The Fascists Are Coming for Your Social Security and Medicare

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The billionaire fascists are coming for your Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And they’re openly bragging about it.

Right after Trump’s election, back in December of 2016, Newt Gingrich openly bragged at the Heritage Foundation that the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress were going to “break out of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt model.” That “model,” of course, created what we today refer to as “the middle class.”

This week Mitch McConnell confirmed Gingrich’s prophecy, using the huge deficits created by Trump’s billionaire tax cuts as an excuse to destroy “entitlement” programs.

“I think it would be safe to say that the single biggest disappointment of my time in Congress has been our failure to address the entitlement issue, and it’s a shame, because now the Democrats are promising Medicare for All,” McConnell told Bloomberg. He added, “[W]e’re talking about Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.”

These programs, along with free public education and progressive taxation, are the core drivers and maintainers of the American middle class. History shows that without a strong middle class, democracy itself collapses, and fascism is the next step down a long and terrible road.

Ever since the election of Ronald Reagan, Republicans have been working overtime to kneecap institutions that support the American middle class. And, as any working-class family can tell you, the GOP has had some substantial successes, particularly in shifting both income and political power away from voters and toward billionaires and transnational corporations.

More from Thom Hartmann @ Common Dreams

Posted by Libergirl


Big Pharma Gets a Big Win From Trump The president campaigned on stinging criticisms of the pharmaceutical industry and promises to use Medicare to lower drug prices. But none of that materialized in his drug-pricing speech this week.

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President Trump shakes hands with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar after delivering a speech on prescription-drug prices.President Trump shakes hands with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar after delivering a speech on prescription-drug prices.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, one candidate famously claimed that drug companies were “getting away with murder”—using armies of lobbyists to influence Congress and artificially inflating drug prices.

But a lot can change in two years. That candidate was Donald Trump, who aggravated fellow Republicans on the trail with his forceful and blunt criticism of the pharmaceutical industry. Taking a page from the Democrats, he embraced a plan to allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers, promising that such a scheme could save hundreds of millions of dollars and reduce drug prices. When he was asked why the plan, which has circulated around Capitol Hill for about 15 years, hadn’t yet passed Congress, Trump said without reservation that it was all drug companies’ fault.

The industry is now having the last laugh. In a speech Friday on drug pricing, President Trump completed his 180-degree turn on Candidate Trump’s promises. The White House’s new plan, as outlined, does seek to address high prescription-drug costs. “We will not rest until this job of unfair pricing is a total victory,” Trump said. But it doesn’t directly challenge the pharmaceutical industry and the direct role it plays in setting prices. Indeed, the new policy largely meets the goals of big pharma, signaling an ever-tightening bond between Trump and drug manufacturers.

One of the major pieces of the plan that Trump outlined Friday is an ongoing effort to change the federal government’s 340B Drug Pricing Program, which provides rebates to hospitals that treat a high share of Medicaid and uninsured patients. Those rebates are intended to lower the cost of care by forcing drug manufacturers to provide medications—especially high-cost drugs for chronic conditions—at cheaper prices to the neediest populations. But the $18 billion 340B program has been the setting for a war between drug manufacturers, who claim hospitals are simply pocketing the savings and not passing them on to patients, and the hospitals themselves. They claim drug manufacturers aren’t actually lowering prices, and instead are using the rebates as an excuse to increase their list prices.

In a policy document released Friday, the White House described its commitment to requiring that safety-net hospitals “use their 340B drug discounts to provide care to more low-income and vulnerable patients.” But an earlier move from the administration undercuts that commitment. Late last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services slashed the 340B program to the tune of somewhere between $900 million to $1.65 billion, effectively siding with drug manufacturers who say the rebates aren’t worthwhile.
Trump also seemed to take aim at a longtime industry foe in his speech: pharmacy benefits managers, or PBMs. PBMs function as industry middlemen, administering the prescription-drug programs for large insurance programs covering the majority of Americans. These companies handle negotiations between insurers and drug manufacturers on drug prices, including managing rebates from manufacturers that are designed to entice insurers into accepting certain medications on their plans. Drug manufacturers argue that PBMs have wrangled too-high rebates that they keep to themselves instead of passing on to consumers.
In its policy document, the White House vaguely committed to “requiring Pharmacy Benefit Managers to act in the best interests of patients.” Trump was much more forceful in his remarks. “We’re very much eliminating the middlemen,” Trump said, apparently referring to PBMs. “The middlemen became very, very rich.”

Drug companies argue that limiting the 340B discounts and PBM rebates will reduce the consumer costs, especially for elderly people receiving their health care through Medicare Part D. But on that front, Trump has also walked back a major campaign pledge: allowing Part D to negotiate directly with insurers to lower costs of the drugs it offers. Trump said in his speech Friday that “we will have tougher negotiation,” and the policy blueprint released by the White House pushes for “allowing greater flexibility in benefit design to encourage better price negotiation.” But that policy doesn’t seem likely to affect the baseline negotiating capacity of the program: Congress would probably need to pass legislation to allow the health and human-services secretary to make deals with drug companies. Without that legislation in place, Trump has little executive authority to change anything.

While Trump did outline support for a Medicare program that would limit out-of-pocket spending on drugs, that reform seems similarly toothless. That’s because it would have little to do with actual drug prices. Instead, it would increase the amount that Medicare would pay for some seniors’ drugs, in effect shifting more tax dollars toward hiding the true costs of care for consumers.

Perhaps the most impactful set of policies that Trump outlined—and that he actually has the power to pursue—involve what he calls “putting American patients first”: intervening in an escalating drug-price war and increasing research-and-development competition between domestic drug companies and international drug companies. International competition has long been a major focus of drug lobbying, as manufacturers in the United States claim they shoulder most of the burden of research, while price-setting in other countries means they don’t reap commensurate global profits. In response, Trump promised to release a comparison of global drug prices. He also pledged to change drug-patenting and Food and Drug Administration regulation to enhance domestic research and expand the ability of pharmaceutical companies to keep effective monopolies over their drugs.

In all, while the president promised “the most sweeping action in history to lower the costs of prescription drugs for the American people,” the policies described Friday seem somewhat marginal, and none address the actual prices pharmaceutical companies are charging.

Trump seemed to frame his remarks, as well as the new policy outline, as a continued rebuke of the industry, saying “the drug lobby is making an absolute fortune at the expense of American consumers.” But that rebuke falls especially flat this week, given the still-unfolding story that pharmaceutical giant Novartis paid his personal attorney Michael Cohen $1.2 million to gain a better understanding of the president’s health-care policy.

Trump’s policy seems to fall pretty much in line with what Novartis and other pharmaceutical companies have lobbied for years to get. With health secretary and former Eli Lilly president Alex Azar on board to fill in the details, the president outlined a plan that validated longtime drug-industry critiques of Part D payments, rebates, and PBMs. The plan shifts more government money toward obscuring the list prices of manufacturers’ drugs, and takes a protectionist stance on American companies. President Trump calls his plan “American patients first,” but the interests of American pharmaceuticals may be taking priority.

By Vann R. Newkirk II/TheAtlantic

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Plunder Capitalism

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I deplore the tax cut that has passed Congress.  It is not an economic policy tax cut, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with supply-side economics.  The entire purpose is to raise equity prices by providing equity owners with more capital gains and dividends. In other words, it is legislation that makes equity owners richer, thus further polarizing society into a vast arena of poverty and near-poverty and the One Percent, or more precisely a fraction of the One Percent wallowing in billions of dollars.  Unless our rulers can continue to control the explanations, the tax cut edges us closer to revolution resulting from complete distrust of government.

The current tax legislation drops the corporate tax rate to 20%.  This means that global corporations registered in the US will be taxed at a lower income tax rate than a licensed practical nurse making $50,000 per year.  The nurse, if single, faces in 2017 a 25% marginal tax rate on all income over $37,950.

A single person is taxed at a rate of 33% on all income above $191,651.  33% was the top tax rate extracted from medieval serfs, and approaches the tax rate on US 19th century slaves. Such an upper middle class income as $191,651 sounds extraordinary to most Americans, but it is so far from the multi-million dollar annual incomes of the rich as to be invisible.  In America, it is the shrinking middle and upper middle class incomes that bear the burden of income taxation.  The rich with their capital gains from their equity holdings are taxed at 15%.

Even single individuals who earn between $1 and $9,325 are taxed at 10% on their pittance.

The neoliberal economists who are the shills for the rich, Wall Street, and the Banks-Too-Big-Too-Fail claim, erroneously, that by cutting the corporate income tax rate to 20% all sorts of offshored profits will be brought back to the US and lead to a booming economy and higher wages.  This is absolute total nonsense.  The money won’t come back, because it is invested abroad where labor costs are lower, if invested at all instead of buying back the corporation’s stock or buying other existing companies.  After 20 years of offshoring US manufacturing and professional tradable skills and the incomes associated with the jobs, who is going to invest in America?  The American population has no income with which to purchase the goods and services from new investment, and the American population’s credit cards are maxed out.

All that is going to happen is that Wall Street will calculate the lower tax rate  into a higher equity price.  Wall Street can do this without any of the offshored earnings coming home.  Suddenly, everyone who owns equities will experience a boost in wealth, or the boost has already occurred in anticipation of the handout.

The deficit-conscious Republicans have put into the Bill for Enhancement of the Rich’s Wealth, cuts in social services in order to “save workers from higher interest rates from budget deficits.”  This is more dishonesty.  If the Fed lets real interest rates rise to any meaningful amount, derivatives will unwind, and the Fed will have to create trillions more in new dollars to keep its Ponzi scheme in place. The deficit that results from the tax cut will be covered by the Fed purchasing the Treasuries, not by a rise in interest rates.

What we are witnessing in the US and indeed throughout the western world is the total failure of capitalism.  Capitalism is now merely a looting machine. The financial sector no longer supplies capital for production.  What the financial sector does is to turn discretionary consumer income into interest and fee payments to banks.  Aggregate demand can only grow through debt expansion, and the consumers reach a point where they cannot expand their debt.

Capitalism, hiding behind “globalism,” which is misrepresented as a good thing when it is death itself, locates production where labor is cheapest, thus depriving First World labor of good wages and work opportunities and putting First World countries  on the path to becoming Third World countries.  Short-term profits and executive and board bonuses and stock options are maximized at the cost of the destruction of the domestic consumer market.

Plunder Capitalism also privatizes as much of the public sector, such as the military, as possible, thus driving up the cost of the Pentagon’s budget.  Jobs that the soldiers themselves formerly did are given to politically-connected firms.  What was once KP (kitchen patrol) is now provided by an ouside private service. Private mercenaries hired by the Pentagon collect as much in a month as troops in the line of fire earn in a year.  I don’t know that the army any longer has  a supply organization other than the private business that has the contract.

Medicare and Medicaid are the next to be privatized, along with Social Security.  The tax cut will result in deficit and high interest rate hype, and these lies will be used to save the workers from high interest rates on their mortgage, credit card, and student loan debt by scaling back or privatizing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

The environment and public lands will be sacrificed to the private profits of timber, mining, and energy companies.  Grizzly bears and wolves are losing their protection under the endangered species act so that states can sell trophy hunting licenses to men who have to prove their manhood by killing an animal with a high-powerful rifle at a safe distance.

What we are witnessing is the complete looting of America and the entirety of the West.  While the Western World collapses, the insouciant, submissive people sit there sucking their thumbs while they are being ruined.

Nothing is left of the West except looters at work.

This tax bill is an abomination, an act of brutal plunder.  Its sponsors should be tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail, if not hung from a lamp post.


Posted by The NON-Conformist

Bernie Sanders: Why We Need Medicare for All

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This is a pivotal moment in American history. Do we, as a nation, join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee comprehensive health care to every person as a human right? Or do we maintain a system that is enormously expensive, wasteful and bureaucratic, and is designed to maximize profits for big insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, Wall Street and medical equipment suppliers?

We remain the only major country on earth that allows chief executives and stockholders in the health care industry to get incredibly rich, while tens of millions of people suffer because they can’t get the health care they need. This is not what the United States should be about.

All over this country, I have heard from Americans who have shared heartbreaking stories about our dysfunctional system. Doctors have told me about patients who died because they put off their medical visits until it was too late. These were people who had no insurance or could not afford out-of-pocket costs imposed by their insurance plans.

I have heard from older people who have been forced to split their pills in half because they couldn’t pay the outrageously high price of prescription drugs. Oncologists have told me about cancer patients who have been unable to acquire lifesaving treatments because they could not afford them. This should not be happening in the world’s wealthiest country.

Americans should not hesitate about going to the doctor because they do not have enough money. They should not worry that a hospital stay will bankrupt them or leave them deeply in debt. They should be able to go to the doctor they want, not just one in a particular network. They should not have to spend huge amounts of time filling out complicated forms and arguing with insurance companies as to whether or not they have the coverage they expected.

Even though 28 million Americans remain uninsured and even more are underinsured, we spend far more per capita on health care than any other industrialized nation. In 2015, the United States spent almost $10,000 per person for health care; the Canadians, Germans, French and British spent less than half of that, while guaranteeing health care to everyone. Further, these countries have higher life expectancy rates and lower infant mortality rates than we do.

The reason that our health care system is so outrageously expensive is that it is not designed to provide quality care to all in a cost-effective way, but to provide huge profits to the medical-industrial complex. Layers of bureaucracy associated with the administration of hundreds of individual and complicated insurance plans is stunningly wasteful, costing us hundreds of billions of dollars a year. As the only major country not to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry, we spend tens of billions more than we should.

The solution to this crisis is not hard to understand. A half-century ago, the United States established Medicare. Guaranteeing comprehensive health benefits to Americans over 65 has proved to be enormously successful, cost-effective and popular. Now is the time to expand and improve Medicare to cover all Americans.

This is not a radical idea. I live 50 miles south of the Canadian border. For decades, every man, woman and child in Canada has been guaranteed health care through a single-payer, publicly funded health care program. This system has not only improved the lives of the Canadian people but has also saved families and businesses an immense amount of money.

On Wednesday I will introduce the Medicare for All Act in the Senate with 15 co-sponsors and support from dozens of grass-roots organizations. Under this legislation, every family in America would receive comprehensive coverage, and middle-class families would save thousands of dollars a year by eliminating their private insurance costs as we move to a publicly funded program.

The transition to the Medicare for All program would take place over four years. In the first year, benefits to older people would be expanded to include dental care, vision coverage and hearing aids, and the eligibility age for Medicare would be lowered to 55. All children under the age of 18 would also be covered. In the second year, the eligibility age would be lowered to 45 and in the third year to 35. By the fourth year, every man, woman and child in the country would be covered by Medicare for All.

Needless to say, there will be huge opposition to this legislation from the powerful special interests that profit from the current wasteful system. The insurance companies, the drug companies and Wall Street will undoubtedly devote a lot of money to lobbying, campaign contributions and television ads to defeat this proposal. But they are on the wrong side of history.

Guaranteeing health care as a right is important to the American people not just from a moral and financial perspective; it also happens to be what the majority of the American people want. According to an April poll by The Economist/YouGov, 60 percent of the American people want to “expand Medicare to provide health insurance to every American,” including 75 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of independents and 46 percent of Republicans.

Now is the time for Congress to stand with the American people and take on the special interests that dominate health care in the United States. Now is the time to extend Medicare to everyone.


Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Battles Ahead: Meet the Biggest Opponents of Single-Payer

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Health care activists gather outside Trump Tower to 'declare healthcare a human right,' near Trump Tower, January 13, 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)Health care activists gather outside Trump Tower to “declare healthcare a human right,” January 13, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

This piece is part of Fighting for Our Lives: The Movement for Medicare for All, a Truthout original series.

It has become fashionable to write premature obituaries of the Senate bill to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, using hyperbolic and misleading language. The Senate bill, according to varying headlines, is “in peril,” on “life support” and “dead on arrival.” These stories should be of little comfort given that the exact same headlines were published prior to the House passing its version of the repeal. That bill was also reportedly “on the verge of collapse,” “in tatters,” “flailing” and even “dead.”

Such sentiment could give Americans a false sense of complacency. There is still a real danger that this contemptible bill, which according to the Congressional Budget Office would lead to 22 million Americans becoming uninsured, will still become law. Considering this, stopping this legislation — which repeals Medicaid as much as it does the ACA — should remain the top short-term priority for advocates of health care justice.

But the fight to stop Trumpcare must also be part of a wider struggle for health care justice. The threat of this shameful legislation alone has demonstrated that it is morally indefensible to leave anyone without coverage. As a result, the argument for single-payer health care is starting to make sense to a lot of people, including a record number of Congress members and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who publicly came out in favor of the policy in a Wall Street Journal article last week.

What Constituency Is Being Served in Washington?

Indeed, it is a testament to this growing support for single-payer that the New York Times devoted a front-page story to the issue in June. “The Single-payer Party? Democrats Shift Left on Health Care,” the headline read. But while a front-page story on momentum for Medicare for All is a welcome sight for advocates, the article amplifies a falsehood that reflects why the policy remains so elusive.

“Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, replied with a flat ‘no’ when asked if Democrats should make single-payer a central theme in 2018,” the Times reported. “The comfort level with the broader base of the American people is not there yet,” Pelosi said.

The House minority leader, however, is wrong. Polls show the public supports “Medicare for all,” and has for years. A recent Economist/YouGov poll, for instance, shows 60 percent support for the policy, including 75 percent of Democrats. Even a plurality of Republicans supports single payer: 46 percent support Medicare for All, compared with 38 percent opposed. (Seventeen percent are not sure.)

This begs the questions: If Medicare for All has popular support why do power brokers like Pelosi claim it isn’t viable? What constituency is not “comfortable” with a more efficient system that would provide universal health care? It is an especially relevant question now when we see Republicans go full bore trying to pass a bill that has only 12 percent support from the public, according to a USA Today poll.

The fact is that a very small and powerful group of rich people would be a little less rich if single-payer became a reality. “Insurance and pharmaceutical firms are the most important opponents of single payer,” said Dr. David Himmelstein, a founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, in an interview with Truthout. For-profit hospitals and manufacturers of medical devices oppose single-payer for the same reasons, he added.

These industries, and not the public, are the constituency who are not “comfortable,” with Medicare for All. This group might represent a very small number of people, but it is disproportionately powerful. In fact, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Pelosi gets more money from health services than from any other industry — more than double the amount she receives from public-sector unions and investment firms combined:

A screen shot of data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows the industries who spent the most in lobbying in 2016. Health-related industries accounted for four of the top six sectors.A screen shot of data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows the industries who spent the most in lobbying in 2016. Health-related industries accounted for four of the top six sectors. (Credit: Center for Responsive Politics)

From a wider angle, the attack on single payer (and Medicaid for that matter) is, like so much of the neoliberal agenda, a form of class warfare that seeks to privatize and commodify almost everything. The goal is to add to the enormous fortunes of corporations and billionaires while, in the words of Eugene Debs, “millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.” These forces are emboldened by the ever-pervasive role of money in politics and enabled by the corporate-owned media establishment, which reliably serves elite interests.

Other enemies of single-payer include the American Medical Association (AMA), AARP, the Koch Brothers and the Chamber of Commerce. Even some ostensibly liberal advocacy groups, particularly those with industry funding, have also served as an obstacle to single-payer.

Understanding the nature of the opposition is a necessary, if daunting, step for advocates of health care justice to take on the road to making this reform a reality.

Single-Payer: An Existential Threat to the For-Profit Industry

The most significant enemies are health insurance and drug companies. “A single-payer reform would end insurers’ role in the health care system, essentially wiping out their entire business,” Himmelstein said.

The health sector spent more than $500 million on lobbying in 2016 and several billion in the last decade, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ data. Lobbying from pharmaceutical firms accounts for almost half of the overall spending, totaling a little more than $245 million.

Chart: Michael Corcoran / Truthout(Chart: Michael Corcoran / Truthout; Data is from the Center for Responsive Politics)

“The [pharmaceutical] industry has never lacked for resources to amplify its voice in politics and policy making. Since 1999, pharmaceutical firms and health product companies have poured more money annually into lobbying than any other industry, including $229 million last year alone. PhRMA [Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America] led the group, plowing $16.6 million into helping advance drug makers’ priorities in Washington,” observed a report by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The insurance industry has even more at stake. American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) is the primary lobby for health insurers. Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action once described the lobby as “public enemy number one,” and “the most aggressive opponent to single payer.”

“The health insurance corporations must die so that the American people can live,” he said.

Indeed, a true single-payer system would effectively abolish private health insurance as we know it. Therefore, the insurance lobby will always oppose any shift away from our system, which provides it with billions in profit every year. UnitedHealth Group, for instance, took in $185 billion in revenue in 2016, up $28 billion from 2015, according to its shareholder report released in January. The report “estimated revenues of $197 billion to $199 billion” in 2017.

AHIP has donated more than $250,000 to 100 Congress members in the current election cycle; 59 percent of that went to Republicans. The group has 36 registered lobbyists, and a startling 76 percent of them have been through the “revolving door,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ data: They formerly worked for the US government. Kyle Nevins, a lobbyist from Harbinger Strategies, spent “over a decade on Capitol Hill working with the House Republican Leadership.”

Another AHIP lobbyist, Aryana Khalid, worked for prominent Democrats until recently. She was chief of staff to the director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and a project director for the Affordable Care Act, and spent years working for Democrats. Her Twitter account is filled with support for the Affordable Care Act and critiques of Trump, but her day job is to help maximize profits for the nation’s biggest opponent of universal health care.

How the Industry Shapes the Debate 

These industries have not been forced to actively lobby against a single-payer bill since none have come close to becoming law. Insurance and drug companies, however, have attacked single-payer successfully in other ways for years, using misinformation campaigns decrying the evils of “socialized medicine.” Wendell Potter, the former CIGNA executive who has turned into an advocate for health care justice, has described this sinister work from an insider’s point of view. He observed that a front group, Health Care America, founded largely by drug companies and maintained with the help of AHIP and the PR firm APCO Worldwide, existed “for the sole purpose of attacking” Michael Moore’s film Sicko — released 10 years ago this month.

AHIP’s planning documents for its strategy to counter Sicko’s influence are quite revelatory. They show an industry that greatly fears a blossoming movement for single-payer, cautioning lobbyists to “prepare for the worst.” The documents outline plans to ally with corporate/centrist groups like the Democratic Leadership Council and the Progressive Policy Institute, and to shape “media coverage to reflect the industry position” and highlight “horror stories” of government-run systems.

These industries have also spent decades smearing the Canadian health care system, which is universal, far less expensive and beloved by citizens of the country. “Over the course of a two-decade career as a health insurance executive, I spent hours and hours implementing my industry’s ongoing propaganda campaign to mislead people about the Canadian health care system,” Potter once said to a Canadian audience, noting he had yet to “encounter a single Canadian who didn’t talk about their Medicare program with pride.”

These campaigns to spread falsehoods about government-run health care have been quite effective. As of this writing, searching for “Canada” and “health care” via Google, pulls up numerous attacks about the “ugly truth” of the Canadian system and articles that describe Canada’s embrace of universal health care as a “cautionary tale.”

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has documented for years how the corporate media has been dismissive of single-payer — when they give it any attention at all. That bias continues to this day. The Times’s front page article on June 3 cited a poll saying there is only “40 percent” support for single-payer, even though when the language “Medicare for All” is used, support is near or above 60 percent. There was no mention of these polls, or other polls showing that the insurance industry is no longer succeeding in making “single-payer” into a pejorative term.

The dominant media, however, have played right into the industry’s hands. AHIP’s president was given space in USA Today to advance the industry narrative after Sicko was released. CNN famously ran a smear job by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, which Gupta later begrudgingly confessed contained provable falsehoods. The response from Washington Post staff writer Stephen Hunter to Moore was similar to the most common (and spurious) straw man attacks against Bernie Sanders: that the left thinks health care can be “free.” In reality, single-payer health care is not free, it is simply paid for by taxes rather than by co-pays, premiums, and so on.

This attack was used not only by the usual suspects, but also by some self-identified progressives. This is also an obstacle to single-payer. Some liberal groups like Health Care for America Now, the Center for American Progress, and the Urban Institute, have not come out in support of single-payer and sometimes attack it. They also tend to cut it out of the conversation entirely. For instance, a search of the website for Health Care for America Now for the term “single payer” yields zero results. These groups narrow the parameters of debate to the exclusion of the most humane and efficient solution.

Single-Payer as Class Warfare 

Opponents of single-payer, as noted above, are not merely those in the health sector. By and large, the top 1 percent of the population — the billionaire class, as Sanders would call it — embraces privatization of most things, including health care.

Center for Public Integrity (CPI) analysis of Senate lobbying disclosure forms from 2010 “shows that more than 1,750 companies and organizations hired about 4,525 lobbyists — eight for each member of Congress — to influence health reform bills in 2009.”

The industry’s money did not go to waste.

“A close look at the health reform bills that passed the House and Senate show lobbyists were apparently effective at blocking provisions like a robust government-run insurance program,” the CPI analysis observed.

But the health industry was not the only powerful player working to quash single payer. The US Chamber of Commerce, for instance, was hiring lobbyists to shape the federal reform. They were also active in successfully opposing state-wide single-payer efforts in Colorado and Vermont. Koch-funded groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Independence Institute and the Ethan Allen Institute also contributed to the battle to halt momentum for Medicare for All. More recently a bill in California for a state-wide single-payer died in the State Assembly on June 23. The Chamber has been attacking the bill as a “job killer” before the Democrats pulled the legislation back.

The Koch brothers aren’t even active in the for-profit health industry; they deal largely in energy. But pushing back against single-payer is aligned with their wider goal: shrinking government as much as possible.

“If single payer ever took off anywhere, it could threaten their anti-government messages,” Mary Bottari, of the Center for Media and Democracy, told Truthout in a previous interview about the Kochs’ activities on health policy.

Single Payer and the Fight for Social Democracy

In this sense, we see how single payer is not merely a threat to the insurance industry; it is also a boon to democracy. Its passage would threaten part of the top 1 percent of Americans — the constituents politicians care most about. Their ability to keep that level of influence is threatened if the public can enforce its will and win single-payer, either in a state or nationally.

This is one of many reasons why the battle for single-payer is about much more than health care policy. How a nation treats its sick people says something about the country’s ability to have a functioning social democracy. Winning this battle against single-payer’s powerful enemies would not only be good for the health of the nation; it would serve as an enormous victory for the movement for social justice more broadly.

By Michael Corcoran/truthout

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Medicare Celebrates Its 50th Birthday, Despite Ronald Reagan

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Fifty years ago today, on July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill creating Medicare.

Two years before Medicare’s enactment, only 54 percent of Americans 65 and over had insurance that covered hospital expenses, and private insurance companies regularly terminated coverage for older “customers” who’d become too expensive. The elderly faced not just their bodies breaking down, but the simultaneous terror of financial ruin.

Within three years of Medicare’s creation, 96 percent of people 65 and over had hospital insurance, and it could never be cancelled. It’s hard to overstate how large a boon Medicare has been for the whole country.

But it’s worth remembering that this gigantic step forward in Americans’ quality of life was rabidly opposed by — among many others — Ronald Reagan. In 1961, Reagan, then known just as an actor, now the ultimate iconic Republican, was hired by the American Medical Association to record an LP record called “Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine.”

And it was completely nuts. Here are some of the highlights; a complete transcript is here.

“Back in 1927 an American socialist, Norman Thomas, six times candidate for president on the Socialist Party ticket, said the American people would never vote for socialism. But he said under the name of liberalism the American people will adopt every fragment of the socialist program.”

This is the very beginning of Reagan’s recording, and, appropriately enough, is completely made up. Norman Thomas never said this.

“One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine.”

Medicine has never anywhere in history been a method of imposing communism (what Reagan means by “statism or socialism”). Communism was established in the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba via armed revolution, not national health care.

“From [Medicare] it’s a short step to all the rest of socialism, to determining his pay and pretty soon your son won’t decide when he’s in school where he will go or what he will do for a living.”

Yes, I well remember when I received my orders to report to the Patrice Lumumba Pod to begin my career as People’s Blogpost Writer 9784B.

“Write those letters now [to Congress] and call your friends and them to write … If you don’t do this and I don’t do this, one of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”

Here Reagan did have a point, given that there are a fair number of old people doing this now. They are generally white, watch Fox News, and are strong supporters of Medicare.

By Jon Schwarz/TheIntercept

Posted by The NON-Conformist

238,000 US veterans died waiting for health care – leaked document

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A leaked document shows nearly one-third of the 847,000 veterans in the Department of Veteran Affairs’ backlog died while waiting for treatment, amounting to more than 238,000 patients, according to documents obtained by the Huffington Post.

The VA maintains that the number is so large because it has no mechanism to purge the list of dead applicants, and that some of the veterans may have died years ago. VA spokeswoman Walinda West told the Huffington Post that some people on the list may never have completed an application, or could be using other insurance.

She said 81 percent of the veterans who come to the VA “have either Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare or some other private insurance,” West said. “Consequently, some in pending stays may have to use other options instead of completing their eligibility application.”

The documents came from a VA program specialist, Scott Davis, who has been a whistleblower on the department’s failings in the past. He disputed West’s answers, saying an incomplete application would not have made it onto the VA’s pending list. He added that the department only began electronic health care enrollment in 1998, and that this was when the backlog began. As for the point about veterans using other insurance, he said that was “immaterial and a farce.”

“VA wants you to believe, by virtue of people being able to get health care elsewhere, it’s not a big deal. But VA is turning away tens of thousands of veterans eligible for health care,” Davis told the Huffington Post. “VA is making it cumbersome, and then saying, ‘See? They didn’t want it anyway.’”

The documents also show poor record keeping at the agency. In one instance, 2.35 million veterans, whose records amounted to about 13.5 percent of the 17.4 million records total, died but did not have their date of death recorded in the enrollment system. Yet dates of death were recorded in a different information database.

Copies of the document have been sent to the House and Senate committees that oversee the VA, as well as the White House.

The VA provides $95 billion worth of entitlements to veterans each year. However, according to the agency’s own figures from 2008, only 36 percent of the 23.4 million military veterans from all wars were receiving benefits and services – about 8.5 million. The benefits and services include healthcare, education and training, disability payments, military pensions to veterans and their surviving spouses, and burial benefits.

The disclosure is the latest controversy to engulf the VA since last summer’s scandal at a Phoenix VA hospital that led to congressional hearings. Then-Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned when it was revealed that about 40 veterans had died waiting for timely access to healthcare.

The VA’s Office of Accountability Review, which was established in 2014 to promote leadership accountability within the department, is currently handling 80 cases, of which 15 involve whistleblower retaliation.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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