15 Years of Bad News on the Unisured

Posted March, 24 2009 by arianne

Today, in conjuction with Cover the Uninsured Week*, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) releases its report At the Brink: Trends in America’s Uninsured 1994-2007.

This report averaged data from the 1994-1996 US Census Bureau and compared it to average from 2006-2007.  Nationally, in the last 15 years:

  • Nine million more Americans became uninsured.
  • Six million more working people became unisured.
  • The average prices of health insurance premiums have risen nearly eight times faster than average US incomes.

*Cover the Uninsured Week (March 22-28): A nonpartisan campaign organized by RWJF to advocate for health coverage for all Americans.  To learn more, go to www.CovertheUninsured.org

HCFANY demands Health Reform Now! To get involved with New York activities,  join us today!


arthur springer • Mar.25.2009 at 01:00:am


Howard Dean on the Imperative of Health Care Reform


Joel B. Schwartzberg

Joel B. Schwartzberg is Director of New Media for the Emmy Award-winning broadcast news magazine NOW on PBS.

Posted March 24, 2009 | 03:19 PM (EST)

NOW on PBS interviewed Howard Dean as part of its show, “Gambling with Health Care,” examining the health care crisis created by the economic meltdown. The full text of that interview is pasted below.

In it, Dr. Dean talks about his support of Medicaid, the need to cover young people, and why we can’t afford to put off health care reform.

DAVID BRANCACCIO (DB): Are you a fan of Medicaid?

HOWARD DEAN (HD): It is a fantastic program. People are healthier because of it.

DB: When you were governor of Vermont, you built upon Medicaid in your home state to get a lot of people covered.

HD: We have more children covered, I think, than any other state in the country. Ninety-seven percent have it. We made families of four who make less than $65,000 eligible for their kids to have health insurance. Now, it didn’t cost us hardly anything. We didn’t raise taxes, although the federal government paid for a significant portion of it.

The truth is there’s no excuse for not covering people under 18 in this country. It’s insane not to because if you don’t, you pay for all that stuff later on when they turn 30 or 40 or 50 or 60. You can use Medicaid as one of the building blocks of universal health insurance. And we certainly ought to do it for people probably under 25.


DB: Would you increase money for Medicaid during this difficult period temporarily or would you make it permanent?

HD: I would make it permanent. We need a universal health care system in this country. We don’t have one. We’re the only industrialized democracy in the world that doesn’t have one, and we pay a fortune because we don’t have one.

DB: What do you think should be done in America to fix health care?

HD: If I could design any health care system I wanted, which I won’t be able to do, and neither can the Obama Administration or anybody else, I would probably use Medicaid for young people, and expand it to about 27 years of age. I would just let those kids have insurance for practically nothing. It’s cheap as dirt and really is not a serious expense.

After that, if folks aren’t in the insured pool, then they should do what’s in the Obama plan, which is to be able to pay into and buy into Medicare, whatever age they are. You know, you shouldn’t have to wait till you’re 65. If you can’t get health insurance any other way, why not allow those folks to buy into Medicare? We’re not going to get rid of private insurance. People will still be able to choose private insurance. But let them choose a public insurance as well.

We’re losing jobs to Canada because Canadian companies don’t bear the tremendous inflationary costs of their health care system, and our companies do. Look at the automobile companies right now. They’re suffering enormously and what’s the biggest problem? Retiree health care. We are killing our own companies by not having a health care system that works for everybody, and we have to stop that.

DB: Critics of government health plans like SCHIP, Medicare and Medicaid say that eventually the costs of this are just going to cripple this country.

HD: The problem with that argument is that we spend more than every other country on the face of the earth on health care as a percent of our GNP already. So the problem is we have no system. We have total chaos in this country in terms of funding and there are tons of people who are not covered, including a lot of kids. That’s insane. We end up paying almost twice as much as the next country because of our incredible inefficiency. America is a very efficient country, except in health care where we are the most inefficient country. And we cover the fewest–percentage wise–of our population compared to any other country in the industrialized world.

DB: There’s a public perception that Medicaid is wasteful, that it’s a government program with corruption in it and a lot of bureaucratic overhead. That’s not your understanding?

HD: When I was governor, I had a big fight on the left as well as on the right when we put through universal health care. So we contracted out our Medicaid program to be administered by a private insurance company. After three years, we had to take it back because the expenses associated with our running Medicaid was about four percent. And the expenses by the private insurance company were 12 percent.

The truth is the private sector does not do a good job running health care. They just don’t. I don’t say that because I don’t like the private sector. I was part of the private sector. My wife is part of the private sector delivering health care. But the numbers are clear: One-third of the cost is what’s spent by Medicare and Medicaid in administration costs compared to private health care concerns.


DB: I recently spoke with a progressive economist who argued that the pressing challenge of the economic downturn means we should put off health care reform. Do it later. Do you agree with that?

HD: I would say that would be an … incredibly foolish piece of advice. For one-sixth of what we just spent bailing out Bank of America and Citicorp, we could have a health insurance program that finally worked and enabled America to compete again with other industrialized democracies. I think this is exactly the time we should be working on health care. If we miss this opportunity, it’ll be the greatest scandal in the last 60 years when since we first starting out trying to get health insurance under President Harry Truman.

DB: State governors are being forced to make some very tough funding decisions right now. Revenue is down, and some states are cutting health care. What would you say to them in this kind of environment?

HD: I went through two recessions as governor and I had to cut Medicaid. There’s a way to cut Medicaid that’s painful but right, and there’s a way to cut Medicaid that’s the wrong way. What you don’t do is take people off the roles. That’s a terrible mistake. What you can do is reduce benefits. It is better to have some health care that’s not as good as it once was than not to have any at all. So my advice to governors if you’re having a tough time is : Go find out what’s expensive and cut some of that stuff out if you have to. But don’t throw people off their health insurance. That’s the wrong thing to do.

DB: Do you think we’ll be able to be successful at health care reform this time around?

HD: I hope so. We have a huge Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate. We’ve got a Democratic president who’s promised and campaigned on universal health care. There’s no excuse for it. If the Democrats don’t do it, we probably won’t get hired again.

arthur springer • Mar.29.2009 at 09:25:am

Nothing illustrates the abuse of power by the political class better than the refusal of AHIP, Blue Cross and the Senate Finance Committee to release the actual text of the AHIP/BC letter to Baucus/Grassley. It must be time for the Little People to mind their own business.

arthur springer • Apr.03.2009 at 12:59:am

Friday 3 April 2009

How long, O Lord? How long?

In pouring over tons of health policy stuff over the years I am amused and saddened by the consistent failure of all the PhDs and JDs to say anything about waiting times for appointments as a gold standard barometer for evaluation of health care quality. But when did these highpriced “advocates” ever have anything useful to tell us about quality?

I am on a rare diseases networking site where a woman in Ontario Canada with a serious endocrinology problem has just reported

“Most of the endocrinologists here have a wait time of 5 months.”

This was not concocted by some right wing think tank demonized by the far left and the “family” doctors. It was written Thursday night by a perfectly ordinary and desperate person an Email away.

My own wait in January for a rare disease doctor to replace an assembly-line mutt who had declared me a lost cause was about a week … standard at academic medical centers in New York City for access to world class MDs by people with traditional Medicaid.

Expecting the worst, the first question I asked his senior RN was
Does he take Medicaid? “Yes.”
Which of his fellows in training will I see and will that trainee do the surgery?
“You will see the doctor. He does all his surgery.”
And he did, with total success, ten days later.

The longer the health reformers in the US ignore these realities and continue to promote lowest common denominator health “plans” … single payer, Conyers, “community” clinics, heavy-handed Preventative Primary Managed Care etc… the more likely it is that the reform process will grind to an even longer halt than the halt that has occurred already. (The latest is that the Sebelius nomination has been stalled for another two weeks by a Republican Senator’s objection.)

The “advocates” just cannot get it through their etc that they will not be able to preserve the privileges of their own political class while imposing a regressive program on others.

As more people begin to smell the all-too-familiar stench of politically correct “reform,” any and all of these proposals will sink into the mud. No amount of lies of the left about The Canadian System will work. No amount of caterwauling about asthma, diabetes and mammograms will cut the ice, let alone the mustard

People will not agree to covering the uninsured by having their current coverage downgraded, no matter what the cost. The coalition of Paterson sycophants and HMO interests in NY can get away with it today. But woe to them tomorrow. Period. The sooner the “advocates” get it, the better for all of us.

arthur springer • Apr.05.2009 at 07:30:am

Re Putting the ‘Care’ in Health Care
by Ellen Goodman Boston Globe/Washington Post


Posted on Apr 2, 2009

Nonsense. It is sad to see that people who should know better are being duped by HMO lobby propaganda at just the time when we need the best critical minds in the country to help define what health care “reform” should really mean.

It should not mean coercive, regressive, authoritarian managed care for the poor and the middle class while the political class retains its privileges. It should not mean the abuse of power by the kinds of special interests who dominated the White House forum on health care reform.

It should not mean cartoons and caricatures of people who have more education, experience and expertise while those who know and do less are worshipped.

It should not mean ridicule and lies about modern technology while every chiropractic, “holistic,” supplement industry, 11th Century scam is treated with kid gloves.

It should not mean one-size-fits-all oxcart medicine at the expense of those who need something other than managed primary care — those with emergency, acute, catastrophic, chronic, disabling or rare health problems.

It should not mean delusions about “prevention.” People get sick. People inherit bad genes. People have accidents and bad habits.

The philosophy of the Luddites has little or nothing to offer.

We need health care that is truly comprehensive in fact, not merely in rhetoric. We need access to secondary, tertiary, quaternary and quintenary care when we need such expertise, not voodoo by “gatekeepers” worshipped because they are in over their heads, don’t know what they are doing and are singing a happy little song instead.

You want hand-holding? Go to your local palmist, your mother, your spouse, your best friend. I’ll take 21st Century medicine.

Yes it does cost. So does life. There are germs out there, kiddies. Watch your butt.

Arthur Springer
MAP/EIP/Part D Program Participant
& Lay Advocate for People With Disabilities
150 W. 80th St. — 4A
New York, NY 10024-6313
voice & fax: 212-580-9143
Nothing about us without us

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