Kucinich and Health Care March 20, 2007 3:16 AM
By Jonathan Springston, Senior Staff Writer, Atlanta Progressive News (March 19, 2007)
(APN) ATLANTA – Major 2008 Democratic candidates for President of the United States–including Clinton, Edwards, Kucinich, and Obama–have already begun addressing health care in their campaigns. However, US Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is the only major declared candidate who advocates for a single-payer health care system so far in this race.
Only Kucinich and former US Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) have offered comprehensive plans, whereas Clinton and Obama haven’t offered more than vague ideas so far, Atlanta Progressive News has learned. APN focuses on Clinton, Edwards, Kucinich, and Obama in this article.
Edwards offers a complete, but complex universal health care proposal, which advocates say doesn’t do enough to cut insurance industry profits out of the equation.
In the 2004 race, by contrast, there were three candidates–Kucinich, Carol Moseley Braun, and Al Sharpton–endorsing single payer plans.
KUCINICH: SINGLE-PAYER UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE PLAN
"When people tell me that national health insurance is the right answer but is not politically feasible, I tell them that the opposite is true," Kucinich wrote in a statement on healthcare-now.org. "Passage is inevitable - it is only a matter of time."
Kucinich is also for the second year now a co-sponsor of HR 676 in Congress, a bill sponsored by US Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), to enact single-payer universal health care nationwide. The bill number is the same in the 110th Session as it was in the 109th.
The bill had 79 total cosponsors but failed to get out of Committee in the 109th Session, with new cosponsors joining on each month. Georgia’s US Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) [a centrist], John Lewis (D-GA), and Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) were all co-sponsors.
Here’s how HR 676 works: The bill would expand the existing Medicare program so that every person living in the United States and U.S. territories could receive publicly financed, privately delivered health care. Each person would receive a United States National Health Insurance Card with ID number.
Services include inpatient and outpatient care, emergency care, prescription drugs, durable medical equipment, long-term care, mental health services, dentistry, eye care, chiropractic, and substance abuse treatment.
Under this act, there will be no co-pays or deductibles. Everyone has their choice of physicians, providers, hospitals, clinics, and practices.
To fund the system, the act would repeal the Bush tax cuts for the highest income earners and establish a 5 percent health tax on the top 5 percent of income earners, a 10 percent tax on the top 1 percent of income earners, and a one-third of 1 percent transaction tax.
There would also be an employer and employee payroll tax of 4.75. Federal and state funding rates for existing health programs would remain unchanged.
"If you leave the halls of Congress, go to a barbershop or a bus station, everyone has a horror story," Joel Segal, Senior Legislative Assistant to Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), said of the current health care system.
"Universal health care is inevitable," Segal added.
"A majority of people in this country are not benefitting from the current system," Rita Valenti, an Atlanta resident who has advocated for single-payer health care for two decades, said.
"People are so embarrassed when they get used by insurance companies," Margie Rece, a mental health nurse who also advocates for a single-payer health care system, told APN.
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March 20, 2007 3:17 AM
EDWARDS: DETAILED, BUT COMPLEX, UNIVERSAL, BUT PRO-INSURANCE INDUSTRY PLAN
"Edwards has so far staked out the most detailed position" on health care, the Washington Post newspaper reported. However, that assessment appears to discount Kucinich’s plan.
"His plan would require employers to provide health coverage for workers or pay a portion of their payroll into a fund that would help individuals buy private insurance through new regional health-care purchasing pools," according to The Post.
"He would also expand Medicaid and the state-federal Children's Health Insurance Program, and would provide tax credits to help make insurance more affordable for lower-income families."
Edwards, a former 2004 Vice Presidential candidate, would repeal the Bush tax cuts for people with incomes over $200,000 and push the Internal Revenue Service to collect unpaid capital gains taxes to help pay for his health proposal.
"Edwards is at least giving details," Segal said, even though it is not a single-payer plan. Segal tells APN that he has heard Edwards will go the single-payer route if that’s what the people want.
The fact that he’s taking leadership is impressive," Segal added.
CLINTON AND OBAMA: VAGUE PROMISES, LACK OF COMPLETE PLANS
Meanwhile, US Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY), the candidates who have jumped off to a quick start in the 2008 campaign, have yet to release detailed plans for reforming health care.
Obama said last month he would deliver universal health coverage by 2012 and Clinton wants universal coverage by the end of her second term, according to The Post.
A spokesperson from the Obama campaign told APN the Senator will reveal a more detailed roadmap of how he wants to tackle health care in the near future but did not reveal a specific date.
The spokesperson mentioned Obama’s plan would include, among other things, focusing on disease prevention and slowing the onset of complications from disease in order to improve the cost impact on the current health care system.
The Obama campaign did not immediately respond to a request asking how Obama feels about a single-payer health care system.
Clinton announced March 14, 2007, new initiatives to provide all children with affordable, comprehensive, quality health care, according to a press release sent from the Clinton campaign to Atlanta Progressive News.
The initiative calls on the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP) to identify qualified, uninsured children who are not enrolled in the program and enroll them in addition to enrolling children who may not qualify.
The Children’s Health First Act would allow “states to expand children’s health coverage to families up to 400 percent of the Federal poverty level (which is $70,000 for a family of three) through SCHIP and receive increased federal payments,” according to the release.
APN was unable to obtain information from the Clinton campaign about how the senator feels about a single-payer health system.
WILL THE REAL UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE PLEASE STAND UP?
"Universal health care is a misnomer," Valenti said. "From the far Right to whatever, people are talking about health insurance for all [but that] doesn’t mean we are all talking about the same thing."
"Alternative [plans] to single-payer do not provide universal coverage," she added.
"Keeping insurance companies in will not work," Rece said. "They are buying candidates. They are making profits. That’s what they are in it for."
In his 2007 State of the Union address, President Bush even outlined his proposal for helping the uninsured and under-insured but many analysts believe his proposal will receive little play in Congress.
"The value of your employer-paid health insurance will be subject to income taxes. Uncle Sam will see this as a part of your income, even though you didn't get a pay raise. On top of that, you'll get a big fat tax deduction, which could cover part or all of it - for now," CNN Money analyst Gerri Willis wrote January 24, 2007.
"The good news is for people who don't have health insurance coverage. They'll get a deduction for buying their own insurance," Willis wrote. Of course, deductions are not helpful to the poor who don’t owe income taxes.
Some experts argue that because of the tax breaks people would receive for purchasing their own plans, employers would feel less incentive to provide their employees with health care.
But despite its likely failure, the president’s plan "could put more pressure on Congress to pursue serious health care reform," Willis writes.
"Everybody recognizes that employer based insurance doesn’t work because so few offer it anymore, job security is tenuous, and there is much more contract and temporary labor," Valenti said.
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March 20, 2007 3:18 AM
REVISITING HR 676
US Rep. Conyers introduced the bill to the 110th Congress January 24, 2007, and it now has 61 total cosponsors, including Reps. US John Lewis and Hank Johnson of Georgia.
There are already new cosponsors who did not sign up last time. However, as noted earlier there were 79 total cosponsors at the end of the last Congressional Session.
The process by which cosponsors sign on bills again when they get reintroduced, however, is not seamless and automatic. So, even though US Rep. Sanford Bishop, for instance, cosponsored last year but not this year, could be a staff oversight.
Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Research and Policy conducted a study that found under HR 676, a family of three making $40,000 would spend around $1,900 a year on health coverage.
The average annual premium for families covered under an employee health plan in 2007 is $11,000, according to the National Coalition on Health Care.
HR 676, or "The United States National Health Insurance Act," would establish a "Medicare for All Trust Fund" to ensure a constant stream of funding and an annual appropriation to make sure funding remains at the right level.
"A PERFECT STORM BREWING"
"We’ve never had this much support for single-payer," Segal told APN. "Labor and doctors are leading the movement. 14,000 doctors support the bill."
"I have real hope HR 676 will pass," Rece said. By expanding Medicare, "we’re all paying for ourselves. This is taking on the whole system at once." Rece, also an activist in the Peace Movement, brings universal health care petitions for people to sign everywhere she goes, educating people about single-payer in the process.
"We want to take Medicare as a starting point and tweak it and improve it," Segal said.
"The only way this country can provide comprehensive, universal health care is [through] HR 676," Valenti said.
In characterizing future debates lawmakers would have about providing universal coverage, Segal said it would "probably be Medicare for all versus hybrids," or plans that are not single-payer.
"I think we should push and see what happens," Valenti said. "It’s harder to undo something once it’s done."
"I think there is a perfect storm brewing," Segal added.
About the author:
Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article may be reprinted in full at no cost where Atlanta Progressive News is credited.
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The Health Care Answers We Need March 24, 2007 5:39 PM
The Health Care Answers We Need
March 23, 2007
Roger Hickey is the co-chair of Campaign for America’s Future.
The presidential candidates are feeling the pressure from voters to tackle the escalating health care crisis with bold and comprehensive solutions. So when the Center for American Progress and the Service Employees International Union invited all the candidates to Las Vegas on Saturday morning to debate health care, nearly all the Democratic candidates agreed to participate. (Alas, all the Republican candidates will be taking a pass.)
You can view the debate and join a live blog and discussion.
At the onset of the debate, former Senator John Edwards is likely to be the center of attention, and not only because of the wrenching news of his wife’s recurrent cancer. Edwards has been driving the health care debate with a very detailed plan to assure health coverage for everyone in America. Now the other candidates are determined to match him, though most have yet to offer specifics at this early stage of the race.
Of the other leading candidates, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has rejected “tinkering and half-way measures.” He declared in January that he plans “in the next few months” to lay out a health care plan that will cover everyone “by the end of the next president’s term”—meaning his first term. And Senator Hillary Clinton, who as head of Bill Clinton’s health care task force, tried and failed to move an ambitious health care program, is somewhat more cautious, saying she won't lay out a plan until she “listens to what the people want.” As reported by Bloomberg News, on January 28, she said, “This time, we're going to build a consensus first.''
Congressman Dennis Kucinich doesn’t have the poll numbers to be treated as a leading candidate, but he will come with a clear and detailed plan for health care for all. He is a co-sponsor of H.R. 676, a “single-payer” plan covering all Americans in a public system. Kucinich can be expected to be a provocative challenger to the other candidates– especially those who feel the need to subsidize, and try to regulate, the private health insurance companies to get them to go beyond “cherry picking” —insuring only healthier Americans who bring in more profit—with more subsidies to private insurance companies.
[We at Campaign for America’s Future are promoting an important new “benchmark” health care plan written by Yale professor Jacob Hacker. The Health Care for America plan would start with choice—allowing individuals and companies to continue with their current health care arrangements if they are happy with them. All employers would be required to provide their workers private insurance of good quality, or pay five percent of payroll to have their employees covered through a Medicare-style public plan. Hacker sees this approach as essential to providing guaranteed coverage while controlling costs in the entire health care system.]
As we watch the debate on Saturday, how will we tell if the other candidates are as committed as Edwards and Kucinich to fundamentally solving the health care crisis? And how will we tell if Edwards or Kucinich has the plan and presentation that can get the job done?
What follows are some questions for every candidate, to help judge whether each is really serious about health care for all:
1. Will the candidate’s plan really cover everyone —with a decent guaranteed level of coverage—at an affordable cost? Calling a plan “universal” is not enough. Massachusetts’ new ”universal” plan requires everyone to purchase health insurance, but the legislature has still not shown that it will devote the resources necessary (or exert the regulatory control over private insurance companies) to assure that everyone has a good health plans at an affordable premium.
2. Does the candidate offer a public plan, like Medicare, that has a predictable, guaranteed level of benefits that “cannot be taken away?” Or, will the candidate rely on private insurance companies, using a combination of subsidies and heavy regulations to get private companies to do what their business model does not now allow them to: provide good health insurance at a decent price for all Americans. Does it include people with pre-existing conditions, the poor, older Americans not yet eligible for Medicare, and people with dangerous occupations?
Note: Edwards tries to do both, mandating regional buying pools that would heavily regulate private insurers and offering a public plan, like Medicare, that, if enough people chose it, might become the dominant health care plan for the nation.
3. Has the candidate thought through how his or her plan will be financed? Edwards has bitten the bullet, calling for all employers to either provide health insurance to their employees or pay into a fund to finance his public plan. And he’s honest enough to know that additional progressive tax revenues will be necessary—he says forthrightly about $100 billion per year—which he would cover by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the rich. It is true that after a successful health care reform, the whole country would end up paying less money for better and more comprehensive health care. But beware the candidate that tells you that there won’t be any up-front costs.
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The Health Care Answers We Need March 24, 2007 5:40 PM
4. Will the candidate’s health plan control spiraling health care costs? We pay much more per person for health care than any other developed nation—and all those other nations guarantee health care for all. A big part of the problem is the private health insurance system, which spends billions on advertising, administration and gaming the system to avoid paying claims. As a result, doctors and hospitals have to spend fortunes on paperwork to satisfy the different billing arrangements of hundreds of different reimbursement systems. By comparison, Medicare is a model of efficiency with a much better record of controlling costs than the private insurance industry, even while covering an expensive elderly population.
Jacob Hacker, and other advocates of Medicare-style plans, emphasizes a system that can share risk through broad pooling arrangements and control costs over much of the health care economy. If a candidate doesn’t go in that direction—if he or she depends entirely on the private health insurance system—we need to know how they ever expect to get a handle on rapidly growing health care costs.
5. Is the candidate’s health plan simple and clear enough that they can explain it—and get us to describe it to someone else? Does anyone remember the 2004 John Kerry health care plan? It was a complicated system of subsidies and catastrophic insurance—best described with the boxes and arrows of complex flow charts—and completely incomprehensible to even a quite educated citizen. If a future president is going to overcome the rabid opposition of the special interests, he or she must offer a plan that is bold but simple, comprehensive yet understandable. And it had better resonate with important American values, including choice, fairness, compassion and efficiency.
We’re having a presidential debate about health care because the public demand for solutions is so strong. Leadership at the presidential level is crucial, but so is continued grassroots engagement. The Campaign for America’s Future will be working with national organizations and grassroots groups to stimulate a public debate led by citizens demanding straight talk about health care. With grassroots pressure, we can force all the candidate—for the House, the Senate and the White House—to respond in detail to the five questions posed here, as well as to the concerns and values of the new progressive majority that is putting health care on the agenda for 2008 and beyond.
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Campaign for America's Future's Five Key Health Care Questions for Democratic Candidates March 24, 2007 5:43 PM
Campaign for America's Future's Five Key Health Care Questions for Democratic Candidates
WASHINGTON, March 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With more and more
Americans believing that health care should be a top priority for our
nation, tomorrow's health care forum in Las Vegas, Nev. provides leading
Democratic presidential candidates the opportunity to stake out positions
to deal with this looming crisis, according to Campaign for America's
Future co-director Roger Hickey.
"Americans want bold and comprehensive solutions to what most now
regard as a health care crisis," said Hickey. "The big question in the
debate is about the future of the American health care system and how
specific candidates will show their commitment to providing affordable
health care coverage for all Americans."
Using the "Health Care for America" proposal, developed by Yale
University professor Dr. Jacob Hacker, as the benchmark for creating a
simple, easy to understand, comprehensive and affordable health care plan,
Hickey today posed 5 questions that should be asked of every presidential
candidates' health care plan in an editorial published on TomPaine.com.
1. Will the candidate's plan really cover everyone with a decent
guaranteed level of coverage at an affordable cost?
2. Would the candidate offer a public plan, like Medicare, that has a
predictable, guaranteed level of benefits that "cannot be taken away"?
3. Has the candidate thought through how his or her plan will be financed?
4. Will the candidate's health plan control spiraling health care costs?
5. Finally, is the candidate's health plan simple and clear enough that
they can explain it -- and get us to describe it to someone else?
The Health Care Answers We Need
March 23, 2007
Roger Hickey is the co-chair of Campaign for America's Future.
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Waiting for approval on this issue from DK HQ March 25, 2007 6:41 PM
I'm waiting for confirmation on this from DK HQ and then we'll send it here. Wait until you see what we have up our sleeve on this.
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Patrick, OK- March 27, 2007 9:48 AM
We'll stay tuned for that
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The Corporate Crime of Selling Private Health Insurance March 27, 2007 9:50 AM
The Corporate Crime of Selling Private Health Insurance
21 Corporate Crime Reporter 14, March 26, 2007
In most of the world, it is a corporate crime to sell private health insurance.
That’s because most countries insure their citizens as a matter of right.
Private insurers dilute the public pool.
One nation, one payer.
Medicare for all.
Everybody in, nobody out.
No bills from the doctor.
No bills from the hospital.
No in network.
No out of network.
No corporate profits.
No threat of bankruptcy from health bills.
Health insurance will be the number one domestic political issue in the USA in 2008.
Polls indicate that the majority of the American people want single payer.
But who will deliver?
On Saturday, the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) sponsored a forum in Las Vegas for presidential candidates to discuss health care.
No Republicans accepted.
Seven Democrats accepted.
All the candidates at the forum agreed that universal health care was the goal. (Even the Business Roundtable and the insurance industry now say they want “universal health care.”)
But only one – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) – accepts the only answer that will work – single payer.
Medicare for all.
The rest – including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, Mike Gravel, and John Edwards – want some mixture of public and private health insurance.
They know this public/private mix won’t work – the healthy wealthy will buy private insurance, the sick poor will sign on with the government – and the government program will be crippled.
But they don’t have the guts to stand up to the private insurance industry and say – get out.
Kucinich has introduced single payer legislation (HR 676) in Congress that would make it unlawful to sell private health insurance for benefits that are medically necessary.
Last week, we entered the belly of the beast – the American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) 2007 National Policy Forum at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C.
AHIP is the trade association for the companies that will be sacked if single payer becomes law.
We walked into a session titled – Coverage for All Americans: Putting Access at the Top of the National Agenda.
The session was moderated by AHIP President Karen Ignagni.
Not once during the 90-minute session was single payer mentioned.
Universal coverage, yes.
Single payer, no.
But during the discussion, the geography of nowhere was laid out.
On one side, Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA had teamed up with AHIP’s Ignagni.
On the other, Bill Novelli, CEO of AARP and John Catsellani, president of the Business Roundtable.
AARP and the Business Roundtable have joined with SEIU to form something called Divided We Fail.
Divided We Fail is a corporate liberal answer to single payer.
All Americans should have access to affordable quality health care.
All Americans should have peace of mind about their future long-term financial security.
Families USA and AHIP do a separate dance but mouth similar platitudes.
But both Divided We Fail and Families USA/AHIP dismiss single payer as unworkable.
On the single payer side is Kucinich, about 60 members of the House of Representatives, the California Nurses Association, Physicians for a National Health Program, and Health Care Now.
Kucinich is now the single payer champion.
The problem with Kucinich, of course, is that if he doesn’t get the nomination, he will take the stage at the Democratic Convention in 2008 in Denver – as he did in 2004 in Boston – raise the hand of the corporate nominee and endorse the corporate platform.
Then where will we be?
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Uninsured patient billed more than $12,000 for broken rib March 31, 2007 2:11 PM
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Uninsured patient billed more than $12,000 for broken rib
Friday, March 30, 2007
There are 47 million people in this country without health insurance. Richmond resident Joey Palmer is one of them.
He learned how costly this can be after fracturing a rib in a relatively minor motorcycle accident and subsequently being hit with a bill for more than $12,000 from San Francisco General Hospital.
"There's no way I could pay something like that," Palmer, 32, told me. "I'm not a bum, but I'm not making a lot of money right now. How is anyone supposed to pay a bill like that?"
Iman Nazeeri-Simmons, director of administrative operations at San Francisco General, said she sympathizes with Palmer's situation.
"It's not us," she said. "It's the whole system, and the system is broken. We need to look closely at making changes and at how we can deliver care in a rational way."
Palmer's story illustrates the broader problem of runaway health care costs in the United States and a system that leaves millions of Americans to fend for themselves.
It also underlines the importance of universal coverage that guarantees affordable health care to anyone, anywhere -- a goal that's become a central issue in California and in the current presidential campaign.
"We are the only developed country that doesn't cover all its people," said Stan Dorn, a senior research associate at the nonpartisan Urban Institute. "We also spend a lot more than the rest of the developed world."
The United States spent an average of $6,102 per person on health care in 2004 (the latest year for which figures are available), according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Canada spent $3,165 per person, France $3,159, Australia $3,120 and Britain a mere $2,508. At the same time, life expectancy in the United States was lower than in each of these other countries and infant mortality was higher.
But those are just statistics. When you talk about America's health care crisis, you're really talking about people. And Palmer's experience speaks volumes.
He was riding his motorcycle through San Francisco's Presidio on Sept. 19. It was late afternoon. Palmer was heading toward the Golden Gate Bridge and then home to Richmond.
Suddenly his brakes locked, sending the motorcycle into a slide. Palmer slammed into a guardrail. He was pretty shaken up, but he could tell he wasn't badly hurt.
A passer-by saw the accident and called for help. An ambulance arrived within minutes.
Palmer said he told the paramedics that his ribs felt banged up, possibly broken, but that he was basically OK. He said he preferred to be treated in Contra Costa County, where he lives and would probably qualify for reduced hospital rates because of his income level.
Palmer is a woodworker who specializes in the decorative touches on wealthy people's yachts. He said he made only about $7,500 last year, getting by primarily with the assistance of relatives.
Palmer said the paramedics were concerned that he may have sustained internal injuries and insisted that he be treated immediately at a hospital. So he was driven by ambulance to San Francisco General, the only trauma center in the city.
Palmer got lucky here. The ambulance was from the Presidio Fire Department, which is run by the federal government and doesn't charge for ambulance service. Had the trip been made by a private ambulance company, it likely would have cost Palmer between $700 and $1,000.
On the other hand, what Palmer didn't know is that as soon as the paramedics radioed ahead to say they were bringing in an accident victim, San Francisco General, as per the hospital's procedures, issued a trauma alert to its staff.
Basically, that means a page was sent to doctors and anesthesiologists on call at the time. That page alone cost Palmer $4,659, and he hadn't even set foot yet inside the hospital.
The actual hospital experience was, to put it mildly, a nightmare. After blood was drawn for a variety of tests (the cheapest of which cost $44 and the priciest $107), some X-rays were taken ($423).
Then, Palmer said, he was left in a room ($2,070) with a junkie "who was having a real bad trip." He asked to be moved elsewhere but was told no other rooms were available. So Palmer ended up on a gurney in the hallway.
And he waited there for five hours.
Palmer's bill indicates that he was twice given Vicodin ($22) to ease his pain during this interval, but he insists he took no medication.
"I finally saw someone and asked if I could check myself out," he said. "The guy said they were still waiting for the results of my CT scans. I said that I hadn't had any CT scans. It turns out they forgot to put me on the list."
So Palmer was put on the list for CT scans. And he waited another hour.
At last the CT scans were taken ($3,334) and then another round of X-rays because, Palmer said, the first batch apparently hadn't been done correctly.
"Finally a doctor came to me -- it's now almost 2 in the morning -- and said, yes, I had a fractured rib and some bruised muscles," Palmer recalled. "That was that. End of conversation."
Shortly afterward, he said, a clerical staffer approached with discharge papers for Palmer to sign.
"She asked how I intended to pay for everything," Palmer said. "I told her I didn't have any insurance. She looked at me and then asked if there was anyone I could sue."
Several weeks later, he received a bill for $11,082 in hospital charges and a separate bill for $922 in doctors' fees.
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Uninsured patient billed more than $12,000 for broken rib, ct'd March 31, 2007 2:15 PM
Palmer's hospital visit was expensive and time consuming, but it wasn't unique. Many people could cite similar (and similarly costly) experiences in receiving "emergency" medical care at U.S. facilities.
"We view health care as a chance to make as much money as you can," said Dorn at the Urban Institute. "The goal of health care should be improving people's health."
San Francisco General's Nazeeri-Simmons was unable to comment on Palmer's lengthy hospital stay because she didn't have access to his medical records. But with Palmer's permission, she was able to examine his billing file.
"These charges are comparable to the entire health care market," Nazeeri-Simmons said. "They aren't out of line with what other hospitals are charging. They're actually lower."
Not always. Trauma activation charges, for example, typically range from about $2,000 at some Bay Area hospitals to $7,000. At Marin General Hospital, the charge can run as high as $12,636.
Nazeeri-Simmons said a sliding scale is offered for low-income San Francisco residents. But Palmer, as a resident of Contra Costa County, wasn't eligible for the program.
"If you were uninsured and making less than $10,000, you would pay nothing," Nazeeri-Simmons said. "But that's only if you live in the City and County of San Francisco."
After receiving his bill, Palmer complained to the hospital about how much he was being charged. Nazeeri-Simmons acknowledged that a second look was given to the bill at Palmer's request "and we decided to eliminate the trauma activation charge."
That reduced the amount due by $4,659. But Palmer still owes more than $7,000 for an eight-hour hospital visit that involved, by his estimate, only about 15 minutes of actual care.
"It's unfortunate that he's in the situation he's in," Nazeeri-Simmons said. "But what is an individual hospital to do? Are we supposed to eat the costs?"
She said a government-run program similar to systems in place in all other developed democracies would almost certainly keep costs in check while ensuring that everyone has access to treatment (without being impoverished in the process).
"Universal coverage would mean that a Joey Palmer doesn't get left out in the cold just because he was in the wrong county," Nazeeri-Simmons said.
For his part, Palmer said he'll try to pay off his hospital bill as best he can. And then, if he can swing it, he'll leave the country. He's thinking seriously about moving to France.
"If you get sick over there," Palmer mused, "you can go to any hospital and it won't cost a fortune."
He said that with a tone of quiet disbelief.
David Lazarus' column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He also can be heard Saturdays, 4 to 7 p.m., on KGO Radio. Send tips or feedback to email@example.com.
This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Harmony- A few years back, my son Matt broke his leg.. and that cost him $10,000 in hospital bills. Unbelievable.
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CostRx: Kucinich's not-for-profit plan April 25, 2007 2:37 PM
Published: April 25, 2007 at 11:07 AM
By LAURA GILCREST
UPI Health Business Editor
WASHINGTON April 25 (UPI) -- Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, a Democratic presidential contender, tells United Press International about his plan for national healthcare reform, which is centered on covering all Americans by taking the profit factor out of the equation.
Q: The bill that you co-authored, Medicare for All, uses the present Medicare program as a model for a national plan for universal healthcare. The bill would require private entities providing healthcare to convert to not-for-profit. Is there any role left for the private sector under the plan envisioned in this bill?
A: The understanding is, if you have for-profit medicine, it actually ends up precluding full coverage for all Americans. Under this plan, you're talking about ending the rationing of healthcare, which is really what's happening as a result of having for-profit medicine. So (the) short answer is that any for-profit insurance company that would duplicate Medicare for All would not be in business. All hospitals would be converted to not-for-profit.
Q: Would they then come under government control?
A: No, (they'd be) not-for-profit. It's not that the government (would be) running the hospitals. What we're talking about is that all of the healthcare assets in America would be converted to not-for-profit. You have Spain and the U.K and other countries that have a system where doctors are salaried by the government, and the government owns the hospitals.
Under Medicare for All, hospitals and doctors remain private, though they do become not-for-profit. And that's important because there's a lot of research that shows that for-profit healthcare is more expensive and more wasteful and has worse quality outcomes, including death rates.
You've got a lot of these free-market ideologues who try to attack this, but the truth is, that ... countries that have a system that is not-for-profit have less red tape and less waste than the private system we have. And under this system, people would be able to choose their own doctor.
Q: One of your Democratic rivals, former Sen. John Edwards, admits he would raise taxes to pay for his healthcare plan. Would you also have to raise taxes?
A: John Edwards' plan is to have the government subsidize the insurance companies. The truth of the matter is, I'm not talking about (doing) that, so there's a difference immediately. What I'm saying is that, we're already paying for healthcare for everyone, we're just not getting it, and here's how: About 31 cents out of every healthcare dollar goes to something other than providing healthcare (such as) corporate profits, stock options, executive salaries, advertising, marketing, the cost of paperwork. The cost of this bill is exactly what we're currently spending on healthcare, $2.1 trillion dollars a year.
Q: So your plan could be accomplished for the same price?
A: Yeah, absolutely. The difference is that my bill gets rid of all the waste and uses the savings and the new efficiency to cover the uninsured and the underinsured completely. It's important to note that we spent $2.1 trillion on healthcare in America in 2006 and 31 percent of that is bound up in the for-profit system; that's about $650 billion dollars a year. And if you compare that to the administrative costs in Canada, Canada's administrative costs are about 17 percent. And Medicare's administrative costs are about 3 percent.
Q: But wouldn't a tax hike be inevitable for such an ambitious plan?
A: No, not necessarily. This is not about a tax increase. I'm saying that people can get this care now without a tax increase by eliminating for-profit medicine. That's the key point. You have over $650 billion a year going for corporate profits, stock options, executive salaries, advertising, marketing, the cost of paperwork. So you take those savings, put them into healthcare and suddenly, you have got enough money to cover 46 million people who don't have insurance, and another 50 million who are underinsured. There's so much money available when you make that transition, you then have enough money for vision care, dental care, mental health, prescription drugs and long-term care. This is the reason why you have 14,000 physicians backing (the bill) because what they're saying is, "Hey, the money's already there." There's no other nation that allows so much waste.
Q: What groups are backing your bill?
A: Fourteen thousand physicians in the Physicians for a National Health Program are backing this, 250 labor unions are backing it.
The fake debate in 2008 is over universal healthcare. Everyone running (for president) says they're for universal healthcare and even the insurance companies are for universal healthcare, as long as the government is subsidizing them to provide it.
Sen. Edwards and Sen. (Hillary) Clinton are both talking about plans that would involve the government subsidizing the insurance companies, and those plans have fatal flaws because they don't control costs, they do little to improve quality and they do little for access.
Q: What do you say to the skeptics who argue that more government involvement in healthcare will lead to rationing?
A: We have a rationing system right now, because you're got 46, 47 million people uninsured; and you've got another 50 million who are underinsured. So self-rationing is what we actually have. We're making costs so high that people avoid care. In other single-payer countries where they do have rationing, the problem is, they're paying so much less than we are. If we pay more than they pay per person, but much less than we do now, rationing wouldn't be a problem.
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April 25, 2007 2:38 PM
For (the United States), the problem is not the money, it's the system. We spend more per capita than all these other countries. So the money is there, that's the point. In some of these other countries, the problem for them is not the system, it's (a lack of) money.
Q: The Democrats' attempt to change Medicare's Part D prescription drug benefit to allow the government to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices failed last week to muster enough votes in the Senate. Does this signal there is still resistance to what is viewed as government-imposed price controls?
A: With respect to this (bill), the government would negotiate the prices; that's true, and it would have massive purchasing power to do so. The government currently negotiates prices with the Veterans Administration (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs), so that's been well-established and it has saved taxpayers, over a period of time, billions of dollars.
(What happened in the Senate) is a reflection of the power of the pharmaceutical companies, and the for-profit insurance companies. That's one of the reasons why Sen. Edwards and Sen. Clinton are saying that the plan I'm talking about isn't politically feasible.
(Healthcare) is far and away the No. 1 social and economic issue in this country. Anyone running for president who is conceding control of the system to the for-profit insurers raises serious questions about their ability to lead the nation.
What I'm saying is, those who are advocating the position of the insurance companies, (and) who are saying, "We're going to cover more people, but the government is going to subsidize the insurance companies," that (position) protects the insurance companies' profits.
Q: But critics argue that putting the federal government in control of pricing will kill innovation by the drug industry. How would you respond?
A: We have to take our healthcare system back, we have to take it back from the for-profit insurance companies and from the pharmaceutical companies, who currently control the system for their own profit. This is not about innovation, because the truth of the matter is, a lot of the innovation begins with government-supported research.
What I'm saying is that a significant part of the program is cost control and you cannot control costs if the pharmaceutical companies can charge whatever they want for their drugs.
American companies are losing their competitive edge because they're paying so much more for healthcare than other developed countries. You look at GM, you look at Ford, and our manufacturing power is being undercut by these insurance companies and by the pharmaceutical companies.
So I raise the question, "Who's in charge here?" Is this a government of the people or is it a government run by the for-profit insurance companies and by the pharmaceutical companies? That's why my election will be a powerful change in the direction of a non-for-profit system.
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April 25, 2007 3:00 PM
Please may I cross post this
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Hi Pete! April 26, 2007 1:26 AM
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Howard Kurtz--An Unreliable Source? (blog) June 25, 2007 2:13 AM
BLOG | Posted 06/24/2007 @ 8:13pm
Howard Kurtz--An Unreliable Source?
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Here's a segment for next week's CNN show "Reliable Sources." Why is it that the mainstream media treats single-payer healthcare (Medicare for all) as a fringe idea --when, in fact, it has broad support?
In a Sunday-morning segment--devoted to dissecting media treatment of Michael Moore and his new film Sicko, Howard Kurtz asserted that Moore is "pushing government-run healthcare which no Presidential candidate supports."
Last I checked, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), and a candidate for the Presidency, not only supports a single-payer, Medicare for all, not-for-profit healthcare system but he co-sponsored HR 676, The US National Health Insurance Act, along with Congressman John Conyers and more than 74 other House members. It's a detailed bill, which was reintroduced in the latest session on Congress.
As Kucinich said in a recent Presidential forum, " It's time we ended this thought that healthcare is a privilege. It's a basic right, and it's time to end this control that insurance companies have not only over healthcare but over our political system." If "Reliable Sources" wants to remain reliable, shouldn't it issue a correction? Maybe devote a segment to media coverage of single-payer healthcare?
After all, if CNN can devote an hour this Wednesday evening to Larry King's interview with Paris Hilton, shouldn't it be able to give over a few minutes to coverage of single-payer healthcare? After all, according to a March New York Times poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans believe government should guarantee healthcare to every American, especially children, and a majority are willing to pay higher taxes to get this done.
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A nice flier about Michael Moore, HR676 and DK September 11, 2007 10:14 AM
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January 22, 2008 6:15 AM
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January 23, 2008 1:53 PM
On Health Care, Candidates Vie for "Universal" Status
Truthout's Maya Schenwar reports, "In casting their votes for president this year, Americans rate health care as a top issue - second only to the war in Iraq. Each of the Democratic candidates claims to meet that concern with a plan to provide health insurance for 'all Americans.'
All of them have referred to their plans as 'universal.' But experts are fuzzy on what 'universal' means."
This article clearly shows Kucinich has the health & welfare of ALL Americans at heart and why the other candidates won't commit to what Needs Doing!
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Good site for H.R. 676 :) January 24, 2008 6:55 PM
I found a good site for H.R. 676 and decided to share it with all of you.
Of course the site has a petition on it that has been signed by MANY MANY people, and of course they could always use more signatures. Please sign it and pass it onwards.
As you can see the best thing we can do for Dennis Kucinich (other than to make sure he gets re-elected) is to assure that H.R. 676 gets finally passed!!
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The Care2 Petition for H.R. 676 January 25, 2008 11:49 PM
Here I found the link again for the Care2 Petition for H.R. 676 . Sadly only over 400 Signatures on it. So try to sign both petitions (The one on Care2 and the one on the other site I gave the other day) if possible to show your full support for this plan.
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Silvia, thanks for re-posting that Care2 petition January 26, 2008 12:25 AM
I was surprised to see that I had missed it previously.. so I've just signed it now.
Now I'm on to sign the other one, also..
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Where do the others stand? March 08, 2008 4:59 AM
Ask the Presidential candidates to clarify their stance on health freedom issues by sending them 19 tough questions.
1. The FDA current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) Final Rule
a. Do you support the FDA cGMP Final Rule for dietary supplements, issued on June 22, 2007, requiring the batch testing of all food dietary supplements although
- Supplements have an enviable safety record
- The FDA's own economic analysis of the impact of the cGMP shows that it will drive a significant number of small and medium size manufacturers out of business?
2. The FDA CAM Regulation draft Guideline
a. Are you aware of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Regulation draft guidance issued by the FDA on December 26, 2006?
b. Do you support its creation of a new category, CAM Product that would allow FDA to regulate foods, supplements and alternative modalities as medicine without Congressional approval in violation of US law?
3. The FDA draft Guidance on Health Claim substantiation
a. Are your aware of the FDA draft guidance on Health Claim substantiation, issued this summer, which mandates an unreasonably high Significant Scientific Agreement standard instead of the FTC competent and reliable scientific evidence", as proposed in HR 2117, The Health Freedom Protection Act?
b. Do you support HR2117?
4. Protection of Dietary Supplements
Do you support continuing strong protection for Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) products?
5. Bio-Identical Hormones
Do you support the right of men and women to use supplemental Bio-identical Hormones such as DHEA and progesterone to support normal function during change of life and premature aging in preference to less effective, dangerous and more expensive prescription drugs if they prefer bio-identical hormones?
6. Compounding Pharmacies
Do you support the right of Compounding Pharmacists and licensed physicians to continue to provide compounded medications, on a doctors prescription, for special needs and choices of individuals, communicating their availability to the public, as permitted by the landmark Supreme Court case of Thompson vs. Western States Medical Centers?
7. Trilateral Cooperation Charter/North American Union/Security and Prosperity Partnership
a. Do you support the North American Union and its companion "Security and Prosperity Partnership" which were created without Congressional debate and approval?
b. Do you support FDAs policy of harmonization of regulations with those of Mexico and Canada through the North American Union and the already-operating Trilateral Cooperation Charter which fuses the national health departments of all three countries into a single entity without Congressional oversight or authorization of any entity?
c. Do you support such executive agreements without Congressional debate and approval?
d. If elected, do you pledge to use the power of the Executive Branch of Government to overturn or reverse the North American Union, Security and Prosperity Partnership and the Trilateral Cooperation Charter?
8. HARMonization of FDA regulations with international and foreign agencies and entities
a. Do you support FDAs policy of harmonization of regulations with those of the European Union, under executive agreement?
b. Do you support FDAs policy of HARMonization of regulations with the standards and guidelines of the Codex Alimentarius when those texts are created through the US efforts on behalf of industrialized food supply constituents and degrade and render toxic the US and global food supplies?
c. If elected, what steps do you pledge to take to end these HARMonization activities of the FDA, USDA, FTC and EPA?
10 Anti-HARMonization Statute
Do you support strict enforcement of the Anti-Harmonization Statute, 19 USC 3512, which prohibits such harmonization with respect to the US food supply and those foods known as Dietary Supplements?
(continued next post...)
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http://www.healthfreedomusa.org March 08, 2008 5:05 AM
11. FDA HARMonization with international standards
a. Are you aware and do you support the FDA's announced policy of
"harmonization" with International Standards, even where those
standards are not finalized: "In a notice published in the Federal
Register of October 11, 1995 (60 FR 53078), FDA articulated its policy
regarding the development and use of standards with respect to the
harmonization of various national and international regulatory
requirements and guidelines -
b. If elected, what steps do you pledge to take to reign in such HARMonization and return the US to regulatory sovereignty?
12 World Trade Organization and similar international bodies
a. Do you support harmonizing America's legal structure and freedoms to
international restrictions through participation in bodies such as the
World Trade Organization?
b. Do you support withdrawing from the World Trade Organization?
c. Do you support withdrawing from the United Nations?
13. Divesting the FDA of food regulatory authority
a. Since nutrient and natural health products are regulated as Food in
accordance with US law, do you support a division of the FDA into two
separate agencies, one focusing on Foods (including dietary supplements
and all natural or non-pharmaceutical health products) and the other
finally focusing on protecting the safety of the public with regard to
dangerous drugs and invasive medical devices?
b. Do you support the FDA's approval of genetically modified foods in
the absence of any safety testing, requiring only a patent before the
genetically modified food can be admixed with the food supply?
c. Do you support the FDA's position that since the FDA has declared
genetically modified foods equivalent to natural ones in the absence of
any testing to demonstrate that to be the case and its stated
understanding that the public would reject genetically modified foods
if they knew what they were buying and eating, that it would be false
and misleading if genetically modified foods were identified as such so
their labeling is prohibited?
14.Compulsory medical treatment
a. Do you support the use of the State's powers to compel compulsory
mental health or other screening, forced drugging or other medical
treatment under any circumstances?
b. Do you support removing children from parental custody when parents
refuse to use medication for alleged "mental health problems" in their
c. Do you support removing children from parental custody when parents
refuse to use medication for the allopathic (pharmaceutical) treatment
of life threatening diseases such as cancer?
d. Do you support the forced use of pharmaceutical or other medical treatment in adults under any circumstances?
e. Do you support the right of parents or adult persons to chose
natural medical treatments over pharmaceutical ones if they desire?
15. Mandatory screening
a. Do you support mandatory mental health or other health screening?
b. Do you support the use of Federal funds for such screening?
c. Do you support the use of Federal funds to pay for forced drugging of children or adults?
16. Natural Health Options
a. Do you support the use of Federal funds for natural medical and
health therapy services and treatments on a par with pharmaceutical and
other allopathic treatments, at the discretion of the patient?
a. Do you oppose mandatory vaccination under all circumstances?
b. Do you support continuing the pharmaceutical industrys exemption
from legal responsibility for injuries caused by vaccinations?
c. Do you support continuing the pharmaceutical industry's exemption
from legal responsibility for injuries caused by drugs approved for any
18. Reproductive Autonomy
a. Do you support a woman's right to control her reproductive life without interference from the Federal government?
b. If elected, what will you pledge to do to protect the reproductive autonomy of women?
19. Health Freedom Plank
How soon can the American public expect a formal Health Freedom Plank in your campaign platform?
The Natural Solutions Foundation believes that Americans have a right to know where
the 2008 Presidential hopefuls stand on vitally important Health
Freedom questions. We urge every voter in America to ask those tough
questions - and demand clear answers.
So far, only one Presidential candidate, Ron Paul, has a Health Freedom plank in his
platform. Why? On the one hand, the rights of Americans to make natural
health choices for themselves and their families is under almost
continual assault from the FDA, State Medical Boards, legislation, and
commercially funded "poison press" media. On the other hand, Americans
seek out, to the tune of billions of dollars annually, natural care and
natural cures. Will the next President of the United States work for
those freedoms or against them?
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Dennis Kucinich: A Man of Peace, Justice and Freedom
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