July 20, 2009

Cantwell and the Public Option

At the July 9th rally, we presented a box of 291 pages of signatures collected by Moveon.org to Senator Cantwell's office. We wanted to get a clear statement of her position on the public health care option for the crowd and media gathered outside.

Her office presented us with a letter (dated July 9th) that was unambiguous in her support for a public option:

Let me be clear: a public option needs to be part of health care reform. I am pushing for a public option that will keep insurance companies honest by competing to drive down costs and improve quality nation-wide. This plan needs to be accountable to the people and must work to provide the best coverage for the best price.

I also received letter in the mail shortly afterward from the Senator dated one day earlier that says,

"An effective public option could help improve access to high quality health care....however, this will only be achieved if we take full advantage of our opportunity to overhaul America's health care system, instead of just expanding the flaws that exist in the current Medicare program."

Good news, right? The Senator pretty dramatically shifted her position from one day to the next.  Except that she has issued no press release to this effect, and news media are left guessing about her intentions.

Is the Senator saying one thing to protesters and another to the general public?  If so, why?

By Will Friedman in Health Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | Email this post

July 11, 2009

Hey, we're on TV

Our health care rally got picked up on the evening news, in the Seattle PI, in the Stranger, and on local blogs including one of the most prominent, HorsesAss.org.

Here's the King 5 newscast:

And here are some links to more coverage:

Please let me know if you see any more articles!

By Will Friedman in Health Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | Email this post

July 08, 2009

Thursday's Health Care Rally Featured in the Seattle PI


[T]he real craziness -- in a country where 46 million citizens lack health insurance -- is that so many have remained on the sidelines.

The most powerful lobbies in American society sure are involved.

By Will Friedman in Health Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | Email this post

July 07, 2009

Urgent: Health Care will be Fixed in July or Not At All

"I think it's fair to say that July is going to be the most historic and consequential period for health care reform --perhaps in all of history.  Never at any time that I can recall has so much come down to just a few weeks."

--Former Senate Majority Leader and Health Care Expert Tom Daschle, speaking today

The reason for the urgency is the timeline Congress operates on: basically there needs to be a draft bill ready before the August recess in order to get a bill done by the end of 2009.  If there is no bill by the end of the year, it's highly unlikely that a new plan will come together during Obama's presidency, and the issue will continue to worsen as it has since the last health care reform attempt in 1993, 16 years ago.

I'm personally passionate about the health care issue because I have a friend who is literally a health care exile. He has diabetes and is an independent contractor.  This is a lethal combination in the US.  He cannot get private health care because of his "pre-existing condition," and he can't work for a company because he is in a particular line of work (advising failed states on incorporating American values on media laws into their new constitutions) where it's very hard to find a company who will employ him.  He's even offered to pay for all diabetes-related expenses in order to get a private health care plan, but no insurance company would agree.  As a result he lives in France along with his wife (also an American citizen) and their two children.

I'm also passionate because my Mom would like to retire after having worked hard her whole life (she's a physicians' assistant at a nursing home), but she continues to work in order to pay for the health care to cover my Dad's prescriptions.  I'm also passionate because my Aunt, who is over 70 and lives on a fixed income after having worked at a university her whole career, pays $700 a month just for prescriptions because of the "doughnut hole" in Medicare Part D. 

And their stories are nothing compared to families that have gone into personal bankruptcy to cover health care costs, or had a loved one die because they couldn't get preventive care, early treatment or screenings.

Maybe you, or someone you know has had trouble getting the care they need at manageable prices.  If you're passionate about fixing this problem, your not alone. But it's not clear yet that Senator Cantwell (D-WA) understands the scope of the problem.  She sits on the crucial Senate Finance committe, but she has not come out in support of giving Americans a choice between a public and a private plan.  She has some ideas about health care, but it's not clear they are enough to really fix the problems my family and my friends have.  And given the urgency of getting this settled in July, time is short.

We need to push Senator Cantwell (whom I campaigned for, by the way) to come out clearly in support of guaranteed health care for all Americans, while giving us choice and control. Please join us for a short rally in front of the Senator's office downtown on Thursday at lunch time (12:15p).  More details here: http://tinyurl.com/seahcr.  If you can't be there, please get involved in other ways (ask me how).

Please help spread the word by telling people about this event and sending a link to the details.

Want to learn more? Listen to this NPR story from this morning.
Learn more about other rallies in the US on the same day.

By Will Friedman in Health Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | Email this post

January 09, 2006

Health Care Spending Engulfing Economy

The government released fresh evidence today that health care costs are causing significant damage to the economy. According to the Washington Post,

Rising health care costs, already threatening many basic industries, now consume 16 percent of the nation's economic output—the highest proportion ever, the government said yesterday in its latest calculation…Even as health care costs continue to escalate, however, many Americans—especially minorities and the poor—still do not receive high-quality care, according to two other federal reports yesterday...

Political, medical and economic leaders and experts have long warned that health care cost trends will gradually overwhelm the economy, and many companies now complain that employee and retiree health costs are making them less competitive. Yesterday's report added new reasons to worry.

The article also contains this illuminating quotation:

"This is an alarming situation, but it's more like a creeping infection than a broken bone, and so people get used to it," said Edward Howard, executive vice president of the Alliance for Health Reform, a nonprofit education group chaired by Sens. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). "Frankly, I don't see major change until people who have some sort of organized political influence start hurting a little more."

There you have it; Congressional leaders are ignoring the 40% of the population that is uninsured because they don't have enough political clout.  That's not surprising, but it's surprising that this politician would admit it so frankly.  Will we really have to wait until the economy suffers badly enough to wake these guys up?

By Will Friedman in Health Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Email this post

August 19, 2005

Why Conservatives Killed Health Care Reform

It’s impossible to talk about healthcare reform without mentioning President Clinton’s efforts to improve the system. We all know he wasn’t able to do it, and we’re all living with the consequences.

It’s important then, to keep in mind exactly why conservatives opposed his initiative so vociferously. This particular quote from a historical timeline of the initiative sums it up:

December 2, 1993 - Leading conservative operative William Kristol privately circulates a strategy document to Republicans in Congress. Kristol writes that congressional Republicans should work to "kill"not amendthe Clinton plan because it presents a real danger to the Republican future: Its passage will give the Democrats a lock on the crucial middle-class vote and revive the reputation of the party. Nearly a full year before Republicans will unite behind the "Contract With America," Kristol has provided the rationale and the steel for them to achieve their aims of winning control of Congress and becoming America's majority party. Killing health care will serve both ends. The timing of the memo dovetails with a growing private consensus among Republicans that all-out opposition to the Clinton plan is in their best political interest. Until the memo surfaces, most opponents prefer behind-the-scenes warfare largely shielded from public view. The boldness of Kristol's strategy signals a new turn in the battle. Not only is it politically acceptable to criticize the Clinton plan on policy grounds, it is also politically advantageous.

So basically the attitude of congressional Republicans was: “screw the people, what counts most is our own political gain.” After all, congressmen receive an excellent government provided healthcare plan.  They had nothing to lose.

[Some will claim that the Democrats are similarly opposing Bush’s Social Security scheme out of political opportunism. The difference is that rather than looking out for the average American, William Kristol and other conservative strategists have wanted to kill Social Security for years. Their strategy, which is Bush’s, was articulated by the bowtie-wearing College RepublicansHey Hey, Ho Ho, Social Security has Got to Go.”]

We know these guys are never going to fix the healthcare system. Where are the leaders who will?  Which candidate is running on a universal healthcare platform? Let me know so I can support their campaign.

By Will Friedman in Health Care | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Email this post

August 09, 2005

Moving Back to America: Health Care

In a few months, I’ll move back to the United States after five years of living abroad. I can’t wait to be home again and to be closer to family and friends. However, there are some annoying administrative details to sort out, the worst of which is researching health care plans for my wife and me. The process is only slightly more enjoyable than a Chlamydia test.

In England, we were covered by National Insurance. While hospitals are dreary and long delays for non-urgent care are common, the system is universal and it works better than ours—the average life expectancy in England is 78.5, slightly higher than America’s 77.2. 

In France, the system is more expensive for the state, but it is luxurious for the ill. (France spends 10.1% of its GDP on health care compared to 7.7% for the UK.) Quality of care is excellent in France. Prescription drugs are readily available at low cost. You choose your doctor, and it costs only 1 € per visit. Almost all of your medical expenses are reimbursed by the government. And the results are there: life-expectancy in France is 79.4.

I have long expected it would be difficult to readjust to the parlous US health care system. But after looking into it for only two days, I’m already depressed.

The bureaucracy of it all is so boring and irritating. HMO, PPO, HSA—I have no idea what these things are, but I know I better learn quick. I’m worried about high deductibles and loopholes which will mean we are not fully covered. I’m worried that if I end up starting my own small business, I’ll start every month $1,000 in the red to cover health care just for my own family. Even I work for someone else, the cost is enormous—in the five years I have been away, US employee health care costs have more than doubled. And we’re spending 15% of our GDP on this atrocious system—more than any other developed country, and more than we spend on defense, let alone counter-terrorism.

So why isn’t this a major political issue?  I know that it’s not a priority for the Republican Party, but where are the newspaper editorials and letters to the editor? Are Howard Dean and Harry Reid talking about health care every day? If so, I’m not hearing about it. Why aren’t people protesting in the streets? Let’s get angry, people! I’m already sick of the health care system and I’m not even back yet. I know I'm not alone.

By Will Friedman in Health Care | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack | Email this post