From the National Journal: Regardless of how the Democrats' presidential standard-bearer eventually frames the health care debate, one thing is clear: This might be a long fall campaign for insurance companies.
Archive for August, 2008
On September 14, 2008 we will be releasing a new documentary called “Diagnosis: Now!” produced by Robert Greenwald at Brave New Films. Do you feel secure with your private health insurance? Many people don’t, watch the film to see why. Watch the trailer:
At homes all across America people will gather to watch the short film and take action to win a guarantee of quality, affordable health care for all from Congress. Do you want to be one of the first to see this documentary? Sign up to host a house party today!
It is easy to host a house a party. Invite 10-15 friends and family, and post your party online to promote it to your neighbors. Use our online tool kit to get all the materials you need for the action items. We will mail you the DVD of the film, and it will also be available online on Sept. 14. (You have to sign up online to get the DVD.)
These house parties will be great way to kick-off this important effort in your community. Members of Congress sit up and listen when they know that people are organizing in their communities. The letters and support that you generate from these parties will make a huge difference in the campaign to win quality, affordable health care for all.
Be party host. Sign up here.
We were so prepared. In the days leading up to Tuesday’s Census Bureau release of 2007 health coverage data, we formatted spreadsheets to analyze the new numbers. We drafted potential language for our press release. We listened to the forecasts of health economists, predicting that the number of uninsured Americans would continue its upward trend this year.
And then we got the data. Surprise! The number of uninsured Americans did not increase, as expected. Instead, there was a modest decline in the uninsured, from 47 million in 2006 to 45.7 million in 2007. Rates of uninsurance decreased for women specifically; in 2007, 281,000 fewer women (ages 18 and older) were uninsured, and the proportion of uninsured women dropped slightly from 15.1 to 14.8 percent. Though women of color are still considerably more likely to lack insurance than their white counterparts, rates of uninsurance went down for women across race categories with one exception – more Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander women were uninsured in 2007 than in 2006. Uninsurance among Hispanic women fell by 2 percentage points – the largest decline of all.
So, what gives? How can the number of uninsured Americans be going down when we know that a) more and more people are skipping necessary care because they can’t afford it, b) the cost of health insurance premiums is growing much faster than wages, and c) fewer small and medium-sized businesses are offering health coverage to their workers each year?
And the gold star goes to…public health insurance! Read the full post.
The story broken by Dallas Morning News has gotten a lot of attention today. Here's what others have been saying.
A health care policy adviser for the McCain campaign told a newspaper reporter that nobody in the United States is technically uninsured, because everyone has access to hospital emergency rooms.
Goodman’s analysis reflects a radical view of the state of health care in this country. Uninsured Americans are less likely to seek health care and more likely to die because of a lack of insurance. A 2002 Institute of Medicine Report estimated 18,000 unnecessary adult deaths because of a lack of insurance. The Urban Institute estimated that 22,000 died in 2006 for the same reason. Goodman apparently thinks they were “effectively insured.”
Voila indeed. And why stop with health care? Imagine how easily we could solve poverty if we simply stopped measuring income and wealth. And global warming? Pshaw. Just stop measuring atmospheric pollutants and temperature. Really, the possibilities are endless.
Remember, the McCain campaign would offer tax incentives that favor bare-bones coverage; it would also gut state regulations that mandate all insurers cover certain benefits. Most important, perhaps, it's likely that the McCain health plan would lead many people with employer-sponsored insurance to give up or lose that coverage. While many people would also get new coverage on their own, through the individual market, the benefits would be skimpier–and they would be available only to relatively healthy people, since insurers screen for pre-existing medical conditions when they sell policies individually.
This nonsense is surprisingly common in Republican circles. Last year, Tom DeLay argued, "[N]o American is denied health care in America," because everyone can go to the emergency room. Around the same time, George W. Bush said the same thing: "[P]eople have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room." In 2004, then-HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said our healthcare system "could be defined as universal coverage," because of emergency rooms.
This is, obviously, idiotic — though in an almost charming, movement conservative Tourette's sort of way — but one wonders who Goodman thinks is going to be the payer of last resort for non-emergency care? Santa Claus?
This is what we call a Kinsleyan gaffe: A mistake that reveals the truth. John McCain's health care plan is, by the admission of his own advisers, not particularly interested in the problem of the uninsured. It doesn't try and cover them or address their plight, and for a very simple reason: Conservatives in general are not interested in the problem of the uninsured. And why should they be? Health care is a market good, and not everyone can afford every market good, and if you distort the market thus to ensure universal access, you'll probably do more harm than good. There's even an "Anti-Universal Coverage Club" over at Cato for conservative brave enough to admit this truth. "To achieve 'universal coverage,'" they say, "would require either having the government provide health insurance to everyone or forcing everyone to buy it. Government provision is undesirable, because government does a poor job of improving quality or efficiency. Forcing people to get insurance would lead to a worse health-care system for everyone, because it would necessitate so much more government intervention. In a free country, people should have the right to refuse health insurance.
The problem with this analysis, according to an expert quoted in the article, is that people without insurance are less likely to seek non-emergency-room care, which ultimately drives up the cost to the health care system.
Even though tonight is Obama's big speech, it is time for progressives to ramp up another media narrative on John McCain. Check out his health care plan.
Aside from trying to hide the plight of the uninsured from public view, Mr. Goodman's stroke of genius is based on — apparently — not fully understanding federal emergency room regulations. The federal law passed in 1986 to prohibit 'patient dumping' gives everyone the right to emergency care, regardless of ability to pay. However, if you are not having an 'emergency,' they do not have to treat you. They may well refer you to a family doctor (something the uninsured often don't have) or a community health care clinic or 'urgent' care center.
Once again, why would anyone actually listen to John Goodman's advice on health care?
One of John McCain's health care advisers has proposed a novel solution to the nation's health insurance problems: stop counting those who don't have health insurance, since anyone can get health care if they go to an emergency room. Therefore…everybody's covered. To which one can only say: huh?
Today, the Dallas Morning News again pointed out how far behind Texas is from the rest of the country when it comes to health care. As I've argued before, this is because of the extensive privatization of health care in Texas which throws people out to fend for themselves in the "free market," resulting in more uninsured than the rest of the nation.
John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, thinks the numbers put out by the Census highlighting Texas' plight are "misleading:"
But the numbers are misleading, said John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a right-leaning Dallas-based think tank. Mr. Goodman, who helped craft Sen. John McCain's health care policy, said anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance, albeit the government acts as the payer of last resort. (Hospital emergency rooms by law cannot turn away a patient in need of immediate care.)
"So I have a solution. And it will cost not one thin dime," Mr. Goodman said. "The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American – even illegal aliens – as uninsured. Instead, the bureau should categorize people according to the likely source of payment should they need care.
"So, there you have it. Voila! Problem solved."
That's right. John Goodman's solution to the health care crisis in America is to change the definition of "uninsured" so that magically, everyone is insured.
- 50% - the percentage of Congress that has received phone calls about health care (251 Members, to be exact)
- 17 - the number of Members who have officially declared they are on our side for quality, affordable health care for all
- 19 - the number of calls it took for those 17 Members of Congress to declare they are on our side
As of today, these are the Members of Congress who have signed on:
Sen. Barbara Milulski, MD -The first to sign on!
Sen. Tom Harkin, IA
Rep. Mike Ross, AR
Rep. Marion Berry, AR
Rep. Raul Grijalva, AZ
Rep. Henry Waxman, CA
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, IL
Rep. Alcee Hastings, FL
Rep. William Jefferson, LA
Rep. Keith Ellison, MN
Rep. Bill Pascrell, NJ
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, NY
Rep. Brian Higgins, NY
Rep. John Hall, NY
Rep. Adam Smith, WA
Rep. Tammy Baldwin, WI
Rep. Steve Kagen, WI
If you live in these people's states or districts, you can give them a call and thank them. But the real thanks goes to you.
None of this would be possible without folks calling their elected officials and demanding health care for all. Even though we are setting up in-person meetings with Members of Congress, both in their home states and up on Capitol Hill, they will not listen unless they hear from their constituents. As noted above, a few calls goes a long way - only 19 were needed to get the above 17 Members of Congress to sign on.
Take a few moments and make a few quick calls. And when you're done, spread the word by telling your friends and family about this campaign.
More Congressional sign-ons are coming, and the more you call, the more people we'll have on our side for the real fight in 2009.
Texas Still Leads The Nation In Rate Of Uninsured Residents - Dallas Morning News
Texas once again led the nation with the highest percentage of residents without health insurance, a U.S. Census Bureau report showed Tuesday, although the same study also reports a slight dip last year in the percentage without coverage across the nation.
On Monday, America's Health Insurance Plans held an online forum as part of their sham "listening tour." They asked for questions to be submitted to them via email, easily allowing them to pick and choose what they answered. They controlled the medium - with a moderator choosing questions for CEO Karen Ignagni to answer - and that allowed them to control the message. Judging from what actually went on during the forum, with softball questions and no followups, the insurance industry was allowed to spin their position on health care. You can watch the forum here.
Of course, if AHIP had really wanted to talk with the public, they would have been faced with a very different situation. A full 82% of America believes we need a big change in our health care system, with large margins supporting the kinds of health care plans - with quality, affordable health care for all - that the industry opposes. (Karen Ignagni makes clear the industry's position on "reform," a pitiful tax credit that even if it would cover the full cost of health care, would still leave working families paying out of pocket costs for a year until the IRS sent them their end-of-the-year check.)
But it's clear AHIP doesn't actually want to listen to the public, even though they claim they want input. Because if they really wanted to listen to the public, they would have been asked real questions.
On Monday, we asked our members to write America's Health Insurance Plans with questions. The response was overwhelming. In under three hours, over 1,700 questions were sent to AHIP. The full list is here, but I've pulled out some of the best ones - ones AHIP would have had to answer if it were really listening.
When comparisons are made between American private-insurance health plans and the national health care plans provided in all other western democracies (e.g. Canada, Europe), one of the glaring differences is the hugely larger percent of healthcare dollars spent on administrative costs in the US. Would the US healthcare industry ever commit to making the radical changes necessary to get administrative costs more in line with what such costs amount to (percentage wise) in the rest of the western world?
Would you consider changing your business model to put people's health decisions back in the hands of their doctors rather than an insurance clerk?
With Hillary Clinton. Check out the live stream:
A Decline in Uninsured Is Reported for 2007 - New York Times
After climbing steadily for six years, the number of Americans without health insurance dropped by more than a million in 2007, to 45.7 million, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.