It’s a national epidemic finally getting some long overdue attention. To put rising costs in perspective, a dozen oranges today would cost $134 if adjusted at the same rate of price inflation that we’ve seen in healthcare since 1945. And, it’s only getting worse. California health insurance premiums soared 185% since 2002. But we’ve heard these complaints before, it’s not new. What is new is that the largest unions in San Francisco are doing something to reign in price gouging by insurers like California-based Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest HMO with 9.1 million subscribers. For UNITE-HERE Local 2, one of the city’s largest unions representing 13,000 employees of restaurants and hotels in and around San Francisco, it has become a necessity.
The decision to limit the scope of their involvement does not result from any financial distress on the part of the major players. In recent weeks Aetna, Humana and Wellpoint have all reported healthy gains in profits for 2013. The big boys are also getting bigger. Aetna swallowed competitor Coventry Health Care, which added $14 billion to its annual revenue stream. For those of us who advocated a single payer approach, or at least a public option, the behavior of the insurance companies comes as no surprise. These companies have always found ways to increase profits at the expense of coverage, and they always will. Now that they cannot discriminate explicitly against those in poor health, they will discriminate against communities in which think there is likely to be larger numbers of less healthy residents. It is an insidious new form of redlining.
This little Appalachian community that made national news a year ago by passing a Fairness Ordinance did it again tonight. It voted to endorse Single Payer Healthcare, HR 676, joining 54 other American cities, including Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore. The struggling coal town of 334 people unanimously endorsed Expanded and Improved Medicare for All, HR 676, national single payer legislation sponsored by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI). Vicco—established by the Virginia Iron Coal and Coke Company—is now the fourth Kentucky local government to favor Single Payer Healthcare. The others are Metro Louisville, Boyle County, and the City of Morehead. In 2007, the Kentucky House legislators also endorsed the bill.
When my father, the editor and writer Andre Schiffrin, was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer last spring, my family assumed we would care for him in New York. But my parents always spent part of each year in Paris, where my father was born, and soon after he began palliative chemotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering my father announced he wanted to stick to his normal schedule — and spend the summer in France. I humored him — though my sister and I didn’t want him to go. We felt he should stay in New York City, in the apartment where we grew up. I could visit him daily there, bringing takeout from his favorite Chinese restaurant and helping my mother. I also didn’t know what the French healthcare system would be like.
Circumventing these barriers will require creativity and ingenuity on the part of the people. Legislation simply will not work, since the legislators are easily and continuously bought off – nor will protests. Instead, we must unwrap the enigma within which pharmaceutical R&D exists, and begin developing our own medical treatments through professional cooperatives. There are already people working toward this goal – multidisciplinary professionals seeking to circumvent the frustrating pipeline of pharmaceutical and treatment development. One of these people is Andrew Hessel, who is currently working on a project called the “Pink Army Cooperative.” Cancer is perhaps the most frustrating condition with which one can be inflicted. It is also a disease that generates millions for the health care industry and pharmaceutical giants despite…
Medric Cecil Mills, Jr died after being denied medical service by DC Firefighters. On January 25th 77-year old Medric Cecil Mills went into cardiac arrest at a shopping center in Northeast Washington, DC directly across the street from Engine Company 26. Bystanders rushed to the fire station frantically seeking help and were denied and turned away after being advised to simply call 911 by trained, emergency medical personnel on duty. After making the call for an ambulance that never came, again bystanders returned to the nearby fire station and were again denied assistance while Mr. Mills still laid dying on the sidewalk. It wasn’t until minutes later that a police officer, who happened upon the scene, was able to flag down an unassigned ambulance passing by the busy street to transport Mr. Mills to MedStar Washington Hospital Center where he was tragically and possibly avoidably pronounced dead nearly an hour after being denied emergency medical service by trained personnel.
By encouraging officials to abscond with one of the few tradable assets possessed by those in the lowest (and even middle) tiers of our economy, the U.S. healthcare system reveals itself to be another cornerstone in the structure of American economic inequality. While the lower- and middle-classes have had a tough time securing stable investments in real estate, the wealthier have profited on this instability. Ironically, speculation in real estate and mortgage-backed securities and the concomitant bail-outs for irresponsible banking institutions dramatically reduced state revenues. Governments across the country have been forced to play an agonizing game of budgetary triage. Meanwhile, as more people have been forced into poverty by the massive wealth destruction of the Great Recession, the state has had to pay more into safety net programs while drawing less revenue from a poorer population.
How would the American people write a State of the Union Address? The media and Washington politicians typically ignore or misrepresent the public views on many matters. This post examines recent polls that suggest what a citizen-written State of the Union address might include. A State of the Union of, by and for the people would be very different than what President Obama gave us last night. The differences between the people and their elected “representatives” show the wide disparity between the two. It is hard to call the government representative of the people with these wide disparities.
Health Management Associates, a for-profit hospital chain based in Naples, Fla., kept tabs on an internal strategy that regulators and others say was intended to increase admissions, regardless of whether a patient needed hospital care, and pressure the doctors who worked at the hospital. This month, the Justice Department said it had joined eight separate whistle-blower lawsuits against H.M.A. in six states. The lawsuits describe a wide-ranging strategy that is said to have relied on a mix of sophisticated software systems, financial incentives and threats in an attempt to inflate the company’s payments from Medicare and Medicaid. For H.M.A., the timing could not be worse. Shareholders recently approved the planned $7.6 billion acquisition of the company by Community Health Systems, which will create the nation’s second-largest for-profit hospital chain by revenue, with more than 200 facilities.
“Forty-one years after Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal, the attacks on reproductive rights are escalating–so much so that, according to a recent study, more legislation restricting abortion has been passed in the last three years than in the decade before that. According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, over the course of 2013, 39 states enacted 141 provisions related to reproductive health and rights. Half of these provisions–70 in 22 states–restricted access to abortion services. Some 205 abortion restrictions went into effect between 2011 and 2013, compared to 189 between 2001 and 2010.”
“The ACA isn’t a bridge to universal health care. It is a cul-de-sac, structured above all else to maintain the central role of the health care industry in general, and private insurance companies in particular. Achieving universal health coverage and access to care will require dismantling the core of the ACA and replacing it with something else entirely. Making a defense of the ACA in the way the Nation does–as a step in the direction of a single-payer system–cedes ground to the right and is counterproductive to the goal of winning health care as a human right.”
IMS Health Holdings Inc. says it pulled in nearly $2 billion in the first nine months of 2013, much of it from sweeping up data from pharmacies and selling it to pharmaceutical and biotech companies. The firm’s revenues in 2012 reached $2.4 billion, about 60 percent of it from selling such information. The numbers became public because IMS, currently in private hands, recently filed to make a public stock offering. Thecompany’s prospectus gives fresh insight into the huge dollars – and huge volumes of data – flowing through a little-watched industry. IMS and its competitors are known as prescription drug information intermediaries. Drug company sales representatives, using data these companies supply, can know before entering a doctor’s office if he or she favors their products or those of a competitor.
The other reason why the focus on the young invincibles is harmful is that it distracts the public from looking at ways to improve Obamacare. These focus on reducing or eliminating the role for private insurers in the system as well as other sources of waste. It would be good to get this debate going as quickly as possible. While the rate of growth of health care costs has slowed sharply in recent years, we still pay more than twice as much per person for our health care as the average for other wealthy countries. As long as we obsess on the number of young people enrolling in Obamacare, we won’t be paying attention to the real issue of eliminating waste. Of course we can all have a good time at the Obamacare card-burning rallies.
It was painful to watch otherwise intelligent people lend support to something that’s such an obviously bad idea. So it’s with immense relief that liberals like Michael Moore, labor groups, and others are finally distancing themselves from Obamacare’s Titanic failure. Now these individuals and groups can stop living in denial and the rest of us can proceed towards a rational discussion about a real health care solution. The inevitable failure of Obamacare is not due to a bad website, but deeper issues. The hammering of the nails in the coffin has begun: millions of young people are suddenly realizing that Obamacare does not offer affordable health care. It’s a lie, and they aren’t buying it, literally. The system depends on sufficient young people to opt in and purchase plans, in order to offset the costs of the older, higher-needs population.
In this stage of movement development, which can take many years, the primary task of the people-powered social movement is to build national consensus through broad and deep grassroots organizing. The power holders are currently in a crisis management mode. They continue to defend their policies while shifting positions and taking countermeasures to undermine people power. During this stage public opinion is shifting, majorities oppose the current situation and are beginning to see that new alternative solutions must be put in place. People-powered activists are in a battle with the power holders for the hearts and minds of super-majorities of the people. We ended our last article with a key point that we need to highlight here: our goal is to build a mass movement, which has the support of super-majorities of Americans and has mobilized up to 3.5% of the population. Therefore, the target of our protests is not the government or a corporation, the target is the people: to educate and mobilize them. We want to show that there is an effective movement speaking to the people’s concerns and putting forth views that they support. We protest the power holders to expose their actions but do not expect them to be capable of addressing our concerns adequately in this stage.