Medicare

My Sister Served in the Army. The Biggest Threat to Her Survival is Congress.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/09/2017 - 4:00am in

This post originally appeared at Talk Poverty.


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Mary Mayhew, commissioner of Maine's Dept. of Health & Human Services (left) and Gov. Paul LePage answer questions during a news conference to announce changes to the MaineCare system in Augusta, Maine, on Dec. 6, 2011. (Photo by Joe Phelan/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

The War on Medicaid Is Moving to the States

BY Greg Kaufmann | September 5, 2017

My older sister, Lynn, was always getting into trouble when we were kids. I was the goody two-shoes in the family, but if I did ever get myself in trouble, she’d get in even more trouble to help me out. She was a good sister in that way — always looking out for me. When I was little, I didn’t like to sleep by myself during thunderstorms, and she’d let me crawl into bed with her because she knew I was afraid.

Now, in some ways, I’m her big sister. I do my best to take care of her.

Lynn — a 62-year-old army veteran — cannot walk. Her dementia makes it impossible for her to remember to take her medicine. Her forgetfulness has life-or-death implications, since she has diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. As a result, Lynn has been in a nursing home for the past four years. Medicaid pays the bills for that — just like it does for most people who need nursing home care — and I’m terrified of what would happen without it.

She’s not trying to take more than her fair share of the pie.

Lynn joined the army right out of high school. When she was in boot camp, she had a traumatic head injury during basic training. The military doctors held her for observation, diagnosed her with a concussion and then released her. She served her time as a private, then was honorably discharged and got married.

A few years later, she was struck by a car. She was at a crosswalk, and the car in front of her stopped to let her cross. But the car behind it was impatient, so it swerved around the first car, plowing into the crosswalk and hitting my sister. That left her with her another traumatic head injury, as well as the beginning of hip problems that will plague her for the rest of her life.


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An elderly woman shows her gratitude to President Lyndon B. Johnson for his signing of the Medicare health care bill in July 1965. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

LBJ Launches Medicare: ‘You Can’t Treat Grandma This Way’

BY Bill Moyers | July 30, 2017

Over time the hip problems worsened, until she finally had a hip replacement in her mid-50s. She was able to walk without pain for a while, but she then contracted a MRSA infection in her new hip joint. That can happen with artificial joints — it’s rare, but once you have the infection it’s hard to remove. Lynn’s infection spread quickly, and it almost killed her. Doctors tried to treat her with some very powerful drugs at first, which made her thoughts so fuzzy that she said her brain was buzzing.

Eventually, doctors had to remove her hip bone to control the MRSA. Medicaid paid for this surgery, too — otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to afford it.

Just four years ago, Lynn was working multiple jobs to put her daughter through college: in the cafeteria at her daughter’s school, at Walmart and at a deli. Now Lynn can no longer walk, or work. The doctors say the drugs impaired her brain and made her dementia onset much more quickly.

But this isn’t a sob story. I don’t want you to feel bad for her, or take pity on her. Lynn is still the same person I’ve always known, full of life and warmth. She can break the tension in a moment better than anyone I know. I still remember a moment a few years ago, when she was recovering from her first hip surgery. She flew into Washington, DC, to visit us, and we were trying to get her out of baggage claim and into the elevator in her wheelchair. The doors started to close, and nobody wanted to hold them — she was far away, and she was moving so slowly. But she shouted, “I’m coming as fast as I can!” across the airport. They actually held the door for her. In the elevator, she chatted with them amicably, asking how their Christmas was going. Strangers were smiling and talking to her — that’s a rare sight in DC.

Lynn would be lost without Medicaid. She served her country and worked hard to provide for her family. She’s not trying to take more than her fair share of the pie. She’s just somebody who needs care — and she didn’t expect to need the care that she needs as young as she is.

When our elected representatives decide to cut Medicaid — whether through repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act or a budget that cuts $3.6 trillion from services such as Medicare and Medicaid — they should think about what this means to people like me and my family. They should think about Lynn, and the millions of other veterans who have turned to Medicaid.

The post My Sister Served in the Army. The Biggest Threat to Her Survival is Congress. appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Counterpunch: Bernie Sanders Outlines His Plans for ‘Medicare for All’

Today’s Counterpunch has a piece by the radical, progressive Democratic politician, Bernie Sanders, reblogged from the New York Times. In it, Sanders discusses the outrageous scandal that 28 million Americans have no medical coverage, despite the fact that their country spends more on healthcare than almost any other nation. He points out that this is because the insurance-based healthcare system is designed not to give Americans access to decent healthcare, but to enrich the companies’ executives and shareholders. He describes how many Americans cannot afford healthcare, and are forced to cut down on the drugs they need, simply because they cannot pay for them. He argues that the experience of Canada, and the Medicare programme brought fifty years ago, both show that single-payer healthcare is cheap, popular and effective.

He states that he intends to introduce a bill for Medicare for All into Congress next Wednesday, and outlines how he envisages an initial four year transition period from the current American system. He also makes it plain that there will be concerted opposition to his proposal.

His piece begins

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.

Please go to the Counterpunch site and read the whole article. It’s at:
https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/14/why-we-need-medicare-for-all/

The state and state-funded healthcare systems of the European countries have contributed immensely to their people’s health and wellbeing, ever since Bismarck introduced it in Germany in 1875 in an attempt to steal working class votes away from the socialist SDP.

And it’s driving the Reaganites and Thatcherites of the corporate sector up the wall, because it denies them so much of the juicy profits that comes from the insurance-driven sector. That’s why the Tories over here have been privatizing the NHS piecemeal by stealth ever since the days of Maggie Thatcher. It’s why the corporate bosses of the big healthcare firms, like the fraudster Unum, came over here at the beginning of New Labour’s tenure in office to lobby Blair to privatize the NHS.

And it’s part of the reason the Blairites, Tories and Lib Dems, and their paymasters in big business and lackeys in the media, including the Beeb, fear and hate Jeremy Corbyn, as the Republicans and the corporatist Democrats around Hillary Clinton despise Bernie Sanders in the US.

Any civilized country has to demand proper medicine for its people, regardless of the demands of the corporatists to keep it the expensive privilege of the affluent. So, go Bernie! And may Corbyn also win in his fight to renationalize the NHS.

Why Down Under Comes Out on Top in Health Care

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/08/2017 - 3:21am in

When I arrived in New York as a young journalist from Sydney, Australia in 2003, not even the dazzle of the big city could conceal the extent of my surprise over three conditions of American society.

One, the racism that still played out; a dark underbelly of a nation painted on the resigned faces on the 4 subway as I traveled home to Crown Heights every day. Two, the air of individualism you could smell on the streets. Yes, there were the Wall Street financiers, but it was everywhere — in the delis, on the bikes of restaurant delivery boys peddling furiously into the night. It seemed to whisper, “Hey girl, you might make it if you try hard enough, but you’re on your own now, good luck!”

There’s good reason why American politicians are gushing over health care down under. Bernie Sanders was back at it again on the Senate floor last week, and even Donald Trump has praised Australia’s health care system this year. Here’s why.

— Christine Kearney

And then finally, there was the American health system. If the first two issues were steeped in American history, health care seemed different. To the outsider, it was nearly unfathomable why the most prosperous nation on earth had not fixed a decades-old problem, that was only becoming a costlier and increasing burden as each year passed.

We had all heard about it. Horror stories spread back home of Australians who had forgotten to take out travel insurance in the US only to end up with six-figure hospital bills. But it was different when right before my eyes — back then some 45 million people carrying the burden of being uninsured. (Little did I know I would soon join them.)

Despite coverage of 2003’s Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act, when I quizzed American journalists why there were not more stories, why there didn’t seem any sense of urgency to overall change, I would often be met with a small shrug, and resignation that all those stories had been done before. Change had failed. It wasn’t a scoop.

If that was the sense among some journalists, I still wondered why the public wasn’t more restless. I had to conclude many everyday Americans were simply clueless about how other countries worked.

But now, they’re beginning to know. A couple weeks ago, Americans heard Bernie Sanders gush how Australia’s universal health care is wildly more efficient and effective than America’s. Sanders told the Senate floor: “Not only does Australia guarantee universal health care, spend less on health care per capita, and pay less than we do for many health services, they have better health outcomes.”

Sanders was capitalizing on Donald Trump admitting back in May to a visiting Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, “you have better health care than we do.” Yet analysts say the now defeated “skinny repeal” of Obamacare Trump backed would have made the US system less like Australia’s, not more. And Democrats have rightly pointed out the Australian system includes a publicly funded Medicare system far more comprehensive than America’s that covers all ages.

This isn’t refutable. Study after study ranks America way down and Australia among the best overall health care in developed nations. Just two weeks ago, a new study by a team of American researchers found the United States spends far more on health care than other high-income countries, with spending levels rising continuously over the past three decades.

A recent study by the Commonwealth Fund think tank compared the quality of health care systems of 11 high income countries based on 72 indicators, ranking Australia’s mixed public-private system among the top three overall, along with the UK and The Netherlands. It also ranked highest on Administrative Efficiency and Health Care Outcomes.

Despite the praise, Australia’s health care system still depends on a mixed market structure (like the US), using both public and private sectors to provide funds to deliver health care. And it’s not without its failings, including sliding down the world rankings on equity, with people in rural and poorer areas less able to access quality health care, and in general out-of-pocket costs for everyone continuing to increase.

The federal government funds Medicare, a universal public health insurance program providing free or subsidized access to care for Australian citizens…Private health insurance (PHI) is readily available and offers more choice of providers, faster access for nonemergency services, and rebates for selected services.

— The Commonwealth Fund

But that is little consolation for the US, which ranked last overall, last in access, equity and health care outcomes, and next to last in administrative efficiency, as reported by patients and providers. Only in care process did it perform better, ranking fifth.

The authors concluded: “Despite spending nearly twice as much as several other countries, the country’s performance is lacklustre.”

That America’s health care system overspends isn’t exactly news to Americans.

But the tendency to reject change isn’t just politics, say analysts, it’s also human nature, whether in Australia or America.


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A small group of activists rally against the GOP health care plan outside of the Metropolitan Republican Club, in New York City on July 5, 2017.. Republicans in the Senate will resume work on the bill next week when Congress returns to Washington after a holiday recess. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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

BY Michael Corcoran | July 7, 2017

“There’s the human tendency to get used to the benefits you have, or the system you have,” says Australian-American relations expert, Associate Professor Brendon O’Connor of the Sydney-based think tank The US Studies Centre.

Another underlying reason Americans might have difficulty changing their thinking on health care could be buried in the second of my initial observations in New York — the overall effects of such a free-market leader, he noted. Not least the view that Australians see health care as a right, while in America’s that’s still debatable.

O’Conner believes that is why in America “you have some of the world’s best health care, and you also have some of the biggest gaps in coverage.”

“It goes to a little bit to the heart of America as a more free-market, laissez faire, more capitalist society,” he said. “The idea of a government providing a one-stop shop for health care like the United Kingdom, or even like ours, I would argue is an anathema to American values and traditions.”

Still, while for now a Republican-controlled Congress is hardly going to push for an increase in the government’s role, O’Conner believes “something is sort of changing” and any new president and new Congress might give hope to more universal health care.

“People realize it’s a very expensive system, it doesn’t cover as many people or [offer] benefits like other systems in the western word, so a little bit of comparative analysis rightly leads American politicians and a lot of policymakers to think, ‘Hang on, this system isn’t all its cracked up to be and it’s got a lot of faults.’”

In the meantime, while America’s health care system remains broken, it still plays an important role in Australian politics.

“The American model is presented as bit of monster, politically, in campaigns,” said O’Conner. “It’s one of those good examples of America being a kind of dystopia or disfunction that Australians want to avoid. It’s been a pretty regular trope of the Labor Party to say, ‘Look, we don’t want to go to that American model.’”

The post Why Down Under Comes Out on Top in Health Care appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Bill Moyers on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ Talking About Medicare, Passed 52 Years Ago This Week

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/08/2017 - 11:21pm in

Bill Moyers with President Lyndon Johnson.

Earlier this week, Bill Moyers penned an essay recalling the long legislative road that faced Medicare in the intervening years between President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. At the time of the bill’s passage, in 1965, Bill worked in Johnson’s White House as a special assistant to the president, and was witness to Johnson as he “coaxed, cajoled, badgered, buttonholed and maneuvered Congress into enacting Medicare for the aging and Medicaid to help low-income people.”

He tells Fresh Air host Terry Gross:

Lyndon Johnson was a genius in knowing everyone’s price… What all of this shows is that it takes a president who is informed, and engaged and active in the legislative process respecting the differences between the branches. But it takes someone who knows what is going on, cares about the details of the bill and is willing to sit one-on-one —

I can see right now Lyndon Johnson having individual and collective members of Congress to have coffee in the morning, lunch at noon, a drink at 6 o’clock, even dinner sometimes. And then I can see him meeting with the head of the Chamber of Commerce, the head of the AFL-CIO, very important for the passage of Medicare, they brought their 14 million members to back it. That’s how he worked it.

Listen to the entire interview, which aired on Fresh Air on Aug. 3, 2017.

The post Bill Moyers on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ Talking About Medicare, Passed 52 Years Ago This Week appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

LBJ Launches Medicare: ‘You Can’t Treat Grandma This Way’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 31/07/2017 - 12:53am in

Watching the craziness in the Senate this week, as Mitch McConnell and the GOP’s zealots drove their clown car into a brick wall and yet another effort to take away health care coverage from millions crashed and burned, I thought back to a different turn of events.

It was 52 years ago this Sunday — July 30, 1965. Two American presidents celebrated the birth of Medicare, the most significant advance toward national health insurance in America’s history.   

I was a White House assistant at the time, working for President Lyndon B. Johnson as he coaxed, cajoled, badgered, buttonholed and maneuvered Congress into enacting Medicare for the aging and Medicaid to help low-income people. For all the public displays over the years of his outsized personae and powers of persuasion, this time he had kept a low profile, working behind the scenes as his legislative team and career health care experts practically lived on Capitol Hill, negotiating with members of Congress and their staffs.

From the White House, LBJ worked the phones; invited senators and representatives singly and collectively in for coffee, drinks or dinner; listened attentively in private to opponents and proponents from interests as varied as business, labor, medicine and religion; and kept in his head a running tally of the fluctuating vote count.
 
As it had been for decades, it was a tough fight down to the wire. A look back is instructive, not only to show how long it can take to move a legislative dream to reality but also to illustrate how a president with a grasp of history and knowledge of how government works is crucial to making success possible.

In 1935, when President Franklin Roosevelt first tried and failed to get health insurance included as part of Social Security, I was 1 year old and my family was broke. The Great Depression had ended my father’s tenant farming. He took a job for a dollar a day as a laborer on the construction of a highway in southeast Oklahoma.

Earlier, my mother had lost twin girls — one at birth, the other some months later — because the nearest doctor was too far away to arrive in time to help. My parents moved into town. To pay the doctor who delivered me, my father lugged large stones by hand to the site the physician had bought to build his first office. It’s still there.

At about this time in Washington, Republicans, conservative Democrats and the American Medical Association (AMA) were winning their fight to sink President Roosevelt’s proposal for health insurance. Congress was intimidated, and in August 1935 FDR gave up, signing the Social Security Act without health coverage.   

Eight years later, in the midst of World War II, he once again called for social insurance “that will extend from the cradle to the grave.” And again, his proposal went nowhere.

On FDR’s death, Harry Truman became president. In his 1948 Message to Congress on the State of the Union, he said:  

This great nation cannot afford to allow its citizens to suffer needlessly from the lack of proper medical care. Our ultimate aim must be a comprehensive insurance system to protect all our people equally against insecurity and ill health.

 

Congress still refused to budge. Running for election in his own right that year, and way behind in the polls, Truman won an upset victory after demanding that health care insurance and civil rights be included in the Democratic Party platform. That same year, congressman Lyndon Johnson of Texas, whose home district was Democratic and liberal in a state turning increasingly Republican and conservative, was running for election to the US Senate. He opposed Truman’s health care plan as socialistic and was elected.  

In 1952, Republicans won control of Congress for the first time since 1932 and hardened their stand against a national health care program. War hero Dwight Eisenhower won the presidency for the Republicans. He, too, opposed the plan that had been shelved by Congress before Truman left office.

Ike only was willing to support subsidizing private insurers to cover certain low-income groups and no more. With the continuing opposition of the nation’s doctors — amplified through their political lobby, the AMA, as well as the US Chamber of Commerce — the notion of Medicare appeared finished once and for all.    

Yet when he yielded the presidency to Eisenhower, Truman lamented his failure but was prophetic when he said: “[It] has only delayed and cannot stop the adoption of an indispensable health insurance plan.”

He was right. The battle heated up. In 1957, the AFL-CIO brought its 14 million members to the fight. The American Hospital Association, which bore the brunt of the problems older people encountered as they aged, signed on, too.

Public opinion was swinging in favor of national health insurance. When John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were nominated as the Democratic ticket in 1960, they made health care for Social Security retirees a major plank in the platform and endorsed a bill in the Senate that in time would become Medicare.

Though he was Kennedy’s running mate, Johnson was still the powerful Senate majority leader, that body’s top Democrat, and responsible for steering its legislative agenda. After a long day on the campaign road, or in the Senate, we would get to his home late and he would stay up until after midnight, making phone calls to one or another member of Congress urging passage of the Medicare bill.

Despite his efforts, it failed by four votes. LBJ had studied the polls and knew public opinion was building for national health insurance; he feared this defeat might cost Democrats the election. It didn’t, although the margin of victory was incredibly slim. As soon as they were inaugurated, now President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson championed yet another effort known as the Medical Care for the Aged bill. Still adamantly opposed by the Republicans and the AMA, it also failed — this time by two votes.

In early 1963, the bill was reintroduced in Congress, only to fail again. Some observers again pronounced it once and forever toast. But in November of that year, an assassin killed John Kennedy, tragically catapulting Lyndon Johnson into the White House. Just days later, in a dramatic speech to Congress and the nation, he slowly and deliberately drawled: “Let us continue!” With that challenge, LBJ set out to enact Kennedy’s legislative agenda — with a good chance, he thought, of passing the Medicare bill.

As before, the opposition fought back with everything they had, which now included the AMA’s new pitchman, Ronald Reagan. Not yet a candidate for public office, the actor was hired to warn the country against letting government get between doctors and their patients. He made a popular recording played at thousands of small meetings around the country in which attendees heard his pitch warning of “socialized medicine” and predicting “behind [Medicare] will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country.” Just think if he’d had Twitter.

Our strategy that year came to naught, producing in the early fall a stalemate. The Senate actually did pass a national health care bill for the elderly (despite the opposition of the Republican nominee for president, Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who interrupted his campaign and returned to Washington to vote no). But the powerful and conservative Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Wilbur Mills, would not agree to a medical care provision of any kind. A conference meeting to work out differences between the House and Senate ended in deadlock.

Johnson gritted his teeth and returned to the campaign, winning a four-year term in his own right.

Elections matter — surely no one doubts that fact anymore — and the ’64 election mattered dramatically. Not only did it deliver LBJ a landslide victory, but it brought Democrats their biggest majorities in the House and Senate since FDR. “If we can’t get Medicare through now,” the president told me after the election, “we don’t deserve what we just won.”

So as soon as he and Vice President Hubert Humphrey were inaugurated in January 1965, we started over. You can get a glimpse of the intensity of LBJ’s drive from a conversation I had with him around that time. With others, I had urged that the new bill include a provision for a retroactive increase in Social Security payments as an economic stimulus. He called me to say okay, but wanted me to understand it wasn’t because of the economy:

…My inclination would be … that it ought to retroactive as far back as you can get… because none [of the elderly] ever get enough. They are entitled to it. That’s an obligation of ours. It’s just like your mother writing you and saying she wants $20, and I’d always sent mine a $100 when she did. I never did it because I thought it was going to be good for the economy of Austin. I always did it because I thought she was entitled to it. And I think that’s a much better reason and a much better cause and I think it can be defended on a hell of a better basis…. We do know that it affects the economy… it helps us in that respect. But that’s not the basis to go to the Hill, or the justification. We’ve just got to say that, by God, you can’t treat grandma this way. She’s entitled and we promised it to her.

 

He understood the legislative process like no one I ever met. “Nothing given, nothing gotten — that’s the rule!” he told us in an Oval Office meeting on how to break yet another Capitol Hill deadlock. He sent his senior legislative aide to play sweet with a still-recalcitrant Wilbur Mills and warned, “I’ll tell you this, Wilbur Mills will take your pants off unless you’ve got something that he’s got to trade for.” When Mills still wouldn’t budge, the president let loose a string of invectives that would have made even Anthony Scaramucci blush. The next day he was courting Mills again, as if nothing had happened.

As the cherry blossoms bloomed that spring of ‘65, the president thought Congress was moving too slowly. The civil rights movement was under siege in the South, violence was continuing against blacks and we were working around the clock to pass legislation  to end discrimination. Even so, he wouldn’t let us slow down on Medicare — or other pending priorities. When he thought we were lagging, he took us to the woodshed, as you can see in a telephone conversation with Vice President Humphrey and me:

They [the House and Senate] are bogged down. The House had nothing this week — all goddamn week. You and Moyers and Larry O’Brien [his chief congressional expert] have got to get something for them. And the Senate had nothing… So we just wasted three weeks… Now we are here in the first week in March [1965], and we have just got to get these things passed… You’ve got to look each week and say, what is the Senate doing in committee this week and when will they be through, what is the House doing… You’ve got to be running into these guys [members of Congress] in the halls, and going over and having a drink with them in the evenings… I’ll put every Cabinet officer behind you, I’ll put every banker behind you, I’ll put every organization that I can deliver behind you… I’ll put the labor unions behind you.

A few days later, breakthrough. LBJ’s now-gentler courting of Wilbur Mills paid off, and the House Ways and Means chairman pieced together a bill from several options championed by different interests. He got it past the committee’s conservative coalition with a straight party vote, 17-8.   

Remembering our defeat the previous fall, our team fretted over how to make the final sale to the full House and Senate. The president had some more advice for us. As he told Larry O’Brien, the White House chief legislative honcho: Give bragging rights to anyone who voted on the final version of both Medicare — and the big education bill also in the pipeline:     

[Tell them] that every guy that votes for Medicare and education, his grandchildren will say my grandpa was in the Congress that enacted these two… So it makes ‘em proud. And they can go back home and say I was one of the 54 [who voted yes], or my daddy was one of the 54… so all his children and grandchildren are bragging about being one of the 54.

 

Medicare passed the House by a vote of 313-115. But in the Senate, liberal Democrats added $800 million to its cost, outraging conservatives (and vexing LBJ, who knew such overreach would give opponents more fuel to attack).  

Back the bill went to a conference committee between the House and Senate. Then to the House floor again, where it survived more than 500 amendments before passing on July 27 by majority vote, 307-116. One day later the Senate passed it, 70-24. All that was needed now was the president’s signature and Medicare and Medicaid would become the nation’s first public health insurance programs.  

And that’s how it came to pass that 52 years ago, on the morning of July 30, 1965. President Johnson loaded up two planeloads of dignitaries and headed toward Independence, Missouri, hometown of former President Harry Truman. He intended to sign the bill at the side of the man whose original proposal LBJ had dismissed as socialism. Now he revered Truman as “the real daddy of Medicare.” Here’s the actual moment Medicare became the law of the land:

President Lyndon Johnson flips through the pages of the Medicare bill for former President Harry Truman in Independence, Missouri on July 30, 1965. Johnson flew to Independence to sign the bill in front of Truman, the man who originally proposed the legislation almost two decades before. Behind Johnson and Truman are Mrs. Johnson (left), Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Mrs. Truman. (Photo by Bettmann Collection via Getty Images)

President Lyndon Johnson flips through the pages of the Medicare bill for former President Harry Truman in Independence, Missouri on July 30, 1965. Behind Johnson and Truman are Mrs. Johnson (left), Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Mrs. Truman. (Photo by Bettmann Collection via Getty Images)

 

After signing the bill, Lyndon Johnson turned to Harry Truman and signed him up as Medicare’s first beneficiary. It was high drama, touched with history, politics, sentimentality, showmanship and compromise.

The legislation was far from perfect. LBJ once told me never to watch hogs slaughtered before breakfast and never ever show young children how legislation gets enacted.

Too much secrecy surrounded the bill’s passage. Even as the president signed it into law, we weren’t sure of all that was in there. As some principled conservatives warned, there were too few cost controls. The experts feared copays and deductibles would become a burden.  

“Those can be fixed,” LBJ said, “once it sinks in that Medicare is here to stay.”

Meanwhile, as historian Robert Dallek has written, although Medicare and Medicaid did not solve the problem of care at reasonable cost for all Americans, “the benefits to the elderly and the indigent… are indisputable.”

Perhaps the biggest mistake was one of imagination — our failure to anticipate the advent of new and expensive technology to treat the sick or the demand on the system that would rise from a burgeoning population. That spring President Johnson had warned, “We will face a new challenge and that will be what to do within our economy to adjust ourselves to a life span and a work span for the average man or woman of 100 years.”

That, and the cost, we reckon with today.

Now that the eight-year effort of conservatives to repeal the Affordable Care Act (itself a flawed but significant extension of the effort to help more people get decent coverage) is stalled, the next steps are crucial. Going back to the status quo — a system driven by the profit motive and rationed health care based on income — is unthinkable. At the website Common Dreams, Dr. Carol Paris, president of Physicians for a National Health Program, writes:

“Clearly, the system is broken. Like a cracked pipe, money gushes into our health care system but steadily leaks out. Money is siphoned into the advertising budgets of insurance companies and the army of corporate bureaucrats working to deny claims. Even more dollars are soaked up by the pockets of insurance CEOs who have collectively earned $9.8 billion since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. Nearly a third of our health care dollars go to something other than health care.”

Yes, our health system is broken, but broken systems can be fixed — not easily, but they can be fixed.  

Watching recent events, I thought of the long and arduous process I’ve just related, the many steps that brought Medicare into being, and how I was afforded a modest role in the supporting cast.

I came away from the experience with three lessons. First, whether health care is a right may be debatable, but it assuredly fulfills a basic human need — and without it, human beings without means will live and die suffering unduly.

Second, building that more perfect union which the founders of this republic defined as the mission of government has always been slow, hard, acrimonious, frustrating, tiring and elusive, because we as individuals are ourselves imperfect and because there are always among us those predators who regard democracy as an obstacle to their avarice.

Against such realities, the only way for democracy to succeed is for enough people to take up the cause where and when they can, as so many did for Medicare and are doing now for our eroding social covenant. That’s the third lesson I learned: It is harder to build something than to burn it down, but build we must.

 
Note: I am greatly indebted to Larry DeWitt, the historian of the US Social Security Administration, whose outstanding research and organizing talents have helped so many of us recollect with greater accuracy and context such experiences as I have recounted here. The author of numerous articles and essays — including “The Medicare Program as a Capstone to the Great Society — Recent Revelations in the LBJ White House Tapes,” on which  I have often relied — Mr. DeWitt also created http://www.socialsecurity.gov/history, one of the largest history-related web sites in the federal government. It’s a national treasure.  Check it out.

— Bill Moyers

The post LBJ Launches Medicare: ‘You Can’t Treat Grandma This Way’ appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Cartoon of the day

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 23/07/2017 - 10:00pm in

The Secret Health Care Bill

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/06/2017 - 5:00am in

This post originally appeared on Robert Reich’s blog.

The Senate’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is not a health care bill. It’s a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, paid for by a dramatic reduction in health care funding for approximately 23 million poor, disabled and working middle-class Americans.

America’s wealthiest taxpayers (earning more than $200,000 a year, $250,000 for couples) would get a tax cut totaling $346 billion over 10 years, representing what they save from no longer financing health care for lower-income Americans.

If enacted, it would be the largest single transfer of wealth to the rich from the middle class and poor in American history.

That’s not all. The bill would save an additional $400 billion on Medicaid, which Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are intent on shrinking in order to cut even more taxes for the wealthy and for big corporations.

If enacted, it would be the largest single transfer of wealth to the rich from the middle class and poor in American history.

This disgrace is being proposed at a time when the nation’s rich own a higher percentage of the nation’s wealth and receive the highest percent of America’s income since the era of the Robber Barons of the late 19th century.

Almost all of the transfer is hidden inside a bill that’s supposed to be a kinder and gentler version of its House counterpart, which Trump called “mean, mean, mean.”

Look closely and it’s even meaner.

The Senate bill appears to retain the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies for poorer Americans. But starting in 2020, the subsidies would no longer be available for many of the working poor who now receive them, nor for anyone who’s not eligible for Medicaid.


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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks toward his office at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on June 22, 2017. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Senate Health Bill Would Revamp Medicaid, Alter ACA Guarantees, Cut Premium Support

BY Julie Rovner | June 22, 2017

Another illusion: The bill seems to keep the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. But the expansion is phased out, starting in 2021.

The core of the bill — where its biggest savings come from — is a huge reduction in Medicaid, America’s health care program for the poor, elderly and disabled.

This, too, is disguised. States would receive an amount of money per Medicaid recipient that appears to grow as health care costs rise.

But starting in 2025, the payments would be based on how fast costs rise in the economy as a whole.

Yet medical costs are rising faster than overall costs. They’ll almost surely continue to do so — as America’s elderly population grows, and as new medical devices, technologies and drugs prolong life.

Which means that after 2025, Medicaid coverage will shrink.

The nonpartisan Urban Institute estimates that between 2025 and 2035, about $467 billion less will be spent on Medicaid than would be spent than if Medicaid funding were to keep up with the expected rise in medical costs.


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The US Capitol in reflection on the side of an ambulance in Washington on Monday, June 26, 2017, as the Senate grapples with health care legislation. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

GOP ‘Health’ Bill: Death, Disaster and Gilded Age Greed

BY Richard Eskow | June 26, 2017

The states would have to make up the difference, but many won’t want to or be able to.

One final major deception. Proponents of the bill say it would continue to protect people with pre-existing conditions. But the bill allows states to reduce insurance coverage for everyone, including people with pre-existing conditions.

So insurance companies could technically “cover” people with preexisting conditions for the cost of, say, their visits to a doctor, but not hospitalization, drugs or anything else they need.

The Senate bill only seems like a kinder, gentler version of the House repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but over time it would be even crueler.

Will the American public find out? Not if McConnell can help it.

He hasn’t scheduled a single hearing on the bill.

He’s shut out major hospitals, physician groups, consumer advocates and organizations representing millions of patients with heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other serious illnesses.

McConnell thinks he’s found a quiet way not only to repeal the Affordable Care Act but also to unravel Medicaid — and funnel the savings to the rich.

For years, Republicans have been looking for ways to undermine America’s three core social insurance programs — Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. The three constitute the major legacy of the Democrats, of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. All continue to be immensely popular.

Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is almost part of that legacy. It’s not on quite as solid a footing as the others because it’s still new, and some wrinkles need to be ironed out. But most Americans support it.

Now McConnell believes he can begin to undo the legacy, starting with the Affordable Care Act and, gradually, Medicaid.

But he knows he has to do it in secret if he’s to be successful.

If this shameful bill is enacted, McConnell and Trump — as well as every Republican senator who signs on — will bear the burden of hundreds of thousands of deaths that could have been avoided, were they not so determined to make rich Americans even richer.

The post The Secret Health Care Bill appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

After Trumpcare, Medicare Part M

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 26/06/2017 - 8:23am in

Here’s a thought: as soon as we defeat Trumpcare, Democrats in both houses introduce Medicare Part M (for Middle-Aged), covering people ages 50-64.

A. It’s good politics:

1. These are the people who were going to be hit the hardest by Trumpcare premium increases. Offer them a better deal and they’ll support us–and people this age vote!

2. It sounds more moderate than Medicare for All, while also making a solid step closer to single-payer, which the Republicans have managed to make sound like pie-in-the-sky socialism with a side order of end-of-the-world.

B. It’s good policy:

1. These are the sickest people in the Obamacare exchanges–move them out of the pools and premiums go down.

2. BUT they’re healthier than most people now on Medicare: put them into that risk pool and the premiums go down there, too.

DON’T believe Trump when he says Obamacare is collapsing.

DON’T believe pundits who say the Democrats have no platform/positions: this plus increased minimum wage plus let’s get out of Afghanistan is platform a-plenty.

Nevada Senator Avoids Constituents on Health Care but Voters Are Having None of It

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/06/2017 - 3:59am in

This Q&A is part of Sarah Jaffe’s series Interviews for Resistance, in which she speaks with organizers, troublemakers and thinkers who are doing the hard work of fighting back against America’s corporate and political powers.

Update: On Friday, June 23, Sen. Dean Heller said he would not support the newly released Senate health care overhaul bill in its current form. Heller is seen as a pivotal swing vote in Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, according to The New York Times.

 
Sarah Jaffe speaks with Autumn Zemke, co-chair of Northern Nevada Working Families Party in Carson City, about fighting against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) repeal in her state. Nevada is an interesting case study in the Obamacare rollout. Gov. Brian Sandoval was one of the few Republican governors to endorse Obamacare and run with it in his state. He instituted a state exchange and expanded Medicaid, which extended insurance to more than 300,000 Nevadans. The percentage of uninsured in the state dropped from 23 percent, one of the worst in the nation, to 11 percent.

Last Friday, Gov. Sandoval vetoed a bill put on his desk by the state legislature proposing to expand Medicaid to all Nevada residents. Zemke talks about the state bill and her concerns about the US Senate bill repealing and replacing Obamacare released today. This interview has been edited for clarity.

 

 

Sarah Jaffe: You visited [Nevada Republican] Sen. Dean Heller’s office about the health care bill over the weekend. Tell us about it.

Heller really does limit access. He has had only one town hall in six years. He is not very interested in what we have to say here in Nevada.

Autumn Zemke: We were planning on doing a sit-in at the federal building in Reno but were only allowed to enter the building one person at a time. I went in with a group of three and we asked if we could go up together but were told: no, only one at a time. I said, “Well, what if we were men, lobbyists in nice suits? Then, would you say only one of us at a time?” The response from security was that they couldn’t answer my question. I was actually filming and was told that I was rude for trying to get an answer.

Heller really does limit access. He has had only one town hall in six years. He is not very interested in what we have to say here in Nevada.

SJ: Six years — that means he is coming up for re-election very soon.

AZ: Yes, in November 2018. His approval rating has really plummeted and I’ll be very surprised if he wins the election. Nevada is purplish/reddish/bluish. It is full of people who really are not partisan. People are increasingly noticing that Heller will be at a meeting and say one thing to one group of people and then within hours tell another group something else entirely. What I always find interesting is that in this day of technology, how can you still think you can get away with that and that it won’t be publicized?

Then, with the Obamacare repeal, Heller has been saying he was against it. A tweet from Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval basically said, “Dean Heller and I are working to stop the repeal.”

When we were down at Heller’s office Friday night, one of the things that we were discussing is the fact that the Medicaid-for-all bill was still sitting on the governor’s desk. He had until midnight to veto it. If he didn’t, it would have become law. Then, shortly after we had left the senator’s office, we got word that the governor had vetoed it. Now we are really in this place that saving the ACA is even more important.

I supported the Medicaid-for-all bill. I personally don’t have insurance, so Friday night was a devastating blow for me.

Just because I don’t have insurance right now doesn’t mean that I’m going to say [about Obamacare], “Well, just let it be repealed. Let’s just let 24 million people suffer [and] the 600,000 people on expanded Medicaid in Nevada, we don’t care about them because I personally don’t have insurance under that system.” That is not right. We really have to fight against the repeal, but we also have to talk about ideas like expanded Medicaid, like Medicare for all and what that truly would mean for this country.


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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) speaks during a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee June 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Your Health May Be in Susan Collins’ Hands. And That’s Not Good News

BY Neal Gabler | June 21, 2017

SJ: Tell us more about the Medicaid-for-all proposal in Nevada for people who don’t know about it.

AZ: I’m not an expert, but the way that I understood the bill is that it would have meant that all 2.9 million Nevadans would have been able to have the option to buy into the Medicaid system. You wouldn’t be forced into the system and private insurance would still exist. Medicaid would just be on the exchange so anyone could buy into it. For those people who still qualify for Medicaid, they would get their Medicaid.

SJ: Tell us a little bit more about what has been going on in Nevada since November, the work that you have been doing building the organization out there.

AZ: I really want to focus on some positives right now. Nevada is an interesting state in terms of politics. Nevada went for Hillary Clinton and we formed Working Families thinking that Clinton would win. Then she didn’t.

Now we have this new coalition of organizations working together that we didn’t necessarily think we were going to have. We meet regularly and do actions together. It is Indivisible and Northern Nevada Marches Forward, Planned Parenthood and Progressive Democrats of America. We are all at the table together and we are holding strong. We support each other’s actions and we really push our members. Because we are such a strong coalition, that means something different than if we were all each doing our own thing. I used to think that there weren’t a lot of truly progressive people in Nevada, but because of this [coalition], we have found each other.

I think that people are really angry and scared. Health care, being able to go to the doctor — it’s our lives.

One of the first things we did is attend an event at the Carson City Chamber of Commerce where both Sen. Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) were speaking. I think there were close to 500 people there. We were able to turn people out and there were people who purchased tickets to be in the luncheon, people who had voted for Amodei and Heller, too. They were holding them accountable.

That was the first time where they said, “No, we aren’t going to vote for the repeal [of the Affordable Care Act].” Then, we know what happened with Amodei. [Amodei changed his mind and voted for the bill in the House.] They also addressed our joint legislature. They only meet every two years. We showed up to hold Amodei and Heller accountable.

Then, every Tuesday since Jan. 10, people show up at the federal building in Reno where Heller’s office is for our Resist Trump Tuesdays. We don’t even have to advertise it anymore. People just know to show up and individually want to hold him accountable. I think that people are really angry and scared. Health care, being able to go to the doctor — it’s our lives. This is how we continue to live. It can be really discouraging, but having the coalition does help because we can stand together.

SJ: I have been talking to a lot of people who have been organizing around health care and it seems like an issue that breaks down a lot of walls for people. People find it easier to come together and talk about health care than maybe some other issues.

AZ: When we really start talking about issues, I think people are more closely aligned than not. When we get into cult of personality and politicians, that is where the breakdown really happens. But on an individual level — in my Republican family, if we talk about issues we can come together more easily than if we bring up a specific name.

Until my husband started working for Medicaid, I didn’t realize that people died because they didn’t have health care.

My husband works for Medicaid in Nevada. Until he started working for Medicaid, I didn’t realize that people died because they didn’t have health care. There was such a disconnect [with] that reality. I’m from Nevada and my family has lived in Nevada for 150 years. There is this narrative that “These progressive people are coming into our state from California or other places.” No, I’m Nevadan and I’m changing my state because it’s my state.

We lived in Seattle and I never understood that people died because they didn’t have health care. Seattle is a pretty progressive place and there’s a medical school there that is really good. People get taken care of — not always, but more so than here. In Nevada, people are denied Medicaid for not meeting certain financial criteria. It doesn’t matter whether or not you have cancer or if you have diabetes or if you have any condition that is going to kill you. If you don’t fit those parameters, you find the cash or you die.

Then there is this other assumption: “Well, if people need treatment, they just go to the emergency room.” That is not accurate. People who go to the emergency room, if you are having a heart attack for example, they perform life-saving measures and then you are in medical debt for the rest of your life. But if you have a condition like diabetes or cancer or anything that needs treatment over a long period of time, you don’t live. They don’t treat you. They will stabilize you, but they are not going to give you chemotherapy.

I think the American public needs that kind of realization, the kind of wake-up that I had. I think it is important for us to tell that story, “This person died.” There is this gentleman who I just came across on Twitter and he was trying to crowdfund his insulin. He was big in the arts scene and comic book scene. This man actually died because he couldn’t raise the money.

We shouldn’t be crowdfunding health care. Not in the world’s wealthiest country. It is insanity. Plus, it just doesn’t make financial sense. The reality is we have to hold Heller accountable: Why would you do this? Why would you take health care away from us? And hold them accountable to the fact that there is no financial reason for it either.

We shouldn’t be crowdfunding health care. Not in the world’s wealthiest country. It is insanity.

The reality is, the people who are in the 1 percent are there off the backs of our labor. It is not like we are trying to take something from them. They have that wealth because they have workers, they have employees and they have people who have lifted them up. They got there because they have companies where they have people working for them. That is our wealth. We helped make that wealth. Asking for health care shouldn’t be that big of a deal when we create the wealth as employees, as workers.

SJ: Did you successfully get to say any of this to Heller or his aide, or did they just completely block you all out?

AZ: People did go up. I always bring comment sheets with me. People brought those up. It was kind of interesting because the staff lingered, like not really engaged I would say, but lingering. It’s just not how you should treat your constituents. You should engage them. It just wasn’t a dialogue. It was interesting, the security guard had a sheet with the law of why we weren’t being allowed to be let in, because we would disrupt or block the egress. The thing is, like my co-chair Drew List of the Carson City Chapter of the Working Families Party said, we had no plans of disrupting in that way. We just wanted to come in as a group, as a united front and speak with our senator’s staff. That shouldn’t be a big deal. If we were a group of lobbyists, we would have been let in.

SJ: What are you guys planning for next steps?

AZ: This week we have just a week of actions. I think there is almost something going on every day between now and next weekend. We are going to continue our push trying to get Heller on the phone. A lot of us use Resistbot, where you text and it faxes your written comments, and then, continue to go in person. Then we will see what he does.

But, even now, especially with Medicaid-for-all being vetoed, we just have to continue to hold him accountable, and long-term. Because if you vote to repeal our health care, there is so much going on that people kind of forget. We have a year and a half to get out the vote, to get Heller out of office if he is not listening to us. We need to continue to hold him accountable regardless of what happens with health care, because there are so many other things, but this is our focus right now.

I honestly think Heller will probably vote with his party. Statistically, he used to be a little bit more independent, but he now just votes along party line. He did for all of Trump’s appointees. He has just gone along. But I was really shocked about Amodei, I really was. I was because he was so on the record as being against the American Health Care Act bill. Then, long-term, we will continue to hold Heller accountable, especially as the August recess comes up and he will be in the state of Nevada. He has yet to have a town hall in southern Nevada. He is from where I live [Carson City] and owns a ranch out where my family has lived for over a hundred years.

I think he needs to look his constituents in the eyes. We want to force him in the north to really get down to Las Vegas and have a town hall down there, too. I think he is really scared to. We are just going to keep pushing. You see people kind of getting tired, but when it comes to the issues, I think some people are getting tired of the Trump/Russia stuff and really just want to focus on the issues that impact everybody’s daily individual life. Health care is that.

SJ: How can people keep up with you and with Working Families in Nevada?

AZ: We are on Facebook. Right now we’re the Carson City Working Families Party, but we’re merging into Northern Nevada. Then, on Twitter it is @CCWFP. I also recommend going to the Working Families Party national organization and seeing what we as a national organization have to offer.

 
Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes. Not to be reprinted without permission.

The post Nevada Senator Avoids Constituents on Health Care but Voters Are Having None of It appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

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