Health Care Forum Held in Kutztown

I was in Kutztown last evening covering a forum on single payer healthcare and got to see my old friend Chuck Pennacchio for the time in ages.  He is Executive Director of and was accompanied by Board President Dave Steil.  Dave is a former businessman and retired State Representative.  They were joined by dedicated activists Rosie Skomitz and Ron Stouffer while Chuck Brown emceed the evening.  A lot of old friends from the Kutztown area were there and I don’t get up to that neck of the woods as much since moving to Mt. Penn a year ago.  It was nice to see old friends.

Healthcare has been bankrupting this country and giving us a poor return in terms of outcomes for too many people.  I’ve been a strong supporter of single payer and helped this organization in its early years with a bit of consulting (for disclosure purposes).  Chuck spoke first followed by Dave.  Rosie then spoke for a time before a lengthy question and answer period began.  There were good questions and good answers.  I jumped in at one point to further clarify steps being taken to expand medical services ahead of ObamaCare’s implementation with my knowledge as a Planned Parenthood Board member.

Emcee Chuck Brown, publisher of Common Sense 2:

Healthcare For All PA Executive Director Chuck Pennacchio:

Healthcare For All PA Board President Dave Steil:

Activist Rosie Skomitz:


Medicare Isn’t the Problem, It Is the Solution

Republicans are traveling the country conducting town halls where they are trying to explain their votes for Congressman Ryan’s radical Medicare overhaul.  Their talking points include repeating that Medicare isn’t sustainable and something must be done to halt runaway health care spending.  They are mistaken because what is unsustainable is our broken health care system.  Medicare isn’t the contributing factor to that.  Private health insurers abusing clients, patients and taxpayers are the problem.

Twenty five per cent of our health care dollars are wasted.  We spend double the amount on medical care per capita than any other western civilized nation.  We have only the 37th best health care system.  Our dollars aren’t buying us quality because too many of them are wasted.

Waste in health care is vast.  CEO salaries in the millions of dollars, marketing expenses, salaries for doctors whose sole mission is to deny coverage to critically ill patients when they need it most.  Overhead costs in private industry dwarf that of Medicare:  2-3% compared to 25-30%.  59 million uninsured people wait until care is far more expensive before seeking treatment.  18,000 Americans die each year due to lack of coverage.  We went to war for seven years (so far) because 3200 of our fellow citizens die yet every year we allow 18,000 to expire because we won’t fix our health care system.

Our priorities are all out of order.  People going to an emergency room instead of a community clinic raises costs astronomically.  This is waste.  Insurance companies continue shifting costs to consumers and patients until our out of pocket costs are more than we can bear.  We aren’t getting quality and we aren’t getting good outcomes.  If our health care system were a Defense Department program we would scrap it and start anew.  This is where medicare becomes the solution.

At present Medicare is only eligible for people over age 65, the permanently, totally disabled and orphans.  It pays on an 80/20 basis meaning it covers 80% of costs and either the patient or supplemental insurance the remaining 20%.  It also covers most prescription drugs.  By expanding the coverage and extending it to every American we can create a health care for all single payer system.  We already have a management system in place and people love Medicare.  Eliminating the waste in the current broken system means we can cover everyone 100% with no co-pays or deductibles.

Vermont just passed, and its Governor signed, a single payer system.  Here in Pennsylvania efforts by a non profit group called Healthcare For All PA led by Chuck Pennacchio is trying to pass a comprehensive single payer system.  All medical expenses would be covered including mental health.  It would have no co-pays, no deductibles and cost each person a 3% personal income tax each year and a 10% tax on gross payrolls.  It would save the Commonwealth, counties, school districts and other municipalities billions every year over the current system.  That would balance our state budget and lower many local taxes.  Meanwhile every Pennsylvanian would have full access to quality medical care.  That, in turn, would lure businesses and jobs.  A healthy workforce is a productive workforce.

Therefore we see that Medicare isn’t the problem but the solution.  What is being proposed on these state levels can be easily done nationally by expanding Medicare and enrolling everyone.  We can cover everyone, make health care a right, save 18,000 lives per year, have a better system and better outcomes while cutting costs to something we can afford.

Obama to Allow State Innovation on HCR

President Obama announced today he will support efforts in Congress to allow individual states to enhance health care reform as long as they follow certain criteria such as not adding tot he deficit.  This effort could advance the enaction of single state single payer.  Healthcare4AllPA under Chuck Pennacchio has been trying to pass such legislation here.  It could cut local, county and state costs for employee provided health care by billions.  The Affordable Care Act requires that no such individual state effort be allowed until 2017.  President Obama now supports bringing that down to 2014.

On February 28, President Obama reiterated his belief that States should have the power and flexibility to innovate and find the health care solutions that work best for them and announced his support for accelerating State Innovation Waivers and allowing states to apply for them starting in 2014.  

Beginning in 2017, the law allows States the flexibility to receive a State Innovation Waiver so they may pursue their own innovative strategies to ensure their residents have access to high quality, affordable health insurance.  These strategies – which must provide affordable insurance coverage to at least as many residents as the Affordable Care Act and must not increase the federal deficit – could include allowing large employers to purchase coverage through State Exchanges or increasing the number of benefit levels to provide more choices for individuals and small businesses.

Under the bipartisan “Empowering States to Innovate Act” introduced by Senators Ron Wyden, Scott Brown, and Mary Landrieu, State Innovation Waivers would be available three years earlier than under current law, so long as States meet certain criteria, including certifying that their proposals would cover at least as many of their residents as the policies in the Affordable Care Act would have covered.

The proposal offers States more flexibility while ensuring that all Americans, no matter where they live have access to affordable, accessible health insurance.  Additionally, the proposal includes built-in protections to ensure that these waivers do not increase the Federal budget deficit.  

The Affordable Care Act already creates a critical role for States.  It provides them with the flexibility and resources necessary to innovate and implement reform in the manner that works best for them. The law has already made nearly $2.8 billion available to states and every State has taken steps – and, in some cases, bold actions – to implement the law and improve health insurance accountability and affordability for their citizens. States can design their own Exchanges, shape their Medicaid programs, and take the lead in enforcing patient protections and reviewing rates increases of private insurers.  

Empowering States to Innovate

Under the Affordable Care Act, State Innovation Waivers allow States to propose and test alternative ways to meet the shared goals of making health insurance affordable and accessible to all Americans, including those living with pre-existing conditions.  Specifically, State Innovation Waivers are designed to allow States to implement policies that differ from the new law so long as they:

·         Provide coverage that is at least as comprehensive as the coverage offered through Exchanges – a new competitive, private health insurance marketplace.

·         Make coverage at least as affordable as it would have been through the Exchanges.

·         Provide coverage to at least as many residents as the Affordable Care Act would have provided.

·         Do not increase the Federal deficit.


Hundreds Rally For Single Payer

About 600 supporters of single payer health care rallied in Harrisburg yesterday for state sponsored bills HB 1660 and SB 400.  With real healthcare reform going nowhere on the federal level the only place where actual progress can be made is in the states.  The lengthy rally featured many speakers including Wendell Potter, former VP of Communications for CIGNA, Donna Smith from “Sicko,” sponsors Sen. Jim Ferlo and Rep. Kathy Manderino, four members of the Baucus 8 and former NARAL President Kate Michelman.

The Senate Finance Committee bill does not provide for a public option or prohibits health insurers from denying medical coverage.  It actually does little to reform the system and forces all Americans to buy insurance from the corporate killers whose actions have resulted in 45,000 deaths per year.

More video after the bump…

500 to Gather Thursday For Single Payer Healthcare

Five hundred people are expected to descend on the Capital Rotunda in Harrisburg Thursday to rally for singl epayer healthcare reform.  Rallying for House Bill 1660 and Senate Bill 400 Healthcare 4 ALL PA will ask state legislators to fund an economic impact study on healthcare in the Commonwealth and for passage of medical care in which everone is IN and nobody OUT.

A study released last week shows that (as of 2007, before the recession) 60% of all bankruptcies are caused by medical costs and that 80% of these people HAD health insurance.  This proves that passing “reform” which includes the health insurance industry is a cruel hoax.  That industry IS the problem, not the solution.  A huge government bailout of this industry which mandating purchase of insurance really is, will only make poor people poorer without alleviating the problems with the broken system.

Harrisburg – Several hundred Pennsylvanians will rally at the Capitol Rotunda, 11 a.m., Thursday, June 11, in support of newly reintroduced Senate Bill 400 and House Bill 1660, the “Family and Business Healthcare Security Act.”  The Harrisburg unity gathering represents the broadest coalition of groups ever to support the Single Payer Solution: publicly-funded, privately-delivered, quality, comprehensive, healthcare for all.

In addition to Patricia Eakin, RN from Temple University Hospital and PASNAP President, speakers will include William George, President of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO; David Fillman, Executive Director, AFSCME 13; Representative Thomas Murt, Republican, Montgomery County; Donna Smith, California Nurses Association/NNOC and star of documentary “SiCKO; Mike Stout, President, Steel Valley Printers of Pittsburgh; and Chuck Pennacchio, Executive Director, Healthcare for All Pennsylvania.          

WHO:   Dressed in hospital gowns, hundreds of nurses, doctors, patients, healthcare advocates and labor unions along with State Representatives and Senators who support single-payer healthcare in Pennsylvania

WHAT:     Healthcare Rally at Capitol

WHEN:     Thursday, June 11th, 11:00 Entertainment; 11:30-12:30 Speakers

WHERE:  Capitol Rotunda, 100 Third Ave, Harrisburg, PA, 17120

House Majority Caucus Hears Healthcare Testimony

The Pennsylvania House Majority Policy Committee met at the University of Pennsylvania on a beautiful spring day to hear testimony from interested parties on House Bill 1660.  The single payer, universal healthcare plan would eliminate insurers and provide every resident of Pennsylvania with full, comprehensive medical care.  Dr. Walter Tsou, the former Healthcare Commissioner of Philadelphia and one of the prime movers for creating this program spoke first.

Doctors are under increasing burdens trying to deal with the myriad of insurers and their forms, bean counters, treatment deniers and refusals to honor contracts with their insureds.  The current system requires medical providers to practice defensive medicine and to pay staffs considerable sums to battle insurance companies for payment.

Sam Marshall spoke on behalf of the health insurance industry amid claims that a single payer system would cut doctor’s incomes in half.  He raised fears of a government run monopoly which would deprive consumers of choices.  In fact it is the insurance company run system we have which deprives people of choices.  Your medical decisions are made by your insurance company.  HMO’s and preferred provider plans exist on the modelof specific medical providers only.  You must get permission to see any doctor through their gatekeepers.  You are required to see only their doctors and providers.  You can be denied any services whatsoever at their whim.

Under HB 1660 all of your medical care decisions are made strictly between you and your doctor.  There are no insurance companies and the medical providers remain private entities.  The deliberate obfuscation that this is socialized medicine, that the state will take over the delivery of healthcare are intentional scare tactics and false.

This is NOT Canadian style healthcare.  In Europe and Canada the government owns the hospitals, clinics and such and pays everyone.  That would not be the case in Pennsylvania.  Your doctor remains in private practice and competes for patients based only on his/her reputation and expertise.  Nothing changes in the system except insurance companies no longer dictate who, what and how they practice and insurance companies no longer screw everyone else in the system.

The threat that doctors will see their incomes cut in half is a red herring.  Good doctors will see their practices expand.  Let’s assume for a moment that the fear mongering is true.  What Mr. Marshall claims refers to gross incomes.  Let’s take a look at NET earnings.  After eliminating the bloated staffs required to fight for payment from insurance companies who regularly refuse to pay for services contractually rendered, doctors can almost completely eliminate this overhead.  They can also eliminate defensive medicine.  Their malpractice premiums will be slashed to, perhaps 20% of current levels.

All of the BS involved in practicing medicine will be gone along with the massive costs to doctors.  Practicing medicine will become an enjoyable experience once again with none of the hassles.  Young doctors will remain in the state.

Let me give you an example which disproves all the lies spoken to the Committee yesterday.  Anyone there saw the large bandage on my right hand.  You’re all familiar with my recent surgery and difficulties.  I have Medicare and only Medicare.  I cannot afford supplemental insurance and refuse to leave Medicare for one of the “Advantage” plans which prohibit you from ever returning to Medicare.

Being free to choose my own doctor I conducted some research online.  I found about ten hand doctors within reasonable driving distance.  I visited each website and examined their qualifications, where they went to med school, where they interned and did their residency, etc.  I chose OAA in Allentown because Dr. Richard Battista had impeccable credentials.  Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, and such convinced me he was my man.  Dr. Battista is part of a large firm of doctors on Cetronia Avenue in Allentown with their own private surgery center.  

They do not fight with insurance companies and you get a notice you must sign saying you understand they have no contract with your insurance company.  The onus is on you to fight them.  If you have copays (like me, 20%) you pay that up front.  I brought a check for $128.35 with me on the day of surgery.  They would not operate unless I paid my copay portion.

This means they do not have collections or a huge staff dealing with and fighting the insurance companies.  You pay up front or you go elsewhere.  Guess what my surgery cost?  If you already did the math you know the answer:  $650. Medicare pays 80% and I paid 20%.  Hand surgery for $650 is unheard of.  Any surgical procedure for such a minimal amount is unheard of these days.

This is what singlepayer can do to save money.  Once we eliminate the BS medical providers go through the costs are going to collapse.  If OAA and the Surgery Center of Allentown can operate this way imagine how much money we will save statewide?  That is enough to cover all medical care for all Pennsylvanians.

Chuck Pennacchio at the hearing:

Dr. Walter Tsou:

Single Payer Advocates Meeting in Pittsburgh This Weekend

Healthcare 4 All PA is conducting a seminar this weekend in Pittsburgh.  I’ve been committed to other events for this weekend for some time so I won’t be joining my friends.  If you are in Western Pennsylvania and want to support REAL, comprehensive healthcare reform which can help save the economy, lower taxes and save lives please attend this event.

Everybody In – Nobody Out: Conference on Single-payer Healthcare

PITTSBURGH, PA – March 26 – “Everybody in – nobody out,” so says Pennsylvania United for Single-payer Healthcare or PUSH.  

With its co-sponsors, Healthcare for All Pennsylvania, and Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Single-payer Healthcare, PUSH is hosting a free, one-day learning conference on Saturday March 28 from 9 am to 4:30 pm in Doherty Hall at Carnegie Mellon University.

PUSH works educate the community about the cost savings, jobs creation, and healthcare benefits of the Single Payer

Solution.  Seminars at the conference will cover how single payer healthcare coverage for everyone will help individuals, families, small and large businesses and municipalities.

The Pennsylvania state legislature is currently considering single-payer healthcare reform. The “Family & Business Healthcare Security Act of 2009” (SB400/HB1660) is sponsored by conference presenter and State Senator Jim Ferlo.

The conference keynote speaker is nationally known universal single-payer healthcare advocate, Donna Smith, representing the

California Nursing Association and Progressive Democrats of America.  Smith was featured in the Michael Moore film about the

perils of America’s current healthcare system, Sicko.

Local Pittsburgh advocate, Celeste Taylor, will also give a keynote talk.  Taylor is an activist with the Black Political Empowerment

Project (B-PEP) and Black & White Reunion, an anti-racism organization. She will teach a seminar on the positive impact of single payer healthcare on individuals and minorities.

The conference location is wheelchair-accessible and a free brown bag lunch will be provided if you pre-register.  Pre-registration is suggested but not required.