# Health Care

Public outcry prompts Pacificare to approve cancer patient's treatment

I laugh when I hear conservatives try to scare people with their talk of “socialized medicine” leading to “rationing” of health care. As almost anyone who has dealt with a private insurance company can tell you, health care is routinely rationed in the U.S. already.

I mentioned a particularly outrageous case recently, in which Pacificare was denying treatment to a 17-year-old cancer patient.

Well, after the story spread all over the internet and the phones started ringing, Pacificare reversed itself and authorized the treatment.

Let’s hope it’s not too late for this kid, like it was for Nataline Sarkisyan.

More on the health care crisis in the U.S.

A few posts down I mentioned a report from Families USA about how many Americans die prematurely because they lacked health insurance. Someone from that organization was kind enough to send me the link to the full report referenced by the Des Moines Register (pdf file).

The press release that accompanied the report is after the jump. Here is a particularly depressing excerpt:

* Families USA estimates that nearly three working-age Iowans die each week due to lack of health insurance (approximately 140 people in 2006).

* Between 2000 and 2006, the estimated number of adults between the ages of 25 and 64 in Iowa who died because they did not have health insurance was more than 800.

* Across the United States, in 2006, twice as many people in that same age category died from a lack of health insurance as died from homicide.

Of course, the media coverage devoted to homicides far exceeds the coverage devoted to people who die because they lack health insurance.

Here’s hoping that when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have their next debate, journalists allow them to talk about health care and other issues.

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Our health care system is a national disgrace

Over at Open Left, fladem wrote this diary about the relationship between economic inequality and life expectancy in the U.S. Poor people don’t live as long as wealthier people for a lot of reasons, one of which is that they are less likely to have health insurance.

I totally agree with fladem’s take on the situation:

a more damning indictment of our health system I could not imagine.

The right always argues that socialized medicine will lead us to “ration health care.”  Of course, what they don’t tell you, and what this article makes clear, is that markets are rationing health care just fine on their own. No, I have never thought that conservatives mind health care rationing so long as they get their health care.

The Des Moines Register published this editorial a few days ago citing a report by Families USA about the number of Americans who die because they lacked health insurance. An estimated three Iowans die every week for this reason, though that cause is not listed in their obituaries.

This doesn’t surprise me a bit, as my scary run-in with an infection last month could have turned out much worse if I had delayed seeking treatment, as many uninsured people do. But as the Register noted, the cause of death in such a situation would never be listed as “lacked health insurance.”

The latest issue of Mothering magazine (no link, article not available online yet) had a harrowing story about the high rates of infant mortality and maternal mortality in the U.S., compared to other industrialized countries.

If you have the stomach to read them, nyceve’s series of diaries on “murder by spreadsheet” are essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the shameful inequities in our health care system.

Her latest piece is about how the for-profit insurance industry has denied limbs to many amputees. Absolutely horrendous stories in that diary.

Someday we will have a presidential nominee, and I hope that person will focus some attention on economic inequality and inadequate access to health care.

UPDATE: nyceve posted a diary today: Pacificare denies 17-year-old cancer patient lifesaving treatment. Read it and weep.

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Roundup of legislative action this week

Lots going on in the state legislature this week, so here are some quick hits:

The ban on smoking in public places has gone to a conference committee after the House approved a version that would fail to protect many bar and restaurant employees. The version passed by the Senate bans smoking in all bars and restaurants, along with most other public places. Senator Staci Appel chairs the conference committee.

On a party-line vote of 52-47, the House approved a measure backed by unions that

greatly expands the issues that unions can negotiate. Under the proposal, unions could negotiate such issues as insurance carriers, class sizes and overtime compensation.

Advocates say the proposal would better protect public employees. Opponents said it would strip power away from locally elected officials, placing more decision-making power in the hands of unions.

Republicans say that bill would lead to tax increases, and brought Senate business to a halt on Thursday in an effort to block debate on the proposal.

Watch for some fireworks in the Senate over this issue, starting next Monday:

But about 24 hours after Republican senators first holed up in a back room Thursday morning, refusing to debate the labor-backed bill, lawmakers agreed to end the stand-off today.

Democrats agreed to wait until Monday to debate the controversial bill, and Republicans agreed to limit debate to no longer than six hours.


The stalemate idled and irritated Democratic lawmakers, who were eager to go home to their families for the Easter holidays. At least two Democratic lawmakers stayed awake at their desks the entire night, while most left to get some sleep.

This morning, the Republican leader, Ron Wieck of Sioux City, offered what his staff called “an olive branch.”

“We will allow the bill to be read in, have a subcommittee and full committee hearing in an effort to move it to the Senate floor,” Wieck said in a statement. “This would then make the bill funnel proof and eligible for debate for the rest of the session.”


“Senate Republicans, however, refuse to allow a radical expansion of union power, at the expense of the taxpayer, move forward without more public comment,” the e-mailed statement says.

Meanwhile, attorneys are warning that the proposed worker-ID law which has not been approved yet “likely will face multiple constitutional challenges.”

The Interfaith Alliance Action Fund issued a statement last month detailing many problems with the worker-ID proposal.

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Obama criticizes Edwards, Clinton health care plans

I think Barack Obama made a mistake earlier this year by proposing a health care plan that was less than universal. First Edwards and later Clinton outflanked him on that issue with proposals that would cover every American.

So speaking to voters in Council Bluffs, Obama made the case against mandatory health care insurance:


Health care insurance should not become a government mandate, Barack Obama said here today, referencing plans posed by John Edwards and Hillary Clinton.

Obama said such mandates for health care coverage is a wrong step. He told a crowd of about 350 people at Thomas Jefferson High School that his plan would lower costs on average by about $2,500 per family, making health care affordable for all without placing demands.

He compared Clinton and Edwards’ proposed mandates to car insurance, noting that some states with required auto insurance still have a pocket of 15 or more percent that still go without coverage even though it’s illegal.

“Their essential argument is the only way to get everybody covered is if the government forces you to buy health insurance. If you don’t buy it, then you’ll be penalized in some way,” Obama said. “What I have said repeatedly is that the reason people don’t have health insurance isn’t because they don’t want it, it’s because they can’t afford it.”

Of course many of the uninsured cannot afford coverage now, but many are currently uninsurable, which would change with better regulation of insurance companies and more options for the public (such as letting people buy into a public plan).

Also, the Edwards and Clinton plans include many things that would lower premium costs, making it easier for more people to afford coverage.

The experts on health care policy say you need mandates to get everyone covered. But even leaving that aside, Obama ignores the fact that the president has to set the bar very high in terms of what he asks Congress to pass.

Maybe a comprehensive universal health care plan would not pass during the first year of the next administration. But you don't take the compromise that you might need to settle for and make that your starting offer to Congress.


I have written about this before. My biggest concern about Obama as potential president is that in his desire to appear post-partisan and conciliatory, he would give half the game away before negotiations with the other side begin.

If Obama won't even submit a universal plan to Congress, then what he would get out of Congress would be even less than what he is advocating.

Now, the conservative New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper has praised Obama's health care plan as “a smaller pill to swallow” (hat tip to MyDD user “silver spring,” a Clinton supporter). Of course, conservatives would prefer not to do anything to expand health care coverage. If I'm running for president in the Democratic primary, I don't think I want Republicans praising my health care plan because it does less than other Democrats' plans.

UPDATE: Ezra Klein, one of the blogosphere's leading wonks on health care policy, weighs in on “Obama's excuse”.

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Biden releases health care plan in Des Moines

I'll be honest, I haven't had a chance to read the whole thing yet. But you can see the highlights here:


Skimming the plan, it appears that Biden would not make health insurance mandatory, so this is not quite a universal health care plan (as Edwards and Clinton have proposed).

Under Biden's plan, all children would be covered, and steps would be taken to improve adults' access to health insurance, including a Federal Employee Health Benefit Buy-In and a Medicare Buy-In for adults age 55 to 64.

This seems most similar to Obama's health care proposal, which also would put us on the road toward covering all children and more adults. 

I like that the consensus Democratic position has moved much further toward universal health care reform than we were a few years ago. 

Also, all of the Democratic candidates are supporting common-sense policies like letting Medicare negotiate for lower drug prices. 

What do you think? 

Highlights: John Edwards at the AARP forum

For the past several Tuesdays, I have been posting diaries in support of John Edwards on the front page of MyDD.

This week I wrote a diary about Edwards' performance at the AARP forum in Davenport last Thursday. I thought it was a strong debate for all who participated, but I wanted to call attention to some particularly strong moments for Edwards.

The diary is long, so I put it after the jump. I welcome your feedback.

Tomorrow night there's another MSNBC debate. I don't have high hopes for the quality of the discussion, given the format and moderation of the previous debates hosted by that network. 

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Nurse Ad re: Clinton's Healthcare Plan Debuts in Iowa

The second in the series of ads challenging Democratic Presidential candidates to get serious on healthcare launches in Iowa today—addressing Sen. Clinton—while nurses and doctors will converge on an upcoming Presidential forum with their critiques. 


We'll take a look, cross-posted at the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association’s Breakroom Blog, as we organize to make 2007 the Year of GUARANTEED healthcare on the single-payer model.



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Guaranteed Healthcare & Iowa

Out of Iowa comes two great pieces of news for those of us who want the Democratic presidential candidates to get serious on healthcare: a new series of television ads is launching today by a group of activist nurses and doctors, and labor is endorsing guaranteed healthcare on the single-payer model.


Cross-posted at the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association’s Breakroom Blog, as we organize to make 2007 the Year of GUARANTEED healthcare on the single-payer model.



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Health Care for All: The Dodd Plan

Today Senator Dodd unveiled his plan for universal, affordable health care coverage at a kitchen table conversation in Marion, Iowa.  

“The failed leadership and misplaced priorities of the last six years have put the health of our middle class at risk,” said Dodd. “In order to address the health of America's middle class, we have to address soaring health care costs. That is why I am proposing a health care plan that provides for affordable, universal coverage.”

“By establishing the Universal HealthMart, individuals would be guaranteed affordable health care coverage,” said Dodd. “America deserves a health care system that provides universal, affordable coverage through universal responsibility shared by employers, individuals, insurance companies and the government.”

The Dodd Plan will:

* Ensures all Americans will have quality, affordable health coverage during Chris Dodd's first term.

* The Dodd plan will create a health insurance marketplace called Universal HealthMart that is based on, and parallel to, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP).

* Individuals and businesses will contribute to Universal HealthMart based on their ability to pay.

* Premiums will be affordable based on leveraged negotiating power, spreading risk, reduced administrative costs, and incentives for technology and preventive care.

* Coverage will be portable — insurance purchased in Universal HealthMart will follow individuals.

You can read the full Dod health care plan here.

We've also created a page that compares the Dodd plan to that of other Democratic presidential candidates. You can see how the Dodd plan stacks up to the Obama, Edwards, Richardson, and Clinton plans here.

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Hillary Clinton "Town Hall" on Good Morning America

“Town Hall” in quotes in the title because, not unlike a Bush ’04 event, questions are being screened.  The theme of the town hall is “health care,” so it makes some sense to screen out the sensible priority spammers, but don’t look for any tough questions about her failed handling of the health care initiative during the first Clinton administration either.  If you watch it and feel like the questions are a little too softball, let Jennifer Wlach at ABC know what you thought.

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