Category Archives: health care reform

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

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

>Right-Wing Blogosphere Downplays Conservative Judge’s Opinion Upholding Health Care Reform Law

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If government can mandate auto insurance, homeowners insurance, flood insurance….Then it only makes sense that government can mandate health insurance. I believe that the Sixth Circuit Court and Judge Jeffery Sutton got it right.

From MediaMatters.org
July 01, 2011

After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act, many right-wing bloggers criticized the decision or downplayed its significance. But one of the judges who voted to uphold the statute was Jeffrey Sutton, an appointee of President George W. Bush who was such a proponent of states’ rights during his legal career that he once proclaimed that he became involved in states’ rights issues because “I really believe in this federalism stuff.”

By A 2-1 Vote, The Sixth Circuit Upholds The Constitutionality Of The Individual Mandate. In Thomas More Law Center v. Obama, the Sixth Circuit held by a vote of 2 to 1 that the provision of the Affordable Care Act mandating that individuals purchase health insurance does not violate the Constitution. The majority consisted of Sixth Circuit judges Boyce Martin and Jeffrey Sutton. District Judge James Graham, acting as a Sixth Circuit judge in this case, dissented. [Thomas More Law Center v. Obama, 6/29/11]


Read more HERE

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Filed under health care reform, Judge Jeffery Sutton, Media Matters, President George W. Bush, Right-wing bloggers, sixth circuit court, The Affordable Care Act, Thomas More Law Center v. Obama

>Greens, Labor, and Healthcare Conference To Be Held 2/27/11.

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By guest blogger David Petrovich

For almost 30 years (the last 12 as executive director for a non profit consumer advocacy) I’ve worked closely with families who are at-risk of mortgage foreclosure, bankruptcy, and loss of homeownership. Though each situation has its own unique set of hardships, the most common of hardship which precipitate foreclosure and bankruptcy include loss of, or reduction in employment, loss of health insurance, and out of pocket medical expenses. Intangible hardships include the trauma or stress of losing one’s job, the inability to pay bills as they become due and then past due, the uncertainty/fear of losing the roof overhead, and the physical and emotional toll these hardships exact upon our health.

Appealing to mortgage lenders who act with arrogance and impunity is a circuitous, inneffective game I call Foreclosure Relief Roulette. Frankly, mortgage foreclosure is a (toxic) symptom of a larger, systemic problem. To curb foreclosure, we need to look at the larger picture.

Our war economy has ten million folks who face foreclosure, 20% unemployment, one in seven who live in poverty, and millions of stressed out folks without healthcare. However, Healthcare industry profits have never been higher, Wall Street bonuses have never been as outrageous, and “too big to fail” banks have never had it so good. What’s wrong with this picture?

We need jobs. We need affordable healthcare. In my view, replacing our for-profit healthcare delivery system with a sensible, cost effective single payer system would provide unfettered access to improved healthcare for all citizens (working, unemployed, retired, youth, sick, or healthy) while saving (NJ) taxpayers about three billion dollars in its first year. A single payers system would all but eliminate our fifty seven billion dollar pension funding deficit for health benefits, reduce the costs for homeowners insurance, auto insurance, and workman’s comp insurance. Do you hear that Governor Christie?

Implementing a single payer system would jumpstart our economy by enabling small and mid size businesses to operate without the staggering costs of healthcare, and through job creation.

When President Obama used his State of the Union address to tell people to “let him know” if there’s a better approach that “will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare and stop insurance company abuses,” the Labor Campaign for Single Payer (LCSP), a network of local and statewide union leaders, responded with a letter stating that single-payer system “would be far more cost effective than any of the proposed current reforms based on the continuation of for-profit, market-based insurance.”

So what happened? Our corporate-lapdog government, intent on protecting corporate profits for HMOs, and Big Pharma, outlawed single payer thru 2019.

Vermont is seeking a waiver so it can be the first state to implement an improved Medicare for All.

What do labor unions, 18,000 physicians from across the USA, and Vermonters know that we don’t?

You sure won’t learn much by watching or reading corporate owned media. Except single payer is anti-American, Socialistic, Communistic or whatever the pejorative “ism” du jour.

Get the facts. Attend “Greens, Labor and Healthcare Conference” at the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel on Sunday, February 27th. It promises to be a fact filled, entertaining luncheon with national speakers, top flight live music, and good food.

Register and you’ll also receive, “Sticker Shock: Non Profit Hospital Accounting Practices – A Rip Off Report” an indictment of what’s wrong with the business of healthcare delivery.

Email me for details (njdGreen@aol.com) or visit the conference’s home page: http://tinyurl.com/6x848w6

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Filed under health care conference, health care reform, organized labor, payer, single-payer system, the Green Party

>Video:Town Hall Crowd Cheers On Man Confronting GOP Rep Over Repealing Health Care

>I think that before the Republicans in Congress had voted to repeal the health care law, they should have watched this video first.

It shows a Town Hall meeting where a Republican Congressman from Ohio, Jim Renacci, is confronted by an audience member asking him if the Republicans in Congress intended to repeal the newly enacted health care law, what did they have to replace it with?

Congressman Renacci had no answer and tried to deflect the question by stating how the law was a “jobs killer”. When this was disputed by the questioner Renacci stated that he knew of 3 or 4 people that had lost their job because of it.

He didn’t give a very convincing argument for repeal and this just goes to show Republicans are not concerned for the average Americans well being. They really on care about the corporate well being of big business.

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Filed under America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, Congressman Jim Renacci, health care reform, town hall meeting

>Health reform’s benefits kick in

>By REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN posted at Politico.com

Six months ago, President Barack Obama signed the new health reform legislation that will bring down health care costs for American families and small businesses, expand health coverage to an additional 32 million Americans and end the widespread abuses in the health insurance industry. The Affordable Care Act is the most groundbreaking reform of health care coverage since Medicare. It reduces the deficit by $1.2 trillion in the next 20 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Americans are already benefiting from several important provisions that have taken effect. More than 4 million small businesses are eligible for $40 billion in tax credits, helping them offer employee health insurance coverage. Children with pre-existing conditions who have long been denied coverage now have access to a health plan in every state, including Maryland. Seniors in the Medicare Part D program are now receiving an annual supplement of $250 as the first installment toward closing the notorious “doughnut hole.” No longer will seniors be forced to choose between food or heat and lifesaving medications. Early retirees are also benefiting, because the program helps employers continue their health coverage.

This week, some crucial health care consumer protections begin. This new Patients’ Bill of Rights helps Americans obtain better care, lower their costs and improve their health coverage security.

Health insurance companies will no longer be able to drop people’s coverage when they get sick and need health care the most. Young adults — the largest population of uninsured Americans before passage of this law — can now remain on their parents’ health insurance plan until their 26th birthday. Health plans can no longer impose lifetime limits on coverage, and annual limits are to be phased out over three years — a dramatic change for families, because more than 60 percent of people who declared bankruptcy in 2007 cited medical bills as a reason, and medical costs have only increased since.

Over time, the Affordable Care Act will prohibit insurance companies from denying anyone coverage based on pre-existing conditions, create insurance exchanges so that Americans have the same health plan choices as members of Congress and implement the biggest tax cut for health care in U.S. history to ensure that middle-class families can afford insurance. The new law puts Americans, not the health insurance companies, in charge of their own health care.

Unfortunately, Washington Republicans want to repeal the law and take away these important consumer protections and benefits. Under their plan, things would grow worse and the deficit would increase. The CBO found that the Republicans’ plan would increase the number of uninsured to 52 million — higher than today.

The Republican plan would also make coverage unaffordable for millions of Americans, eliminate tax credits that help people cover their premiums and remove assistance to small businesses that offer coverage for their employees.

I am proud that these reforms, enacted by Congress, are helping make a difference in Americans’ lives today, and I am committed to ensuring the legislation is implemented successfully.

To learn more about these provisions and other ways that health reform will help you, please visit http://www.healthcare.gov/.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) serves as assistant to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

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Filed under health care reform, Politico.com, President Obama, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, The Affordable Care Act

Senator Menendez Hails Launch of New Health Care Website

Are you still confused about the new health care legislation? If you think back to last summer we were hearing from those that vehemently opposed health care reform to the extant that they would show up at town hall meetings just to disrupt it and prevent our Congressmen from explaining what it contained.

Now that it has passed many still do not understand what it means to them. Senator Menendez has informed us that there is a website that you can go to for answers to your questions or just find out what it is all about.
The following is from Senator Menendez’s E-Newsletter:

At the heart of health insurance reform law is the idea that families who for too long have paid too much for inadequate health insurance deserve set of new rights, based on common sense principles. One of those common sense ideas is that families should not have to navigate a confusing and unorganized health insurance system to understand all of the insurance options and rights available to them, they deserve to be able to find out about all of their options and rights in one, easy-to-navigate place.

For that reason, today marks an important milestone in the enactment of the Health Insurance Reform Law. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has unveiled HealthCare.gov, an innovative new on-line tool, created under the Health Insurance Reform Law, that connects families with new state-specific information and resources, helping them take control of their health insurance situation and gain access to quality, affordable coverage. This website has been setup to answer all of your questions about the law and how it impacts your family. In addition it is the first website to provide consumers with local public and private health coverage options tailored specifically for their needs in a single, easy-to-use tool. As a proud supporter of this legislation I am thrilled to see that such an easy to use website has been developed to help educate New Jerseyans on this new law and their local health care options.

For additional information about the Health Insurance Reform Law I encourage you to visit my website and click here. I have set up this page up to be clearinghouse of information on the law so please continue to check it regularly as I will be posting new information to this page as it becomes available.

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Filed under Department of Health and Human Services, health care reform, HealthCare.gov, New Jersey, Newsletter, US. Sen. Robert Menendez