By Claudia Fegan for PNHP – As the chief medical officer of Chicago’s historic public hospital, I confront on a daily basis the reality of our country’s failure to provide universal access to health care: the steady flow of patients turned away from other hospitals because they are uninsured or have Medicaid, which pays too little; and the legion of insured patients who come to us too late because they couldn’t afford $50 co-payments or $3,500 deductibles. That’s what drove me and thousands of other doctors to propose a sweeping single-payer, improved-Medicare-for-all reform in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
By Staff of AFGE – They march. They chant. They hold signs that read “Keep the promise to our vets” and “VA cares about vets.” Veterans and VA employees are furious that Congress is considering shutting down VA hospitals – their community – and sending them to for-profit private hospitals that don’t have what it takes to treat their unique needs born out of war. To put a spotlight on this terrible betrayal of veteran’s trust, they’re holding dozens of rallies outside VA hospitals across America to protest plans to sell veterans’ health care to the lowest bidder and shut down VA medical centers.
By Josh Faucher for Students for a National Health Program. Each year, I’m impressed with the reality that many of our most enthusiastic and active members are students early in their medical school journeys, many of whom haven’t had much contact with patients yet. When I first began medical school, it was easy to get caught up in the praise and aggrandizement that was heaped upon us – the constant congratulations for joining a profession as well-respected and impactful as medicine. It is true that physicians can have a profound impact on the lives of our patients, curing terrible diseases and lessening the suffering caused by chronic ailments. In looking at the nature of the health care system as a whole, however, I have seen clear examples of how access is rationed based on a patient’s financial resources, and how seeking health care can leave patients vulnerable to harm that affects their livelihoods and economic security.
By Marcia Angell for The Boston Globe – Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act, became law six years ago. The intention was to ensure that nearly all Americans have health insurance, while controlling costs. How did that work out? When the law was enacted, about 16 percent of Americans were uninsured. That has dropped to 10 percent. So instead of 50 million uninsured Americans, there are now about 30 million without insurance. That’s better, but hardly universal.
By Mark Almberg for PNHP – In a dramatic show of physician support for deeper health reform – and for making a decisive break with the private insurance model of financing medical care – 2,231 physicians called today [Thursday, May 5] for the creation of a publicly financed, single-payer national health program that would cover all Americans for all medically necessary care. Single-payer health reform, often called “Medicare for All,” has been a hotly debated topic in the presidential primaries, thanks in part to it being a prominent plank in the platform of Sen. Bernie Sanders.
By Lori Robertson for Fact Check – Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton said, “I don’t know where [Bernie Sanders] was when I was trying to get health care in ’93 and ’94.” Actually, Sanders cosponsored a single-payer health insurance bill in 1993, and Clinton thanked him for his work on the issue that year. Clinton made the comment at a campaign rally in St. Louis, starting at the 18:23 mark, after she talked about standing up against “powerful forces.”
By Russell Mokhiber for Single Payer Action. Berkeley, CA – Dr. Quentin Young, past president of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and from 1992-2014 the organization’s national coordinator, died on March 7 in Berkeley, California where he had been under the watchful eyes and care of his daughters and other family members. He was 92. In addition to his work with PNHP, Dr. Young co-founded and chaired for many years the Chicago-based Health and Medicine Policy Research Group. “Dr. Young was known for his sharp, clear-eyed analysis of social and economic problems, particularly in health care, his deep commitment to social justice and racial equality, his quick wit, his insuppressible optimism, personal courage, and his ability to inspire those around him to join him in the battle for a more equitable and caring world,” said Robert Zarr, president of PNHP.
By Chris McGreal for The Guardian – “I am in such pain every night, suicide has on a regular basis crossed my mind just simply to ease the pain. If I did not have responsibilities, especially for my youngest daughter who has problems,” he said. The 56-year-old former salesman’s struggle with chronic pain is bound up with an array of other issues – medical debts, impoverishment and the prospect of a bleak retirement – contributing to growing numbers of suicides in the US and helping drive a sharp and unusual increase in the mortality rate for middle-aged white Americans in recent years alongside premature deaths from alcohol and drugs.
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.”