Posts Tagged ‘health care reform’

Today’s Flickr photo

Climate Change

Mensah Adrihor of Azizakpe standing on the site of his former home. Flickr photo by One.org.

If you read one thing today . . .

Not that this should surprise anyone but Bloomberg’s Drew Armstrong reports that the insurance industry gave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $86 million in 2009 to lobby against President Obama’s health care package. If you recall that’s the same industry that Obama touted as having bought into the early version of his plan.

The insurance lobby, whose members include Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Philadelphia-based Cigna Corp., gave the money to the Chamber in 2009 as Democrats were increasing their criticism of the industry, according to one person who requested anonymity because laws don’t require identifying funding sources. The Chamber of Commerce received the money from the Washington-based America’s Health Insurance Plans when the industry was urging Congress to drop a plan to create a competing public insurance option.

The spending exceeded the insurer group’s entire budget from a year earlier and accounted for 40 percent of the Chamber’s $214.6 million in 2009 spending.


The White House’s relationship with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce? As the HuffPo’s Sam Stein puts it: It’s complicated. Despite the bloodsport of the midterm elections, the Obama administration is keeping the lines of communications open with the industry lobby group.

“People in this administration talk to [Chamber CEO Tom Donohue],” White House senior adviser David Axelrod told the Huffington Post in an interview last week. “People in the administration talk to other members of the board. We have good relations with some members; some are hostile. But what we need to do is pursue a pro-growth agenda. We may differ on some issues and they will make their political decisions in the future. But we are going to work individually with businesses wherever we can to help grow jobs and prosperity.”


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Today’s Flickr photo

From a Veterans Day ceremony in Virginia. Flickr photo by Virginia Guard Public Affairs.

If you read one thing today . . .

So do the elections results bolster the GOP claim that they have a mandate to undo the reforms of the last two years? An AP poll says that the Republican-led House might want to tread carefully when it comes to dumping Obama’s health care reforms, which while an incremental improvement fell far short of the single-payer health care plan that Public Citizen had backed. The AP’s Alan Fram writes:

When it comes to the health care law Obama signed in March, just 39 percent back the GOP effort to repeal it or scale it back. Fifty-eight percent would rather make even more changes in the health care system or leave the measure alone


While President Obama held out an olive branch to Republicans after the “shellacking” they gave Democrats last week, many progressives  say that’s exactly what he shouldn’t be doing. Perry Bacon Jr. writes in the WaPo that Obama’s liberal base will be pushing the president to stand firm to the principles he embraced during the 2008 campaign.

“Democrats are not going to be a rubber stamp for deals [Obama] cuts with the Republicans in the House or the Senate,” said Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “Part of the battering we got [on Election Day] was about not being able to show our base we had done enough.”

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The President and Republicans sparred over health care in yesterday’s “bipartisan” meeting. One of Republicans’ favorite talking points is so-called “tort reform”- or restricting patients’ ability to hold negligent doctors and hospitals accountable for injuries they cause. They argue that liability limits will reduce health care costs.

The news out of Texas is that its comprehensive liability restrictions have not lowered costs at all. Despite its efforts to shield bad doctors, Texas health care costs have risen dramatically over the last six years.

Access to court is the only way that individuals can hold more powerful, sophisticated industries, such as doctors and hospitals accountable for wrongdoing.

Public Citizen sent a letter to Congress yesterday urging that it not include malpractice system changes in the health care bill, and to focus instead on the patient safety crisis facing the country.

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No longer are policy makers claiming that large leaps in health care costs are due to malpractice lawsuits. It is now the fear of litigation, according to a memorandum released by Public Citizen
Doctors are finding it necessary to practice ‘defensive medicine,’ ordering excessive tests and procedures for patients.

Let’s look at the facts:

  • In 1999 it was reported that between 44,000 and 98,000 people die every year due to avoidable medical mistakes, according to the Institute of Medicine.
  • In 2004 it was estimated that more than 190,000 people die annually due to medical mistakes, according to hospital rating company HealthGrades.

Patient Safety is a problem. An alarmingly big problem.

  • Avoidable medical mistakes are reported to amount to between $17-29 billion in costs every year, according to IOM’s 1999 report
  • Enforcing just 10 patient safety measures would save a $35 billion per year, according to Public Citizen 2009 study

With the statistics laid out it is easy to see that something should be done to hold the doctors and hospitals responsible for these outstanding costs. Why then is the problem being pushed as litigation and the proposed outcome resting with reducing patients’ legal rights?

The memorandum clearly illustrates key points that demonstrate the problem lies within the current medical malpractice litigation system.

The tough problem needs to be addressed. Patients are not receiving the correct amount if at all of compensation for medical malpractices. The current payments are at an all-time low and are only for serious outcomes. What is even more disturbing is that nothing is being done to prevent more medical errors in the future.

Public Citizen stated it best, “Policymakers from both parties should set their partisan instincts aside and reduce patients’ needs to seek redress instead of limiting their rights to it.”

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Dr. Andrew Coates at the PNHP blog writes about the difference between health insurance “reform” (the bill that Congress is trying to pass) and true health care reform, something that could be achieved with a Medicare-for-All, single-payer health plan. Unfortunately, many Democrats and self-described liberals dismiss the notion of single-payer as unfeasible, pie-in-the-sky thinking. Coates calls this refrain not only condescending but tiresome:

The nation asked the Democratic White House and the Democratic Congress for health care and so far we have gotten “health insurance reform” with a bonus – restricted access to abortion . . .

Our nation can do without “insurance reform” that will criminalize the uninsured, subsidize unaffordable insurance premiums with rivers of tax money, protect pharmaceutical company superprofits at patient expense, hugely expand Medicaid in the face of nationwide state budget crises and thus quickly prove fiscally unsustainable. (Incidentally the insurance industry projects its price increases will reach between 79% to 111% by 2019, under the proposed “insurance reform.”)

Coates is right. The people wanted health care reform. What we’re being told to settle for is just another scheme to line the pockets of the private health insurance industry.

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Filmmaker Michael Moore gave an impassioned plea for single-payer health coverage at a press conference today at our offices in Washington, D.C. His message for President Obama and members of Congress was rather simple: Give us single-payer, universal health coverage now, or feel the wrath of the voters come election time.

If President Obama would support a single-payer plan, tens of millions of Americans would flood the streets to support him, Moore said. “We will be there with you, every step of the way,” Moore said. “We have got your back.” It’s time to start over with a plan that includes single-payer, Medicare-for-All, he said. “Just hit the reset button and go back to the drawing board.” (Moore outlined what is missing from current health care proposals in a Huffington Post article.)

Public Citizen President Robert Weissman, who introduced Moore, said it’s time to end the current, broken system:

It is appropriate that filmmaker Michael Moore returns us to first principles, because the big picture of health care reform has been so badly obscured during the political theater of the past many months. Those first principles are: Health care is a right, and the private health insurance industry must be replaced. It is too cruel, too inhumane, too arbitrary, too bureaucratic and too inefficient.


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A few weeks ago, we warned you that Congress might become distracted by lobbyists seeking to shield negligent doctors and hospitals from accountability. Today, at least 23 amendments to the health care bill would do just that, weakening our right to hold negligent providers accountable when they cause severe permanent injuries or death.

In fact, the woefully inadequate health care bill introduced by Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) already endorses money for experiments with substitutes for the civil justice system. (more…)

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Two weeks ago, tens of thousands of people on Facebook updated their status messages to reflect their views on health care reform. This is what I posted: “No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. Demand single-payer, universal coverage for all. If you agree, post this as your status all day.”

The reality is that many people do die because they can’t afford health care. And now, a new study in today’s American Journal of Public Health says the numbers are a lot higher than we thought. The study estimates that 35,327 to 44,789 people between the ages of 18 and 64 die in the U.S. each year because they lack heath insurance. That’s more than double the previous estimate made by the Institute of Medicine in 2002. (more…)

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Dr. Sidney Wolfe, Public Citizen’s acting president and director of its Health Research Group, at the rally for single-payer health care held last week near the Capitol.

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