Daily Archives: August 14, 2011

If US is Serious About Debt, There’s a Single-Payer Solution

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial

August 14th, 2011

If America truly is serious about dealing with its deficit problems, there’s a fairly simple solution. But you’re probably not going to like it: Enact a single-payer health care plan.

See, we told you weren’t going to like it.

But the fact is that everyone who has studied the deficit problem has agreed that it’s actually a health care problem — more specifically, the cost of providing Medicare benefits to an aging and longer-living population. The bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform reported last December: “The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects if we continue on our current course, deficits will remain high throughout the rest of this decade and beyond, and debt will spiral ever higher, reaching 90 percent of GDP in 2020.

“Over the long run, as the baby boomers retire and health care costs continue to grow, the situation will become far worse. By 2025 revenue will be able to finance only interest payments, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Every other federal government activity — from national defense and homeland security to transportation and energy — will have to be paid for with borrowed money.”

That being the case — and nobody argues that it isn’t — there are two broad ways for the government to address its spiraling health care costs. One, shift more of those costs to recipients, by trimming benefits and/or extending eligibility ages and indexing eligibility to personal income. This is politically unpalatable, particularly to most Democrats, President Barack Obama being a conspicuous exception.

The second way for government to address its health costs is not to shift them, but to reduce them. This is what a single-payer health care system would do, largely by taking the for-profit players (insurance companies for the most part) out of the loop.

The advocacy group Physicians for a National Health Program estimates that “private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $400 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.”

Once everyone is covered, the government would have the clout to bring discipline into the wild west of health care spending. It could insist that providers be paid for quality of service, not quantity. Health facilities and equipment could be managed by regional boards. Medical services could be “bundled” — rather than paying hospitals and doctors and laboratories separately, there would be fixed prices for treatments. And so on.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in 2009 contains many pilot programs designed to test cost-reduction strategies. Most of them won’t kick in for another six to eight years, by which time health care costs will be approaching 20 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. The combined state and federal share of that will be 49 percent, up from 45 percent today.

Indeed, a study published this month in the journal Health Affairs estimates that while the Affordable Care Act will pay for itself by 2020, it won’t actually “bend the cost curve,” as the Obama administration had hoped. But the study, done by the Actuary Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, says the ACA will significantly slow the rise of health care costs to state and local governments.

But consider those two findings: In effect, they say that if reducing overall health care costs is the goal, then the ACA didn’t go far enough. Thirty million more people will be insured and government costs will grow more slowly. But overall health care costs will continue to explode.

Sooner or later, a nation serious about controlling spending must take broad control of the health care system.

It surely won’t be sooner. Compared to the political fight that would erupt over a single-payer plan, the congressional battle over the Affordable Care Act would seem as tame as resolution praising mom, the flag and apple pie.

The ACA was a compromise. Mr. Obama brought everyone to the table — doctors, insurance companies, drug companies, hospitals — and came away with a “best we can get” kind of bill. Many of those at the table turned around and lobbied against it or sought special favors once the bill came before Congress.

It passed by narrow margins, and Congress is decidedly more conservative now. Indeed, the new House majority has voted to repeal the ACA and challenges to its constitutionality continue to work their way toward the Supreme Court.

But now, like a baby discovering its toes, Congress has discovered the deficit. And the plain fact is that unless you want to commit political suicide and cut Medicare to the bone — as Rep. Paul Ryan’s, R-Wis., budget plan would do — the best way to seriously address long-term deficits is to get control of health care costs through a single-payer plan.

In 2008, when health care costs amounted to “only” 16 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, Great Britain was spending 8.7 percent of its GDP on health care, and Canada was spending 10.4 percent. Both nations have single-payer plans. Quality of care scores in both nations are at least comparable, and in most cases, better.

Eventually, the United States will have a single-payer plan. But we’ll waste a lot of money and time getting there.

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Filed under America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, baby boomers, Congressional Budget Office, GDP, health care reform, Medicaid, Medicare, single-payer system, Social Security, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

October 2011; Stop the Machine! Create a New World!

This may be a little far-left for some people but I support the basic premise of what October 2011 is trying to do; End the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, support human rights, commitment to a healthly, green environment and ensuring that the middle class and poor do not become the victims of corporate greed. So I feel it’s worth informing people about October2011 and their cause.

Unfortunately, I can’t take the pledge because I wont be going to Washington DC anytime soon, let alone in October, but that doesn’t mean others that support these causes couldn’t sign the pledge and lend a hand in a nonviolent protest rally on October 6,2011.

I’ll be there in spirit.

A Call to Action – Oct. 6, 2011 and onward

October 2011 is the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan and the beginning of the 2012 federal austerity budget. It is time to light the spark that sets off a true democratic, nonviolent transition to a world in which people are freed to create just and sustainable solutions.

We call on people of conscience and courage—all who seek peace, economic justice, human rights and a healthy environment—to join together in Washington, D.C., beginning on Oct. 6, 2011, in nonviolent resistance similar to the Arab Spring and the Midwest awakening.

A concert, rally and protest will kick off a powerful and sustained nonviolent resistance to the corporate criminals that dominate our government.

Forty-seven years ago, Mario Savio, an activist student at Berkeley, said, “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

Those words have an even greater urgency today. We face ongoing wars and massive socio-economic and environmental destruction perpetrated by a corporate empire which is oppressing, occupying and exploiting the world. We are on a fast track to making the planet unlivable while the middle class and poor people of our country are undergoing the most wrenching and profound economic crisis in 80 years.

“Stop the Machine! • Create a New World!” is a clarion call for all who are deeply concerned with injustice, militarism and environmental destruction to join in ending concentrated corporate power and taking direct control of a real participatory democracy. We will encourage a culture of resistance—using music, art, theater and direct nonviolent action—to take control of our country and our lives. It is about courageously resisting and stopping the corporate state from destroying not only our inherent rights and freedoms, but also our children’s chance to live, breathe clean air, drink pure water, grow edible natural food and live in peace.

As Mother Jones said, “Someday the workers will take possession of your city hall, and when we do, no child will be sacrificed on the altar of profit!”

We are the ones who can create a new and just world. Our issues are connected. We are connected. Join us in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 6, 2011, to Stop the Machine.

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Take the pledge and sign up to attend here. Let America know you are coming to make history and a new world!

I pledge that if any U.S. troops, contractors, or mercenaries remain in Afghanistan on Thursday, October 6, 2011, as that criminal occupation goes into its 11th year, I will commit to being in Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., with others on that day with the intention of making it our Tahrir Square, Cairo, our Madison, Wisconsin, where we will NONVIOLENTLY resist the corporate machine to demand that our resources are invested in human needs and environmental protection instead of war and exploitation. We can do this together. We will be the beginning .”




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Filed under Afghanistan War, arab spring, Freedom Plaza, Iraq War, Middle Class, Mother Jones, nonviolent resistance, October 2011, protest rally, Stop the Machine, Washington DC, working poor

Federal Fracking Panel Responds to Growing Backlash Against Polluting, Destructive Practice: Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenona

August 11,2011



WASHINGTON – “Today, the Shale Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board released its recommendations regarding the regulation of U.S. shale gas production. With six out of seven of the subcommittee’s members having direct financial ties to the natural gas industry, their recommendations will not go nearly far enough in protecting consumers and the environment from the risks associated with shale gas obtained through the process of hydraulic fracturing. The report does outline the major environmental and public health issues associated with shale gas drilling.

“While the natural gas industry has advocated for, and has been granted exemptions from key environmental regulations, it has racked up countless violations of the rules that do apply to them, and has been questioned about the validity of their gas production forecasts. Yet the subcommittee nonetheless suggests that natural gas producers should play a large role in ensuring that hydraulic fracturing operations do not endanger consumers or natural resources by providing the public information about shale gas production and adopting industry-wide ‘best practices.’

“Just last week The New York Times reported that players within the natural gas industry helped bury evidence produced by the Environmental Protection Agency that hydraulic fracturing had, contrary to industry claims, contaminated drinking water supplies. How can we trust the industry to show ‘leadership in improving environmental impact’ when it has actually gone to great lengths to cover up its detrimental impacts to public health and natural resources?

“Much like the hearings it convened in the months leading up to the study, which mainly reflected the views of the natural gas industry and policymakers, this study downplays the concerns of those affected by fracking—communities that have been turned into sacrifice zones at the expense of the natural gas industry’s desire to turn a profit.

“While the report recommends allowing the natural gas industry to create a new national organization to police its own practices, it proposes leaving protection of public health and the environment to ‘each relevant jurisdiction.’ We know that industry has gone to great lengths to influence local governments, and even greater lengths to avoid culpability at a national level. Why should we let the industry police itself while leaving localities to fight for themselves?

“Moreover, we are extremely disappointed that federal involvement in this matter will focus on providing money to the natural gas industry for research and development to help greenwash their practices, rather than removing exemptions from key environmental regulations. The federal government should be taking an active role in protecting consumers and the environment from hydraulic fracturing, not throwing money at a destructive and unprofitable industry.”

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.


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Filed under clean water, consumer protection, Department of Enviromental Protection, drinking water pollution, Food and Water Watch, Fracking, natural gas drilling, press release, public health, shale gas

Decision Overturning Health Reform Would Increase Costs for Consumers

August 12, 2011

WASHINGTON – August 12 – Statement of U.S. PIRG Policy Analyst Mike Russo on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling today on Florida v. HHS, the lawsuit brought by state attorneys general and governors against the new federal health care law:

“Relying on a flawed understanding of Supreme Court precedent, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals today struck down a key element of last year’s health reform law. Unfortunately, consumers and small businesses would face significantly higher insurance premiums if the Supreme Court upholds this ruling. Americans would be left paying more than $1,000 extra a year, because those who choose to go without coverage will continue to use the emergency room as their only health care and shift those costs onto the insured.

“The health reform law protects consumers with pre-existing conditions from being discriminated against by insurance companies, and helps rein in the out-of-control cost of health care. The Eleventh Circuit’s ruling today jeopardizes those gains, putting consumers at risk of once again paying too much for coverage that might not be there when they need it.

“The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in June upheld the health reform law. This split among the Circuits makes Supreme Court review next year all but inevitable. The states who brought this suit should dedicate the time, energy and precious taxpayer dollars they are now spending on this lawsuit toward finding real solutions to the growing threat that health care costs pose to their states’ families, businesses, and budget.”

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U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress. ——————————————————————————–

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Filed under 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, consumers, Florida v. HHS, health care reform, press release, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S Supreme Court, U.S. PIRG