# Health Care For America Now

Ads thanking Boswell and other health care reform news

Health Care for America NOW and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees are running television ads this week thanking 20 Democrats in relatively tough districts who voted for the House health care reform bill last Saturday. If you live in the Des Moines viewing area, you may have seen this commercial about Congressman Leonard Boswell:


Corporate-funded conservative groups have targeted Boswell in negative ads this year because of his vote for the climate-change bill in June. Ads attacking the health care reform project (many funded by insurance industry fronts or the Chamber of Commerce) have been plentiful this summer and fall too. It makes sense for reform advocates to thank Boswell, as Iowa Republicans are gearing up to challenge him with State Senator Brad Zaun or some other well-known figure.  

In other health care reform news, Tom Harkin is among the Senate Democrats trying to keep the "Stupak amendment" language on abortion out of the Senate's version of health care reform. He's absolutely right that some people pushing amendments are trying to kill the bill rather than make it better. A lot of questions have been raised about whether defeating the bill was Representative Bart Stupak's main goal. Since 1992, Stupak has been involved with the fundamentalist Christian "Family" group and has lived in their house on C Street in Washington.  

Stupak claims that as many as 40 House Democrats would reject health care reform without his amendment, but yesterday House Whip James Clyburn said the Stupak amendment only gained 10 votes for the bill. Meanwhile, more than 40 House liberals are threatening to vote down the final bill out of conference if it contains the Stupak language.  

Final note: MyDD user Bruce Webb wrote an interesting piece about what he views as "the most important and overlooked sentence" in the House health care reform bill:  

Most of the criticism of HR3962 coming from the left revolves around the belief that the House bill has no premium and so no profit controls, that it in effect delivers millions of Americans into the hands of insurance companies who can continue to raise premiums at will while denying care by managing the risk pool in favor of those unlikely to make claims. This just is not true, not if the provision in this one sentence is properly implemented. In a stroke it guts the entire current business model of the insurance companies, based as it is on predation and selective coverage, and replaces it with a model where you can only make money by extending coverage to the widest range of customers and or delivering that coverage in a more efficient way.

 Like they say, go read the whole thing.

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Follow Grassley's advice to find affordable health care

Health Care for America Now, in conjunction with the Iowa Citizen Action Network, is running an online ad that links to a “job application” citizens can fill out to request a position with Senator Chuck Grassley’s office.

You may recall that Grassley told a constituent at a recent town-hall meeting to “go work for the federal government” if he wanted the same health insurance plan the senator enjoys:

Excerpt from an ICAN press release, which I have posted in full after the jump:

Senator Grassley, whose health care bills are picked up by taxpayers, pays $356.59 a month for health insurance.  The most he pays when visiting a doctor or hospital is $300. His “Let Them Eat Cake” attitude ignores the plight of working families, farmers, and small business owners in Iowa who don’t have adequate, affordable health care and are going broke trying to keep up with insurance premiums and medical costs.

“Polls show that the majority of Iowans, like the majority of people in America, want health care reform that achieves quality, affordable health care for all,” said Betty Ahrens, Executive Director, Iowa Citizen Action Network. “Senator Grassley keeps blocking progress in the Senate Finance Committee. He talks about bipartisanship but is showing no intention of compromise, and after his comments in Waukon, we know just how out of touch Senator Grassley is with the real struggles of his constituents in Iowa. Everyone here should see this video, and we will do what we can to make sure Senator Grassley knows his “Get a Job Like Mine” solution to the health care crisis is unacceptable.”

Excerpt from the “job application”:

I work hard, and I pay my taxes, but I cannot keep up with health care costs that are rising four times faster than wages if I can even get health care at all, what with all the denials of needed care that my insurance company throws in my way. Meanwhile, Members of Congress get health care that’s affordable, and nobody is going to deny care to an elected official!

Senator Grassley has so graciously offered to provide me health care as good as he has if I work for the federal government, and so I am applying for a position in Senator Grassley’s office in the hope he will make good on that promise. If he cannot, the only hope I have to obtain quality, affordable health care for me and my family is if Senator Grassley drops his opposition and supports real health care reform – reform that gives me a choice of public or private insurance, make care affordable, and delivers good benefits.

Volunteers will deliver the “job applications” to Grassley’s office next week. Although he’s not going to change his mind about a public health insurance option, we can show how out of touch he is with Iowans.

Fortunately, a group of Senate Democrats are strongly committed to the public option, dimming prospects for a bipartisan compromise on health care that would please Grassley.

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Health Care for America Now running new tv ad in Iowa

Health Care for America Now launched television commercials in 10 key states today. Here is the Iowa version (click here to view the others):

It’s a good ad. As Jason Rosenbaum writes,

This is the vision of a public health insurance option. Contrary to Republican talking points, nothing in the proposed plans for a public health insurance option would take away your choices and your relationship with your doctor. Nothing.

If you donate at least $10 to keep this ad on the air, Health Care for America Now will send you  a “high-quality, union-made t-shirt” (view the shirt here).

I’m also looking forward to seeing the commercials Blue America has in the works, which you can support by donating here.

Even if you can’t afford to make a donation, you can express your support for the public option by signing the petition at StandWithDrDean.com and sending an e-mail to your senators.

It wouldn’t hurt to contact your House representatives to let them know we need a public option. If the final bill out of the Senate ends up looking like the latest draft circulating in the Senate Finance Committee, we’re going to need House Democrats to vote this sham reform down.

UPDATE: According to slinkerwink at Daily Kos, the House Democrats’ draft health care bill does contain a public option. Thanks to members of the Progressive Caucus, including Iowa’s Dave Loebsack, for making this happen.

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No one could have seen this coming

I’m shocked, shocked to read that

Hospitals and insurance companies said Thursday that President Obama had substantially overstated their promise earlier this week to reduce the growth of health spending.

Mr. Obama invited health industry leaders to the White House on Monday to trumpet their cost-control commitments. But three days later, confusion swirled in Washington as the companies’ trade associations raced to tamp down angst among members around the country.

Jason Rosenbaum has more on the story at Health Care for America Now.

Looks like the White House was a bit too eager to herald a breakthrough with various interest groups that want to block serious health care reform.

I think David Sirota was on to something when he wrote on Monday,

Isn’t President Obama legitimizing voices that will use that added credibility later on to try to derail serious health care reform? Today’s press conference has the President of the United States effectively saying that the health insurance industry should have a major seat at the health-reform table – and that it should be trusted. But any serious health care reform will need to take on the health insurance industry in a way that will make that industry unhappy. When that eventually happens, won’t the previous efforts to legitimize the health insurance industry’s voice add credibility to its opposition to reform? […]

Obama’s political calculus throughout his life has been to avoid making enemies. He seems to believe that he can make lots of different interests happy – and on many issues, that’s certainly possible. But on some issues, like health care, it’s a binary fight: Either you appease the health industry and preserve the status quo they are making big bucks off of, or you take on the health industry and make real change. Touting the industry’s “voluntary” commitment to not rip off consumers seems more in the appeasing camp than in the “real change” camp.

Obama won’t be able to get the health care reform we need without making enemies among those who profit from the current system. When push comes to shove, he may need a dose of FDR’s “I Welcome Their Hatred” tonic.

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Memo to Chuck Grassley: It's not 1993 anymore

Senator Chuck Grassley laid out his case against a “government-run” health care plan on the Senate floor yesterday. He used some of the same arguments he’s been making in conference calls with reporters and in his guest editorial at Politico.

I don’t know whether Grassley and the insurance lobby will be able to scare Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus away from supporting a public health insurance option.

However, after reading the highlights from recent opinion research that Richard Kirsch summarized at the Health Care for America Now blog, I am confident that the American public will not buy rehashed Republican talking points from 1993. For more on this point, follow me after the jump.

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Help Bleeding Heartland cover Health Care for America Now forums

I receive notices for many upcoming events I’m unable to attend, even though they would provide good material for a post at Bleeding Heartland.

Health Care for America Now has scheduled forums across the country this spring, including three in Iowa during the next month. The forums in Ottumwa and Sioux City will focus on rural health care reform and are co-hosted by the Center for Rural Affairs, Iowa Farmers Union, Iowa Citizen Action Network, Working Families Win, and Health Care for America Now Iowa.

The organizers are willing to accredit someone to cover each Iowa event for Bleeding Heartland. Please send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) or post a comment in this thread if you are interested in attending one of these forums, taking notes and posting a diary about it later.

Wednesday, April 15 from 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Host: Charlie Wishman

Location: Ottumwa Public Library, 102 W 4th St in Ottumwa. Click here for more event information.

Wednesday, April 22 from 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Host: Charlie Wishman

Location: Western Iowa Tech, 4647 Stone Ave in Sioux City. Click here for more event information.

The Des Moines event is a longer symposium on what needs to be done to get health care reform passed in 2009. Co-sponsors include Health Care for America Now, the 1st Unitarian Church, RESULTS, AFSCME Council 61, and Every Child Matters.

Saturday, May 2 from 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Host: Charlie Wishman

Location: 1st Unitarian Church, 1800 Bell Ave in Des Moines. Click here for more information.

I’ll post a more detailed calendar of events this week later today or this evening.

This thread is for any comments about health care reform or good organizing work going on around Iowa.

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What's At Stake: Life, Liberty, Happiness

(Thanks to Jason for this important diary. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The longer we delay fixing the health care system – reigning in costs, covering everyone, and fairly sharing risk – the harder it will be to reform the system at all. And it's not just because America is currently facing, in the words of just about everyone, “the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression.” As David Lightman and Kevin G. Hall point out today in McClatchy Newspapers, the simple demographics will be against us if we wait:

Beginning in 2011, the first wave of baby boomers – Americans born between 1946 and 1964 – will reach official retirement age. From that point forward, the federal government's finances will be strained, as more and more Americans retire expecting a shrinking number of active workers to pay their promised health and pension benefits.

To put it more starkly: Medicare's trustees project the hospital insurance fund will become insolvent in about 10 years, as its expenditures grow at a 7.4 percent annual rate. The government, the trustees said, will need $342 billion to cover insurance costs during that period.

“The longer action on reforming health care and Social Security is delayed, the more painful and difficult the choices will become,” said a Government Accountability Office study in June. “The federal government faces increasing pressures, yet a shrinking window of opportunity for phasing in adjustments.”

Medicare, the report said, “represents a much larger, faster-growing and more immediate problem than Social Security.”

A series of factors are driving up Medicare costs. According to the GAO and the trustees, medical technology is often overused; the health care market doesn't operate on a supply-and-demand basis as people often don't shop for the lowest price; and chronic health problems – such as obesity or substance abuse – require expensive, lengthy treatment.

Medicare (and similarly, Medicaid) face such staggering budget shortfalls to a large extent as a consequence of America's private, patchwork health care system. Preventative care is less costly in the long run, yet, because the health insurance industry has been so deregulated as to allow them to deny care at every opportunity and price care out of the reach of millions, America has 47 million uninsured and millions more under-insured. This means millions of Americans don't see their doctor as regularly as they should to catch medical problems early before they become costly emergencies. And, as the economy sinks, people are cutting back on care, making the problem worse.

Medicare (and to some extent, Medicaid) functions essentially as a high risk pool, a group of people (in this case, the elderly) who are less profitable to insurance companies because they use so much health care. High risk pools, basically by definition, don't work. If the theory of insurance is to spread out risk (everyone in a system all pay into a pot so when one person needs to use their coverage, that cost can be absorbed by everyone), then high risk pools make no sense. Putting everyone who you know are going to use a lot of health insurance into the same pot and asking them to share costs is silly – there are no “low risk” people in the system to absorb some of the cost. And because everyone at some time in their life is “high risk” for large health insurance costs (everyone eventually gets sick or old), Medicare functions as a dumping ground for the private insurance industry. Private insurance takes monthly premiums from the young and healthy all their life, and when they get old and sick (and unprofitable), they are dumped on the government.

This is why Medicare is projected to be the largest driver of the national debt in the near future, and, because baby boomers are about to enter the system in huge numbers, this is why health reform needs to happen in this country immediately.

Simply getting everybody covered adequately would be a huge step forward. A guarantee of a certain level of care, no matter if you're on private or public insurance plans, would make sure people receive the care they need throughout their life, lowering overall costs. A subsidized public insurance plan that would take everybody would go a long way towards eliminating the number of people in America without insurance. And regulating all insurance plans – public and private – to make sure they cover pre-existing conditions and can't dump “unprofitable” customers would ensure risk is shared fairly, as it is meant to be.

This, of course, is Health Care for America Now's vision, shared by 83 Members of Congress, including Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Contrast that with the conservative vision, championed by John McCain:

  • Less regulation on insurance companies to do away with state based insurance, allowing companies to set up shop in the states with the least regulation and forcing Americans to shop on their own for health insurance.
  • Taxing your employee health benefits, doing away with the employer-based system
  • Funding a paltry tax credit (which goes straight to the insurance industry) with cuts to Medicare and Medicaid

No guarantee of care, no incentive to promote prevention, no fair risk sharing, and a plan that is estimated to grow the ranks of the uninsured in America by 5 million in just five years.

There is a clear difference here, and that's why it's so important to make health care a priority in this election and immediately after the next president is inaugurated. It seems the nation is waking up to that difference, too. In the past few weeks, health care has been a focus of some excellent debate questions, it has been targeted in campaign advertisements, and the subject of numerous news stories. And of course, Health Care for America Now has thrown our hat into the ring, spending $4.3 million to put advertisements about John McCain's health care plan (as well as 7 congressional candidates) on the air across the country:

America is finally having the health care debate it needs to be having. What's at stake is our economy, our national debt, our health, and our happiness. Let's just hope the urgency is still there in January.

(also posted at MyDD and the NOW! blog)

I'm proud to work for Health Care for America Now.

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Make the call for health care!

(Thanks to Jason for this cross-post. Not only is our employer-based health insurance system unreliable, it's not even cost-effective. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Click to call your member of Congress and demand quality, affordable health care!82% of Americans think our health care system needs a “major overhaul.” On top of that, over 90% of Americans [pdf] think the next President and Congress should improve the quality and affordability of health care.

With the worsening economy continuing to be the top issue for most Americans, this hope for change isn't hard to understand. American health care spending is projected to reach a full 1/5th of our GDP by 2015, which means by then, we'll be spending twenty cents of every dollar we make on health care. Health care premiums have risen 86% between 2000 and 2006 while wages only rose 20%, putting the strain on working families. Health care costs continue to be the #1 cause of bankruptcy in America.

Americans are paying $217 million for health care per hour. Meanwhile, insurance industry profits have risen 1,000% in the past five years.

According the to Government Accountability Office, health care reform is necessary to keep our country on the right track:

“Rapidly rising health care costs are not simply a federal budget problem,” the GAO report says. “Growth in health-related spending is the primary driver of the fiscal challenges facing state and local governments as well. Unsustainable growth in health care spending also threatens to erode the ability of employers to provide coverage to their workers and undercuts their ability to compete in a global marketplace.”

Quite simply, with rising health care costs (including $50 billion per year to pay for insurance industry advertising) being born out by working families and American businesses, health care is a top economic concern. To keep American workers at their best, and to keep American business competitive in the world, something has to change.

Nancy Pelosi has recently declared health care expansion to be #2 on her list of legislative priorities, right after ending the Iraq war. In the past month, tens of thousands of Americans have told us they want quality, affordable health care for all. Now it's time to ask Congress.

So, Congress, which side are you on? Are you with us for quality, affordable health care for all? Or are you with the insurance companies, working to preserve our broken system?

We've set up a quick and easy way for you to contact your Members of Congress and ask them if they support our vision for health care reform. Just click here and enter in your phone number and address. Choose the elected official you want to talk to and in a few moments, we'll call your phone and connect you automatically.

Over the next few weeks, we want to make 100,000 calls to Congress, asking every Member which side they are on. We need your help to do it, so please click here to call!

Once your done with your call, tell us what happened so we can keep track of where Congress stands. As of today, we're proud to announce Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), are with us. The rest, so far, are unknown. You can see the full list here.

Health care is a priority for the American people. It's a priority for Nancy Pelosi. It's up to us to make sure it's a priority for Congress as well. Please take a moment, call your Members of Congress, and ask them which side they are on.

Oh, and if you have a blog or website, you can help spread the word about this campaign by embedding the widget you see above on your site. Just copy and paste the code here.

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