Archive for the ‘healthcare’ Category

Parsing the Public Option

September 14, 2009

Cartoon by Daryl Cagle reprinted by permission. In his August 30 blog post, “How to Draw an Ugly Health Plan and Make it Pretty,” Cagle (a supporter of single player–be it public or private) writes he came up with the cartoon to “comment on the speculation that the Democrats would use sentiment about Teddy Kennedy’s death to push health care legislation, possibly by attaching Kennedy’s name.

Thanks, Daryl for the permission. Everybody, check out http://blog.cagle.com (If you have trouble with these links, they aren’t permanently broken; Daryl tells me his blog will be back on line, soon.)

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I sure wish Teddy Kennedy were alive and well and fighting. Obama’s proposal delivered to Congress on September 9 identified some of the problems in the healthcare system, but offered little about implementation of solutions–and all in terms so vague as to constitute a Rorschach test. Nate Silver, my favorite poll analyst, thinks that’s part of why public opinion is hard to test.

September 14, he took on the WaPo’s poll and the odd interpretation written by Jon Cohen and Dan Balz: “Reform Opposition Is High but Easing: More Support if Public Option Dropped.” Like me, he questions the WaPo analysis that the public option should be taken off the table, despite a poll in which a majority support it. In “When You Assume, You Make a Mess Out of Your Poll” published in FiveThirtyEight.com, Silver writes,

One problem is that both the poll and the article assume that the public assumes that the public option is the default condition of the health care reform plan. But as anyone who is following the health care debate knows, this is hardly a safe assumption. Some versions of the “proposed changes to the health care system being developed by Congress and the Obama administration” — like the one which was passed by the House tri-committee — include a public option. Other versions — like the draft prepared by Max Baucus’s Senate Finance Committee — do not. And the President himself is on the fence. As a matter of semantics at the very least, it is not really proper to state that “If [the public option] were removed, opposition to the overall package drops by six percentage points,” because it is not clear that the public option is in the package in the first place…

When you’re specifying that the plan does not include a public option, you’re really doing two things. Number one, you’re taking the public option off the table. But number two, you’re providing specificity. And what the health care polling has consistently shown over the past few months is that the more specificity you provide, the more support for the package rises….The respondents may be reacting to the specificity more than anything having to do with the public option itself.

Another poll of doctors finds even more support for the public option: the New England Journal of Medicine‘s “Doctors on Coverage — Physicians’ Views on a New Public Insurance Option and Medicare Expansion,” featured by NPR. The summary there:

Among all the players in the health care debate, doctors may be the least understood about where they stand on some of the key issues around changing the health care system. Now, a new survey finds some surprising results: A large majority of doctors say there should be a public option.

When polled, “nearly three-quarters of physicians supported some form of a public option, either alone or in combination with private insurance options,” says Dr. Salomeh Keyhani. She and Dr. Alex Federman, both internists and researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, conducted a random survey, by mail and by phone, of 2,130 doctors. They surveyed them from June right up to early September.

What we DO know about Obama’s preferred plan after reading his speech to Congress

Nothing in his plan requires a change to another insurer. Insurance companies will not be allowed to:

  • deny coverage because of preexisting condition
  • drop coverage or reduce coverage for illness
  • cap coverage during the year or lifetime
  • charge more than a set limit for out-of-pocket expenses
  • exclude or charge extra for coverage for routine checkups and preventive care

Four years from passage his plan will create an “insurance exchange” to hold down costs for small businesses and individuals, including tax credits. Until then there will be “low cost coverage” for those who cannot get insurance. Individuals and companies will be required to provide insurance except for

hardship waiver for those individuals who still can’t afford coverage, and 95 percent of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements.

He talks about the public option as only being for those who don’t have insurance and that the CBO only predicts that 5% of Americans will enroll. Does that mean that I’ll be forced to continue with my current policy? He also says no federal money for abortions and that the “conscience” exception will remain in effect. So unless a poor woman can get a private source of funding, I guess abortions are restricted to those who can afford them?

Additionally he talks about how premiums will have to cover the public option, but at the same time compares them to public universities. But, last time I checked tax dollars support these universities, although to a decreasing degree.

And he calls triggers and co-ops “constructive” alternatives, although there has been substantial criticism that both are problematic.

I’ve already written about the criticism of coops.. As for triggers, Tim Foley wrote about Robert Pear’s description of the plan on May 30. (see also Pear’s description of the trigger on September 9).

“the public plan would be created only if private insurance companies had not made meaningful, affordable coverage available to all Americans within several years.” All of these terms – “meaningful,” “affordable” and “several years” – are as vague as can be. The trigger may be set up so, in effect, it never happens, similar to the Medicare Part D trigger that would have created a public prescription drug plan – but never did. The threshold would be low enough that it could be easily, and superficially, met. Throughout those “several years,” the insurance plans would receive all of the uninsured who enroll through a National Health Exchange, pocketing what we can hope are generous government subsidies, with very few changes to their behavior. And even if the trigger is met and a public plan created years down the road, private insurance would have serious “status quo bias” on its side. … So let me get this straight: for the sake of having a big, feel-good compromise in the Senate Finance Committee, we’d be willing to take the word of an insurance industry that has made record-breaking profits on the basis of cherry-picking, denying care, and setting up tilted, monopolized playing fields such that 94% of the health insurance markets in this country are deemed “non-competitive” that they can clean up a mess that currently makes them rich without a competitor to, in the words of the president, “keep them honest”?

Most of us know the health system is broken

Okay, some say we have the finest health system (what an oxymoron) in the world. But for those of you don’t trust the World Health Organization’s numbers, how about our own CIA?

The average life expectancy estimate for 2009 for the US, according to the CIA World Fact Book, rates 50th. And for infant morality, there are 44 countries that do better than the US.

We know a large number of folks lack health insurance. Others such as myself pay a high proportion of our income and still contend w. high deductibles. And we cannot shop for a better policy because we have pre-existing conditions. In my case, although I had insurance, the company (Blue Cross, now Anthem) delayed my treatment for months while my doctor argued for the proper tests. By the time this was approved, I needed surgery, radiation and chemo.

62 percent of all bankruptcies filed in 2007 were linked to medical expenses. Of those who filed for bankruptcy, nearly 80 percent had health insurance, according to (Himmelstein, D, E., et al, writing in “Medical Bankruptcy in the United States, 2007: Results of a National Study, American Journal of Medicine, May 2009. And according to Price Waterhouse, at least a quarter of all health insurance $ in the U.S. are spent on administrative costs. (I can send you the report.)

All the forgoing explains, perhaps why we spend a higher proportion of our gross national product and a higher cost per person on health care and still do not have as good outcomes as other countries in the developed world.

The question: are we going to have any real improvement?

I see little evidence that politicians opposing healthcare reform are ready to dial back their rhetoric. Or that a sufficient number supporting reform will come up with sufficient changes.
Rolling Stone
‘s Matt Taibbi agrees. In the September 3, 2009 issue, he outlines the legislative process to date in “Sick and Wrong: How Washington is screwing up health care reform – and why it may take a revolt to fix it.” He writes

All that’s left of health care reform is a collection of piece-of-shit, weakling proposals that are preposterously expensive and contain almost nothing meaningful — and that set of proposals, meanwhile, is being negotiated down even further by the endlessly negating Group of Six. It is a fight to the finish now between Really Bad and Even Worse. And it’s virtually guaranteed to sour the public on reform efforts for years to come.

In his speech September 9, President Obama protested that

I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.

Let’s hope that’s not because the insurance and pharmaceutical companies and lobbyists and their allies achieve a permanent victory.

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Crystal Sutton sucumbs to cancer at 68

September 13, 2009


Photo of Crystal Sutton, the inspiration for the movie Norma Rae, at the time of a reception in her honor on June 12, 2007 on the ocassion of her donation of her papers to Almanance Community College in Graham, North Carolina (just east of Burlington–for info on the collection email Sheila Street.)

At the age of 33 in 1973, she worked at the J.P. Stevens plant in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., making $2.65 an hour folding towels, after having been employed by the company since the age of 17. She joined forces with Eli Zivkovich, a union organizer from West Virginia, in an attempt to improve working conditions. After that, she said,

Management and others treated me as if I had leprosy.

She received threats and was finally fired after copying a mill flyer saying blacks would run the union. In one final act of defiance,

I took a piece of cardboard and wrote the word UNION on it in big letters, got up on my work table, and slowly turned it around. The workers started cutting their machines off and giving me the victory sign. All of a sudden the plant was very quiet…

The police physically removed her from the plant, but The Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) won the right to represent the workers at the plant and Sutton became an organizer for the union. In 1977, Sutton was awarded back wages and reinstated on her job by court order. Since she now had other opportunities, she returned for only two daysand continued her organizing work.

By 1988, she decided to decided to join the community college’s Nursing Assistant program. I haven’t yet found what happened to her organizing job that would lead her to train for such a relatively low-paying type of work, after years in the limelight. But her attendance there led her to donate her papers in 2007 to ensure they would be provided for future historians and students.

By that time she was already battling cancer, after a delay of two months caused by her insurance company, which at first would not immediately approve her medical treatment.

The Crystal Lee Sutton Awards, established in her name by the Motion Picture Editors Guild, recognize individuals and organizations whose efforts have contributed to presenting positive images of working people to the American public.

Sutton said in an interview

The outrage, oh, the outrage

September 8, 2009


Cartoon by J.D. Crowe (
website, email) of the Mobile (Alabama) Register

The White House released a transcript of this speech slated for today. It was a pep talk, nothing much controversial, with this ending:

So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

But a transcript and a mind speech weren’t enough to quell the row and accusations of indoctrination, commented on by the BBC.

The Cato Institute wants us to understand the context for this:, while slyly calling the speech “politicized.”

The furious reaction to the politicized lesson plan and Obama’s speech to schoolchildren cannot be understood without the context of the bailouts, the stimulus, the debt, GM, the attempt to take over health care.

And now, our kids. And not just the speech and lesson plan, but federal expansion into preschool and early childhood initiatives and home visitations (however voluntary and innocuous-seeming in different times).

They . . . the government, the meddlers, the nannies . . . they are coming for our money, our doctors, our guns and our kids. They won’t stop until they control everything.

That’s how it looks to millions of Americans. Fair or not, people are now very sensitive to any actions by the Obama administration.

Just as a lifetime of exposure to an allergen and modest immune reactions can reach some ill-defined tipping point and bloom into full-blown anaphylaxis, many Americans have developed an acute allergy to government intervention and Obama’s grand plans.

Which makes me wonder, just who is politicized here? Could there be some truth to this cartoon by Bill Schorr of Cagle Cartoons?


Count me as one who is furious about the bailouts the stimulus, the debt. But who started that mess, anyway. And, as for health care–if the insurance companies had done a better job, there would be no need for single payer, or it’s way-weaker sister, the public option.

As Bill Clinton said in Esquire,

All we have to worry about is getting things done and doing them as well as we can. Don’t even worry about the Republicans. Let them figure out what they’re going to stand for. ‘Cause as long as they’re sitting around waiting for us to mess up, they don’t have a chance.

Now, if he’d only talk to those Blue Dog buddies of his.

President Obama, Listen to Bill Moyers.

September 7, 2009

Photo of Billionaires for Wealth Care.

Billionaires for Wealthcare is a grassroots network of health insurance CEOs, industry lobbyists, talk-show hosts, and others profiting off of our broken health care system.

We are not a political, religious or even particularly well-organized group. We’re simple folk, thrilled profiteers pouring out of our corner offices to dance on the grave of “Change.”

We’ll do whatever it takes to ensure another decade where your pain is our gain. After all, when it comes to healthcare, if we ain’t broke, why fix it?

On Friday, September 4, the veteran journalist and former press secretary (to Lyndon Johnson) tried to the President some advice in an essay at the end of his PBS program, Bill Moyers Journal. Referring to the editors of The Economist saying the health care debate had become delirious, he found that charitable and preferred the term “deranged.”

Only in a fantasy capital like Washington could Sunday morning talk shows become the high church of conventional wisdom, with partisan shills treated as holy men whose gospel of prosperity always seems to boil down to lower taxes for the rich. Poor Obama. He came to town preaching the religion of nice. But every time he bows politely, the harder the Republicans kick him. No one’s ever conquered Washington politics by constantly saying “pretty please” to the guys trying to cut your throat. Let’s get on with it, Mr. President. We’re up the proverbial creek with spaghetti as our paddle. This health care thing could have been the crossing of the Delaware, the turning point in the next American Revolution — the moment we put the mercenaries to rout, as General Washington did the Hessians at Trenton. We could have stamped our victory “Made in the USA.” We could have said to the world, “Look what we did!” And we could have turned to each other and said, “thank you.” As it is, we’re about to get health care reform that measures human beings only in corporate terms of a cost-benefit analysis. I mean this is topsy-turvy — we should be treating health as a condition, not a commodity.

Come on, Mr. President. Show us America is more than a circus or a market. Remind us of our greatness as a democracy. When you speak to Congress next week, just come out and say it. We thought we heard you say during the campaign last year that you want a government run insurance plan alongside private insurance — mostly premium-based, with subsidies for low-and-moderate income people. Open to all individuals and employees who want to join and with everyone free to choose the doctors we want. We thought you said Uncle Sam would sign on as our tough, cost-minded negotiator standing up to the cartel of drug and insurance companies and Wall Street investors whose only interest is a company’s share price and profits.

Here’s a suggestion, Mr. President: ask Josh Marshall to draft your speech. Josh is the founder of the website talkingpointsmemo.com. He’s a journalist and historian, not a politician. He doesn’t split things down the middle and call it a victory for the masses. He’s offered the simplest and most accurate description yet of a public insurance plan; one that essentially asks people: would you like the option — the voluntary option — of buying into Medicare before you’re 65? Check it out, Mr. President.

This health care thing is make or break for your leadership, but for us, it’s life and death. No more Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. President. We need a fighter.

Richard Trumka (WaPo profile by Alec MacGillis–email) will be taking over as President of the AFL-CIO. In a speech August 31 at the Center for American Progress he issued a call to arms.

Today, more than ever, 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.

I’m talking about the politicians who always want us to turn out our members to vote for them, but who somehow, always seem to forget workers after the votes are counted.

For example, legislators who don’t understand that their job isn’t to make insurance companies happy; it’s to keep Americans healthy!

Legislators who say they’re are all for health care reform, but refuse to stand up for a public system that puts people before profits!

You know, to hear some of them, you’d think the objective isn’t to come up with a health care plan that works; it’s to write a bill Republicans will vote for.

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.

But you can’t have both!

Obama and those health care emails…

August 23, 2009

Cartoon by John Jonik of Philadelphia (email, bio. His essays on health reform are here and here.)

read w. interest Michael Bush’s “Hail to the Spammer in Chief: Where Obama Went Wrong coming out in tomorrow’s Ad Age about Obama’s use of GovDelivery to send unsolicited emails on health care and reviewed it on NewsTrust and wrote an entry for SourceWatch.

GovDelivery’s website indicates it was established in 1999 is “the world’s leading provider of government-to-citizen communication solutions” which provides Email and Digital Subscription Management platform. It lists a number of federal, state and local clients.

On August 22, Fox News reported that the Obama White House had acknowledged its use of the provider for emails sent out under the name of senior White House advisor David Axelrod on health care reform. Some individuals had complained that they had received unsolicited email and some Republican members of Congress and conservative news sources attributed their listing to an “enemies list” compiled by those who had reported questionable claims about the health care bills to the email address flag@whitehouse.gov. Fox reported that the WhiteHouse had disabled the email address on August 17 and that the admnistration’s own theory was that outside groups had enrolled individuals without their permission at WhiteHouse.gov. It pointed out that GovDelivery is non-partisan and is used by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, both Republicans.

The White House had posted a statement on its blog August 17, saying,”It has come to our attention that some people may have been subscribed to our email lists without their knowledge –- likely as a result of efforts by outside groups of all political stripes -– and we regret any inconvenience caused by receiving an unexpected message. We’re certainly not interested in anyone receiving emails from the White House who don’t want them. That’s one reason why we have never — and will never — add names from a commercial or political list to the White House list.

“At the bottom of every message is a link to unsubscribe from emails that anyone can use to avoid this in the future. We have also implemented measures on WhiteHouse.gov to boost the security of the mailing list and we will carefully evaluate signups already received to work toward preventing this problem in the future.”

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Contact Information:
CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS

408 St. Peter Street, Suite 600

Saint Paul, MN 55102

Toll Free: (866) 276-5583

Fax: (651) 665-0943

Email info@govdelivery.com

FEDERAL OFFICE

1808 Eye St., NW, Suite 900-FC

Washington, DC 20006

Toll Free: (866) 276-5583 ext. 303

Fax: (651) 665-0943

UNITED KINGDOM OFFICE

2 Caxton Street, 4th Floor

London SW1H 0QE

Toll Free: 0800 032 5769

So will we get health reform or just complain about being sold out again?

August 21, 2009

Cartoon by Tom Tomorrow for Salon (7/28/2009)

Today, Krugman has another column on health care (and various other sell outs by the Obama administration) Obama’s Trust Problem, in which he writes,

According to news reports, the Obama administration — which seemed, over the weekend, to be backing away from the “public option” for health insurance — is shocked and surprised at the furious reaction from progressives.

Well, I’m shocked and surprised at their shock and surprise.

Meanwhile in the “manufacturing of consent,” as Noam Chomsky likes to say, the right of center
Polictico and even further right of center The Hill, both chime w. glee in on the House leadership, at least in the form of Steny Hoyer saying the public option may have to go.

With things unfolding this way, the dour Matt Taibbi looks positively prescient for his column “The Health Care Bill Dies?” published in the new True/Slant July 28.

Who among us did not know this would happen? It’s been clear from the start that the Democrats would make a great show of doing something real, then they would fold prematurely, ram through some piece-of-shit bill with some incremental/worthless change in it, and then in the end blame everything on Max Baucus and Bill Nelson, saying, “By golly, we tried our best!”

So what to do. FireDogLake is doing a good job of trying to hold folks feet to the fire and Glenn Greenwald reports that $300,000 has been raised to bolster the spine of those who have thus far promised to reject any healthcare bill without a public option.

Will this be enough. Or have we grown used to fighting the noble fight, but losing? As Taibbi wrote,

Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with Max Baucus, Ben Nelson, or anyone else. If the Obama administration wanted to pass a real health care bill, they would do what George Bush and Tom DeLay did in the first six-odd years of this decade whenever they wanted to pass some nightmare piece of legislation (ie the Prescription Drug Bill or CAFTA): they would take the recalcitrant legislators blocking their path into a back room at the Capitol, and beat them with rubber hoses until they changed their minds.

The reason a real health-care bill is not going to get passed is simple: because nobody in Washington really wants it. There is insufficient political will to get it done. It doesn’t matter that it’s an urgent national calamity, that it is plainly obvious to anyone with an IQ over 8 that our system could not possibly be worse and needs to be fixed very soon, and that, moreover, the only people opposing a real reform bill are a pitifully small number of executives in the insurance industry who stand to lose the chance for a fifth summer house if this thing passes.

It won’t get done, because that’s not the way our government works. Our government doesn’t exist to protect voters from interests, it exists to protect interests from voters.

The Public Option

August 18, 2009

Cartoon by Mike Thompson.

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Other than the death of conservative pundit and and defiant Valerie Plame outer Robert Novack, Memeorandum leads off today w. yesterday’s “Alternate Plan as Health Option Muddies Debate” by the NYT’s Robert Pear and Gardiner Harris. The alternative being health care co-ops, the original plan being a public option. The WaPo, stating opinion as fact in a news story describes prospects pf the public option as fading.Ironicallly, the WSJ seemed more evenhanded, at least in this story.

Of course, the public option is not single payer advocated by Physicians for a National Health Program, just a weak facsimile. Or as Paul Krugman wrote in “The Swiss Menace,” for the NYT August 16

it’s a plan to Swissify America, using regulation and subsidies to ensure universal coverage.

If we were starting from scratch we probably wouldn’t have chosen this route. True “socialized medicine” would undoubtedly cost less, and a straightforward extension of Medicare-type coverage to all Americans would probably be cheaper than a Swiss-style system…

But a Swiss-style system of universal coverage would be a vast improvement on what we have now. And we already know that such systems work.

So we can do this. At this point, all that stands in the way of universal health care in America are the greed of the medical-industrial complex, the lies of the right-wing propaganda machine, and the gullibility of voters who believe those lies.

Even this weak tea has drawn orchestrated protests–see the leaked organizing town hall action memo of Bob MacGuffie of http://www.rightprinciples.com who volunteers with the lobbying group Freedom Works. MacGuffie stirs his cauldron with talk of “socialism.”

And on June 17, Open Secrets analyzed the money involved.

And yet, Obama is backing away from even the public option, floating the idea of substituting cooperatives, as explained by Timothy Stoltzfus Jost:

The biggest problem is coming up with a network. You have to find doctors and hospitals and negotiate contracts. Most are already locked up by the dominant insurers. They’re not going to give you — a tiny co-op — a better deal. That’s assuming they’ll deal with you at all. The alternative would be to rent a network, but you’re basically buying your product from your competitor. There’s no way you’ll get a good deal there, either.

Jost (email, bio) a law professor at W&L in Lexington, Virginia has written on numerous essays on health care, including the feasibility of establishing health insurance co-ops. In his piece, “Trigger Happy: Don’t Kill the Public Plan Choice,” he notes,

It is puzzling that for some in Congress the goal of health care reform has become
preservation of private health insurance at any cost. Private health insurance has proved unable or unwilling to control health care costs. Tens of millions of Americans cannot afford private health insurance, indeed some with chronic illnesses cannot purchase it at any cost. Yet, conservatives in Congress oppose the one approach most likely to control cost and expand access: a national program giving all Americans the choice of a public health insurance plan like Medicare.

Private health insurance premiums have doubled over the past 9 years, 4 times the rate at which wages have increased. Competition, the engine that drives down costs in our economy, has largely disappeared in the insurance industry. The top two insurers control 65% or more of the small business market in 31 states. In local markets, where health insurance is actually bought, business is even more concentrated. In Harrisonburg, Virginia, my home, one insurer controls 85% of small business insurance.

Actually my premiums have gone up about 450% in a dozen years, despite moving to a county with lower rates: a combination of age and the fact that Anthem has stopped selling “my” plan, although it has one just like it, for which I cannot apply because I now have a pre-existing condition. Thus, the pool of insured, on which my premium is based, grows older and sicker, even faster than average.

The Politico, as Jane Hamsher noted August 17, paints any attempt by the House to hold on to single payer as theater. She counters this by noting that on July 30, 57 signed onto a letter saying that they wouldn’t vote for a bill that omitted the public option. Another three added their name to a letter dated August 17 to Health Secretary Sibelius:

We stand in strong opposition to your statement that the public option is “not the essential element” of comprehensive reform. The opportunity to improve access to healthcare is a onetime opportunity. Americans deserve reform that is real-not smoke and mirrors. We cannot rely solely on the insurance companies’ good faith efforts to provide for our constituents. A robust public option is essential, if we are to ensure that all Americans can receive healthcare that is accessible, guaranteed and of high-quality.

To take the public option off the table would be a grave error; passage in the House of Representatives depends upon inclusion of it.

We have attached, for your review, a letter from 60 Members of Congress who are firm in their Position that any legislation that moves forward through both chambers, and into a final proposal for the President’s signature, MUST contain a public option.

(Of course, the House also said it would never allow immunity for telecoms that participated in Bush’s wiretaps without warrants. And we know how that ended.)

Howard Dean is holding strong: he told CBS Morning News:

You can’t have reform without a public option…If you really want to fix the health-care system, you’ve got to give the public the choice of having such an option. If you don’t want to have the public option, you most certainly shouldn’t spend $60 billion a year subsidizing the health-insurance industry.

He adds,

My guess is the Republicans aren’t going to vote for this bill no matter what….There’s no point in making a lot of concessions to people who aren’t going to vote for the bill under any circumstances anyway …

BTW, at a town hall meeting, the 9th District’s Congressman Rick Boucher, too, appears to be leaning towards cooperatives. The Pulaski gathering today drew 1200, according to the Roanoke Times. My friend Lydia attended and described the the meeting as follows:

People are really uninformed and a bit crazy – they don’t want to be confused with facts. … the crowd’s rudeness, anger, and stupidity truly made me feel sick to my stomach.

Makes me wonder who stirred them up. What Krugman wrote bears repeating,

At this point, all that stands in the way of universal health care in America are the greed of the medical-industrial complex, the lies of the right-wing propaganda machine, and the gullibility of voters who believe those lies.

Bush’s "Right of Conscience"

December 2, 2008

Cartoon by Eleanor Mill, who I hadn’t realized died July 19. 2008 To check out her art by topic, you will have to substitute her initials (em) for those of another artist according to keyword. For instance, http://www.newsart.com/em/em240.htm shows her cartoons on pregnancy and fertility.

The LAT’s By David G. Savage for December 2, 2008: “Broader medical refusal rule may go far beyond abortion: The Bush administration plans a new ‘right of conscience’ rule that would allow more workers to refuse more procedures. Critics say it could apply to artificial insemination and birth control.

The outgoing Bush administration is planning to announce a broad new “right of conscience” rule permitting medical facilities, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare workers to refuse to participate in any procedure they find morally objectionable, including abortion and possibly even artificial insemination and birth control. For more than 30 years, federal law has dictated that doctors and nurses may refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further by making clear that healthcare workers also may refuse to provide information or advice to patients who might want an abortion. It also seeks to cover more employees. For example, in addition to a surgeon and a nurse in an operating room, the rule would extend to “an employee whose task it is to clean the instruments,” the draft rule said. The “conscience” rule could set the stage for an abortion controversy in the early months of Barack Obama’s administration.

see: “Right of Conscious as a Parthian Shot” by Leslie Anne Catlett of Poughkeepsie AKA didionsmommy. The definition, BTW, is

a hostile remark or gesture delivered while departing [from the custom of archers from Parthia, an ancient Asian empire, who shot their arrows backwards while retreating]

Bush moves to shield anti-abortion health care workers

August 22, 2008

As the Bush Administration counts down its last days, it announced 8/21/08 the beginning of a thirty-day comment period on a new rule that would empower federal health officials to stop funding more than 584,000 hospitals, clinics, health plans, doctors’ offices and other entities if they do not accommodate health-care workers who object to abortion. The regulation would cover

participating in any activity with a reasonable connection to the objectionable procedure, including referrals, training, and other arrangements for offending procedures.

The WaPo’s Rob Stein reports August 22 in “Protections Set for Antiabortion Health Workers: Opponents Denounce Proposed Regulation Allowing Federal Officials to Pull Funding” that the the regulation would cost more than $44 million to implement and that Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt justified the rule, saying,

People should not be forced to say or do things they believe are morally wrong…Health-care workers should not be forced to provide services that violate their own conscience.


When asked whhether the regulation would protect health-care workers who consider birth control pills, Plan B and other forms of contraception to be equivalent to abortion, Leavitt said:

This regulation does not seek to resolve any ambiguity in that area. It focuses on abortion and focuses on physicians’ conscience in relation to that.

Conservative groups welcomed the rule. David Stevens of the Christian Medical and Dental Association said,

I think this provides broad application not just to abortion and sterilization but any other type of morally objectionable procedure and research activity….We think it’s badly needed. Our members are facing discrimination every day, and as we get into human cloning and all sorts of possibilities, it’s going to become even more important.

Women’s health advocates, family planning advocates, abortion rights activists and others, condemned the regulation, saying it could create sweeping obstacles to a variety of health services, including abortion, family planning, end-of-life care and possibly a wide range of scientific research. Said Robyn S. Shapiro, a bioethicist and lawyer at the Medical College of Wisconsin,

It’s breathtaking….The impact could be enormous.

Health Insurance, Not

August 21, 2008

“I don’t stand a chance. He won’t need any health insurance.”

Cartoon at the blog for the Center for Law and Social Policy (artist not listed; caption by Victor Elias, a Senior Associate at the Child and Family Policy Center in Des Moines, IA.)

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August 20, the Commonwealth Fund released its new report, Losing Ground: How the Loss of Adequate Health Insurance Is Burdening Working Families. Using data from four years of the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey (2001, 2003, 2005, and 2007), the report looks at the health insurance status of U.S. adults under age 65 and the implications for family finances and health care access.

A perfect storm of negative economic trends is battering working families across the United States. The federal minimum wage is now three dollars an hour lower, in real terms, than it was 40 years ago; gas and food prices are soaring; home values are declining; growth in health care costs is far outstripping income growth; and people are increasingly going without the protection of health coverage—nearly 9 million have lost their health insurance since 2000. Families are facing financial crises and are forced to make hard choices among life’s necessities, often sacrificing health care and health insurance along the way.

…Insurance coverage deteriorated over the past six years, with declines in coverage most severe for moderate-income families. The share of insured adults who spend more than 5 percent or 10 percent of income on health care and insurance rose across all income groups between 2001 and 2007. As a result, the number of underinsured adults (i.e., those with health coverage that does not adequately protect them from high medical expenses) climbed to 25 million people in 2007, up from 16 million in 2003.