Tag Archives: health care

The health care debate isn’t over: Let your voice be heard

By Sam Metz, Contributing Columnist

Does the specter of your family going bankrupt from a disease not covered by your health insurance keep you staring sleeplessly at the ceiling? Have you lost hope that our country will ever get the health care system we need?

There is a solution, and you can make it happen.

It is single-payer health care. Single payer applies the common characteristics of every successful health care system: (1) It includes everyone without discrimination against the sick, (2) it encourages patients to seek health care at the first suspicion of trouble, and (3) it finances health care with publicly accountable, transparent, not-for-profit agencies.

Will single-payer health care really work?

It already works. Around the world and in our own country, single-payer systems provide better care to more people for less money than our American insurance industry. Continue reading

Health Care Reform without Tears, Part 3: Private health insurance

by Samuel Metz, Contributing Writer

Part two of this series left readers with the unhappy prospect of an Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) failing to achieve universal access, lower costs or better health. What about our private health insurance industry? Many individuals and organizations advocate unfettered competition among insurance companies on a nationwide basis, releasing them from the jungle of regulation created by 50 individual states. Free market competition brought down the costs of flat-screen televisions. Can’t it do the same for health care?

There is some foundation for this position. After all, most central Europeans finance health care with private insurance companies and their health is better than ours while spending half of what we do.

The flaw in this proposition is in vocabulary. European “Private health insurance” resembles American “Private health insurance” the way European football does to American football. Different games, different goals, different rules. Continue reading

Health care reform, part II: Will Obamacare save America from itself?

By Samuel Metz, Contributing Columnist

Just when despair engulfed our dysfunctional health care system, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (also known, inappropriately as we will see, as “ObamaCare”). Is the Affordable Care Act a knight in shining armor, a red herring or the end of civilization as we know it?
Let’s look closer.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a response to powerful health-care forces pulling in many directions — from families bankrupted by medical bills, businesses crippled by employer-sponsored insurance, hospitals and physicians paid less for Medicaid and Medicare patients than the cost to provide the care, insurance companies protecting their industry, and voters demanding that something — anything — be done to solve an apparently unsolvable crisis.

Ultimately, Congress created a 400,000-word compromise of baffling complexity. Before we review whether this effort was worth the trouble, let’s look at the major (but not the only) provisions. Continue reading

Making right from wrong: Oregon Youth Authority

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

In small, dormitory-like facilities across Oregon, the Oregon Youth Authority, or OYA, has direct custody of approximately 750 youth between the ages of 12 and 25, and supervises an additional 1,000 youth on parole and probation in their communities. As the state agency in charge of the state’s juvenile justice system, OYA is the gatekeeper for thousands of troubled  and disadvantaged young adults each year, and its new director, Fariborz Pakseresht, oversees it all.

Pakseresht first started working for the authority in 2008. Prior to that, he worked for the Department of Human Services and the Department of Administrative Services in a variety of leadership and administrative roles.

Pakseresht has developed a reputation for promoting government efficiency and transparency. He is also a member of the powerful Public Employees’ Benefit Board (PEBB), a group that decide the health plans for Oregon’s state employees.

Parseresht can talk numbers and data in the same breath that he talks about the stunning transformations he sees youth make while they are in the OYA’s custody. “Part of what creates an anchor for me in this organization is hearing the stories of youth who have made transformation in their lives,” he says.

Amanda Waldroupe: What causes youth to enter the corrections system?

Fariborz Pakseresht: You can look at the causes, and you can look at the symptoms. Clearly, the cause of them entering the system is a crime they have committed. If you dig deeper through the roots of those causes, some disturbing statistics emerge. Most of them are coming from families with drug and alcohol issues. A large majority — 74 percent of females and 62 percent of males — have been diagnosed with mental health disorders. Many are victims of sexual abuse — 40 percent of females—and in many cases, by their own family members. Sixteen percent of females and 12 percent of males are already the biological parent of a child. None of these are excuses for committing the crimes they have committed. But it is a point to be aware that many of these youth … were victims, who in the process created their own victims. Continue reading

Act Now! Support health care for all!

actnowlogo-1We are encouraging readers to call their local reps to support health care for all. We think it’s important to work to not only put pressure on elected officials, but to help spread the word and to help change public perception about the issue. If you have a family member or friend on the fence, please give an extra hour this week to take them out to coffee or on the phone to explain why health care for all is important.

Support the 10 principles put together by Health Care For America Now!

–  A truly inclusive and accessible health care system in which no one is left out.
– A choice of a private insurance plan, including keeping the insurance you have if you like it, or a public health insurance plan that guarantees affordable coverage without a private insurer middleman.
– A standard for health benefits that covers what people need to keep healthy and to be treated when they are ill. Health care benefits should cover all necessary care including preventative services and treatment needed by those with serious and chronic diseases and conditions.
– Health care coverage with out-of-pocket costs including premiums, co-pays, and deductibles that are based on a family’s ability to pay for health care and without limits on payments for covered services.
– Equity in health care access, treatment, research and resources to people and communities of color, resulting in the elimination of racial disparities in health outcomes and real improvement in health and life expectancy for all.
– Health coverage through the largest possible pools in order to achieve affordable, quality coverage for the entire population and to share risk fairly.
– A watchdog role on all plans, to assure that risk is fairly spread among all health care payers and that insurers do not turn people away, raise rates, or drop coverage based on a person’s health history or wrongly delay or deny care.
– A choice of doctors, health providers, and private and public health insurance plans, without gaps in coverage or access and a delivery system that meets the needs of at-risk populations.
– Affordable and predictable health costs to businesses and employers. To the extent that employers contribute to the cost of health coverage, those payments should be related to employee wages rather than on a per-employee basis.
– Effective cost controls that promote quality, lower administrative costs, and long term financial sustainability, including: standard claims forms, secure electronic medical records, using the public’s purchasing power to instill greater reliance on evidence-based protocols and lower drug and device prices, better management and treatment of chronic diseases, and a public role in deciding where money is invested in health care.

Call Oregon Senators

Ron Wyden, 503-326-7525, Jeff Merkley, 503-226-3386

Representatives Earl Blumenauer, 503.231.2300, David Wu, 503-326-2901 and
Peter DeFazio, 541-465-6732.

To e-mail go to Health Care for America Now! and send a letter to local officials.

HEALING LESSIONS – HOW THE U.S. CAN ADOPT A HEALTH CARE SYSTEM THAT’S FAIRER AND COST LESS

TRReid_bigFrom the Sept. 4 edition of Street Roots

Anger and taunting in the public forum. Accusations of fascism. Rumors of proposed government death panels — rumors that opponents of reform did virtually nothing to quell. Gun-toting men waiting for their congressional representatives in the parking lot. The discussion, if it can be dignified with that word, over the state of the nation’s health care system is scuttling along the slimy sea floor of American politics.

Which is why it’s an ideal time for some actual information. What is it costing us to look after our nation’s sick? Who pays — literally and figuratively — for the threadbare patchwork of American health insurance coverage, a system that drop-kicks 700,000 people each year into bankruptcy because they can’t pay their medical bills? That, because they couldn’t see a doctor, puts 20,000 more in the grave? Are we really faced with a choice between things as they are and that conservative bogey, “socialized medicine”?

For such apt questions, T.R. Reid’s book couldn’t hit the shelves at a better time. “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care” (Penguin Press) is a look at how wealthy democracies like ours — like France, Japan, Germany and the U.K. — provide health care, and the choices they faced as they constructed systems that are each unique but that all do a better job of keeping their citizens healthy, and they do it for less.

What do those countries have that we don’t? Each has decided that it has a basic duty to look after the health of its citizens.

Reid’s book would be just an exercise in comparative policy studies but for having busted his shoulder while in the U.S. Navy. A military surgeon had bolted the joint back together, but that was way back in 1972. “By the first decade of the 21st century,” writes Reid, “I could no longer swing a golf club. I could barely reach up to replace a lightbulb overhead or get the wine glasses from the top shelf.”

And so, “hoping for surcease from sorrow,” Reid takes his shoulder on the road. The result is a readable, informative, clearheaded look at health care elsewhere in the industrialized world, accompanied by the persistent questioning: Why not us?

Adam Hyla: When did you begin this book?

T.R. Reid: I’d like to say that in the spring of 2006 I knew that in the fall of 2009 our country would be obsessed with health care, but I really can’t say we planned it that way — we really lucked out. The timing worked out fine. I actually delivered the book a year late, and my editor was mad at me for being so late, but now I tell her I planned it like this. (laughter)

A.H.: Eighty-five percent of Americans tell pollsters that health care is a basic human right, yet so far in this national debate, that doesn’t seem to be very well-reflected.

T.R.R.: Yeah, every time we take on this issue the basic moral question gets lost in a discussion of winners and losers, hospital company profits and insurance company earnings. That’s always happened in our country. Every single country I visited made the basic moral commitment that every single person in our rich country who needs access to health care should have access to it. The richest country in the world has not made that guarantee.

I came off my ’round-the-world tour pretty optimistic; I think if we do make that commitment we can provide it for all, because all these other countries have.

A.H.: Why haven’t we made that commitment? Why are we so down in the weeds?

T.R.R.: I don’t know. I really struggle with that. With my book, I had three main tasks: to explain how other countries cover everybody at reasonable costs, and I think I got that; the other was to explain why other countries cover everybody, and I think I got that. That raises the question, why hasn’t the world’s richest country made this commitment? Continue reading

Support health care for Oregonians! Support health care for America now!

actnowlogoSupport the 10 principles put together by Health Care For America Now!

–  A truly inclusive and accessible health care system in which no one is left out.
– A choice of a private insurance plan, including keeping the insurance you have if you like it, or a public health insurance plan that guarantees affordable coverage without a private insurer middleman.
– A standard for health benefits that covers what people need to keep healthy and to be treated when they are ill. Health care benefits should cover all necessary care including preventative services and treatment needed by those with serious and chronic diseases and conditions.
– Health care coverage with out-of-pocket costs including premiums, co-pays, and deductibles that are based on a family’s ability to pay for health care and without limits on payments for covered services.
– Equity in health care access, treatment, research and resources to people and communities of color, resulting in the elimination of racial disparities in health outcomes and real improvement in health and life expectancy for all.
– Health coverage through the largest possible pools in order to achieve affordable, quality coverage for the entire population and to share risk fairly.
– A watchdog role on all plans, to assure that risk is fairly spread among all health care payers and that insurers do not turn people away, raise rates, or drop coverage based on a person’s health history or wrongly delay or deny care.
– A choice of doctors, health providers, and private and public health insurance plans, without gaps in coverage or access and a delivery system that meets the needs of at-risk populations.
– Affordable and predictable health costs to businesses and employers. To the extent that employers contribute to the cost of health coverage, those payments should be related to employee wages rather than on a per-employee basis.
– Effective cost controls that promote quality, lower administrative costs, and long term financial sustainability, including: standard claims forms, secure electronic medical records, using the public’s purchasing power to instill greater reliance on evidence-based protocols and lower drug and device prices, better management and treatment of chronic diseases, and a public role in deciding where money is invested in health care.

Call Oregon Senators

Ron Wyden, 503-326-7525, Jeff Merkley, 503-226-3386

Representatives Earl Blumenauer, 503.231.2300, David Wu, 503-326-2901 and
Peter DeFazio, 541-465-6732.

To e-mail go to Health Care for America Now! and send a letter to local officials.

A single payer sing-a-long Saturday

Musician Anne Feeney has organized a roadshow of singers to raise the roof on the need for universal health care

annefeeney

What: Sing Out for Single Payer Roadshow
When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 18
Where: SEIU Local 49 Auditorium, 3536 SE 26th Ave.
Cost: Donations welcome to cover costs

By Joanne Zuhl

In the pantheon of classic folk music, songs about national health care don’t trip readily off the common man’s tongue. But for Anne Feeney, the right to affordable health care ranks as fundamental as peace and human dignity.

Feeney has organized the Sing Out for Single Payer Health Care Roadshow, a collection of folk performers touring the West Coast to raise awareness and solidarity for the national health care proposal.  The tour includes performers Al Bradbury, Pickles, Hunter Paye, Patrick Dodd, General Strike, Bluegrass Dave Wilmoth, Jason Luckett, and others, in addition to Feeney, who herself has been a force of activism in the folk music world. The Roadshow will perform at 7:30 p.m. July 18, in Portland’s SEIU Local 49 Auditorium.

Like everyone of her generation, her life was shaped by the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. Today, she is singing out about single payer health care, under consideration in both the House and Senate, which would create a single government fund to cover the cost of health care for the general public. She’s fighting for this because, like the rest of her generation, she’s come to the conclusion that the current system has been a deadly failure.

Joanne Zuhl: In the folk world, these kinds of musical events are more commonly associated with the peace movement and civil rights. And this is one about health insurance. What is it about single payer that has you fired up?

Anne Feeney: I think this is one of the great social movements of this era. It was tragic divergence that America decided to go with employer-funded health insurance for their employees, because it was doomed to fail, and we’ve watched how it has put American companies at such a disadvantage in the marketplace
Continue reading