Thursday, January 31, 2008

Health Care Forum

Healthy State

Legislators Tour State, Unveil Health Care Solutions

Duluth • Hibbing • Bemidji • Brainerd • Mankato • Winona • Northfield



Saturday February 9th at 9:30 am

Great Hall, Watkins Manor

175 E Wabasha (7th) St. Winona MN 55987

FFI: Craig Brooks • 507-457-6255 •

Host: Rep. Ken Tschumper

With co-signers of the Minnesota Health Care Act, Minnesota State Legislators Senator John Marty & Representatives Ken Tschumper, David Bly, Carolyn Laine & Shelley Madore. Local officials invited.

Minnesotans Have Spoken

We have heard from you: our health care system is broken. Even with insurance, many have trouble affording necessary care. Losing insur­ance coverage is a very real concern. And for those who are without health insurance, the stories get even worse.

Legislators Must Act

We have proven solutions to our health care mess in hand. Come join us in the town hall meeting. We will tell you about the Minnesota Health Care Act that would provide quality, affordable, comprehensive health care to all Minnesotans through all stages of life.



Serious health care reform means:

All Minnesotans covered

Pre-existing conditions covered

Deductibles, co-pays eliminated

Choice of doctors, hospitals, clinics

Guaranteed for life


*For general questions or additional meeting locations call Rep. David Bly 651-296-7065 or see

Friday, January 25, 2008

Tempering Health-Care Goals -

Tempering Health-Care Goals -
This Wall Street Journal article outlines the politics of this debate. A recent poll (seems to be a solid scientific one) one says :

Is there a doctor in the house?

Sixty-five percent of those polled said the United States should adopt universal health insurance that covers everyone under a program such as Medicare that is run by the government and financed by taxpayers. Fifty-four percent went where politicians dare not tread, saying they supported a "single-payer" health system whereby all Americans would get their health coverage from a single government plan financed by taxpayers.

The Associated Press-Yahoo News survey of 1,821 adults was conducted from Dec. 14-20, and had an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. Included were interviews with 847 Democrats, for whom the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.4 points, and 655 Republicans, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 points. The poll was conducted on the Internet by Knowledge Networks.


The survey question:

Which comes closest to your view?

The United States should continue the current health insurance

system in which most people get their health insurance from

private employers, but some people have no insurance 34%

The United States should adopt a universal health insurance

program in which everyone is covered under a program like

Medicare that is run by the government and financed by

Taxpayers 65%

Refused / Not Answered 2%

Do you consider yourself a supporter of a single-payer health care system, that is a national health plan financed by taxpayers in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan, or not?

Yes 54%

No 44%

Refused / Not Answered 2%

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Lessons of '94 | The American Prospect

The Lessons of '94 | The American Prospect
Interesting article on lessons from the Clinton era reform efforts.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

WSJ Interactive Map on Health Care Proposals

This link on the Wall Street Journal site shows the national opinion polls supporting change and shows some statisics for the states. It also specifically mentions some state proposals including Doyle's recent one for WI.

Minnesota - Two panels will propose big shifts in state health care

Two panels will propose big shifts in state health care
The link is to the story (mentions WI proposal) and here's a summary of what again is a proposal to give insurance to all -- much of the suggestions are unproven and not likely to save money unless the red tape of screening applicants and processing insurance bills is dealt with.


Key proposals emerging from Gov. Tim Pawlenty's Health Care Task Force and the Legislature's Health Care Access Commission:

• Spreading insurance to all Minnesotans by 2011.

• Designating a "medical home" for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes to coordinate care and promote prevention to improve care and drive down costs.

• Paying providers to prevent illness, rather than by office visit, test or procedure.

• Creating programs to reduce smoking, obesity, alcohol abuse and drug addiction to drive down costs from associated health problems.

• Requiring providers to set a single fee that individuals would pay for the same service, no longer negotiating different prices with different insurance companies.

• Giving patients ways to easily compare costs and quality of competing providers.

• Ensuring that patients could stay with their chosen health providers, even if they change jobs or health insurers, and could move their health insurance from job to job.

Our Fear of Socialized Medicine

This pretty well summarizes the uphill battle we have ahead of us. But, the hill is getting easier to climb!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Brattleboro Reformer - Worried sick

Brattleboro Reformer - Worried sick
Vermont has a single payer bill and this article shows much of the good arguments for why it is needed.

ABX1 1: Universal health insurance without health care : Indybay

ABX1 1: Universal health insurance without health care : Indybay
Comments on why mandatory insurance for California will not work.

Massachusetts Program Does Not Work

Doctors Give Massachusetts Health Reform a Failing Grade
Written by PHNP
Thursday, 10 January 2008

Poor Early Outcomes Raise Red Flags, Only Private Insurers Profit

Over 250 Massachusetts doctors have signed an open letter to the country warning that the health reform model enacted by Massachusetts is failing and that a single payer program is the only alternative.

"It is urgent that the rest of the country know that Massachusetts is a living laboratory for the health care reforms being pushed in California and by the Obama/Clinton/Edwards campaigns. Right now the Gov. Romney/Massachusetts' plan gets a failing grade on the ground," said Dr.Rachel Nardin, Assistant Professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.

An Open Letter to the Nation from Massachusetts Physicians: Early Outcomes from Massachusetts' Health Care Reform

We write to alert colleagues and the nation to the disturbing early outcomes of Massachusetts' widely-heralded approach to health care reform. Although we wish that the current reform could secure health insurance for all, its failings reinforce our conviction that only a single payer program can assure patients the care they need.

In 2006, our state enacted a law designed to extend health coverage to virtually all state residents. Political leaders in other states as well as several Democratic presidential candidates have embraced this model.

Massachusetts' law mandates that uninsured individuals must purchase private insurance or pay a fine. The law established a new state agency to ensure that affordable plans were available; offered low income residents subsidies to help them buy coverage; and expanded Medicaid coverage for the very poor. (Immigrants are mostly excluded from these subsidized programs.) Moneys that previously funded free care for the uninsured were shifted to the new insurance program, along with revenues from new fines on employers who fail to offer health benefits to their workers. In addition, the federal government provided extra funds for the program's first two years.

Starting January 1, 2008 Massachusetts residents face fines if they cannot offer proof of insurance. Yet as of December 1, 2007 only 37% of the 657,000 uninsured had gained coverage under the new program. These individuals often feel well served by the reform in that they now have health insurance. However, 79% of these newly insured individuals are very poor people enrolled in Medicaid or similar free plans. Virtually all of them were previously eligible for completely free care funded by the state, but face co-payments under the new plan. In effect, public funds for care of the poor that previously flowed directly to hospitals and clinics now flow through insurers with their higher administrative costs.

Among the near poor uninsured (who are eligible for partial premium subsidies) only 16% had enrolled in the new coverage. And barely 7% of the uninsured individuals with incomes too high to qualify for subsidies had enrolled according to the official state figures. Few can afford premiums for even the skimpiest coverage; the lowest cost plan offered for a couple in their fifties costs $8,200 annually, and carries a $2,000 per person deductible.

Moreover, the state's cost for subsidies is running $147 million over the $472 million budgeted for fiscal year 2007. Meanwhile, collections from fines on employers who fail to provide coverage are 80% below the original projections. The funding gap will widen in future years as health care costs escalate and insurers raise premiums. Already, state officials speak of making up the shortfall by forcing patients to pay sharply higher co-pays and deductibles, and by slashing funds promised to safety net hospitals.

While patients, the state and safety net providers struggle, private insurers have prospered under the new law, and the costs of bureaucracy have risen. Blue Cross, the state's largest insurer, is reaping a surplus of more than $1 million each day, and awarded its chairman a $16.4 million retirement bonus even as he continues to draw a $3 million salary. All of the major insurers in our state continue to charge overhead costs five times higher than Medicare and eleven-fold higher than Canada's single payer system. Moreover, the new state agency that brokers private coverage adds its own surcharge of 4.5% to each policy it sells.

A single payer program could save Massachusetts more than $9 billion annually on health care bureaucracy, making universal coverage affordable. But because the 2006 law deepened our dependence on private insurance, it can only add coverage by adding costs. Though politically feasible, this approach is already proving fiscally unsustainable. The next economic downturn will push up the number of uninsured just as the tax revenues needed to fund subsidies fall.

The lesson from Massachusetts is that we still need real health care reform: single payer, non-profit national health insurance.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

No Patient Left Behind

Kip Sullivan: Report cards won't improve health care
Kip does a great job of comparing Health Report Cards to No Child Left Behind.