Thursday, August 30, 2007

AFL-CIO Continues Push for Health Care Reform

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) announced yesterday that they will begin working towards a late 2009 goal of universal health coverage. The labor organization has 10 million members and 3 million retirees. It plans to recruit at least 1 million of these members for a grass-roots push for universal coverage.

Patrick Howington of The Courier-Journal in Louisville, KY, writes:

The labor organization said it isn't backing a particular presidential candidate or a specific health-care proposal, but it outlined the features a national health-care system should have: It should control 'rising and irrational' health-care costs, provide comprehensive high-quality care to all, and preserve the right to choose your own doctor, among other attributes.

SOURCE: "AFL-CIO Starts Push for Universal Health Coverage" 08/30/07
photo courtesy of cursedthing on Flickr used under the Creative Commons license

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

California Health Care Battle

In a much watched battle Republicans and Democrats in California are squaring off on the subject of universal coverage for the state's residents.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan would impose new fees on employers and medical providers while making coverage mandatory, although subsidized for the poorest. The Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, have proposed an alternative that would require an employer contribution almost double that of the governor's proposal.

Via Forbes:

"The governor and the Legislature are inches apart, but neither side wants to give that final inch," said Larry Levitt, a vice president with the Kaiser Family Foundation.

SOURCE: "Schwarzenegger Tries To Save Health Plan" 08/29/07
photo courtesy of Benjamin Earwicker

posted on behalf of George Williams

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dissecting Mitt Romney's Health Care Plan

Mitt Romney, Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor, unveiled his detailed health care reform plan this past Friday. Today, conservative magazine National Review Online published responses to Romney's plan from various health care experts.

Among those experts questioned is John Goodman, President and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Goodman writes:

Mitt Romney is the only U.S. politician who can credibly claim to have created universal health care coverage. His Massachusetts Health Plan may yet falter; but so far he has walked the walk, while his Democrat opponents have only chattered. He alone owns the health care issue. [...] In taking the Massachusetts plan nationwide, Romney has left most of the bad features on the cutting room floor. There is no individual mandate, no employer mandate, and no managed competition. States would have the opportunity to go their own way.

SOURCE: "Dr. Romney Goes National" 08/27/07
photo courtesy of Cathy Kaplan

Friday, August 24, 2007

Democratic Candidates on Health Care Reform

Yesterday, the Associated Content blog published a brief recap of the televised debate on health care reform this past Sunday. The eight Democratic candidates in the 2008 Presidential election all participated in the 85-minute long discussion, which aired on ABC.

The blogger, Rafael B., writes:

Is a Universal Health Care system in the horizon? Who knows but it seem[s] that the majority of the candidates are blaming private insurance companies, drug and pharmaceutical companies for the mess of the US health Care system. It seems that they may be inclined to adopt an alternative system for managing the health issued of millions of Americans.

Current polling indicates that, today, the No. 1 domestic issue for voters in the US is Health Care.

You can view the complete video online at C-SPAN and read the entire transcript on the ABC News website.

SOURCE: "Democratic Candidates Debate on Health Care:
What Do They Think?" 08/23/07

photo courtesy of Kristen Price

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wyoming Senator Helps Advance Health Care Reform

In the Casper Star Tribune today, Tom Morton writes about the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Edward Kennedy, a Democratic Senator from Massachusetts. The senior Senator from Wyoming, Republican Mike Enzi, previously held the position. Kennedy is entrusting Enzi "to grapple with the finer points of health care reform," according to Morton.

[...] instead of promoting a single comprehensive health care reform bill that could die by a thousand cuts, [Enzi is] promoting 10 different bills, he said.

They include allowing small businesses to band together and cross state lines to obtain group health insurance; allowing individuals to buy into group programs; and fostering coordinated health care technology.

The latter bill would save upward of $160 billion a year, he said. Individuals would have their records on a card that would eliminate the need to fill out multiple forms and inform physicians of previously performed tests to avoid duplicate testing [...]

The committee has been soliciting input from experts, "and has encouraged them to incorporate each other's ideas as it crafts legislation."

SOURCE: "Enzi, Kennedy Join Forces to Reform Health Care" 08/21/07
photo courtesy of "scol22, SXC"

Monday, August 20, 2007

Wisconsin's State Plan

On the In These Times blog today, David Moberg writes about state legislation in Wisconsin regarding universal health care. Moberg quotes the Progressive States Network, which called the Healthy Wisconsin plan "the boldest and most comprehensive health care reform from any state." Writes Moberg, "It may become a model for other states or national universal health care."

Combining features of “single-payer” proposals that make a public plan the universal insurer with elements of market-oriented “managed competition” proposals, Healthy Wisconsin would cover virtually every state resident not insured under a public program, like Medicare. According to projections by the Lewin Group, a prominent health care consulting firm, it would also save individuals, employers and governments an estimated $13.8 billion on health insurance over the next decade.

Advocates believe that even if the plan doesn't pass this session, it has a strong chance of passing next year.

SOURCE: "Universal Health Care for Wisconsin?" 08/20/07
Wisconsin state capitol photo courtesy of Paul Wilczynski

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Giuliani's Plan

An Investor's Business Daily article from yesterday pokes holes in Republican presidential front-runner Rudy Giuliani's health care proposal. The plan seems to closely resemble the one mentioned in President Bush's State of the Union address last January.

The proposals are scant on many details. Giuliani does not explain how he would define when a state's mandates prevent affordable coverage, for example. And he does not address such key issues as prescription drug prices, which have risen sharply in recent years.


Unlike most Democratic candidates, Giuliani's proposal includes no mandates and does not even cite universal coverage as a goal. But he argues that his plan would reduce costs and improve overall health care quality in the nation by bringing new consumers into the market, spurring insurers to compete for them.

In a Boston Globe op-ed, Giuliani argued, "If millions of people go into the marketplace looking for less expensive health insurance, it will drive the insurance companies to create less expensive products that meet individual needs instead of government mandates."

SOURCE: "Giuliani's Health Care Proposal Promotes Market-Based Reforms" 08/13/07
photo courtesy of Daniel Wilder

Monday, August 13, 2007

Canada As Model for U.S. Reform?

In Friday's The Salt Lake Tribune, Sally C. Pipes wrote an editorial analyzing Canada's health care system based on her own firsthand experiences. According to Pipes, both her uncle and mother were denied adequate health care.

Pipes writes about fewer new drugs introduced in Canada compared to the United States, Canadian doctors making less than half of what American doctors are paid, and the long wait for many Canadian citizens to see a doctor.

Indeed, over 800,000 Canadians are currently on waiting lists for surgery and other necessary treatments. Many Canadians can't even find a doctor - about 10 percent are currently seeking a primary care physician. Canada now ranks 24th out of 28 countries in the number of doctors per thousand people, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. When the government took over the health-care system in the early '70s, Canada ranked second.

Pipes is President and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, which is partially funded by the health care and pharmaceutical industry.

SOURCE: "Most Canadians Scoff at Portrayal of Their Country as a Health-Care Paradise" 08/10/07

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Private Markets

An editorial in today's Tennessean calls increased discussion of universal health care "[o]ne of the most encouraging developments in the national political arena." The article issues an argument against referring to the current system as a private market.

Some advocates of health-care reform insist it should come in the form of relying on the private market. But that shows a serious lack of understanding, because in its current form the health-care system has no private market. Private markets rely on consumer-driven comparison shopping, based on quality and price. The current system is not competitive on either level. Consumers lack information or options to shop based on quality and a bang for the buck.

SOURCE: "Universal Care Finally Receives Its Due in National Debate" 08/09/07
photo courtesy of Image*After

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Labor Unions Get Behind Health Care Reform

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), which represents 10 million workers, sponsored a 90-minute forum yesterday at Chicago's Soldier Field for the 2008 Presidential candidates.

Only 7 out of 8 Democratic candidates participated in the AFL-CIO Presidential Candidates Forum. "Labor leaders said the Republican presidential candidates were invited to take part in the Chicago debate, but none of them filled out a labor questionnaire sent them -- a precondition for participating in the debate" [The New York Times Caucus Blog]. Democratic candidate and former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska was also not invited to participate, as he too failed to submit the questionnaire.

The AFL-CIO blog summarizes the candidates' positions on health care reform issues:

Every Democratic candidate talks about expanding health care access—yet every one of these 10 Republicans is talking about reducing government’s role in providing coverage. As former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) debate about which of them can best move the country toward universal coverage, the Republican candidates spent nearly all of their time in this debate advocating a smaller federal role, leaving coverage to the market and to private insurers.

[The AFL-CIO] "said in 2006 that it knocked on 8.25 million doors for union candidates, made 30 million telephone calls, distributed 14 million fliers and sent out 20 million pieces of mail in its successful efforts to help Democrats take the House and Senate" [Chicago Tribune].

The AFL-CIO is jumping into the health care reform arena. Per an August 8, 2007, AFL-CIO Executive Council statement, published online by Political Affairs:
Working families are deeply concerned about their health care coverage, especially the health care costs that are major contributors to the eroding standard of living for middle-class Americans.

Labor Day 2008 will mark the beginning of a renewed effort by the AFL-CIO to win reform at the national level that protects existing hard-won union benefits and extends coverage to all Americans.

The goal of this effort will be to win universal, quality health care for all of America by making the 2008 elections a mandate on health care reform and electing a president and Congress pledged to that end.

The AFL-CIO website includes a page dedicated to health care issues and health care reform petitions

The AFL-CIO's executive council will meet today to decide whether or not to begin the labor federation's endorsement process immediately. Two-thirds of the AFL-CIO's 55 individual unions must agree on a candidate before an endorsement.

Other Sources: Baltimore Sun
photo courtesy of Guy-Claude Portmann

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Convenient Care Clinics

Web Golinkin, President and CEO of RediClinic, wrote an article in today's Wall Street Journal extolling the virtues of convenient care providers. Golinkin has familiarity with the subject, as RediClinic is one of the largest convenient care providers in the U.S.

Golinkin calls these clinics "[o]ne of the most promising developments" in health care reform. He says that they provide patients easier access to routine care with affordable pricing.

There are currently about 400 such clinics nationwide and Golinkin predicts that there could be several thousand more in the next few years.

Although the medical community was suspicious of convenient care in the beginning, many physicians and professional organizations changed their view when they saw how rapidly consumers embraced the concept and how operators provide high-quality care within a limited scope of practice, treat many patients who do not have established physician relationships (an estimated 30% of all convenient care patients to date), and refer many others. The American Academy of Family Physicians, which represents more than 94,000 family practitioners, recognized that convenient care clinics were filling a need. Rather than opposing the clinics, it published standards of care that it suggested convenient care operators should follow. Operators gladly complied because they had been meeting or exceeding these standards. The Convenient Care Association, which represents more than 20 of the largest operators, subsequently published more stringent standards that their members are now required to meet.

Golinkin is also director and co-founder of the Convenient Care Association.

SOURCE: "Health Care When You Want It" 08/02/07
stock photo courtesy of Michael Connors