"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including . . . medical care . . ."
Article 25, Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN on December 10, 1948
Hot topic of the autumn
Editor's Note: Maine AllCare president Dr. Julie Pease recently appeared on Community TV's "This Issue" about the hot topic of the autumn, "Obamacare". In this 28-minute discussion with program host Bruce Gagnon, Dr. Pease provides a clear, factual review of the reasons about why we are where we are in health care reform; and more importantly, how can we make real progress here in Maine toward establishing a universal health system, one that is simple, costs less than what we pay today, yet covers everyone.
Please click here, or on the video frame, and get the real story.
And please write to us, share your thoughts. After watching the program, do you feel informed enough to support the work of Maine AllCare? Would you volunteer at local Maine AllCare sponsored community event? We very much appreciate hearing from YOU.
The single-payer signal in the Obamacare noise
By David Sirota
Editor's Note: David Sirota, best-selling author and editorial writer is right on with his analysis of what's happening in the wake of the troubled roll-out of the Affordable Care Act. In his October 31, 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune article he identifies three signals that point to the inevitability of a "Medicare for all" single payer system as the affordable, common sense solution to our continuing struggle to make healthcare simple and universal. But, we must work tirelessly to make it happen, here in Maine.
Please join us in our mission by subscribing to our periodic emails. And if you are able, please consider making a tax deductible contribution by clicking on the "Donate" button to help support Maine AllCare's educational effort state-wide. Together, by working for the common good, we will succeed in bringing health care to everyone and help make our state more healthy, prosperous and productive.
Whenever scandal arises in Washington, D.C., the fight between the two parties typically ends up being a competition to identify a concise message in the chaos — or, as scientists might say, a signal in all the noise. This week confirms that truism, as glitches plagued the new Obamacare website and as insurance companies canceled policies for many customers on the individual market.
Amid the subsequent noise of congressional debate and cable TV outrage, Republicans argued that the signal is about government — more specifically, they claim the controversies validate their age-old assertions that government can’t do anything right. Democrats countered that the signal in the noise is about universal health care — Obamacare is a big undertaking, they argue, and so there will be bumps in the road as the program works to provide better health services to all Americans.
This back and forth is creating an even more confusing cacophony — and further obscuring the signal that neither the two parties nor their health industry financiers want to discuss. That signal is about the need for single-payer health care — otherwise known as Medicare for all.
One way to detect this signal is to consider the White House guest list.
In trying to show that he was successfully managing the Obamacare roll out, the president last week staged a high-profile White House meeting with private health insurance executives — aka Obamacare’s middlemen. The spectacle of a president begging these middlemen for help was a reminder that Obamacare did not limit the power of the insurance companies as a single-payer system would. The new law instead cemented the industry’s profit-extracting role in the larger health system — and it still leaves millions without insurance.
The second way to see this single-payer signal is to behold the Obamacare-related congressional hearings. During the proceedings, you’ve been hearing a lot about the insurance enrollment website that the government is paying millions to insurer UnitedHealth Group to build. But you’re not hearing much about actual health care. That’s because the insurance industry wrote the Affordable Care Act, meaning the new statute’s top priority isn’t delivering health services. Obamacare is primarily about getting the insurance industry more customers and government contracts, whether or not that actually improves health services.
The third way to see this single-payer signal is to simply experience the confusion about Obamacare for yourself.
If you’ve managed to successfully navigate healthcare.gov, you probably have been treated to a wave of perplexing information about different kinds of private insurance plans and premiums. In other words, you haven’t seen a simple, standardized and guaranteed form of health care coverage like the kind provided by the single-payer government-administered Medicare system. You’ve likely seen the same maddeningly labyrinthine private insurance system that works to ration — and often deny — access to health care.
It didn’t have to be this way. Back when Obamacare was being negotiated, Congress could have circumvented the private insurance industry by simply expanding Medicare to cover everybody. Medicare isn’t perfect, of course, but it remains one of the most popular institutions in America because its single-payer model guarantees access to decent, cost-effective health care rather than just meager health insurance. It also does a good job of preventing profit-taking middlemen from getting between patients and their physicians.
Obamacare doesn’t do all that. It certainly includes some important reforms, but it doesn’t do what a single-payer system does — it doesn’t guarantee better health care or a more simple health system.
Those Democrats who pretend it does are just as dishonest as the Republicans who ignore Medicare and pretend government cannot effectively manage health care. All of them are making noise to drown out the single-payer signal.
— David Sirota is the best-selling author of the books “Hostile Takeover,” “The Uprising” and “Back to Our Future.” Email him at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.
From Around the World
A November 2013 health systems survey of 11 industrialized countries, from Austria to Australia, was completed by The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation working towards high performance health systems. They found that American adults are more likely to forego health care because of cost than people living in the other countries surveyed.
Some of the key findings include:
37 percent of U.S. adults skipped care,
23 percent had medical bill problems,
and 41 percent spent $1,000 or more out-of-pocket on care in the last year. These figures compare very unfavorably with those of the United Kingdom and Sweden where as few as 4 percent to 6 percent experienced cost related difficulties. For more key findings as well as the complete report please click here.
This survey is very useful in helping readers better understand the similarities and differences between the various industrialized nations' health care systems, including their major components, such as method of financing, coverage, role of government vs insurance companies, cost sharing, low income exemptions and others. You can download the Full Report free of charge here by scrolling to the bottom of the page, and click on "Downloads".
Maine AllCare on the RADIO
Dr. Caper's Bangor Daily News articles are read around the world. Here is an interview with Ryan Dawson, host and producer of an internet-based radio show out of Osaka, Japan. The topic: the pros and cons of the Affordable Care Act within the context of the 'medical-industrial complex', and why we need a better solution. Recorded on November 4, 2013, it is frank and informative discussion.
As the implementation turmoil continues to swirl around the Affordable Care Act, radio station KPFK Los Angeles with host Ian Masters is providing meaningful analysis to a national listening audience. His October 21st program, Background Briefing with Ian Masters, featured Dr. Phil Caper of Maine AllCare in a 20-minute segment based on Dr. Caper's September 19th Bangor Daily News article, The high cost of complexity in health care reform. It's a great interview that provides an informative backstory to how we got "Obamacare", and perhaps more importantly, how we can continue, both as a state and as a nation, toward real universal health care financing reform. It's worth hearing.
On October 23rd Dr Caper was also interviewed by Jeff Blankfort of KZYX community radio in Mendocino County, California. Another excellent source of information about the economic merits of continuing the reform effort toward Medicare for All. Please click here for the program, "Takes on the World."
On October 30th Dr. Caper was invited by the financialsurvivalnetwork.com radio host Kerry Lutz, an attorney and strong free market advocate, to discuss our health care system. They both agreed that it is indeed broken, and something more fundamental than the Affordable Care Act – more simple and truly universal – must be brought about in order to cover everyone. In addition to the obvious problems of the new health care law roll-out, they discussed the FDA's role in testing new drugs and unreasonably high drug prices in the U.S., the wisdom of medical marihuana use, the idea of sick care versus prevention, and the drive for ever greater profits by corporate providers at the expense of patients, among other topics. The program is a great tutorial for anyone interested in making our health care universally available and affordable. Please click on this link for this timely discussion on WBZT in West Palm Beach FL, then click on blue ". . . Listen to the Audio" text under "Dr. Philip Caper – Medicare for All: the Only Way To Health Care For Everyone."
Hot off the press! Bangor Daily News poll responders say YES to universal health care
Well over two thirds of the readers who responded to the newspaper's October 14th online poll support universal health care – this is what Maine AllCare is working to achieve here in our state. Please consider supporting our advocacy by subscribing to our periodic informational emails, host an informational event in your community and Maine AllCare will provide the speaker(s), just send us a note about your idea. Of course, your tax deductible contributions are always welcome. It easy, simply click on the Donate button in the menu bar of maineallcare.org. Let's keep this positive message of "health care for everyone in Maine" growing. Thank you.
Health reform’s problems run deeper than a glitchy website
By Philip Caper
Special to the BDN
November 14, 2013
Serious problems with the websites created by the Affordable Care Act continue, and probably will for a long time. Although frantic efforts at incrementally improving them are being made by the Obama administration, and some sites are working better than others, they are a long way from working well.
As I’ve written before, the causes of the website’s problems are far more serious than poor software design. They are baked into the law by its extreme complexity.
There is growing frustration and anger at the administration in Congress from both Democrats and Republicans. Much of it is being expressed by the same people whose hypocrisy and obstructionism is responsible for a failure to do the right thing in the first place. Calls from members of Congress to delay the ACA’s implementation or to repeal it entirely will intensify.
Instead of expanding our existing Medicare program, which has been working well for almost 50 years and is our country’s most efficient and least intrusive health care financing program, the ACA creates complex new law that perpetuates and reinforces the chaos and confusion of our hodgepodge of public and private insurance programs. Coverage and financial assistance continue to depend on an individual’s employment status, income, place of residence, age, conjectures about future health status, and many other factors, some of them subject to change with little or no warning and many impossible to predict.
Smooth implementation of the ACA depends upon the ability of many parts of government and thousands of insurance companies to seamlessly communicate with one another and agree on data drawn from myriad different public and private sources. Some in the health insurance field believe such a task will be difficult or impossible to achieve.
We have to ask ourselves, who are the winners from requiring us to go through the expense and confusion inherent in trying to implement a law of over 2,000 pages? The answer is clear. It’s a health insurance industry that profits from complexity and confusion, and providers of pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, devices and services who benefit excessively from the very weak cost controls inherent in our fragmented system of paying for services.
The losers are all the rest of us. The ACA’s objective, access to health care for all Americans, could have been accomplished much more easily with far less confusion, expense and complexity.
I talk to a lot of people from across the political spectrum about health care reform. There is a growing consensus that improved Medicare for all is the necessary first step in repairing our badly broken health care system.
During a trip to California last week, I ran into House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. When I explained to her that while I admired her efforts to reform our health care system, I remain an advocate for “Improved Medicare for All,” she responded, “Yes, we should have done single payer.”
Perhaps there’s still hope. Between Harry Reid’s recent comments and Pelosi’s epiphany, there seems to be a growing understanding of the problem, and its solution, in some parts of Congress.
But first, we will have to get rid of the obstructionist politicians whose only interest seems to be in preserving a health insurance industry that has become one of the most destructive forces in American society.
That task is up to us.
Physician Philip Caper of Brooklin is a founding board member of Maine AllCare, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group committed to making health care in Maine universal, accessible and affordable for all. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org