Still undecided about health care reform proposals? You’re not alone.

Click here to read a good, non-partisan explainer on the major issues.   

Here’s an excerpt:
September 30, 2009, 11:22 am

Still Confused? A Refresher on the Basics of the Health Debate
By David M. Herszenhorn
and Charles Dharapak/The Associated Press
It may feel endless, but the health care debate in many ways is just getting started – the various bills are nearly ready, and full debate in the House and Senate lies just ahead. And yet, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll, 6 out of 10 people in the United States are confused about the plans to overhaul the health system.

Nearly half say they don’t know enough about the plans to have an opinion. And one-third can’t fathom a guess as to whether, if the proposed changes are adopted, the system would be better or worse in the years ahead.

So here’s a quick refresher of some of the basic parameters in the health care debate. Please pay attention, there will be a quiz – another poll – and if 59 percent of you are still confused, somebody ought to get fired. Maybe me.

Let’s start with two overarching issues: About 46 million people in the United States do not have health insurance. And health care costs – doctor visits, medicine, hospital care, lab tests, etc. – are rising way too fast. The proposals by President Obama and Congress try to tackle both problems.

Plans are being made for a full Senate debate on health care reform measures, beginning after Columbus Day weekend.  For more information, see A Timetable for Full Senate Debate in the New York Times.

UK-resident Jacqui, a long-time friend of this blog, wrote about our situation here in the US on her own blog, Dirty Sparkle.  Here is what she said, in a post about the importance of saying thank you:

In a different part of my week, I received an email from my friend in the US who writes birdsonawire blog. She has been chosen to speak directly as the voice of bloggers on the subject of healthcare reforms in the US. I commented on her blog post and it made me realise how lucky people in the UK are to have a National Health Service. It's not perfect and it's not free as we subsidise it with our contributions from earnings. But we know that if we turn up at Accident and Emergency, we are going to be seen and treated. Imagine breaking your arm and turning up at Accident and Emergency just to be told that because you have no insurance no one will treat you. Now imagine if it was your five year old son.

I have a lot to be thankful for. I live in a country where I can get health treatment when I  need it, see wonderful works of art for free, get educated for free and although I'm a struggling writer, I can still go out and sit in my back yard with cold lemonade! Nothing 'secret' about all that really, it just takes a dash of synchronicity, a dab of awareness and a drizzle of realisation to diffuse the taken-for-grantedness and the illusion that we are poor.

Of course there are some ways the country can be improved, mainly around the wide availability of harmfully addictive substances and the resulting impact on healthcare and other social consequences, such as trapping people who are already disadvantaged in a world of addiction and substance abuse which eats up their limited income. Would it make a difference if people would, for just a moment, take their eye off their television screen where Matrix-like lives are lived vicariously plugged into soap operas and reality drama, put down their can of Stella and their twenty Richmond Superkings and look around them at what we get for free, and be grateful. Free is a start to freedom.


New York Times
15 minutes ago

WASHINGTON — After a half-day of animated debate, the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday rejected efforts by liberal Democrats to add a government-run health insurance plan to major health care legislation, dealing the first official setback to an idea that many Democrats, including President Obama, say they support.

All of the other versions of the health care legislation advancing in Congress — a bill approved by the Senate health committee and a trio of bills in the House — include some version of the government-run plan, or public option.

But the Finance Committee chairman, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, long ago removed it from his proposal because of stiff opposition from Republicans who call the public plan a step toward “socialized medicine.”

The committee on Tuesday afternoon voted, 15 to 8, to reject an amendment proposed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, to add a public option called the Community Choice Health Plan, an outcome that underscored the lack of support for a government plan among many Democrats. 

For the entire story, see Senate Panel Rejects a ‘Public Option’ in Health Plan 

Today is a good day to write to your senator and/or congressional representative, unless of course, you think everything’s fine with our health care system just the way it is.

At least 10 states are considering changing their constitutions so residents may opt out of mandatory health care insurance. See In Some States, A Push to Ban Mandate on Insurance.

I’m not sure plans are fleshed out enough to offer an alternative, but wonder what the consequences would be if these efforts are fruitful. Most constitutional scholars believe they will fail, but stranger things have happened.

My understanding is that some people think the odds are in their favor that they won’t get sick or have an accident, consequently they don’t want to be required to pay into an insurance plan. Presumably, they’ll put money aside on their own, just in case.

We are related to a young couple that just had their first baby, 10 weeks early. Mother and child each spent many weeks in intensive care and, when they left the hospital, their combined bill was up around $1 million.

Should they have saved that amount before they even considered having a baby? I wonder what would have happened had they not had insurance.

If states opt out of mandatory coverage, I wonder what will happen to similar couples if they follow the lead of libertarian local lawmakers and decide to take their chances without the safety net of insurance?  Would  their home state -- the one that advocated for self reliance -- step in and help them out? Would a hospital garnishee their wages for life? Or, would they be turned away at the hospital door?

This whole discussion reminds me of Mountains Beyond Mountains (Random House, 2003), a terrific book by Tracy Kidder profiling the life and work of Paul Farmer, M.D. Farmer's goal in life was and still is to eradicate infectious disease in poor countries. He works in Haiti and other desperately poor nations where health care is scarce, even if a person can pay for it.

Much of Mountains focuses on Farmer’s work in Haiti, where hospitals expect payment of the bill before patients are discharged. If they can’t pay, they’re confined to a nearby building until someone pays the bill for them. I’m told this is practice is fairly common in some African countries, as well.

The facility for non-payers typically is spartan, to say the least. No water, food or medical care is provided. Family members can come in and take care of loved ones, however. As you might expect, many people who survive whatever sent them to the hospital in the first place end up dying of dehydration, starvation or infection. Many of the dead are newborns.

Inhumane, you say? I’d agree, but the rationale sounds almost familiar. First, the hospital says, it can’t help others if some don’t pay their bills. Second, people should take responsibility for their own lives and their own health care needs.

I don’t imagine this is what the states of Minnesota, Arizona and others envision when they advocate for “freedom” from health insurance for their citizenry.

Actually, there is a pretty good way people can put aside money to pay for medical costs, and it’s called health insurance. 

Ronni Bennett, publisher of Time Goes By, posted an alert this morning that tomorrow, Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee will debate the private option for inclusion or not in the Baucus Bill.

If you have some thoughts on that subject, write your senators TODAY.

Here is how to find your Congress members .

To contact Sen. Harry Reid, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, use this Email form or call 202.224.3542.

In his most recent post, George Phenix, publisher of Blog of Ages, asks Congress to:

“Show some political backbone. Give us meaningful health care reform. Heroes welcome.”

Enough fear mongering!

In a Sunday editorial, the New York times called for an end to “obscuring and twisting the facts and spreading unwarranted fear” about health care reform.

The Times said:

“…far from harming elderly Americans, the various reform bills now pending should actually make Medicare better for most beneficiaries — by enhancing their drug coverage, reducing the premiums they pay for drugs and medical care, eliminating co-payments for preventive services and helping keep Medicare solvent, among other benefits.”

This is a long and well-reference opinion piece. To read it in its entirety, click here

Many people with employee-provided health insurance are ignoring reality if they think they can’t find themselves within the ranks of the unemployed and uninsured.

Look around you. Check the number of jobs advertised in your local newspaper and the size of local food banks. That should scare you into delving into this complex topic feet first, if nothing else does. 

Not only do the employed have to participate in this debate, but women need to voice their opinions.

Here’s why, according to registered nurse and attorney Jaci Mairs of Kansas City:

1.    In general, women have greater health needs than men.
2.    Many insurance companies charge women more than men for the same level of insurance.
3.    A greater percentage of women work part time than men, so they lack benefits. 

To make matters worse, Mairs says, "the majority of individual insurance policies exclude coverage for child-bearing, and many exclude pap smears and mammograms, major reasons women need health-care coverage."

Click here for the full op-ed in the Kansas City Star. 

AND, an economics blog on echoed the alarm, with this statement:

"In striking testimony to financial vulnerability, more than one-half of all bankruptcies related to medical costs in the United States in 2007 were filed by female-headed households."
See that entire opinion piece here.  

from the New York Times, September 24, 2009

Panel’s Battles on Health Highlight a Broader Split
By Robert Pear and Jackie Calmes

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats swatted down Republican attempts to make fundamental changes in their health care legislation on Wednesday as the Finance Committee voted on a wide range of amendments that highlighted the deep partisan divide over the bill.

The committee rejected an amendment offered by Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky, that would have deferred a final committee vote until the panel had actual legislative language and a complete cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. The vote was 13 to 10.

Mr. Bunning’s proposal would have required the text of the bill and the cost estimate to be posted on the Internet for 72 hours before the committee voted on whether to send the bill to the full Senate.

“This bill will impact every American,” Mr. Bunning said. “It is too big and too important for us to rely on conceptual language and a preliminary estimate of cost.”

Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, the one Republican who might eventually vote for the bill, supported Mr. Bunning’s proposal. “The American people are nervous about our attempt at health care reform and overhauling 17 percent of the economy,” Ms. Snowe said. “If it takes two more weeks, it takes two more weeks. What is the rush?”

To read the entire story, go to: