Nov 26, 2018

 

Lisa Hagen, “Dem gains put Sunbelt in play for 2020,” The Hill, Nov. 18, 2018

How Democrat candidates in the Southwest neutralized the GOP’s historical advantages. “Both [victorious Senate candidates] relentlessly focused their messaging on health care and protections for pre-existing conditions coverage.” However, Sinema (AZ) is a Blue Dog who is unlikely to support single-payer.

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Mike Ludwig, “Parents deliver ashes of diabetic children to price-gouging insulin manufacturer,” Truthout, Nov. 16, 2018

More obscenity. Insulin was discovered 100 years ago, so you’d think the cartel would be illegal by now.

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Dylan Scott, “This drug saves Americans from opioid overdoses. Its price has been hiked 600 percent,” Vox, Nov. 19, 2018

Naloxone for overdose reversal.

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Dan Glaun, “Question 1: Massachusetts’ nurse-patient ratio ballot measure is defeated,” MassLive, Nov. 6, 2018

This attempt to boost nurse staffing in hospitals went down to a crushing (70-30) defeat, which is an interesting lesson in how this approach can be spun negatively.

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Lee Fang & Nick Surgey, “Lobbyist documents reveal health care industry battle plan against ‘Medicare for All,’” The Intercept, Nov. 20, 2018

Great detail on the oppo plans to beat back single payer. Industry groups manifest “growing concern.”

 

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Lambert Strether, “Hedda Martin’s GoFundMe, Spectrum Health, and putting a Band-Aid on the cancer of American’s health care system,” Naked Capitalism, Nov. 27, 2018

This is a great dive into the outrageous proliferation of crowdfunding charity campaigns by people forced into GoFundMe to pay for their health care. Note the role of the DeVos family in the example cited.

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Abby Goodnough, “This city’s overdose deaths have plunged: Can others learn from it?” New York Times, Nov. 25, 2018

(Dayton, Ohio). Medicaid expansion (i.e. single-payer for the low-income) was the first step, along with an enlightened police chief.

 

Nov 13, 2018

“What does the outcome of the midtern elections mean for Medicaid expansion?” Kaiser Health News, Nov. 7, 2018

State-by-state summary.

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Michael Hiltzik, “Dialysis companies’ anti-Proposition 8 fight has gone over the top — in self-interested campaign spending,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 29, 2018

The dialysis industry successfully buried this cost-cutting California referendum as the perverse system permits monopoly pricing, which then gives the corporations plenty of cash to crush attempts to rein them in.

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Crystal Hayes, “Medicare head tweets ‘scariest Halloween costume’ would be Medicare for all,” USA Today, Oct. 31, 2018

Trump’s troll at Medicare displayed now familiar Trumpian class in dissing single-payer as unaffordable and destructive of patient “choice.” Yawn.

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Nicole Gaudiano and Maureen Groppe, “Democrats back Medicare for All in about half of House races they’re contesting, USA Today, Oct. 23, 2018

Many more Democrat candidates are on board with single-payer, and attacks on them over it don’t seem to have connected with the voting population. Health remains the #1 concern for voters in all the polls. Note that Pelosi immediately muddied the waters by calling it a “public option”—this is straight out of the ACA playbook.

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Thom Hartmann, “Here’s the real reason why Republicans fear ‘Medicare for All’,” Independent Media Institute, Nov. 5, 2018

An interesting theory: that single-payer would make voting by low-income people too easy! A standard health insurance card, which everyone would want, could undermine GOP voter suppression tactics by providing a universal voter ID.

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Zaid Jilani, “Michigan’s Democratic governor-elect puts Blue Cross/Blue Shield executive on transition team—after the cmpany funded her campaign,” The Intercept, No.v 9, 2018

Good corrective to excessive enthusiasm over Democrat successes: Whitmer, whose father was the head of Blue Cross, beat a single-payer advocate in the primary. Her industry-heavy staff now can make sure Michigan is no threat to that business.

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Susan Jaffe, “Trumpeted new Medicare Advantage benefits will be hard for seniors to find,” Kaiser Health News, Nov. 9, 2018

This is an underappreciated negative factor in our crazed health care non-system: how we have to dig and search for the right “product,” as consumers of medical attention. The article even refers to Medicare recipients as “shoppers.” Complexity and inconsistency then create the need for system “navigators,” who in turn then have a stake in not simplifying things.

 

 

Oct 26, 2018

Bryan Rinker, “Gavin Newsom is bullish on single-payer — except when he’s not,” Kaiser Health News, Oct. 23, 2018    

Newsom took credit for the San Francisco version but didn’t do much to back it. So as governor expect him to lead from behind.

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Sarah Kliff, “White House anti-socialism report inadvertently makes a case for single-payer,” Vox, Oct. 23, 2018

This widely-scorned hatchet job also made the case for single-payer while trying to trash it. More attacks like this!

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Jake Johnson, “Buried in “Hilariously Stupid” White House attack on socialism, an accidentally strong argument for Medicare for All,” Common Dreams, Oct. 23, 2018

Another take on it: White House document brags about low wait times for seniors in the U.S. without realizing that Medicare is a single-payer system.

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Dave Colon, “Democrats in swing districts run on, not from, single-payer health care,” Gotham Gazette, Oct. 16, 2018

New York focus. Note the original title in the URL: “Despite lack of support from Cuomo.” Plenty of panic-mongering from Republicans, but there is no evidence in this article that candidate support for single-payer is alienating the swing voters who can decide these close races—quite the contrary.

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Julia Manchester, “Majority of Republicans supports ‘Medicare for All,” poll finds,” The Hill, Oct. 22, 2018

If the GOP were ever to reverse course and push for single-payer, they would be in power for the next 20 years. And finally, just to keep everyone motivated . . .

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Robbie Gonzalez, “Your poop is probably full of plastic,” Wired, Oct. 22, 2018

Don’t ask how the researchers found this out. But it means we’re consuming microparticles constantly.

 

Oct 19, 2018

Naomi LaChance, “Maine’s radical universal home health care proposition,” Truthdig, Oct. 14, 2018

Another state-level single-payer-ish initiative. Curious (and unusual) that the pro groups seem to have a lot more money than the antis—at least from this report. The context is that Mainers voted to expand Medicaid despite opposition from the (nutcase) governor, but it is still being fought out in court. So perhaps it makes sense that people would go back to the ballot initiative route.

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Judith Graham, “Will Maine voters decide to make aging in place affordable?” Kaiser Health News, Oct. 11, 2018

“Maine ranked last in the nation on affordability of home care.” Points out some administrative specifics in the proposal that are unusual.

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Margot Sanger-Katz, “1495 Americans describes the financial reality of being really sick,” New York Times, Oct. 17, 2018

Good response to the affordability objection to single-payer: the current system does not fulfill its basic function of protecting people from catastrophic illness or injury. “[T]he financial stress of unpaid medical bills should be seen as another kind of side effect of certain treatments.”

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Chad Terhune, “As billions in tax dollars flow to private Medicaid plans, who’s minding the store?” Kaiser Health News, Oct. 19, 2018

Not rocket science: when monetary incentives exist to defraud the system and/or provide less care, lo and behold, that’s what happens! “The company’s chief executive took in $25 million last year, the highest pay for any CEO in the health insurance industry.”

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Rachel M. Cohen, “Democratic consulting firm teams up with hospital industry to battle nurses union,” The Intercept, Oct. 19, 2018

Another ballot initiative with the Democrat mainstream split. As usual, the opposition couches the profit motive in “patient safety.”

Oct 11, 2018

Donald J. Trump, “Democrats ‘Medicare for All’ plan will demolish promises to seniors,” USA Today, Oct. 10, 2018

“If Democrats win control of Congress this November, we will come dangerously closer to socialism in America.” If only!

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Bernie Sanders, “Trump lies about ‘Medicare for All’ and he’s made health care worse,” USA Today, Oct. 11, 2018

Bernie’s rebuttal. “Nonsense.” Also, “President Trump lies about everything.” Including, unfortunately, the imminent triumph of socialism.

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Glenn Kessler, “Fact-checking President Trump’s USA Today op-ed on ‘Medicare-for-All,’” The Washington Post, Oct. 10, 2018

“Almost every sentence contained a misleading statement or a falsehood.” Great reminder of the Reagan rhetoric against Medicare from 1961, almost exactly echoed in the Trump screed.

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Beth Mole, “DOJ approves $69B CVS-Aetna merger as healthcare industry restructures,Ars Tecnica, Oct. 11, 2018

More monopolistic gigantism in the healthcare industry to go with the Cigna/Express Scripts combo. And don’t we all look forward to getting medical attention at a drugstore?

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Amanda Dunker, “Testimony on CVS Health’s Acquisition of Aetna Inc.,” Health Care for All New York, June 13, 2018

Why this merger is a bad idea. From June but timely.

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Susan Morse, “Aetna whistleblower accuses CVS Health’s Caremark of fraud in Medicare Part D drug prices in commercial contracts,” Healthcare Finance, Apr. 10, 2108

CVS Health’s priors in Medicare fraud.

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Emily Stewart, “What the CVS-Aetna merger could mean for health care deals, drug prices, and Amazon,” Vox, Dec. 4, 2017

From last year. One commentator: “This is a watershed event. The entire health care system is about to converge.” So then why not converge it all into single-payer? The ongoing consolidation would make the administrative transition that much easier.

Oct 5, 2018

Ranit Mishori, “The social determinants of health? What about the political determinants of health?” Medical Care Blog, Oct. 4, 2018

“Political epidemiology”—long overdue.

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Gregory S. Schneider, “Virginia’s Medicaid work requirement won’t hit until long after program expands next year,” Washington Post, Sept. 22, 2018

Heaven forfend that we “give” people health care just for existing in generous Virginia—“Childless adults will be eligible for the first time if they make less than $16,750 per year.” Don’t want them to get too comfortable!

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Michelle Chen, “Pharmaceutical giants have avoided paying about $2.3 billion in taxes in the US alone,” The Nation, Oct. 2, 2018

How pharmaceutical loot quickly “vanishes” into offshore accounts instead of being taxed. Unfortunately, the author slips into the fallacy that taxes pay for government services.

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Dave Lindorff, “Letter from Oxford and Philadelphia: Britain’s NHS offers surprisingly good and affordable care to a visiting Yank with a sudden heart problem,” Tarbell, Sept. 27, 2018

NHS=National Health Service, Britain’s state-run, universal healthcare system. A great episode illustrating the difference between humanely organized health care and the cash-cow system we currently enjoy.

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James Meek, “NHS SOS,” London Review of Books, April 5, 2018

And here’s the alternative view of how the Tory regime is systematically undermining the NHS to pave the way for re-privatization. Very long & detailed, but worth skimming for the telling anecdotes.

 

Sep 26, 2018

Marsha Mercer, “Take two carrots and call me in the morning,” Pew Health, Sept. 7, 2018

“The idea behind ‘food is medicine’ is that if chronically ill people eat a nutritious diet, they’ll need fewer medications, emergency room visits and hospital readmissions.” I like the “Farmacy” concept of a doctor’s prescription for green peppers and kale. However, the slogan reinforces the idea that poor nutrition and obesity are exclusively the fault of individuals and an individual problem.

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Jessica Glenza, “World’s biggest tobacco companies aim to kill Montana healthcare initiative,” Guardian, Sept. 14, 2018

Nothing wrong with cigarette taxes, but it’s rather pathetic to see that a state has to come up with new taxes to fund its 10% share of Medicaid expansion. Also, note the astroturf phenomena (big business creating phony citizens’ organizations), which we will see more of in the single-payer fight.

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Tony Leys, “Iowa Medicaid’s per-member cost increases nearly triple since privatization,” Des Moines Register, Sept. 19, 2017

Average of 4.4 % annually v/s 1.5% over the previous six years. Creeping privatization followed by cries of “Look! Medicaid is bankrupt!” Also, note where the head of Iowa Medicaid admits he doesn’t know what his own chart means. “The Medicaid cost increases for this fiscal year are partly driven by an 8.4 percent ($344 million) raise the Iowa Department of Human Services agreed last month to give the two managed-care companies running the program.”

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Jenny Gold, “Workers overdose on the job, and employers struggle to respond,” Kaiser Health News, Sept. 25, 2018

Appalling as far as it goes, but the article does not touch upon the possibility that the workplace has become so much more grueling that workers turn to painkillers and other chemical strategies to keep up.

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Ed Cara, “The current U.S. drug overdose crisis began in the late 1970s, study finds,” Gizmodo, Sept. 20, 2018

Very interesting analysis suggesting that the overdose crisis started way earlier and is driven by more complex factors.

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Jessica Glenza, “Ex-UN chief Ban Ki-moon says US healthcare system is ‘morally wrong,’” The Guardian, Sep. 25, 2018

“Ban said he hopes states, including California and New York, will pass universal health coverage and spark a national call for public financing of health.” Thanks for that!

Sep 11, 2018

Peter Sullivan, “Fearing ‘blue wave,’ drug, insurance companies build single-payer defense,” The Hill, Aug. 10, 2018

The industry is “alarmed”—best news ever. Tsunami of money to “centrist Democrats” to follow.

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Jeffrey Sachs, “Medicare for All makes a lot of sense,” CNN, Aug. 4, 2018

Solid arguments from a well-known economist on a very mainstream platform.

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Dean Baker, “Medicare for All battles,” Beat the Press, Sept. 4, 2018

A provocative idea on how to push healthcare costs down: allow patients to seek cheaper treatment (and drugs) overseas, even under single-payer. You get a good deal, the government saves, and there is great educational value of seeing how inflated our own system is.

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John Siman, “If you read this book, it’ll make you a radical: a conversation with Thomas Frank,” Naked Capitalism, Sept. 11, 2018

A little off-topic but worth a read, I think, for the insight into mainstream Democratic Party politics and its ferocious resistance to single-payer and other worker-friendly reforms.

 

Aug 31, 2018

Jon Walker, “Two challenges the single-payer movement must address,” Shadowproof, Aug. 22, 2018

His two issues are taxes & provider pay. “Bills aren’t judged by their most popular provisions but by their least.”

“There is no time for ‘dealing with the details later,’ since the opposition is already taking action to exploit them. That time is now.” Some interesting tactical suggestions on how to push single-payer through.

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Matt Breunig, “The fact-checkers are clueless,” Jacobin, Aug. 2018

More on the Mercatus study that boomeranged. “I think it is safe to say that one of the main impediments to the success of Medicare for All is that liberal and centrist media is mostly too stupid or dishonest to accurately describe the proposal to their audience.” This implies that they want to get it right, a presumption not supported by evidence.

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Carolyn Y. Johnson, “Chemists beware: Amazon’s attack on pharmacies has just begun,Sydney Morning Herald, Jun 29, 2018

“Chemists” meaning pharmacists in Brit-speak. Interesting question: what effect would an Amazon pharmacy monopoly have on public attitudes toward drug prices?

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Beth Mole, “Doctors fear urgent care centers are wildly overusing antibiotics—for profit,” Ars Technica, July 17, 2018

“Doctors at urgent care centers may not have the necessary relationships with patients to talk them out of wanting an antibiotic. But they do have a financial incentive to keep them happy and returning.” If healthcare is a business, profits will rule.

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Sarah Jones, “Red state voters take Medicaid expansion into their own hands,” The New Republic, Aug. 27, 2018 Interesting grassroots referenda in Nebraska, Idaho, Utah and Montana in the face of GOP opposition.

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Rachel Bluth, “Over past 20 years, the percentage of children with ADHD nearly doubles,” Kaiser Health News, Aug. 31, 2018

So are kids twice as nuts today, or are providers diagnosing this with a little nudge from Pharma? Or is it something in the water?

 

Aug 15, 2018

Megan Molten, “23AndMe’s pharma deals have been the plan all along,” Wired, Aug. 3, 2018

Tempted to send in your DNA to those genealogy sites? You are signing away your rights to pharmaceutical companies.

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Michael Corcoran, “Why the latest attack on single-payer backfired,” Truthout, Aug. 8, 2018

As the author points out, pre-Bernie this attack would have worked.

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Glenn Kessler, “Democrats seize on cherry-picked claim that ‘Medicare-for-all’ would save $2 trillion,Washington Post, Aug. 7, 2018

Backlash to the backlash. The organ of liberal Washington comes to the rescue of the discredited Koch-funded attack on single-payer.

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Dean Baker, “Fact checking the fact checker on Medicare for all,” Beat the Press, Aug. 11, 2018

And finally backlash to the backlash to the backlash. Baker demolishes the liberal defense of the conservatives.

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Lev Facher, “Drug pricing could be a slam-dunk campaign issue for Democrats — if only they had a plan,” Stat, Aug. 8, 2018

This article presumes, in the absence of any evidence, that Democrats want to confront their pharmaceutical backers.

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Michael Corcoran, “Top Democrats are taking health care industry cash then opposing candidates who support ‘Medicare for all,’” Tarbell, Aug. 15, 2018

Follow the money, it’s clarifying. “If the [industry] strategy succeeds, a Democrat elected in 2020 who supports single-payer may find an uncooperative Democratic House caucus.”

 

Aug 8, 2018

The RAND Corporation, “Single-payer health plan in New York State could cover all without increasing total health spending if cost growth slows,” Aug. 1, 2018

This the RAND announcement with links to the full report as well as an executive summary.

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Addy Baird, “Koch-backed study finds “Medicare for All” would save U.S. trillions,” Think Progress, July 31, 2018

Boomerang. And even these savings are low estimates based on questionable assumptions in the modeling exercise. Note how corporate Democrats piled on the Koch bandwagon.

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Dylan Scott, “Bernie Sanders’s $32 trillion Medicare-for-all plan is actually kind of a bargain,” Vox, July 30, 2018

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Single dollar figures out of context are meaningless.

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Jordan Weissmann, “Conservative think-tanker accidentally argues that single payer could save Americans $2 trillion,” Slate, July 30, 2018

Bernie Sanders’ plan for a national single-payer health care system could, in theory, reduce American health care spending by as much as $1.4 trillion. According to the GOP’s favorite think tank.

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Jonathan LaMantia, “Single-payer bill would save most New Yorkers money but cost the rich, study says,” Crain’s, Aug. 1, 2018

This one has a lot of quotes from opponents.

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Cathalijne Adams, “China is quietly becoming the world’s pharmacy — and there are big risks,” Alliance for American Manufacturing, July 20, 2018

Curious how Pharma relentlessly blocks drugs from coming in from Canada to protect their price-gouging (but always using the safety argument) but has no problem whatsoever in outsourcing the physical production of the drugs to China where the process cannot be properly monitored. The offshoring undercuts U.S. workers, so that’s fine. Note: AAM is a joint entity comprised of domestic steel manufacturers and the United Steelworkers Union.

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Sarah Karlin-Smith, Sarah Owermohle & Andrew Restuccia, “How drug companies are beating Trump at his own game,Politico, Aug. 3, 2018

How the Trump tongue-lashing doesn’t add up to much. “Of the few companies that actually cut prices, for instance, most targeted old products that no longer produce much revenue.” Nonetheless, the rhetoric could have an impact eventually.

 

July 31, 2018

Simon G. Talbot & Wendy Dean, “Physicians aren’t ‘burning out.’ They’re suffering from moral injury.” Stat, July 26, 2018

The concept of moral injury implies that our profit-driven rather than person-centered health service undermines providers’ capacity to perform their duties and retain a sense of integrity, similar to how soldiers become alienated from themselves by being forced to witness, collude in, or commit immoral acts. (Note that physician suicide is double the rate of active-duty military.)

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Deane Waldman, MD MBA, “Medicare for all is a socialist’s dream — and an American nightmare,” The Hill, July 28, 2018

Here’s a fun exercise for advocates: pick apart this sophistic exercise in high-blown obfuscation. Bonus fun fact: the author hails from the nonprofit Texas Public Policy Foundation. TPPF Chairman of the Board, Wendy Lee Graham, was once termed “my favorite economist” by Ronald Reagan. She was on the board of Enron when it was sued for insider trading and had to pony up part of the $13 million settlement. Her spouse is Phil Gramm of bank deregulation infamy. These are the folks telling us what we can and cannot “afford.”

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Marshall Allen, “Health insurers are vacuuming up details about you — and it could raise your rates,” Pro Publica & NPR, July 17, 2018

Amazing new opportunities offered by data mining to scientifically deny care and/or charge more for it.

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Roy M. Poses, “Spin it again—four more go through the revolving door from the world of corporate health care to top US government leadership positions,” Health Care Renewal, July 27, 2018 https://bit.ly/2NZDKnt

This site monitors the smooth and lucrative flow of personnel between government and the corporate health sector.

 

July 27, 2018

John Tozzi & Zachary Tracer, “Sky-high deductibles broke the U.S. health insurance system,” Bloomberg June 26, 3018

[h/t Judy E] Medical bankruptcy among the insured. As prices rise inexorably, plans either have to have insanely high premiums or ridiculous deductibles.

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Marshall Allen, “Why your health insurer doesn’t care about your big bills,” ProPublica, May 25, 2018

An investigation of “the bewildering, sometimes enraging ways the health insurance industry works by taking an inside look at the games, deals and incentives that often result in higher costs, delays in care, or denials of treatment.” Conclusion: while awaiting single-payer, use the Healthcare Bluebook and get a written estimate before a big procedure.

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James Meek, “NHS SOS,” London Review of Books, Apr. 5, 2018

This is long: how the Tories are dismantling the jewel of Britain’s post-war social democracy, the National Health Service.

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Randy Barrett, “Rigged drug prices at pharmacies and hospitals,” Tarbell, May 29, 2018

Many medicines are cheaper if you buy them outside your insurance for the cash price.

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Wendell Potter, “Health insurers writing big checks to Democrats as single payer support grows,” Tarbell, Jun 25, 2018

Follow the money!

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The Healthcare Bluebook

Worth knowing about!

June 12, 2018

Alice Ollstein, “Arkansas pulls the trigger on nation’s first-ever Medicaid work requirement,” Talking Points Memo, June 5, 2018

Not just a work requirement but a navigate-this-website requirement. If you can’t document your hours, you lose. Those booted cannot reapply until a year later. Of course, this is moving directly AWAY from single-payer in which no one would have to “qualify” for medical care in the first place.

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Emma Court, “Doctor’s offices are a hot investment — what does that mean for profit vs. patient care?” MarketWatch, June 12, 2018

Big businesses, like private equity and venture capital, are vacuuming up doctors’ practices with promises of “efficiency”—what could go wrong?

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Nicholas Bagley, “Texas Fold ‘Em,” The Incidental Economist, June 7, 2018

The Trump DoJ’s refusal to defend the ACA (Obamacare) in court is a highly unusual and authoritarian move, says this commentator. If the executive can decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore, the role of Congress is sharply reduced.

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Drew Altman, “Trump gives Democrats a big health care opening for the midterms,” Kaiser Health News, June 11, 2018

Trump is taking away protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Will Democrats channel the ensuing outrage? Where to?

May 29, 2018

Lambert Strether, “Neoliberalism’s assault on the Veterans Administration continues,” Naked Capitalism, May 27, 2018

Great description and example of the “neoliberal playbook,” i.e., take a working government program, starve (or sabotage) it, point to its failures as an inherent failing of public-sector programs, demand privatization, and sell it to your friends (at a big discount). Shows how the Trump camp (with Democrat collusion) is pushing in the opposite direction, and is an excellent point to raise to the faux-single-payer advocates urging “gradual” steps: are they fighting this VA debacle tooth and nail?

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Marilyn Serafini & Randy Barrett, “Secret deals drive higher prescription drug costs,” Tarbell, May 24, 2018

“When you step up to the pharmacy counter to get your prescription, a deal has already been struck behind the scenes between two major players in the supply chain: drug makers and pharmacy benefit managers, like CVS Caremark.” A bit dense but an essential piece of the big picture.

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Michael Lighty, “10 questions about healthcare, answered,” The Sanders Institute, May, 2018

A condensed response to the most common objections to single-payer from Bernie’s think tank. What I learned:

Q2. “Hospitals and insurance companies ironically benefit from higher drug prices because those prices ‘justify’ higher rates, and generate more profit as a percentage of those higher rates.”

Q3. “The cost of premiums has been subsidized by the federal government for individuals but not for family coverage.”

Q4. “It is not the mandate that has motivated people to buy coverage, it is the availability of subsidies for purchasing coverage.”

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Ray M. Poses, “The march of legal settlements made by pharmaceutical companies is diminishing – presaging even less accountability for top health care organizational leaders?” Health Care Renewal, May 25, 2018

The paltry enforcement that reigned under Obama has withered to such levels that pharma and device makers are now encouraged to inflict harm for profit.

 

May 18, 2018

Lambert Strether, “What’s the matter with Kansas Medicaid?” Naked Capitalism, May 13, 2018

An excellent case study in everything wrong with creeping privatization of Medicare/Medicaid. Also highlights how single-payer will put corrupt and/or useless intermediaries out of business, so they will fight to the death.

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Eliza Griswold, “The hard-left candidate taking on the Democratic establishment in southwestern Pennsylvania,” New Yorker, May 11, 2018,

“Hard-left” is a tendentious term, but at least they manage to distinguish people running on New Deal-style platforms from corporate Democrats. The woman featured here won on Tuesday by a landslide against the incumbent. Also note the rise in Pittsburgh DSA membership in one year: from a dozen to 500.

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Anna Edney, Erik Wasson, and Robert Langreth, “Drug industry dodges its worst fears in Trump’s plan to lower prices,” Bloomberg, May 11, 2018

Classic Trump: After the bombastic announcement, Wall Street pharmaceutical stocks promptly shoot up.

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Rena Xu, “The burnout crisis in American medicine,” The Atlantic, May 11, 2018

Fascinating. We always argue that single-payer will simplify medical care by removing wasted clinician hours hassling with insurance companies. But this suggests the problem goes further than that to the insistence on “modernizing” care with EMRs. On the positive side, it shows how much new work would be generated by rationalizing our entire approach as more demand for services and a simple reimbursement system would create thousands of new, well-paying jobs in the sector.

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The Washington Post (editorial), “A near-universal health-care plan that wouldn’t break the bank,” May 13, 2018

A reminder of how the pro-insurance mainstream Democrats will pitch their opposition to single-payer. Key terms: “near-universal”, “compassionate and realistic” (as opposed to “sweeping” and “radical”). These proposed tweaks to Obamacare will get lots of air right up to the moment single-payer loses traction, then will fade away, having done their job.

 

May 8, 2018

John Nichols, “Nurses have a prescription for the Democratic Party: Back single payer,” The Nation, May 3, 2018

Nurses backing Kucinich for Ohio governorship based on single-payer support.

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Jilian Mincer, “Hospital operator HCA spends big to keep nurses on board,” Reuters, May 4, 2018

Labor market for nurses is now “fiercely competitive” while Wall Street analysts worry about the for-profit companies’ “margins.” But the article doesn’t mention that nurses’ unions have been effective in obtaining these concessions, making them sound like ideas from management or the workings of impersonal markets.

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Dylan Scott, “How Medicaid work requirements can exempt rural whites but not urban blacks,” Vox, May 3, 2018

GOP already drawing up exemptions to work requirements to benefit whiter areas.

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Ana Maria Berry-Jester, “Does Medicaid expansion have a shot in a state as red as Idaho?” FiveThirtyEight, May 2, 2018

 

For or against? Depends on how the questions are phrased. If healthcare is “free for the able-bodied,” support drops off.

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Eugene Kim, “Amazon has shelved a plan to sell drugs to hospitals, and insiders say there are two reasons why,” CNBC, Apr. 16, 2018

Logistics of supplying pharmaceuticals and medical devices is more complicated than mailing pet food and notebooks. Duh.

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Ovetta Wiggins, “Fourth Circuit appeals court strikes down Maryland’s drug price-gouging law,” Washington Post, Apr. 13, 2018

An example of how hard it is for states to act on their own in these complex areas, but new approaches might pass constitutional scrutiny.

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Apr. 29, 2018

Alma Almendrala, “Las Vegas shooting victims are turning to GoFundMe for help with medical bills,” Huffington Post, Oct. 27, 2017

Surely one of the most perverse aspects of our for-profit health system: forcing people to compete in the “charity market” for the most compelling sob story and thus avert bankruptcy. “The most successful campaigns usually have a combination of an inspirational story, high-quality photos and videos, and the leverage of additional media coverage to help raise awareness about the need.” So here, too, the better-educated and savviest will triumph.

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Carl Gibson, “Health insurerers spend $158K to make sure ‘blue wave’ is against Medical for All,” GritPost, Mar. 26, 2018

The 11 Senate Democrats up for re-election this year who have not [endorsed the Sanders bill are all major insurance industry takers—big shock. Note the prominent place of CT senator Chris Murphy, co-author of an insidious faux-reform bill designed to head off single-payer; thus CT-headquartered insurance companies are ponying up big time. Another big insurance company fav: Tim Kaine (D-VA).

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Jeff Stein, Jan. 12, 2018 “Smoking penalties, ER fees, premiums on the poor: How states want to shrink Medicaid,” Washington Post, Jan. 12, 2018  [paywalled]

The usual privatization playbook: disrupt and undermine a successful benefit program, then trumpet its failure and push to privatize/eliminate it.

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Julie Rovner, “5 outside-the box ideas for fixing the individual insurance market,” Kaiser Health News, Aug. 20, 2017

We will hear more about halfway measures like lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 55 or permitting buy-ins (Tim Kaine’s favorite idea). Insurance company domination of healthcare would thus be preserved.

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Eric Levitz, “Would ‘Medicaid for All’ cure what ails our health care system?” New York Magazine, Oct. 25, 2017

More tinkering: resuscitate the “public option” now that single-payer threatens to win the policy debate. Schatz’s plan would permit buying into Medicaid and “compete with the private market”, thus preserving the insurance company role in healthcare and sacrificing the administrative savings from single-payer. Curiously, Sanders is a co-sponsor.

 

Apr. 14, 2018

Phil Willon, “How single-payer healthcare became the biggest policy flashpoint in California’s race for governor,” Los Angeles Times, Apr. 11, 2018 

California tax law is particularly problematic, so this debate is complex. However, the fact that single-payer is the “biggest policy flashpoint in the campaign” is significant.  

*

Jeffrey Epstein, “The true, accurate and only answer to ‘How *EXACTLY* will we pay for Medicare for All?’” Citizen’s Media TV, Apr. 12, 2018 

A concise summary of the bogus debate about where the federal funds would come from to finance single-payer. This is a different matter, however, at the state level since states do not create their own money supply. (The U.S. Government does by issuing dollars.)

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Barbara Ehrenreich, “Why I’m giving up on preventative care,” Literary Hub, Apr. 9, 2018  

A dissent from over-testing and dubious treatment regimes from her new book Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer. “As for medical care: I will seek help for an urgent problem, but I am no longer interested in looking for problems that remain undetectable to me.”

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Roy M. Poses, “Don’t know much about health care and public health. . . but appointed to leadership positions in U.S. government health care agencies,” Health Care Renewal , Apr. 4, 2018 

None of the details are surprising, but the description of the relentless accumulation of incompetent toadies is impressive.  

*

Logan Espinoza, “Goldman Sachs: Curing patients’ illnesses is bad for business,” Gritpost, Apr. 13, 2018 

The statement is accurate, of course, because people with chronic conditions that are never cured are cash cows for pharma. But it’s unusual to see them imprudently discuss this fact of for-profit healthcare. 

Apr. 9, 2018

Topher Spiro, “Donald Trump and Republicans are botching health care. We need Medicare for anyone,” USA Today (op ed), Apr. 3, 2018

We need to build on the gains of the Affordable Care Act, not go backward.” More kidnapping of single-payer language to push a new “centrist” compromise.

*

Andy Slavitt & Jonathan Schleifer, “As state voters lead on Medicaid, could health care be the next gay marriage?” USA Today (op ed), March 26, 2018

More of the same from United States of Care: “Trump & GOP] policies are so out of line with public thinking that the more they push them, the higher the likelihood that they put the country on an inevitable path to Medicaid, Medicare or some other health care plan that is ubiquitous and available to all.” But the article includes an interesting rundown of all the pressure nationwide to solve the healthcare crisis—no wonder the corporate Democrats are worried.

*

Emily Kopp, Sydney Lupkin, & Elizabeth Lucas, “Patient advocacy groups take in millions from drugmakers. Is there a payback?” Kaiser Health News, Apr. 8, 2018

This is a very sticky topic for those of us who have been involved in advocacy around specific diseases. The database is long overdue.

*

Jerry Ianelli, “Donna Shalala won’t discuss working for Lennar during housing bust, profiting off health-care work,” Miami Times, Mar. 9, 2018 https://bit.ly/2EjFG50

Shalala, a cabinet officer under Clinton, is running for an open House seat in Florida, and Lennar was a contributor to the subprime meltdown and subsequent mega-recession. Textbook example of how the Dems can completely the anti-Trump wave with a passle of corporate millionaires from the same category who created Trump in the first place. Shalala also raked in $5 million from UnitedHealth.

 

Apr. 2, 2018

John Tozzi, “Why some Americans are risking it and skipping health insurance,” Bloomberg, Mar. 26, 2018

The Obamacare death spiral in a prosperous family.

*

Michael Corkery, David Gelles & Margot Sanger-Katzmarch, “Walmart in talks to strengthen ties with health insurer Humana,” New York Times, Mar. 30, 2018

“Walmart could open urgent care clinics inside its stores or hold community events, like bingo nights, that cater to enrollees in Humana’s insurance plans. ‘Seniors will come into their stores, visit the pharmacy, see a doctor and do some shopping while they are there,’ said Ana Gupte, a senior analyst.”

Bingo night & doctors, can’t wait!

*

Melissa Bailey, “As Trump targets immigrants, elderly brace to lose caregivers,” Kaiser Health News, Mar. 28, 2018

Immigrants with temporary status and permission to work are the “backbone” of the long-term care business.

*

Evan V. Symon, “Millions of Americans go to Mexico when they need healthcare,” Cracked, Mar. 29, 2018

I’m not sure which part of this story is more “cracked”—the fact that people have to do this or the reactions of the crazy American medical tourists taking advantage of the services.

 

Mar. 28, 2018

Dr. Thomas W. Lagrelius, “Computers are amazing, but electronic health records are not,” The Hill, Mar. 26, 2018

Another part of ACA that falls way short of its promises.

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Brigid Bergin, “Whistleblowers sue city’s top health insurance providers,” WNYC News, Mar. 16, 2018

“One of the plaintiffs is Ariella ‘Kami’ Barker, who has spinal muscular atrophy and has used a wheelchair since she was a kid. . . . Barker spent time in six different hospitals in four different states, including emergency room visits. Barker made a habit of calling hospitals before going in for treatments to confirm they were ‘in-network,’ only to later learn that the individuals providing the care at those hospitals were ‘out-of-network.’ She incurred $1.5 million in medical bills.”

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The Editors, “Health insurance company makes big profits by playing hardball,” St Louis Post-Dispatch, Mar. 15, 2018

The inevitable result of basing health access (not care) on profit-driven entities: every denial of care means larger profits. This is not hard. Anthem saved an extra $1.1 billion from the GOP tax giveaway, paying an effective tax rate of 3.1 percent in 2017.

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Rebecca Robbins, “A billionaire couple is pumping money into the drug pricing debate. Can they loosen pharma’s grip?” STAT, Mar. 26, 2018

The Arnolds are following the playbook of the Koch brothers by funding think tanks and political action groups to tackle pharma dominance. Too bad our politics has to be dependent on the rich, but how ironic is it that their industry critics denounce the outsized influence of billionaires?

 

Mar. 21, 2018

Michael Lighty, “A labor-based movement for Medicare for All,” Sanders Institute, Mar. 15, 2018

A call for unions to get behind single-payer: “A defensive posture and incremental demands have not worked. Let’s play offense instead. In the face of existential threats to unions’ ability to fund their operations and the continuing assault on health benefits, let’s unite with the growing public demand for Medicare for All. We don’t need insurance, we need healthcare.”

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Shefali Luthra, “Bill of the month: For toenail fungus, a $1,500 prescription,” Kaiser Health News, Mar. 16, 2018

This is a regular feature of KHN.

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Harris Meyer, “Azar demands price transparency, but how will he achieve it?” Modern Healthcare, Mar. 19, 2018

Here is a contradiction in the usual argument about how well markets work to provide healthcare: why is it that this terrific, market-driven system does NOT allow us to know what things cost before we buy them? Though the aim of this “reform” proposed by Trump’s new HHS secretary is to strengthen commercial medicine, will the free-marketeers actually take steps against the industry? Or will it be another case of all hat, no cattle? Note that the impetus for this move came from Azar’s personal experience while trying to comparison shop.

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Derek Kravitz, Al Shaw & Isaac Arnsdorf, “What we found in Trump’s drained swamp: Hundreds of ex-lobbyists and D.C. insiders,” ProPublica, Mar. 7, 2018

No big surprise, but the detail is brutal. My favorite quote: “There was absolutely no overlap. He took one hat off and put another one on.”

 

Mar. 13, 2018

Janine Jackson, “Our healthcare crisis won’t be solved until we get private insurance out,” (interview with Margaret Flowers) Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Mar. 8, 2018

Discusses the sleight-of-hand involved in the “Medicare Extra for All” being pushed by the insurance industry and its acolytes. Good questions from the interviewer who calls out defeatist (“never, ever”) coverage and the inevitable objections based on what is “politically feasible.”

*

Dean Baker, “When US drug companies insist on stronger patent related protections, are they really trying to counter China’s growing economic might in Asia?” Beat the Press, Mar. 8, 2018

Given that an important part of the TPP was to protect pharmaceutical patents/profits, this framing from the mainstream media that it is all about “free trade” is a major distortion.

*

Diana Fine Maron, “Maternal health care is disappearing in rural America,” Scientific American, Feb. 15, 2018

“In 1980, 45 of Alabama’s 54 rural counties had hospitals providing obstetrical services. Today only 16 of them offer such care.” In a sane world, obstetric care would be made available anywhere women residen. Or am I missing something?

*

Lambert Strether, “Notes on the West Virginia teachers strike of 2018,” Naked Capitalism, Mar. 4, 2018

Good background on the misnomer of “teachers strike” (which also included service workers, bus drivers, etc.) but also poor coverage of their core demand to fix crippling health insurance costs. “They’ve been cutting our health insurance over and over, making it really expensive to survive.”

Also note the relentless (bipartisan!) tax cutting that was supposed to lure business to the state, but which left the state penniless. Of course, Medicare for All would eliminate the problem, but top WV Democrats don’t support it.

 

Mar. 6, 2018

Matt Pearce, “Soaring health care costs drove West Virginia teachers to go on their (possibly illegal) statewide strike,” Los Angeles Times, Mar. 2, 2018

Headline says it all. How often do strikes emerge (1) from the bottom up and (2) over healthcare? Note that the slowly increasing coverage of this strike almost exclusively focuses on pay issues and ignores the healthcare angle. This LAT piece is an early exception.

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Sally C. Pipes, “Bernie Sanders’ single-payer message won’t fly,” Real Clear Politics, Mar. 2, 2018

A handy summary of all the terrible things single-payer will do if we get our way. There’s a lot to be learned from a careful look at the arguments from this conservative think tank while watching for similarities in discourse from mainstream Democrats.

*

Yves Smith, “So bad the DoJ woke up: Saline bag makers look to have endangered patients via illegal ‘tying’ and price gouging,” Naked Capitalism, Mar. 6, 2018

A bit dense, but important to start seeing how for-profit monopoly and oligopoly are further distorting the health sector. And everyone can relate to saline-drip bags, so it’s a good example.

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Ben Hirschler, “Big pharma, big data: Why drugmakers want your health records,” Reuters, Mar. 1, 2018

Digitization can lead to the creation of massive databases. Who will control them and to what ends?

 

Mar. 1, 2018

Margaret Flowers, “New proposal designed to confuse public and prevent Medicare for All,” Health Over Profit, Feb. 23, 2018

“The fact that [the Wall Street-funded Center for American Progress] is using Medicare for All language is both a blessing and a curse. It means Medicare for All is so popular that they feel a need to co-opt it, and it means that they are trying to co-opt it, which will give Democrats an opportunity to use it to confuse people. . . .We must be aware of what is happening so that we are not fooled into another ‘public option’ dead end.”

*

Kevin Zeese & Margaret Flowers, “Obamacare: The Biggest Insurance Scam in History,” Truthout, Oct. 30, 2013

This archive piece uses harsher rhetoric than that usually deployed by single-payer advocates. But its take-down of the ACA’s limitations is epic.

*

Ran Dragoni, “Outrage as Teva charges $18,275 for generic drug in US,” Globes, Feb. 25, 2018

Valeant started this innovation by buying up patents on obscure drugs and jacking up the prices (Martin Shkreli being the most notorious practitioner). This Israeli company then got into the act by producing an “economy” version at slightly less. The original cost of this medication was $652.

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Susannah Luthi & Virgil Dickson, “2018 Outlook on Politics and Policy: Insurers will come out ahead,” Modern Healthcare, Dec. 30, 2017

“Who’s going to do well in this environment? . . . Centene Corp., UnitedHealthcare, CVS Health and Aetna . . . the payer community is poised to fare well in the new Wild West of policy.” Who loses? “hospitals and providers who have watched helplessly as key programs lapsed without Congress mobilizing to fund them.”

 

Feb. 20, 2018

Fred Schulte, “How a urine test after back surgery triggered a $17,800 bill,” Kaiser Health News, Feb. 16, 2018

So we have to insist always that tests be sent to in-network labs. Insane that we have to think about this crap at all.

*

Justin Anderson, “Media embrace new ‘reform’ group as bulwark against guaranteed healthcare,” Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), Feb. 16, 2018

Follow-up to our alert last week on this bogus outfit (US of Care). The amount of non-committal doublespeak emitted by these folks is exhausting, but they will get a lot of airtime from the mainstream. Possible topic for one of our quarterly study sessions?

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Katie Keith, “Blue Cross of Idaho takes the plunge to sell non-ACA-compliant plans,” Health Affairs, Feb. 15, 2018

Undermining the ACA and restoring insurers’ power to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. But then again, the insane premium increases in the ACA exchanges are unsustainable, drive people into penury or dropped coverage, and open the floodgates for the red states to take advantage.

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SINGLE-PAYER AROUND THE WORLD—INDIA

Soutik Biswas, “India healthcare: Will the ‘world’s largest’ public scheme work?” BBC Feb. 4, 2018

Single-payer is a step in the right direction, but not enough: there also has to be sufficient funding and a competent regulatory regime.

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Milton Packer, MD, “Who actually is reviewing all those preauthorization requests?” MedPage Today, Nov. 8, 2018

From last fall but devastating.

Feb. 13, 2018

Aaron Carroll, “JAMA Forum: The problem with work requirements for Medicaid,” Journal of the AMA, Jan. 11, 2018

Adding a work requirement to Medicaid eligibility costs money and administrative staff time, even for those who do work and have to prove it. (Not to mention those who could work but can’t find a job—how does the system monitor that?) The extra layer of bureaucracy will mean real expenditures burdening an already cost-conscious system. The Trump/GOP plan is especially punitive, but the ACA also required an “extra” administrative burden because it ditched the idea that everyone should be eligible automatically based on residence.

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Wayne Drash, “California launches investigation following stunning admission by Aetna medical director,” CNN, Feb. 11, 2018

Aetna’s PR department should have coached the witness better! Could generate other statewide investigations, including in NY.

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Michael Hochmann, “Electronic Health Records: A ‘quadruple win,’ a ‘quadruple failure,’ or simply time for a reboot?” Journal of General Internal Medicine, Feb. 5, 2018

EMRs were supposed to improve quality, patient experience, efficiency, and clinician satisfaction. Evidence suggests it is doing none of these.

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Megan Thielking, “NIH funding contributed to 210 approved drugs in recent years, study says,” STAT, Feb. 12, 2018

In case anyone is still swallowing the pharmaceutical industry’s propaganda about how they need all that cash to fund research.

Feb. 9, 2018

Tony Pugh, “After approving Medicaid work requirements, Trump’s HHS aims for lifetime coverage limits,” McClatchy, Feb. 5, 2018

More on the destruction of the 1960s safety net. Means testing, age restrictions, coverage limits, work requirements, etc., all reinforce the view of health care as a market commodity rather than a universal right. (P.S. The ACA did, too.)

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Andy Slavitt, “Our broken health care politics are hurting instead of helping Americans,” USA Today, Feb. 6, 2018

Oh, an expert initiative that will “put the health of our nation over politics”! And save us from bitter, partisan divisions, no doubt. (That worked out so well in the run-up to the ACA.) Slavitt is a Wharton School of Economics grad, has a Harvard MBA, and came to the health industry after a stint as a Goldman Sachs investment banker. How is this sounding so far?

Here’s the full Board of Directors (www.unitedstatesofcare.org/about-us), including at least five people deeply involved in (and profiting from) the current system. What is the likelihood that they will advocate for the elimination of their sources of income? Note that there are NO single-payer advocates, so barring evidence to the contrary, this can be seen as an early attempt to head off single-payer once the Democrats regain control of one or both houses of Congress.

Just for the record, here is a note from board member and former U.S. senator Bill Frist’s early years: “Frist disclosed that he went to animal shelters and pretended to adopt the cats, telling shelter personnel he intended to keep them as pets. Instead he used them to sharpen his surgical skills, killing them in the process.”  Sounds like how he treated us while in Congress.

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Zachary Tracer, “Strange bedfellows? Group unites old foes in hunt for health fix,” Bloomberg, Feb. 6, 2018

“Bipartisan policymaking”—what’s not to like? Then again, who promises to solve the healthcare madness without confronting entrenched special interests? Perhaps those who represent them?

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Paul Demko & Renuka Rayasam, “Why desperate families are getting religion on health care,” Politico, Feb. 4, 2018

On the “sharing ministries” healthcare plans exempted from the ACA that offer cheaper alternatives to the ACA exchanges and escape most regulation. What could go wrong?

 

Feb. 4, 2018

John Naughton, “Healthcare is a huge industry – no wonder Amazon is muscling in,” The Guardian, Feb. 4, 2018

This odd development—the announcement by Amazon, JPMorganChase & Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway that they will do healthcare in-house—has the potential to shake up the entire industry in ways we can only imagine.

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Nate Raymond, “New York accuses Insys of deceptively marketing opioid,” Reuters, Feb. 1, 2018

Given the conduct alleged by a slew of state A-Gs, you’d think someone would hit the individuals in charge with an indictment, not just the corporate entity. Otherwise, it’s a cost-of-doing-business fine.

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Molly Rutherford, M.D., “This is how not to do healthcare,” Medical Economics, Jan. 25, 2018

And speaking of opioids, here is a case that Amazon’s big data will not only not solve, but make worse.

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Deidre McDonald, “I spent three days on a prison bus to see a doctor,” Vice, Jan. 26, 2018

Health from the prisoner perspective—and a reminder of our excessively punitive response to addiction.

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Susan Perry, “Erica Garner and Serena Williams’ stories underscore health inequalities facing black women,” MinnPost, Jan. 26, 2018

Black women have worse outcomes in childbirth even after controlling for all other factors.

 

Jan. 30, 2018

Nick Wingfield & Katie Thomas, “Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan team up to disrupt health care,” New York Times, Jan. 30, 2018

Potentially a game-changer. Buffett’s quote could be taken from one of our mailers: “The ballooning costs of health care act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy.” The announcement tanked shares of health-related companies on Wall Street, from insurers to pharmacy benefit managers.

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Sydney Lupkin, “Big pharma greets hundreds of ex-federal workers at the ‘Revolving Door,’” Kaiser Health News, Jan. 25, 2018

The depressing litany of government-to-industry hustlers. How many Democrats voted to approve all or most of them?

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Hooman Norchashm, “” ‘Evidence-based medicine’ ”: Corporate medicine’s corrupted instrument,” Medium, Oct. 6, 2017

In our science-hostile world, who could object to “evidence-based” anything? But the author points out that scientific evidence is based on average outcomes, which means that the standard treatment will not be good for everyone. Treatment by algorithm is quite different from studying each patient carefully before ordering drugs or procedures. Not impressed with the author’s proposed solution though—more, better malpractice litigation.

 

Jan. 17, 2018

Michael Schlosser, Ravi Chari & Jonathan Perlin, “The case for confronting long-term opioid use as a hospital-acquired condition,” Health Affairs, Sept. 8, 2017

Cautious, academic language laying out the case amply covered in many recent general articles. So the diagnosis and programmatic responses are all set. However, see below.

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Robert O’Harrow, Jr., “Meet the 24-year-old Trump campaign worker appointed to help lead the government’s drug policy office,” The Washington Post, Jan. 14, 2018

Underfunding and placing unqualified figureheads in charge demonstrate official indifference to supposed policy goals, i.e., Opioid epidemic talk is just that.

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MEDICAID WORK REQUIREMENTS

Jeff Spross, “Don’t make the poor work for health care,” The Week, Jan. 9, 2018

How about “Don’t make ANYONE work for health care”?

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Rachel Garfield & Robin Rudowitz, “Understanding the intersection of Medicaid and work,” Kaiser Health News, Dec. 7, 2017

Good summary of the main points in the second half.

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Katherine Gallagher Roberts & Rachel West, “Trump’s Medicaid work requirements could put at least 6.3 million Americans at risk of losing health care,” Center for American Progress, Jan. 12, 2018

The requirements are cruel and counterproductive, okay, but why should ANYONE have to qualify to access health care at any time for any set of reasons? The response arguments almost legitimize the idea that people should earn the right to be cared for when sick!

Jan. 9, 2018

Dean Baker, “We upset workers in the auto industry, why does the NYT think we should be worried about upsetting people in the health care industry?” Beat the Press, Jan. 3, 2018

Points out the anomalous attitude of mainstream commentators who champion “free trade” when it affects traditional industrial jobs but suddenly become concerned about job loss when discussing single-payer and the end of for-profit health insurance.

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Julie Appleby, “Trump Administration rule paves way for association health plans,” Kaiser Health News, Jan. 4 2018,

Another move to sabotage the ACA with benign-sounding adjustments.

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Lambert Strethner, “Trump Adminstration doubles down on efforts to crapify the entire health care system (unless you’re rich, of course),” Naked Capitalism, Oct. 8, 2017

Here is a good (and prescient) backgrounder on the three-pronged strategy by Trump et al. to destroy Obamacare with multiple dagger thrusts once outright repeal was defeated. Also has astute political observations in the footnotes.

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Michael Hiltzik, “Pfizer, pocketing a big tax cut from Trump, will end investment in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s research,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 8, 2018

So much for that phony argument.

 

Jan. 6, 2018

Margaret Flowers, MD, “National improved Medicare for all making progress,” Truthdig, Jan. 5, 2018 – 1059 words

Extremely timely commentary alerting us to the new tactics by single-payer opponents: steal the language and insist on returning to failed non-solutions in the name of what is “realistic.”

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Jay Hancock, Rachel Bluth & Daniel Trielli, “Hospitals find asthma hot spots more profitable to neglect than fix,” Kaiser Health News, Dec. 6, 2017 –  2384 words

How reimbursement practices incentivize chronic treatment rather than community-based preventive medicine. Could we examine NY Presbyterian’s record on this issue given its nonprofit tax benefits?

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Benjamin F. Miller & Larissa Estes, “To address opioids and diseases of despair, communities must build resilience,” Health Affairs, Jan. 4, 2018 – 1053 words

An excellent diagnosis although the emphasis on small, community-based mental health projects strikes me as missing the main point: how to reverse the economic devastation wrought by the massive relocation of U.S. industry to sweatshops in the union-free global South that has left millions with no chance for a decent job. Or to put it another way: rather than a drug-use epidemic, this is a neoliberal epidemic.

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Dr Oxiris Barbot, “Puerto Rico’s mental heatlh crisis,” NY Daily News, Jan. 6, 2018 – 702 words

Accumulating PTSD and child trauma while half the island remains without steady electricity.

 

Dec. 31, 2017

Aaron E. Carroll & Austin Frakt, “The Leap to Single-Payer: What Taiwan Can Teach,” New York Times, Dec 26, 2017

A short article relevant to our recent discussion about gradual v/s all-at-once systemtic change. “Taiwan is proof that a country can make a swift and huge change to its health care system, even in the modern day.”

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Natalie Shure, “The feminist case for single payer,” Jacobin, Dec. 8, 2017

How single payer would free women from dependence on spouses and alleviate the burdens of home care now mostly performed by (unpaid) women.

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Michael Gorbach, MD, “How opaque healthcare pricing mechanisms rip off consumers,” WolfStreet, Dec. 25, 2017,

Interesting insight into the irrational extra charges imposed by hospitals for outpatient services.

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Ian Johnston, “Unhealthiest US counties made ‘dramatic’ switch from Obama to Trump in 2016, study finds,” The Independent, Oct. 2, 2017

Not providing people with the basic means to live and thrive actually has consequences. Dems forget that and paid the price (as did we all).

 

Dec. 7, 2017

Nathaniel Wexell, “Ryan pledges ‘entitlement reform’ in 2018,” The Hill/Healthcare, Dec. 6, 2017

Well, that didn’t take long: now that hundreds of billions are ready to be shoveled to the ultra-rich, GOP leaders are back to worrying about The Deficit. Note Orrin Hatch’s blaming of blaming of anyone daring to expect their Social Security payments.

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James A. Morone, “How to think about ‘Medicare for All,’” New England Journal of Medicine, Dec. 7, 2017

A surprisingly upbeat assessment in one of the leading medical journals in the country. Monroe compares our campaign with the process that led to Medicare’s original creation. “Medicare for All is, first and foremost, an exercise in moral persuasion. It will become a serious policy proposal if it creates a major surge in public opinion.”

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Steve Brozak, “3 takeaways from the CVS-Aetna merger,” Forbes, Dec. 4, 2017

A good summary of how the flow of health dollars is pulling these large corporate players in a variety of directions to survive the cutthroat competition.

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Roy M. Poses, “One barely noticed settlement by Pfizer suggests the futility of polite protests about health policy,” Health Care Renewal, Dec. 4, 2017

“Pfizer provides an amazing example of a huge health care corporation that just marches along, settling or otherwise resolving case after case of over-charging, anti-competitive behavior, deception, sometimes fraud, bribery, and various other unethical and potentially illegal behaviors, without ever too greatly inconveniencing the managers and top executives who have been profiting from this behavior.” Note that the recent settlements result from private legal action, not government regulatory enforcement.

Nov. 25, 2017

Drew Altman, “The biggest health issue we aren’t debating,” Axios, Nov. 22, 2017

Simple chart showing how many U.S. families could not come up with the (relatively modest) deductible if they needed to use their supposed insurance.

*

Anna Chorniy, Janet Currie & Lyudmyla Sonchak , “The role of Medicaid managed care in the rise of common chronic childhood conditions,” VoxEU, Nov. 24, 2017

Describes the role of perverse incentives in distorting diagnosis and prescribing patterns.

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Laurie Laybourn-Langton, “The movement to replace neoliberalism is on the ascendancy—where should it go next?” Open Democracy, Nov. 25, 2017

This interesting discussion, while not specific to health care, is germane in that the entire edifice of insurance-based access stems from the reigning neoliberal worship of market solutions. The author describes how the neoliberal camp prepared itself to take advantage of a crisis to shift the paradigm and impose its philosophy and proposes that the time is ripe to do the same.

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Michelle Cortez, “Thirty million Americans just got high blood pressure,” Bloomberg Nov. 13, 2017

The research looks solid, but the temptation to increase prescriptions and ignore the lifestyle advice is likely to be enormous.

*

Kevin Menes, Judith Tintinalli & Logan Plaster, “How one Las Vegas ED saved hundres of lives after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history,” Emergency Physician Monthly, Nov. 3, 2017

How health professionals can pull off miracles when the focus is on providing care.  Inspiring despite the grim background.

Nov. 15, 2017

Lambert Strether, “Alex Azar: Can there be uglier scenarios than the revolving door?” Naked Capitalism, Nov. 15, 2017

Good insight into how the new HHS chief can do real damage and why the Dems are unlikely to offer serious resistance.

*

Donald Moulds & Shawn Bishop, “Why tax reform could be a serious threat to health care,” To the Point, Nov. 8, 2017

Ways to undermine the ACA through changes in tax law.

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Emily Mullin, “Why HPV vaccination rates remain low in rural states,” MIT Technology Review, Sept. 1, 2017

Use of the vaccine faces reluctance due to physician shyness, institutional inertia, parental (and physician) opposition to a vaccine related to sex, and (coming soon!) the anti-vaxer movement.

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Todd Datz, “Millions of suburban residents in U.S. lack health insurance,” Harvard School of Public Health, Oct. 2, 2017

Rebuts the assumption that the suburbs are doing better than cities, especially if you factor in the long distances people often have to travel for basic or specialist care. This is a good example of the arbitrariness of the ACA in terms of who gets access. The story is based on an academic journal article (Health Affairs) that is paywalled, but the abstract is here.

 

Nov. 5, 2017

OPIOID EPIDEMIC

Patrick Radden Keefe, “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain,” The New Yorker, Oct. 30, 2017

The story of the philanthropists whose fortune came from the epidemic that kills 145 people in overdoses per day: “Most of the questionable practices that propelled the pharmaceutical industry into the scourge it is today can be attributed to Arthur Sackler.”

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Katie O’Conner, “Professor aims to change opioid prescribing practices,” Richmond Times-Dispatch/AP, Aug. 28, 2017

One story of thousands, but it gets personal.

*

Don Quijones, “Global banks sabotage Uruguay’s efforts to legalize marijuana,” Wolf Street, Sept. 3, 2017

Compare the opioid crisis (driven by legal drugs), the heroin/meth/cocaine traffic (illegal) and the marijuana business (semi-legal). As the article points out, the banks putting the squeeze on Uruguay are the same ones that have been caught red-handed laundering billions for the major heroin and meth narcos. They are probably responding to pressure from the anti-pot fanatics now in charge in Washington.

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Carolyn Thompson, “New opioid court uses rigorous intervention methods to address epidemic,” Associated Press, July 10, 2017

A reassuringly humane approach to drug-related misdemeanors. Interesting how common this type of account has become now that drug use is affecting mainstream populations—note the references to “legitimate” entry into drug use via prescriptions, “minor offense,” “not a career criminal,” etc.

*

 

Oct. 22, 2017

Adam H. Johnson (FAIR), “There are 3 types of single-payer ‘concern trolls’ — and they all want to undermine universal healthcare,” Los Angeles Times (op-ed), Sept. 21, 2017

He defines “concern trolls” as those “who disingenuously expresses concern about an issue with the intention of undermining or derailing genuine discussion.”

*

Bill Quinliven, “North Country looks at single payer,” Adirondack Almanac, Oct. 7, 2017

Excellent account of how the message on New York Health was brought in concrete detail to an upstate community.

*

Ruth Ford, “Understanding New York’s public hospitals crisis,” City Limits, Oct. 18, 2017

H&H gets squeezed by the private hospitals, stiffed by Albany (Cuomo) and has to take on the bulk of charity care. What could go wrong?

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Roy M. Poses, “Worst health care revolving door case so far, version 2.0? From president of Lilly USA to US Secretary of Health and Human Services?” Health Care Renewal, Oct. 19, 2017

Fox guarding henhouse is now routine.

*

Oct. 13, 2017

WEST VIRGINIA

Gazette Editorial, “Is it time for health care for all yet?” Charleston Gazette-Mail, Sept. 17, 2017

Answer: Yes. And quotes Bernie approvingly with the word “Bravo.” (This in a state carried by Trump 69-27.) “We hope the project draws huge public support and becomes unstoppable.” Carry this datum in your head when nervous Democrats argue that only safe, “centrist” policies will make their candidates competitive.

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GEORGIA

Lauren Weber & Andy Miller, “A hospital crisis is killing rural communities. This state is ‘Ground Zero.’” Georgia Health News/Huffington Post, Sept. 27, 2017

Another aspect of the dysfunctional U.S. health system: market-based health care is leaving underpopulated areas in the lurch.

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VIRGINIA

Alex Koma, “House candidates back single-payer healthcare plan in Virginia,” Inside NOVA, Oct. 2, 2017

Pols in another state are taking up single-payer efforts despite the obstacles. While it seems unlikely to occur any time soon, the announcement provides airtime for statements like these: “Within the political class, this may be something new, but people are ready for it.”

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WASHINGTON

Ryan Blethen, “Washington state’s health-exchange rates to jump 24 percent,” Seattle Times, Sept. 29, 2017

This entirely typical announcement came before the latest Trump order, i.e., the ObamaCare “death spiral” was already happening.

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RHODE ISLAND

Ziad Jilani, “On heels of progressive wave, Rhode Island expands sick leave to 100,000 workers,” The Intercept, Sept. 21, 2017

A little-noticed victory by a slew of candidates from the Working Families Party narrowly defeating incumbent conservative Democrats. The shock apparently jolted a few others into supporting a progressive reform.

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ILLINOIS

Lukas Mikelionis, “Democrat Duckworth not sold on Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan,” Fox News, Sept. 22, 2017

By contrast, here come the tinkerers seeking the ever-illusive compromise with GOP crazies. “I just don’t think we are in a time right now where we should be taking these very strong stands,” says Duckworth. Of course, when Obama swept into power with huge majorities in Congress and a national mandate for radical change, that wasn’t a time for “taking strong stands” either, was it?

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Zaid Jilani, “Single payer opponents say the transition process would be too difficult. But 10,000 people do it every day,” The Intercept, Oct. 9, 2017

A good point of discussion: should we go straight into universal coverage or adopt the gradual expansion of Medicare as outlined in Sanders’ bill?

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Krim Krisberg, “Gun control laws can impact death rates. But we need more research to find what works,” The Pump Handle, Oct. 5, 2017

[Not single payer, but hard to ignore.] Although the GOP has blocked much research into gun safety in the U.S., there is a lot of data from other countries about what works.

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Robert Centor, “It’s time to ban productivity from medicine,” Kevin MD, Sept. 25, 2017

Another aspect of commercialized medicine and how applying the Dismal Science (economics) doesn’t cut it.

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Timothy Jost, “Administration’s ending of cost-sharing reduction payments likely to roil individual markets,” HealthAffairs blog, Oct. 13, 2017

A quick summary of the latest executive action to undermine ObamaCare and likely next steps.

 

Oct. 9, 2017

Corey Fawcett, “The difference between doctors and roofers? Not much,” Kevin MD, Oct. 6, 2017

How debt burdens, corporate models for hospitals, and doctor shortages create distortions and increase costs.

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Lambert Strether, “Trump Adminstration doubles down on efforts to crapify the entire health care system (unless you’re rich, of course),” Naked Capitalism, Oct. 8, 2017

Run-down on the three strategies coming from the Trump White House to wreck the ACA and undermine Medicaid from the guy who predicted the Obamacare launch debacle.

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Hooman Norchashm, “Evidence-based medicine”: Corporate medicine’s corrupted instrument,” Medium, Oct. 6, 2017

This article could have benefited from a couple of illustrative examples, but the basic idea is there: medicine should not be based only on probabilities without attention to individual risk/benefit considerations. Also, it does not highlight the perverse incentives to doctors to do more tests and offer more treatments.

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Aditya Kalra, “U.S. pressing India to avoid capping medical device prices, allow withdrawals,” Reuters, Oct. 4, 2017

A good example of how “free-trade” turns into muscling foreign countries for profit over wellbeing. But the article doesn’t address why India needs U.S. medical devices—can’t they produce their own?

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Katie Keith & Timothy Jost, “Unpacking the Sanders Medicare-for-All bill,” Health Affairs, Sept. 14, 2017

Details you need!

 

Oct. 6, 2017

Roy M. Poses, “Latest legal settlements suggest hazards of making pharmaceutical regulation more lenient, as is apparently favored by new FDA leader,” Health Care Renewal, Oct. 1, 2017

Reviews the latest regulatory charges against pharmaceutical companies, then summarizes the importance of breaking through the network of corrupt players as part of the fight to reform healthcare.

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Julie Beck, “The ‘Unfortunate Family’ of American shooting survivors,” The Atlantic, Oct. 1, 2017

What else can people do?

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Ted Alcorn, “Puerto Rico’s health system after Hurricane Maria,” The Lancet, Oct. 7, 2017

The natural disaster and those policy-induced. Expect both to worsen.

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Jessie Hellman, “ACLU files lawsuit against Trump administration over roll back of birth control mandate,” The Hill, Oct. 6, 2017

Legal challenges forthcoming against Trump move to permit companies to deny contraception in health coverage.

 

Sept. 30, 2017

Theo Anderson, “The fight for single payer has transformed the healthcare debate. Last night was proof,” In These Times, Sept. 26, 2017

Argues that the framing by Sanders has reset the terms of the debate from the Reaganesque “freedom” from regulation and government generally to inequality and corporate power.

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Sarah Jaffe, “Socialized medicine has won the health care debate,” The New Republic, Sept. 28, 2017

People don’t object to Medicare nearly as much as the inequities face by those who don’t get it and are slammed with Obamacare premiums and deductibles.

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Ryan Grim, “Lindsey Graham on Obamacare repeal: I had no idea what I was doing,” The Intercept, Sept. 27, 2017

As was displayed in the televised debate with Sanders, who wiped the floor with him. At least he admits it.

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Erin Mershon, “HHS hints at major changes to Medicare that could mean higher costs for patients,” STAT, Sept. 23, 2017

Another front appearing in the ongoing war to preserve/destroy the core elements of Medicare as a platform for single-payer. Not clear what impact Price’s departure will have on this, but probably not much. Note at the end how hospitals are open to this kind of tinkering, which says something about where they are in the overall battle.

Sept. 26, 2017

Atul Gawande, “Is health care a right?” The New Yorker, Oct. 3, 2017

Tackles the debate and especially the conservative opposition to universal coverage from the perspectives of a series of friends from his home town, Athens, Ohio. Very nuanced and has good insight into how the oppo will try to frame it. Incidentally, I notice that Bernie talks about single-payer’s benefits for “working” people, presumably to deflect the welfare-for-lazy-people meme.

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David Sirota & Lydia O’Neal, “Democratic governor hires health care industry lobbyist to push Obamacare fixes in Congress,” International Business Times, Sept. 19, 2017

Follow the money. Just a reminder that once the Graham-Cassidy nightmare is over, the real work will begin.

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John Nichols, “‘Single Payer Is a Rational Health-Care System’: An Exclusive Interview With Bernie Sanders on His ‘Medicare for All’ Plan,” The Nation, Sept. 13, 2017

In case you missed it.

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Elisabeth Rosenthal, “How an industry shifted from protecting patients to seeking profits,” Stanford Medicine, Spring 2017,

A recap of the history of how we got here with some lesser-known details.

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Steven Rosenfeld, “Why California is Bernie Sanders’ and progressives’ big battleground for universal health care,” Alternet, Sept. 22, 2017

Interesting for the comments recognizing that the current system is wrecking the California economy and has to change.

Sept. 24, 2017

Adam Johnson, “Outlets that scolded Sanders over deficits uniformly silent on $700b Pentagon handout,” Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Sept. 21, 2017

An excellent point to use when the Very Serious People screw up their faces and say, But how are you going to PAY for it? This misunderstanding of the federal budget (assuming that taxes pay for spending) is only trotted out when discussing social benefits, NEVER when the armaments producers show up with their wish list.

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Monica Potts, “The single-payer problem liberals don’t want to talk about,” Vice, Sept. 18, 2017

Very Serious People demanding that people engaged in the socially useless, hyper-complicated billing and collecting business must be protected while industrial workers whose communities were destroyed by globalized “free” trade must take their lumps. Similar to the argument in favor of building white elephant armaments as a good way to provide jobs.

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Matt Bruening, “Single payer myths: Redundant health administration workers,” People’s Policy Project, Sept. 19, 2017

Answer to the above, Part one of what promises to be a very useful series: “Given the fact that office and administrative skills are fairly portable to other sectors (non-health care establishments employ over 19 million people in such jobs), it is not at all clear that there needs to be any special program for reallocating those made redundant by this change. But even if there does not need to be such a program, single payer proposals generally contain one”.

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Unsigned, “WHO warns the world is running out of antibiotics,” MarketWatch, Sept. 21, 201

Another danger of leaving drug development in the hands of for-profit pharmaceutical companies. For example, there is now only one remaining class of antibiotics that can cure drug-resistant gonorrhea, a disease that affects 350 million people per year.

Sept. 18, 2017

David Sirota & Lydia O’Neal, “As Sanders prepared Medicare bill, health care lobbyists bankrolled Senate Democrats,” International Business Times, Sept. 11, 2017

What if we were to preface answers to criticisms of the Sanders bill by saying, “Yes, that’s what the people getting insurance/pharma money are saying. On the other hand, people not on their payroll say . . .” Would that be rude?

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Matt Taibbi, “Single-payer movement shows life after Trump may not suck,” Rolling Stone, Sept. 14, 2017

Funny how people who got engaged in campaigns like Improved Medicare for All after Nov. 2016 tended not to get depressed.

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Enquirer and Media Network of Central Ohio staff (60 reporters), “Seven days of heroin: This is what an epidemic looks like,” Cincinnati Enquirer, Sept. 10, 201

Graphic (jaw-dropping, really) account of what cops, first responders, social workers, judges, and concerned citizens are dealing with on a daily basis. Not directly a single-payer issue, but there is a larger point about the chaos affecting the people left behind by the purveyors of the religion of “free trade.” (See Salena Zito, “The day that destroyed the working class and sowed the seeds of Trump,” New York Post, Sept. 16, 2017, on the crushing of Youngstown—that occurred under Jimmy Carter.

Sept. 14, 2017

Miles Kampf-Lassin, “Medicare for all is now mainstream: Democrats who oppose it will be left behind,” The Nation, Sept. 13, 2017

A good summary of the amazing political shift.

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Abigail Tracy, “Hillary Clinton just lost her central argument with Bernie Sanders,” Vanity Fair, Sept. 13, 2017

No need to rehash the tiresome Hillary/not Hillary arguments, but interesting that the comfortably mainstream VF describes the new scenario in these terms.

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Dean Baker, “Drug company seeks to hide behind Native American tribe to protect patent monopoly,” Beat the Press, Sept. 12, 2017

“If you thought the pharmaceutical industry couldn’t possibly sink any lower in its pursuit of profits, Allergan just proved you wrong.”

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Trudy Lieberman, “Who is behind FDA-weakening bill based on false premise that it restricts access to experimental drugs for the terminally ill?” Naked Capitalism, Sept. 14, 2017

A stealth proposal from creepy Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who wants to bring us back to the wonderful days of thalidomide and radium-based elixirs. Can’t wait!

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Special: Arguments against Medicare for All – attacks that will be mounted on single payer.

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Sept. 8, 2017

Dylan Matthews, “The stunning Democratic shift on single-payer,” Vox, Sept. 8, 201

Headline says it all: any serious candidate for 2020 will have to at least pretend to support it.

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Scot M. Silverstein, “The shame of U.S. healthcare dysfunction: Hookworm returns to Alabama,” Health Care Renewal, Sept. 7, 2017

Another New Deal achievement dismantled. Note the brilliantly punitive approach from Alabama’s wise leaders: hit poor households with huge fines for not putting in plumbing they can’t afford. So no one complains or holds health departments responsible.

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Erin Mershon, “With Tom Price in charge, doctors are winning again in Washington,” STAT, Aug. 1, 2017

Had meant to include this a while ago about Price’s favoring doctors over hospitals in the ongoing slugfest about who gets the best slice of healthcare reimbursements. “All of the specialty societies and provider groups come in with long wish lists, and anything that has ever bothered them about Medicare is on the table, no matter how unrealistic.”

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Betsy McCaughy, “Obamacare is making the middle class the new uninsured,” New York Post, Sept. 6 201

Yes, the Post in all its tendentious glory, but the argument is pretty close to ours on the ACA’s failings.

 

Sept. 6, 2017

David Montgomery, “Health insurers ask to raise Minnesota premiums by average of above 50 percent,” Twin Cities/Pioneer Press, Sept. 1, 2017

Why repeal Obamacare when the insurance market will do it for you? Price hikes of this calibre are not sustainable.

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Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, “Frustration Mounts Over Health Care Premiums,” Truthdig, Sept. 3, 2017

“Some are expecting premiums for 2018 to rival a mortgage payment.” The unlucky categories of citizens who are not rich enough, not poor enough, self-employed, employed by small businesses, or otherwise slipping through the structural cracks of Obamacare face premium hikes of 25% on average.

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Carol Paris, “Medicare for all is the only health care proposal that meets Trump’s standards,” USA Today, Sept. 2, 2017

A must-read from our PNHP president! Key section: “The fatal flaw in [incremental-fix] plans is their reliance on the profit-driven insurance industry to finance care. ‘Fixing’ the ACA means dumping more cash into the pockets of private insurers. The public option would do little for those squeezed by the skyrocketing costs of employer plans, and has no power to eliminate the waste inherent in a fractured, multi-payer system.”

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Dan Polsky and Laura Yasaitis, “Why some insurance plans limit specialized treatments,” Knowledge @ Wharton, Jul 25, 2017

Breathtaking example of the logic of treating citizens as “consumers” of health insurance from the Wharton School of Business. “I think we just have to acknowledge that health care is delivered in this quasi-free market. This is a business.”

Sept. 3, 2017

Eric Levitz, “The left has made Medicare-for-All a mainstream, Democratic policy,” New York, Aug. 31, 201

Mostly interesting for the headline and first grafs, then plummets into why things will/should go back to “normal” for 2020. Despite recognizing that Hillary’s “never, ever” position on single-payer is discredited, the author refuses to entertain the notion that it could actually appeal to “conservative” or GOP/Trump voters as well as “the left.”

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Kelsey Thompson, “Why ‘Medicare for all’ is the best health care plan for Syracuse women,” Daily Orange, Aug. 28, 201

The very savvy (and ambitious) Gillibrand is fully on board with single-payer, which is an excellent illustration of the shift described by Levitz above. Bernie’s 2016 campaign continues to rewrite the rules by pushing the Overton Window (“the range of ideas the public will accept”) back toward New Deal-type principles.

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Bob Bryan, “Trump just took a big step in undermining Obamacare,” Business Insider, Aug. 31, 201

Cuts to the promotion budget.

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Carla K. Johnson & Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, “Has Medicaid’s expansion fueled the opiod epidemic? New GOP theory is challenged,” Associated Press, Aug. 31, 2017 (AP

Truly pathetic and sophomoric statistical manipulation, a.k.a. tendentious bullshit. Correlation is not causation—just because two things occur together doesn’t mean one causes the other. Next up: smoking cessation causes pregnancy (women who quit smoking are pregnant more often than women who do, QED).

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Scot M. Silverstein, “Information technology-naïve defense lawyers vs. ‘strident critic of electronic health records,’” Health Care Renewal, Aug. 31, 201

Interesting for the specific failings of EMR but also for the ways corporate medicine deals with criticism.

Aug. 30, 2017

Jacob Puliyel, “With pneumococcal vaccine patent, Pfizer wins on many counts,” The Wire, Aug. 25, 2017

This one is so perverse it’s hard to believe even from Pharma: the vaccine barely works, cost a fortune, and carries the risk of asthma as a common side-effect. Yet the government of India is determined to buy it. Furthermore, Pfizer got a gigantic subsidy despite not inventing the thing.

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Esmé E. Deprez & Caroline Chen, “Medical journals have a fake news problem,” Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Aug. 29, 2017

Anyone in academe these days gets dozens of requests a week from these Indian journals, inviting you to submit to their “open-access” publications for a small fee. They all sound pretty much alike, just as the emails proposing windfalls from Nigerian oil princes. That said, academic publishing is an outrageous hustle in which publishers get free labor from publicly-funded researchers, then turn around and sell the results to libraries at scandalous prices.

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Marisa Taylor, “Offshore human testing of herpes vaccine stokes debate over U.S. safety rules,” Kaiser Health News, Aug. 28, 2017

Peter Thiel leads the way on offshoring clinical drug trials to escape IRB review. This will not end well.

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Harris Meyer, “Iowa’s ACA waiver plan would redistribute subsidies from the poor to wealthier people,” Modern Health Care, Aug. 23, 2017

An apt illustration of the no-win situation created by Obamacare instead of putting everyone into the same risk pool.

 

Aug. 21, 2017 [links now fixed]

Howie Klein, “DCCC & Kings Landing Consultants are instructing candidates how to deceive Democratic primary voters on healthcare,” Down with Tyranny, Aug. 19, 2017

Not to be an I-told-you-so, but . . . a political consultant finds that the mainstream Dems are actively coaching their centrist candidates to lie to voters about their stance since real single-payer is overwhelmingly popular. The tell is bad-faith promotion of a “public option”, which will preserve insurance company profits. Recall that the public option was trotted out in 2009 to deflect discussion of single-payer, then jettisoned in favor of Obamacare’s expanded insurance model.

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Roqayah Chamseddine, “The neoliberal record of Kamala Harris: Reckon with it instead of attacking critics,” Shadowproof, Aug. 15, 2017

Those who push single-payer as a criterion of support for Dem candidates will be accused of demanding “ideological purity.”

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Alex Kotch & David Sirota, “Who is lobbying Mike Pence and why? Health insurers and big oil seek to influence Vice President,” International Business Times, Aug. 17, 2017

Blue Cross, Pharma, banks and oil companies.

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Kenneth Thorpe & colleagues, “The United States can reduce socioeconomic disparities by focusing on chronic diseases,” Health Affairs, Aug. 17, 2017

This is from an academic journal with a large trove of material on health inequities. Without the central reform of single-payer, some will argue that these proposals are mostly tinkering around the edges. [Table of contents here.] The main thesis is the unsurprising assertion that poor people have poorer health outcomes, which are exacerbated by poor access to medical services. So if you address one side of the cycle, you affect the whole thing.

Aug. 16, 2017

Joanne Finnegan, “In major reversal, survey finds 56% of physicians now support single-payer healthcare system,” FierceHealthcare, Aug. 14, 2017

Another sign of a major ideological shift with respect to healthcare access. “The results indicate a near reversal of a national survey the company conducted in 2008.”

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Brian Sonenstein, “Interview with Jon Walker: Why MICA is a good plan to transition U.S. to single-payer health care,” Shadowproof, Aug. 9, 2017

We have linked to this author’s proposals before. He proposes a universal mandate but without requiring people to drop employer-sponsored insurance. Worth some close attention and perhaps further study.

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Michael Tomasky, “Single payer or bust?” New York Times, Aug. 14, 2017

Starts out with the “fateful moment” of 2018 primary challenges against Democrats who oppose single-payer, the famous “litmus test.” Tomsky mourns the lack of enthusiasm for bipartisan tinkering with the current system (“improving but still inefficient”) that he prefers. Then, bizarrely, he worries that pushing Dem candidates to more progressive stances will be a losing proposition in elections (in contrast to the wonderful success they’ve had as Republicans-lite). To his credit, he clarifies that the principle is universal coverage, not the precise mechanisms.

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Dean Baker, “Why is it so hard for intellectuals to envision alternative forms of globalization?” Beat the Press, Aug. 13, 2017

A key element of the huge pharmaceutical rip-off we are subjected to is the protectionist, anti-free trade measures constantly written into “free trade” treaties such as TPP and backed by both major parties. Baker has been on the warpath over this for years, but he gets no airing in the mainstream.

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Kyle Steward, “McClaskey gets primary challenger,” Roll Call, Aug. 16 2017

Principal focus of challenger’s campaign: single-payer.

 

Aug. 8, 2017

Clio Chang, “Where are the single-payer wonks?” The New Republic, Aug. 3, 2017

Re the war of ideas: Chang argues that all the think-tank weight is on the side of single-payer opponents like Heritage or the Koch network or the liberals like Krugman or Vox’s Ezra Klein (who calls it “puppies-and-rainbows”). Adam Gaffney of the PNHP board says that “detailed policy work” is lacking, and while there are plenty of academic experts, they don’t have the same presence in media debates and in formulating “late-in-the-pipeline policy development.” Worthy of debate!

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Jeff Stein, “It’s time to see if Democrats are serious about single-payer,” Vox, July 24, 2017

Instead of “never, ever” (Hillary), the Dem mainstream now says that single-payer is “ultimately” what we should have. But is this sloganeering or real? The immediate argument will be that with Dems in the minority, now is “not the time” to push for it—forgetting that when they had a huge majority in 2009, that wasn’t “the time” either.

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Chase Madar, “The conservative case for universal healthcare,” The American Conservative, July 25, 2017

“Within five years, the American Right will happily embrace socialized medicine. The real obstacle may be the Democrats . . . thousands of everyday Americans [are] shouting at their congressional reps at town hall meetings clamoring for single-payer against the party’s donor base of horrified Big Pharma executives and affluent doctors.”

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Wolf Richter, “What the hell is going on with generic drugs and plunging pharma shares?” WolfStreet, Aug. 5, 2017

Could this be good news? Antitrust efforts could pressure pharma price-gouging. (And Shrekeli is a convicted felon.)

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Eugene Kim & Christina Farr, “Amazon has a secret skunkworks lab called 1492, dedicated to health care tech,” CNBC, July 27, 2017

Amazon (and Apple) are looking into how to monetize healthcare through mining medical records, among other things. What could go wrong?

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Steven Rosenfeld, “The Essentials: 11 steps states could take to rein in healthcare costs while building toward single-payer universal coverage,” Alternet, Aug. 4, 2017

List created by Gerald Friedman, a strong single-payer advocate. Which of these actions are most likely to (1) weaken the sector’s vested interests and (2) be enacted?

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David Atkins, “Bernie, Kamala, and the left’s war of mutually assured destruction,” Washington Monthly, Aug. 5, 2017

Amazing analysis that concludes that the mainstream, corporate Dems are the innocent party and the “social media warriors of the left” will lead to future losses. Here are the memes to come: we need “solidarity” among all right-thinking forces against Trump, rather than “pointless division.” Great way to divert attention from the failures while refusing to recognize or acknowledge the vast losses brought on by being Republicans-lite. The incoherence of the argument is impressive, but expect to hear it repeated often.

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Rachel Roubein & Nathaniel Weixel, “States scramble to prevent Obamacare exodus,” The Hill, June 4, 2017

Insurance companies panicked over potential loss of $7 billion subsidy from Obamacare as Trump makes noises about undermining the payments. Illustrates the pitfalls of relying on for-profit insurance to sustain the healthcare “market.”

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Helen Ouyang, “Where health care won’t go: A tuberculosis crisis in the Black Belt,” Harper’s, June 2017

This is a real eye-opener about what could be called the Jim Crow health system of Alabama.

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Michael Corcoran, “The battles ahead: Meet the biggest opponents of single-payer,” TruthOut, July 5, 2015

Old but essential background with dollar amounts.

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Kathleen O’Grady & Noralou Roos, “Five things Canadians get wrong about the health system,” Globe & Mail, Sept., 5, 2014

Even older, but good to know: Canada’s system is modified single-payer, not socialized medicine; there are 15 separate (provincial) systems; there are disparities in services from province to province; drugs are not covered so most Canadians have insurance for that (more multiple- than single-payer); user fees are (sort of) prohibited.

 

Aug. 7, 2017

Five stories from five states and a reminder that big data is not your friend.

ILLINOIS

Greg Hinz, “Pritzker, Pawar unveil health insurance plans,” Crain’s Chicago Business, Aug. 1, 2017

Healthcare is a major campaign issue in the race for governor of Illinois. The major Dem candidates are split between a single-payer advocate and a “public option” proponent. Note the comments about not “getting into a fight” over it—this will be the line from corporate Democrats, that we’re all (secretly) in favor of single-payer but have to stay united behind the less attractive option as the “more realistic”, the possible v/s the ideal, etc. Refusing to do so will elicit charges of “whiny leftists.” These are the folks who refused to give single-payer a hearing when the Dems controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency.

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COLORADO

David Sirota & Josh Keefe, “Will Colorado’s health insurance industry run one of its own for governor?” International Business Times, Aug. 4, 2017

Why rely on support from the insurance industry when you can run a candidate who is the insurance industry? “Just as [Lt. Gov. Donna] Lynne was being confirmed for her state government job, her company successfully lobbied against a Democratic measure in Colorado that would have strengthened requirements for health insurers to cover annual breast cancer screenings.”

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ARIZONA

Stephanie Innis, “Health debate energizing Tucson ‘Medicare for All’ proponents,” Arizona Daily Star, July 15/Aug. 5 update, 2017

Marvelous clarity from average citizens—too bad the pundit class can’t think this well. “Many like me who supported the ACA’s modest reforms now realize that keeping for-profit insurers involved still leaves too many Americans uninsured or underinsured and prevents us from controlling our skyrocketing health-care costs,” Witte said.

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NEW YORK

Jay Cassano & David Sirota, “New York subsidy to lure Aetna benefits a Cuomo donor,” International Business Times, July 26, 2017

Dizzying revolving door of money flowing to companies-landlords-political campaigns. Much more elegant than passing briefcases full of cash Brazilian-style.

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TEXAS

Kevin Diaz, “After failed Obamacare repeal, Democrats press for Texas Medicaid expansion,” Houston Chronicle, Aug. 4, 2017

Gradualism that makes sense: many states are still resisting the 2009 Medicaid expansion.

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Cathy O’Neil, “Big data is coming to take your health insurance,” Bloomberg, Aug. 4, 2017

The data mining we are all subject to will empower insurance companies because they can predict with increasing accuracy who is going to get sick & when (& how much it will cost). Now that the healthcare debate has clarified risk pooling for more people, it becomes clear that only universal coverage mandated by government can work in the long run. Otherwise, “insurers will simply use the data to make money and deny care.”

“All kinds of incidentally collected data—shopping history, public records, demographic data—can be repurposed for assessing people’s health.”

 

Aug. 4, 2017

Heather Caygle & Paul Demko, “Centrist lawmakers plot bipartisan health care stabilization bill,” Politico, July 30, 2017

Reasons to be nervous about this: “centrists,” “Problem Solvers,” “Obamacare fixes,” “GOP moderates,” “bipartisan proposal,” “stabilizing the insurance market.”

Now that the GOP plan is on the ropes, count on the Blue Dog Dems to save the day for them by engineering some band-aid tinkering with the weakest parts of the ACA instead of pushing for more radical solutions. First up: they want to exempt small (<50 employees) businesses from ACA requirements instead of looking for ways to alleviate the pain entirely. One possible positive: greater “flexibility” for states—but will this include single-payer options?

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Soumya Karlamangla, “Covered California premiums will rise 12.5% and Anthem Blue Cross cuts coverage,” Los Angeles Times, Aug. 1, 2017

Trump’s threats to the subsidies may be having the desired effect of gradually killing off the ACA exchanges. Another reason not to agree to tinkering.

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Rachel Roubein, “GOP chairman opens door to Democrats on Obamacare,” The Hill, Aug. 1, 2017

Sen. Alexander (R-TN): “We need to put out the fire in these collapsing markets wherever these markets are.” How about getting rid of them? Or proposing to do so eventually?

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Joshua Holland, “Medicare for All isn’t the solution for universal health care,” The Nation, Aug. 2, 2017

The author reviews the varieties of universal coverage in the developed world and argues for gradualist approaches: “The most important takeaway from recent efforts to reshape our health-care system is that ‘loss aversion’ is probably the central force in health-care politics. That’s the well-established tendency of people to value something they have far more than they might value whatever they might gain if they give it up. This is one big reason that Democrats were shellacked after passing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, and Republicans are now learning the hard way that this fear of loss cuts both ways.”

 

Aug. 2, 2017

Rachana Pradhan, “Medicaid shows its political clout,” Politico, July 19, 2017

Collapse of the attack on the ACA may have the unanticipated result of protecting Medicaid from cuts by the anti-tax zealots. It also opens the door for Medicaid expansion as a gradual way in to single-payer (though the article doesn’t say this).

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Chad Terhune & Julie Appleby, “Obamacare exchanges in limbo,” Kaiser Health News, July 19, 2017

Now that the Trump/GOP destruction of the ACA is over for the time being, attention is turning to “bipartisan” efforts to shore up the Obamacare exchanges and, indirectly, insurance companies. “In Pennsylvania, premiums next year without the subsidies would increase by an average of 20 percent, compared with 9 percent if they remained intact.” So a 9% premium increase is the good news?! Question: what will Dems give away as part of the bipartisan compromise? Medicaid caps?

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Susan Jaffe, “Dismantling the ACA without help from Congress,” The Lancet, July 29, 2017

Trump’s next move to crash the ACA.

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Adam Gaffney, “The case against the public option,” Jacobin, July 19, 2017

Now that momentum is building for single-payer, expect to hear much more about the counter-productive “public option,” the Dems’ fall-back strategy to protect insurance companies.

 

Aug. 1, 2017

Arthur Allen, “Clunky’ switch to e-health records,” Politico, June 15, 2017

Electronic medical records were supposed to be a great innovation in healthcare delivery. But their use as a billing tool is undermining their utility and harming patient care.

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Robert Laszewski, “The post-Republican Obamacare market will be ‘stable’ and very profitable for health insurers,” Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review, July 18, 2017

Obamacare as really great/really awful: “If the stability and success of Obamacare is measured by insurance company profitability, things are improving. But if stability and success is measured by how the Obamacare insurance exchanges are impacting the people who have no other place to go for their health insurance, this program remains a disaster for at least the 40% of the market that are not eligible for subsidies.” The reason is that the system does not attract enough healthy enrollees to be solvent, thus relies on huge premium and deductible boosts.

*

Dayton Misfeldt and James C. Robinson, “Orphan diseases or population health? Policy choices drive venture capital investment,” Health Affairs, July 21, 2017

“The surge in orphan drugs is a result of public policies that influence development costs and market exclusivity, which in turn influence the prices that can be charged.” Firms research drugs with “high revenue potential.”

*

David Dayan, “The coalition pushing for single payer in California is fracturing,” The Intercept, July 12, 2017

Dayan has been harsh on some in the single-payer campaign in California.

*

RoseAnn DeMoro, “Nurses Won’t Back Down in Fight for Single-Payer in California,” TruthDig, July 14, 2017

Nurses reply.

 

 July 26, 2017

Jon Walker, “Here’s a national single-payer health care plan that would work,” Shadowproof, July 24, 2017

Very interesting proposal to transition the United States to a single-payer health care system through a transitional phase building on employer-sponsored insurance. He calls their plan MICA (Medical Insurance and Care for All) and says, “The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was designed as a large transfer of wealth from the rich and a segment of healthy middle class individuals to the poor, the sick, and importantly, the health care industry. MICA is primarily a transfer of wealth from the health care industry to everyone else.”

Discuss! [Full legislative summary is here.]

*

Dan Diamond, “How hospitals got richer off Obamacare,” Politico, July 17, 2017

Good follow-up to the proposal above: non-profit hospitals rake it in as tax-exempt entities, grow their revenue thanks to Obamacare, but give back little locally despite legal obligations to benefit the communities in exchange for not paying property taxes. (NY Presbyterian is right up there.)

*

Roy M. Poses, “Who benefits from our current health care dysfunction? Mallinckrodt’s leadership maintains impunity after well publicized opioid settlement,” Health Care Renewal, July 20, 2017

This one really sums up everything. While Sessions pushes to re-maximize punishment for street drug possession and sales, his DoJ lets off corporate drug lords with wrist-slaps. Despite the 180,000 deaths from overdoses of prescription painkillers in the years 2000-2015, prosecution settlements let the companies involved deny wrongdoing, and of course no execs ever get prison time.

July 24, 2017

Robin Rudowitz, Larisa Antonisse and MaryBeth Musumeci, “Medicaid changes in Better Care Reconciliation Act (BRCA) go beyond ACA repeat and replace,” Kaiser Family Foundation, July 21, 2017

Good round-up with graphics on what the GOP has been pushing and where they seek to undermine Medicaid by fiddling with the finance structure. Key sentence: Both the BCRA and the AHCA go beyond repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to make fundamental changes to Medicaid by setting a limit on federal funding through a per capita cap or block grant. Good detail if and when “negotiations” (Schumer) ever start. For example, will Dems agree to discuss caps or draw the line? Will they agree to work requirements as in Clinton’s welfare rewrite?

*

Roy M. Poses, “Gutting the Health Care Corporate Strike Force,Health Care Renewal, July 13, 2017

Cut from five fulltime lawyers to two part-timers. Tiny attempt to rein in healthcare costs by combating fraud thus undermined. And isn’t the GOP the party of cutting “government fraud, waste and abuse”?

*

Marshall Allen, “The myth of drug expiration dates,” ProPublica, July 18, 2017

Those “use-by” dates on most pharmaceuticals are meaningless but mean millions in medications are trashed.

*

Richard Sorian, “Is Medicaid the new ‘Third Rail?’ History suggests it has been for some time,” Health Affairs, July 20, 2017

An historical parallel: Reagan tried to turn Medicaid into block grants, which would have opened the door to slowly strangling it. But state governors and key Democrats stymied it. McConnell/Ryan’s Medicaid cap is trying to do it again.

*

Julie Rovner, “Millions more uninsured could impact health of those with insurance, too,” Kaiser Health News, July 14, 2017

Throwing millions off their health insurance will devastate whole communities.

 

July 18, 2017

David Dayan, “The coalition pushing for single payer in California is fracturing,” The Intercept, July 12, 2017

This is a fascinating peek under the covers of an ongoing battle that is highly relevant to our complex New York State politics.

*

Sandrine Rastello, “Quebec expects $1.2 billion in savings with new drug price deal,” Bloomberg, July 16, 2017

Imagine what the U.S. with 40X more inhabitants could do if with hard-nosed price negotiations.

*

Reuters and Julian Robinson, “Japanese doctor who worked until months before his death passes away at 106,” Daily Mail, July 18, 2017

He introduced elements of Japan’s post-war care system and wrote about preventing aging. The advice seems to have worked!

*

Suzy, Khimm, “Medicare for all isn’t sounding so crazy anymore,” New York Times, July 15, 2017

The headline suggests a good starting point, but the outline focuses on costs and disruptions. You would scarcely know that the current system is expensive and disruptive.

*

Matt Taibbi, “Republicans and Democrats continue to block drug reimportation – after publicly endorsing It,” Rolling Stone, Jun 2, 2017

Remember how Cory Booker got slammed for siding with big pharma on drug pricing? Then he protected his presidential ambitions with a changed vote, but his Dem colleagues make sure nothing actually happens. It’s possible to be too cynical about these leaders—but not easy.

 

July 13, 2017

Tim Cushing, “Hospital sends legal threats to researcher, then asks her help identifying breach victims,” TechDirt, June 13, 2017

This is interesting for the insight into how vulnerable our supposedly hyper-private medical information is. But it also provides a window into the institutional culture at Bronx Lebanon. Now try to digest this next article.

*

Roy M. Poses, “A $1.7 Million/ year CEO of a safety net hospital alleged to have hired a dangerous surgeon, paid unethical bonuses, and associated with organized crime,” Health Care Renewal, June 29, 2017

Good background into how abuse of the poor is not unknown in the Bronx. For a useful bit of history, have a look at this 2010 legal complaint brought by A-G Schneiderman against IDC stalwart Pedro Espada, Jr., now residing at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. I encourage you to read the full account of how he systematically ripped off his constituents.

*

Alan R. Weil, “Pursuing Health Equity,” Health Affairs, June 2017.

It’s short, but read all the way to the end. The shift in our national dialogue about access to health care is crucial.

*

Matt Taibbi, “Finally everyone agrees health care is a human right,” Rolling Stone, June 30, 2017

Yes, the Trumpcare debacle is showing how inhumane and cruel it is to leave people outside the care system. But it also challenges band-aid solutions like the ACA, which did the same to a lesser degree.

 

July 12, 2017

David Dayan, “California single-payer organizers are deceiving their supporters. It’s time to stop,” The Intercept, June 30, 2017

This is a must-read: he argues that there are so many unresolved issues with the California proposal that it is unfair to demagogic to denounce the Dem leadership for blocking it. Then again, since when is political rhetoric fair? And the oppos get so much health- and insurance-industry money that their arguments are suspect. Nonetheless, the details are crucial and highly relevant for us.

*

John Ingold, “In Colorado’s drumbeat of medical mergers, rural hospitals often trade independence for better care,” Denver Post, July 4, 2017

Interesting example of the economics of hospital consolidation, especially outside of large metropolitan areas.

*

Paul Waldman, “Liberals, get your story straight on single payer,” The Week, July 5, 2017

Here’s a related piece: Waldman confuses socialized medicine with single-payer, but his run-down of the varieties of universal coverage are worth learning. If we get close to passage in Albany, some of these options undoubtedly will appear as the “compromise” solution. He also doesn’t believe that a single state can go single-payer despite the Canada experience.

*

Josh Keefe & David Sirota, “Chris Christie attack on New Jersey health insurer could help Kushner family,” International Business Times, June 28, 2017

Old-fashioned corruption at its best. Christie’s approval rating is now 15%.

*

Adam Johnson, “Media boosts trumpcare promoter without asking who’s writing his checks,” AlterNet, June 27, 2017

This happens all the time: traditional media feel forced to put a Dem-Rep spin on everything and provide zero information on the spokespeople they use. BTW, media is a plural noun, “the media are”—losing grammar battle!

July 4, 2017

Mandos, “One deep reason why the USA does not have a sane way to pay for health care for all,” Ian Welsh, June 30, 2017

Canada’s original single-payer system was fought tooth and nail by local doctors in Saskatchewan—but there was a significant difference in the rhetoric.

*

Lee Fang, “Democratic superdelegate, in room full of health insurance executives, laughs off prospect of single payer,” The Intercept, July 1, 2017

Gephardt, a classic corporate Democrat expressing populist niceties until the time comes to cash out. Note his annual fee as board member of insurance rent-extractor Centene.

*

Zaid Jilani, “Cory Booker will ‘pause’ fundraising from big Pharma because it ‘arouses so much criticism,’” The Intercept, June 30, 2017

Continuing backlash from Booker’s vote against the Sanders drug importation bill. Good to see that big biz water-carriers trying to parade as progressives can get their fingers burned on corporate cash.

*

Ed Williams, “New Mexico health reporter: ‘I’ve yet to find a story that didn’t have its roots in poverty,’” Columbia Journalism Review, June 29, 2017

Aside from the topic alluded to in the headline, note that NM’s Medicaid expansion meant greater state expenditure, despite the large pick-up by the Federal Government under the ACA. Covering more people (i.e. those now without healthcare) will mean more spending—this is not difficult! But the per capita costs can be controlled more easily.

*

Candace Bernd, “How the Koch-backed effort to privatize the Veterans Health Administration jeopardizes everyone’s health care future,” Truthout, July 2, 2017

Stealth privatization against the most successful single-payer system in the U.S. Obvious potential for alliances with veterans.

 

June 30, 2017

Suzanne Woolley, “American health care tragedies are taking over crowdfunding,” Bloomberg, June 12, 2017

[Rant warning] When I read this sort of thing, I don’t know whether to s*** or go blind. How is it possible that we are reduced to posting appeals on Facebook to pay for needed medical services? Do the cutest children get more donations? If there an age cut-off for the sympathy quotient? We are turning into a nation of beggars holding out our rice bowls. “Crowdfunding is like crowd insurance.” Yeah, right, sort of the way a CARE package is like being the King of France. [end rant]

*

Dean Baker, “The meaning of Republican “cuts” to Medicaid, Beat the Press/CEPR, June 27, 2017

In our strange world of science-fiction politics, experts must explain to us what the word “cuts” means. Yes, the GOP plan entails “cuts,” despite their new talking point.

*

Mehda Hasan, “Memo to Democrats: You need a clear message for universal health care,” The Intercept, June 28, 2017

Following up from Baker, here’s how to win the propaganda wars: good advice!

*

Josh Barrow, “The formula Democrats need: less Clintonism, less Sandersism, more Warrenism,” Business Insider, June 21, 2017

The author is against single-payer (mostly because he believes winning it is politically unlikely) but presents a slew of excellent intermediate demands that would weaken the industry, e.g., banning hospital mergers, freeing nurse practitioners to perform more procedures, etc. Seems logical to support most if not all of them.

*

David Sirota, “Democrats help corporate donors block California health care measure, and progressives lose again,” International Business Times, June 26, 2017

Pretty good summary of what happened in California, including the dollar amounts shoveled to the main players.

*

Cameron Easley, “Schumer makes bipartisan pitch for health care reform,” Morning Consult, June 28, 2017

Red Alert! When Dems starts talking about “compromise” with Trump and Ryan, hide your children. What would a deal look like with these folks? Dismantle Medicaid in 20 years instead of 10? We should be highly suspicious especially if there is talk of “reducing deficits” and other Joel Ossoff/GOP-lite concepts.

 

June 25, 2017

Melanie Mason, “California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon shelves single-payer healthcare bill, calling it ‘woefully incomplete’,” Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2017

On SB562, California’s version of single-payer, stymied for now. There is a ton of industry money sloshing around Sacramento [for detail see here ], so the criticism of the bill is suspect. However, the series we circulated earlier suggested that the shortcomings are real, principally the financing issue and right behind that the need for ERISA waivers and cooperation from D.C. So CA has another year to work out the bugs—as do we!

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Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband, “Putting profits ahead of patients,” New York Review of Books, July 13, 2017

Review of the Elisabeth Rosenthal’s and one other book on our healthcare delivery debacle. They are quite critical of a few details but not of her overall thesis and conclude that single-payer is the logical solution.

*

David Nather & Lazaro Gamio, “The disappearing ACA insurance market,” Axios, June 19, 2017

Good to remember that while the GOP proposal and Trump’s rhetoric are undermining the ACA, its market was already deteriorating.

*

Neeraj Sood, Tiffany Shih, Karen Van Nuys, and Dana Goldman, “Follow the money: The flow of funds in the pharmaceutical distribution system,” Health Affairs, June 13, 2017

An academic study, couched in very neutral language, nonetheless concludes that of a $100 expenditure on pharmaceuticals by consumers, roughly $58 goes to the manufacturer, of which $17 is spent on drug production, and $41 is spent on marketing, R&D, or kept as net profit while the remaining $42 is captured by intermediaries. The authors thus conclude that the total net profit on $100 spent on prescrition drugs is $23, of which $15 goes to manufacturers, $3 to insurers, $3 to pharmacies, and $2 to PBMs.

However, read the comments! The first one points out that the study was commissioned by the pharameutical AMGEN, underlining a direct conflict of interest on the authors’ part. Also note that the $41 figure lumps together marketing, R&D, and profit, obscuring the relationship among these three key metrics. If R&D were a large portion of it, that figure would surely be front and center.

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Annie Waldman, “Big pharma quietly enlists leading professors to justify $1,000-a-day drugs,” ProPublica, Feb. 23, 2017

Now check this backgrounder on how Pharma is hiring academic courtesans to push their agenda.

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Danny Vinik, “The backdoor way the Senate health care bill rolls back Obamacare,” Politico, June 22, 2017

I generally avoid these up-to-the-minute links because things are changing so quickly. But this one looks like an important detail to harp on when we call our electeds!

 

June 19, 2017

Ezra Klein, “Republicans are about to make Medicare-for-all much more likely,” Vox, June 15, 2017

While GOP push to destroy the ACA continues in total secrecy, speculation abounds about what will happen if they actually decide to set fire to the barn. Klein quotes an expert saying, “Democratic politicians I never thought would utter the words have mentioned single-payer to me in a non-joking way of late.” This does not, of course, include the Great Dem Hope Jon Ossof running in GA-6, whose campaign has now burned through something like $25 million trying to capture conservative Republican votes with a 2016-redux strategy.

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Tony Pugh, “Free health clinics make a comeback amid fear of what Trump will do to Obamacare,” McClatchy, June 14, 2017

Sad commentary on the current outlook for health care as well as on the shortcomings of the ACA.

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Jerri-Lynn Scofield, “States launch new joint probe into company sales and marketing practices for opioids,” Naked Capitalism, June 18, 2017

Good introduction to legal moves against opioid peddlers and a reminder that the Obama DoJ had a miserable record on corporate crime (W’s was better).

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Helaine Olen, “Why Won’t More American Corporations Support Single-Payer Health Care?”, The Nation, May 22, 2017

Reference to a recent Warren Buffett statement more or less endorsing single-payer. Shout out to the American Sustainable Business Council’s recent initiative, but the author concludes that big business will only climb on board at the last possible moment.

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Beth Mole, “Feds probing psychiatric hospitals for locking in patients to boost profits,” ArsTechnica, April 24, 2017

Had missed this one earlier: three federal agencies are investigating Universal Health Services for keeping psych patients until the day their insurance coverage runs out. And why wouldn’t they?

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I’m a terrible doctor, and I’m proud of it,” Musings of a Dinosaur, Oct. 4, 2016

A new blog discovery: self-described family doctor (i.e. dinosaur) with tales of modern insanity known as healthcare delivery, as well as just amazing tales of practicing medicine.

June 12, 2017

(1)  Russell Mokhiber, “Single-payer is not a priority even for Democrats who say they support single-payer,”Counterpunch, June 9, 2017 

Fascinating experiment by a single-payer advocate in Pennsylvania who dug past the signatures of the 113 co-sponsors of HR 676 to see if there was anything behind this surge of “support.” Disappointing results, to say the least! He has a great idea of how to push the issue in the mid-terms.

(2)  Joel Winston, “Ancestry.com takes DNA ownership rights from customers and their relatives,” ThinkProgress, May 17, 2017

Why you really, really should NOT send away for those cool DNA tests to see if you are 2% Uzbek and 1.3% Native Alaskan. Similar details at Tim Cushing, “Cheap DNA testing is giving some insurers even more ways to deny coverage,” Techdirt, June 7, 2017

(3)  Jon Walker, “California plan for single-payer system must confront political obstacles to succeed,” ShadowProof, June 7, 2017

From the author of the four-part series I shared last week, this is a sobering take on the obstacles to get to single-payer in California even with the political support. Note the discussion of ERISA. Walker finds the bill as written too full of good intentions and still needs “a specific plan that includes the trade-offs necessary to make it work.”

(4)  David Lazarus, “Fixing healthcare: Which single-payer system would be best for California?” Los Angeles Times, Mar. 7, 2017

 A more optimistic view with a semi-endorsement of the “Bismarck model,” the German system of channeling payments through nonprofit health insurers.

(5)  Dean Baker, “The Federal Government pays 50 percent of testing costs for orphan drugs,” Beat the Press, June 11, 2017

Economist Baker relentlessly annotates the assumptions embedded in mainstream news coverage. One of his favorite targets is pharmaceutical price gouging and how reporters routinely shill for the industry.

 

June 6, 2017

ROAD TO SINGLE-PAYER—A 4-part series by Jon Walker, ShadowProof

This is a marvelous (and wonderfully didactic) round-up of the current situation and the political, fiscal, legal, and administrative obstacles we face in achieving single-payer.

Part 1: HOW THE US CAN ACHIEVE UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE  – http://bit.ly/2qTiRPG

Part 2: UNDERSTANDING DIFFERENT UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS – http://bit.ly/2qXsz7z

Part 3: FIGHTING FOR UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL – http://bit.ly/2szz2Tu

Part 4: OVERCOMING HURDLES AT THE STATE LEVEL – http://bit.ly/2s0rgVB

 

May 24,  2017

Theo Anderson, “The surprising cross-partisan appeal of single-payer healthcare,” In These Times, May 22, 2017

“[I]f and when one state adopts a single-payer system, it could quickly alter the national political landscape, with implications far beyond the fight for healthcare reform.”

Chris Ladd, “Unspeakable realities block universal health coverage in America,” Forbes, Mar. 13, 2017

From a former GOP local official writing in a business magazine comes the startling concept of “white socialism.” Read the argument and try to disagree!

Matt Bruenig, “Opponents of single payer are moral monsters on par with AHCA proponents,” Medium, Mar. 18, 2017

An intemperate corrective to the argument that the primary goal must be to save ACA, rather than push for single payer.

Mr. Anne Dev [sic], “American health system micro-aggressions, or death by a thousand cuts,” Medium, Mar. 2, 2017

And to conclude, this completely insane horror story.

 

May 23, 2017

Arthur Delaney, “The republican plan to cover sick people might sort of work, but nobody really knows,” Huffington Post/Politics, May 17, 2017

Background on how the high-risk pools work—or don’t. Note the anecdote at the end about the lady who moved across the country solely to obtain health insurance.

Elizabeth Rosenthal, “Doctors will help change our broken medical system,”Medium, May 12, 2017

Author of the book An American Sickness: How Healthcare became Big Business and How You Can Take it Back gives practical advice to doctors on how to resist dubious and/or corrupt practices by hospitals and other medical services.

Bill Hammond, “NY Dems’ lunatic push for single-payer health care,” New York Post, May 22, 2017

A good sign! This pushback from the Murdoch paper means we are getting too close to victory for their comfort. Their main lines of attack: NYS will have to raise taxes to cover costs, and single-payer will restrict access to high-cost procedures while lowering salaries of medical professionals.

Mike Murphy, “Apple’s new $5 billion campus has a 100,000-square-foot gym and no daycare,” Quartz, May 16, 2017

Not exactly a healthcare story, but an insight into how we collectively handle the burdens of childcare and –raising. And get a load of the corporate-headquarters-as-UFO. Apparently, children are not raised in Silicon Valley—perhaps it takes place on another planet.

 

May 18, 2017

Diane Ackerman and Jonathan Gruber, “A whistleblower tells of health insurers bilking Medicare, New York Times, May 15, 2017

The government subsidizes insurers for high-cost patients, so the companies game the system to boost people’s diagnoses into the most lucrative ones. Duh! Creating perverse incentives and then watching for-profit companies exploit them is surprising because . . .?

Note how easy it would be to monitor and fine companies doing this, but the government personnel assigned to these activities have been cut back. So there you have it: make the program lose money through corruption, then denounce it as wasteful government spending.

Billy Wynne, The Bipartisan ‘Single Payer’ Solution: Medicare Advantage Premium Support For All,” Health Affairs, May 11, 2017

Very technical and a little obscure, but we may be hearing a lot of this sort of proposal for an in-between or transitional solution in the future, especially once the U.S. Senate takes up the issue.

Sarah Jane Tribble, “The Orphan Drug Machine: Drugmakers Help Turn Patients With Rare Diseases Into D.C. Lobbyists, Kaiser Health News, Apr. 10, 2017

Another one from April but great background: Pharma showcases patient suffering to strongarm its costly drugs into the reimbursed formulary: 83 percent of the 104 largest patient advocacy groups take money from the drug, medical device and biotech industries. “Envelopes in his left hand held $750 checks to help patients with a rare disease cover the cost of a whirlwind trip to the nation’s capital. The money was donated by the pharmaceutical industry.”

May 16, 2017

Dean Baker, WaPo columnist condemning Sanders’ drug importation bill doesn’t realize Canada can expand its regulatory agency, Beat the Press, May 15, 2017

Baker is a wonderful antidote to tendentious economic reporting purporting to tell us why single-payer won’t work, drug prices are fair, etc.

James Howard Kunstler, “American health – a racket of rackets,” Clusterfuck Nation, Mar. 31, 2017

Quite a rant. Ends with an interesting proposal: for a new Pecora Commission, styled after the investigation into the causes of the 1929 crash, that could expose health insurance as a criminal enterprise.

David Dayen, “From processors to predators: The hidden monopolies that raise drug prices,” American Prospect, Mar. 28, 2017

How Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) extract rent through a monopoly on information.

Elisabeth Rosenthal, “How to save money at the hospital,” Tincture, Apr. 4, 2017

Practical suggestions for avoiding hospital price-gouging from the author of “An American Sickness.”

 

May 12, 2017

Emma Court, “American health care is so messed up that a whole industry has been created to help navigate it,” MarketWatch, May 6, 2017.  “Medical bill advocates” have arisen to help people deal with the gaps, blind spots, and “errors” by insurers that jack up bills in our hyper-complicated, fragmented health care system. Note that time spent on this is a form of tax, which should be part of our response when people raise the issue of single-payer- related taxes. Of course, one can always choose NOT to spend the time and pay up.

Tom Baker & Daniel Hemel, “4 ways states can prevent the Affordable Care Act from ‘exploding,’ Vox, April 8, 2017.  An old one but still relevant: aside from the pro-active measures the Trump Administration can take to undermine the ACA, the deadliest is to refuse reimbursement to insurers and indirectly collapse the system.

Sarah Klifee, “Aetna CEO in private meeting: ‘Single-payer, I think we should have that debate,’ Vox, May 12, 2017.  The Bertolini approach is for the government to keep Aetna in the game by imitating the creeping privatization of Medicare and call it “single-payer.” Amazing to hear an industry titan try to head off the end of his business by co-opting the language. Sign of panic?