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October 2009

1990 pages of Woop-Ass!...and a Public Option


Today the House officially released their Health Care Bill.  Frankly I do not have the time to read the full bill since it is 1990 pages long, but I did have time to read the official summery that all of us have access to. The summery is only 4 pages long. I have placed links to these at the end of this post.  Upon hearing that the Official House Bill was released I have to admit I was skeptical.  This is not the type of reform that I would have preferred.  I am a supporter of Single-Payer Health Insurance.  Single-Payer is when there is only one health insurance company which is sponsored by the Government.  It is commonly called Medicare for everyone.  Just like Medicare it keeps the doctors and hospitals private just like they are now, nothing changes, no socialized health care.  (Socialized Health Care is when everyone who works in the health care system is employed by the government.  Nothing like this has ever been proposed by any bill in this country.)   Just like Medicare it allows everyone to choose any doctor they want, no matter where the doctor is located.  It eliminates pre-existing conditions, caps on coverage, and cancelation of coverage due to getting sick or losing a job.  No one would ever go bankrupt because they can’t afford their mortgage due to medical bills, and businesses would not lose profits due to high insurance premiums for their employees.  It is Guaranteed Health Insurance coverage from birth to death whether you are employed or not.  But why won’t this happen here.  One reason, it would put the health insurance companies out of business, and that is way too big of a change for most of this county and way too risky for politicians who want to get re-elected next term. But the question I have is why aren’t there riots in the street over the practices of these insurance companies, people with torches marching towards the homes of insurance executives who have denied everything from cancer treatments to coverage for rape victims.   Why do we need companies in business that cancel our coverage when it is costing them too much, deny coverage if they determine that a pre-existing condition isn’t in their best financial interest, exponentially raise rates to the point that some Americans can no longer afford their coverage, where business have to drop coverage or limit what is covered in order to be able to provide coverage to their employees, all of this while salaries of the top executives at these insurance companies have skyrocketed over the last 10 years.  The one thing that has been undeniable by almost everyone on both sides of the playing field is that reform is necessary.  We can’t go on like this.  How any Senator of representative of Congress could justify not being for some kind of major reform, regardless of what party they are part of, is beyond me.  How many stories of suffering at the hands of insurance companies do they have to hear?  How many people have to die because of no health insurance?  How many families have to lose their homes because they can’t afford their medical bills before they are going to simply do what is best for all Americans, and stop putting their self-interests first? 

But for the ones that understand that reform must happen, the debate has been over what form the reform should be.  So here we are today with the announcement that the official bill from the house has been released.  It is not a bill for Single –Payer Health Insurance, but I did not expect it to be.  It is basically what was expected, a major health reform bill that includes the next best thing we could hope for, a Public Option.  And after reading the summaries about this bill, I have to admit, it’s a good bill, not perfect, but good.  It does what it should do and accomplishes the goals laid out by President Obama.  I’m not going to go into what those goals were or the details of this bill.  If you want to know that you can read it yourself, but what I will say is that the insurance companies should be jumping for joy, why?  Because they dodged a bullet big time.  They got lucky and I don’t think they really appreciate it.  You see this could have gone a whole other way for them.  If the cards fell differently they could have ended up with a bill that presented America with a Single Payer Health Insurance solution, and these giant insurance companies would have been out of business.  Instead they have been allowed to keep their jobs, their profits, they’ve been given the opportunity to insure more Americans, and given the opportunity to truly serve their customers instead of what they have been doing which is treat them like dogs.  This industry has no shame and now they are going to be held accountable and it is about time.  These companies have been handed a new lease on life.  It’s the equivalent of giving Charles Manson probation for life and an ankle monitoring bracelet for committing murder instead of life in prison.  The only difference is that Manson killed less people.  This is just the beginning.  We have a long way to go before this is passed and becomes law.  Whatever is passed will have its critics.  But in the end they will be silenced because they will see the benefits health insurance reform will have for this country and for their lives.  Yea, I’m talking to you Joe Lieberman.


4 Page Bill Summary

Public Health Insurance Option

The 14 Provisions That Take Effect Immediately

Woman Have The Most To Gain

Affordable Health Care For America Act

Ian's Death Sentence

Every once in a while I come across a story that is so unbelievable, so outrageous, I just have to pass it along.  This is one of those stories.  Ian Pearl was born in 1972 with Muscular Dystrophy.  Today he needs a breathing machine to breath and 24/7 nurse care. At a moments notice he could face a life threatening incident that could land him in the hospital. Ian's insurance company knew they could not just drop his coverage alone, so instead they stopped covering his condition for everyone.  His insurance will end December 1, 2009.  With out coverage Ian faces medical bills totaling over $700,000 a year.  This will be Ian's death sentence.  Read Ian's story below in his own words.

Brian Dann 



Ian Ian Pearl

Originally Posted October 19th, 2009 02:14pm in the Huffington Post


I Am Not A Dog

I am not a "dog." That's what health insurance executives called me because I have a disease. I'm also not a "trainwreck," another term they used for members like me.
Soon after I was born in 1972, I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. By the time I was six years old, I was confined to a wheelchair. Doctors doubted I would survive, but I inherited my parents' determination, and I proved them wrong.
I was the first wheelchair-bound student "mainstreamed" in the schools of Broward County, Florida. I became a poster child for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and president of my high school class. I entered college in 1990 with plans to work in politics and patient advocacy, but at 19, I had a severe setback and I was confronted with a stark choice. My survival would require a machine to breathe and round-the-clock nursing care.
A breathing machine usually means life in a nursing facility. But my father's small business had health insurance from Guardian Life Insurance Co., which promised "Solutions for Life." The health policy had no lifetime benefit cap and covered home nursing care. Relying on that contract with a 149-year-old company, I decided to go on a mechanical ventilator for the rest of my life.
Since then, I've endured life-threatening medical complications and long hospitalizations. I've lost my privacy and ability to travel. But I never regretted my decision to live, to continue to learn and write, and to share in the lives of family and friends.
After decades of medical emergencies, we still weren't prepared for the latest crisis -- this one created by the same insurance company that once saved my life. Guardian abruptly withdrew our health plan from all policyholders in New York where my father's business is based. Guardian offered a 'replacement' plan with low benefits and no home nursing benefits. They knew that I would never survive with such a plan, but they didn't care.
Suspecting that this action was related to the high cost of my care, we filed a lawsuit and have asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to enforce existing federal laws and require Guardian to continue my health plan. Without federal intervention, I will lose this insurance, and that would be a death sentence.
Our lawsuit uncovered insurance company documents that confirmed my suspicion that I'm a target of discrimination. The documents revealed Guardian had compiled a "hit list" of its costliest members, including patients with muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, and paralysis. Guardian executives referred to us all as "dogs" and "trainwrecks," and they debated how and when to dump us from the rolls. Laws prohibited the cancellation of the individual members with serious chronic health problems, so Guardian opted to cancel the plan for all members of this specific health plan in New York, an action that violates federal law.
Although my medical costs constituted a minuscule fraction of Guardian's profits, the company had been trying for 15 years to sidestep its obligations to me. The insurer hired private investigators who searched in vain for evidence to justify canceling the policy. Guardian had similarly targeted the other "dogs" without success. Finally, Guardian launched the unprecedented strategy of withdrawing an established plan throughout an entire state in order to discontinue a few costly members.
When we checked the private insurance market to see my options, we discovered that benefits covering the care I need to survive are no longer available to small businesses. We learned that the insurance industry has replaced risk management with risk elimination, offering only benefits that guarantee permanent profitability. The human toll is not a factor in their calculations.
While all this was going on, Guardian reported $7.5 billion revenue, net income of $437 million, and available capital of $4.3 billion in 2008. Unlike small businesses, Guardian's financial strength remained unscathed by the economic downturn.
The health insurance industry remains unchecked, unaccountable and uninterested in the health needs of Americans. Nothing is more important than profit.
Don't think what happened to me was unusual. Insurance companies regard everyone as potential dogs and trainwrecks. They won't hesitate to use similar tactics to avoid your claims if someone in your family suffers a catastrophic illness. Insurers don't like it when sick people live too long and cost too much.
I know firsthand that America's health care system has the capacity to provide incomparable, life-saving care. But I am living proof that insurance-company "death squads" meeting behind closed doors routinely make life-sustaining benefits vanish.
Without stricter enforcement of existing laws and the creation of a public health insurance option to keep private insurers honest, it's only a matter of time before you or someone you love will become the next victim.
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The Faces Of The Un-Insured


I was just thinking to myself, why do I care so much about this health care reform issue?  Why have I written so many columns about it and debated it with friends and family? Of all the things going on in the world why is this the one thing that I keep coming back to?  Today Dr. Oz, who used to be a featured regular on the Oprah show and who now has his own show, answered my question for me.  With the help of the National Association of Free Clinics, Dr Oz put together the largest ever one day free clinic.  It was held in Houston Texas.  Why was it held there?  Because Houston has more uninsured Americans then any other part of the country. One in every three citizens of the greater Houston area has no health insurance.  The clinic recruited 700 volunteers, 200 doctors, and 300 nurses and opened at 7am but people started lining up the night before.  People from all walks of life came to be treated.  Some had not seen a doctor in years simply because they could not afford it.  Some had life threatening conditions and did not even know it. And some were too proud to accept charity but finally had no choice.  I watched this show and I have to admit, the stories were heart breaking.  Stories such as Gloria Molina, the 52 year old mother who wanted nothing more then to see her daughter graduate from college, but whose heart was working at only 25% capacity due to congestive heart disease and had no money or insurance to do anything about it. Or Steven Cantrell whose small blister on his lip had grown into a tumor and cancer that spread to his neck. Or 14 month old Analeigha Rivera, (see the Video Of The Day) whose mother Victoria had no idea, until the day she came to the clinic, that her daughter had a hole in her heart which if left untreated would eventually weaken her heart so much that it would kill her with in one year.  The stories and situations were endless.  That day Dr Oz and his team set a record.  In one 12 hour period they treated over 1750 patients, people who had no where else to turn, people who could not get insurance because of pre-existing conditions, people who had lost there jobs and could not afford cobra or private insurance, people who were on the verge of loosing there homes because they had to make a choice between paying a medical bill or paying there mortgage.  People like you and me, our neighbors, our friends, our families, our co-workers, people who had jobs but were still uninsured.  A staggering 85% of the people who came to the clinic that day were employed, and still could not afford or did not qualify for insurance. 

Watching this made me understand why I care so much about this issue.  It’s because Dr. Oz did what not a single politician, not even the President has been able to do.  He put a face on this problem of health care in America.  He showed me in the most heart wrenching way that health care reform is not a political issue, it is a human issue.  It is a issue of right and wrong, of good vs. bad, of big business vs. humanity, and all of us need to stop making this a political issue.  The President and all of the politicians in this country need to see the faces of these people who simply want the health care that so many of us take for granted the health care that we deserve as humans.  Our elected officials need to stop thinking so much about if they are going to get re-elected or not in four years and start realizing that this is about life, humanity, real people, children, mothers who cant afford to have there ovarian cancer treated because they lost there insurance and now they are un-insurable, fathers who lost there homes because they got laid off, lost there their insurance and now live in a one room hotel room.  This needs to become a moral issue for all parties involved. We need to do what is right for all Americans, because if this fails, if every American in this country can’t get the health care they deserve with out loosing there homes or going bankrupt, if we cant stop one American from dying every 12 minutes simply because they do not have health insurance, if we cant all see the human face of this issue, then together, Republicans and Democrats we will have failed. We can not let this happen for ultimately we will be judged by how we treat the neediest among us.

I Like Peace. Can I Have A Prize Too?


Last week President Obama received the highly esteemed Nobel Peace Prize.  I have to admit, that even though I have been a vocal supporter of our new president, my first thoughts were “what, was it a slow peace year?”  Hey, I like the president and I support most of what he is doing, although I think he is missing the boat a bit on the whole health care thing (see my previous columns.) But this whole Nobel Peace prize thing did take me, as it did the president himself, a bit by surprise.   As soon as I heard this announcement, I knew that the right would jump all over this, whether he deserved it or not, and I was correct.  But as Michael Moore said in a letter he wrote soon after the announcement,  “I get the feeling that if you found the cure for cancer this afternoon they'd be denouncing you for destroying free enterprise because cancer centers would have to close.”   The criticisms were fierce.  Glenn Beck said “…Obama doesn't deserve the prize, but the Tea Party protesters do.”   Erick Erickson of the web site, Redstate, made it a race issue saying that the Nobel Committee must have picked Obama to meet some “affirmative actions quota”.   And Rush Limbaugh said "Something has happened here that we all agree with the Taliban and Iran about and that is he doesn't deserve the award."  But what interests me more than if he deserves it or not is why we are so surprised by this.  On the surface it seems obvious.  He has only been in office 10 months and the nominations were made only 2 weeks after he took office.  This was hardly time for major peace accomplishment to be made.  We don’t see nations being brought together after lengthy meetings, handshakes being made over peace treaties that change the world, Rush Limbaugh running down the beach while holding hands with Keith Olbermann.   

But I think that the true reason why we are so surprised by this is simple.  We are uninformed, not about all of the awesome peace accomplishments of President Obama, but about the criteria and individuals that make up the Nobel Committee.  The Nobel Peace Prize is not a prize that is given by the United Nations or the even a single person from the United States.  It is given by the Norwegian Nobel Committee which is composed of five members appointed by the Storting (Norwegain Parliament).   They do not answer to the U.S., they do not answer to the U.N., and technically they do not even answer to Norway.  But they do reflect the politics of the Norwegain Parliament, the European community, and the criteria of the Nobel Foundation.  And in my opinion, which in this debate does not amount to a hill of beans, the only opinions that matter here are the five individuals of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.   And whether Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, you, me or Joe Six Pack (gosh by golly) thinks that President Barak Obama deserves this prize or not, is irrelevant.  This is the Nobel Peace Prize, not the Fox News peace prize, in which case I am sure Glenn Beck would give it to himself while he cries about how much he loves this country.  In the words of the Nobel Committee “Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics… Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened…  Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population…The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."  The bottom line is that President Obama met the guidelines and values set out by the Nobel Committee.  According to them, he deserved it.  And for that we should be gracious and simply say thank you.  It is not our award, it is there’s.

The day after President Obama won the election I was listening to the radio, and the show I had on was taking calls from listeners from all over the world.  Not a single caller was a United States citizen, voted in the election or currently resided in the United States.  The calls came from places such as Ireland, France, South America, Israel and so on.  Every caller expressed their happiness, there joy for the future, there new found respect for the United States.  People called with tears in their eyes that they never thought they would see the U.S. do what they had done on that day.  Their reactions were the same as the thousands of people who stood in Grant Park the evening of November 4th 2008 with looks of disbelief, tears of joy, and hope for change to come.  This award the president received was not for the obvious deeds that some others deserved this award for, but for the new found hope he inspired, for the change that is now possible, and for the message of Yes We Can that the Nobel Committee believes will someday become Yes We Did.