Images 8 March 17, 2017Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Health, Uncategorized.
Tags: Cal Berkeley, free speech, obamacare, roger hollander, single payer, trumpcare, universal health
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Roger’s note: some miscellaneous images.
My money’s on Mona. The further away you are when looking at this, the more interesting it gets.
Sorry for the blurry image, but it is to remind us that almost every industrial nation has had universal health care, in some cases for half a century. The U.S. to its shame lags behind; and while the fight is on against Trump’s killer amendment to Obamacare, let’s not forget that Obama, by adopting the Romney Republican plan, set back for decades the goal for single payer universal coverage. What he did was to etch in stone the monopoly over health care to the voracious private health insurance industry. He didn’t even put universal health on the table when developing the legislation, which is nothing more than an enormous gift to the private insurers.
Here I am at my spiritual political home, the campus of U.C. Berkeley. I cut my radical teeth here, and I hope that they haven’t lost their bite. This picture was taken last year in front of Sather Gate. As an undergraduate on the Student Council, I established the Hyde Park Free Speech area, which served as an embryo for the Free Speech Movement two years hence.
The Real Health Care Debate April 9, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
Tags: affordable care, big pharma, chris hedges, constitution, health, health care, heritage foundation, individual mandate, insurance industry, massachusetts health, medicare, medicare-for-all, mitt romney, obamacare, pharmaceutical industry, roger hollander, single payer, universal health
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Published on Monday, April 9, 2012 by Truthdig
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.”
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.
Stop Playing Politics with our Healthcare July 29, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
Tags: congress, elena dumas, health, health care, health care reform, health insurance, healthcare, healthcare reform, insurance companies, insurance industry, medicare, politicians, private insurance, roger hollander, single payer, universal health
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www.opednews.com, July 29, 2009
“Fear concentrates on what can go wrong [“] it interferes
with one’s confidence in being able to do what is right.”
It is time to stop playing politics with our health and our health care. We are caught in a political chess game in which we are held out as mere pawns by our politicians.
Our health, and the care of it, is being used by politicians in both parties, by the insurance companies and by the President, to advance their own hold on power, their money wealth, and their political greed.
Immobilized by fear, whether of Republicans using their pulpit to rail against them, or by the fear of losing the silver coins put in their pockets by the moneyed insurance companies, or by the fear of losing their stranglehold on power, not one democrat politician, not even the President, have the grace, the courage, the fortitude to act under pressure and do the right thing. For, we are not serfs and we are not pawns.
We are human beings whose lives, we thought at one time, no one could place a value on.
That belief has fallen by the wayside today. We either have tons of money to pay for our healthcare, or we are castaways.
The new Castaways of the 21st Century, who are, (according to Obama in his press conference on July 22nd the latest malaise, the worst cancer draining our economy):
Those of us on Medicare whose health and medical insurance benefits are of no consequence to the moneyed politicians, who, without blinking an eye will chop-off benefits to us, the silver haired population, regardless of the live or die consequences those cuts will have, or are already having on our health.
The working have nots. Those of us lucky enough to hold a job in the shambles of this economy. A job which barely helps us meet the obligations of paying rent, or mortgage, putting food on the table, owning a car and putting gas in it, but who are unable to purchase health insurance due to the extreme high cost of it, or carry an employer provided insurance which benefits have been cut to the bare minimum, or work for employers who refuse to, or can’t afford any longer, they say, to provide health insurance benefits for those of us working for them.
The people on welfare whose health care depends on the Medicaid system.
We are all the new Castaways of the 21st Century.
So, this whole health care reform thing is a sham to our politicians. It is a hoax, our politicians are self-absorbed shammers of major proportions who are playing a chess game with our lives.
They are like the fox and the cat in the Pinocchio tale. They are working hard to convince us (and convince themselves since they have the power to vote Yes or vote No) that we do not need, and they cannot give us, the healthcare that we really need: Single-Payer Universal Healthcare. A healthcare which would go a long ways into returning us to our status of human beings, away from the pawn and serfdom status that they now grant us.
These politicians, who, one and all, pride and honor themselves as highly moral, highly honorable, highly compassionate, cannot see that they are really tepid in their morality and their compassion, timid in really taking on the health care reform, highly sentimental when it comes to departing with the money deposited in their pockets, bank accounts or PAC accounts by the insurance companies.
They also suffer from a reckless fortitude which blinds them to the courage needed to stand up and do the right thing for we, the people …
elena dumas is a fictional name. the real person behind the fictional name is a computer activist. She is a former mental health clinician. A poet and a freelance writer. Her work has been published in several online publications.
We’ve Been Trapped Inside a Bad Health Care System So Long, We Don’t Even Know How Much We’re Missing June 26, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Health.
Tags: age, bankruptcy, Canada, canada health, canada healthcare, disability, education, health, health care, health care costs, health care plan, health care reform, health costs, health insurance, healthcare, healthcare costs, healthcare reform, insurance, national health, public option, roger hollander, sara robinson, savings, single payer, universal health
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Our current system has robbed us of the chance to save, educate ourselves, see the world and live to a robust old age.
Sometimes, when you’re up to your chin in alligators, it’s hard to focus on the fact that there’s a big, broad, alligator-free world waiting somewhere out there, beyond the edge of the swamp.
In this case, it’s hard for most Americans to even imagine that nobody in the rest of the developed world lives this way. We’ve been living inside the restrictions and making the trade-offs required to hang onto our all-important health care coverage for so long that we don’t even realize that we’re cutting those deals, or what we’re giving up, or how thoroughly those choices have come to dominate and limit our lives.
If you’re an American under 40, you can’t remember a time that the health care system didn’t work this way — or that keeping coverage wasn’t a dominant factor in making your life choices. If you’re older than that, the memory of another, happier era beyond the swamp is dim, and fading fast.
This was one of the things that struck me hardest when I arrived in Canada five years ago. The swamp-blindness was so dark and deep that it took a while to adjust to a world without alligators. It’s almost impossible to describe to folks back home how different life is when health insurance simply doesn’t factor at all into how you choose to live your life. There’s almost no language for it. Rather than even attempt it, I sometimes just ask my American friends and relatives to open up their imaginations, and answer the question for themselves:
- How would your life be different if you never had to worry about getting, keeping, or affording health care again?
- What other choices might you have made?
- Where else would you be right now?
- How would it change your plans for the future?
I’ve seen people reduced to tears of rage and frustration by these questions. When you really stop and think about it — pause for a few minutes to take it all in, past, present, and future — it becomes clear that the full absurdity and the sheer enormity of the sacrifices we have to make for an almighty health care card are the greatest obstacle to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that most of us are burdened with today.
Polls say most Americans who have health care are satisfied with it. But nobody ever asks them if they’re satisfied with what they’ve had to do to get it, keep it, or afford it.
What would you do differently? I watch my Canadian neighbors live their lives, and the world beyond the swamp comes into sharp and stunning focus.
My neighbors go to the doctor when they need to — and often, when they don’t. If they’re just feeling funky for a day or two, they go. If the splinter is too big to handle with a needle, they go. Anything goes a little bit sideways — they go.
By American standards, they’re probably overusing the system. (My husband once asked an employee who was nursing a cough, “Have you seen a doctor about that?” The guy just looked at him, confused. Of course he’d seen a doctor. Up here, only an American would ask such a stupid question.)
But the upshot is that the small symptoms of really big things — little lumps, creeping blood pressure, wounds that don’t heal right, coughs that don’t go away — are caught and diagnosed early in a GP’s office, instead of months or years down the road in a full-blown crisis at the ER, which is now the American way. And this is central to cost containment: getting emergent problems calmly headed off right away in a $30 office visit is a lot more cost-effective than having to deal with the full catastrophe later on in a $3,000 emergency-room drama scene. And it allows people to maintain their good health through the years, instead of delaying treatment until it’s too late to recover it and permanent damage is done.
My neighbors heal, recover, and go on with their lives. The U.S. disability rate last year was 19.1 percent, and rising fast. In Canada, it’s 14.3 percent — and Statistics Canada believes that the only reason their stats are creeping up these days is that people who once hid their disabilities are now more willing to admit them.
That disability rate affects the country’s economic competitiveness. Americans just don’t have the time or money to spend on a proper recovery after a major event, or get the full course of treatment that a chronic condition requires to be truly well-managed. Fearing for our income or our jobs, we hurry back to work too soon. Our insurance doesn’t cover necessary follow-up therapies, so things may not heal thoroughly or properly. We can’t afford the drugs, so we cut the pills in half, or stop taking them entirely.
The result is that too many of us end up far more impaired than we need to be — and may, in fact, never be quite right again. Deferred maintenance — which is what this is — takes a ferocious toll on the American workforce, which is now being forced to compete with workers around the world who get better care, make better recoveries, and are able to return to work at full strength.
My neighbors start small businesses. Americans routinely stay chained to jobs they hate because they can’t afford to lose coverage. Canada has an exuberant entrepreneurial culture, fueled by favorable tax structures for small business and a preference for Main Streets over malls. Canadians may bet the house and the kids’ college funds on a new venture; but they never think twice about whether or not they can afford to leave BigCo because they’ll lose their insurance, or what will happen to the new business if they get hit by a delivery truck, or how they’ll afford some kind of minimal coverage for their new employees. Unburdened by health care costs or concerns, their ventures are far more likely to thrive.
My neighbors go back to school. Low-cost government-subsidized universities combined with assured health care make it easy for people to make mid-course career adjustments, pursue their passions, and expand their horizons. The upshot is a better-educated, more capable workforce that’s constantly improving its skills.
My neighbors quit jobs they hate. “Take this job and shove it” is a lot easier — and sweeter — when your boss isn’t holding an almighty health care card over your head. Bosses know this, too, and working conditions are often better as a result.
My neighbors stay home with their kids. They can afford to do that, because they’re not wholly dependent on whichever breadwinner can manage to find a job with a decent health care plan.
My neighbors invest. They’ve got stable household budgets that aren’t being thrown off by surprise health events. Because Canada doesn’t have a mortgage interest deduction, most Canadians reduce interest costs by taking out 10- or 15-year mortgages. The payments really squeeze the family budget for that decade — but by their 40s a lot of them own their homes outright, something most Americans will never achieve. Home ownership, college savings and retirement funds are all big-money investments that you simply can’t commit to if you’re liable to be hit with five-figure medical bills at any moment.
My neighbors travel. Americans don’t get vacation time; and when they do get it, they tend to stay in-country. A lot of Canadians take three weeks off in the winter to go somewhere fabulous and warm (understandable, given the climate). The sheer variety of these escapes boggles me yet: They fly off to build schools in Guatemala, or take holiday jobs in New Zealand, or learn French in Morocco. Even the guy who paints my house can afford to do this, because he’s not spending half his annual income on health care premiums. That $15K-a-year savings will buy a whole lot of margaritas in Cancun.
The result is a population with broad global awareness, and extensive global ties — a necessary thing for a country whose economy depends completely on trade. And it may be an important factor in keeping Canada progressive. According to Diana Kerry, who ran her brother John’s overseas campaign in 2004, Americans who own passports vote Democratic three to one. So travel makes you liberal. Who knew?
My neighbors seldom go bankrupt. The Canadian bankruptcy rate has soared in the past year to 4.3 per thousand. In the U.S., it’s 11.1 per thousand. The entire difference between these two figures is accounted for by the fact that 62 percent of all U.S. bankruptcies were driven at least in part by medical expenses.
But tidy numbers like this elide a harder reality: Bankruptcy doesn’t just cost us financially. It also destroys the foundations of our social capital. When the house, the dreams, and the future are gone, very often the marriage is the next thing that goes, too. Bankruptcy travels in close company with domestic trouble, divorce, drug use, homelessness, and broken families. (After medical-bill refugees, the second most common people in bankruptcy courts are recently divorced women.) If, as conservatives like to remind us, the family is the basic unit of civilization, then our health care system is directly making its profits by pulling down our social foundations — and ultimately undermining our ability to hold our civilization together.
My neighbors have never seen anyone die because they didn’t have health care. With 22,000 Americans dying every year due to a lack of health insurance — that’s one every 24 minutes — there aren’t many of us who don’t know someone who lost a loved one because they couldn’t get the treatment they needed. (For me, it was my father.)
But when I share this factoid with Canadians, they invariably do a long double take. They lean back, squint, stare, and pause to reassess my credibility (if not my sanity). It’s literally unbelievable. They can’t even process it. I must be making it up, or at least exaggerating. It’s just beyond the realm of imagining that a rich nation like America would let that kind of thing happen — let alone let it happen sixty times a day, for years on end.
And yet, they know things are bad down here, because everybody who goes South buys travel insurance before they cross the border. Everybody has heard scary stories about people who got sick or hurt and ended up in an American ER with a five-figure bill to pay. It’s just a stupid risk, and they’re not willing to take it.
What would you have done differently if you’d never had to worry about health insurance? How would life be different now? How would it change your plans for the future?
Go ahead. Think about it. Let yourself get good and angry. The current system has robbed an entire generation of Americans of their full potential. It has made us serfs. It has narrowed our horizons. It has undermined our families and communities. It has deprived us of the chance to save, to own a home, to educate ourselves and our children, to see the world, to retire in comfort, and to live to a healthy and robust old age.
It has left us in this swamp, chin-deep in alligators. And the first step in getting back out is getting very clear in our own minds that there are other places where people don’t live this way — and then angry enough to lean on our leaders, and make it just as clear to them that we don’t intend to live like this any more, either.
Because your future is still out there — and the most important thing you need to get there is a health care plan nobody can ever take away.
Sara Robinson is a Fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future, and a consulting partner with the Cognitive Policy Works in Seattle. One of the few trained social futurists in North America, she has blogged on authoritarian and extremist movements at Orcinus since 2006, and is a founding member of Group News Blog.
Healthy Opinions About Health Care June 21, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in A: Roger's Original Essays, About Health, Canada, Health.
Tags: canada health, canada health care, health care, health care reform, health costs, health insurance, health opinions, healthcare reform, hmos, national helath, new york time poll, opinion polls, private health insurance, roger hollander, single payer, tommy douglas, universal health
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Roger Hollander, www.rogerhollander.com, June 21, 2009
We Canadians know a good thing when we see, and live it and enjoy it and depend on it. I’m not talking about maple syrup, although that might come in a distant second. It’s our national health plan. In the forty one years I have lived in Canada I have never once heard any politician from any political party suggest its abolition (not that the Tories do not do their best to defund and attempt to erode it). It would be political suicide. A few years ago a CBC poll asked Canadians who in their estimation was the greatest Canadian of all times. The hands down winner was Tommy Douglas, the man who, as Premier of the prairie Province of Saskatchewan, introduced universal health care to Canada (he also happened to be Donald Sutherland’s father-in-law).
What Canada has is NOT government health care. It is rather universal health insurance with a single insurer, the government (organized province by province). Contrary to myth, and unlike HMOs and other private health insurance in the States, Canadians have an absolute right to choose their own physicians. Furthermore, in all my years living in Canada not once have I walked into a doctor’s office, clinic, laboratory or hospital and had to open my wallet (other than to produce my plastic health card). When my father was visiting from the States and needed to see my primary care physician, the office staff had to fumble around trying to figure out how to take a cash payment from him. It had never happened before.
The Canadian health care provider, be it a physician, laboratory, etc., simply fills out a form and sends it to the government for payment according to a scale that is negotiated between the government a provider organizations such as the Canadian Medical Association. There are no blood-sucking private health insurers to send costs through the ceiling and squeeze out bigger profits with co-payments and by denying treatment. The Canadian plan is funded by employer and employee contributions.
Despite massive disinformation campaigns about the Canadian health care system that are funded and promoted by the health insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and the Republican Party, a majority of Americans favor what is referred to as a single-payer system over the existing Rube Goldberg system in the States that passes for health care, a system that costs more, yields poorer results, and leaves tens of millions without coverage.
A CBS News/New York Times poll that was published in today’s New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/health/policy/21poll.html?_r=1&hpw) showed that 72% of respondents supported government health insurance with only 20% opposed (the poll did not refer to a “single-payer” plan, but rather a public plan that would compete with private plans; other polls have shown a majority in favor of single-payer).
Surprisingly, the poll showed 50% of Republicans in favor with 30% opposed. 87% of registered Democrats approved and 73% of Independents.
50% of all respondents thought government would do a better job than private insurance companies in providing medical coverage against 34% who thought it would do a worse job. 59% thought government would do a better job of holding down health costs while 26% thought they would do worse.
But here is what for me is the most interesting and telling statistic that arises out of the poll. Respondents were asked if they were willing to pay higher taxes so that all Americans have health insurance that they can’t loose no matter what. 57% said yes and 27 % said no. That’s better than a two to one ratio. And here’s the kicker: of those who earn less than $50.000 annually, 64% are willing to pay more so fellow Americans are not denied health care and 27% are not. For those earning more than $50,000, 52% are willing and 44% are not.
Look at those numbers carefully. While only 27% of poorer Americans are not willing to help their fellow citizens, a whopping 44% of those with greater means don’t give a damn.
This is what I call compassionate conservatism.