Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ Category

Health Care for Christmas?

Readers of my blog have probably noticed that I’ve been a little quiet on the health care bill as it has gone through the Senate meat-grinder. This is because I find the process depressing. Watching the will of the people get twisted, watered-down, thrown out, or outright replaced with opposite legislation takes its toll.

What the final bill will look like at this point is still anyone’s guess. But, it’s not looking good for the public option. With no public option, I believe the mandate for insurance coverage has to be thrown out as well, or we will just end up with a forced giveaway to a near-monopoly private industry. The public option and the mandate for coverage should be a package deal — lose one and lose the other.

Whatever the case may be with the public option and the mandate for coverage, we will most likely be getting some real reform out of this bill. No more preexisting conditions. No more dropped coverage when you get sick. An insurance exchange that could offer insurance across state lines and follow you from job to job. These are nothing to sneeze at.

But the Senate debate has made it crystal clear: the real danger all along was not that the government would “take over health care,” but that corporate interests would find a way to lock in a nation of customers at rip-off prices. Republicans locking in their opposition from the beginning has allowed a handful of conservative Democrats (and Joe Lieberman) to drag their knuckles and nearly derail the whole process on behalf of the interests of the insurance industry.

If we end up with a turd of a health care bill, I know right where to place the blame.

Rally and Response

Wednesday’s lunchtime rally at Senator Cornyn’s Lubbock office was a success. The A-J covered it fairly, and four TV news stations also covered it (e.g. KCBD coverage, KLBK coverage). The rally was coordinated by and attended by about 40 local citizens willing to use their lunch break to let Senator Cornyn know that Texans want a public option.

I want to show you the statement, in full, that Senator Cornyn’s office responded with:

“Sen. Cornyn fully supports the rights of all Texans to free speech and peaceful assembly, but it is obvious that today’s protests were orchestrated by the extreme left wing who is out of touch with the priorities and concerns of the majority of Texans. Sen. Cornyn must represent all 24 million Texans, the overwhelming majority of whom are vehemently opposed to a government takeover of health care. We need health care reform that makes insurance more affordable and accessible to all, but we can’t fund it by raising taxes on middle class families and small businesses and stealing a half trillion dollars from a Medicare program that is already $38 trillion in the red. Nor can we afford to make historic expansion to Medicaid and add millions of Texans to this program that already has severe access problems and is wrought with fraud, waste, and abuse. Sen. Cornyn stands for real choice and competition, but a competitor that takes the field as it sets the rules of the game isn’t fair competition.”
Jessica Sandlin, Spokesperson for Senator John Cornyn

There are so many problems with that statement. There are the typical right-wing red herrings like “government takeover,” and “raising taxes,” that have no basis in reality. And there are a few more that stand out to me:

Medicare … is already $38 trillion in the red.”

That’s some crazy math right there, since $38 trillion is nearly 3 times the GDP of the USA (and approaching the GDP of the entire world). This $38 trillion remark is more likely based on a flawed projection of the future of Medicare, in which case the world “already” makes the statement a lie (in case the $38 trillion number didn’t red-flag it for you).

Medicaid … has severe access problems and is wrought with fraud, waste, and abuse.

The thing about a government program is that the people have recourse to get in there and fix it. If Medicaid is as bad as Cornyn thinks, then fixing it should be a top priority of his. With private industry, citizens don’t have as much recourse, and there is plenty of evidence that the private industry has much more fraud, waste, and abuse.

Sen. Cornyn must represent all 24 million Texans, the overwhelming majority of whom are vehemently opposed to a government takeover of health care.

Also irritating is the Senator’s attempt to find the right words to claim that Texans don’t care about health care or the public option. A few months back, I delivered a DFA petition to Sen. Cornyn’s Lubbock office that listed tens of thousands of Texan supporters of a public option (they signed the online petition at including hundreds from Lubbock and the surrounding counties. Either he’s not listening, or we’re not making our voices heard enough. I suspect the problem is both! We can do our part by calling Sen. Cornyn’s Lubbock office at 806-472-7533 (or fax him at 472-7536). We can’t let him get away with claiming that Texans are fine with health care the way it is.

Overall, the rally was a boost for me personally and (hopefully) a good shot in the arm for a movement that has been building for decades and needs to push on through the finish line.

Neugebauer Town Hall Part 3: Now with video!

Here are the video clips from Randy Neugebauer’s Lubbock Town Hall meeting 8/25/2009:

Randy Neugebauer Lubbock Town Hall 8/25/2009 Part 1
Randy Neugebauer Lubbock Town Hall 8/25/2009 Part 2
Randy Neugebauer Lubbock Town Hall 8/25/2009 Part 3
Randy Neugebauer Lubbock Town Hall 8/25/2009 Part 4
Randy Neugebauer Lubbock Town Hall 8/25/2009 Part 5
Randy Neugebauer Lubbock Town Hall 8/25/2009 Part 6
Randy Neugebauer Lubbock Town Hall 8/25/2009 Part 7

Thanks to my friend Daniel for actually capturing the video. Note that my flip cam only holds an hour of video, so there is a chunk near the end of the town hall that is missing. I’m new to the whole world of posting online video, so I apologize for lack of editing and polish (and the delay while I figure this stuff out). I hope to post many more videos in my blogging career.

There are some real gems in there that didn’t make it onto the evening news or even onto talk radio — coon-tree-bark guy and chemtrail lady come to mind, as well as the introduction from that AFIIG guy (and come on now, how “grassroots” is an LLC, anyway?).

You know those nights where you lie awake thinking, “If only I had said ______ things would be different!” Well, footage of Randy’s town hall meeting keeps putting me in that mindset. Example. As a couple of commenters have noted, the missing part of Randy’s explanation for why he supports farm subsidies but not national health care is that, as with farm subsidies, national health care levels the playing field internationally by reducing the cost to employers of providing health care. Japanese and European automakers don’t have to pay for health care for their employees, but American automakers do, for example. It would have been nice to point that out to our Congressman and hear his reaction.

Anyway, there it is. Now on to a bazillion rude comments, probably.

Neugebauer Town Hall Trip Report: Part 1

Except for the couple of jerks who insulted my girlfriend, the Randy Neugebauer town hall was very civil — not like the clips of town halls crashed by right-wing shouters or poster-rippers. It was an hour and a half of brisk Q+A from audience members lined up at 2 mics. People mostly showed how they felt by clapping/cheering or remaining silent, though there was some whooping and hollering now and then. One dude with an opposite view from mine took the time to shake my hand afterward to thank my friends and me for being decent, and I said the same to him. That was a very nice moment.

The Congressman’s staff were very pleasant and helpful as usual.

Oh, but there was the one gentleman who, during his turn at the mic, literally said, “When you’ve got a coon up a tree, bark!” in reference to the President. A very unfortunate choice of words at the least. A fellow Lubbock blogger I met at the town hall chronicled this line (and the event in general) very well.

It will take me several posts to present all the material from the town hall. A friend of mine took video of most of it, which we will clean up, put on YouTube, and link here. In the meantime, the hilarious-but-tired GOP health care chart (scary! confusing! colors! ugly fonts! boo!) made another appearance in giant poster and handout form.

Local media coverage of the town hall meeting was OK, though the number of people at the meeting varied widely among different media outlets. I’ll say that the hall was packed to standing-room-only, and there were 1,000 chairs in the room. Also, certain media outlets (KAMC and KLBK, for example) did not acknowledge that the questions were basically evenly divided between those who were in favor of a public option (or other health care reform at the federal level), those who were against, and those who had other things to talk about. To lump people into broad categories, there may have been more “conservatives” in attendance, but the questions and comments were hardly dominated by “conservative” opinions.

I did come to the conclusion that our Congressman is sucking up to the we-hate-government wing of his Party’s base. The person who introduced Congressman Neugebauer was from AFIIG, and Randy spent a whole lot of time painting our government as a boogeyman.

At any rate, I’ll soon post links to video of basically the whole event, so you can see for yourself. For now, here are a few pictures I’ve received from friends-with-cameras so far:

Some friends arriving early to get good seats by the mics.

Dana Neugebauer visits with LCRP Precinct 47 Chair Mikel Ward.

The hall starts to fill up.

More tomorrow!

And oh dear, as I am about to post this, I just saw news that Senator Ted Kennedy has died:

RIP “The Lion of the Senate”

Randy Neugebauer Town Hall Tuesday

It’s time to let our representative know that the time for real health care reform has finally come. Congressman Randy Neugebauer is having an August recess town hall meeting on Tuesday, August 25th here in Lubbock.

Note that the location has changed to First United Methodist Church:

Lubbock Coffee
Tuesday, August 25th
3:30 pm – 4:30 pm CDT
First United Methodist Church
1411 Broadway Avenue, Great Hall
Lubbock, TX

These events are called “Coffee with the Congressman,” which has a folksy charm I would normally admire; but, the name doesn’t make any sense for what will likely be a very large meeting in a church. Oh well.

I hope that you, dear reader, will make an effort to attend and let your voice be heard — especially on the health care issue — in spite of the inconvenient time of the meeting (middle of the work day, right when it’s time to pick up the kids from day 2 of school, etc). The media will almost certainly be there in abundance to cover the event, so even if you don’t get to ask the Congressman a question directly, you might get the opportunity to let the world know how you feel on the airwaves. Honestly, the chances of Randy changing his mind from “NO!” are slim to none, so the real debate is in the public sphere.

And oh yeah, don’t be town hall crazy like the FreedomWorks gang.

See you there!

Big Lies from the Deathers

The most offensive and bald-faced lie being trotted out by the right is that the government will determine who lives and who dies under public health care.

This lie really became the focus of national discussion after Sarah Palin issued a statement about government “death panels.” Limbaugh had been using similar lanugage — Obama wants to kill your grandmother! — and Gingrich backed her up after she said it (and had been touring with his own deather road show before that). Cal Thomas, Glenn Beck, and Lubbock’s own Mr. Conservative are all parroting the deather lie. Indeed, right-wing windbags are tripping over each other to get a piece of this “deather” nonsense — it’s such a big, juicy, attention-grabbing lie that they can’t help themselves.

Of course, the real truth is that private insurance already has the closest thing we’ve ever seen to a “death panel,” and a public option would help to prevent that.

Steven Pearlstein at the Washington Times puts it all together:

The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage. By poisoning the political well, they’ve given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They’ve become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.

There are lots of valid criticisms that can be made against the health reform plans moving through Congress — I’ve made a few myself. But there is no credible way to look at what has been proposed by the president or any congressional committee and conclude that these will result in a government takeover of the health-care system. That is a flat-out lie whose only purpose is to scare the public and stop political conversation.

(my emphasis)

Teabaggers, birthers, and now deathers — oh my.

A Line in the Sand

The health insurance industry is fighting against reform especially hard because they’ve got a really good racket going.

Here’s how it is. Private insurance companies have entire departments — or even entire outsourced companies — that specialize in searching through submitted claims for any excuse to deny them. A typo, an unchecked box, a maiden name instead of a married name — all of these become reasons to deny otherwise valid claims for health care. Preexisting conditions are used to deny care. These things happen under a health insurance system that is driven by profit. The less coverage that is given, the more profit that is taken.

If you are looking for rationing of health care, look no further than our current private, for-profit health insurance system.

line-in-sand-head-in-sandLet’s back up to the “30,000 feet” view. The problem is that market-driven systems are powerful and innovative, sure, but they have no inherent moral component. It’s up to society to add that moral component. Often this can be done without the government (e.g. most people are raised not to steal regardless of the legal punishment for theft), but sometimes the government — representing the will of the people — has to step in when an industry behaves badly. We are living in such a time, and health insurance is such an industry.

So, why are progressive Democrats drawing a line in the sand with adding a public health insurance option? It’s not merely to add competition where there is little-to-none (and these days, you are lucky to find an employer that offers a choice between multiple health insurance companies, or even an employer that offers health insurance at all). It’s also to introduce a concept of justice where there was none before. I look forward to the day when preexisting conditions, provider networks, third-party billing, and other such contrivances are ancient health insurance history.

Meanwhile the entire GOP apparatus, head firmly in the sand for its corporate masters, is busy farting out all the lies it can to keep things the way they are in the world of health insurance. The more-than-70% of Americans who want health care reform will have to continue pushing our elected officials to do the right thing and include a public option in this year’s health care reform bill.

Learn more and get involved at

The Swiftboating of Health Care

It has begun.

Misleading ads attacking universal health care are already here. It’s the opening salvo from those who have a vested financial interest in keeping our broken health care system the way it is. To that end, we will hear lies and distortions aplenty from insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and their proxies.

I expect that many “health care reform” bills will be floated in Congress, some deliberately weakened to the point that they’re not real reform. So, let’s be clear on our goal: a public option for health care. Americans should be able to choose either a universally available public health care option like Medicare or for-profit private insurance. Anything less than this is a watered-down reform that doesn’t come close to solving our health care crisis.

Moreover, we need to be careful not to pass a plan that makes the situation worse. For example, a “universal health care” plan that mandates the purchase of private health insurance is a terrible idea, but it’s being talked about within the UHC framework. It will be important to stay informed about the details of health care reform bills as they are voted on by our representatives. Just because something claims to be “universal” or “single-payer” doesn’t automatically make it a good idea. (A good solution will be both universal and single-payer, but there are plenty of bad solutions that are also universal, single-payer, or both.)

You can learn more about this issue and get involved at

Always Looking Up

Finished this book a few days ago, and it’s a good one.

Scientific research is not supposed to be politicized, but it always is. Michael J Fox (henceforth MJF) got caught in the middle of it on account of his advocacy for Parkinson’s research, starting in the early 2000s. MJF was thrust onto the national political stage when Rush Limbaugh infamously mocked his condition in response to his extremely successful ads in support of pro-stem-cell research candidates like Claire McCaskill.

Sure, MJF endorsed Democrats in 2006, but he’s also endorsed Republicans in the past, such as Senator Arlen Specter in 2004. (Arlen Specter will have his work cut out for him next year, facing a right-wing primary challenger as well as a ready-to-rumble Democratic opponent should he win the primary.)***

While much of the book is about MJF’s political experiences, one of the more powerful parts of the book for me was his candid discussion of his family and his faith and how they are affected by Parkinson’s Disease.

Parkinson’s and alcohol took a sledgehammer to any illusions I may have had that I was in control. I came to accept that any disease or condition beyond my control is, in effect, a power greater than myself. To survive this destructive energy, I must look to an even higher power. For my purposes, I need neither define it nor have others define it for me, only accept its existence. It is evident in Tracy’s love and inexhaustible friendship, the toothless gap in Esme’s smile, Aquinnah’s grace, Schuyler’s grit, Sam’s intrepid curiosity. So much to savor, so much to be grateful for. And since I’m not sure of the address to which to send my gratitude, I put it out there in everything I do.

(emphasis mine. NB: Tracy is MJF’s wife, while Esme, Aquinnah, Schuyler, and Sam are his kids.)

Needless to say, I admire both his optimism and his attitude of service.

*** Update: Right as I was about to publish this post, I got the news that Arlen Specter switched parties today. He was still a Republican in 2004, so my point about MJF stands, but Specter’s own future is harder to guess at this point.

We Need a National Insurance Option

The way I see it, there are two systematic problems with American health care: (1) It’s too expensive, and (2) it’s not available to everyone.

Everything costs too much in the health care industry, and having the federal government be a major player in the economics of health care is the way to lower costs. I believe that the federal government can bring bargaining power, liability protection, and choice to our broken medical system. And, I believe that the first steps are going to be taken in the next two years. If we’re lucky, this year.

One step the federal government can take that addresses both fundamental problems with our health care system is to implement a national health insurance plan available to all citizens. (Note: this doesn’t mean getting rid of private medical insurance.)

Former Governor and DNC Chair Howard Dean is back in charge of the group he founded (Democracy for America) and is among those leading the charge for national health insurance.

If, like me, you believe that the time has come to make health insurance available for all, and that health care reform without universally available health coverage is not real health care reform, then please take a few seconds to sign the petition to Stand with Dr. Dean.

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