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11.20 Dead fish to power cruise ships [using dead fish to ultimately kill more fish, animals and plants but at a slower rate]
11.20 Indonesia: dead whale had 1,000 pieces of plastic in stomach [We have to stop killing everything!!!]
11.18 Air pollution levels ‘forcing families to move out of cities’ [like from desertification, lack of drinkable water and rising oceans, there will also be pollution-caused immigration until humans fix things]
11.17 Policies of China, Russia and Canada threaten 5C climate change, study finds [Climate catastrophe is increasingly likely without worldwide organization, funding and commitment to winning THE WAR AGAINST GLOBAL WARMING.]
11.16 How pesticide bans can prevent tens of thousands of suicides a year [how many thousands more die early from eating pesticide-laced food?]
11.15 The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us [fossil fuel burning, un-recyclable plastic production/use and methane gas release must cease ASAP.]
11.15 The long read: The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? [the world wants to throw-up...]
11.15 Claws out: crab fishermen sue 30 oil firms over climate change [workers are waking-up...]
News Media Matters
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
11.20 New York City subway and bus services have entered 'death spiral', experts say [death spirals are the end-thing nowadays]
11.19 Last Week Tonight with John Oliver 11/18/2018 (HBO) [29:26 video]
11.19 Trump Says He Was 'Fully Briefed' and Also 'Not Briefed Yet' But Either Way Saudi Crown Prince 'Absolutely' Not Involved Because Trump Knows 'Everything That Went On' Without Listening to Tape of Khashoggi Murder
11.19 'We Need New Leaders, Period': Progressive Newcomers Urge Democrats to Embrace Bold Agenda or Face Primary Challenges [Current Democrat leaders are highly compromised by corporate donations]
11.18 Trump says Pelosi deserves speakership, offers Republican votes [An affirmation of Pelosi's unsuitability]
11.18 Khanna to Pelosi: Don't Just Create Green New Deal Select Committee, Make Ocasio-Cortez Its Chair [Will Pelosi earnestly change, or end her career in disgrace?]
11.18 Chuck Schumer, Feckless Hack [Neoliberal Democrats must go!]
11.18 What the State of the VA Tells Us About Trump’s War on Welfare [Privatizing often results in outright fraud and higher costs by private prisons, privatized health insurance and health care, privatized public schools and online "colleges" like Trump University]
11.20 'He may not rewrite immigration laws': Trump's asylum ban blocked by federal judge [Has anyone thought about putting razor-wire around the White House?]
11.14 The Guardian view on Yemen’s misery: the west is complicit [WAR CRIMES]
Economics, Crony Capitalism
11.19 Bankrupt Sears wants to give executives $19 million in bonuses [blatantly immoral and sick to richly reward those who led the company into the bankruptcy]
11.18 Big Pharma Bankrolled Pro-Trump Group As Trump Pushed Pharma Tax Cut [Corruption Central!]
International & Futurism
11.18 France demands UK climate pledge in return for Brexit trade deal [Excellent!]
11.17 Thousands gather to block London bridges in climate rebellion [We're losing WWIII because the enemy is invisible while we're like frogs slowly cooking. We aren't informed enough to be alarmed, but must get organized and motivated to fight back. We need a War Plan to ruthlessly pursue the fight of our lives!]
Health Care Reform, Obama Style
Protecting Health Industry Profits seems a Major Goal
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
By media & government suppressing truths and marginalizing dissent against business as usual, Medicare-for-All advocates are shut out and ridiculed for suggesting what other western nations know works best, costs less, and delivers the highest quality health care to everyone.On February 26, The New York Times headlined: "Obama Offers Broad Plan to Revamp Health Care....a (down payment $634 billion "reserve fund" for the next decade) toward his goal of covering the uninsured, and he would pay for it in part by cutting federal payments to hospitals, insurance companies and drug companies." More on that below.
Details so far are sketchy, but here's what The Times and others reported:
Sibelius and DeParle - Obama's "Health Reform" Dream Team
After defense (at over $1 trillion annually with all categories included), HHS (Health and Human Services) is the nation's largest federal agency based on its FY 2009 $737 billion budget, of which Medicare and Medicaid comprise 85% of the total. In 1995, Social Security became an independent agency and ranks third with a FY 2009 $695 billion budget.
With little Washington experience, Kathleen Sebelius will head HHS. Her official biography states:
She's also a former Kansas Trial Lawyers Association director (1977 - 1987) and Kansas Insurance Commissioner (1994 - 2002) before being elected governor. Her public statement on health care states: "We are stronger as a nation when our people have access to the highest quality, most affordable health care."
Kansas Republican Party executive director Christian Morgan responded by saying:
Morgan left out Sibelius' pro-business agenda of supporting cuts in state corporate income and property taxes and repealing its estate and corporate franchise tax to make Kansas more attractive for investment.
The Wall Street Journal called her administration "notably bipartisan....elected to her first term with a former Republican businessman as her running mate (and to her second) with the former Republican party chairman."
Still, as state insurance commissioner in 2001, she blocked the Indianapolis-based Anthem Insurance Cos.' offer to buy Blue Cross - Blue Shield of Kansas after concluding that premiums would rise under its ownership. She prevailed when the state's high court overturned a lower court ruling that she exceeded her authority. Ever since, she used that victory to promote herself as a staunch consumer advocate who'd stand up to powerful entrenched interests.
Doing it in Kansas is one thing. Washington is another matter where all previous health care reform efforts were defeated, and no wonder as Cornell University Professor Emeritus Rosemary Stevens explained. In her analysis titled: "Health Reform in 2007: What Can We Learn from History," she stated that:
"There is nothing simple and tangible called 'health reform.' The history of American health care is as messy, disjunctive, and complex as is our present health care system. Battalions of lobbyists have argued for different reforms, together with platoons of politicians, skirmishing professionals and a battling throng of others, representing a wide variety of agendas. There is no single narrative of health care....that points to a logical way ahead" or new ways to achieve now what always before failed because reform efforts couldn't muster a congressional majority given the stranglehold business has over lawmakers.
Stevens reviewed our history of successes but overall failure to provide quality coverage for all:
US health reform efforts go back to "the health insurance movement of 1913 - 1918" - spurred by the American Association for Labor Legislation to improve industrial workers' health and welfare, and supported at the time by the AMA and other organizations. In 1917, 15 states "introduced a standard health insurance bill (and) eight states set up commissions to study the issue" - to no avail as Colin Gordon's book explained, "Dead on Arrival." Then and later, "proposals were weak on practical details and generated considerable confusion, even among their supporters."
So much so that by 1920, the health insurance movement was dead, despite the poor response to the 1918 - 1919 influenza epidemic. After WW I, doctors settled into private practice, medical specialties expanded, community and university hospitals proliferated, and government's role "was to pick up the slack."
In the 1930 and 1940s, government-sponsored health insurance again surfaced - either in the form of federally-subsidized state programs or through Social Security. By then, the issue was contentious for reasons including medical opposition, a lack of clarity on the advantages or disadvantages for business and labor, private health insurance as an alternative, and concern about "too much government and states' rights."
By 1950, views were changing, given the "rapid growth of (employer-provided) private health insurance, complemented by new and expanding hospitals and a national commitment to (federally funded) biomedical research in cancer and other areas." But what about the retired, disabled, unemployed, or others who for various reasons were uninsured. After years of debate, Medicare and Medicaid emerged in 1965.
Medicare covers the elderly, people with disabilities, and with end-stage renal disease. Medicaid is for the uninsured whose incomes fall below state-specified levels. "In the language of the time, the elderly and poor were to be 'brought into the mainstream.' " In theory at least, they'd be "one, undifferentiated, relatively egalitarian health system in terms of patient status...."
However, fulfillment failed its promise. Medicaid and Medicare both had unexpected cost overruns, corruption and fraud charges, and in some states "a backlash against allegedly high, state-mandated income levels for (Medicaid) eligibility." Calls for "reform" resulted while at the same time employer-based insurance weakened "in the face of rising costs (and) shifts in the structure and nature of the job market." In 1993 - 1994, the Clinton administration addressed the issue but failed so today we're approaching 50 million uninsured, tens of millions more underinsured, and many uninsured at some portions of each year.
"The history of health insurance proposals in the United States is....a history of failure if its goal (is to cover) the whole population." However, Medicare and Medicaid so far are successes for having "transform(ed) the lives and health of millions of individuals." Other public health services include SCGIP (the State Children's Health Insurance Program), emergency room access, EMTALA (the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act), government-supported clinics, and the VA for veterans.
Yet all these programs "call out for reform - from relieving excess burdens on, and inappropriate use of emergency rooms (to) getting affordable insurance to all those who can pay for it," but what about for those who can't.
Expanding access is one issue. Creating "coordinated care and service organizations" another. "Expanding access to insurance alone does not ensure more efficient or effective care. Quite the reverse in some instances." Medicare and Medicaid "led to huge changes in disconnected aspects of health care provision," including a new nursing home industry, encouraging hospitals and doctors to be more business oriented, and pushing public hospitals to close since Medicare and Medicaid covered seniors and the poor.
By the 1980s, nonprofit hospitals were almost extinct. They and private ones "competed in a single, profit-oriented" market treating health care like any other commodity. Mental health services also suffered when state hospitals for its treatment began closing. Between 1955 - 1973, California reduced its mental hospital population by three-fourths. The chronically ill ended up in nursing homes or all too often on city streets or in prisons.
Today as a result, the "uninsured or underinsured and medically needy patient who is without a family (for help) is at a particularly high risk in the United States." For decades, health reformers addressed the issue without success. So far, reform has been an impossible Gordian Knot to cut.
The 1973 HMO Act tried through federally-subsidized nonprofit health maintenance organizations. By the 1990s, they "became synonymous with managed care" and all the backlash it created by having "gatekeeper" bureaucrats make health decisions, not doctors.
Stevens stressed "the extraordinary hold rhetoric and deep fears have held in health policy debates" over the "dangers of big government" under "socialized medicine," unmindful that it works very well, if imperfectly, in all other western states - where their populations dread the idea of not having it.
In America "inegalitarianism lingers on." Despite the successes of Medicare and Medicaid, little sentiment where it matters most is for similar coverage for all under a single-payer system. The usual arguments say:
In the end, debate creates controversy and produces failure, so another effort to extend quality care to all dies. Changing it will require "lay(ing) aside old doctrines, bugaboos and fears" - to achieve what's been impossible up to now, so don't hold out hope that Obama will do it, or even try, despite all his high-sounding rhetoric saying otherwise. As long as the business of America is business, profits will always trump need, and today more than ever given the nation in economic collapse and most federal revenues going for militarism and to Wall Street.
Look for Nancy-Ann DeParle, Obama's new "health czar," to assure that "health reform" efforts better industry profits, not human health, and a glance at her background shows why. From her close ties to the industry she'll oversee, it wreaks conflict of interest and privilege, not popularism:
Her private sector experience includes employment as managing director at CCMP Capital Advisors, senior advisor at JP Morgan Partners, the Covington & Burling law firm, the boards of Cerner Corporation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the DaVita Corporation, Medco Health Solutions, Boston Scientific, Triad Hospitals, as well as being a health care systems professor at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
Even The New York Times remarked that "Obama (chose) to overlook Ms. DeParle's business ties that have a direct stake in the health-care debate....the White House instantly faced questions about whether her appointment was skirting the spirit, if not the letter, of the president's tough conflict-of-interest policy."
On taking office, Obama laid out rules barring executive branch officials from working on issues "directly and substantially related" to their employers or former clients for at least the past two years. Appointing DeParle crosses the line, even though she's described as competent, non-ideological, honest, and pragmatic. Nonetheless, when asked, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration doesn't view her directorships as a conflict of interest. The president "has confidence in her and her abilities as part of the health care reform effort here."
Perhaps he'll reconsider given the fallout from several of his other appointees, forced to decline for failing to pay back taxes, another with the same problem now Treasury Secretary, one more as well who says he'll pay up, and perhaps other skeletons in all their closets yet to come out.
Big Pharma (PhRMA) on Obama's Plan
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) is the lobbying and trade group for "the country's leading pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies" under its president and CEO, former congressman (1980 - 2005), Billy Tauzin.
In a March 4 CNBC interview, he expressed optimism over Obama's plan. Think about what it does, he stated:
"This plan talks about providing comprehensive health insurance to people who don't have it - that means to patients who can't take our medicines because they can't afford it. (About) $650 billion spent to better insure Americans for the products we make. That ought to be a very optimistic and positive message for everyone" in our industry.
"Think about this: Almost half of the prescriptions that are written today go unfilled....because people don't have adequate insurance - they have no insurance, or their insurance doesn't cover our products the way it covers hospitalizations."
The more people insured, the more drugs sold so providing them cheaper is good business - more volume, greater profits. The same holds for insurers if universal coverage is required - more customers, greater profits even at lower per policy premiums. Depending on whatever final plan emerges, look for health care providers to get behind this one, and if so, expect people once again to be betrayed.
The White House Health Reform Forum
On March 5, the East Room of the White House was center stage for the first of a series of meetings "to enact comprehensive health reform by the end of this year," according to the president who led the discussion for a who's who of attendees, including politicians, lobbyists, industry representatives, insurers, PhRMA, physicians' groups, labor, and a handful of reform advocates. Below is a partial listing from the roughly 150 participants:
Meetings like these are for show, whereas deals happen behind closed doors to protect the interests of a powerful industry that the Washington Post describes as "one of the mightiest political forces in Washington, spending nearly $1 billion on lobbying and contributing $162 million to candidates of both parties over the past two years." It gave Obama $19 million for his campaign and now wants payback for its investment. It's coming and will be right in line with its wish list.
For one thing, the White House and key congressional members ruled single-payer Canadian-style coverage "off the table," according to Senate Finance Committee chairman, Max Baucus. Physicians for a National Health Program's (PNHP) co-founder and director, Dr. David Himmelstein, responded:
"The president once acknowledged that single payer reform was the best option, but now he's caving in to corporate healthcare interests and completely shutting out (chances for) single reform. The majority of Americans favor (it), and it's the most popular reform option among doctors and health economists...."
In addition, "he's appointed as his health reform czar Nancy-Ann DeParle, a woman who has made her living advising health care investors and sits on the board of many for-profit firms that have made billions from Medicare. Her appointment - and the invitation list to the healthcare summit - (are) clear signal(s) that the administration plans to propose a corporate-friendly (plan) that has no chance of actually solving our health care crisis." It likely will make it worse and shows this president serves the powerful, not the people. But based on his ties to Wall Street, we already know that.
PNHP is an independent, non-partisan, voluntary organization supported by dues, contributions, and progressive foundation grants. It accepts no funding from health care industry companies or other for-profit entities. Since 1987, its 15,000 members have advocated for universal, comprehensive, single-payer national coverage from chapters across the country. It's the only national physician organization exclusively dedicated to achieving it. It believes that "high-quality health care is a right of all people and should be provided equitably as a public service rather than bought and sold as a commodity."
Its current president, Dr. Oliver Fein, calls the need for an "expanded Medicare-for-All....more urgently needed (than ever given the severity of the) economic recession....As long as we rely on private health insurers, universal coverage will be unaffordable," and growing millions will lose out.
"Mandates to buy private insurance are not the answer. Experience" shows they don't work, either to achieve universal coverage or contain costs. They also "cherry-pick healthier patients and insist on more than their share of payment."
Medicare-for-All is the only solution, and cost savings will be impressive - around $400 billion annually from reduced administrative overhead. With single-payer national coverage, lifelong, high quality, comprehensive and affordable coverage can be assured for everyone at much less than is spent today.
An Annals of Internal Medicine study shows 59% of US physicians support it, and in a recent AP poll, 65% of respondents backed universal government-run coverage financed by taxes. In the 110th Congress (January 2007 - January 2009), Rep. John Conyers and 93 co-sponsors endorsed HR 676, the US National Health Care Act, the most of any health reform legislation so far but far short of a majority in the House, let alone the Senate where 60 votes are needed to assure passage.
Dr. Fein is a practicing internist and Professor of Clinical Medicine and Clinical Public Health at Weill Medical College, Cornell University, where he also serves as Associate Dean responsible for the Office of Affiliations and the Office of Global Health Education.
He's a longtime advocate for Medicare-for-All. It works. Private for-profit ones don't, except for the dwindling few who can pay the increasingly unaffordable costs - for insurance and all forms of care. The rest are out of luck, on their own, and not included in Obama's proposed "change" - for the usual empowered interests the way it always works in America. So at the other end of the health "reform" debate, the title of Jill Quadagno's 2005 book aptly explains that we'll remain "One Nation Uninsured" without the single-payer kind that matters.
Automatic Savings Under Medicare-for-All
Private insurers add about 15% to health care costs. Under Medicare/Medicaid, it's 2% for a major saving over insurer payments that cost more and provide less. They game the system to crowd out the sick, cherry-pick the healthy, and find ways to choose cheaper treatments over expensive ones, usually to the detriment of patients paying high premiums but losing benefits when they need them most.
Medicare-for-All solves all problems except one - the influence of a powerful industry throwing its weight into the fight to assure in the end it wins. So far, Obama backs it - big insurers, PhRMA, hospitals, the AMA, and other health care providers with enough clout to matter. With those kind of odds, consumers are outgunned, outmatched, and have little hope that this time will be different.
Media Blackout of Single-Payer Healthcare
More evidence is from a new Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) study showing that "in the week leading up to (the White House forum, there was a) media blackout on single-payer healthcare." The major print and electronic media hardly mentioned it, and when they did, it was in hostile op-eds and disparaging on-air comments. Not one single-payer advocate appeared on television, not even on PBS' News Hour With Jim Lehrer that gave plenty of time to the opposition.
Comments from CNN's medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, were typical. On February 26, she said:
Instead of explaining both sides fully and accurately, the major media ignore public opinion, filter news, suppress truths, marginalize dissent, and support business as usual for the powerful. As a result, Medicare-for-All advocates are shut out and at times ridiculed for suggesting what all other western nations know works best, costs less, and delivers the highest quality health care to everyone - something millions of Americans never had nor will get from an Obama administration, committed to the rich at the expense of the rest.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM to 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national topics. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Mr. Lendman's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
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Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.This story was published on March 11, 2009.
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