CommonHealth Newsletter - Fall 2009


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Fall 2009 issue of "CommonHealth," the biannual newsletter of the Universal Health Care Education Fund (UHCEF) and Mass-Care.

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CommonHealth Newsletter - Fall 2009

  1. 1. UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE EDUCATION FUND ~ VOLUME 3, NUMBER 3 ~ FALL 2009 CommonHealth Insurance Companies - The Real Death Panels Civil Disobedience at Cigna in Newton The arrests were made when eleven demonstrators attemptedHow does the health insurance industry make billions of to present a pledge form to Cigna asking them to: (1) not getdollars in profits each year - by denying care, rescinding between patients and doctors in making medical decisions, (2)policies, and refusing to insure people who have preexisting not use health premium dollars to lobby against health careconditions or who fit the demographics of high risk reform, (3) not deny care because of preexisting conditions, andindividuals. Denial of care has lead to thousands of deaths (4) end company policy of rewarding employees for denying care.each year. Cigna refused to sign the pledge and had the protesters arrested for “trespassing”. Cigna’s actions illustrate the underlying “modus operandi” of the health insurance industry; to make money on the backs of sick people without regard to the human consequences. The major for-profit companies have paid out billions of dollars in settlements for securities fraud, underpaying physicians and violating disability clauses. The insurance companies are spending millions of our health premium dollars to confuse and scare the public and lobby against healthcare reform. It’s time to vote the real villains out! Speak to your state and national senators and representatives. - Pat Berger, Mass-Care Co-Chair Boston Blue Cross-Blue Shield Protest October 29th Pat Berger front and center (Massachusetts Jobs with Justice photo)To draw attention to the insurance industry atrocities, actsof civil disobedience are being carried out across thecountry. Mass-Care participated in a protest at Cignaheadquarters in Newton on October 15. that culminated inthe arrest of 11 protesters. Dr. Pat Berger, Ben Day, LorieMiller and Walter DuCharme from Mass-Care were in thegroup that was jailed in Newton. Protesters against Cigna ineight other cities were arrested on the same day.The protest began with around 75 people chanting and Ann Eldridge Malone, Alliance to Defend Health Carecarrying signs. Then 15 protesters staged a “die-in”. The (Sandy Eaton photo)“dying” patients lay on the ground holding balloons withdollar signs on them which were gleefully collected by a Universal Health Care Education Fund c/o Mass-Caredemonstrator “CEO” delighted to make off with a bundle of 33 Harrison Avenue, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02111money. P: 617-723-7001, F: 617-723-7002
  2. 2. UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE EDUCATION FUND ~ VOLUME 3, NUMBER 3 ~ FALL 2009 Mass-Care in Washington Hardball Time: An Editorial Lobby & Rally to Celebrate Medicare When you come right down to it, the Weiner gambit to substitute aThe 44th anniversary of Medicare was celebrated by a single-payer bill for the Massachusetts plan writ large was always amajor rally in Washington, DC on July 30th. Mass-Care symbolic gesture, but one much of the health reform movement clungsent a delegation which included Pat Berger, Ben Day, to as a test of our strength at the grassroots level. Weve workedSandy Eaton, Frank Olbris, Alice Swift, Diana Stein, hard for years now to pressure our representatives in Congress toKathleen Bridgewater, Jackie Balance and Jackie Wolf, stand up for HR.676, the Conyers-Kucinich Medicare-for-all bill. Andamong others. IBEW DC representative John Wash and weve not been afraid to play hardball with them. Some suggest thatVerizon worker John Horgan from Local 2222 joined us the corrupting influence of the health insurance industry and otherin Senator Kerry’s office. Our delegation joined with pigs at the trough is at play here, and of course they’re right. Butother organizations from across the country at the theres an additional factor, the lack-of-backbone factor. Theres arally to get Single Payer healthcare reform on the reluctance to step out of line and be identified as a die-hard opponenttable, and to debunk the idea that the current of greedy corporations, the real death panels. The Republican PartyMassachusetts law should be a “model” for the country. and the tea baggers will target you next year and make your life a living hell. So everyone plays hardball except the Democratic Party majority. The screaming tea baggers have set the agenda, and we havent consolidated our power enough to move in a different direction. The Kucinich Amendment to grant states the waivers necessary to succeed at creating a breakthrough for real healthcare reform was our best hope to make a difference. And it too has been declared off the table. This is where we need to take a stand. But we cannot afford any illusions here either. Some imply that the fact that California twice passed a single-payer bill harkens well for our movement. We need to be aware that the California constitution requires bills with funding mandates to pass by two thirds. So the California bill lacked a funding provision. However, the passage of the bill, twice, was vital for movement building, but of itself was symbolic, not practical. In Massachusetts for years we wrestled with the question of whether toJackie Wolf, Frank Olbris, Ben Day, Sandy Eaton, Alice Swift, include a funding mechanism in our single-payer bill. For years our Pat Berger (Jackie Balance photo) legislative sponsors counseled us not to. For the last several sessions we have included such a funding piece. But either with or without theThe Mass-Care group lobbied the Massachusetts funding, our bill never came out of committee, no matter howCongressional delegation to support Representative compelling our arguments at hearings or how many prestigiousConyers’ bill HR.676 and Bernie Sanders’ bill SB.703, individuals and dedicated grass-roots people we mobilized at the Stateand warned that the rising costs of the Massachusetts House. Several years ago a delegation from Mass-Care had a heart-to-“model” and lack of cost control mechanisms will make heart talk with the House chair of the Joint Committee on Healththe system unsustainable in the long term. We met with Care, where she admitted that nothing comes out of her committeethe aides of Senators Kennedy and Kerry, and of without the approval of the health insurance industry. In other words,Representatives Barney Frank, Niki Tsongas, Richard single payer has been declared off the table here too. So maybeNeal and Stephen Lynch. We joined a rousing rally of California or Massachusetts wont be the US equivalent ofover one thousand people held at noon outside the Saskatchewan, but maybe Vermont, Maine, or any of the other statesCapitol, where we heard President Obama’s former will make the breakthrough and set the example for the speak, as well as patients who have been hurt bythe insurance industry. Congressional Single Payer We are working hard to get Bernie Sanders initiatives in place. Theleaders addressed the crowd, including Senator Bernie movement is hoping to get ten senators to vote from the floor forSanders and Representatives Conyers, Kucinich and Bernies single-payer substitution proposal (S.703), and many areothers from Pennsylvania, New York and California. - hoping that the state-waiver piece to facilitate single payer will bePat Berger, Mass-Care Co-Chair included in the Senate version and survive conference. So put the heat on Washington to stand up for this opportunity to win at the state level. Give them some backbone. - Sandy Eaton, RN, Editor
  3. 3. UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE EDUCATION FUND ~ VOLUME 3, NUMBER 3 ~ FALL 2009 Massachusetts Fights for Single Payer Massachusetts Health Care Trust HearingProgressive forces, including Mass-Care, successfully HB.2127 was heard before the Joint Committee on Public Healthrolled back an attempt to weaken the Democratic Party on October 20th. Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) andPlatform at the Springfield convention on June 6th, Representative Matt Patrick (D-Falmouth) are its lead sponsors.preserving that party’s support for single payer. A score of diverse backers offered compelling testimony as to the bankruptcy of the existing system in Massachusetts and the need for the fundamental reform, single payer. Mass-Care will convene a summit of constituent group representatives and advisory board members in January to plot our course ahead. Small Business Health Insurance Survey Cambridge & Western Massachusetts Small businesses are suffering cost increases in health insurance premiums by as much as 25% - 40% annually. This is unsustainable. Businesses would benefit tremendously from a Single Payer system because they would no longer have to manage and pay for health insurance for their employees and would allow them to be more competitive in the market. Mass- Care is directing a survey of the cost of healthcare for small businesses and is identifying business people who will partner with Mass-Care to support Single Payer reform. A Mass-Care intern, Kevin Chithran, Tufts University School of Public Health graduate student, has been conducting the surveyDelegates Frank Olbris (MTA) & Patty Healey (MNA) on of 150 businesses that were randomly selected from thethe convention floor. (PDA photo) Cambridge Local First membership list of 280 businesses. Forty- five small business owners and managers completed the survey –Mass-Care and allies fight for equal health care for a 30% response rate.immigrants in Massachusetts as Chapter 58 (theMassachusetts Plan) proves inadequate and not Selected results from Chithran’s initial report include the factsustainable. that 64% of the small business owners support or strongly support replacing the current health care system with a single payer plan. Only 18% opposed or strongly opposed single payer. Also interesting were the responses to the question of “How has the Massachusetts health reform law of 2006 influenced the rate of your businesses’ health insurance premiums?” 78% responded their business premiums have increased since the Massachusetts health reform law. A similar survey is planned for the Western Massachusetts area including the Towns of Northampton and Amherst where three Mass-Care interns from the Smith College School of Social Work, Luke Mechen, Kate Kyros and Jillian Robbins, are taking on the work. Jackie Wolf, Mass-Care Co-chair for western Massachusetts is their coordinator. Another project will be an education program about single payer health care to present to college students on campus. Welcome Luke, Kate and Jillian.Mass-Care executive director Benjamin Day addresses There are great opportunities for students to do internships forState House press conference on September 1st, with Mass-Care throughout the year. Please contact Mass-Care if youNASW, CIR and others represented, (Sandy Eaton photo) are interested. - Jackie Wolf, Mass-Care Co-Chair
  4. 4. UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE EDUCATION FUND ~ VOLUME 3, NUMBER 3 ~ FALL 2009 Mass-Care Needs Your Help Sing Out for Single Payer!Thank you everyone for supporting Mass-Care and staying A fantastic folk concert was held in North Amherst on Novemberin the fight for true universal healthcare reform. We are 10th to benefit the education fund of Mass-Care. The concertgrowing, we are being heard, and we will win! But Mass- featured valley folksingers: Tracy Grammer & Jim Henry, CharlieCare needs your help now! King, Pat & Tex LaMountain, Jay Mankita, Annie Patterson, Sarah Pirtle, Roger Tincknell, and Peter Blood – Master of Ceremonies. Ben Day, executive Director of Mass-Care gave a great update on Volunteer Talents health care reform and a local doctor, Kate Atkinson, gave a superb talk on the intrusion of the insurance industry into medicalWe need: practice. Jackie Wolf, who helped coordinate the event with Alice Swift, stated, “People were so energized by the end of the1. A media person who knows how to get out a message evening that quite a number stayed after the event to keep to the editorial boards of newspapers, radio and TV talking.” Mary Grace Farley arranged for delicious home baked stations. goodies supplied by many of the co-sponsoring organizations of2. A person to improve the communications with our the event. These organizations included the American Friends member organizations, now over 100! Service Committee (Western Massachusetts), Franklin/3. A minority person to work on healthcare disparity Hampshire Health Care Coalition, League of Women Voters of issues including race, gender, disability, immigrant Amherst and the Northampton Area, Massachusetts Nurses status, sexual orientation and financial status. Association, Pioneer Valley Social Workers for Peace and Justice, Traprock Center for Peace and Justice, Western Massachusetts4. A fundraiser/grant writer/event planner. Jobs with Justice, Western Massachusetts PDA and the Western5. A business person to help in starting an active Massachusetts Single Payer Network. “Business for Single Payer” group.6. A website person to keep us updated with the latest articles and events. FundingWe are fortunate to have several committed donors whoare matching the first $5,000 contributed in this end ofyear fundraising drive. Your dollars will be doubled whenyou give before the end of the year. We need yourfinancial support to move our Health Care Trust billforward and continue the educational outreach needed toget Everybody In & Nobody Out! Please be as generousas you can. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Althoughsocial change cannot come overnight, we must always workas though it were a possibility in the morning.” Thank youfor your support! CommonHealth, Volume 3, Number 3: Director: Benjamin Day Editor: Sandy Eaton (Alice Swift photo) Production: Erin Servaes Many other Mass-Care fundraising activities have included Printing compliments of Massachusetts Nurses Association successful house parties hosted by Roz Feldberg and Judy Norsigian in Newton and John Blanchard in Natick. Plans are underway for a benefit showing of Michael Moore’s new film Capitalism: A Love Story either in Newton or Brookline. - Alice Swift