Democrat Unity News

Democrat Unity News

We aggregate the best Democrat news for your reading enjoyment.  Stay sharp on political happenings that are important to Democrats.

Saturday, 30 May 2009 16:45

Union Retirees Persuade Congresswoman to HR 676

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HR 676 now has 77 co-sponsors in addition to Congressman John Conyers.  Latest to add her name to the list of co-sponsors is California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-16).  Lofgren spoke May 16th at the annual Legislators BBQ sponsored by FORUM (Federation of Retired Union Members) in San Jose.
In her talk on the current health care reform debate, Lofgren asked the crowd, “How many support single payer?”  Virtually everyone raised their hand.  She then asked, “Who supports any of the alternative health reform plans?”  No one raised a hand.  Representative Lofgren then announced, “Okay, on Monday morning I’ll call John Conyers and put my name on his bill.”  Congratulations to Fred Hirsch, Plumbers & Steamfitters, Local 393, and the eighty other union retirees at the meeting.

Forwarded by Moya Atkinson, member of The Nation Magazine Discussion Group in DC:

From: Bob Griss, Coordinator, Nation Magazine Discussion Group in DC

While many politicians, including President Obama, recognize that a universal health care system, like Medicare for All, could provide the most efficient, effective, and equitable way to provide health care to the US population, the myth perpetuated by corporate lobbyists for the medical industrial complex is that the public prefers to rely on competition among insurance contracts arranged through one’s employer rather than a publicly accountable process for determining that every patient receives the health care that they need regardless of their ability to pay.

As a result, the US spends twice as much per capita for poorer health outcomes than other countries which provide health care to everyone. So even though public funding accounts for 60% of total health care expenditures in the US (more per capita than any country even with universal health care), the unsustainable growth of health care spending in the US which exceeds the growth of income contributes to the growing fiscal crisis, diverts needed funding from other public priorities like education, clean energy, and safeguarding the environment, while putting employers at a competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace, subjecting employees to job lock or unaffordable health care depending on the characteristic s of their employers, making health care costs among insured persons the leading cause of bankruptcies, and neglecting primary care, preventive services, and public health in our market-driven profit-maximizing health care system. No wonder the US health care system was ranked 37th by the World Health Organization, since it is the most expensive and yet one of the least efficient. And there is no better example of the failure of US democracy than the unwillingness of our political representatives in Congress and th e White House to consider single payer in health care reform.

In the last two weeks, advocates for single payer have resorted to civil disobedience by standing up in the Senate Finance Committee hearings to demand that single payer be considered as a policy option as Congress debates comprehensive health care reform. Vowing that single payer is not “on the table”, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) chair of the Senate Finance Committee called for police to arrest thirteen single payer advocates including doctors and nurses, and eject them from his committee room. Now the question is how is the public going to tolerate this unwillingness of Congress to put single payer “on the table”, and what would it take for the “Baucus 13” to grow into a social movement of the “Baucus 1 3 million” ready to demand that single payer be “on the table”.
While Congress debates the inclusion of a “public plan” option as a compromise proposal, even though it cannot achieve the savings that single payer could achieve, and even runs the potential risk of becoming a dumping ground for private insurers who have historically competed by risk selection rather than by providing more efficient and effective health care delivery, the media is beginning to pay some attention to the single payer movement besides reporting that it isn’t political feasible. Diane Rehm conducted an insightful discussion of single payer on her NPR radio program “The Diane Rehm Show” on Monday, May 18, 2009 where she interviewed one of the most persuasive spokespersons for single payer, Dr. David Himmelstein, who teaches at Harvard and co-founded the Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP) which you can hear at the URL ( Next, Bill Moyers will interview David Himmelstein and Donna Smith from the California Nurses Association (CNA) which is a strong single payer union, on Friday, May 22, 2009 at 9 PM on WETA TV (Channel 26) which can be seen at the PBS website for Bill Moyers Journal or downloaded in transcript form after the broadcast.
This is a critical time to contact your political representatives in Congress and the White House with four requests:
(1) that the single-payer model be represented at all health care reform hearings,
(2) that the Congressional Budget Office study the cost-effectiveness of a single-payer national health system alongside other proposals;
(3) that there be a full hearing to assess the merits of a single-payer system; and
(4) that your political representative co-sponsor H.R. 676, The United States National Health Care Act, or S. 703, the American Health Security Act of 2009.
Saturday, 23 May 2009 05:00

Held Hostage by the Healthcare System

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By Dr. Marcia Angell May 23, 2009
© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company

{sharethis}The Senate Finance Committee's hearings on health reform earlier this month did not include testimony from any advocate for single-payer insurance. Physicians for a National Health Program, which represents 16,000 doctors, asked the committee to invite me to testify, but it chose not to. If I had been invited, this is what I would have said:

The reason our health system is in such trouble is that it is set up to generate profits, not to provide care. We rely on hundreds of investor-owned insurance companies that profit by refusing coverage to high-risk patients and limiting services to others. They also cream off about 20 percent of the premiums for profits and overhead.

In addition, we provide much of our medical care in investor-owned health facilities that profit by providing too many services for the well-insured and too few for those who cannot pay. Most physicians are paid fee-for-service, which gives them a similar incentive, particularly specialists who receive very high fees for performing expensive tests and procedures. Nonprofits behave much like for-profits, because they must compete with them. In sum, healthcare is directed toward maximizing income, not maximizing health. In economic terms, it's a highly successful industry, but it's a massive drain on the rest of the economy.

The reform proposals advocated by President Obama are meant to increase coverage for the uninsured. That is certainly a worthwhile goal, but the problem is that they leave the present profit-driven and highly inflationary system essentially unchanged, and simply pour more money into it - an unsustainable situation. That is what is happening in Massachusetts, where we have nearly universal health insurance, but costs are growing so rapidly that its long-term prospects are poor without cutting benefits and greatly increasing co-payments. Initiatives such as electronic records, case management, preventive care, and comparative effectiveness studies may improve care, but the Congressional Budget Office and most health economists agree that they are unlikely to save much money. Promises by for-profit insurers and providers to mend their ways voluntarily are not credible.
Nearly every other advanced country has a largely nonprofit national health system that provides universal and comprehensive care. Expenditures are on average about half as much per person, and health outcomes are generally much better. Moreover, these countries offer more basic services, not fewer. They have on average more doctors and nurses, more hospital beds, longer hospital stays, and there are more doctor visits. But they don't do nearly as many tests and procedures, because there is little financial incentive to do so.

WASHINGTON, May 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For the second time in two weeks, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee today invoked rules -- allowing a closed door committee session barring the public, media and with no Congressional Record -- reserved for unusual circumstances, like national security issues and trade secrets.

Consumer Watchdog called on the committee to publicly answer ten questions about how its plan to require all Americans to show proof of insurance or face tax penalties will provide affordable health care. Questions listed below.

Download Consumer Watchdog's letter to Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Finance Committee, sent prior to last week's closed meeting here:

In the letter to Senator Baucus, Consumer Watchdog wrote:

"Americans should not be locked out of any discussion about health care reform, particularly one that will consider whether everyone should be required to buy health insurance policies without any limits on what insurers can charge. Mandatory purchases of private insurance policies without offering a public alternative to the private market is nothing other than a bailout for HMOs -- whose greed, waste and indifference to our health have created the current mess.

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