CommonHealth Newsletter - Fall 2007


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Fall 2007 issue of "CommonHealth," the biannual newsletter of the Universal Health Care Education Fund (UHCEF) and Mass-Care.

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CommonHealth Newsletter - Fall 2007

  1. 1. CommonHealth Volume 2, Number 5 ~ Fall 2007 Universal Health Care Education Fund MASS-CARE on the Move! Words from the Co-ChairsJackie Wolf and Pat Berger have each identified aphrase for this issue of CommonHealth that illustrateswhere we are in the campaign for Single Payer healthcare.Pat’s phrase is “the tide is turning” (coming from a loverof the ocean). Let’s start with Al Gore coming out for aSingle Payer health care system! If he pushes for singlepayer as he has with global warming, we will really bewinners! More locally, Gov. Michael Dukakis is supportingSingle Payer health care and has agreed to join theAdvisory Board of MASS-CARE! Single payer hit the bigscreen with Michael Moore’s movie “SiCKO” and exposedhow the insurance industry avoids taking care of sickpeople so the companies can make more money. The members have been invited to speak before civic clubsMassachusetts Medical Society added Single Payer to and organizations around the state. Jim Herbertthe options for achieving universal health care. This is a (MASS-CARE) has done a great job contacting Rotarybig step for this venerable organization and hopefully will Clubs around the Boston area; Diana Stein (MASS-CAREmean that it will no longer testify against the Single and League of Women Voters [LWV] member), Jim andPayer Health Care Trust Bill S.703. The tide is turning Jackie have been well received in Winchester, Wakefield,because we the people know that single payer saves Malden and Stoneham. There have been two opportunitiesmoney, covers everybody and makes access to for Jackie to be on programs with members of thecomprehensive health care a right for all residents. If we Connector Board – once for the LWV fall conference incan continue to educate our legislators about Single Payer Quincy with Celia Wcislo, and another time in Sudbury forand expand our coalition, we will turn the tide for good! the LWV along with Dolores Mitchell. Sandy Eaton and Jackie Wolf gave a workshop on single payer for theJackie’s phrase is about outreach and action: “call us and Massachusetts Senior Action Council biennial conventionwe’ll come.” The outreach work of MASS-CARE is in Worcester. Finally, Cheryl Hamlin, MD (MASS-CARE,building steam. Since the last Newsletter, members of the PNHP and League member) and Jackie Wolf talked withMASS-CARE coalition have been at fairs from the medical and graduate nursing students at UMass Medicalwestern to the eastern part of the state handing out School in Worcester. More talks are scheduled all the timeliterature and asking people to sign petitions for S.703 – so back to our phrase: “Call us and we’ll come!”and HR.676. Here’s the flavor of one exchange: “I sawthe Principal of Amherst Regional High School at theGarlic Festival in Orange, MA. He asked: ‘In one or two This issue: Executive Director Benjamin Day;sentences, tell me why I should support S.703’? My reply Editor, Sandy Eaton; copy: Pat Berger, Carol Caro, Sandywas, ‘When your daughter grows up, she will never have to Eaton, Jackie Wolf; photos: Sandy Eaton, Pam Edwards;worry about having health care.’ He signed the petition layout: Erin Servaes, Chris Doucette; printing complimentsright away.” of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.In addition to tabling at fairs, MASS-CARE coalition
  2. 2. Scrubs for SiCKO moderate stands on solving the problems. Their positions take incremental steps that won’t offend the insuranceIn June, nursing organizations across North America and pharmaceutical industries, but won’t end thelinked arms with Physicians for a National Health Program suffering of millions of families who can’t affordin promoting the “Scrubs for SiCKO” campaign, using the necessary medical care.window of opportunity provided by Michael Moore’s latestdocumentary. This campaign was launched at a spirited Senator Dennis Kucinich is the only major-partyrally on the steps of the California state capitol in candidate who has espoused a single-payer national healthcare system and supports Representative Conyers’ bill HR.676 (strenthened and improved Medicare for all) in Congress. All the other candidates, both Republican and Democratic, support building on the existing employer- based private healthcare system instead of replacing it with a government–run system that would be truly universal, equitable and comprehensive. In the Democratic camp Senator Clinton and Senator Edwards have tried to emulate the Massachusetts plan by advocating an “individual mandate” that would require every American to have insurance. Senator Obama does not endorse the “individual mandate.” To pay for their health plans, Obama, Clinton and Edwards would offer tax credits that would ensure that people pay no more than a certain percentage of their income for health care and would roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Public plans as well as private plans would be available. All threeSacramento and spread to dozens of cities in the would do away with the insurance industry policy offollowing weeks. New England activists came together in excluding coverage to people with previous illnesses.Manchester, fanning out after the town hall meeting tovisit presidential candidates’ campaign headquarters to Gov. Romney is now backing away from some of thedemand support for healthcare justice. Canadian nurses elements of his own Massachusetts plan. He is notreturned home to spread the word that US market supporting the “individual mandate” but wants to shiftmedicine was no good. So SiCKO was promoted in cities health care reform to the states by giving them incentivesacross Canada as well. The DVD edition is out now too. to expand health care coverage and by deregulating the insurance industry to promote more “competition.”In August, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions Former New York mayor Giuliani supports tax breaks forpublished “Conversations with Champions of Medicare” by families to pay for health insurance coverage.Ann Silversides, a bilingual first-person account of thefight to build, preserve and improve Canada’s single-payer As Massachusetts residents we are experiencing firstsystem. This 98-page book can be read in its entirety hand the problems with the incremental health careonline at the CFNU site - - or reforms that are being proposed by the major presidentialit can be downloaded in PDF format. Copies may also be candidates. Dennis Kucinich is the only major-partyobtained by emailing CFNU or by calling 613-526-4661. candidate who really understands what it will take to get true universal healthcare for all Americans. How Candidates View Healthcare Reform Policies in the 2008 Election The Boston Globe featured two Op Ed pieces over the summer that looked at the state of healthcare reform in Massachusetts: one by Steffi Woolhandler and David Himmelstein (September 17, 2007)There are huge problems with our current fragmented and the other by Benjamin Day (August 30, 2007). Woolhandler andexpensive healthcare system that leaves 47 million Himmelstein’s article looks at the effect of health care reform onAmericans without access to health insurance coverage, middle income families and Day reviews what will happen with theranks 37th in the world on quality of care by the World governor’s proposal to limit access to the Free Care Pool. Both articles find big problems ahead for Massachusetts residents.Health Organization, and eats up 16.2% of the GDP. Yetthe major candidates in both parties have taken very
  3. 3. Health reform failure Medicares and 11 times those in Canadas single payer system. Single payer reform could save $7.7 billionWoolhandler & Himmelstein point out “The middle class is annually on paperwork and insurance profits inbeing priced out of healthcare. Virtually all of this years Massachusetts, enough to cover all of the uninsured andincrease [in the number of uninsured] was among families to upgrade coverage for the rest of us.”with incomes above $50,000; in fact, two-thirds of thenewly uncovered were in the above-$75,000 group. And “Of course, single payer reform is anathema to the healthfull-time workers accounted for 56 percent of the insurance industry. But breaking their stranglehold on ourincrease, with their children making up much of the rest.” health system and our politicians is the only way for health reform to get beyond square one.”Their article reports that “The new Census numbers areparticularly disheartening for anyone hoping for aMassachusetts miracle. In the Commonwealth, 651,000residents are uninsured, 65 percent more than the figure The dark side of healthcare reformused by state leaders in planning for health reform. Insum, Massachusetts health reform planners have been Day’s piece on Free Care Pool questions “Why wouldwishing away a quarter of a million uninsured people.” [Governor] Patrick, under the guise of a law designed to expand access to healthcare for everyone, cripple theThe authors question “Why has progress [in signing up states only program that guarantees that low-income,people through the Connector] been so meager? And uninsured residents have a place to land when all elserespond “Because most of the promised new coverage is fails? The answer from administration officials is this: aof the ‘buy it yourself’ variety, with scant help offered to safety net that is too effective at catching people whenthe struggling middle class. And 244,000 of Massachusetts’ they fall through the cracks is incompatible with theuninsured get zero assistance - just a stiff fine if they state’s new health plans. Almost all of those who have beendont buy coverage.” For example, “A couple in their late added to the healthcare rolls under the reform law have50s faces a minimum premium of $8,638 annually, for a come in under fully subsidized, free-coverage plans thatpolicy with no drug coverage at all and a $2,000 deductible dont require premium payments. The partially subsidizedper person before insurance even kicks in. Such skimpy plans, on the other hand, as well as those plans residentsyet costly coverage is, in many cases, worse than no must purchase at full cost, havent exactly been flying offcoverage at all. Illness will still bring crippling medical bills the shelves.”- but the $8,638 annual premium will empty their bankaccounts even before the bills start arriving. “There is clear evidence that the standards for what people can afford to pay under the new law are wildly“Little wonder that barely 2 percent of those required to unrealistic. But state officials implementing the law arguebuy such coverage have thus far signed up. While the that the existence of a working safety net may bemiddle class sinks, the health reform law has buoyed our discouraging enrollment. Commonwealth Carestates wealthiest health institutions. Hospitals like representatives have commented publicly that the FreeMassachusetts General are reporting record profits and Care Pool must be made less attractive.”enjoying rate increases tucked into the reform package.Blue Cross and other insurers that lobbied hard for the law “In the United States, the only developed nation without astand to gain billions from the reform, which shrinks their national universal health plan, the health safety net iscontribution to the states free care pool and will force targeted as a means of corralling the uninsured intohundreds of thousands to purchase their defective traditional insurance plans.” As Day points out, “This does,products.” however, succeed in punishing the poor, throwing low- income communities back on their own resources, and“Health reform built on private insurance isnt working increasing the stigma upon safety net recipients.”and cant work; it costs too much and delivers too little.At present, bureaucracy consumes 31 percent of each Day concludes, “The nation today is looking tohealthcare dollar. The Connector - the new state agency Massachusetts. Are we as a society willing to use ourcreated to broker coverage under the reform law - is neighbors health as an additional stick to punish them foradding another 4.5 percent to the already sky-high deciding they cant afford the states ‘affordable’overhead charged by private insurers. Administrative premiums? I hope not.”costs at Blue Cross are nearly five times higher than
  4. 4. What we can do now to achieve Fundraising single payer health care Single-payer healthcare reform has powerful enemies in1. Volunteer for MASS-CARE! the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Their multimillion dollar ads twist the truth about single payer • We need office volunteers to make phone calls, health care reform and their contributions to lawmakers write letters, stuff envelopes for special mailings. make it harder to get legislative support. • We need volunteers who will work on the Legislative Committee of MASS-CARE to support The Fundraising Committee of MASS-CARE has been hard the bills we have helped sponsor, organize the at work writing grants, soliciting contributions, getting districts of key legislators to support our bills, go matching grants that double our income, and building a to the legislature and lobby legislators, develop base of committed donors that will pledge to give annually. legislative strategy with the committee. Healthcare reform is the most important domestic issue • We need volunteers to work on fundraising; grant in 2008. Electing legislators who will support single payer writers, event planners, single payer signs, stickers will be extremely important in the coming year. and posters, house parties for “SiCKO,” and any new ideas. We need everyone to give generously so we can expand • We need volunteers to help on broadening our our staff to reach more people and be more effective in access to the media; new contacts with pressing for legislation that will lead to single payer newspapers, TV and radio stations, local access TV, reform. We ask you to think big and make MASS-CARE press releases. or UHCEF your favorite charity! All the donors and • We need volunteers to be speakers for Single volunteers are so important in moving us forward. We Payer when groups ask us to come and give a salute you and look forward to working with you in the presentation. We are going to have a speaker’s next year! training session in early 2008.2. Go speak to your legislators and be sure theyunderstand what single payer can do for health care inMA. Keep them informed about new developments onsingle payer and cost control bills that need their support.3. Work on the political campaign of candidates thatsupport single payer.4. Host a house party and show SiCKO, now out onDVD. MASS-CARE will provide speakers to discuss themovie. To find out more about HR.676 and the SiCKO-CureRoad Show, contact: Healthcare-NOW! 339 Lafayette Street New York, NY 10012-2725 800-453-1305 or 212-475-8350 Universal Health Care Education Fund (UHCEF) c/o MASS-CARE 33 Harrison Avenue, Fifth Floor5. Work with your local Town Democratic Committee to Boston, MA 02111support single payer. P: 617-723-7001 F: 617-723-70026. Give generously to support MASS-CARE financially info@masscare.orgbecause this is a crucial year to elect progressive www.masscare.orgcandidates who will support single payer when Chapter 58unravels.