2014 National Strategy Conference for Single Payer

August 26th, 2014 by Sylvia Moore Leave a reply »

By Don McCanne
August 25, 2014

This weekend numerous organizations dedicated to single payer reform assembled in Oakland, California for the 2014 National Strategy Conference. Participating organizations included Healthcare NOW!, Labor Campaign for Single-Payer Healthcare, One Payer States, National Nurses United, Physicians for a National Health Program, Progressive Democrats of America, and many others. So what was accomplished?

Above all, just gathering dedicated single payer supporters together in a single weekend meeting provided renewed energy and passion amongst the attendees, confirming that the single payer movement is not only still alive, it is thriving. We have a future.

Did we develop a national strategy that will culminate in enactment of single payer reform with the installation of a new government after the 2016 elections? Well, not exactly, but nobody expected that. What we did accomplish was the sharing of ideas on strategy, policy, politics, single payer education, state and federal legislation, and innumerable other components of a social movement that would lead to single payer.

In both the formal sessions and in informal conversations there was a very broad spectrum of ideas discussed, though not all of the ideas mesh well. And this is from a solid core of single payer activists. But all views were expressed with the intent of advancing health care justice.

Others attending will certainly have different take-home points, but mine was that we each should continue to do what we are doing while helping to open new avenues in advancing the cause. Especially helpful would be efforts to educate others, expand grassroots efforts, and work to form coalitions with other social justice organizations.

There was a consensus that we should not waste time and squander energy by becoming divided over process. We need to direct that energy to making progress towards our goal of a single payer national health program – an improved Medicare for all.

Re-posted with permission from www.pnhp.org.

Artists tell their stories about what it’s like to live without health care

August 15th, 2014 by Sylvia Moore Leave a reply »

Being an artist often means pursuing one’s passion while sacrificing steady income, job security and health insurance. Below, the 30-minute documentary, Healthy Artists: The Movie, focuses on the making of a video series project, “Healthy Artists,” featuring the stories of more than 40 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, painters, poets and musicians. The project is the brainchild of Julie Sokolow, a filmmaker and single payer advocate.

h/t The New York Times

Sylvia@californiaonecare.org

Commentary by Don McCanne, M.D.: What does California’s 4.2% premium increase mean?

August 14th, 2014 by Sylvia Moore Leave a reply »

Obamacare premiums to rise a modest 4.2% in 2015

By Stuart Pfeifer, Chad Terhune, Soumya Karlamangla
Los Angeles Times, July 31, 2014

Defying an industry trend of double-digit rate hikes, California officials said the more than 1.2 million consumers in the state-run Obamacare insurance exchange can expect modest price increases of 4.2% on average next year.

“We have changed the trend in healthcare costs,” said Peter Lee, Covered California’s executive director. “This is good news for Californians.”

State officials and insurers credited the strong turnout during the first six-month enrollment window that ended in April for helping to keep 2015 rates in check. But others cautioned it’s still too early to gauge the health law’s impact, suggesting several factors may be temporarily holding rates down in the individual market.

“We don’t really know what the real cost of Obamacare is yet because insurance companies are heavily subsidized for the first three years” of the law’s implementation, said Robert Laszewski, a healthcare consultant in Virginia who has closely tracked the overhaul. “The insurance companies essentially can’t lose money.”

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said the modest uptick in premiums was a positive sign, but he said insurers were likely motivated by a November ballot initiative, Proposition 45, that would give his office new authority to regulate health insurance rates.

“This is merely a pause in the double-digit rate increases we’ve seen historically,” Jones said.

Consumer Watchdog, the Santa Monica advocacy group pushing Proposition 45, said insurers held back this year to avoid that kind of voter backlash.

WellPoint Inc., Anthem Blue Cross’ parent company, Kaiser and other insurers have contributed more than $25 million to defeat the ballot measure.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-obamacare-2015-rates-20140801-story.html#page=1

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Comment:

By Don McCanne, M.D.

Before we discuss some of the possible reasons that the 2015 increase in premiums for California’s ACA exchange were held down to 4.2 percent, we should mention the bad news that is not being covered by the media. We are celebrating an artificially low increase that is still twice the rate of inflation – 2.1 percent (Consumer Price Index, June 2014 – Bureau of Labor Statistics), as workers continue to fall behind over the last three decades of increasing income inequality.

Although ACA enthusiasts are touting success in controlling health insurance premiums, there are many reasons why their celebration is premature, but two stand out.

Proposition 45, which will be on the November ballot, would provide authority to California’s insurance commissioner to regulate health insurance premiums. The last thing the insurers want to do is to anger voters with high rate increases just before this election. The insurers have already contributed over $25 million to defeat this measure.

The other important reason is that the insurers are still protected by reinsurance and insurance rate corridors. In fact, the Obama administration adjusted this coverage to be sure that the insurers were fully protected again next year should they not receive enough premium revenue to meet their expenses. They can’t lose! Of course they are going to come in with low bids when they are under the threat of voter revolt.

And what about the next year when they no longer have protection against losses? We already know the routine. “The patients enrolled in our plans were older and sicker while the younger, healthier individuals were covered by plans at work, or bought the cheap catastrophic plans, and the new drugs that cost tens of thousands of dollars or more placed a strain on our budgets, and our contingency reserves were depleted with the market crash of 2015, and we’ve lost our rate flexibility with the termination of government reinsurance, and…” Well, you know.

Although there are many other uncertainties as the implementation of ACA plays out, one certainty that we can rely on is that insurers will be requesting much larger premium increases for 2017, possibly double digits. That would not be happening under a single payer national health program.

$9,000 for a Band-Aid? When is enough, enough?

August 8th, 2014 by Sylvia Moore Leave a reply »

Here comes a story out of New Jersey that once again illustrates how sick our healthcare system really is: a man, who cut his finger on the claw end of a hammer, was charged a nearly $9,000 medical bill. The hospital and the man’s insurance company naturally pointed fingers at each other for the outrageous bill. In countries with single-payer systems, $9,000 for a bandage would never happen because they don’t treat patients like ATM machines. We will keep having horror stories like this one until health care is finally taken out of the hands of the profiteers and instead, treated as a public good.

(h/t deathandtaxesmag.com)

Sylvia@californiaonecare.org