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Clayton, MO Doctor pushes for
single-payer health care system

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

July 19, 2012

By Michele Munz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

CLAYTON – In a meeting room at a St. Louis County public library, Dr. Ed Weisbart started his health insurance reform presentation with pictures of sick people.

One was self-employed who couldn't afford health insurance and made too much money to get Medicaid. Another was a factory worker who lost coverage when he became too ill to work. Then there were working parents whose bills for their sick infant drove them into bankruptcy.

“The reason I'm here and that you are here, is because you've seen patients like this,” Weisbart told the crowd.

About 40 people from diverse fields filled the room. They included doctors, students, a medical office manager, social worker and even a musician.

They were there to learn about a single-payer health care system that makes free-market advocates cringe. Instead of hundreds of insurance companies and billing agencies, one government-run organization would collect the fees and pay all the costs under the single-payer plan. In a system financed by a progressive tax, advocates argue that people would pay less than what they pay now in premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

Each person would receive comprehensive medical care and choose whichever doctor or hospital they want. Patients would receive no bills. Co-payments and deductibles would be eliminated.

“It basically involves just changing two words in the law,” Weisbart said about the current federal insurance program for older Americans. “Instead of saying Medicare is available at age 65, say it's available starting at birth.”

However, the American Medical Association, the country's largest physician group, supports the current mix of private and public insurance options.

“The private sector has been leading the way in developing and piloting innovative health care delivery and payment models to better support and reward physicians who provide high-value health care,” said the AMA's president, Dr. Jeremy Lazarus.

Single-payer may seem like an impossibility in the U.S. Weisbart, 58, had long thought so too, until President Barack Obama began tackling health care reform.

“I had thought single-payer, great idea, but it's not going to happen. The interests against it are so vested,” he said. “Then that pesky Obama got elected, and I got all hopey-changey.”

Implementation of the president's Affordable Care Act is now in full swing after last month's ruling by the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality. The legislation moves the country closer to universal health care coverage, but single-payer advocates like Weisbart argue it's not enough.


Band-Aid or bust?
Nurses, assemblyman weigh in on Obamacare


This article was published in the Chico News and Review on 07.05.12.

Richard Credit, 84, said “compassion for mankind and the fight against needless pain and suffering” spur him to support a single-payer health-care system.

As Rush Limbaugh presumably priced moving vans—he’d said he’d leave the country if Obamacare passed muster with the Supreme Court—and President Obama celebrated in Washington, North State politicos likewise were polarized by the court’s decision last Thursday (June 28) to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The 5-4 decision, which was focused on the constitutionality of imposing a penalty on those who do not buy insurance, was made possible when conservative Chief Justice John Roberts unexpectedly decided to side with liberal judges.

The announcement coincided with the annual California Nurses Association’s Chico stop on its 2012 California tour, a 19-city bus trek in which the nurses offer free health screenings, host town hall meetings and tout the advantages of universal health care.

Event organizers and local single-payer health-care-reform advocates held a 4:30 p.m. press conference on the steps of the City Council chambers to announce their reaction to the Supreme Court ruling. On the same day, Assemblyman Dan Logue decried the court’s decision and announced his intention to battle the implementation of Obamacare in California.

“I think we can agree unanimously that the decision was a surprise, and the biggest surprise was that [Chief Justice] John Roberts somehow found the courage to do the right thing,” said Forest Harlan, president of Butte County Health Care Coalition and spokesman for the North State Health Care Alliance.

While the NSHCA and its constituent organizations support universal health care, their reaction to the decision was not all positive.

“We’re here to say hurray for the short term,” Harlan said, “but also to say that the health needs of Americans are not going to be met, because we’re keeping profit in a system where profit is directly oppositional to universal health care. This is not a step toward universal health care; it’s a step toward some people getting some health care.”

Harlan asked people to remember that the bill is more than 2,000 pages long.

“I don’t think there’s an American alive who’s actually read the entire health-care bill,” Harlan said. “Not even [the people] who wrote the darned thing.”

He noted that independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ health bill was only 25 pages long.

“We don’t want to rain on the parade of those who worked hard for the Affordable Care Act, but we want to encourage them in joining us to continue the work for real, truly universal health care,” he said. “This would be a boost to the country’s sagging economy if we had the economic stimulus of a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system.”

Other speakers, including representatives of the California Health Professional Student Alliance, California Nurses Association, the Butte-Glenn Central Labor Council, the Democratic Action Club of Chico, and the Butte County League of Women Voters, echoed Harlan’s sentiment that the Affordable Care Act is a start, but not enough.

Frank Smith, a consumer and board member of Independent Living Services of Northern California, gave an impassioned address based on his experiences with the health-care system.

“People with disabilities are already unable to get the medicine and care they need,” he said. “I know many people who can’t get what they need because they’re stuck by regulations and fragmentations in the system. I know two people who have passed away because they didn’t get the care they needed. One was a heart patient who could not get medicine, and he passed away.”

David Welch, an Enloe Medical Center nurse traveling with the California Nurses Association, said, “There’s still a lot of work to do. Most of us can agree that upholding the Affordable Care Act was better than not upholding it, but we can also agree there’s a great deal left to be done.

“Despite the fact it does some good things, it still leaves us with the most expensive and inefficient health-care system in the developed word, still leaves us with too many people who are not covered and too many people who have insurance but still don’t have access to real care.”

North State Assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Marysville) wasted no time responding to the ruling, issuing a press release that said he may author a ballot measure to stop the implementation of Obamacare in California. Logue has already written a resolution urging Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with “free-market” reforms.

“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court punishes American families and workers by upholding the individual mandate as a ‘tax’ under the Constitution,” Logue said in the release, “but it also leaves it up to the states to decide whether to participate in the massive expansion of Medicaid. The result is that California may again be the only state in the region to attempt a massive new government program, while our neighbors stand by and watch us struggle under the multi-billion dollar cost.”

He said that the state Legislature has already passed most of the laws needed to implement the health plan here, “including the creation of a new Health Benefit Exchange bureaucracy and new mandates on private health insurers, and the remaining pieces are in the works.”

At the CNA’s town hall meeting, National Nurses United member Donna Smith, who was featured in the Michael Moore film Sicko, gave a rundown of what the ACA does and doesn’t accomplish, peppering her talk with statistics on how poorly American health-care measures compare to those of other countries.

Smith said the ACA’s positive points are that it disallows insurance companies from denying clients because of pre-existing conditions and allows children to be covered by their parents’ insurance until age 26. She also said it expands coverage for some and lifts lifetime caps on benefits.

On the other hand, Smith said, the ACA doesn’t allow choice of providers, doesn’t control escalating medical costs and doesn’t stop insurance companies from profiting on sick people. Though it does mandate 80 percent of money collected by insurance companies go to health care, she said 20 percent profit is still too much, and insurance companies are already finding ways to exploit what is and isn’t classified as health care.

Most important, she said, the ACA leaves 23 million Americans uninsured.

“There’s nothing universal about it. The working poor will be hit the hardest because they don’t qualify for subsidies from the government, but can only afford bare-bones coverage, which they likely won’t be able to use. What good is a plan with a huge deductible that you still can’t afford to pay?”

Smith said cuts are always threatened against Social Security, Medicare and those things “working people worked hard to achieve.” She touted a proposed Robin Hood Tax championed by the nurses’ unions that would charge a half-penny-per-dollar tax on every Wall Street financial transaction and generate $350 billion to be used for health care and other social programs.

“If you want to heal America,” she said, “tax Wall Street. The people who broke it should pay for it.”


Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare

Physicians for a National Health Program- Chico

Paul O'Rourke-Babb / 530-321-9646 / pobnkin@sunset.net

Butte County Health Care Coalition

Forest Harlan / 530- 680-9441 / forest1950@yahoo.com


Chico, CA: June 28, 2012 – Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to maintain the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PP-ACA) has provoked response from the North State Health Care Alliance (NSHCA), a progressive health reform advocacy coalition based in Chico, California.
According to NSHCA member Forest Harlan, the PP-ACA does represent an incremental step towards totalhealthcare reform. Unfortunately, the act does little to rein in the rapidly rising cost of healthcare.

NSHCA spokesman Paul O'Rourke-Babb explained that the PP-ACA is“not enough”” to provide health coverage for everyone in Northern California who needs it. A recent study by County Health Rankings has indicated that socioeconomic and environmental factors in Butte, Tehama and Yuba Counties have led to poor health outcomes, making area residents particularly in need of expanded health services.

“The most effective way to ensure an equal standard of comprehensive, affordable medical care for all is to adopt a universal system,” reiterated Brittany Whitman-Hall of the California Health Professional Student Alliance. For that reason, NSHCA endorses California Senate Bill 810, the “California Universal Healthcare Act” and House Resolution 676, the national“Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.”

The North State Health Care Alliance represents a coalition of groups which advocate for the implementation of a publicly funded, privately delivered universal healthcare system in California and the nation. NSHCA represents: the California Nurses Association, Butte County Health Care Coalition, Physicians for a National Health Program-Chico Chapter, League of Women Voters of Butte County, , California Health Professional Student Alliance, Democratic Action Club of Chico, Butte-Glenn Central Labor Council, and Independent Living Services of Northern California and Occupy Chico.

For a full press kit contact: Brittany Whitman-Hall / (530) 828-3706 / brittany@pnhpcalifornia.org

Many U.S. Adults Faced Gaps in Coverage
Last Year, Survey Finds

California Heathline April 19, 2012
More than 25% of U.S. residents ages 19 to 64 had gaps in insurance coverage at some point in 2011, and nearly 70% of those residents had been uninsured for one year or longer, according to a survey released Thursday by the Commonwealth Fund, the Los Angeles Times reports (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 4/19).
Survey Details
The survey of 2,134 U.S. adults also found that uninsured U.S. residents struggled to obtain coverage through the individual market. Of those respondents who sought coverage in the individual market during the previous three years:
 ?62% said they found it very difficult or impossible to find an affordable policy;
?38% said it was hard to find the coverage they required;
?31% said they were turned down, charged a higher copayment or had a pre-existing condition excluded from coverage; and
?73% reported some type of issue when purchasing a plan (Bristol, CQ HealthBeat, 4/19).
A majority of survey respondents also said they had difficulty comparing plans' costs and benefits....

Single-Payer Health Care: $570 Billion Cheaper
Posted on Apr 14, 2012
David Drexler 

Economist Gerald Friedman has what looks to be the silver bullet against the claim that single-payer health care is infeasible on economic grounds, showing how “Medicare for all” could save billions of dollars while improving millions of lives.

Study his easy-to-grasp charts and figures explaining how to fund the plan and how much it would save in the two-page document linked below.

Gerald Friedman at Dollars & Sense:

The Expanded & Improved Medicare for all act” (HR 676) would establish a single authority responsible for paying for health care for all Americans. Providing universal coverage with a “single-payer” system would change many aspects of American health care. While it would raise some costs by providing access to care for those currently uninsured or under-insured, it would save much larger sums by eliminating insurance middlemen and radically simplifying payment to doctors and hospitals. While providing superior health care, a single-payer system would save as much as $570 billion now wasted on administrative overhead and monopoly profits. A single-payer system would also make health-care financing dramatically more progressive by replacing fixed, income-invariant health-care expenditures with progressive taxes. This series of charts and graphs shows why we need a single-payer system and how it could be funded....

Read more

A Dose Of Socialism Could Save Our States - State Sponsored, Single Payer Healthcare Would Bring In Business & Jobs

Rick Unger in Forbes (April 4) writes about a 2009 New York Times/CBS News Poll showing American support for a single-payer from "In Poll, Wide Support for Government-Run Health" Image link (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
How often do we hear the argument that American business is suffering under the yoke of a healthcare system that places a huge responsibility on employers to carry the heavy load of insuring their employees?
According to a Gallup Poll out this week, 48 percent of small business owners who were polled said that their concern over healthcare costs is keeping them from hiring new employees.
That can’t be good....


What's New

Is Obamacare Enough?

Chico News and Review Article:
Band Aid or Bust

BCHCC Press Release

Copyright © 2012 by the Butte County Health Care Education Coalition
a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit