Tag Archives: single-payer

Kucinich Explains His Yes Vote on Health Care Reform

Following is the full statement issued on March 17 by Dennis Kucinich on his decisions to vote for the health care reform bill in the House. Even readers who are angry with the vote may want to read this for some of the broader comments Kucinich makes, in the last few paragraphs, on the current political scene. 

Each generation has had to take up the question of how to provide for the health of the people of our nation.  And each generation has grappled with difficult questions of how to meet the needs of our people.  I believe health care is a civil right.  Each time as a nation we have reached to expand our basic rights, we have witnessed a slow and painful unfolding of a democratic pageant of striving, of resistance, of breakthroughs, of opposition, of unrelenting efforts and of eventual triumph.

I have spent my life struggling for the rights of working class people and for health care.  I grew up understanding first hand what it meant for families who did not get access to needed care.  I lived in 21 different places by the time I was 17, including in a couple of cars.  I understand the connection between poverty and poor health care, the deeper meaning of what Native Americans have called “hole in the body, hole in the spirit”. I struggled with Crohn’s disease much of my adult life, to discover sixteen years ago a near-cure in alternative medicine and following a plant-based diet.  I have learned with difficulty the benefits of taking charge personally of my own health care.  On those few occasions when I have needed it, I have had access to the best allopathic practitioners.    

As a result I have received the blessings of vitality and high energy.  Health and health care is personal for each one of us.  As a former surgical technician I know that there are many people who dedicate their lives to helping others improve theirs.  I also know their struggles with an insufficient health care system.

There are some who believe that health care is a privilege based on ability to pay.  This is the model President Obama is dealing with, attempting to open up health care to another 30 million people, within the context of the for-profit insurance system.   There are others who believe that health care is a basic right and ought to be provided through a not-for-profit plan.  This is what I have tirelessly advocated.

I have carried the banner of national health care in two presidential campaigns, in party platform meetings, and as co-author of HR676, Medicare for All.   I have worked to expand the health care debate beyond the current for-profit system, to include a public option and an amendment to free the states to pursue single payer.  The first version of the health care bill, while badly flawed, contained provisions which I believed  made the bill worth supporting in committee.  The provisions were taken out of the bill after it passed committee.  

I joined with the Progressive Caucus saying that I would not support the bill unless it had a strong public option and unless it protected the right of people to pursue single payer at a state level.  It did not.  I kept my pledge and voted against the bill.   I have continued to oppose it while trying to get the provisions back into the bill. Some have speculated I may be in a position of casting the deciding vote.   The President’s visit to my district on Monday underscored the urgency of this moment.

I have taken this fight farther than many in Congress cared to carry it because I know what my constituents experience on a daily basis.  Come to my district in Cleveland and you will understand.

The people of Ohio’s 10th district have been hard hit by an economy where wealth has accelerated upwards through plant closings, massive unemployment, small business failings, lack of access to credit, foreclosures and the high cost of health care and limited access to care.  I take my responsibilities to the people of my district personally.  The focus of my district office is constituent service, which more often then not involves social work to help people survive economic perils.  It also involves intervening with insurance companies.

In the past week it has become clear that the vote on the final health care bill will be very close. I take this vote with the utmost seriousness.  I am quite aware of the historic fight that has lasted the better part of the last century to bring America in line with other modern democracies in providing single payer health care.    

I have seen the political pressure and the financial pressure being asserted to prevent a minimal recognition of this right, even within the context of a system dominated by private insurance companies.

I know I have to make a decision, not on the bill as I would like to see it, but the bill as it is.   My criticisms of the legislation have been well reported.  I do not retract them. I incorporate them in this statement. They still stand as legitimate and cautionary.  I still have doubts about the bill. I do not think it is a first step toward anything I have supported in the past. This is not the bill I wanted to support, even as I continue efforts until the last minute to modify the bill.

However after careful discussions with the President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Elizabeth my wife and close friends, I have decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation.   If my vote is to be counted, let it now count for passage of the bill, hopefully in the direction of comprehensive health care reform.  We must include coverage for those excluded from this bill.  We must free the states.  We must have control over private insurance companies and the cost their very existence imposes on American families. We must strive to provide a significant place for alternative and complementary medicine, religious health science practice, and the personal responsibility aspects of health care which include diet, nutrition, and exercise.
The health care debate has been severely hampered by fear, myths, and by hyper-partisanship.  The President clearly does not advocate socialism or a government takeover of health care.  The fear that this legislation has engendered has deep roots, not in foreign ideology but in a lack of confidence, a timidity, mistrust and fear which post 911 America has been unable to shake.
This fear has so infected our politics, our economics and our international relations that as a nation we are losing sight of the expanded vision, the electrifying potential we caught a glimpse of with the election of Barack Obama.  The transformational potential of his presidency, and of ourselves, can still be courageously summoned in ways that will reconnect America to our hopes for expanded opportunities for jobs, housing, education, peace, and yes, health care.
I want to thank those who have supported me personally and politically as I have struggled with this decision.  I ask for your continued support in our ongoing efforts to bring about meaningful change.  As this bill passes I will renew my efforts to help those state organizations which are aimed at stirring a single payer movement which eliminates the predatory role of private insurers who make money not providing health care.   I have taken a detour through supporting this bill, but I know the destination I will continue to lead, for as long as it takes, whatever it takes to an America where health care will be firmly established as a civil right.

We Geezers Got Our Single-Payer Plan. Now Go Get Your Own.

I’ve written many times about  how Americans have been set up for a fake intergenerational conflict over supposedly scarce health care resources. The purpose of this phony competition is to distract us from the fact that the resources wouldn’t be so scarce to begin with if we reduced the profits of the insurance and drug industries.

It’s an old bait and switch tactic, and the mainstream media have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. So instead of talking about greedy pharmaceutical companies that gouge people for drugs they need to survive, or greedy insurance companies that let people die to keep up their share prices, we’re all talking about the greedy old farts on Medicare who don’t want their services cut to pay for younger people’s insurance.

The latest take on all of this, as described in over the weekend in the New York Times, pits the old (over 65) against the not-so-old (50-64). The article focuses on the conflict within AARP, which has spent several decades hitting people up for membership the day after their 50th birthdays, and now includes members from both these warring age groups:

Its 40 million members are split about evenly between those who have access to Medicare, the federal government’s health program for the elderly, and those who are too young to be eligible for such benefits. The younger members, or those between the ages of 50 and 64, sometimes face terrible choices in the private insurance market, with age and declining health status making premiums high and benefits poor. But members 65 and older get among the most secure medical benefits in the country, and many are in no mood to share.

So this is what it’s come to, in the American health care system: Sickly 60-year-olds just trying to hold out until they can get their Medicare cards. Cranky old folks hoarding their Medicare benefits against the encroaching middle-aged mob. People eyeing each other suspiciously across the 65-year age divide, fearing and resenting one another.

Do you think people of different generations look at each other this way in Paris? Or in London, or Dusseldorf, or Adelaide, or Kyoto, or Ottawa? Of course they don’t. That’s because in those countries, EVERYONE HAS MEDICARE. In most of them, everyone has Medicare that’s better than our Medicare. They all carry around the same little card in their wallets–the one that shows their membership in their country’s national health service. And you know what they have to do to get that  card? They have to be BORN. That’s it. No age restrictions. No waiting periods. No physicals or tests or worries about pre-existing conditions. And no premiums to pay.  

I am more than sympathetic toward the plight of people in their 50s and early 60s. I know my own body started to give me trouble at about 55, and I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t had a job with health insurance. I’ve recently written about how the Baucus plan screws people in that age group by permitting insurance companies to discriminate against them. But the solution to these problems isn’t cutting Medicare benefits for people over 65–it’s giving Medicare benefits to people under 65. If everyone loves Medicare, and everybody’s just waiting and hoping and biding their time until they can sign up, why not let them do it now?

Some proponents of an incremental approach have actually suggested just this–opening up Medicare to ages 50 through 65, with some financial contribution from enrollees. And many single-payer advocates, myself included, have simply called for “Medicare for All.” Since single-payer health care systems deliver better care for 20 to 40 percent less money, there would be no need to cut services to any generation.

So as a member of the over-65 crowd and a card-carrying Medicare recipient, here’s what I have to say to younger Americans: We’ve got our single-payer plan. Go get your own. And since we’re not into intergenerational warfare,we will help you.Remember, we’re all in this together.

Dr. Dean’s Health Care Prescription: “The Free Market Just Doesn’t Work in Medicine”

On a book tour in southern California recently, Howard Dean–the ex-governor of Vermont, 2004 presidential candidate, and former DNC chair, who is himself a medical doctor–makes a few points about health care that are worth keeping in mind through the bitter partisan debate (if you can still call it a debate). His book from Chelsea Green is called Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Healthcare Refom.

Remember that it was Dean who, as governor of Vermont, got through a provision guaranteeing health care covering to all of the state’s children. He was ridiculed on the stump in 2004 as an out of control lefty–which is about as true as the accusations that Obama is a socialist. Dean is a moderate-to-conservative New Englander who has never proposed anything faintly resembling socialized medicine. 

But Dean does believe, as he pointed out at one book tour appearance: “The free market just doesn’t work in medicine. You can’t be an informed consumer. I never saw someone with severe chest pain jump off the table and say, ‘Doctor, I’m going to the cheaper guy down the street.'” And he doesn’t favor compromising on a public option, because “the public option is the compromise.”

The above quote was supplied by Miriam Raftery, editor of the East County Magazine, who  provides a fine precis of Dean’s book and the talk he gave last month at a San Diego bookstore: 

Dean noted that public healthcare in Europe was established not by liberals, but was in fact championed by conservative statesman Winston Churchill. “Disease must be attacked, whether it occurs in the poorest or the richest man or woman simply on the ground that it is the enemy; and it must be attacked just in the same way as the fire brigade will give its full assistance to the humblest cottage as readily as to the most important mansion,” Churchill once stated.” Our policy is to create a national health service in order to ensure that everybody in the country, irrespective of means, age, sex, or occupation, shall have equal opportunities to benefit from the best and most up-to-date medical and allied services available.”

Cost savings would occur by moving to a wellness-based medical model that emphasizes prevention, lowering current costs for treating patients who wait and go to the emergency room in a crisis. Eliminating administrative overhead would also save money in a public option. . .

“To fix the economy, we need to begin by fixing our healthcare system,” his book states, noting that General Motors spends more on healthcare insurance for workers than on steel to build automobiles. He cites a Kaiser Family Foundation survey which found that 58% of all small businesses have difficulty keeping up with healthcare costs. “If you want to help small businesses,” he argues, “let them pay lower health insurance premiums.”

Dean has practiced what he preaches. As Governor of Vermont, he led the state’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility to children under 18 in families earning under $65,000. “Basically we made Medicaid a middle class entitlement for children,” he says, adding that the shift saved businesses money and increased profit margins for those that opted to have employees’ children covered by the public plan. Vermont also increased Medicaid reimbursements to assure that doctors would not opt out of the system.

Dean now advocates what is basically a public option, achieved by opening up Medicare to people under 65, while allowing anyone who chooses to keep their private insurance. 

“Americans ought to be able to decide for themselves: Is private health insurance really health insurance? Or is it simply an extension of the things that have been happening on Wall Street over the past five to ten years, in which private corporations find yet new and ingenious ways of taking money from ordinary citizens without giving them the services they’ve paid for?”

Dean dispells myths promoted by the healthcare industry. “There is no country in the world with a public option that doesn’t also have private insurance,” he noted. “A public option allows you to sign up for Medicaid [Medicare] before 65. All the Republicans who’ve been whining and complaining all have a public system,” said Dean, former head of the Democratic National Committee, citing the high-quality government healthcare program that Congress has given its own members. Moreover, satisfaction ratings are high for two other government healthcare programs: Medicaid and Veterans Administration healthcare, Dean noted.

He believes true healthcare reform must include five core principles. Everyone must have the option of coverage. No one should be forced to declare bankruptcy because of medical bills. Health insurance should be portable, meaning you can’t lose your health insurance even if you change jobs, move, retire or have a pre-existing condition. Plus the quality and efficiency of care must be improved. . .

“My bottom line is not single-payer,” he said, noting that most Americans like to have choices. But he added that supporters of single payer should continue to lobby their legislators to prevent healthcare reform in Congress from being watered down to remove a public option. “Public option is the compromise,” he noted.

Dean noted that all countries in Europe now have a public option, except Switzerland and Netherland, where insurance companies are tightly regulated similar to public utilities. Americans spend more on healthcare per capita than any other nation, yet the U.S. ranks dead last in ratings of healthcare quality, access and affordability…

Medicare–Our Single-Payer Health Care Program

The Medicare Advocacy  Center has published this concise rundown on Medicare, which is well worth keeping in mind amidst all the ads and counter-ads swirling around us:

Forty four  years ago Medicare was enacted into law. All of today’s dire warnings about a public health option – socialism and government barring the doctor’s door – were made in opposition to Medicare. Despite such opposition from “conservative,” leaders, Medicare passed because of some courageous, principled law-makers.

Before Medicare, 50% of everyone 65 or older had NO health insurance. Now, as a result of Medicare, almost all older people are insured. Medicare, which is national, government-run health insurance, succeeded in insuring older people where private insurance failed. Further, until the Bush Administration privatized Medicare with huge subsidies to private “Medicare Advantage” and Part D plans, Medicare was also remarkably cost-effective. It’s private Medicare, not the traditional, public program, that’s bleeding taxpayers of billions of dollars.

Medicare has been a success, fiscally and morally. It took on the job of insuring health coverage and care to people that private insurance had abandoned. Since 2003, on the other hand, private Medicare plans have cost us all tens of billions of dollars that went to support the private insurance industry, not to providing health care. In addition, private Medicare plans have too often engaged in marketing abuses and restrictive coverage practices.

As numerous studies have shown, people with Medicare love it. They do not want government to fool around with the traditional program. Ironically, some people with Medicare are arguing against a public health care reform option–while also telling the government “to keep its hands-off their Medicare!” They, and their family members, (which accounts for pretty much all of us), forget that the traditional Medicare program is a public health insurance option.

Meet Medicare: Our 44 year-old public health insurance option that provides care to all its enrollees everywhere in the country, and that has provided health and economic security for millions of older people, people with disabilities, and their families. For two generations, the public Medicare program has shown what a true public insurance program can offer: health insurance for the otherwise uninsured, at a price that taxpayers can afford.

Now, for all generations, we need a public option in health reform!

Ten Questions on Health Care to Ask at a Town Meeting

This from a buzzflash.com guest blog by Dave Lindorff, based on an idea from one of his readers. Should you go to one of the town hall meetings on health care reform, here are 10 good questions to ask. The questions about Medicare, which I’ve highlighted in boldface, are especially good ones for older people to ask. This is especially important because the media seems to be full of tales of loony geezers claiming the government is going to mess up their Medicare–if it doesn’t euthanize them first.

1. If Canada’s single-payer system is so god-awful, why have repeated Conservative governments at the provincial and national level in Canada never touched it? Canada is a democracy. If Canadians don’t like their health care system, why haven’t they gotten rid of it in 35 years? Since the system there is run by the separate provinces, many of which are very politically conservative, why has not one province ever tried to get rid of single-payer?
2. Why is rationing by income, as we do it here, better than rationing by need, as they do it in Canada?
3. Wouldn’t single-payer mean that companies could no longer threaten working people with the loss of their health insurance? Why is this a bad idea?
4. The bigger the insurance pool, the better. So doesn’t having a national pool, as with single-payer, make the most sense?
5. Why should we be allowing politicians who are taking money from the medical industry to write the new health care legislation?
6. How can the Congress be developing a health system reform scheme and not even invite experts from Canada down to explain their successful system?
7. If Medicare–a single-payer system here in America–is so popular with the elderly, how come it’s no good for the rest of us?
8. Isn’t it true that Medicare currently finances the most costly patient group–the elderly and infirm–so that extending it to the rest of the population–most of whom are young and healthy–would be much cheaper, per person?
9. The AMA, the Pharmaceutical Industry, and the Insurance Industry all bitterly opposed Medicare in 1964-5 when it was being debated in Congress and passed into law, with the right, led by Ronald Reagan, calling it creeping socialism. It became a life-saver for the elderly and didn’t turn the US into a soviet republic. Why should we give a tinker’s damn what those same three industry groups and the Republican right think of expanding single-payer now?
10. The executives of Canadian subsidiaries of US companies all support Canada’s single-payer system, and even lobby collectively to have it expanded and better funded. Why does Congress listen to the executives of the parent companies here at home, and not invite those Canadian execs down to explain why they like single-payer?

Arresting Kids and Elders Who Lobby for Health Care Reform

If you missed this piece by Donna Smith, a community organizer for  the California Nurses Association, earlier in the week, it’s well worth taking the time to read–and take a look at the videos, as well.

If you  doubt for one moment the power of money and its control over whether or not our nation will grant the human right of healthcare to all, just look at who has been arrested speaking up for publicly funded, privately delivered healthcare in the past 90 days.

Frankie, 11, and eight others were arrested in July in Des Moines, IA, as Blue Cross felt a little too much pressure to answer questions about their denials of care and their profits:

In the offices of Senator Diane Feinstein, D-CA, eight senior citizens were arrested in July because they wanted just a few minutes of the Senator’s time — by telephone, not even in person — to make the case for some sanity in healthcare reform.

http://cbs2.com/video/?id=110325@kcbs.dayport.com

And we all know about the nurses and doctors and single-payer advocates arrested in the Senate Finance Committee hearings in May. They were asking for a seat at the infamous table where the big boys and girls get to play — err, I mean where the stakeholders who have given enough in campaign contributions get to sit while the health insurance industry, the big pharmaceuticals and the huge for-profit hospital corporations design our reform to make sure their profits grow ever larger and that Frankie in Iowa, the seniors in California, the nurses and docs in DC are silenced by whatever means necessary.

Are we hearing this? Are we seeing it? Are we holding this government, under Barack Obama and his allies in Congress, accountable for arresting 11-year-olds and seniors and nurses and doctors simply because they speak out and ask for their own human rights accountability?

Pro-life? Give me a break. Pro-family? Not hardly. Healthcare as a human right? Nope. We are so far from that point that every one of us ought to be preparing for the time and the issues we hold dear to be targeted and to have its discourse and potential outcomes so orchestrated and controlled that we’ll see ourselves handcuffed and locked away for simply whispering an alternate option.

Read the here on the Progressive Democrats of America web site

Not Enough Cops to Silence Single-Payer Advocates

James McGee, who blogs at The Amazing Maze of U.S. Health Care (and who, as a health plan administrator, knows his way around the maze better than most people), has compiled an assortment of videos showing the protesters at the Senate Finance Committee’s hearing on health care reform. Check them out here.

The protestors were, of course, decrying the fact that the 15-person witness list at what was billed as “A Roundtable Discussion on Expanding Health Care Coverage” included representatives from think tanks, business groups, labor unions, insurance companies, health care providers, but not a single person supporting a single-payer public health care system.

As protestors were escorted from the room by capitol cops, the response from the committee’s chair,  Montana Democrat Max Baucus, a leading member of what purports to be the party of the people, was the amusing quip, “We need more police.” As Amy Goodman notes today, the line is becoming a rallying cry for the single-payer movement, and those arrested at the hearing are calling themselves the Baucus 13.

McGee also points out that instead of debating about whether health care reform should include a “public option,” we ought to be asking why it needs to include any private options, since they’ve been shown to provide lower quality health care at much higher cost.