health care

If You’re Interested in McCain’s Private Health Plan Initiative, Check Out The Medicare Drug Benefit

Most of us don’t pay much attention to Medicare. We may notice that money is taken out of our paychecks to pay for our future Medicare coverage. We may have heard that Medicare has financial problems. We might have heard our parents or grandparents talk about Medicare. But if you are interested in how John McCain’s individual private health plan proposal would work, it’s worth taking a look at the Medicare drug benefit. The Medicare drug benefit exemplifies the problems of a private health insurance model.

Saving Health Care Costs at the Expense of Our Parents

Most of us don't think about health care issues in terms of our parents, but perhaps we should.

A new analysis in the National Journal Magazine says that yes, maybe McCain’s health plan would save some young, healthy folks a few dollars in the premiums they pay, but the cost to Americans who aren’t so young and/or so healthy would be great.

Ronald Brownstein explains that most employers would stop providing health insurance benefits if they are stripped of the tax incentives for doing so. Older workers who lose employer health insurance might not be able to find insurance on the private market (they have difficulty finding insurance now). Or, if they found insurance, the cost would be prohibitive. The McCain tax credit would not be sufficient, and these workers would end up paying more than they do now.

Health Care as a Human Right

Finally, a politician who isn't afraid to tell the truth: The highlight of last night's debate was when Barak Obama had the decency to say what we all know, that health care is a right. John McCain wouldn't say that last night, and Sarah Pallin didn't say it last week, either.

That's because the McCain health plan is more about increasing business for private health insurance companies and making it easier for them to cherry pick who they want to insure than about expanding and protecting affordable, quality health care for everyone.

Don't we all know someone like Obama's mother, who had to fight to get her health insurance coverage while fighting a terminal illness? Obama said he would address the insurance company practice of trying to avoid paying by labeling conditions as pre-existing. McCain, on the other hand, would eliminate the laws that require insurance companies to like mammograms, or vaccinations, or maternity care.

McCain’s Health Care Plan: Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

An article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal shed some light on how John McCain plans to fund those tax credits he believes will help people buy health insurance: He plans to rob Medicare and Medicaid of what independent analysts project to be $1.3 trillion dollars over the next decade in order to fund his proposal. Even those of us who don't have a connection to Medicare and Medicaid need to worry.

SNL Gets McCain Health Care Proposal Right

During Saturday Night Live's parody of the vice presidential debate, Tina Fey as Governor Palin responded to the question on Senator McCain's health care propoosal by saying she was going to ignore it.

Unfortunately, Ms. Fey's response is as accurate as it is funny. According to a recent Commonwealth Fund analysis of the presidential candidates' health care proposals, Senator McCain's proposal ignores some of the biggest health care problems of the day. The McCain proposal does not address the growing number of uninsured, the amount that people with and without insurance must pay for their health care, and concerns about the quality of care that we receive.

Environmental racism, Chinatown and the Gallery casino

Gambling and gambling addiction in Asian communities is a well-known problem. Jennifer Lin’s Inquirer story today shows just how severe it is. Among the stunning statistics:

  • A survey of southeast Asian refugees in Connecticut (where statewide they only have two casinos), found that 59% were pathological gamblers.
  • In Atlantic City, an estimated 15-20% of revenues come from Asian gamblers.
  • A national study found that Asians had a prevalence of pathological gambling three times higher than whites.

Studies in general on Asian particularly Asian immigrant mental health problems are limited by the lack of bilingual and culturally responsive outreach. But for people on the ground level the concern about gambling addiction is overwhelming. The few doctors and family health counselors who work in Asian immigrant communities all point to gambling addiction as a major problem in Asian immigrant communities. But even more relevant is the lack of available help for immigrant gambling addicts.

Access to help already is a problem for Asians who don't speak English.

"Treatment of gambling addiction that is culturally competent is nonexistent in Philadelphia," said Philip Siu, founder of Chinatown Medical Services, the city's largest community health center for Asians.

Gamblers Anonymous, the best-known self-help group for compulsive gamblers, does not offer local meetings in Asian languages. The state-supported Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania hands out printed information on how to get help, but not in Asian languages.

Last week, I and one of the leaders of the Chinatown community went door to door to businesses to do a sample survey of their feelings about the casino. We found that more than 80% of businesses oppose the proposed casino or needed more information (this latter group was less than 10% of respondents). The number one concern cited, even by those who supported a casino, was the concern about gambling and gambling addiction. It wasn’t a generic fear of gambling. It was literally: I am afraid my husband, or my mother, or my children will be at the casino.

So what does that mean for the city? In our meeting with city officials, most professed that they had no knowledge that gambling was any greater a problem in Chinatown than in other communities. We’re willing to give them that. But now that concrete evidence indicates that not only could there be a serious problem, but that the city and state centers are poorly equipped to handle such a problem, what does it mean for the city to go ahead and continue to place the casino next to such a vulnerable community?

For many people in the community, this is what environmental racism looks like. It’s not only that a tiny residential community has endured 30 years of urban renewal projects that have taken away half the land and destroyed a third of the housing. It’s not just that there’s a lack of investment in the community – Chinatown despite being one of Philly’s oldest immigrant neighborhoods still lacks a public library, health clinic, rec center, or neighborhood public school.

Environmental racism also raises its head when there’s evidence of mental health problems and lack of infrastructure to address such problems, but all we get is a social worker or Foxwoods-sponsored counseling program or some translated brochures about gambling addiction. That just doesn’t cut it.

There are lots of things wrong with this site, but dismissing Chinatown’s anguish over the sufferings of its own people is not only cruel, it’s environmental racism at its clearest.

Elizabeth Edwards gets it right about health care reform

Elizabeth Edwards got it right yesterday in her testimony about health care reform before the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Mrs. Edwards pointed out the fallacy of relying on individual private plans under the free market theory espoused by Senator McCain and other Republicans. She spoke from personal experience when she testified, "....the reality is that deciding between the costs and benefits of various cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery will simply never be the same as choosing between purchasing a Dodge, Pontiac, and Lincoln."

How many women in Pennsylvania and across the US have had to make that choice? And how many have had no choice to make because they don't have health insurance to cover any of those treatments? Senator Obama's health plan works to ensure that all of those women have the insurance they need and have the information they need to make informed decisions about quality affordable health care.

Bad Health Insurance News Joins Bad Financial News

Just as Americans are getting bad news about their savings and retirement income from Wall Street, a report issued today in Health Affairs gives us bad news about what will happen to our health insurance if John McCain is elected president.

Thomas Buchmueller, a professor at the Ross School of Business at Michigan, and several colleagues, all professors at prestigious institutions, analyzed McCain’s proposal. While McCain’s idea to replace the tax benefits to employers who offer health insurance with a refundable tax credit for people who buy their own insurance may sound good on paper, the practical effect would make us worse off than we are now.

Philadelphia Unemployment Project in four parts

If you guys are curious about PUP, here's a little video an intern put together for us. This is the first part, which captures a clip from a rally we did to get a woman access to a hospital. It's the first of four parts.

Part 2 - Unemployment Compensation

Part 3 - Foreclosure Prevention

Part 4 - Workers' Campaigns

Insure-animals, from

Insur-Animals #1

This is kind of awesome. Pass Prescription for Pennsylvania (and Access to Basic Care). Health Insurance companies are evil.

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An Open Letter to Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, organized by the Philadelphia Unemployment Project

From the Philadelphia Unemployment Project

An Open Letter

April 10, 2008

Dear Senator Clinton and Senator Obama:

Healthcare has been central to each of your campaigns. As you work here in advance of the April 22nd primary, we wanted to alert you that healthcare is the number one opportunity we have to improve the lives of working Pennsylvanians right now. We, the undersigned, believe your campaigns could advance the cause of Pennsylvania’s reforms, should you choose to make them an issue.

Early last year, Governor Rendell unveiled an ambitious package of reforms known as The Prescription for Pennsylvania (Rx4PA, Rx4PA would expand access to health insurance with a high quality healthcare plan. With revisions from the House Democrats, that plan is now known as “Access to Basic Care,” and it passed the House this month in Senate Bill 1137.

Rx4PA would also rein in the forces that have driven up the price of insurance in the small group market, reward employers already providing coverage and insure that no one with a pre-existing condition is denied coverage.These also passed the House of Representatives in House Bill 2098 and House Bill 2005.

If these reforms succeed in the Commonwealth, it will make the arguments for either of your national plans much stronger. Rx4PA’s success should also galvanize your allies in Washington while chastening your opponents.

Likely House Vote TODAY on Insurance Reform and Final Passage of "Access to Basic Care"

Two editorials today in both of our city's main dailies highlight the hope for Final passage of much needed coverage for the Uninsured.

Editorial: Covering the Uninsured, The Inquirer

A SICK PLAN, The Daily News

Both papers say that the House should approve "Access to Basic Care" in S.B. 1137. That means they should permit the Dems to make their technical amendments (they dropped a couple brackets in there) and send it to the Senate.

That means you, Rep. Perzel, who stepped out before the final vote on the amendment that put "Access to Basic Care" in the bill. Rep. John Taylor, a Philadelphia Republican who usually supports the working poor on issues like this, was not around last week. Hopefully, today, he'll be back in the Capitol and will support the House Democrats new plan. Kenney and O'Brien are on the side of right and justice. Speaking of the Democrats, though: Democrats, none of you can call in sick this week. It would be more irony than I can really handle if people lost their chance to pay for doctor visits because one of you got the flu.

Up for first consideration in the House today, as well, is HB 2005, which reforms the market for insurance purchasers for small groups of people -- the small and medium sized business. This legislation would make it impossible to deny coverage to individuals because they have a health problem (the "pre-existing condition"). In other words, sick people will still be able to buy coverage. Insurers won't be able to jack up people’s rates based on their medical history, and the cost of covering someone will be based only on their age and the average cost of covering a person in that area or community, modified by the individual's age.

HB 2005 will also lower costs. When the uninsured get covered and when hospitals quit making so many mistakes, insurers won’t have to pay out as much money for medical bills anymore. Under HB 2005, the state can make sure that insurers can’t keep the difference. Instead, they’ll have to lower premiums, making insurance less expensive for individuals and easier for employers to provide.

[If anyone asks you, the Deluca Amendment is good and the Micozzie amendment masquerades as compromise while effectively gutting the bill - if in doubt, pass it it as it is.]

More details on the plan, after the jump. So Jump!

Ban Mandatory Overtime--Take 2

Here's the second in our series of SEIU Healthcare PA members talking about the need to ban mandatory overtime.

Mandatory overtime affects hospital workers, nursing home workers, and state and county employees.

If you love seniors, call your state senator and tell them to vote for a ban on forced overtime. If you live in the district of a member of the Republican leadership, call and tell them to schedule a vote on the bill (HB 834).

Taking Action to Ban Mandatory Overtime

On Tuesday, January 29, health care workers from around the state will be converging on the state capitol in Harrisburg to urge the Senate to ban forced overtime.

Click here to hear one nurse's story about why she's making the trip.

This is the first in a series of video emails we're sending the PA General Assembly, to let them know why health care workers all over the state need an end to mandatory overtime.

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