Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

May 12, 2009


Josiah Swampoodle - The only people Obama and congressional leaders are barring from the table in discussions of healthcare reform are people who advocate healthcare reform. You can't solve a problem by only talking to those who created it.

James Ridgway, Unsilent Generation
- In a much-anticipated statement, Barack Obama announced what is largely a public relations end-run by the health care industry, designed to trim a few scraps off of the nation's porcine health care budget, while preserving its basic system of medicine for profit.

Executives from the Advanced Medical Technology Association (the medical device manufacturers lobbying group), the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, America's Health Insurance Plans, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, as well as the Service Employees International Union, pleged to "do our part" to reduce health care costs. Their vague, pie-in-the sky promise amounts to just a 1.5 percent reduction in the growth rate of health care spending. Such is the explosion in health care costs that even this miniscule reduction represents a potential $2 trillion saving over 10 years. But there's no guarantee this figure will be achieved. As the Washington Post points out:

"The groups did not spell out yesterday how they plan to reach such a target, and. . . they offer only a broad pledge, not an outright commitment. . . .In addition, White House officials said, there is no mechanism to ensure that the groups live up to their offer, only the implicit threat of public embarrassment."

Public embarrassment" By Big Pharma and the health insurance companies–two of the most shameless industries in the history of corporate capitalism? In any case, even if the $2 trillion reduction is achieved, it clearly won't come out of industry profits. The Post reports:

"Signers of the letter said that large amounts could be saved by aggressive efforts to prevent obesity, coordinate care, manage chronic illnesses and curtail unnecessary tests and procedures; by standardizing insurance claim forms; and by increasing the use of information technology, like electronic medical records."

So let's get this straight: Saving all this money depends on getting Americans to eat less? Good luck with that one. And the other brilliant cost-saving measures involve getting doctors to create computer records of all the overpriced drugs they prescribe to patients, and giving patients easier forms to fill out before they get turned down six times by their private insurance companies?

Do you see a pattern here? None of these changes would make a dent in the industry's bottom line - and what's more, they could even enhance profits, by encouraging government-funded programs to help private companies streamline their bloated bureaucracy (much of which would instantly become superfluous under a public, single-payer system. . .

And what might the industry get in return for this generous "cooperation"? The Kaiser Daily Health Policy report today rounded up the possibilities:

"The [Wall Street] Journal reports that although the groups did not ask for anything in return for the pledge, many of the factions are looking to prevent regulations that could "pose new burdens" or affect their profitability. For example, the health insurance industry is seeking to offset any reductions to their payments by obtaining new rules that would require all U.S. residents to have health coverage, according to the Journal. The Journal reports that health insurers have made several concessions intended to prevent a public option - which they fear could affect their profitability - as part of reform legislation . . .

In other words, the underlying purpose of this PR stunt is to slow or block any meaningful health care reform, which could actually improve care while reducing the price tag by a lot more than 1.5 percent. . .

ABC News
-While the country's health care leaders pledged Monday to reduce the annual growth of health spending by 1.5 percentage points -- which they say will save $2 trillion in 10 years -- some health policy experts say that it is unlikely that Americans will see any of this money returning to their own pocketbooks, despite the crippling health care costs that some face. . .

Karen Davis, president of the health care foundation the Commonwealth Fund, said the public would likely share the trillions of dollars saved by the year 2019.

"Administration officials calculate that this 1.5 percentage point reduction will produce an average savings of $2,500 for a family of four in the fifth year," Davis said. "This is clearly a step in the right direction."

But Ted Marmor, professor of Public Policy and Management at the Yale School of Management, called such expectations "wishful thinking."

"I think that if you were a betting person, you'd lose a lot on that bet," Marmor said. "This is utterly unrealistic."

Part of the problem, Marmor said, is that even with the 1.5 percent reduction, health costs will still be growing at a projected rate of 4.7 percent per year.

Even then, he added, the steps that the stakeholders would have to take to achieve even this reduction would require a significant deviation from the status quo.

"All of [the changes] are much harder to do than is being suggested here," Marmor said. "Customary practice is very hard to change."

John Graham, director of Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, Calif., had an even more pointed response to the effort.

"If the interest groups in any other American industry colluded on a plan to control costs, they'd be charged under the anti-trust laws," Graham said. "The American people should not tolerate health-care interest groups collaborating with the government to form the mother of all cartels, rationing our health care to adhere to a federal budget."

Craig Crawford, CQ Politics - While President Barack Obama courts the health care industry his administration is distancing itself from big labor's plan to expand Medicare. In a round of interviews, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius completely ruled out making Medicare available to more Americans as part of the president's health reform package.

But that is exactly what one of Obama's staunchest campaign supporters, the AFL-CIO, is calling for. The labor giant's retiree advocates, the Alliance for Retired Americans, is observing Older Americans Month on its website by urging the federal government to lower Medicare eligibility to age 55 from age 65, the current floor for accessing the government-sponsored program.

If Obama were not trying to please private industry, the labor union's plan would make the most sense. The trouble with expanding Medicare is that such a move diminishes the market share for private insurance companies.
Expanding Medicare, while possibly the best solution for average Americans, would ignite corporate opposition that Obama apparently wishes to avoid.

Clay Burell, Educaton Change - President Obama and Arne Duncan like to compare U.S. education - unfavorably, typically - to that of Korea, where I currently live. Here's an educational comparison they don't share: the number of uninsured people in America is roughly equal to the entire population of Korea, where all 50 million Koreans are covered by national health care.

Maybe, just maybe, health insurance for all is a factor in those dazzling Korean test scores. Maybe the tough love our education "reformers" urge we show toward our underprivileged students should be shown also to our vested health care interests, their lobbying millions be damned. . .

One of the best ways you can help improve public education and erase the achievement gap is to push for affordable health care for all.

The Senate Armed Finance Committee certainly isn't pushing for it for us - maybe because its chair, Montana Sen. Max Baucus, has taken more money from the health insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies than any other Democrat in Congress, and is excluding single-payer advocates from ongoing health care reform roundtable talks. . .

Do I have to say anything more than that healthy parents and children are likely to learn better than unhealthy ones? And that making health care accessible and affordable to the more than 45.7 million uninsured Americans - and the millions more who are underinsured - will create more healthy parents and children?

Penelope Lemov, Governing - According to the Boston Globe, a state commission is poised to recommend to the governor and the legislature that insurers radically change how doctors and hospitals are paid. They will recommend that the current system, in which insurers typically pay doctors and hospitals a negotiated fee for each individual procedure or visit, be replaced with a set payment for each patient that covers all that person's care for an entire year.

Variations of such a plan are being discussed for national health reform. Payment reform is seen as one of the more effective ways of taming costs. It could discourage doctors and hospitals from providing unneeded tests and treatments, and it could force the medical community to provide better post-hospital care so that patients who survive, say, heart surgery, aren't readmitted when their condition deteriorates because they didn't understand follow-up instructions. Massachusetts would be the first state to broadly adopt such a system.

M.S. Bellows, Jr, Huffington Post -
Healthcare will continue to be increasingly expensive for consumers, but not quite as quickly as it was going to be. 7% per year inflation will become 5.5% per year inflation -- that is, if the participants keep their promise. Which, according to the officials, they'll do, not because there's any kind of enforcement mechanism - there isn't one - but simply because they're "Americans.". . .

The senior administration officials were hyperbolic, if not hyperventilated. One, focusing on the political battle to enact healthcare reform, called this promise by industry trade groups "a game changer."

The other official, focusing on economic issues, saw this as nothing less than the salvation of the entire federal budget:

"I don't think there could be a more significant step to help struggling families and to help the federal budget than reducing the growth rate of healthcare spending by 1.5 percentage points per year. . ."

Remember, we're talking about slightly reducing the rate of growth in health care costs, not a reduction in health care costs themselves. . .

Am I the only one who is puzzled at the Administration taking these groups at their word? . . . Many of the groups participating in this initiative historically have opposed health care reform and are large donors to the Republican and Vichy Dem politicians who are preparing to mount a political and rhetorical battle against health care reform. . .

Robert Pear, NY Times - Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Obama had told the health care executives, "You've made a commitment; we expect you to keep it." If history is a guide, their commitments may not produce the promised savings. Their proposals are vague - promising, for example, to reduce both "overuse and underuse of health care." None of the proposals are enforceable, and none of the savings are guaranteed. Without such a guarantee, budget rules would normally prevent Congress from using the savings to pay for new initiatives to cover the uninsured. At this point, cost control is little more than a shared aspiration.

David Sirota, Open Left -
In 2003, Obama said he supports a single-payer health care system, and that the only reason we "may not get there immiediately" is "because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House" - which, of course, we have. . .

In 2006, I spent a day with Obama in the U.S. Senate, and he said he supports a "debate" on single-payer, but that he also had started having doubts, now that he was in the Senate. . . Obama said that although he "would not shy away from a debate about single-payer," right now he is "not convinced that it is the best way to achieve universal healthcare."

By last week, it became clear that Obama and his allies in Congress will use their legislative leverage to prevent even a debate about single payer. . .

The whole idea that single payer is the best option but politically "impossible" is simply unacceptable. Last I checked, electing an African American president was politically "impossible". . . until Barack Obama went ahead and got himself elected president. The entire notion of "politically possible" and "politically impossible" is a canard that justifies the status quo. So while it's certainly terrific that Obama is fighting for some sort of universal health care system, and one with a public option (which could ultimately become a single-payer system), let's just remember: Nothing has been politically possible until it actually happened - and so if that's the major argument against single payer, it's not just a poor argument, it's a fraud


Blogger Dave said...

So Mass. wants to go to a capitation plan. Capitation is the surest way to guarantee substandard health care. All of the for-profit providers will cut services everywhere and will nickle and dime doctors in order to increase profits by keeping as much as possible of the capitation payment. Delta Dental tried that with dental insurance and backed out of it because the providers refused - they couldn't provide adequate dental care if they accepted the capitation. This is just a way for insurance companies to make more money, not a way to improve care.

May 12, 2009 10:20 PM  
Anonymous demand single payer said...

Single Payer Action Page: http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum982.php
Friends, there are rare moments of clarity when we the people can see through the veil of illusion designed to condition us into docile inaction. For that reason this may be the MOST important alert we will ever send.

There was such a moment this week, when Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, having already preemptively excluded any participation of a credible spokesperson for single payer health care, laughingly joked "we need more police", when one qualified doctor and lawyer after another stood up to protest their exclusion from the debate.

THAT was the real Max Baucus, a contemptuous corporatist, who is as likely to voluntarily bring forward a real people's health program as Dick Cheney is likely to voluntarily testify under oath. Perhaps you have already seen the video clip (it is on the action page below), of him trying to laugh off consideration of single payer health care. But you can force Max Baucus to do it anyway, by submitting this action page.

Single Payer Action Page: http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum982.php

And it is not just Baucus, the whole Senate panel erupted into riotous laughter. Even the so-called "liberals", like John Kerry, who was anxious to get in his own wisecrack about "Is there anybody in the audience who didn't ... uh ... come to ..." [3:35 on video], before it finally dawned on Baucus how incredibly bad this would look on video, as he interrupted Kerry, to try to resume projecting the usual phony concern and compassion.

Folks, this is who those senators REALLY are. This is the way they talk about us behind closed doors, in their cloakrooms, snickering with the lobbyists paying them off about how they pulled off another fast one under the noses of the people. When they are joking, as when Bush joked about being a dictator, THAT is who they really are. And the whole charade DEPENDS on them fooling us into thinking they are representing us for even one second that they are not FORCED to by our active voices.

And THAT is why we need you to submit this action page now.

Single Payer Action Page: http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum982.php

PLEASE BEWARE, there is a MASSIVE industry sponsored astroturf campaign going on right this very instant. If you are reading this on a web site, even a progressive one, this very page may be wallpapered with slick banner ads calling for a "balanced health care debate" or "fair health care", and it is one of the most deceptive "petition" actions we have ever encountered, asking you to sign on to a HIDDEN agenda, WITHOUT even disclosing what you are actually signing on to. "Fair and balanced health care". Where have we heard an expression like that before?

In the words of the AP itself, these industry groups are trying to strike a preemptive deal with Obama "in the hopes they can stave off legislation that would restrict their profitability in future years". In other words, to KILL single payer health care, which would give the American people the REAL savings (estimated for us at 350 billion per year) that the people of every other major industrial nation already enjoy.

By stark contrast, our action page tells you EXACTLY what you are signing on to, the stated subject line in red and in quotes on the action page "Put Single Payer Health Care On The Table Now", and the action page below sends nothing else in your name but that AND any personal comments you wish to add.

Single Payer Action Page: http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum982.php

Not only does the action page above send your message in real time to all your members of Congress, it ALSO turns your comments into a actual pdf file and sends it as an attachment DIRECT to the Senate Finance Committee, meeting all their restrictive requirements to make it part of the permanent record. There is NO other action page anywhere that does anything even remotely like this server process coding miracle. We know, because our programmers worked many hours in the middle of the night to make it happen.

And most of all, please understand that of all the huge lies that they have told us, there is ONE lie at the heart of them all. Lies like they were going to end the war in Iraq, when they had no intention of doing any such thing, when the plan has always been and REMAINS to keep at least 50,000 troops in that country until the end of time, that they were going to do something to help struggling homeowners, when the plan both with the last administration and with this one was always to loot the public treasury for trillions of dollars, a massive transfer of wealth to the Wall Street con men who caused the whole financial crisis in the first place.

We could go on and on, but there is one lie at the root of them all.

Do you know what it is?

The mother of all lies. The lie they use again and again to keep us from bringing about real change. The biggest lie of them all. Bigger than "compassionate conservatism", bigger than "the war on terror", bigger than "weapons of mass destruction", bigger than "the trickle down theory", bigger than "torture keeps us safe", yes, even bigger than "looking forward not backward" or "change we can believe in".

Do you know what the biggest, most diabolical lie they have ever told us is?

The BIGGEST LIE of ALL: that we the people do not have the power to change any of this.

Do you not understand your power? Do you not understand that they shaking in their socks right now in fear that you will FINALLY get it, that there is NO power without the consent of the governed, and that all you have to do is say "No more" in sufficient numbers, and we the people will be free.

Their position is so WEAK, so lacking in merit, so indefensible, they are so afraid of the power of our positions that they have to resort to police oppression to try to shut us up. That is why they need to call on "more police" to keep single payer advocates from even having a speaking seat at the table, to try to keep their voices OUT of the media. Because if the public for one moment was exposed to an actual fair debate, the phony "fair debate" would be seen for the total charade and sham that is it.

We don't need more police. That is not the health care plan we are calling for. We need need more doctors, and nurses, not more insurance company administrators awarding themselves outrageous bonuses to deny suffering people in pain the health care they deserve.

Because what we must understand at the end of the day is that we have no enemy greater than our own defeatism. It is the lie they tell us to tell ourselves, without which they have NO power at all besides the gun they can point at our heads. And all you have to do to change ALL of this right now this instant, is to submit the REAL action page below.

Single Payer Action Page: http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum982.php

And yes, you can also respond to this action through the new Twitter gateway Just send the following Twitter reply, and add any personal comment you like.

@cxs #p982

And if you want a step by step explanation of how to set up the Twitter thing here is the link for that.

Twitter Activism Step-By-Step: http://tcxs.net/step_by_step.php

Please take action NOW, so we can win all victories that are supposed to be ours, and forward this alert as widely as possible.

If you would like to get alerts like these, you can do so at http://www.peaceteam.net/in.htm

Or if you want to cease receiving our messages, just use the function at http://www.peaceteam.net/out.htm


May 12, 2009 11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Do you not understand your power?"

Dear Reader of this message:

It is not the case that you are small and don't matter as an individual.

You are so significant you were given a huge universe to live in.

Work from that perspective, and be happy in your empowerment.

Thanks for that post and link, single payer. I'll be following through and passing it along...as soon as i finish my campaign for pay justice work for today.

May 13, 2009 7:38 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

This is a scam- no different than the e-mal ones that state they will make your computer work so much faster, for just $30.00. Only this one is costing us trillions of dollars. This particular scam is sponsored by none other than the very same companies that have been mining the middle class for years and are afraid, very afraid, we just might break up their looting activites. Don't fall for it: there is no 'there' there. This is only the most shallow of attempts to continue their shameless stealing from the American public.

Steven L Cochran MD

May 13, 2009 6:17 PM  
Blogger JJ said...

It's a deep mystery that it's not asked...but a major question to ask the public is...Do you really want to retain a health-care system that is administered by insurers that own multi-million dollar holdings in the likes of Cigarette Manufacturing, tobacco pesticides, Big Oil, Mountaintop Removal Mining, Pesticides in General, Nukes, Military Contractors...just about every health- and environmentally-damaging industry on Wall Street?...not to mention the sweat-shop firms, union-busting firms AND businesses that may compete with your own business or your investment holdings?

Yes or No.

This is all no secret...it's public info at the Securities and Exchange Commission's EDGAR database.

May 22, 2009 10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The American people trust that Barack Obama will conscientiously address issues related to health care reform.


George W. Bush continuously criminally stalked Margie Schoedinger to the point that she could not get away from it, and she committed suicide in desperation to escape: he murdered her.

“In her suit, Margie Schoedinger states that George W. Bush committed sexual crimes against her, organized harassment and moral pressure on her, her family members and close relatives and friends. As Schoedinger said, she was strongly recommended to keep her mouth shut. . . . Furthermore, she alleges that George Bush ordered to show pressure on her to the point, when she commits suicide” (blog of drizzten).

“One of those ‘very leasts’ [was] George Bush’s personal complicity in the death (murder to be precise) of my friend Margie Schoedinger in September of 2003. Determining the exact whereabouts and contacts of [then] president-elect George Bush on September 21 thru 22, 2003, should be entirely lacking in difficulty” (Leola McConnell—Nevada Progressive Democratic Candidate for U.S. Senate in 2010).

Leola McConnell is correct: Bush applying pressure (continuously criminally stalking Margie Schoedinger) purposefully to force Margie Schoedinger to commit suicide does in fact constitute murder.

BEWARE: If the president of the United States hates one—for whatever reasons—he can continuously criminally stalk one to the point that one cannot get away from it, and one ultimately commits suicide in desperation to escape. He can murder people in this way.

Bush is getting away with his murder of Margie Schoedinger—with no sheriff, prosecutor, or court willing to uphold the rule of law.

Bush’s method of murdering Margie Schoedinger cannot exist in a vacuum: he must have murdered other people in the same way.

Bush should confess, come out with the names of all of the people whom he murdered in the disgusting way he murdered Margie Schoedinger, undergo execution, and accordingly find himself at the intersection where he would be free.

(There are thousands of copies of the information above on the Internet. It exists very extensively in all major search engines. Please feel free to go to any major search engine, type “George W. Bush continuously criminally stalked Margie Schoedinger to the point that she could not get away from it, and she committed suicide in desperation to escape: he murdered her,” hit “Enter,” and find innumerable results.)
Andrew Wang
B.S., Summa Cum Laude, 1996
Messiah College, Grantham, PA
Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA, 1993

June 13, 2009 10:43 PM  

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