Action Taken! Universal Health Care, Ukiah Demonstration, Courthouse 6/25/09


From JANIE SHEPPARD

Mendocino County

>>>>Photos from the demonstration

June 21, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California

To demonstrate how much universal health care means to Mendocino County, let’s meet on Thursday at 12 Noon in front of the courthouse in Ukiah. Bring video cameras. Make some beautiful signs. The videos can show our way too-conservative Congressional Representative, MIKE THOMPSON, that his constituents CARE ABOUT UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE, preferably the single-payer kind.

MIKE THOMSON recently said outside a business meeting in Fort Bragg to the 20+ constituents requesting his signing onto HR 676 that “there is not enough public support for Single Payer Health Care. If there were 2,000 of you here, that would be public support.”

In a recent Letter to the Editor (UDJ 6/18/2009), a constituant addressed the following to MIKE THOMPSON: “You said that while Single Payer is popular in your district, it does not have wide spread support throughout the country. This statement is factually in error; poll after poll shows a large majority of the Americal people in support of Single Payer. Here is a list of reputable independent polls on Single Payer with the percenage of people in support: Feb. 2009 New York Times/CBS News Poll – 59 percent; Feb. 2009, Grove Insight Opinion Research – 59 percent; Nov. 2008, Ballot initiative question in Massachusetts – 73 percent; Apr. 2008, Annals of Internal Medicine, Study of Physician Support of National Health Insurance – 59 percent; Dec. 2007, AP/Yahoo Poll – 65 percent [3 more polls cited]… Now that I have shown you the truth, I don’t ever want to hear you make such blatantly false statements again.”

Apparently Thompson doesn’t think we care — based on calls he’s been receiving from the people who, for whatever reason, don’t think Congress should enact universal health care legislation. We need to show him we care. We need to show President Obama we care. Robert Reich (see article below) suggests President Obama drop everything else and do whatever he needs to do to get UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE. We can make the President’s job easier by persuading Thompson to get behind single payer or a public option alternative to private insurance. With single payer, health care would be paid for by tax revenue. With a public option alternative, individuals and families could choose to buy insurance from the government or from a private insurance company, with subsidies for low income families.

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Memo to the President: What You Must Do To Save Universal Health Care

From Robert Reich
June 19, 2009
Mr. President:
Momentum for universal health care is slowing dramatically on Capitol Hill. Moderates are worried, Republicans are digging in, and the medical-industrial complex is firing up its lobbying and propaganda machine.But, as you know, the worst news came days ago when the Congressional Budget Office weighed in with awful projections about how much the leading healthcare plans would cost and how many Americans would still be left out in the cold. Yet these projections didn’t include the savings that a public option would generate by negotiating lower drug prices, doctor fees, and hospital costs, and forcing private insurers to be more competitive. Projecting the future costs of universal health care without including the public option is like predicting the number of people who will get sunburns this summer if nobody is allowed to buy sun lotion. Of course the costs of universal health care will be huge if the most important way of controlling them is left out of the calculation.If you want to save universal health care, you must do several things, and soon:

1. Go to the nation. You must build public support by forcefully making the case for universal health care everywhere around the country. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows that three out of four Americans want universal health care. But the vast majority don’t know what’s happening on the Hill, don’t know how much money the medical-industrial lobbies are spending to defeat it, and have no idea how much demagoguery they’re about to be exposed to. You must tell them. And don’t be reluctant to take on those vested interests directly. Name names. They’ve decided to fight you. You must fight them.

2. Be LBJ. So far, Lyndon Johnson has been the only president to defeat American Medical Association and the rest of the medical-industrial complex. He got Medicare and Medicaid enacted despite their cries of “socialized medicine” because he knocked heads on the Hill. He told Congress exactly what he wanted, cajoled and threatened those who resisted, and counted noses every hour until he had the votes he needed. When you’re not on the road, you need to be twisting congressional arms and drawing a line in the sand. Be tough.

3. Forget the Republicans. Forget bipartisanship. Universal health care can pass with 51 votes. You can get 51 votes if you give up on trying to persuade a handful of Republicans to cross over. Eight year ago George W. Bush passed his huge tax cut, mostly for the wealthy, by wrapping it in an all-or-nothing reconciliation measure and daring Democrats to vote against it. You should do the same with health care.

4. Insist on a real public option. It’s the lynchpin of universal health care. Don’t accept Kent Conrad’s ersatz public option masquerading as a “healthcare cooperative.” Cooperatives won’t have the authority, scale, or leverage to negotiate low prices and keep private insurers honest.

5. Demand that taxes be raised on the wealthy to ensure that all Americans get affordable health care. At the rate healthcare costs are rising, not even a real public option will hold down costs enough to make health care affordable to most American families in years to come. So you’ll need to tax the wealthy. Don’t back down on your original proposal to limit their deductions. And support a cap on how much employee-provided health care can be provided tax free. (Yes, you opposed this during your campaign. But you have no choice but to reverse yourself on this.) These are the only two big pots of money.

6. Put everything else on hold. As important as they are, your other agenda items — financial reform, home mortgage mitigation, cap-and-trade legislation — pale in significance relative to universal health care. By pushing everything at once, you take the public’s mind off the biggest goal, diffuse your energies, blur your public message, and fuel the demagogues who say you’re trying to take over the private sector.

You have to win this.

Your obedient servant, RBR

~

Latest poll here


[UPDATE 1]
From GAIL JOHNSON

The Ukiah Valley Democratic Club is having it’s monthly meeting this Wednesday, June 24th at 6:30 p.m. at WaMu, now Chase Bank’s Conference room in Ukiah.

The topic will be Health Care Reform, now being hotly debated in Congress. Jon Spitz will be here from Laytonville to discuss his views on this, including the Public Option that is supported by President Obama.

Members and non-members are welcome.

[UPDATE 2]

Grail Dawson of Mendocino asking CD 1 single-payer supporters to join a list they’re compiling for Thompson… you can call him (or his partner Betty Barber) at 937-0656.  You can also call Nancy Roca (937-0453) or Pat Karch (937-0334) to add your name.


Statement from Mike Thompson on Health Care

From HEIDI CUSICK DICKERSON

Congressman Thompson’s Points on Health Care Reform

Congress must act quickly to pass health care reform- the bottom line is- we can’t wait any longer.

We need to make sure that the American people will be able to keep their doctors, and have a say in their health care decisions.

But we must expand the options, so that Americans who don’t like their plan, or don’t have health care coverage, have a choice.

A public plan that provides true competition will be an important part of health care reform.

And we can’t afford to wait for an arbitrary “trigger” to be pulled to put this reform into operation.  If that is part of the bill, reform will likely never happen.

Health Care Can’t Wait

Congress must act quickly to pass health care reform- the bottom line is- we can’t wait any longer. Across our country, 14,000 Americans are losing their health care coverage every day, joining the 46 million who aren’t covered by health insurance. I’m as worried as anyone about how we’re going to pay for this overhaul.  But the cost of doing nothing is even greater.  We must address the lack of access, and the crippling cost of health care that is hurting our families and our economy.

The United States now spends twice as much per capita on health care than almost any other nation, and our outcomes are worse.  Spending on doctors, hospitals, drugs, and other health care costs now consumes more than one of every six dollars we earn- that’s approaching 20 percent of our country’s GDP.  The growing costs to employers, estimated at 5 percent in 2008, have forced many businesses to cut back on benefits.  It is even worse now during tough economic times.  Before the economic downturn, 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies in 2007 were the result of unaffordable medical bills.  What’s astounding is that three-fourths of those debtors had health insurance.  According to the numbers alone, our system is broken.

But the health care issue is about much more than just numbers.  I’ve heard from countless folks in our district who can’t afford healthcare, or are struggling to come up with the money to pay their rising premiums.  One constituent likened her health care bills to a second mortgage.  Her middle class family has been paying nearly $15,000 a year for health coverage, which is not uncommon.  She’s had to cut back on paying for other things in order to afford to keep her family insured.  Her story – and others across our district – underscore the need to act quickly to make sure that all families have affordable access to the care they need.

There is widespread agreement that something must be done.  But as is usually the case when making public policy, the devil is in the details.  Changing our health care system will be very difficult, and much compromise will be necessary.  No one will get everything they want and after it is done there will be more reform to do.  The American people want healthcare reform, but at the same time are afraid of losing what they already have (if they already have healthcare coverage).  They want access to quality healthcare but are most concerned with being able to afford it.  Of those who have insurance, few are interested in shifting from an insurance industry bureaucracy to a government bureaucracy.

We need to make sure that people who are happy with the coverage they have can keep it.  We need to make sure that the American people will be able to keep their doctors, and have a say in their health care decisions.  But we must expand the options, so that Americans who don’t like their plan, or don’t have health care coverage, have a choice.  And we can’t afford to wait for an arbitrary “trigger” to be pulled to put this reform into operation.  If that is part of the bill, reform will likely never happen.

A public plan that provides true competition will be an important part of this reform. According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a widely respected non-profit health policy research foundation, nearly two thirds of Americans agree with me that we need to make sure that all Americans have access to affordable health care by providing an alternative to the private insurance options that are on the market.  We must ensure that every American has health care coverage, regardless of pre-existing conditions, and that we have adequate protections in place for the doctor-patient relationship. And we must also make sure that people can keep their coverage if they change jobs, get divorced, or their employer changes their options.

By streamlining health care, reducing fraud and abuse, ending unnecessary testing, discouraging overutilization, investing in smart reforms, and emphasizing preventive health care, we can significantly bring down the cost of health care. In addition to working for these changes, I’ll also push to expand access to telemedicine, which provides easier access to health care for people in underserved communities. We can also make significant cost savings by encouraging more collaboration and patient centered care by doctors.  Rather than paying doctors for the volume of procedures they perform, we should reward them for keeping patients healthy.

Reform won’t be easy, but it is urgent that we act now to make sure that all Americans can access quality, affordable health care.  For the families in our district, and families across the country who can’t afford to go to the doctor, or can’t afford the medicine they’ve been prescribed, it’s more urgent than ever that we reform our broken health care system as quickly as possible.


[DS:]

Conservatives Are Wrong About Free Market Health Care

From The Cranky Media Guy

I’m going to keep this short and simple so that everyone gets it. The Health Care system is NOT and CANNOT be a free market system.

Some ‘conservatives’ (read, pro-oligarchy folk) have tried to redefine the term ‘free market’ to mean only one that doesn’t involve “government interference.” I can’t blame them, I guess, everyone wants to make their position sound as good and as reasonable as possible.

It’s false, however.

A free market isn’t just a market lacking government regulation. Here is the ACTUAL definition: A “free market” is a market in which sellers, under no undue pressure to sell, proffer their goods/services to buyers who are under no compulsion to buy. This is critical; change any element of this formula and you are no longer talking about free market.

Health care is not (and cannot become) a free market for two reasons:

1) Supply is artificially restricted by the government and the AMA. The scarcity of medical care drives up the cost. This is completely artificial. You might say “Well, they have to! You can’t have just anyone practicing medicine!” Fine, I agree, but that means that health care CANNOT EVER be a free market, because of the artificial restriction of supply.

2) Not only is supply artificially low, but buyers are under EXTREME compulsion to buy. What, that thought never occurred to you!?!? If you need lifesaving medical care, you either get it or you die! End of story.

No free market exists in health care. And you just agreed in item one that you cannot turn it into a free market.

You could change item 1 by stripping the AMA of its ability to tell medical schools how many doctors they can graduate every year AND letting anyone sell medical services who wants to do so. So then you could choose between the really expensive guy who went to medical school and Joe the Plumber who sells antibiotics out of the back of his truck. This would take care of half the problem.

BUT, you can’t do anything about item 2: People will still need lifesaving care and as long as it is a LIFE OR DEATH NEED, the medical health care system will NEVER follow free market rules.

NO, instead what we have is a monopolistic utility, [”monopolistic” because the government & AMA tells you who can provide the services and a “utility” because consumers NEED and are compelled to buy the services]. As with all monopolistic utilities consumers have no choice except to pay whatever price is demanded.

Now in most other utilities, government as the representatives of the people recognizes the unfair power that the supplier has over the consumer and acts to tightly regulate pricing. For medicine, those with an agenda having NOTHING to do with anyone’s best interest are still trying to pretend that there is some kind of free market solution.

It’s bullshit. When you figure out a way we can all buy medicine from our local supermarket in the same way we buy potato chips AND you figure out a system where people are NEVER compelled to seek medical care to LIVE – THEN and only then will you have free market healthcare.

The rest is all pure phony bullshit spewed by people who only care about profit-taking for the super rich and don’t give a shit about the average person. It’s a fact, and I just proved it!

Some probably-paid talk show callers have been claiming expertise and saying that the problem with health care is that people get too much of it. =The solution, these ersatz listeners claim, is to get rid of medicare and all government price controls and let the “free market” decide. Yes, that’s right, people are dying every day for lack of health care – and America is the ONLY industrialized nation where that happens – and the conservative “solution” is to make health care even more expensive so that you stupid consumers won’t use it as much!!!

Look, those of you who are driven by ideology need to understand that free market rules are a bit like the laws of thermodynamics: Yes, they work – but they apply only in a vacuum, under ideal conditions that seldom exist in real life. You need to blow off the ideology and start looking at reality. We’ll all be better off if you do.

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See also Health insurers refuse to limit rescission of coverage

An investigation by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations showed that health insurers WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group and Assurant Inc. canceled the coverage of more than 20,000 people, allowing the companies to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims over a five-year period.

It also found that policyholders with breast cancer, lymphoma and more than 1,000 other conditions were targeted for rescission and that employees were praised in performance reviews for terminating the policies of customers with expensive illnesses.

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See also Why the Medical Industry is Lashing Out at Oprah Winfrey

Scientific medicine by and large ignores wellness, prevention, and alternative medicine in general. On a daily basis doctors don’t deal in these things; few take courses in medical school centered on them. That’s why a massive movement has arisen driven by patients themselves. Oprah serves as a public outlet for a conversation that needs to be ongoing. As long as official medicine, backed by huge pharmaceutical companies, denies the existence of the problem, much less alternative solutions, the movement will remain patient-centered and the attitude toward alternative medicine will be one of unfounded disdain, suspicion, and ignorance on the part of physicians.

Denial also plays a huge part in this story. Mainstream medicine continues to downplay the enormous drawbacks of a health-care system that is addicted to drugs and surgery as the two constant drumbeats of treatment.

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