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Walmart Relentless as Thousands Set to Lose Out in New Health Care Policy December 2, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Labor.
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Published on Saturday, December 1, 2012 by Common Dreams

Box store implicated in federal wage-theft lawsuit

  – Common Dreams staff

Walmart will continue to disappoint workers and labor rights activists in the coming months as it continues to ignore the current widespread workers’ strike and protest movement against its labor policies and implements a new health insurance program that will deny healthcare coverage to employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, according to a copy of the company’s policy obtained by The Huffington Post.

Photo via Facebook / Overpass Light Brigade.

Walmart is known for employing many of its workers part time and less than 30 hours per week, meaning a large majority of its employees is set to lose insurance through their employer.

In response to the Huffington Post, Walmart declined to disclose how many of its roughly 1.4 million U.S. workers will lose their insurance under the new policy, which is set to begin in January. Company spokesman David Tovar told Huffington that Walmart had “made a business decision” not to respond to questions from the paper.

“For Walmart employees, the new system raises the risk that they could lose their health coverage in large part because they have little control over their schedules. Walmart uses an advanced scheduling system to constantly alter workers’ shifts according to store traffic and sales figures,” the Huffington Post reports.

The discovery comes shortly after thousands of Walmart workers across the country walked off the job over the course of the week leading up to the national shopping day Black Friday. Workers continue to organize and speak out against the company’s attempts to silence employees’ complaints regarding the “company’s manipulation of hours and benefits, efforts to try to keep people from working full-time and their discrimination against women and people of color.”

In other Walmart labor news, Walmart warehouse workers in Southern California filed a petition in court this week in a bid to sue Walmart in a federal wage-theft lawsuit.

Walmart’s warehouses in California and Illinois have accused their employer of labor violations in the past; however, Friday’s filing was the first time Walmart has been directly implicated in the claims of abuse, rather than the company’s warehouse subcontractors, the Huffington Post reports.

“Walmart’s name does not appear on any of these workers paychecks, and the Walmart logo does not appear on the t-shirts they’re required to wear,” Michael Rubin, the workers’ lawyer, said on Friday. “But it has become increasingly clear that the ultimate liability for these workplace violations rests squarely on the shoulders of Walmart.”

 

Comments

  • oldblue63

    A) Why does anyone shop at Walmart?  We shoppers  could bring them around in a few weeks if we all just QUIT shopping there. They need our business …we are in the driver’s seat if we use our power. B) This is a perfect example of why health care should not be provided through employers. Part-time employment is extremely common and it makes the employee constantly up in the air about health care benefits…and many employers do not begin coverage until 3-6 months of employment anyway, so people are going without insurance for long periods.  We are all FULL-TIME citizens and that is where we should be getting our health care benefits.

  • gardenernorcal

    We weren’t offered national health care.

    Many people are forced to shop Walmart because when they move in many local shops close up.  Before Walmart moved into my town we had a Wards, Penneys, KMart and Sears store and assorted small shops like dime stores.  Today we have Walmart  a couple high end furniture stores, 1$ Store, a Staples and a Home Depot.

  • BuddhaNature

    Your story is very similar to our town with one exception. Our town refused a Wal-Mart, so they built in everytown around us and sucked the business away. We  too had a JC Penneys, and Sears. And they try and tell you that capitalism is about competition? I won’t shop in there. They keep their wages down to assure themsleves of a customer base.. Henry Ford paid his workers the then good wage of $5.00 dollars a day so that could afford to buy the car they were producing, Wal- Mart on the otherhand, under pays their workers to  assure they can’t afford to shop anyplace else.

  • natureschild3

     

    “Henry Ford paid his workers the then good wage of $5.00 dollars a day so that could afford to buy the car”

    yes! he expressed the opinion that assembly line workers should earn enough to buy an auto. also he insisted the employees show up in a christian church…and never, ever drink a beer or any alcohol–even at home.

    then one day ford had a great business idea–“I can grow my own tires in honduras!” there, too, henry made sure the brown people of honduras appeared his his church, but adequate pay? “naw. we don’t need a bunch o’ darkies driving cars!” if you can, watch or read transcript here:

    “Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City”

     

    http://www.democracynow.org/20…

     

  • Amurkan

    Henry Ford was obliged to pay his workers $5 hr because they quit in droves when they realized that they would be demeaned by his new assembly line. He didn’t do this from the kindness of his heart. No one seems to know this.

  • natureschild3

    yes! and doesn’t that $5 an hour allowing his faithful to buy a model t speak volumes about the ongoing devaluation of the paper dollar?

    “you load 16 tons of #9 coal and what do you get? “anothe day older and deeper in debt. “lord, don’tcha call me ’cause i can’t go…

    “i owe my so-o-oul. . . to the company store!”

     

  • gardenernorcal

    Yeah Ford was not quite the big stalwart supporter of labor as he’s painted today.

     

    But for years Ford also resorted to legal as well as thug tactics to prevent workers in Ford plants from unionizing. 

    In December 1937, the company was found in violation of the Wagner Act and was ordered to cease interfering with workers’ efforts to unionize. In 1941, when wages at Ford were in fact lower than the average wage for the industry, Henry Ford continued to insist that “we do not intend to submit to any union.”

     

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09…

  • Yunzer

    That’s what you get for living in Kalifornia.  Even the pre-Wal-Mart stores you listed are big-box chains!  Is there ANY part of you state that isn’t totally dominated by big chain-crap?  The Summer of Love ended 43 years ago, and the last Doobie Brothers hit was 35 years ago.  You should consider moving back here to the unfashionable mid-atlantic/northeast.

  • gardenernorcal

    But consider this pre Walmart my community of approximately 500,000 supported 4 large chain stores, whose employees were organized and received full benefits including health care and retirement.  People had choices.  I know I shopped Penneys for clothes, Wards for furniture, Sears for tools and KMart for miscellaneous little stuff.  Today I have basically one choice Walmart and they say they can’t pay their employees a living wage or provide them with health care and other benefits.  Why is that?  They are one of the largest and most profitable US corporations.

    And I was born in California. It’s my home. I wouldn’t be moving back to anywhere.

  • nveric

    You being Snobbish? Don’t you know the oceans are rising?

  • Lorenzo LaRue

    ….And your only entry here is smart ass?  Don’t you know that everyone doesn’t live on the beach?

  • Yunzer

    Fortunately all Wal-Marts are out in the public transit-hostile suburban sprawl-land and require a car, or incredibly crappy bus service to get there.  I’ve sworn off all car use except for the occasional long-haul intercity, hiking or hang gliding trip.

    The only reason I would set foot in a Wal-Mart of Sam’s Club would be to burn one to the ground.  Don’t worry, I’d give plenty of warning to evacuate first.

  • Dem. Socialism

    “Too Big To Care”…”Too Immoral To Share”.

    (Wal-Mart’s new slogan.)

  • N30rebel

    Perhaps better?: “Too Big To Care”…”Too Immoral To Shame.”

  • Matthew Grebenc

    Too immortal to care.

  • gardenernorcal

     

    “But it has become increasingly clear that the ultimate liability for these workplace violations rests squarely on the shoulders of Walmart.”

     

    No actually the responsibility lies with all of us that worry more about the DOW every morning than we do the moral and humane treatment of every worker on this planet.  When Reagan fired those air traffic controllers it wasn’t victory for anyone but big finance and Wall St..

    I remember a time when the financial news was the last thing reported on and only given a few moments at that.  We also didn’t have our TV waves saturated with ads by big pharma or attorneys.  And is it just me or am I seeing more and more alcohol ads as well?  Weren’t they outlawed?  How is it some companies are allowed to campaign but Spuds Mckensey was torpedoed into oblivion.

  • 69Tuscany

    The US and New Zealand are the only countries in the world who allow pharmaceutical advertising.

  • adiantum

    I think NZ recently disallowed it.

  • Dem. Socialism

    Also, gardenernorcal, have you noticed the amount of smoking done in movies lately? Rather blatant.

  • Amurkan

    The excuse given for smoking actors is the ‘in character’ thing. It’s baloney. The studios are complicit in the death later by millions of kids who start smoking because their film heroes do it.  Disgusting and criminal.

  • Richard_William_Posner

    Let’s not overlook the amount of advertising being done by the military. It’s sickening.

    There’s also more than one show that is being used as a propaganda tool to reinforce acceptance of the phony war on terror.

    Additionally, the existence of chemtrails is being normalised through increasing visibility in programming and ads. Pay attention to scenes with nice blue skies in them.

  • gardenernorcal

    There’s a lot of infuriating advertising I didn’t mention like BP’s telling how their actions have improved life on the Gulf.

  • Richard_William_Posner

    Not being critical gardener, just reinforcing your observations.

    The Bernaysian ministries of propaganda, both commercial and political (is there really any difference?) are manufacturing every aspect of our reality.

  • gardenernorcal

    I didn’t take it as a criticism.  I find the additions to my list kind of interesting.

  • Richard_William_Posner

    I’m glad. Wasn’t really sure. And by the way, yes, I find those BP ads really outrageous and infuriating.

  • Holygeezer

    The whole stock market thing is pretty criminal. If one is honest and thinks about it at all, there is no way you can “earn” money by doing nothing, unless you are in effect stealing it from others somehow. The others in this case being workers. Some may say this is too simplistic of a view, but in essence, earning money from investments is glorified stealing.

  • nveric

    The 1970s changed reason into insanity.

    Reagan was the tipper, not the gipper.

  • gardenernorcal

     

    Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, plans to begin denying health insurance to newly hired employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, according to a copy of the company’s policy obtained by The Huffington Post.Under the policy, slated to take effect in January, Walmart also reserves the right to eliminate health care coverage for certain workers if their average workweek dips below 30 hours — something that happens with regularity and at the direction of company managers 

    Labor and health care experts portrayed Walmart’s decision to exclude workers from its medical plans as an attempt to limit costs while taking advantage of the national health care reform known as Obamacare. Among the key features of Obamacare is an expansion of Medicaid, the taxpayer-financed health insurance program for poor people. Many of the Walmart workers who might be dropped from the company’s health care plans earn so little that they would qualify for the expanded Medicaid program, these experts said.

     

    How convenient the US’s largest employer can now foist off their overhead on the US taxpayer while receiving tax breaks and subsidies.

    Interesting chart on this site:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/…

  • Doug_Terpstra

    Yep, this was a predictable outcome of Obamacare, better known as “The Death Panel Profiteers Bailout Act.”  WalMart employees (or rather, taxpayers) will now be forced to buy a defective-by-design product from protection racket extortionists that some call insurance companies.  The full damage of this monstronsity won’t be understood until well after 2014, when its more onerous dictates are implemented.

    Thanks, Obama.

  • gardenernorcal

    Not just that.  Taxpayers will be subsidizing Walmart labor by providing them with medicaid, food stamps etc..  With their profits you’d think they could afford to pay  their employees a living wage.

  • Doug_Terpstra

    Good point.  The next logical step will be to lower corporate taxes even further and then repeal the Emancipation Proclamation.

  • Mike_Strong

    Yup! Repealing the Emancipation Proclamation is definitely on the agenda. Just slightly different job descriptions and this time with a paycheck. Sort of an upgrade on sharecropping.

  • natureschild3

    don’t just thank obama. top honors should go to lloyd blankfein, ceo of goldman sachs. lloyd is the real man behind the curtain pulling all sorts of political strings!

  • Donna M Crane

    Since my 41 year old son is already on ObamaCare for his pre-exisiting condition, I can assure you it is in no way defective, and is affordable.  He is able to pay his monthly fee of $188 and co-pays even though he is only working about 30 hours a week currently. The excellent RX Plan that is included (unlike Medicare) allows him to get his medications at an affordable price  that keeps him out of the hospital and able to work. In fact, as far as I can see, it works just like, and just as well as, my Medicare which I love.  And in point of fact, we are already paying for all Walmart’s employees, even the full time ones who still qualify for food stamps and Medicaid.  Most WalMart employees already don’t have health insurance thru the company.  In fact pretty much only the top levels have it. ObamaCares is already benefiting many people like my son and here in AZ we are using the Federal Government Set Up Exchange, since AZ isn’t going to set up its own Exchange…I consider this a benefit for us as I’m sure AZ wouldn’t do as well.  Before you start kicking around ObamaCare, you should talk to some people who are on it.

  • Inspector47

    Thank you! As far as Walmart being thieves they are the free market, capitalism at it’s best! The republicans are crying about the four people who were killed overseas, four thousand Americans die monthly due to the lack of health care. My daughter wreaked on her bike, she is a college student, at 23, she was able to be on our health ins for her injuries thanks to Obama care.

  • Doug_Terpstra

    Thanks.  I’m glad it’s working for you, at least for now. Most of the perceived good provisions of the 2,000-page bill were implemented upfront, pre-election, by design.  2014 is when the kickers come, too late, by design.

    [Adding: Walmart is the post-election coalmine canary.  Dropping employeer-provided healthcare will become a corporate rush by 2014.  Obamacare did nothing to cap runaway drug and sickcare costs.  Enjoy the good times.]

  • Inspector47

    Like the 80/20 law that forces insurance companies to spend 80 percent of premimuns on the policy holder or return it?

  • Doug_Terpstra

    Not quite. The rebate does not apply to individual policy holders as you imply, but to collective policy holders within a state. IOW, you don’t get a refund as an individual customer if you’re healthy and the company spends little or no money on you.  This is why Obama’s Death-Panel Profiteers Bailout Act is more than 2,000 pages of lobbyese.  It’s designed to confuse most people while enriching the investor class that Obama really works for.

    The theoretical rebate would be a share of whatever amount your insurer spends on health care that is less than 80% of aggregate premiums paid in by all of its customers in that state, and you can imagine how corporate attorneys will game that one).

    So, if your employer (like Walmart) drops you—as many or most will do in the next year or two—forcing you (or taxpayers for you) to pay thousands in out-of-pocket in premiums (no choice under the mandate), you might get a $158 rebate at the end of the year like the lucky lottery winners of North Carolina ($7 in Utah).  Partly, this depends on how successful the death-panel gatekeepers are at rationing care or denying claims in a particular state.

    http://www.examiner.com/articl…

    See also: Welcome to the Future of Your Health Insurance. It Sucks.

    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com…

  • Inspector47

    Death panels in the affordable care act, Sarah Palin won lie of the year with that one.

  • Doug_Terpstra

    Thank you.  Apparently, my use of the term for private versus public was unclear. Palin’s use of the term for her GOP handlers referred to government “death panels”, to scare people away from universal coverage by single-payer (for the same people waving signs reading “keep your government hands off my Medicare”).    My use of the term refers to the private profiteers (insurance racketeers), whose gatekeepers are a far worse form of “death panel” — denying claims and rationing care for profit only.

    The denial of coverage by for-profit gatekeepers is routine and far worse here than what occurs in civilized countries with single-payer universal coverage like Sweden, Canada and the UK.  And Obamacare rejected single-payer and any public option thus institutionalizing profiteering by private racketeers with a captive market — with almost no limits on escalating costs, including prescription drugs that are explicitly protected from market competition (free trade is remarkably selective).  It is the worst form of crony capitalism endorsed by the conservative Supine Court.

  • wildcarrots

    Well said.

  • wildcarrots

    I’m really glad it is working for your son, no doubt it will work better than standard insurance for some groups.  Just remember that the system you are comparing it with really sucks. If you really think it is good try comparing it to one of the other systems in the world that deliver better care at half the cost.

  • Kenneth C. Fingeret

    Hello gardenernorcal,

    Walfart has been doing this for decades.  As I understand it part of the paperwork when you are hired is getting government assistance due to your lack of a living wage salary that does not include much if anything in the way of benefits. This makes you eligible for different programs such as Medicade, AFDC, etc.  A special Walfart tax of 500% of all government payments that are made to Walfart employees due to lack of salary and benefits given to their employees. should be the minimum required for Walfart to pay.  I call them Walfart because they leave a bad odor wherever they are located!

  • nveric

    Blood sucking death mongers run Walmart, their oozing puss filled sores covering their faces, acidic drool plops from their crusted puffy lips burning holes to the center of the Earth, necks as short as their ‘other’ parts and as wide as their hips, and below are stubby trunk-like legs incapable of independent motion.

    You see, there’s no body and no heart for these Borg-like little people spawned from Sam Walton and an unknown surrogate, most likely an alien life-form kept in an undisclosed location in Nevada.

  • wildcarrots

    The U.S. is going to be a very unhealthy place to live and shop when you consider the number of people that do not have access to healthcare.  Disease does not respect ideological boundaries. .

  • Gubdeb

    Look around. It already is.

  • Poet

    I don’t know who designed the portable lit sign, but it gives the graffiti of protest an entirely new frontier (drive through territory after or just before dark) and flexibility (how difficult would it be to change the message to “Tax the Wealthy for a Change”, or “Shrink the Pentagon Not Social Security”?).

     

    It can be easily moved and, depending on the time, and location reach many people with a simple message they cannot avoid.  Flash mobs just got an entirely new twist unique to the US motoring culture!

     

  • 69Tuscany

    Great idea.

  • d9rich

    It’s been done with hand-made signs for over a decade or more.

  • Poet

    If by “hand made signs” you mean electrically lit like the one in the picture, then great–I have never seen any such example before the above photo.

     

    What I meant to convey was that most “hand made signs” are invisible after dark to all but the cars slowing to a stop at a traffic light.

     

    That one in the picture cannot be missed by passing motorists on their way to nowhere and as such expands both the potential audience and time of exposure to whatever message an activist wishes to present.

     

     

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    Also on Common Dreams

    The Real Health Care Debate April 9, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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    Published on Monday, April 9, 2012 by Truthdig

      by  Chris Hedges

    The debate surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act illustrates the impoverishment of our political life. Here is a law that had its origin in the right-wing Heritage Foundation, was first put into practice in 2006 in Massachusetts by then-Gov. Mitt Romney and was solidified into federal law after corporate lobbyists wrote legislation with more than 2,000 pages. It is a law that forces American citizens to buy a deeply defective product from private insurance companies. It is a law that is the equivalent of the bank bailout bill—some $447 billion in subsidies for insurance interests alone—for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. It is a law that is unconstitutional. And it is a law by which President Barack Obama, and his corporate backers, extinguished the possibilities of both the public option and Medicare for all Americans. There is no substantial difference between Obamacare and Romneycare. There is no substantial difference between Obama and Romney. They are abject servants of the corporate state. And if you vote for one you vote for the other.

     

    But you would never know this by listening to the Democratic Party and the advocacy groups that purport to support universal health care but seem more intent on re-electing Obama. It is the very sad legacy of the liberal class that it proves in election cycle after election cycle that it espouses moral and political positions it will not pay a price to defend. And since we have no fight in us, since we will not punish politicians like Obama who betray our core beliefs, the corporate juggernaut rolls forward with its inexorable pace to cement into place our global neofeudalism.

    Protesting outside the Supreme Court recently as it heard arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act were both conservatives from Americans for Prosperity who denounced the president as a socialist and demonstrators from Democratic front groups such as the SEIU and the Families USA health care consumer group who chanted “Protect the law!” Lost between these two factions were a few stalwarts who hold quite different views, including public health care advocates Dr. Margaret Flowers, Dr. Carol Paris and attorneys Oliver Hall, Kevin Zeese and Russell Mokhiber. They displayed a banner that read: “Single Payer Now! Strike Down the Obama Mandate!” They, at least, have not relinquished the demand for single payer health care for all Americans. And I throw my lot in with these renegades, dismissed, no doubt, as cranks or dreamers or impractical by those who flee into the embrace of empty political theater and junk politics. These single payer advocates, joined by 50 doctors, filed a brief to the court that challenges, in the name of universal health care, the individual mandate.

    “We have the solution, we have the resources and we have the money to provide lifelong, comprehensive, high-quality health care to every person,” Dr. Flowers said when we spoke a few days ago in Washington, D.C. Many Americans have not accepted the single payer approach “because people get confused by the politics,” she said. “People accept the Democratic argument that this [Obamacare] is all we can have or this is something we can build on.”

    “If you are trying to meet the goal of universal health coverage and the only way to meet that goal is to force people to purchase private insurance, then you might consider that it is constitutional,” Flowers said. “Our argument is that the individual mandate does not meet the goal of universality. When you attempt to use the individual mandate and expansion of Medicaid for coverage, only about half of the uninsured gain coverage. This is what we have seen in Massachusetts. We do, however, have systems in the United States that could meet the goal of universality. That would be either a Veterans Administration type system, which is a socialized system run by the government, or a Medicare type system, a single payer, publicly financed health care system. If the U.S. Congress had considered an evidence-based approach to health reform instead of writing a bill that funnels more wealth to insurance companies that deny and restrict care, it would have been a no-brainer to adopt a single payer health system much like our own Medicare. We are already spending enough on health care in this country to provide high-quality, universal, comprehensive, lifelong health care. All the data point to a single payer system as the only way to accomplish this and control health care costs.”

    Obamacare will, according to figures compiled by Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP), leave at least 23 million people without insurance, a figure that translates into an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths a year among people who cannot afford care. Costs will continue to climb. There are no caps on premiums, including for people with “pre-existing conditions.” The elderly can be charged three times the rates provided to the young. Companies with predominantly female workforces can be charged higher gender-based rates. Most of us will soon be paying about 10 percent of our annual incomes to buy commercial health insurance, although this coverage will pay for only about 70 percent of our medical expenses. And those of us who become seriously ill, lose our incomes and cannot pay the skyrocketing premiums are likely to be denied coverage. The dizzying array of loopholes in the law—written in by insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists—means, in essence, that the healthy will receive insurance while the sick and chronically ill will be priced out of the market.

    Medical bills already lead to 62 percent of personal bankruptcies, and nearly 80 percent of those declaring personal bankruptcy because of medical costs had insurance. The U.S. spends twice as much per capita on health care as other industrialized nations, $8,160. Private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume 31 percent of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single, nonprofit payer would save more than $400 billion per year, enough, the PNHP estimates, to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.

    But as long as corporations determine policy, as long as they can use their money to determine who gets elected and what legislation gets passed, we remain hostages. It matters little in our corporate state that nearly two-thirds of the public wants single payer and that it is backed by 59 percent of doctors. Public debates on the Obama health care reform, controlled by corporate dollars, ruthlessly silence those who support single payer. The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Max Baucus, a politician who gets more than 80 percent of his campaign contributions from outside his home state of Montana, locked out of the Affordable Care Act hearing a number of public health care advocates including Dr. Flowers and Dr. Paris; the two physicians and six other activists were arrested and taken away. Baucus had invited 41 people to testify. None backed single payer. Those who testified included contributors who had given a total of more than $3 million to committee members for their political campaigns.

    “It is not necessary to force Americans to buy private health insurance to achieve universal coverage,” said Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action. “There is a proven alternative that Congress didn’t seriously consider, and that alternative is a single payer national health insurance system. Congress could have taken seriously evidence presented by these single payer medical doctors that a single payer system is the only way to both control costs and cover everyone.”

    © 2012 Truthdig.com

    <!–

    –>

    Chris Hedges

    Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

    REVEALED: The Democrats’ devious plan to compromise with the Republicans April 3, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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    Posted by <!–

    –>, www.opednews.com, April 2, 2012

    In Monday’s New York Times, Ross Douthat explains the devious reasoning behind the Democrats’ adoption of the individual mandate: “It protected the Democratic bill on two fronts at once: buying off some of the most influential interest groups even as it hid the true cost of universal coverage.”

    Clever! But I can’t help feeling like Ross is forgetting something. There was some other reason Democrats adopted this policy. I’m almost sure of it. If you give me a second, I’m sure it’ll come to me.

    Ah, right! Because Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, was saying things like “I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have individual mandates,” and “individual mandates are more apt to be accepted by a majority of the people in Congress than an employer mandate.”

    And it wasn’t just Grassley. A New York Times columnist by the name of Ross Douthat praised Utah Sen. Bob Bennett for “his willingness to co-sponsor a centrist (in a good way!) health care reform bill with the Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden.” That health-care reform bill was the Healthy Americans Act which included, yes, an individual mandate. But while Douthat did later say that the Healthy Americans Act wasn’t his “preferred health care reform,” at no point did he accuse Bennett of “buying off some of the most influential interest groups” even as he “hid the true cost of universal coverage.”

    The Healthy Americans Act, meanwhile, had been cosponsored by a bevy of heavy-hitting Senate Republicans, including Lamar Alexander, Mike Crapo, Bob Corker, Judd Gregg, Norm Coleman and Trent Lott. And it’s not like they were off the reservation in some significant way: In 2007, both Sen. Jim DeMint and the National Review endorsed Mitt Romney, who had passed an individual mandate into law in Massachusetts. In their endorsements, both icons of conservatism specifically mentioned his health-care plan as a reason for their endorsement. DeMint, for instance, praised Romney’s health-care plan as “something that I think we should do for the whole country.”

    Avik Roy points out that many liberals — including candidate Barack Obama — were historically skeptical of the individual mandate. And that’s true! There was a robust debate inside the party as to whether Democrats should move from proposing a government-centric health-care model to one Republicans had developed in order to preserve the centrality of “personal responsibility” and private health insurers. Many liberals opposed such a shift. But they lost to the factions in the party that wanted health-care reform to be a bipartisan endeavor.

    Roy tries to use this to draw some equivalence between the two parties. Both Democrats and Republicans changed their mind on the individual mandate, he argues. But there’s a key difference: The Democrats changed their mind in order to secure a bipartisan compromise on health-care reform. Republicans changed their mind in order to prevent one.

    And so what did Democrats get for their troubles? Well, the individual mandate is the least popular element of the health-care law. The entire Republican Party decided the individual mandate was an unconstitutional assault on freedom. And today, even relatively moderate Republicans like Douthat present the mandate as some kind of underhanded trick.

    That’s politics, I guess. But ask yourself: If Obamacare is overturned, and Obama is defeated, who will win the Democratic Party’s next fight over health care? Probably not the folks counseling compromise. Too many Democrats have seen how that goes. How much easier to propose a bill that expands Medicaid eligibility to 300 percent of the poverty line, covers every child through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and makes Medicare availability to every American over age 50. Add in some high-risk pools, pay for the bill by slapping a surtax on rich Americans — indisputably constitutional, as even Randy Barnett will tell you — and you’ve covered most of the country’s uninsured. Oh, and you can pass the whole thing through the budget reconciliation process.

    I don’t think that’s a particularly good future for the health-care system. And I doubt that bill will pass anytime soon. But, if Obamacare goes down, something like it will eventually be passed. And what will Republicans have to say about it? That no, this time, they really would have worked with the Democrats to reform America’s health-care system? Who will believe them?

    All U.S. Constituencies Oppose Obama’s “Individual Mandate” for Health Care April 3, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Health, Race.
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    Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

    President Obama’s mandate to buy private insurance was born in the rightwing Heritage Foundation, and has not found a home among any actual constituency of the public – white, non-white, Republican, Democrat, college-educated or not. A new poll confirms that “Obama has based his plan on a scheme that nobody likes – even his most loyal supporters.”

     

    All U.S. Groups Oppose Obama’s “Individual Mandate” for Health Care

    A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

    The new poll shows that no significant constituency supports Obama’s individual mandate.”

    When one takes a cursory look at where various groups in the nation stand on President Obama’s health care legislation – now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court – it appears the country is split along party and race lines. A new poll conducted by Princeton Research Associates shows 75 percent of Democrats support the Obama position, and 86 percent of Republicans oppose it, with so-called independents evenly split. The racial divide is similar. Sixty-eight percent of non-whites “strongly favor” or “somewhat favor” the overall health care law, with only 18 percent opposed. Whites are far more divided, with 33 percent favoring Obama’s law, and 47 percent opposed.

    These numbers are, however, heavily influenced by what people think is in the law, and what side they think they should be on, based on their larger loyalties. It is doubtful that majorities on either side of the issue actually understand most of the law’s many provisions, some of which do not go into effect for several years. Therefore, many of the respondents are using the poll to register their broader preference for or against the incumbent president and his party. It is no surprise that majorities of whites and super-majorities of Republicans oppose ObamaCare, as Republicans call it, and more than two thirds of non-whites and three-quarters of Democrats support Health Care Reform, as Obama calls it.

    However, most people do understand the central element of the law, the “individual mandate” that forces nearly everyone to buy health insurance from private companies, or face a fine. The new poll shows that no significant constituency supports Obama’s individual mandate, with only 28 percent of the overall public favorable to the scheme. Even non-whites, two-thirds of whom claim to support Obama on health care in general, balk at mandatory purchase of insurance from private companies. Fifty-three percent of non-whites give thumbs down to the individual health insurance mandate, as do 71 percent of whites. More Democrats are opposed to Obama’s individual mandate than favor it: 48 to 44 percent. And Republicans are off the scale in opposition, at 15 to 1.

    Fifty-three percent of non-whites give thumbs down to the individual health insurance mandate.”

    So, if the core of the Obama health care plan is the individual mandate, as both the administration and the Republicans contend in their arguments before the Supreme Court, then Obama has based his plan on a scheme that nobody likes – even his most loyal supporters.

    There’s another interesting aspect to the new poll. It shows that only a hard core of one in four people want to tamper with Medicare as the Republicans do, with around two-thirds of all racial groups opting to keep the program the way it is, with the government paying doctors and hospitals directly for the service they provide to seniors.” Taken together, the poll indicates strong support for the core elements of the U.S. healthcare safety net, and rejection of private schemes, including Obama’s mandatory purchase of insurance from private companies. It appears that most Americans would rather have the option of dependable, direct health care paid for by the government – which was the case at the beginning of 2009, before Obama unveiled his health care scheme, when 60 percent and more of the American people favored single-payer health care. But Obama maneuvered them into a something they hadn’t asked for, and which, three years later, nobody wants. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

     

    If the Supreme Court Goes Rogue April 1, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Constitution, Health.
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    ROGER’S COMMENT: HOW IRONIC!  NOW IT COMES FROM THE LIBERAL LEFT, ACCUSING THE JUDICIARY OF LEGISLATING.  THIS HAS BEEN THE PROVINCE OF THE RIGHT, MOST NOTABLY IS THE WARREN COURT’S DESEGREGATION  DECISION, BROWN VS. THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF TOPEKA, KANSAS.  WHAT THE AUTHOR OF THE POSTED ARTICLE FAILS TO RECOGNIZE IS THAT CONSTITUTIONS AND SUPREME COURT DECISIONS ASIDE, LAWS ARE MADE AND INTERPRETED BY HUMAN BEINGS AND THERE IS NO FAIL SAFE APART FROM GENUINE DEMOCRACY, WHICH IS IMPOSSIBLE IN A CAPITALIST WORLD.  I ONCE HEARD A TALK GIVEN BY LEGENDARY CIVIL RIGHTS LAWYER, WILLIAM KUNTSLER, WHO POINTED OUT THAT ALL MAJOR STATE CRIMES IN HISTORY, FROM THE DEATHS OF SOCRATES AND JESUS TO THE NAZI HOLOCAUST, WERE CARRIED OUT “LEGALLY.”  FOR MORE ON THIS SEE MY ESSAY: THE CONSTITUTION IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL (http://rogerhollander.wordpress.com/category/rogers-archived-writing/political-essays-roger/the-constitution-is-unconstitutional/)
    AN ADDITIONAL IRONY: SINCE THE OBAMA HEALTH CARE PLAN IS ESSENTIALLY A REPUBLICAN ORIENTED PROJECT IN THAT IT IS A HUGE GIFT TO THE PRIVATE HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY, THE SUPREME COURT REPUBLICANS NEEDS TO DECIDE IF IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO GIVE OBAMA A HUGE POLITICAL DEFEAT RATHER THAN SUSTAIN WHAT THEY IDEOLOGICALLY WOULD OTHERWISE NORMALLY ACCEPT.
    Published on Sunday, April 1, 2012 by Consortium News

    by  Sam Parry

    What happens to a Republic under a written Constitution if a majority of the Supreme Court, which is empowered to interpret that Constitution, goes rogue? What if the court’s majority simply ignores the wording of the founding document and makes up the law to serve some partisan end? Does that, in effect, turn the country into a lawless state where raw power can muscle aside the democratic process?

    Chief Justice John Roberts

    Something very much like that could be happening if the Supreme Court’s five Republicans continue on their apparent path to strike down the individual mandate at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. In doing so, they will be rewriting the Constitution’s key Commerce Clause and thus reshaping America’s system of government by fiat, rather than by the prescribed method of making such changes through the amendment process.

    And the word “regulate” means today what it meant then, as was noted in a Nov. 8, 2011, ruling written by Judge Laurence Silberman, a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a conservative appointee of President Ronald Reagan.The plain text of the Commerce Clause – Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 – is so straightforward that a middle-school child should be able to understand it. Here it is: “Congress shall have Power… to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

    In upholding the individual mandate as constitutional, Silberman wrote: “At the time the Constitution was fashioned, to ‘regulate’ meant, as it does now, ‘[t]o adjust by rule or method,’ as well as ‘[t]o direct.’ To ‘direct,’ in turn, included ‘[t]o prescribe certain measure[s]; to mark out a certain course,’ and ‘[t]o order; to command.’ In other words, to ‘regulate’ can mean to require action.”

    So, for the individual mandate to clear the Commerce Clause hurdle it must be a regulation of commerce among the states. Everyone agrees that health care and health insurance are interstate markets. Check. Everyone also agrees that health care and health insurance are commerce. Check. There’s also no dispute that the individual mandate is a form of regulation. Check.

    Judge Silberman went through the same check list and concluded that there was “no textual support” in the Constitution for striking down the individual mandate because the word “regulate” has always included the power to compel people to act.

    But the law’s opponents insist that the individual mandate is a unique and improper form of regulation because it forces an American to do something that the person might not want to do it, i.e. go into the private market and buy health insurance.

    Yet, in other enumerated powers, this idea of Congress having the power to compel people to act is widely accepted. Take, for example, the draft. While there is not currently a draft, there has been at many points in U.S. history and even now every male citizen, when he turns 18, is required to register for selective service. And, should the draft come back and should you get drafted, you would be legally compelled to serve.

    If compelling individuals to risk their lives in war is an accepted use of congressional authority, it is hard to see the logic in striking down the power of Congress to compel individuals to get health insurance.

    Washington and Madison

    And, despite what the Affordable Care Act’s critics have said repeatedly, this is not the first time the federal government has ordered Americans to buy a private product.

    Indeed, just four years after the Constitution’s ratification, the second U.S. Congress passed the Militia Acts of 1792, which were signed into law by President George Washington. The militia law ordered white men of fighting age to arm themselves with a musket, bayonet and belt, two spare flints, a cartridge box with 24 bullets and a knapsack so they could participate in militias.

    If one wants to gauge whether a mandate to buy a private product violates the original intent of the Framers, one probably can’t do better than applying the thinking of George Washington, who presided at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and James Madison, the Constitution’s architect who served in the Second Congress and argued for the militia law. [For more, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Madison: Father of the Commerce Clause.”]

    So, it would seem to be a rather clear-cut constitutional case. Whether one likes the Affordable Care Act or not, it appears to fall well within the Constitution and historical precedents. By the way, that’s also the view of Ronald Reagan’s Solicitor General Charles Fried who said this in a March 28 interview:

    “Now, is it within the power of Congress? Well, the power of Congress is to regulate interstate commerce. Is health care commerce among the states? Nobody except maybe Clarence Thomas doubts that. So health care is interstate commerce. Is this a regulation of it? Yes. End of story.”

    However, if Chief Justice John Roberts and the Court’s four other Republicans go in the direction they signaled during oral arguments and strike down the individual mandate, they will not merely be making minor clarifications to the noun “commerce” and the adjective “interstate” — as the Court has done previously — but they will be revising the definition of the verb “regulate” and thus substantially editing the Constitution.

    Amendment Process

    When it comes to editing the Constitution, there is a detailed process spelled out for how you do that. It’s in Article 5 of the Constitution and it’s called the amendment process – something in which the Judicial Branch plays absolutely no role. The process for revising the founding document requires votes by two-thirds of both the House and the Senate and the approval of three-quarters of the states.

    Besides representing an affront to the nation’s constitutional system, an end-run by a narrow majority of the Supreme Court taking upon itself to rewrite an important section of the Constitution would drastically alter the balance among the three branches of government.

    Such an action would fly in the face of the longstanding principle in constitutional cases that the Supreme Court should give deference to legislation passed by the government’s Legislative Branch and signed into law by the President as chief of the Executive Branch. Under that tradition, the Judicial Branch starts with the assumption that the other two branches have acted constitutionally.

    The burden of proof, therefore, should not be on the government to prove that the Constitution permits a law – but rather on the plaintiffs to demonstrate how a law is unconstitutional.

    Yet, during oral arguments this week, Republican justices pressed the government to prove that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional and even demanded that Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. put forward a limiting principle to the Commerce Clause – to speculate about what couldn’t be done under that power.

    Justice Anthony Kennedy several times raised the point that the individual mandate changes the relationship between citizens and the federal government in, as he put it, “fundamental ways” and thus the government needed to offer a powerful justification. In his questions, however, it was not entirely clear why Kennedy thought this, given the fact that Congress has previously enacted many mandates, including requirements to contribute money to Social Security and Medicare.

    In the March 28 interview, former Solicitor General Fried took issue with Kennedy’s question about this “fundamental” change, calling the line “an appalling piece of phony rhetoric” and dismissing it as “Kennedy’s Tea Party-like argument.”

    Fried noted that Social Security in the 1930s and Medicare in the 1960s indeed were major changes in the relationship between the government and the citizenry, “but this? This is simply a rounding out in a particular area of a relation between the citizen and the government that’s been around for 70 years.”

    On policy substance as well as on constitutional principle, Fried was baffled by the Republican justices’ opposition to the law, saying: “I’ve never understood why regulating by making people go buy something is somehow more intrusive than regulating by making them pay taxes and then giving it to them. I don’t get it.”

    A Noble Rationale

    But Kennedy seemed to be fishing for some noble-sounding rationale for striking down the individual mandate. He was backed up by Justice Antonin Scalia who proffered the peculiar argument that if Congress could mandate the purchase of health care, why couldn’t it require people to buy broccoli – as if any outlandish hypothetical regarding congressional use of the Commerce Clause disqualifies all uses of the Commerce Clause.

    This line of reasoning by the Republican justices also ignored the point that the Court’s role is not to conjure up reasons to strike down a law, but rather to make a straightforward assessment of whether the individual mandate represents a regulation of interstate commerce and is thus constitutional.

    In searching for a rationale to strike down the law, the Court’s Republicans also ignored the true limiting principle of any act of Congress – the ballot box. If any congressional majority were crazy enough to mandate the purchase of broccoli, the voters could throw that bunch out and vote in representatives who could then reverse the law.

    In the case of the Affordable Care Act, Democrats won Election 2008, in part, because they promised the voters to tackle the crisis in U.S. health care. If the voters don’t like what was done, they can vote the Democrats out of office in November. The pendulum of democracy can always undo or modify any law through legislative action.

    However, what the Republican majority on the Supreme Court seems to be angling toward is a radical change in the longstanding principles behind the Constitution’s checks and balances. The five justices would bestow upon themselves the power to not only undo legislation, which has been lawfully enacted by Congress and signed by the President, but to rewrite the founding document itself.

    © 2012 Consortium News

    <!–

    –>

    Sam Parry

    Sam Parry is co-author of Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush. He has worked in the environmental movement, including as a grassroots organizer, communications associate, and on the Sierra Club’s and Amnesty International’s joint Human Rights and the Environment campaign. He currently works for Environmental Defense Fund.

    To Kill (a) Medicare March 20, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Seniors.
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    The House Republicans’ plan to end Medicare as we know it is coming back this week. Please take this opportunity to share information about this reckless plan with your friends and family.

    The House GOP budget would fundamentally change Medicare from a single-payer plan that provides guaranteed benefits and coverage into a voucher plan designed to pay a portion of premiums to private insurance companies.

    Representative Paul Ryan’s budget plan would so drastically change the way America’s seniors are provided health care coverage that it becomes a completely unrecognizable, inferior and dangerous program.

    The Ryan plan essentially would revoke the guarantees that provide seniors and people with disabilities a specific set of benefits and services, replacing it with vouchers covering a portion of premiums to private insurance companies. If Republicans get rid of the guarantees to benefits and services, it will destroy the Medicare program that seniors have relied on for nearly 50 years. They talk about providing a traditional Medicare option at first, but the way they designed this guarantees it will soon fail and have to be eliminated.

    We have paid into the Medicare system our entire working lives. Under the GOP’s plan, guaranteed coverage would be phased out over time. When we retire, whether that’s in 10 years or 40, we would be enrolling in a Medicare system based solely on private insurance companies.

    Private insurers seek to maximize profits while minimizing costs. This leads to a health care system that wasn’t designed to ensure that seniors get quality care, but instead is designed to line the pockets of insurance company executives.

    Click here to share information about this dangerous plan with your friends and family.

    In the coming weeks we will send you more information about this attack on Medicare.

    Best Wishes,

    Will O’Neill Health Care for America Now


     

    Med School Classes Cancelled in Havana February 20, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Health, Latin America.
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    Roger’s note: I am not an uncritical admirer of Castros’ Cuba.  However, I have made a fairly extensive study of the Cuban revolution, and in the 1980s and 1990s I traveled several times to Cuba, and by car and plane got to know a great deal of the Island.  In general, I found that for the most part the Cubans I met were educated, cultured, “civilized” and with a pride and dignity I have not seen in other Latin American countries.  I have met with veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion and was given a private tour of the museum at that “sacred” place, where a huge billboard advertises it as the “first defeat of imperialism in the Americas.”  How much of Cuba’s Stalinist Communist rule is a necessity with respect to the US blockade and belligerence and how much a result of failed socialist imagination, is hard to say.  My most memorable experience was when a Canadian with whom we were traveling on our return trip to Toronto had a paranoid attack when we stopped in Camaguay to pick up passengers.  He exited the plane and ran out onto the tarmac.  My belief is that if this had happened the US he would have been shot dead (and questions asked later).  In Cuba, the authorities patiently followed him as he ran about the airfield, amongst both civilian and military aircraft.  When he finally tired out, he was detained with minimal force and taken to a psychiatric facility.  This is what I mean when I use the word “civilized.”

    by Don Fitz, www.blackagendareport.com, Feb. 14, 2012

    Fidel Castro long ago vowed to make Cuba a “medical superpower.” The country’s healthcare system emphasizes preventive medicine and mobilization of the entire population against threats to health and safety. Medicine is more than a career. Imagine that, at the height of the Katrina disaster, the US closed medical schools in Gulf coast states and coordinated their work of attending to medical and public health needs of the poorest in New Orleans.”

     

    Imagine that medical schools across the US sent their students to survey living conditions of poor black, brown, red, yellow and white Americans to determine what causes elevated mortality rates.”

    “I’m on pesquizaje,” my daughter Rebecca told me. “All of the third, fourth and fifth year medical students at Allende have our classes suspended. We are going door-to-door looking for symptoms of dengue fever and checking for standing water.” [1]

    As a fourth year medical student at Cuba’s ELAM (Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina, Latin American School of Medicine in Havana), she is assigned to Salvadore Allende Hospital in Havana. It handles most of the city’s dengue cases. Though she has done health canvassing before, this is the first time she has had classes cancelled to do it. It is very unusual for an outbreak of dengue, a mosquito-borne illness, to occur this late in the season. She remembers most outbreaks happening in the Fall, being over before December, and certainly not going into January–February.

    Groups of medical students are assigned to a block with about 135 homes, most having 2–7 residents. They try to check on every home daily, but don’t see many working families until the weekend. The first dengue sign they look for is fever. The medical students also check for joint pain, muscle pain, abdominal pain, headache behind the eye sockets, purple splotches and bleeding from the gums. What is unique about Cuban medical school is the way ELAM students are trained to make in-home evaluations that include potentially damaging life styles — such as having uncovered standing water where mosquitoes can breed.

    Dengue is more common in Cuban cities of Havana, Santiago and Guantánamo than in rural areas. Irregular supply of water to the cities means that residents store it in cisterns. Cisterns with broken or absent lids and puddles from leaky ones are prime breeding sites for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the primary vector (carrier) of dengue. [2]

    DF and DHF

    There is a significant difference between dengue fever (DF) and dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF). DF is a virus which usually lasts a week or more and is uncomfortable but not deadly. [3] DF has four varieties (serotypes). If someone who has had one type of dengue contracts a different serotype of the disease, the person is at risk for DHF. Early DHF symptoms are similar to DF but the person can become irritable, restless and sweaty, and go into a shock-like state and die. [4]

    DF can be so mild that many people never know that they had it and that they are at risk for the far more serious DHF. This is why the Cuban public health model of reaching out to people is important in preventing a deadly epidemic. There are no known vaccines or cures for DF or DHF — the only treatment is treating the symptoms. With DHF, this includes dealing with dehydration and often blood transfusions in intensive care. [3, 4]

    DF is a virus which usually lasts a week or more and is uncomfortable but not deadly.”

    Each year, there are over 100 million cases of DF, largely in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Southwest Asia, and parts of Indonesia and Australia. [4] Between 250,000 and 500,000 cases of DHF occur annually and 24,000 result in death. [5]

    Dengue was not identified in Cuba until 1943. Epidemics hit the island in 1977–1978 (553,132 cases), 1981 (334,203 cases of DF with 10,312 cases of DHF), 1997 (17,114 DF cases with 205 DHF cases), and 2001–2002 in Havana (almost 12,000 DF cases). [2]

    Climate, mosquitoes and health

    Climate change could make conditions more comfortable for mosquitoes that are vectors for dengue. During the last half a century, Cuban health officials have calculated a 30-fold increase of Aedes aegypti mosquito. [5] Since the 1950s, the average temperature in Cuba has increased between 0.4 and 0.6°C. Health officials are well aware that “…increasing variability may have a greater impact on health than gradual changes in mean temperature…” [2]

    The 1990s were a very hard time for Cuba. Known as the “special period,” this was when collapse of the Soviet Union caused oil to dry up, the nation’s production (including food) to plummet, and illnesses to increase. [6] It was also a time when there was a climb “in extreme weather events, such as droughts, and…stronger hurricane seasons.” [2] Increases in climate variability meant winters have become warmer and rainier.

    Conner Gorry, Senior Editor of MEDICC Review in Havana, reports that “My friends and neighbors tell me they can’t remember ever having to fumigate or think about dengue in the winter.” [1] Another consequence of more ups and downs in the climate is “…insults to the upper respiratory tract, increasing viral transmission, particularly among infants and children.” [2]

    Mobilization

    Medical students in Havana come from 100 countries about the globe. [7] No matter what accent they have when speaking Spanish, they don’t have trouble getting into homes. In Havana, there is nothing unusual about a foreigner in a bata (white medical jacket) walking through homes, poking into yards and peering on roofs to see if there is standing water.

    Always in need of extra cash, an enormous number of Cubans have some sort of less than totally legal activity going on in their homes (such as a nail parlor in the living room). But it does not occur to either the resident or the medical student that the inspection would be for anything other than public health reasons.

    Cuba has experienced more than half a century of mobilization campaigns like current efforts to control dengue. Soon after the 1959 revolution Cuba mobilized the literacy campaign which sent teachers and students to every corner of the island to teach citizens to read and write. Every hurricane season, the neighborhood Committees for Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) are prepared to move the elderly, sick and mentally ill to higher ground if an evacuation is necessary. Campaigns against diseases like polio and dengue have made Cubans used to the government bringing public health efforts into their homes. [6]

    Every hurricane season, the neighborhood Committees for Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) are prepared to move the elderly, sick and mentally ill to higher ground if an evacuation is necessary.”

    Beginning in the 1960’s, the CDRs worked with thousands of trainers, who, in turn trained 50,000 more Cubans to teach the importance of polio vaccinations. As a result, Cuba has not had a polio death since 1974. CDRs actively encourage pregnant women to regularly visit their neighborhood doctor’s office and patrol the community to enforce the ban on growing succulents that attract mosquitoes. [6]

    Cuba investigates

    Cuba places a very high value on researching preventive medicine. MEDICC Review (Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba) is a peer reviewed open access journal which works to enhance cooperation among “global health communities aimed at better health outcomes.” [8]

    Cuban researchers have played a key role in developing the widely accepted model that DHF is determined by “the interaction between the host, the virus and the vector in an epidemiological and ecosystem setting” [9] In Cuba, this translates to (a) the most important risk factor for getting DHF is having a second infection of DF which is a different strain; (b) being infected a second time in a specific order of DF strains places children at a higher risk for DHF than adults; (c) white Cubans are at a higher risk for DHF than Afro-Cubans; but, (d) those who already have sickle cell anemia, bronchial asthma or diabetes are at higher risk.

    Cuban researchers openly discuss weaknesses in their health care system. One study indicated that there could be a “marked undercounting” of dengue due to missing a large number of cases. This finding occurred even though the study examined data during a time of “maximum alert,” suggesting that undercounting could be very widespread. [10]

    A typical finding is that the community must feel that the dengue control program belongs to them if it is to be successful and sustainable. [11] Some of the best work I’ve seen on the role of public health takes an honest look at effects of “the absence of active involvement of the community” in dengue control. The authors felt that Cuba’s outdoor spraying of adult mosquitoes “is of questionable efficacy.” Instead, they focused on “the bad conditions or absence of covers on water storage containers” in the city of Guantánamo. [5]

    Those who already have sickle cell anemia, bronchial asthma or diabetes are at higher risk.”

    The study had a control group of 16 neighborhoods which carried out the usual practices of home inspections, measuring the degree of mosquito infestation, and larviciding (applying chemicals to kill mosquitoes during the larval stage of growth). In contrast, their intervention group did everything that the control group did, but added intense involvement by local activists. “Formal and informal leaders” of the community worked with health professionals “to mobilize the population and change behavior,” such as covering water containers correctly, repairing broken water pipelines, and not removing larvicide.

    Measuring the number of mosquitoes in the two groups revealed dramatic results. The authors concluded that “Community based environmental management integrated in a routine dengue prevention and control program can reduce level of Aedes infestation by 50–75%.” [5]

    Imagine

    Rebecca told me that when medical students inspect the homes of Havana residents, they find that the overwhelming majority comply with pubic health policy. But some do not. A few cannot afford the proper lid for cisterns. Some have mental problems that limit their ability to cooperate. And a very few just don’t give a damn, even if they could be raising mosquitoes that infect their neighbors. Cuban-style public health research is critical in identifying barriers that communities need to overcome if they are to protect themselves from disease.

    Do you remember Katrina and the number of New Orleans residents who languished while the state and national governments did nothing meaningful? Do you remember the photos of 1000 Cuban doctors in batas ready and waiting to come to New Orleans just like they went to Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, Venezuela, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and dozens of other countries hit by disasters? Do you remember the government that would increase the suffering of its own people rather than accept help from Cuba?

    It may be difficult, but imagine that, at the height of the Katrina disaster, the US closed medical schools in Gulf coast states and coordinated the work of attending to medical and public health needs of the poorest in New Orleans. It may contradict your lifetime of experiences, but imagine that medical schools across the US sent their students to survey living conditions of poor black, brown, red, yellow and white Americans to determine what causes elevated mortality rates and then announced that no one would return to medical school until they were part of a national plan to resolve health care needs.

    It may bend your mind to the border of hallucination, but imagine that health care professionals throughout the world demanded that people of the Global South be spared the mosquito infestations, rising waters, droughts, floods, species extinctions and all other manifestations of climate change brought on by the gluttonous overproduction of the 1% in the Global North. Imagine new medical care based on help going to those who need help the most rather than obscene wealth going to those who invest in the sickness industry.

    Imagine citizens welcoming health professionals to walk through their homes because they do not fear being reported to the police and because they have seen mobilization after mobilization improve their lives rather than ensnare them in empty promises. Imagine a new society.

    Don Fitz (fitzdon@aol.com) is editor of Synthesis/Regeneration: A Magazine of Green Social Thought. He is Co-Coordinator of the Green Party of St. Louis and produces Green Time in conjunction with KNLC-TV. He can be contacted at fitzdon@aol.com.

    Notes

    1. My Spanish-English dictionary does not include “pesquizaje;” but Conner Gorry, Senior Editor of MEDICC Review says that Cuban health professionals use “pesquizaje active” to mean “active screening” when they go door-to-door. Email message from Conner Gorry January 24, 2012.

    2. Lázaro, P., Pérez, Antonio, Rivero, A., León, N., Díaz, M. & Pérez, Alina (Spring, 2008). Assessment of human health vulnerability to climate variability and change in Cuba. MEDICC Review, 10 (2), 1–9.

    3. Dengue fever, A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. PubMed Health. Retrieved on February 6, 2012 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002350/

    4. Dengue hemorrhagic fever, A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. PubMed Health. Retrieved on February 6, 2012 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002349/

    5. Vanlerberghe, V., Toledo, M.E., Rodriguez, M., Gómez, D., Baly, A., Benitez, J.R., & Van der Stuyft, P. (Winter 2010). Community involvement in dengue vector control: Cluster randomized trial. MEDICC Review, 12 (1), 41–47.

    6. Whiteford, L.M., & Branch, L.G. (2008). Primary Health Care in Cuba: The Other Revolution. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

    7. Fitz, D. (March 2011). The Latin American School of Medicine today: ELAM,” Monthly Review, 62 (10) 50–62.

    8. Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba. Retrieved February 6, 2012 from http://www.medicc.org/ns/index.php?s=3&p=3.

    9. Guzmán, M.G. & Kouri, G. (2008). Dengue haemorrhagic fever integral hypothesis: Confirming observations, 1987–2007. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 102, 522–523.

    10. Peláez, O., Sánchez, L, Más, P., Pérez, S., Kouri, G. & Guzmán, M. (April 2011). Prevalence of febrile syndromes in dengue surveillance, Havana City, 2007. MEDICC Review, 13 (2),47–51.

    11. Díaz, C., Torres, Y., de la Cruz, A., Álvarez, A., Piquero, M., Valero, A. & Fuentes, O. (2009). Estrategía intersectoral y participativa con enfoque de ecosalud para la prevención de la transmisión de dengue en el nivel local. Cadernos Saúde Pública, 25 (Supl. 1), S59­S70. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0102-311×2009001300006

    What sick socialist bastard would want to provide free healthcare to the poor! January 30, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Religion, Right Wing.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    2 comments

    Roger’s note: I am no fan of the Obama health care legislation, which gave away the store to the health insurance industry and by no means provides free healthcare to the poor; but this image is a perfect antidote to the mean spirited and  hypocritical “Christian” Republicans, to Ron Paul and the other Ayn Rand worshipers.

    One Montana County’s Medicare-for-All Coverage June 28, 2011

    Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Montana.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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    Published on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 by OtherWords

    As the Ryan Republicans try to destroy Medicare, here’s a prescription to clean up the whole mess.

      by  Kay Tillow

    Back when he presided over the Senate’s health care reform debate, Max Baucus, chairman of the all-powerful Senate Finance Committee, had said everything was on the table — except for single-payer universal health care. When doctors, nurses, and others rose in his hearing to insist that single payer be included in the debate, the Montana Democrat had them arrested. As more stood up, Baucus could be heard on his open microphone saying, “We need more police.”

    Yet when Baucus needed a solution to a catastrophic health disaster in Libby, Montana and surrounding Lincoln County, he turned to the nation’s single-payer healthcare system, Medicare, to solve the problem.

    You see, a vermiculite mine had spread deadly airborne asbestos that killed hundreds and sickened thousands in Libby and northwest Montana. W.R. Grace & Co., which owned the mine, denied its connection to the outbreaks of mesothelioma and asbestosis and dodged responsibility for this disaster. The federal government got stuck with most of the tab for the cleanup costs, and the EPA has issued a first-of-its-kind order declaring Lincoln County a public health disaster.

    When all lawsuits and legal avenues failed, Baucus turned to Medicare.

    The single-payer plan that Baucus kept off the table in 2009 is now very much on the table in Libby. It turns out that Baucus quietly inserted a section into the Affordable Care Act that covers the suffering people of Libby, Montana. Medicare covers the whole community, not just the former miners.

    Residents of Libby don’t have to be 65 years old or more. They don’t have to wait until 2014 for the state exchanges. There’s no 10-year roll out for them — it’s immediate. They don’t have to purchase a plan — this isn’t a buy-in to Medicare. It’s free. They don’t have to be disabled for two years before they apply. They don’t have to go without care for three years until Medicaid expands. They don’t have to meet income tests. They don’t have to apply for a subsidy or pay a fine for failure to buy insurance. They don’t have to hope that the market will make a plan affordable or hide their pre-existing conditions. They don’t have to find a job that provides coverage.

    Baucus simply inserted a clause into the health care reform law to make special arrangements for them in Medicare.

    No one should begrudge the people of Lincoln County, where toxic mine waste was used as soil additives, home insulation, and even spread on the running tracks at local schools. Miners brought carcinogens home on their clothes.

    “The people of Libby have been poisoned and have been dying for more than a decade,” Baucus explained in a New York Times interview. “New residents continue to get sick all the time. Public health tragedies like this could happen in any town in America. We need this type of mechanism to help people when they need it most.”

    But health tragedies are happening in every American town. Over 51 million have no insurance. and over 45,000 uninsured people die needlessly each year. Employers are cutting coverage and dropping plans. States in economic crisis are slashing both Medicaid and their employees’ plans.

    Nothing in Obama’s health care law will mitigate the skyrocketing costs. More than half of us, including tens of millions of insured Americans, now go without necessary care. As Baucus said of Medicare, “We need this mechanism to help people when they need it most.” We all need it now.

    So as the Ryan Republicans try to destroy Medicare and far too many Democrats use the deficit excuse to suggest other ways to tear the social safety net apart, Libby offers a prescription to clean up the whole mess. Only single-payer universal health care — improved Medicare for all — can save and protect Medicare, rein in skyrocketing health care costs, and give us universal coverage.

    Medicare was implemented within less than a year of its 1965 passage. When Congress passes a national single-payer bill, we can all be enrolled in the twinkling of an eye.

    A longer version of this commentary first appeared on Firedoglake.

    <!–

    –>

    Kay Tillow

    Kay Tillow is the coordinator of the All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care, which builds union support for H.R. 676. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky. www.unionsforsinglepayer.org

    Canada May Have the Cure For US’s Medicare Ailment June 21, 2011

    Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Economic Crisis, Health.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    1 comment so far

    Roger’s note: A few FACTS about the Canadian Health Care System to counter the lies put forward by the shameless Tea Party and other right-wing Republican Evangelical types.  (1) users have absolute right to choose their physicians; (2) to make the system more efficient, one needs to be referred to a specialist by her family physician; (3) some provinces have community clinics where one can join — at no cost, of course — and receive care from salaried health care professionals (doctors on salary, can you imagine such a radical notion?!?); the founder of the Canadian Health Care System, Tommy Douglas, was voted the greatest Canadian of all times in a poll conducted by the Canadian Broadcasting Company; (4) the rumours about long waits for service have a grain of truth to them, but this is not because of a flaw in the system; rather it is due to right-wing provincial governments reducing funding; but in emergency situations care is not delayed.  I am a Canadian, and I have lived under both the US and Canadian health care systems, and there is absolutely no question which is more efficient and humane.  The Canadian system of early intervention at no cost to the patient or her family saved the life of my two-year old daughter when she had spinal meningitis.  When my father visited us in Canada from the States and took ill, I brought him to the office of my family physician, who treated him.  The office, however, was stumped as to what to do about payment.  They never had to collect money before and didn’t know what to do with it.  In Canada, you go to the doctor or laboratory and present you health card.  No money changes hands.  No co-payments.  Imagine!

    Tuesday 21 June 2011

    by: Paul Krugman, Krugman & Co.         | Op-Ed

    Crystal Bentley is examined by Dr. Tom Novak at a clinic in Oshawa, Canada. (Photo: Donald Weber for The New York Times)

     

    I keep hearing people say that Medicare in its current form is not sustainable in the United States, as if that were an established fact. It’s anything but.

    What is Medicare? It’s single-payer coverage for the elderly.

    Other countries have single-payer systems that are much cheaper than ours — and also much cheaper than private insurance in America. So there’s nothing about the form that makes Medicare unsustainable, unless you think that health care itself is unsustainable.

    What is true is that American Medicare is expensive compared to, say, Canadian Medicare (yes, that’s what they call their system) or the French health care system (which is complicated, but largely single-payer in its essentials); that’s because American-style Medicare is very open-ended, reluctant to say no to paying for medically dubious procedures, and also fails to make use of its pricing power over drugs and other items. So Medicare will have to start saying no; it will have to provide incentives to move away from fee-for-service, and so on and so forth. But such changes would not mean a fundamental change in the way Medicare works.

    Of course, what the people who say things like “Medicare is unsustainable” usually mean is that it must be privatized, converted into a voucher system, or whatever. The thing is, none of those changes would make the system more efficient — on the contrary.

    So this business about Medicare in its present form being unsustainable sounds wise but is actually a stupid slogan. The solution to the future of Medicare is Medicare — smarter, less open-ended, but recognizably the same program.

    Medicare Sustainability

    Just a further data note. Canada’s Medicare is actually a lot like Medicare in the United States, but less open-ended and more serious about cost control. Here’s a chart showing Canadian spending on health versus American spending, both as percentages of gross domestic product.

    Health Care Spending, USA and Canada

    Hmm. Canadian Medicare looks pretty sustainable, especially as compared to the American system, which has much more private insurance.

    Now, Canadian health care isn’t perfect — but it’s not bad, and Canadians are happier with their system than we are with ours in the United States. So anyone who tells you that Medicare as we know it — a single-payer system that covers everyone over a certain age — is unsustainable is ignoring the clear evidence that other countries somehow manage to make similar systems quite sustainable.

     

    Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed page and continues as a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. He was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2008.

    Mr Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes, including “The Return of Depression Economics” (2008) and “The Conscience of a Liberal” (2007). Copyright 2011 The New York Times.

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