Monday, November 30, 2009

The Latest News on Health Care Reform

There's no dearth of news about our subject on the internet. A Google search of the term health care reform a moment ago yielded 41,623 news results. Here's the top story:

Will healthcare reform drive costs down? A little, report says.

Christian Science Monitor - Gail Russell Chaddock - ‎1 hour ago
A report released Monday by the Congressional Budget Office suggests that the Senate healthcare reform bill would have a modest effect on average Americans' ...

Here are some others:

White House Pushes for Passage of Senate Health Care Bill CBS News

How do you choose which news to read? There are lots of media outlets. Some clearly hold to higher journalistic standards than others. There's a good overview with links to discussions about journalism ethics and standards here.

Did you hear about the brouhaha regarding the FOX News report about Rep. Michele Bachmann's anti-health care reform rally? It's quite a tale. Comedian Jon Stewart pointed out that Sean Hannity exaggerated the turnout for this rally and that FOX showed footage from an earlier rally to give a false impression. You can watch the clip here at Media Matters or here at Mediaite, or here at Yahoo News.

As it is, it's questionable ethics for FOX to be "sponsoring" such rallies; a legitimate news outlet does not make news (Wm. Randolph Hearst's infamous quote "You give me the pictures, I'll give you the war!" notwithstanding).

My high school aged son and I discussed this issue. He felt strongly there should be some action taken against FOX. After all, when a "wardrobe malfunction" results in a $550,000 fine from the Federal Communications Commission against CBS, isn't there a precedent for protecting the public from indecency? If a newscaster falsifies information and misleads the public, isn't that indecent too?

Out of the mouths of babes...

What do you think?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Political Action Groups/ 7 Principles from the AMA

I frequently receive action alerts from various organizations about many different issues. One such group is Care 2 Make a Difference. They advocate for many things, including the reform of health policy, and recently sent out a call for people to send a letter to their congressional representatives urging the enactment of reform based on 7 guiding principles sponsored by the American Medical Association.
The action alert posted by Patients Action Network can be found online here.
These principles are:
1. Repeal of the Medicare physician payment formula that would trigger steep cuts and threaten seniors' access to care.

2. Provide health insurance coverage for all Americans.

3. Enact insurance market reforms that expand the choice of affordable coverage and eliminate denials for pre-existing conditions or due to arbitrary caps.

4. Assure that health care decisions are made by patients and their physicians, not by insurance companies or government bureaucrats. This sacred bond should include the right of patients to privately contract with physicians, so that their health care choices are respected.

5. Provide investments and incentives for initiatives that improve quality and enhance prevention and wellness.

6. Implement medical liability reforms to reduce the cost of defensive medicine.

7. Streamline and standardize insurance claims processing requirements to eliminate unnecessary costs and administrative burdens.

When I was doing research for this course, I found numerous other groups who seek to engage citizens in lobbying on health care reform. T
wo examples are
and Mad As Hell Doctors.

There's a good list of some advocacy groups here.

Have any groups contacted you? Have you discovered any organizations who appear to be particularly effective?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Scare Ads Parody

If you know me at all, you know I love to laugh and I love politics. Like Jonathan Swift, I believe that it's sometimes effective to use humour to get your point across.

Will Ferrell is best known for his comedic roles on Saturday Night Live and in popular films. He and some friends put together an ad about health care reform entitled Protect Insurance Companies. Do you think this might get someone to look at the issue differently, or is it just a way for advocates of reform to snark* at the opposition?

Credits: Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, Masi Oka, Jordana Spiro, Linda Cardellini, Donald Faison
Written by Lauren Palmigiano, Chad Carter & Peter Koechley
Directed by Drew Antzis
Produced by Chris Bruss, Lauren Palmigiano, Laura Dawn of & Peter Salett
Edited by Drew Antzis & Laura Dawn

*snark: to make snide remarks

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What in the World's Happening with Health Care?

I'm up early this morning, working on our Thanksgiving feast. I can't offer you any sweet potatoes or turkey, but here are a few goodies I discovered about health care systems of other countries.

Tonny van der Salm clued me in about an excellent public television program she'd seen.
In Sick Around the World, FRONTLINE teams up with veteran Washington Post foreign correspondent T.R. Reid to find out how five other capitalist democracies -- the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland -- deliver health care, and what the US might learn from their successes and their failures.

You can watch the entire program online here.

There's an interesting discussion of France and the Netherlands' health systems by Jonathan Cohn at The Boston Globe.

BBC News has some healthcare comparisons on their site here.

Remember yesterday's post, the song "We're Number 37" by Paul Hipp? PolitiFact has a detailed look at the World Health Organization statistics in their Truth-O-Meter feature article.

What do you think of these sources and their conclusions? Have you found other good information on the subject? Please share in the comments!

And have a lovely Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for my great students!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We're Number 37

Today's post features a video from youtube made by a man named Paul Hipp. He's not a policy expert, he's not a legislator, he's not a news commentator. He's a singer/songwriter who supports health care reform, and he performs his song "We're Number 37," referring, of course, to the US rank in the World Health Organization's ranking of the world's health care systems.

Warning: Some material may be offensive to some listeners.

"We're Number 37"

Come one, Come all
Down to the hall
We're gonna make noise
We're gonna bust balls
We're gonna disrupt
We're gonna jump in the fray
I got a list of all the things that were supposed to say
We're gonna get real rowdy
Have a barrel of fun
But we're the USA so by the way be sure to bring a gun
And buddy

We're Number 37
We're the USA
We're Number 37
And we're so proud to say
We got old people crying at the pharmacy
Pay your deductible
This ain't the land of the f-f-f-free Grandma
We're Number 37
We're the USA

People of the town come on down
And if you got a crazy rumor you can spread it around
I kind of like my insurance and I like my health
The other 47 million can go treat themselves
To some prayer in chapel
Fold your hands and pray
Because we are a Christian nation and that is the Christian way
And brother

We're Number 37
We're the USA
The big Number 37
And were so proud to say
Were #1 one in tanks
We're #1 in planes
We're #1 in war with #2 for brains
We're Number 37
We're the USA

I drew a Hitler mustache on the president
Yea! Ain't that neat
My brother had a hernia operation last year
And now he's living out on the street

We're Number 37
We're the USA
The big Number 37
And we want to keep it that way
Be sure to bring the kids
All of the boys and girls
Because the #1 health care system in the world...
Is in France???

We're Number 37
We're the USA
We're Number 37
And we got something to say
We pay more for less
40% in fact
Let's bite some fingers off
Shout at the handicapped
'Cause buddy
We're Number 37
We're the USA

Wer'e Number 37
We're the USA
We're Number 37
We're the USA

© Paul Hipp 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Health Care in Other Nations

I found this cartoon at an interesting blog called Ed Stein Ink. Ed is a Denver-based editorial cartoonist who has some great commentary with his drawings.

Today we'll be hearing from some folks from other nations. As Senator Keiser mentioned at our first class, the US is ranked well below many developed nations on various measures of health care. Those rankings obviously concern many people, but our class today will focus on specific experiences people have had to give a picture of what different policies are really like.

I'll provide links to various places where you can learn more about other nations later this week.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Health Care Reform - a Partisan Referendum on Presidential Power?

Denver-based editorial cartoonist Ed Stein has some interesting things to say about why people are opposing reform that would be in their own self interest:
I shouldn’t be any more, but I’m still surprised when people argue vehemently against their own self-interest. The health care debate has taken this disconnect to new levels. The states that seem to have the strongest polling against health care reform are those where people would be helped most by the reforms. The arguments I hear tend to be more political than practical, involving deep suspicion of government in general and Obama in particular, fear of some sort of socialist takeover of the economy, and the truly loony equation of health care reform with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
I've seen a several political humour bits that echo his thought that opposition to health care policy reform is less about policy and more about politics.

Certainly, there are many protesters who have gotten quite personal in attacking the President rather than the bill itself. It's impossible to look into men's hearts and minds and separate out political power motives and party allegiance from true concerns about legislation. If we could create an alternate universe where John McCain had won and went on to propose similar legislation, it would be fascinating to see if the same people would be opposing reform.

What do you think? While you're pondering the heavy question, take a peek at these funny bits from Saturday Night Live and satirical website The Onion.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hatred & Threats from Anti-Health Care Reform Protestors

I wonder if you saw a story I read yesterday about a newspaper in Michigan that reported about a "Tea Party" protest against health care reform organized by Rep. Michele Bachmann.

The Port Huron Times-Herald ran an editorial which observed:

Rally participants carried a variety of disturbing signs. One placard had a health care message superimposed over dead bodies from Holocaust concentration camps. One referred to President Barack Obama as "Sambo." One depicted the president as the evil "Joker" from Batman movies. One referred to "Obama and his Marxist buddies."

At one point, the crowd chanted "Nazi, Nazi."

Apparently, our congresswoman is OK with all of this.

The piece describes Rep. Candice Miller's participation in the anti-health reform protest as "shameful." The paper concludes:

If Miller truly has signed up with the right-wing fringe -- the bigots, the hate-mongers and the Nazi-chanters -- all of us in the Blue Water Area might well need to take another look.

Perhaps Miller could start with an apology for her performance at last Thursday's GOP festival of hate.

One 60 year old reader who supported the protests was so angered by the editorial that she allegedly called the newspaper and "threatened to take a gun to the newspaper and 'do what they did at Fort Hood,' according to police," the Times-Herald reported.

I invite your comments and discussion.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

CBO Analysis of Public Plan Impact on Private Companies

Opponents of health care policy reform who claim that the House bill would cause the demise of private insurance should consider the analysis of the bill by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center has a great site, which provides great information about claims made by all sides on a variety of issues. Warning: once you click the link and go to the website, you might not surface again for a long time. There are many interesting articles.

Check out The Government-Run Mantra and see what you think.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What's the Real Cost of Health Care?

Speaker Victoria Dain shared a great website with the class yesterday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The History of Health Care in America

Thomas Nast originated the use of the elephant as a cartoonist's symbol for the Republican Party. Mike Luckovich employs it here to represent the GOP position on health care reform. Do you think it's a fair characterization? Why or why not?

Nast certainly seemed to think that government moved slowly, based on this 1877 piece in
Harper's Weekly entitled The Lighning Speed of Honesty. Uncle Sam (another iconic Nast brainchild) rides the snail of Congress.

David Horsey goes back to 1909 for a look at policy reform. His Republican president, Teddy Roosevelt (or is it Wm. Howard Taft?) seems to advocate reform, but Congress is dragging its feet. Who remembers which party controlled Congress then?

Your fun Congressional trivia fact for the day is that the Republicans held majorities in both Senate (60 to 32) and House (219 to 172).

Friday, November 13, 2009

Public Opinion on Public Option

Getty image from Reuters

There were some interesting polling figures reported in October related to health care reform. An article from Reuters reported public support for a US public healthcare option.

Perhaps the most meaningful statistic of several cited is:
Nevertheless, one Pew poll last month found that 67 percent of respondents found the healthcare debate difficult to understand...

There's a thought-provoking post in the blog FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right entitled
Poll: Most Don't Know What "Public Option" Is -- Including Pollsters
I found myself nodding (in agreement, not nodding off) with this passage:

This is also why relatively small changes in wording can trigger dramatic shifts in support for the public option, which has been as high as 83 percent in some polls and as low as 35 percent in others depending on who is doing the polling and how they're asking the questions.
You can find numerous articles about public opinion on the public option. One of the most interesting I read was
Pollster Behind Controversial Public Option Poll Has Long Ties To Insurance Industry

How do you think such polls should be worded?

What do you think about including a public option in reform legislation?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Protesters Claim Inadequate Coverage

Talk about the "naked truth."

Activists endeavor to "expose" the problems with private coverage.

You will receive five points for every punny comment you submit.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Public Interest Groups Advocate for Health Care Reform

Today, we'll hear from a pair of organizers from two different public interest groups:

Betsy Dillner, Oregon State Coordinator of HCAN (Health Care for America Now)

Dustin Lambro, Washington State Director of OFA (Organizing for America)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Senate Considers Health Care Reform Bill

Now, I had some pretty good coaching last night,
and I find that if I yield only for a question or a point of order
or a personal privilege, that I can hold this floor almost until doomsday.
In other words, I've got a piece to speak, and blow hot or cold,
I'm going to speak it.
Jimmy Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
CBS News reported that health care reform faces major opposition in the Senate. Here's a summary of Sunday's Face the Nation with Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-SC) who claimed the bill is "D.O.A" and vowed he would filibuster reform with a public option.

Senator Joseph Liberman (I-CT) plans to join the filibuster, as this analysis points out. The link includes a clip of him talking with Chris Wallace on Fox News.

While filibusters have been portrayed (some would say romanticized, thanks to Jimmy Stewart's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) as opportunities to speak out against injustice and stand up for one's principles, there are many who argue that they've been used for pure obstructionism. What do you think?

There are a ton of interesting articles at History News Network about filibusters. You can read them here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Vocabulary Lesson

There are a lot of terms being tossed around in the debate. Reuters News has a nice glossary of terms related to health care policy reform.
You can read it here.

If you really want to expand your vocabulary, take a peek at this page on the PBS website.

There's a great article about the power of defining words in this debate at the Christian Science Monitor.

Are there any terms that aren't covered that you wish to learn more about? Be sure to ask our speakers. In fact, it could be interesting to see what different definitions you might receive, depending on the speaker.

Feel free to share any links to good glossaries in the comments!

House Passes Health Care Reform Bill

CNN reported that the House passed the Health Care Reform bill.
Click here for the article.

They voted a strict ban on abortion subsidies. You can find the AP story about that here.

The big question now on everyone's minds is: Will the Senate take action on this bill?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Congressman Baird's Statement on Health Care Reform Issued Today

Wondering what the local Congressman thinks about health care policy reform? We'll be hearing from his district director, Kelly Love, on December 1st. Meanwhile, here's the latest press release from his office. Clicking on the title will take you to his website.

Congressman Brian Baird’s Statement Regarding H.R. 3962 – The Affordable Health Care for America Act

Washington, D.C.- I strongly believe there is a need for health care reform and I have offered my own proposal for how this should be accomplished. The bill before the House is a result of thousands of hours of effort put in by members of Congress and their staff, plus the unprecedented input from the public on all sides of this issue. Clearly, people care about how we deliver and pay for health care in this country and there is a need and opportunity for change.

In comparison to the initial draft of H.R. 3200, a number of improvements have been made. To name just a few, the current bill would allow negotiations for prescription drugs under Medicare D, promote alternatives to malpractice litigation, and allow for cross state agreements to purchase cross state insurance (something especially relevant to border districts such as my own). There are also elements that could at long last correct the Medicare payment disparities that disadvantage our state, and the bill would end the anti-trust exemption long enjoyed by insurance companies.

All of those changes are commendable, but there are still reasons for concern. The most important of these is the simple fact that we do not yet have reliable estimates of how this legislation will impact the premiums paid by people who already have insurance.

This week I spoke with Nancy-Ann DeParle, the President's chief health advisor and Doug Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Although some prominent economists have asserted that premiums on average may go down relative to what they would be without this bill, the CBO has yet to complete its analysis of the issue. Furthermore, just yesterday, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said he did not think a cost estimate of the House bill would be available before the scheduled vote.

This is no small matter. To insist that members vote on this legislation without having cost estimates of Medicare and Medicaid impacts by CMS or an estimate of premium impacts from the CBO seems premature and unwise.

Precisely because this matter is so important, it is critical that we do things right, and know what we are doing. At present, unfortunately, I do not believe we have answers to fundamental questions.

Another troubling matter is how the legislation will be brought to a vote. As of this writing, only one amendment will be allowed from the Republican side. No other amendments, by either the majority or minority members, will be allowed. I believe that is a mistake. For a matter of this importance, and on which reasonable people can and do disagree, there ought to be more opportunity granted for amendments on both sides.

For these reasons, until more information is available on premium estimates and Medicare impacts, I will vote against the legislation in its current form. I will wait to make a decision on final legislation until this critical information becomes available and when the House and Senate together produce one bill.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Moving to a New Classroom - Joan Stout Hall 245

I'll be posting several health care policy reform pieces shortly. Meanwhile, here's a quick announcement that I was successful changing the classroom.

We will NOT be meeting in Foster Auditorium any longer. The remaining four sessions will be held in Joan Stout Hall Room 245.

I look forward to some great speakers and question/answer sessions!