The speakers at our town hall were Kali Fox from Senator Stabenow’s Lansing office, James Mitchiner, M.D. Emergency Medicine, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, and Robert Sisler, President of UAW Local 6000 Retired Workers.
A brief recap of some of the speakers’ comments:
Kali Fox stated that Senator Stabenow believes that a single-payer system would be the best health care plan but that it does not have the votes to pass. The Senator is working for the strongest possible public option and is using her position on the Finance Committee to achieve the public option.
Dr. Mitchiner spoke about the myths surrounding the single-payer plan. The first and most often heard myth is that a single-payer plan is socialized medicine. The doctor pointed out that a single-payer plan is simply the method of payment. The delivery of health care will come from the same doctors and hospitals that deliver our health care today. The government takes care of payment and private providers deliver care under the single-payer plan.
Dr. Mitchiner also addressed the comparisons with the Canadian system, stating that the Canadian system spends 54% per patient of the U.S. costs. While there are wait times in Canada, there are also wait times in the U.S. and, in fact, many Americans do not receive health care at all.
Bob Sisler provided us with copies of the actual HR 767 bill and pointed out that the UAW and a number of other unions support the single-payer plan. He also pointed out that the idea of profit in health insurance was really introduced in the 1970s with HMOs. We are the only western democracy that has private for-profit health insurance for our basic health care. Other countries have a single-payer type plan for basic health care.
Additional note: The House produced a plan yesterday that would: ‘expand coverage, slow the growth of Medicare, raise taxes on high-income people and penalize employers who do not provide health benefits to their workers.’
Donna’s comments and questions on the House plan and other legislation: This plan still leaves 15 million people without insurance. If we believe that health care is a human right, how do we excuse leaving out 15 million people? Why are we penalizing employers? Shouldn’t employers be left out of this game? Don’t we want employers to create jobs, hire workers, and keep down the cost of their products for international trade. Why should employers be responsible for the costs of health insurance?
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) also voted a bill out of their committee. This bill brings up many of the same questions as House bill. Like the House bill, it provides subsidies to uninsured individuals to purchase health insurance either on the public option or the private market. (Can you see the private insurance CEOs salivating now at the prospect of these new consumers?)
These bills are complex and offer their insurance products through an exchange. Does anyone remember the fiasco created by Medicare Part D when hundreds of insurance companies offered prescription plans? Seniors were confused and puzzled about what to do. To make matters worse, the legislation stated that if seniors didn’t make their choices by the deadline, seniors would be charged a penalty for every month delayed. The Part D bill so heavily favored the insurance and drug companies that, while seniors could only change their insurance each January, the companies could change their coverage whenever they wanted.
Another bill will soon be voted out of the Finance Committee. It’s predicted that it will offer co-ops instead of the public plan. Most of us can see the problem with co-ops trying to negotiate coverage with sophisticated, greedy insurance companies. Imagine the fun you’ll have when you present your co-op insurance card to your doctor or hospital. This brainchild is proposed by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, (population of less than a million citizens) and makes Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, (population less than 3 million) happy, along with Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska (population less than 2 million). They are willing to compromise on the health of our citizens.
Sen. Grassley was asked by one of his constituents why he couldn’t get a health plan as good as the Senator’s plan. Grassley’s response was that the fellow should get a job with the federal government. Perhaps it’s time that Sen. Grassley’s constituents decide that Grassley should no longer be working for the federal government.
Senator Debbie Stabenow is on the Finance Committee. If you agree that co-ops are a bad idea call and e-mail her today, contact information is below.
One last thought: We hear continually about how health care for all needs to control costs. We all agree on that. There should, however, be more talk about broad coverage for all Americans. The debate that’s going on right now is complex and obfuscates the real problem which is that many Americans are deprived of health care while we claim that health care is a human right.
Many people asked for places where they could get information on health care reform. Here are some Web sites that have good information on health care reform and pending bills in the House and Senate. Be an activist! E-mail and call your Senators! Call the White House! March at rallies here and in Washington DC. Talk to your friends and relatives and give them the facts.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ President Barack Obama
(202) 456-1111 Comments
(202) 456-1414 Switchboard
http://stabenow.senate.gov/ Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI
(517) 203-1760 Lansing Office
(202) 224-4822 Washington D.C.
http://levin.senate.gov/ Sen. Carl Levin D-MI
(517) 377-1508 Lansing Office
(202) 224-6221 Washington D.C.
http://www.healthcare-now.org/ Health Care Now organization is a single-payer advocate.
http://healthcareforamericanow.org/ Pushes a strong public option and the White House plan.
http://www.pnhp.org/ Physicians for a National Health Program Dr. Mitchiner came to us through the PNHP.
http://www.hr676.org/ Website for the House bill HR 676, single-payer bill.
http://www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov Find out how hospitals compare on treating various diseases and surgical procedures.
http://www.thomas.gov Look up any federal House or Senate bill in its entirety or in
http://www.pbs.org/video/video/1178899944/program/1113570149 THE JOURNAL: Profits Over People. Online video of Bill Moyers Journal which features Wendell Potter, a former health insurance executive. Well-worth the time to watch it.
http://sanders.senate.gov/ Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, strong advocate in Senate for single-payer.
http://conyers.house.gov/ Rep. John Conyers, D-MI, introduced HR 676
http://mikerogers.house.gov/ Rep. Mike Rogers, D-Brighton
(202) 225-4872 Washington D.C.
(517) 702-8000 Lansing Office