By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese for Popular Resistance. Washington, DC – On Monday, Nov. 16, as part of the Flush the TPP days of action, hundreds of people marched to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on 17th Street NW to protest and shut it down. The demonstration was planned to occur during protests in Manila, Philippines over the Asian Pacific Economic Coordination (APEC) meetings. The leaders and trade ministers from countries participating in the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) were present in Manila. The theme of the march and action in Washington was that the TPP betrays all that the people hold dear. Large images displayed family farmers, patients, youth installing solar panels and workers.
By Staff of Single Player Action – Mingling among the doctors, nurses and activists at the single payer conferences in Chicago this weekend was one Richard Master. Master is the owner and CEO of MCS Industries Inc., the nation’s leading supplier of wall and poster frames — a $200 million a year company based in Easton, Pennsylvania. Master has just produced a movie — Fix It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point. He was in Chicago to show it to the single payer advocates gathered there attending two conferences — the Physicians for a National Health Program annual meeting and the Single Payer Strategy Conference put on by nurses and other labor unions.
By Jack Rasmus for TeleSur. The problem with Big Pharma price gouging ‘out of control’ is not just that its companies have been allowed to operate as monopolies due to patent protection. Patent protection has been around for decades, well before the industry began its price gouging and profits at the expense of life practices. A good part of the problem has become the growing ‘financialization’ of the industry by Wall St. and global finance capital in general in recent decades. That takeover has led to new ways to inject price volatility into the prescription drug market in order to manipulate pricing to extract excessive speculative profits. This has transformed, and continues to transform, the pharmaceuticals industry into what is sometimes called a ‘rentier capitalist’ sector.
By Staff for Single Player Action – Obamacare, with its promise of healthcare reform, took the wind out of the sails of the single payer movement. In the House of Representatives, the number of co-sponsors of the single payer bill, HR 676, today is at 53 — down from a high of about 100. Under Obamacare, 30 million Americans are still uninsured and tens of millions more are underinsured. It’s a down year for single payer and activists are asking — what to do? What’s the next step? Single Payer Now’s Don Bechler says we have to hit the streets. He’s been doing it for years — building a database of about 25,000 people — mostly in California — who support HR 676.
By Samuel Davidson in World Socialist Website – On Monday, bankrupt Patriot Coal Company asked a federal bankruptcy judge to end health care for its 969 retired non-union employees. The company is saying that no one will buy its assets while taking on the health care costs for them. Such a decision will devastate the miners and their families. Years of working in the coal fields bring an array of health problems, from back and spinal injury to black lung. The cost of health care will quickly drive these retirees to use up any savings they may have and to sell their homes, and many will end in bankruptcy themselves. The following day, the company announced that Blackhawk Mining was named the winning bidder for a majority of its mines and operations in Kentucky and West Virginia. In August, Patriot agreed to sell most of its holdings in Virginia to an affiliate of the Virginia Conservation Legacy Funds for $400 million. The VCLF says it plans to reclaim most of the company’s sites.
By Michael McFall in The St. Louis Tribune – Cathy Garber still gets emotional when she remembers how badly she wanted to leave her nursing home. Garber had just finished her master’s degree in social work at the University of Utah in 2011 when she needed major surgery. When the procedure was over, her physicians decided she wasn’t healing fast enough and put her in a nursing home. But she didn’t want to be there. She wanted to be in her own home. “I had to be there for six months. I missed Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day,” Garber said to a crowd of about 150 at the Utah State Capitol, protesting Sunday what they said is Utah’s lack of home and community-based services for people with disabilities. That deficiency forces people to move into nursing homes and other institutions, according to the Americans Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) organization, which organized Sunday’s rally.
By Alexander Reed Kelly in Truthdig. New York, NY – When Martin Shkreli, a 32-year-old pharmaceutical CEO, raised the price of a 62-year-old drug acquired by his company from $13.50 to $750 per tablet, the medical industry and the public exploded in outrage. The former hedge fund manager’s decision threatened to increase the annual cost of treatment for rare, life-threatening parasitic infections sometimes contracted by AIDS and cancer patients to, in some instances, hundreds of thousands of dollars, a change that would drive most patients into deep debt and even bankruptcy. A New York Times article quoted a joint letter to Shkreli’s company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association that called the price increase for Daraprim “unjustifiable for the medically vulnerable patient population” and “unsustainable for the health care system.”
By Students for a National Health Program. United States – Students for a National Health Program (SNaHP) – working in coalition with the American Medical Student Association, WhiteCoats4BlackLives, the Latino Medical Student Association, Universities Allied for Essential Medicine, and Pre-Health Dreamers – will hold teach-ins, rallies, and candlelight vigils to remember the millions of people in our country who remain uninsured, underinsured and underserved by our current health care system. We will also underscore the need for a more fundamental health reform – a nonprofit, publicly financed, single-payer health system. The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not guarantee universal health care. Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act is neither universal nor affordable.
By Health Care NOW! – The country’s five largest for-profit health insurers are trying to merge into three mega corporations, creating an oligopoly that will drive up premiums for patients and employers, cut payments to doctors, and pocket the difference as profits. The health insurance industry is a national embarrassment that is costing patients their income and sometimes their lives. High deductibles and limited networks are becoming the norm, making healthcare inaccessible even for the insured. Tell Attorney General Loretta Lynch to block the health insurance mergers, since healthcare is a right and shouldn’t be controlled by “too big to fail” insurance profiteers. All of the powers that make single-payer healthcare so effective – the ability to negotiate low prices for drugs and medical devices, and set fair rates for providers – are deadly in the hands of for-profit insurers, who pocket savings instead of passing them along to patients, and squeeze providers until the quality of care plummets.
By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in PNHP – About 1.8 million households that got financial help for health insurance under President Barack Obama’s law now have issues with their tax returns that could jeopardize their subsidies next year. Consumers who got health care tax credits are required to file tax returns that properly account for them, even if they are unaccustomed to filing because their incomes are low. Unless they follow through, “they will not be able to receive tax credits to help lower the cost of their health insurance for 2016,” Lodes explained (Lori Lodes, communications director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). The 1.8 million households with tax issues represent 40 percent of 4.5 million households that had tax credits provided on their behalf and must account for them. “What the IRS is doing here is sending these people a not-so-gentle reminder that they need to file or they will put their subsidy at risk,” said Mark Ciaramitaro, vice president for tax and health care at H&R Block, the tax preparation company. He cautioned that many consumers will find the process cumbersome, so they should waste no time getting started.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passage of Medicare, advocates for universal healthcare rallied at the Lincoln Memorial, saying that the private insurance industry is raising costs for millions of Americans while worsening the quality of care. Key speakers included Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate, Dr. Robert Zarr, M.D., president of Physicians for a National Health Program, and Dr. Margaret Flowers, co-founder of Popular Resistance. Since privatization of U.S. healthcare accelerated in the 1980s, millions have been left without care. Even under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), over 30 million remain uninsured. And for those with insurance, high medical costs are linked to sixty-two percent of all personal bankruptcies.
By James Love of Knowledge Ecology International. Washington, DC – Today, August 4, 2015, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) released text from three sections of the 95-page secret negotiating text on the Intellectual Property Chapter being used in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP, sometimes referred to as TPPA) trade negotiations. The negotiating text is dated May 11, 2015, and reflects the state of the text right before the Maui rounds of the negotiation, which ended Friday, July 31, 2015. Analysis and more text to be forthcoming.
By Robert Zarr in PNHP – Medicare was originally conceived as a first step toward covering everyone in our society under a national health insurance program. We need to fulfill Medicare’s promise. We need an improved Medicare for All, a national single-payer health care system, to efficiently and equitably cover everyone in the United States. Today the original Medicare program stands like a rock in a troubled sea of waste, inefficiency and profiteering in the rest of our health care system, dominated as it is by big private insurers whose paramount goal is to maximize their bottom lines. Commercial insurers increase their bottom lines by enrolling the healthy, avoiding the sick, denying claims, increasing premiums, and erecting barriers to care like co-pays, high deductibles, bureaucratic thickets, and narrow networks.
By Sarah Lazare in Common Dreams – From California to Florida to Maine, communities in 25 cities across the United States are staging rallies, picnics, and flash mobs this week to celebrate Thursday’s 50th anniversary of Medicare—and call for its expansion into a system that provides publicly-funded healthcare for all. “It is urgent that we continue organizing for the right to healthcare by fighting efforts to roll back or privatize Medicare and joining with movements around the country to establish a publicly-financed healthcare system that includes all people,” Ellen Schwartz, president of the Vermont Workers’ Center, told Common Dreams. The nationwide actions marking President Lyndon B. Johnson’s July 30, 1965 signing of the bill that created Medicare were organized by a broad array5 of organizations including Physicians for a National Health Program, Alliance for Retired Americans, National Nurses United (NNU), and Public Citizen.
By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Many have argued, though we have not, that the federal health law, the ACA, is a ‘step in the right direction’ or a ‘step towards single payer.’ Our analysis is that the ACA is a step in the wrong direction because it further entrenches and empowers the private health insurance industry. Since its passage in 2010, the ACA has led to greater privatization of our public insurances Medicaid and Medicare and greater consolidation of health insurers and health facilities. As you will read in the article below, we are moving in the direction of a single payer health system, but one in which the single payer (or perhaps there will be a few payers) are the private health insurance industry. In this system, the costs of health care will continue to sky rocket and those who cannot afford care will go without it.