HCAN! New York

Archive for March, 2009

If you want real health care reform, you need to join the campaign ASAP.

Posted on March 31st, 2009 by David Vigoda in Uncategorized

Ask people if they want health care reform and you get an overwhelming yes vote. Ask them about specific features and consensus breaks down. People get confused by the complexities of our current system and they also can be confused by how reforms are worded. Wording can be ‘loaded’ with subtle and not so subtle innuendo.

And doesn’t the medical insurance lobby know it. That’s why it’s so important for everyone who wants real health care reform to help achieve it.

I’m confident we’re going to win big this year, I really am. But I also know it’s going to be a tough fight. Two recent articles in the Wall Street Journal highlight what I’m talking about.

A straw poll (not ‘scientifically’ designed) [ http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2009/03/24/should-congress-create-a-government-run-health-plan/ ] that drew 5,550 responses produced this result: 27% “definitely” want a government plan to compete with private health insurance, while 64% say “no way.” Sounds bad for reform, since a public health insurance plan is a key feature. But take a closer look.

The question was this: “Should Congress create a GOVERNMENT-RUN health plan to compete with private insurance?” To most people, “government run” conjures images of the government getting in the way of your health care, restricting your choices, denying you treatment. Yet practically no one thinks of Medicare this way.

Had they used the phrase “public health insurance plan,” the results, as indicated by other polls, would have been the reverse.

NOW HERE’S MY POINT: The insurance lobby knows this. That’s why they will try to paint any government plan as “government run.” Because we already know for certain that the industry is dead set against any public health insurance plan.

A second Wall Street Journal piece, this one by Laura Meckler (March 27) [ http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2009/03/27/what-docs-insurers-pharma-and-businesses-agree-on/ ] reports on a recent “health care dialogue” between 18 medical and business associations that more or less comprise the opponents of real reform. The purpose of the meeting was to reach consensus, that is, present a common front against us.

“But the group sidestepped the thorniest issues,” writes Meckler, “such as whether individuals or employers should be required to buy or offer coverage, and whether a government-run health plan should be available to compete with private companies.” In other words, they side-stepped two of the most important features of any real reform: universal coverage and a choice between private insurance and a public health insurance plan.

On the one hand, their unity should put us on alert that this campaign is not going to be easy. On the other hand, their division should give us hope that we can win.

But notice what they’re doing. They’re bringing together all the major players onto one team. We have to do the same. We need to stand together in this campaign. See how important it is for you to join us?

What, you worry? Yes, you.

Posted on March 30th, 2009 by David Vigoda in Uncategorized

Some people think they don’t need to pay attention to health care reform because they have good coverage. Others think reform will drive up their premiums because they’ll have to subsidize people who are currently uninsured. A new study makes clear that both these attitudes need a fact check.

New information about the cost the insured bear for the uninsured was reported on the Health Law Prof Blog, March 27: “Cost-Shifting: New Report,” http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/healthlawprof_blog/

Ben Furnas and Peter Harbage at the Center for American Progress have updated a 2005 analysis by Kenneth Thorpe for Families USA. The report presents two startling findings:

Finding #1: On average, 8% of a family’s 2009 health care premiums cover the shifting of costs from the uninsured to the insured.

How is this possible? The uninsured pay more for care—and get less—than those with insurance. But when the uninsured cannot pay, health care providers shift those costs to those who can pay. This leads to higher premiums.

Finding #2: About 87 million people—one in three Americans—went without health insurance for some period during 2007 and 2008. An estimated 14,000 people EVERY DAY lost their health insurance during December 2008 and January 2009 due to job loss.

The fact is that we are all at risk of losing health insurance coverage and those who are insured are being billed to cover the costs of services to those who are not. Now are you interested in health care reform?

Check out Health Care for America Now. We support choice. If you like your current coverage, you can keep it. But if you don’t, or can’t afford coverage, or have been dropped because you lost your job, or you’re having coverage denied because of a pre-existing condition, then we support the creation of a public health insurance plan. We support guaranteed affordable quality health care for all.

Help make it happen THIS YEAR. Join the campaign.

Why We Need to Stand Together

Posted on March 30th, 2009 by David Vigoda in Uncategorized

A recent article by Laura Meckler in The Wall Street Journal and a comment in a popular blog highlight the challenges of the health care reform campaign and the need for those working for real reform to respect each other’s position.

(The full text of the March 24 article, “Health-Care Battle Set to Focus on Public Plan” is at  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123785156695519283.html
and the comment, “Battle over public option to private insurance plans,” posted by Don McCanne, MD on Tuesday, Mar 24, 2009 is at http://www.pnhp.org/blog/ .)

The article discusses whether a public health insurance plan that competes with private insurance will be part of health care reforms considered by Congress. The prediction is that it is likely to be included in legislation proposed by the House, but not by the Senate, where opposition is deemed to be too strong. Obviously, the insurance companies oppose a public plan, whereas it is the key principle advocated by the Health Care for America Now coalition and the only one supported by single payer only groups like Physicians for a National Health Program.

Dr. McCanne’s comment makes a number a good points, but then seems to despair about the prospects for real reform because the single payer only option has been “discarded… even before the negotiations began.” He continues:

“What is sad is that the enemies of reform have already won. They have managed to eliminate comprehensive reform from the national dialogue and have reduced the debate to whether or not we’ll add one more plan, a public plan, to our dysfunctional, fragmented, multi-payer system that costs so much and serves us so poorly.”

Dr. McCanne apparently shares the view that a single payer only option is the only really good one and must be achieved all at once or cannot be achieved at all. Others hold different views on both counts, but the point I want to make here is that it is way too early to throw in the towel on real health care reform. As the article makes clear, the political campaign is only now starting in earnest. Let’s not be tasting the bitterness of defeat when the battle is only beginning.

That it will be a battle, the article makes only too clear. With regard to a public health insurance plan, there are three possibilities: a stand-alone plan (single payer only), a stand-beside plan (public insurance as an alternative to private insurance), and NOTHING AT ALL.

The debate goes on among reform advocates over the first two options. That is healthy providing it is not self-destructive. But should we not be taking a hard look at the third option?

It may look like there are deep disagreements between those who support a single payer only plan and those who support a public health insurance plan as a choice alongside private insurance. What the article makes clear is that the differences are mainly tactical.

On the one hand there is the real possibility that, if the advocates of single payer only and a stand-beside public plan can’t get together at some point, we’ll get nothing at all. On the other hand, here’s AHIP, the insurance lobby, worrying OUT LOUD that a public plan is only “a very short step to a… single payer [only] system.”

Isn’t the question—the crucial question—how do we win the political battle for real reform?

If we acknowledge this, then a great opportunity presents itself. That is the opportunity for all reform advocates to work together against our common adversary. If we don’t work together, we work against each other, and that is self-defeating.

Let’s win this battle and let AHIP taste the bitterness of defeat.

Why I’ve Joined the Campaign

Posted on March 26th, 2009 by David Vigoda in Uncategorized

You probably heard the president announce his commitment to “quality, affordable health care for every American” in his address to Congress on February 24. You may not realize that this is an exciting development in an ongoing grassroots campaign for national health care reform.

The campaign is organized by a coalition of some 750 groups across the nation called Health Care for America Now. You’re on our web site now.

The campaign is based on a “statement of common purpose” that sets out the requirements for an acceptable health care reform proposal. A key principle is the creation of a public health insurance plan that is guaranteed affordable for all.

Not only has the president signed on to the HCAN principles, but 185 members of Congress! That’s fantastic, but it’s not enough. We can’t count on them to act unless we provide the political pressure to move them.

That’s where HCAN comes in. A few weeks ago I participated in a three-day field retreat where I experienced first-hand the superb quality of the headquarters staff and some 100 of the full-time organizers from all over the U.S. They’re not only dedicated, they’re smart and experienced and wonderfully diverse.

What this adds up to is that we have an historic opportunity to win quality, affordable health care for all this year. I have made a personal commitment to volunteer 12 hours a week as a field organizer. I started 6 weeks ago. I’m having a ball.

It’s easy to get involved. Join the campaign on this web site.

There are lots of ways to help. Five minutes a week is enough to make a difference. Really. Please commit yourself to that much. Sign up right now.

What’s the first step you can take? Email 5 friends right now. Give them a chance to make history too.

Health Care Reform: Single Payer vs. Choice

Posted on March 26th, 2009 by David Vigoda in Uncategorized

At first glance it may look like there are deep disagreements between those who support a single payer only plan and those who support a public health insurance plan as a choice alongside private insurance. I’m going to argue that the differences are mainly tactical.

Here’s my key point: As an organizer in the campaign for ‘choice,’ I have yet to meet anyone who wouldn’t prefer ‘single payer,’ that is, a single payer only system. We all want it. The question—the crucial question—is how do we get it?

Many believe that a single payer only plan can be achieved soon. Many others do not. These folks, including me, believe we have no choice but to compromise with a public option that competes with the private ones.

There are various claims to support both sides. What I want to emphasize here is that all of these claims concern one topic: the practical question of how we get from here to there.

If we acknowledge that, then a great opportunity presents itself. That is the opportunity to work together against our common adversary. If we don’t work together, we work against each other, and that is self-defeating.

I look at it this way: Moving up the field against the opponents of health care reform are three main groups. On the right flank we have the insurance industry, pretending to be for reform. In the center we have Health Care for America Now, the coalition I’m working in that supports a choice between private insurance and a single payer plan. On the left are coalitions supporting H.R. 676, a bill in Congress that would create a single payer only system.

With that array of forces, how do we win? If the left flank and center turn against each other, the battle is lost. If we advance side by side, we strengthen each other’s position. The left helps the center by pulling the reform debate away from the right. The center helps the left by making a single payer plan acceptable to those who oppose it as the only option.

We are not adversaries. We are allies.

We can win this one.

Posted on March 12th, 2009 by David Vigoda in Uncategorized

What makes the current campaign for health care reform so important is that WE CAN WIN THIS ONE. You can’t say that about every fight for progressive reforms. Sometimes we just fight the good fight. This is different.

There is a huge upswell for quality affordable health care for all this year. And it’s across the board, from doctors to small business owners to the uninsured, the under-insured, the insured but denied claims, the insured but scared stiff of losing coverage… And there is wide-spread support in Congress.

But still, we won’t win unless everyone who cares gets involved.

If you care, join us. It’s easy. It’s quick. You’ll feel better. See where it says “Join our campaign” in the upper right? That’s for you.


Posted on March 11th, 2009 by Charlie Albanetti in Uncategorized

Welcome to Health Care for America Now! New York‘s new website.

Please stop by again soon.