Kenna, Vashti Winterberg, and Mona Shaw to the board! Part of the new structure of HCN which was voted on at the meeting in new bylaws is to allow membership to vote on board members. We welcome these experienced activists and organizers. Board elections will happen every two years, so keep this in mind for the 2011 HCN membership meeting, so that you can run and help in the collective decision making process of HCN.

4. Michael Lighty’s presentation on the current legislation and it’s inadequacy helped shape the membership decision to oppose the bill. Download his comparison of the bills and more resources here.

5. Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women, announced her plans to roll out a national action plan for single-payer! Also, she announced plans to challenge the Stupak amendment.

6. Ethel Long Scott’s remarks on Going Forward received a standing ovation – Read more here.

7. Sandy Fox made a call to action to save our community hospitals. Reporting on the closing of Braddock Community hospital in Pittsburgh, she said their local coalition has been able to garner significant local media attention and reach a new community to support single-payer national health care. Read about their work here. To get involved with the campaign to Save our Community Hospitals, contact Dr. Anne Scheetz at annescheetz [at] gmail.com.

8. The wonderful hospitality of the Missourians for Single Payer, and having the input from so many committed activists from the area. Special thanks to them for their support.

9. Mikuak Rai closing out with his song “The System is Sick.”

Strategy Ideas for Healthcare-NOW! in 2010

1. Add and build new coalitions while strengthening existing ones (all methods to build local coalitions got priority status, especially working on local hospital and primary care facility closing and cut-backs)
-Go back to all of our local organizations with the info from the conference
-Draw in LGBT community
-Draw in campuses – use their energy – hold meetings on campuses
-Local vigils
-Support local hospital/primary care facility campaigns
-Add a “best practices’ page to our website
-Draw self-help health groups into our movement
-Double our membership over the next year
-Use national and regional conference calls

2. Expand the diversity of our movement
-Add artists from music, poetry, etc. Concert for our issue
-Use You Tube channel, commercials to build our movement
-Reach youth – national book sale, health care stories from youth and minority communities (note Families USA story book from Tennessee)
-Create HCN Youth Advisory Board

3. Grow understanding and support for federal level single-payer
-Don’t be afraid to talk to folks from Chambers of Commerce and AARP that may be disillusioned at this point
-Collect new stories behind HR 3962 or whatever comes out of Congress
-Force insurance industry to be transparent and report their denials
-National demonstration
-One on one house parties
-Consolidate national messaging; coordinated analysis of issue and guidelines for response – have one place for folks to get this information
-New messages that brands our values, gives human dimension to issue, avoids “socialist” problem. “Single payer” works to some degree – may not be our best label.
Perhaps something like “America’s Healthy Families Plan” (Priority—committee set up to work on this; D. Breitzman is taking the lead)
-Healthcare is a human right must be part of the messaging; tie health reform to eliminating poverty
-Tie in activists from various mobilization civil disobedience campaigns – they will help us all understand the importance of these tactics and that they aren’t that scary
Continue to target insurance companies
-Bring HCAN and Obamacare folks into the fold

4. Increase Healthcare-NOW’s national visibility
-Huffington Post, etc. work on fairer media exposure
-More visual media
-Endorse Fair Elections bills
-VOTE DOWN 3962 – support “civilized” medicine; be clear about our message in taking a position (Those present voted to take a position against HR 3269, and a large committee formed to craft the position so that our position is clear and thoughtful; Jeff M. from Healthcare-NOW staff will convene the group on-line)

5. Shift energy from national coalition building effort to grassroots coalitions
-Build groups at the Congressional district level – regional, too.
-Work on electing democrats who might support single payer; make single payer key criteria for election

6. Implement the Marilyn Clement Healthcare Justice Intern Program

Download all the minutes from the conference here.
Download all the strategy ideas from the conference here.
Download the report back from the workshops.

November 23, 2009 by Healthcare-NOW!
Filed under Action Alerts, Healthcare-NOW! Updates

By Donna Smith –

Those millions of us who support a Medicare for All, single-payer, reform for the healthcare crisis in this nation have some work to do over the next few days. Senators are on their way to their home states for the one-week Thanksgiving recess – and they need a little up close and personal constituent attention before dinnertime on Thursday.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is a stalwart supporter of doing the right thing for his state, our healthcare system and this nation – and he has said repeatedly that moving toward a just and economically sound system is possible through Medicare for All, single-payer. In the purest sense of giving patients control over their own healthcare, single-payer gives us all control over our choice of providers – and it gives our healthcare professionals the freedom they need to advise us on the basis of health rather than payment source.

So, even though the current Senate bill is not what we want – Senator Sanders will offer an amendment that would be a substitute for that bill and is mirrored on S. 703, The American Health Security Act.

We need to make it clear before our Senators are immersed in their own holiday events and then in traveling back to Washington, DC, that we want them to support Senator Sanders’ amendment.

Call today, call tomorrow and keep calling until the home offices of the Senators close for the holidays – and many will stay open until Wednesday at noon. Tell the staff you want to talk turkey about the Senate effort.

Time is drawing short for our Senators to hear from us. Debate will begin on November 30 on the current Senate bill. Senator Sanders needs support. He has already told us that he does not expect a win on his amendment. But we are all laying groundwork for this nation to move in the right direction before long – we know that the current bills do not “bend the cost curve” enough and we know they certainly do not bend the death or bankruptcy curve nearly enough to make the bills what this nation needs.

Additionally, we want the legislation to contain language that will allow states that opt in to a single-payer system to be able to do so with the appropriate waivers from federal legal provisions which might otherwise present obstacles to doing so.

So, the ask of our Senators – each and every one, liberal, centrist or conservative – is two-fold and urgent:

1. Vote with and for Sanders’ S. 703 substitute amendment; and
2. Support state single-payer enabling language in the final bill.

Calls to DC won’t be effective this week. We can all return to that effort next week. Thanksgiving week calls must go to your Senators’ offices in your state. Look them up here, using your zip code.

Tell friends, neighbors and relatives. This year, talk a little turkey about healthcare. Ask folks how thankful they would be to have healthcare as a basic human right for their neighbors and for themselves. And then help them look up their Senators’ contact information and tell them how easy it really is to call and log your concerns and your expectations for an affirmative vote for the Sanders’ amendment.

Oh, and don’t forget to thank one another for caring enough to join in the struggle. It matters. Everybody in, nobody out. Thank you all for believing that together we can change this, because we can.

by Katie Robbins & Andy Coates –

November 23, 2009 by Healthcare-NOW!
Filed under Single-Payer News

Two weekends ago, after the bait and switch of a vote on single-payer for a vote on an anti-abortion amendment, we felt wizened to the possibility of unknown threats in the legislative churn on health reform. As insurance and pharmaceutical companies, Catholic bishops, and the right wing throw in dollars, lobbyists, and pressure for no votes on the final bill, it is clear we who are in the business of protecting and improving our rights to access to health care, including abortion, must remain vigilant and ready to challenge these threats.

First, a little history is in order. In mid-July Rep. Kucinich passed in the Education and Labor Committee an amendment to the House bill for health insurance reform that would make single-payer easier to enact at the state level. On July 31st Rep. Weiner and 6 other members of Energy and Commerce Committee brought to committee an amendment to that would substitute the text of HR 676, the national single-payer bill, for the House bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered a floor vote on single payer — if Rep. Weiner would withdraw the amendment from committee.

Single-payer advocates embraced these efforts wholeheartedly. And we counted upon our champions in the House of Representatives to stand with us.

Vigorous activity ensued, a fourteen week campaign involving millions of people in phone calls, petitions, forums, local protests and vigils, emails and faxes, op-eds and letters-to-the-editor and personal visits. There were conscientious objectors. 158 single-payer supporters were arrested performing acts of civil disobedience, peaceful sit-ins to register their outrage in the offices of health insurance companies and Congress across the nation.

As the grassroots clamor rose, Reps. Weiner and Kucinich sought to surf the wave. The crescendo grew and grew, until one day before the House vote on health insurance reform.

And then — poof! — single payer was back off the table.

Rep. Kucinich’s state-based amendment was out of the bill, “dead as a doornail.” And Speaker Pelosi explained that the substitute amendment couldn’t possibly have a debate and vote, for if it did, amendments to restrict health care for women and undocumented immigrant workers would also get to the floor. Congressional leaders suddenly opined that a losing vote for a single-payer amendment would be “tantamount to driving the movement off a cliff.” Even the President weighed in to discourage a vote on single payer. Rep. Weiner withdrew the amendment.

Yet the next day the Speaker allowed the anti-abortion amendment to the floor, where it passed and was added to the bill. In the end, the only progressive Democrats to vote against the House bill, abortion ban and all, were Reps. Kucinich and Massa, both single-payer supporters.

The people expected universal health care, and the House of Representatives delivered an anti-abortion bill.

Worse, the Democratic Party traded away fundamental women’s rights for a Massachusetts-style mandate, a law to criminalize the uninsured and subsidize unaffordable private insurance premiums with tax money, something we know already will not reduce costs and will not cover everyone, will not lessen disparities and will not improve the health of the nation.

It is astounding to think the Democratic Party has made a bid for the United States to join a few shameful nations that severely restrict women’s access to abortion. Earlier this year we watched, with great dismay, when Mr. Obama chose not to strike the Hyde Amendment from his federal budget proposal. The President has now gone farther, re-affirming the prohibition of federal funding for abortion as a “principle.”

Reproductive rights cannot be bargained away for any reason. Autonomy over our bodies is essential to health care and to democracy.

No nation on earth can call itself a democracy without equal and full access to health care. No nation on earth can call itself a democracy without allowing full personal autonomy over all health decisions, including abortion. These values are severely threatened under the proposed legislation. It is time for protest.

As single payer advocates, we firmly believe that health care decisions must be made between the provider and the patient, with full protection of privacy. Women must be able to access abortion if determined necessary — by either the patient or the doctor.

We call upon the President and the Congress to start from scratch and ask you to join us. Senator Bernie Sanders will introduce a single payer bill in the United States Senate in the coming weeks. Demand that your Senator vote for this bill. In addition, join the National Organization for Women, strong single-payer advocates, in organizing days of action in DC and Pennsylvania to protest the Stupak-Pitts amendment.

The solution to the health care crisis must provide personal freedom from a dysfunctional and unsustainable system that ties health care to the employer and to the spouse. When Medicare was enacted, it reduced poverty in those over 65 by 60%. By this measure, a universal, single-payer system would also provide economic freedom, by raising over 22 million people out of poverty, while providing each of us with full and necessary access to health care. Nothing less will do.

Katie Robbins is National Organizer of Healthcare-NOW! Andy Coates, MD, is a member of Physicians for a National Health Program.

For OpEdNews by Kevin Gosztola

On Saturday night, the Senate will take a procedural vote to move debate on the current health insurance enrichment bill in Congress forward.

Democratic Senators like Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, and Chuck Schumer, through a project called Citizens for a Public Option, have been building support for the public option and encouraging Americans to write letters to the editor that debunk health care reform myths—myths that the conservative echo chamber have been propagating.

Senators (and representatives in the House and Obama) can champion this health insurance legislation all they want and claim it will “foster greater competition in the marketplace, create more choices for consumers, and lead to lower costs and better quality for all,” but doctors who have been on the front lines of America’s sick care non-system do not believe many of the arguments that Democrats are using to create support for a public option.

Myth #1 – Public option will help control costs

Dr. Margaret Flowers with Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) explains that Americans have been led to believe that “the public option is going to keep companies honest and help control costs.”

Obama and Congress are taking an approach that has failed to control costs time and time again.

“We’ve already had states that have tried this type of approach over the past few decades,” says Flowers. “Every state that has tried this approach has had these grandiose hopes where they had said we’re going to cover this many of hundreds of thousands of people in this time period and not a single one of them has succeeded. They’ve all fallen far short and then gone under financially.”

Self-employed doctor, Dr. Matt Hendrickson, who risked arrest in a MobilizeforHealthcare.org action at the Cigna Offices in Glendale, CA, cites examples “from the last 20 years of states that have attempted a public option.” He explains that Tennessee, Oregon, and Massachusetss (twice) have tried the public option.

“In each case, the number of uninsured went down briefly then returned to the baseline for one reason: cost,” said Hendrickson. “There’s no way to control cost as long as you allow private insurance industry to add a 25% surcharge to all healthcare transaction and to continue divert money to avoiding the sick, marketing and advertising, to avoid the sick and try to dump them onto a public plan.”

Anesthesiologist Dr. Samuel Metz, who is with the Mad as Hell Doctors, explains, “Massachusetts has been held up as an example of a state that has come closest to providing universal health insurance. However, not only has it failed to provide universal health insurance. It is also now the most expensive place on the planet for healthcare. It leads the U.S. in annual cost per person.”

The public option, “will not reduce the cost of healthcare,” says Metz. “In fact, it’s anticipated it will add $800 billion more into a system that’s already twice as expensive as the average industrialized nation.”

Myth #2 – The public option is a “public” option

The public option that came out of the House, according to Dr. Flowers, is “even worse than we could have imagined because they’re predicting that maybe 2% of the population will be able to go into that public option, that it will be run by private insurance companies, and that it will actually cost more than private insurance.”

What’s so public about something only open to 2% of the population?

As Kevin Zeese from the Prosperity Agendaexplains, “No matter how much you hate your current insurance, no matter how much they’ve abused you with premiums, co-pays, denials of care, no matter what they’ve done to you, you can’t leave your insurance and go to the public option,” said Zeese. “90% of Americans can’t even choose it. So much for choices.”

Flowers adds the government would be subsidizing the purse of private insurance to try to help people buy their products. Government would be putting public dollars into the pockets of private insurance companies. And, a private corporation would be allowed to run the public option.

How many Americans really think putting reform in the hands of those who have created this crisis in health care in America will ultimately work or produce any favorable results?

Myth #3 – Public option will make single-payer possible

Doctors, nurses, and patients following the de-evolution of health care reform closely know that the public option (especially the idea of a robust public option) is a carefully calculated political carrot being offered to progressives so they will sit down, shut up about single-payer, and support this current corporate giveaway to private insurance companies, which is moving through Congress right now.

Hendrickson explains, “The reason why the public option was introduced, according to congress people that have spoken to the single-payer movement, was because of the single-payer movement. There was such an upswell in the progressive part of this country for single-payer that they opted for some compromise that would not have been given if there wasn’t so much support for single-payer.”

If you ask Zeese, this won’t do anything to get us closer to single-payer.

This bill will “enshrine and deepen the power of the insurance industry.” Hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenue, according to Zeese, will now be available for corrupting and influencing Congress.

It will be even harder to get single-payer if a weak public option remains in the bill. And the money government gives away will help private insurance fight any additional reforms to legislation passed by Congress and Obama.

Metz concludes that the public option will make it impossible for us to achieve universal coverage for at least a decade.

“Every passing year we’ll see more Americans with worse health and nobody will do anything because we will point to our legislation and say give it another couple years to work,” says Metz. “And in five years, we will have exhausted the financial resources of the government, we will have exhausted taxpayers, we will have exhausted the good will of voters, the patience of voters, and no one will want to attempt health reform again.”

WaPo’s new rule of journalism?

FAIR

November 17, 2009

The Washington Post’s Shailagh Murray (11/17/09) wrote a profile of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D.-Ark.) as one of the Democratic senators most likely to break with the rest of the party on healthcare reform. The article seemed to invert the advice Deep Throat once gave to the Post’s Woodward and Bernstein into a new rule: Don’t follow the money.

Headlined “A Centrist in Healthcare Debate, Lincoln Hears It From All Sides,” the piece presented Lincoln’s stance as something of a puzzle: “Hundreds of thousands of Lincoln’s constituents are low-income and lack insurance, the very kind of voters expected to benefit under the Senate bill.”

Murray described the senator as facing a dilemma:

The low-profile centrist is being pressed by both sides. Democratic activists are incensed that she has turned against the public option, an idea she once supported. Republicans are casting her cautious approach to the healthcare debate in starkly political terms, saying that she is unwilling to put local interests above those of a president who lost the state by a resounding 20 percentage points.
She even acknowledged the forces lining up against the politician:
In the process, Lincoln has riled liberal groups including MoveOn.org, which is targeting her with radio ads, direct mail and rallies outside two of her Arkansas offices. Perhaps more ominously, MoveOn–working with the liberal group Democracy for America–has amassed $3.5 million in pledges to fund primary challenges against any Democratic senator who sides with Republicans to block an up-or-down vote on a bill with a public option.
That would seem to raise another question: Who’s keeping her IN power? The Center for Responsive Politics has some background on that from the second quarter of this year–information the Post apparently doesn’t consider important:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has brought in the most from the health sector so far this year at $394,400, followed by Senate Finance Committee member Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who collected $324,350, and former Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who brought in $266,100. All three senators are up for re-election in 2010.
Of all the lawmakers on the five committees debating healthcare reform, Lincoln has brought in by far the most money from the healthcare sector–26 percent more than the runner-up, Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.), who took in $257,400. For the 2005-10 election cycle, the healthcare sector has been Lincoln’s most generous source of support, giving her a total of $763,000 from individuals and political action committees.
The Watergate-era lesson to “follow the money” is supposedly part of modern journalistic culture–a motto of the savvy journalist who understands that large amounts of money have the power to influence people’s behavior. But as FAIR’s magazine Extra! recently showed (11/09), coverage of healthcare reform in the corporate media has generally failed to document the links between industry largesse and the political maneuvers of “centrist” Democrats like Blanche Lincoln. If the newspaper that got the message directly from Deep Throat doesn’t follow his advice, who else will?

ACTION:
Ask Washington Post ombud Andy Alexander why the paper’s November 17 profile of Sen. Blanche Lincoln, which focused on her position on healthcare reform, neglected to mention Lincoln’s financial support from the healthcare industry.

CONTACT:
Washington Post
Andy Alexander, Ombud
ombudsman@washpost.com

Says Liberals Need to Drop Public Option in Support of Single Payer

The Hunger Action Network of New York State said the expected vote this week on Cong. Weiner’s single payer amendment was the last chance for Congress to adopt a universal health care system.

“The United States needs to join the rest of the industrial world in making health care a right and improving the quality of our health care delivery system. In addition, we need to cut – not increase – the amount of money Americans spend on health care. A Medicare for All type program that eliminates the huge waste and barriers of our for-profit private health insurance system is the best way to do this, as President Obama has stated throughout his career,” stated Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of Hunger Action Network.

This summer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a full house vote on a single payer Medicare for All proposal in exchange for Cong. Weiner agreeing not to raise the amendment during the Committee process. While Pelosi has wavered on her promise in recent weeks, other House leaders said at the end of last week they expected the vote to take place as promised.

Eighty-seven members of Congress – including ten from New York – have co-sponsored the single payer bill (HR 676) authored by Cong. Conyers.

Hunger Action Network also wants the House to re-instate the provision by Cong. Kucinich to allow states to adopt a single payer system if they so want. This amendment was added by committee vote to the various drafts of the House bill this summer, including the support of many Republicans who voted for it in the name of states’ rights.. The California State Legislature for instance has repeatedly passed a state single bill in recent years, only to have it vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger, who is term limited after this year. The State of New York recently completed a study that concluded that a single payer system would reduce spending on health care in New York by $20 billion annually by 2019.

“The Democrats all know that a single payer system is best for Americans – it’s just not good for the insurance companies. So they and their allies like HCAN proposed a robust public option as a compromise, a compromise that many of us felt was fatally designed since it left intact all the problems with private health insurance. That approach hasn’t worked; the public option has now become so weak that it is meaningless, covering an estimated 2% of the population. All it will do is give health care reform a bad name. It’s time for Congressional Democrats to put the health care needs of the American people and employers ahead of the profits and greed of the insurance companies and vote for what they know is best for the country,” added Dunlea.

A single payer system merely means that one program or entity pays all bills – like Medicare does. The elimination of the paperwork, marketing costs and profits of private health insurance would save an estimated $400 billion annually, which would then help pay to provide health care to those presently uninsured. Unlike the other Democratic proposals, including the public option, single payer is the only system that would cover all Americans – as President Obama recently admitted publicly. If everyone is actually covered, it then becomes fiscally prudent for the government to invest more in preventive care to keep everyone healthy. America’s present sick-care system is more expensive since it tries to treat people once they are sick.

The US spends about $7,200 annually per capita for health care, twice as much on average as other industrial countries. Close to 1/5 of the American economy is now devoted to paying for health care. High health care costs were a major factor for instance in the collapse of the American auto industry. The Democrats’ main health care plans actually manage to increase health care spending, especially for individuals.

From Healthcare-NOW!

On Saturday, November 7, 2009, the House passed H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, to much celebration by the Democratic party. Healthcare-NOW!’s view, however, is that the House bill is a gift to the insurance industry at the further expense of the people of this nation.

The bill’s advocates claim it will cover an additional 36 million people, subsidize the cost of insurance for families up to 400% above the poverty level, increase Medicaid coverage to 150% above the poverty level, close the Medicare donut hole by 2019, place a surcharge on individuals making more than $500,000 and couples making more than $1,000,000, will end rescissions and pre-existing conditions.

What the Democrats fail to mention is the bill leaves millions of people uninsured, allows medical bankruptcies to persist, criminalizes and fines the uninsured, increases the number of underinsured, does nothing to contain the sky rocketing costs, blocks women from their reproductive rights, transfers massive public funds to private insurance companies strengthening their control over care, protects pharmaceutical companies’ superprofits at patient expense, fails to reclaim the 31% of waste in our system, expands Medicaid without regard to the state budget crises, discriminates based on immigration status and age, and sets up several levels of care covering less for those without the ability to pay. Those who have coverage will increasingly find care unaffordable and will go without. The whole system will inevitably fail from being fiscally unsustainable.

So is the House bill better than nothing?

“I don’t think so,” writes Marcia Angell, M.D., former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. “It simply throws more money into a dysfunctional and unsustainable system, with only a few improvements at the edges, and it augments the central role of the investor-owned insurance industry. The danger is that as costs continue to rise and coverage becomes less comprehensive, people will conclude that we’ve tried health reform and it didn’t work. But the real problem will be that we didn’t really try it. I would rather see us do nothing now, and have a better chance of trying again later and then doing it right.”

Given that the bill does nothing to contain or reduce rising costs or end the private health insurance industy’s dominance, we hoped that the Progressive Caucus would stand strong. But they did not. All but two of H.R. 676’s cosponsors voted for H.R. 3962 — Rep. Eric Massa [D-NY] and Rep. Kucinich [D-OH].

Rep. Massa stated, “At the highest level, this bill will enshrine in law the monopolistic powers of the private health insurance industry, period. There’s really no other way to look at it.”

Despite telling single-payer advocates that Congressman Weiner’s single-payer amendment could not go to vote because it would open the floodgates for regressive amendments on abortion and immigrant access, the Democratic leadership allowed votes on both. Prior to the vote on H.R. 3962, the Stupak Amendment passed that will prevent women receiving tax subsidies from using their own money to purchase private insurance that covers abortion and in many cases will prevent low-income women from accessing abortion entirely.

The House of Representatives has dealt the worst blow to women’s fundamental right to self-determination in order to buy a few votes for reform of the profit-driven health insurance industry,” writes Terry O’Neill, President of National Organization for Women. “We must protect the rights we fought for in Roe v. Wade. We cannot and will not support a health care bill that strips millions of women of their existing access to abortion.”

Healthcare-NOW! fought to win a fair and open debate on healthcare reform including the merits of a single-payer system. This has not yet happened, but the advocacy for this system has greatly impacted the debate in meaningful ways.

We need to continue to build the grassroots movement for single-payer, not-for-profit, national healthcare. We look forward to much brain-storming at our upcoming national strategy conference in St. Louis this weekend, and the opportunity to move forward with renewed energy, creative ideas, and resolve.

Meanwhile, we have the opportunity NOW to continue to support the Sanders’ Single-Payer Amendment to be introduced in the U.S. Senate, Congressman Kucinich’s efforts to get the state single-payer amendment back in when the House and Senate bills are reconciled, and the efforts of the Mobilization for Health Care for All.

Thanks for all that you do,
Healthcare-NOW! National Staff and Steering Committee