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.
By Paul Y. Song in The Huffington Post – When I graduated from medical school almost 25 years ago, I was asked by then U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop, to raise my right hand and recite the Hippocratic Oath. In it, I recall “I will abstain from that system which is deleterious and mischievous to my patients.” Unfortunately, in the years since, I have seen far too many of my patients fall victim to a system that is very deleterious, mischievous, and just plan immoral. While the affordable care act (ACA) was a start and has definitely helped a lot of people, it should be noted that in the run up to the ACA, there were more than 3300 registered healthcare lobbyists spending $1.2 million a day. In total, more than the entire cost of the Bush-Kerry election was spent lobbying Congress, and that is why much of the ACA looks like it was written by the private insurance industry. As a result, it firmly entrenches a for-profit industry that only makes money by denying people care in charge of our healthcare decisions and system.
By Nathan Wilkes of Healthcare for All Colorado. Join Health Care for All Colorado and other supporters in a multi-city Flash Mob as part of a growing list of events across the country celebrating the Golden Anniversary of Medicare! We like it so much, we think it should be Protected, Improved, and Expanded to everyone!!! HCAC is coordinating flash mobs in Denver, Fort Collins, and Pueblo on Thursday, July 30th. Live in another city and want to lead one in your town? Let us know and we’ll help you organize it! The “dance” is super easy and you can practice with our custom video.
By Robert Reich – The Supreme Court’s recent blessing of Obamacare has precipitated a rush among the nation’s biggest health insurers to consolidate into two or three behemoths. The result will be good for their shareholders and executives, but bad for the rest of us – who will pay through the nose for the health insurance we need. We have another choice, but before I get to it let me give you some background. Last week, Aetna announced it would spend $35 billion to buy rival Humana in a deal that will create the second-largest health insurer in the nation, with 33 million members. The combination will claim a large share of the insurance market in many states – 88 percent in Kansas and 58 percent in Iowa, for example.
Health care will take a large step toward becoming a privilege for those who can afford it rather than a human right under the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Government programs to hold down the cost of medications are targeted for elimination in the TPP, which, if adopted, would grant pharmaceutical companies new powers over health care. This has implications around the globe, as such rules could become precedents for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and Trade In Services Agreement, two other deals being negotiated in secret. The U.S. Congress’ failure to pass “fast-track” authority in the past week has thrown a significant roadblock in the path of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but by no means has this most audacious corporate power grab been defeated.
By Dr. Robert Zarr for Physicians for a National Health Program. Washington, DC – Today’s decision by the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell to uphold the Affordable Care Act’s premium subsidies in about three dozen states will spare more than 6 million Americans the health and financial harms associated with the sudden loss of health insurance coverage. For that reason alone the decision must be welcomed: Having health insurance is better than not having coverage, as several research studies have shown. That said, the suffering that many Americans are experiencing today under our current health care arrangements is intolerable, with approximately 35 million people remaining uninsured, a comparable number underinsured, and rapidly growing barriers to medical care in the form of rising premiums, copayments, coinsurance and deductibles, and narrowing networks.
By BMA – Doctors have warned that public health medicine is under threat, to the detriment of the NHS and patients. They have criticised ‘wholesale’ reductions in medically qualified jobs in local authorities in England and cuts to public health funding. The BMA annual representative meeting also called for recognition of the importance of public health medical executives. Cornwall consultant radiologist John Hyslop said the professional voice of public health medicine was needed by commissioners and managers, but England was seeing the ‘unravelling’ of public health since it became the responsibility of local authorities as a result of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. He also expressed concern about what would happen in the future as more areas sought to emulate Manchester, which has embarked on a programme to devolve health and social care.
By Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. The 50 hospitals in the United States with the highest markup of prices over their actual costs are charging out-of-network patients and the uninsured, as well as auto and workers’ compensation insurers, more than 10 times the costs allowed by Medicare, new research suggests. It’s a markup of more than 1,000 percent for the same medical services. “There is no justification for these outrageous rates, but no one tells hospitals they can’t charge them,” says Anderson, a professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management. “For the most part, there is no regulation of hospital rates and there are no market forces that force hospitals to lower their rates. They charge these prices simply because they can.”
By Wendy Joan Biddlecombe in Metro – Last year 64 million Americans had difficulty paying their medical debt, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund, down from 75 million in 2012 and 73 million in 2010. Jerry Ashton and Craig Antico think they can put a dent in America’s medical debt crisis, and want to help those who really need to pay their bills, no strings attached. At face value, Ashton and Antico are perhaps unlikely advocates for those who owe medical bills. They have decades of experience as medical debt collectors. They recently launched RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit, and accompanying initial crowdfunding campaign to raise $74,500 to purchase and absolve strangers’ medical debt. The goal for the first year is to raise $14 million, purchase $1 billion of medical debt and abolish it.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurers cover about a third of Americans, through a national network that dates back decades. Now, antitrust lawsuits advancing in a federal court in Alabama allege that the 37 independently owned companies are functioning as an illegal cartel. A federal judicial panel has consolidated the claims against the insurers into two lawsuits that represent plaintiffs from around the country. One is on behalf of health-care providers and the other is for individual and small-employer customers. The antitrust suits allege that the insurers are conspiring to divvy up markets and avoid competing against one another, driving up customers’ prices and pushing down the amounts paid to doctors and other health-care providers.