Massachusetts voters have, for the second straight election, overwhelmingly affirmed their support for single payer health reform by turning in majority ‘Yes’ votes in all fourteen districts where local single payer ballot questions appeared on November 2. The ballots spanned 80 different cities and towns in a state of 351 municipalities, winning in every city and town reporting results so far except two. Five of the districts backing single payer reform voted for Scott Brown in last year’s special senate election, which was largely seen as a referendum on national health reform, showing that the goal of improved and expanded Medicare for All is supported by a diverse range of communities across the state. It is also striking that in a year of political change, and in a year of drawn-out economic suffering, residents recognize that single payer health reform offers the promise of a more just and humanitarian health care system, which would actually cost us less as a society and lift the burden of sky-rocketing health costs from thousands of households, employers, and taxpayers.
AP Photo/Toby Talbot
(Host) Governor-elect Peter Shumlin says he's optimistic that he can persuade the Obama administration to grant Vermont a special waiver to implement a single payer health care system.
Shumlin says he's already raised this issue with the president, and he'll do it again when he visits the White House early next month.
VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) The possibility of Vermont winning a federal waiver to put a single payer health care system in place was a top issue in the gubernatorial campaign.
Republican candidate Brian Dubie said that 2014 is the earliest a waiver could be issued under the new national health care reform law.
But Democrat Peter Shumlin argued that Vermont's congressional delegation could petition the Obama administration to make it happen sooner.
Speaking on VPR's Vermont Edition, Shumlin says he's already spoken to the president about this issue.
(Shumlin) "I had the privilege of talking to the President of the United States earlier today. He called me from Air Force One. A lot of bizarre things have happened to me in the last five days, but that's one of them. You know, you pick up the phone and there's the president at the end of the line. It was a real honor."
(Kinzel) And Shumlin says he doesn't think getting a federal waiver will be the toughest part of implementing a single payer system in Vermont.
(Shumlin) "The waivers is the easy part. The hard part is designing a single payer health care system that works and that delivers quality health care, gets insurers off our providers' backs, has a reimbursement system that makes sense. ... I believe if we design that system, we can sell it."
(Kinzel) The Legislature is expected to receive a special study this winter that will outline several different health care reform plans. One of them will be a single payer approach.
Once that report has been released, Shumlin says he wants to bring together a diverse group of businesspeople, health care providers and consumers to hammer out a workable plan. The governor-elect says it should have 4 specific goals.
(Shumlin) "Delivers quality health care to all Vermonters, where health care is right and not a privilege. Second, is affordable. The current system is going to drown us and will bankrupt us. We can't spend a million dollars more a day than we did the day before. Third, provide outcomes-based medicine so that providers are reimbursed for keeping us healthy, not the number of tests they put us through. And finally, fourth, and perhaps most important, using technology."
(Kinzel) Shumlin admits that making major changes to the state's health care system isn't going to happen overnight. But he's hopeful that significant progress can be made during his first term in office.
For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier
Thursday, September 30, 2010 9:54 AM EDT
You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store
Senate Republicans last week protected the Company Store again by blocking the DISCLOSE ( Democracy Is Served by Casting Light on Spending in Elections) act for the second time. The DISCLOSE act would have required corporate CEO’s to appear on the television attack ads they bought. We have no way of knowing till months after the fact, and then only if we are relentless in seeking the information, what corporation sponsored the mendacious propaganda on our screen. The Bush appointed Roberts/Alito Supreme Court damaged free and fair elections this January by ruling that corporations ( aka the Company Store) have the right to dump unlimited, unidentifiable cesspools of bucks directly into any election they choose. We perhaps should require that candidates dress like NASCAR drivers, with the corporations that bought them printed in large letters all over their jumpsuit.
Want to run for office in West Virginia on a platform requiring compliance with mine safety? You lose. CEO Don Blankenship of Massey Energy, owner of the mine that killed 29 miners this past May after hundreds of safety violations, can buy up all the air time, newsprint space with gazillions of profits made from endangering his workers. No one will hear you. Used to be government was the referee, us looking out for each other. Decades of social legislation from 1900 on had made for a large, stable middle class. Since the Reagan revolution, the Company owns the referee. The anger of the Tea Party is understandable, but they have it wrong, it isn’t the government that is hurting us, in fact taxes are lower than they have been in 60 years. It is the unregulated corporation that crashed Wall Street, took your job and home, profits from your healthcare and owns the store.
Before the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling Cincinnati billionaire and principal shareholder of American Financial Group Carl Lindner could contribute only a maximum of $4,800 to Republican Senate candidate Rob Portman. On August 2nd American Financial Group donated 83 times that amount, $400,000 to American Crossroads. In mid-August American Crossroads spent $454,000 on a statewide television ad backing Portman. American Crossroads was founded by former Bush operative Karl Rove as one of hundreds of front groups taking in billions of corporate dollars for Company Store friendly candidates. American Crossroads’ take in August alone was $2.6 million, $7.9 million from January up to August. $2 million of the August booty for American Crossroads came from two Texas businessmen.
“This is perhaps the best example to date of a big dollar impact in Ohio stemming from the high court’s Citizens United campaign finance decision..” (quotation, figures from “Court ruling boon to Ohio campaign”, Columbus Dispatch 22 September 2010 p. B1). Democratic Party Senate candidate Lee Fisher notes “This is an election, not an auction. Our democracy is about one person one vote… and should not be subverted by corporate spending without transparency.” Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown adds “It’s especially essential that the public knows who these people are giving this money.” Brown further noted that many outside groups, including an arm of American Crossroads aren’t required to ever disclose their donors. (“Brown: TV ad donors should be revealed” Columbus Dispatch 23 September 2010 p. A8)
A new Associated Press poll found that Americans who think the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) does not do enough to make healthcare more available outnumber 2:1 those who oppose the law believing that government should not be involved in healthcare. Four out of ten Americans believe the new law does not go far enough, one in five oppose the PPACA citing opposition to government involvement. (Washington Post 26 September 2010) One would think the nation was overrun with Tea Partiers screaming and packing firearms to health reform town halls based on FOX news reports. The fact is, Americans wanting further reaching reform outnumbered those fearing government two to one.
How then did we end up the health insurance industry/pharmaceutical company friendly PPACA? Part of the answer is Rick Scott, former CEO of Columbia/Hospital Corporation of America who was forced to resign after his company was fined $1.7 billion for fraud, kickbacks and understaffing of hospitals to cut costs. Scott founded “Conservatives for Patient’s Rights” to fight healthcare reform. Scott’s group spent $20 million, just a fraction of the $1 million industry spent every day of 2009 to insure Company Store friendly reform. (Geyman, J., MD; Hijacked; The Road to Single Payer in the Aftermath of Stolen Health Care Reform, p.79) As former CEO of a criminal healthcare corporation, I question Scott’s concern for patient rights.
This November, before you vote, consider that much of what you see and hear about candidates was financed by the Company Store. Consider which candidate and which political party has consistently stood up for the middle and working class.
Dr. Cotton is a member of Physicians for a National Health Program while working full-time in the emergency department, one of the few places in America that treats everyone based solely on need.
Big leap points to urgency of enacting single-payer Medicare for all: national doctors' group
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 16, 2010
Quentin Young, M.D.
Olveen Carrasquillo, M.D.
Margaret Flowers, M.D.
Mark Almberg, PNHP, (312) 782-6006, email@example.com
Local physicians in almost all 50 states available for comment (See historical table of uninsured by state below).
Official estimates by the Census Bureau showing a dramatic spike of 4.3 million in the number of Americans without health insurance in 2009 - to a record 50.7 million - underscore the urgency of going beyond the Obama administration's new health law and swiftly implementing a single-payer, improved Medicare-for-all program, according to Physicians for a National Health Program, a 17,000-member physician group.
The Census Bureau reported that 16.7 percent of the population lacked health insurance coverage in 2009, up from 15.4 percent in 2008, when 46.3 million were uninsured.
Lack of health insurance is known to have deadly consequences. Last year researchers at Harvard Medical School showed that 45,000 deaths annually can be linked to lack of coverage.
"Tragically, we know that the new figures of uninsured mean a preventable annual death toll of about 51,000 people - that's about one death every 11 minutes," said Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator of PNHP. Young is a Chicago-based retired physician whose private medical practice once counted President Obama among its patients.
Young said that even if the administration's new health law works as planned, the Congressional Budget Office has projected about 50 million people will be uninsured for the next three years and about 23 million people will remain uninsured in 2019.
"Today's report suggests those projections are likely too low," he said.
The jump of 4.3 million uninsured is the largest one-year increase on record and would have been much higher - over 10 million - had there not been a huge expansion of public coverage, primarily Medicaid, to an additional 5.8 million people.
The rise in the number of uninsured was almost entirely due to a sharp decline in the number of people with employer-based coverage by 6.6 million. In 2009, 55.8 percent of the population had such coverage, having declined for the ninth consecutive year from 64.2 percent in 2000.
The record-breaking number of uninsured - exceeding 50 million for the first time since the Census Bureau started keeping records - includes 10 million children.
The biggest jumps in the percentage of uninsured were in Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio, Missouri, Georgia, Delaware, North Carolina and Florida. In terms of absolute numbers, the biggest increases were in California, Florida, Texas, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois, Alabama, Michigan and Pennsylvania. In Massachusetts, 295,000 people remain uninsured despite that state's 2006 reform. (See link below for historical tables of the uninsured by state.)
"The only way to solve this problem is to insure everyone," Young said. "And the only way to insure everyone at a reasonable cost is to enact single-payer national health insurance, an improved Medicare for all. Single payer would streamline bureaucracy, saving $400 billion a year on administrative overhead, enough to pay for all the uninsured and to upgrade everyone else's coverage."
Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, a PNHP board member and chief of general internal medicine at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, noted that the Census Bureau was once again silent on the pervasive problem of "underinsurance."
"Not having health insurance, or having poor quality insurance that doesn't protect you from financial hardship in the face of medical need, is a source of mounting stress and poor medical outcomes for people across our country," Carrasquillo said. New research has found that about 14.1 million children and 25 million non-elderly adults were underinsured in 2007, a figure that is likely much higher today.
"The government subsidies under the new health law will not be sufficient to provide quality and affordable coverage to the vast majority of Americans," he said. "Tens of millions will remain uninsured, underinsured and without access to care. We need more fundamental reform to a single-payer national health insurance program."
State-by-state data on the uninsured from 2006-2009 can be found here: www.pnhp.org/sites/default/files/docs/2010/Uninsured-by-state-2006-2009.pdf
Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org) is an organization of more than 17,000 doctors who support single-payer national health insurance. To speak with a physician/spokesperson in your area, visit www.pnhp.org/stateactions or call (312) 782-6006.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont held a town hall meeting on August 29th and was asked by one of his constituents from the Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign what as Vermonters those who are supporting that movement can do about the amount of money that is going to flood into their state and how to stand against it and stop it. Bernie explained just how powerful the interests are that they are fighting against and how the recent Supreme Court decision to allow massive amounts of money to be poured into campaigns has made that worse. He also explained that if Vermont leads the country in trying to prove that a single payer, Medicare for all system can work, they are going to be deluged with special interest money trying to fight it. See the video.
What are we afraid of?
"You can always tell if you're succeeding by the viciousness of the opposition." — Dr. Quentin Young, PNHP National Coordinator
By Nicholas Skala. Updated by Chris Gray, July, 2010
As the movement for single payer expands, attacks on single payer in the media by the far right have increased. In addition to misleading articles and op-eds, several books attacking single payer by conservative pundits were published in recent years, including one endorsed by former GOP Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
The PNHP National Office has identified 20 right-wing think tanks that employ full-time health policy "scholars" to oppose national health insurance and advocate for health care privatization, deregulation and market-based reforms. These groups are funded with millions of dollars from wealthy far-right foundations such as the Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, the John Olin Foundation, the Adolph Coors family’s Castle Rock Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundations, which share an ultra-conservative social agenda.
The Right-Wing "Echo Chamber": Although they masquerade as legitimate research institutions, most of these policy think tanks are little more than PR firms for those who want to obscure the facts about health care in America. Many, such as the Fraser Institute, produce bogus research and purposely avoid peer review. Instead, they provide "experts" with fancy titles to write editorials and appear on TV news programs to spread misinformation. Each of these institutions is funded by the same small group of ideological foundations, and it is extremely common for these "experts" to cite each other's bogus research in their commentaries, giving the impression of wide scientific credibility for their views. Twenty of the top "think" tanks are detailed below. Members are encouraged to take the lead on behalf of PNHP in responding to misinformation spread by these and other groups.
September 1, 2010
By Don McCanne
Speaker John Perez of the California State Assembly, on the very last day of the legislative session, pulled SB 810, the single payer bill, from the Assembly floor.
This highly unusual move of pulling a bill that had cleared all legislative hurdles except for the final Assembly floor vote was to protect Democrats from having to cast a health care reform vote in a difficult political environment three months before the next election.
Democrats feared a backlash from those who are opposed to the recently enacted federal health care legislation should they vote for the bill, and they feared offending their progressive base should they vote against the bill. Since a veto by Gov. Schwarzenegger was a given, it was decided that it would be safer to avoid the political risks by simply pulling the bill.
But did they really avoid that risk? Are the single payer advocates expendable? Don't think so.
Fortunately, Senator Mark Leno is not to be deterred. He has vowed to reintroduce the bill in the next legislative session which begins in January.
The Democrats are worried about their political base, but maybe that's not the framing we should be looking at. Perhaps the single payer advocates should be reassessing their own base instead.
Not all Democrats have been supportive of single payer, and several Republicans who are not part of the prevailing lock-step bloc do understand the benefits of the single payer model. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is proof that we can't rely on the Democrats to do the right thing. Most importantly, everyone understands the benefits of Medicare as a social insurance program (even if there is a fringe reactionary element that would emasculate it).
The Tea Party is proving that passionate voices can be heard. Maybe we can learn from them, though our message should contain more than simple platitudes. Our message needs to convey the principled substance of health care justice, and it needs to be loud, clear and highly infectious.
Honeywell locks out USW Local in Illinois over health care — sister Local in Canada wins contract with no problem; everyone there Is covered under Canada’s single-payer plan
On June 28, 2010, Honeywell locked out the 230 union workers at its uranium hexafluoride plant in Metropolis, an Ohio River town of 6,500 at the tip of southern Illinois 400 miles south of Chicago. A working class town nestled amidst the corn, soybean and wheat fields, Metropolis is known for its Superman statue on the court house square where most Illinois candidates, including Barack Obama, have stopped by for a photo op.
Honeywell didn’t care if the workers liked their health care plan. This corporation said it was not going to let them keep it. The members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7-669 refused to accept the company proposal to increase workers’ out of pocket health care maximum to $8,500 a year and to end retiree health coverage. The union proposed to continue working as they bargained. Honeywell said no and locked the doors.
USW 7-669’s sister local in Canada signed their current contract in July 2010, and health care coverage did not present a problem. “Bargaining was not particularly difficult this time around,” said Chris Leavitt, President of USW Local 13173 in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada, home of the Cameco plant, the only other one in North America to make the uranium hexafluoride used to produce nuclear energy. Canadian USW Local 13173 is about the same size as the Metropolis local and was a part of District 50 of the United Mine Workers which affiliated with the USW.
Everyone is covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan—automatically–as a part of Canada’s Medicare, a single payer plan, explains Leavitt. Members of Local 13173 and their families pay nothing—no premium, no co-pay, no co-insurance, no deductible–for hospital care plus medication, out patient services, doctor’s visits, and other doctors’ services such as surgery. Health care is publicly funded for everyone so unions can use their bargaining power to negotiate for wages and other benefits. Read full article.
On July 30th, along with thousands of single-payer advocates across the country, SPAN Ohio and Mobilize Ohio Movement (MOM) joined forces to celebrate Medicare's 45th birthday at Cleveland Public Square. Watch the video.