Taking The Profits Out Of Health Care.

In the US, health care organizations were once required to be nonprofit. But, following WWII, companies were short of workers. To entice them, they began offering health insurance. At first, it was non-profit. But as the market for company-provided health insurance grew, it attracted for-profit competitors offering a variety of plans.

The inevitable consequence was to dramatically increase the cost of health care, making it unaffordable for an ever-growing number of Americans. And though the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has helped, the cost of health care rose from an average of $355 per person in 1970 to $11,172 in 2019. Accounting for inflation, that’s an increase of roughly 6-fold!

Indeed, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), US spending on health care reached $3.6 trillion in 2018 (the most recent year for which data is available) 17.7 percent of our GDP. And the earnings of health insurance companies exceeded $236 billion in 2018.

Perhaps the biggest winner in the health care industry is big Pharma. According to Statista, Americans spent $360.3 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2019 – up $15.8 billion from the previous year. And up a whopping $239.3 billion from 2000. That increase is reflected in the cost of most medications. A case in point: For asthma patients like me (of which there are nearly 20 million in the US), the annual cost of preventative medication is roughly $2,500 per year – almost double what it cost less than 10 years ago. Has the drug changed or improved over that period? No, only the price has changed. And, of course, the profits for the manufacturer and their distributors.

The increase in the cost of many other pharmaceuticals is even more dramatic.

Pharmaceutical companies justify the increases by claiming that the money is needed for research and development. Yet, you, the taxpayer, contribute roughly 30 percent of the cost of development of pharmaceuticals. Despite the increased costs and your contributions, there has been little increase in FDA approvals for drugs in recent years. That’s mostly due to the companies’ focus on acquisition and mergers. In other words, the companies are investing their profits in stock buyouts rather than research and development.

Since 1996, there have been 46 mergers and acquisitions of the world’s pharmaceutical giants. Over that same period, big Pharma has spent billions to lobby the US government. According to Statista, the industry spent $281.4 billion to lobby our government in 2019. And big Pharma is not alone. Organizations representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics, medical equipment manufacturers and health insurers all spent billions on lobbying.

In total, the health care industry spent $711.3 billion on lobbying for 2019.

Is it any wonder then that our health care costs keep rising at rates far greater than inflation? Is it any wonder that we pay 4 times more per person for health care in the US than any other country in the world while experiencing steadily declining results?

Far too much of your health care expenditures are going to support the multi-million dollar salaries of executives, lobbyists and the profits of shareholders.

So, when political candidates are asked how they expect to pay for the cost of single-payer health care such as Medicare For All, the answer is simple. You’re already paying for it. But, instead of the money being used for medical care and the development of new technologies and treatments. It’s being used to line the pockets of executives and investors.

By moving to a single-payer health care system like most of the world’s advanced nations, you will pay more in taxes. Nevertheless, your savings should be significant. You and your employer will no longer have to pay for health insurance, deductibles, and co-pays. You will not be billed for seeing your doctor, for laboratory tests, for visiting the Emergency Room, for treatments or for needed stays in a hospital. As the single-payer, the government will also be able to negotiate the cost of pharmaceuticals saving you even more money. So your savings will continue to add up over your lifetime.

And no American will ever be denied health care again.

There’s yet another benefit that’s seldom mentioned: By removing the responsibility for providing health insurance from employers, there will be less incentive for employers to move jobs offshore. (Currently, the cost of an employee’s benefits is roughly equal to the cost of an employee’s salary.) Indeed, employers could use the savings to increase salaries and pay a more livable wage. That would not only provide a substantial boost to our economy. It would result in greater tax revenue that could be used to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create even more high-paying jobs.

Okay, GOP. Now What?

The past weekend’s results in South Carolina and the suspension of Jeb! Bush’s campaign leaves only one GOP candidate with the credentials to be president…John Kasich. And though he is extreme enough to collect the votes of some conservatives, he has little chance of winning.

The only candidates who have a real chance of winning the GOP nomination are a bombastic bully (Donald Trump) who could be the first candidate to actually make money in pursuit of the nomination; a theocratic snake (Ted Cruz) whose unusual version of Christianity led him to call for the indiscriminate carpet bombing of cities; and a remote-controlled robot (Marco Rubio) who takes direction from Glenn Beck and the same group of neo-con warmongers who manipulated the government under George W. Bush.

None of the three has the qualifications to hold the world’s most powerful office. Moreover, they all promise what they can and will do while offering few details of how they will do it. Little wonder. The few detailed plans they have offered are completely unworkable. For example, the tax plans put forward by the top 3 candidates would dramatically escalate both the deficit and national debt. According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, Trump’s plan would add $11.2 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. Cruz’s plan would add $10.2 trillion to the national debt. And Rubio’s plan would add a mere $8.2 trillion.

And these are the so-called conservatives?!! By comparison the current president they all hate so much is a piker…a true skinflint.

In addition, the GOP candidates would repeal Obamacare, once again making healthcare unaffordable for tens of millions of Americans. All of them would ignore climate change. Two of the Republican leaders claim they would deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. One (Trump) would ban Muslims from the US – a promise that appealed to 75 percent of the registered Republicans in South Carolina. Is it any wonder then that he won the primary?

For today’s GOP, it’s obvious that facts, truth, constitutionality and morality no longer matter. Instead of appealing to voters’ intellect, these candidates have chosen to appeal to emotions…specifically the emotions of hate and fear. Of course, if you have been paying attention to rightwing radio, Fox News Channel and Republican campaigns for the past several decades, that will come as no surprise.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress and rightwing media have done their best to destroy one of the most qualified presidential candidates. They continue to attack Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State. Never mind that her immediate predecessors also used private servers and received classified emails. Never mind that she has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the State Department and the FBI. She must have done something wrong if she is a Democrat who worked for President Obama. And Bernie Sanders? Even though he has been largely ignored by the media, he’s a Socialist Democrat! What more do you need to know? And though Republicans have not bothered to attack him, Hillary’s campaign and her surrogates have. Four of Bill Clinton’s economic advisers have pronounced Sanders’ plans as unaffordable. But wait! Other economists, including Robert Reich, Labor Secretary under President Clinton have endorsed Sanders’ plans, saying they could not only work, his universal health plan alone could save trillions of dollars.

But what are you going to trust? The facts and reason? Or your emotions and the lying Republicans?

Why Democratic Candidates Keep Fighting An Uphill Battle.

The answer is Democratic leadership…or, more precisely, the lack of it. The only discernible strategies of the Democratic Party are to wait for minorities to become the majority and to send a constant barrage of fund-raising emails to registered Democrats in hopes of countering the massive amounts of money from corporations, PACs, Super PACs, and 501c4s aligned against them.

There has been no attempt to brand the Party (a new logo does not constitute a brand). No attempt to communicate the Party’s principles. No attempt to tout its accomplishments (Obamacare has been a great success, yet many Democrats are afraid to claim it). Instead, the Democratic Party’s entire emphasis seems to be focusing on the stupidity of Teapublican opponents (the candidates are extreme, but the Republican Party relies on sound marketing principles).

While there is abundant evidence of Teapublican failures, such as the Republican Party’s denigration of women, its simultaneous attack on abortion, contraception and education (contraception and education have long been proven to be the most effective means of preventing abortions), its attack on minorities and immigrants, its attack on safety net programs, and its penchant for war, pointing to these things is not, in of itself, a strategy.

A real strategy is to clearly and succinctly state what the Party believes. A real strategy is to have the courage to promote and stand up for those beliefs. A real strategy is to draw clear distinctions from your opponents in a positive way. A real strategy is to proudly run on your record, not from it. A real strategy is to educate voters about your candidates, not the opponents. A real strategy is to demonstrate that you serve the voters instead of the special interests.

On almost every count, the Democratic leadership fails.

That’s too bad, because the Democratic Party continues to field some great candidates. For the most part, those candidates deserve better.

The Real Threat From Ebola.

Fox Noise Channel and other right wing media pundits have cranked up the scare-o-meter, and it has nothing to do with Halloween. In fact, it has more to do with the upcoming mid-term elections. They want us to believe that we’re all going to die from Ebola-carrying terrorists from ISIS, aka ISIL. And, of course, they’d like you to believe that it’s all Obama’s fault.

Never mind that the only things that ISIS and Ebola, thus far, have in common is that they both originated halfway around the world and that President Obama has ordered the US military to help combat them. Aside from that, they’re worlds apart. ISIS is in Syria and Iraq in the Middle East. Ebola is infecting Liberia and Sierra Leone in Africa.

Infectious disease experts continue to reassure us that Ebola is not easily communicable; that protective garb, alcohol, soap and access to health care can stop it in its tracks; that other viruses, such as some types of influenza pose a far greater threat. However, the experts have pointed out that other countries like Canada and the United Kingdom are far better-equipped to deal with the spread of Ebola. Why? Because they have universal health care.

Some say that, if Ebola was able to gain a foothold in the US, it’s likely that the approximately 40 million Americans who still lack affordable access to health care would ignore the early symptoms, afraid to spend the money to seek medical care. The same is true for another 20 million or so who have low-paying jobs and insurance with high deductibles and large co-payments and can’t afford to lose time at work.

And where do most of these people work?

In restaurants where they prepare and serve your food. In retail stores where they take your payments and dispense change and/or receipts. In schools where they are surrounded by children.

I trust the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) when they say that they will stop Ebola in its tracks. But, in the unlikely event that they are wrong (and the scaremongers at Fox are right), we will have the best case yet for what the president and Democrats really wanted instead of Obamacare…nationalized health care.

Obamacare “Failure” Is Looking More And More Like A Success.

On Thursday, April 17, 2014 President Obama announced that more than 8 million people have signed up for Obamacare through the federal exchange. Another 1.9 million have signed up through state-run exchanges. Those numbers don’t even include the 3 million young adults who were able to stay on their parents’ plans and the 3 million additional people who have been able to enroll in the expanded Medicaid program.

All of this means that more than 16 million people have been able to take advantage of Obamacare.

Further, states that embraced the bill have seen their uninsured rates decline 3 times faster than states that didn’t. For example, New York’s enrollment has exceeded projections by 60 percent and its insurance premiums have been cut in half! Imagine how many more people would have access to insurance if Teapublican governors and Teapublican legislatures had voted to expand Medicaid in their states and operate their own state health care exchanges. If every state would have embraced the law, we would be well on our way to joining the rest of the industrialized world with near universal access to health care.

It has also been proven that the Affordable Care Act has lowered the cost of health care. Yet Teapublicans refuse to admit that the program has been a success. They call it a “massive failure.” They falsely claim that it is costing jobs. They claim that it is unaffordable, despite studies by the Congressional Budget Office that show it is saving money. Nevertheless, most Teapublican candidates are basing their 2014 election campaigns on their opposition to the ACA. They are promising to repeal the ACA. And, backed by billions of Koch brothers’ money, shadowy front groups are running commercials that repeat lies and attack incumbent Democrats. Yet, according to polls by Gallup, even the resistance to the bill by rank and file Republicans is rapidly disappearing. In February, 72 percent of Republicans said the bill would make them worse off. In April, that number has dropped to just 51 percent!

So go ahead, Teapublicans, base all of your election campaigns on promising to repeal Obamacare. Let the approximately 16 million additional Americans who have gained access to health care know that you want to take that away from them.

Shoddy…er…Hobby Lobby.

As you may know, the Supreme Court of the United States recently heard Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Inc., a case brought against the Department of Health and Human Services by a few Christian zealots led by the founders of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. In their lawsuit, they are challenging the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that for-profit corporations must include contraceptives as part of their employee health plans. They based their argument on their religious objection to paying for many types of contraceptives that they believe, despite scientific evidence to the contrary, are forms of abortion.

Apparently, Hobby Lobby has no such concerns about breaking one of the Ten Commandments…”You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

You see, in an astonishing example of hypocrisy, Hobby Lobby has long invested in companies that make the very contraceptives to which they claim to object. According to an article by Mother Jones, “Documents filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012—three months after the company’s owners filed their lawsuit—show that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Hobby Lobby makes large matching contributions to this company-sponsored 401(k).”

In fact, it appears that the court case was not even started by Hobby Lobby. It seems The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, a right wing Washington, DC stink tank, dreamed up the lawsuit then went in search of a plaintiff. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are merely willing participants.

In other words, Hobby Lobby shouldn’t be able to object to paying for contraceptives on religious or any other grounds. It’s difficult to argue a case on principle if you apparently have none.

Why “Obamacare” Won’t Be Repealed.

As of last week, more than 6 million people have signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges and that number is expected to grow to as many as 7 million by the end of today. Roughly one-third of those people were previously uninsured. Another 4.5 million people have gained health insurance as the result of the expansion of Medicaid (tens of millions more would be eligible if Republican governors had not blocked Medicaid expansion in 24 states). 3 million young adults under age 26 have been added to their parents’ health insurance plans. And millions more have benefited from the ACA provision that prevents insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Meanwhile, there have been few negatives.

Contrary to GOP claims, millions of Americans did not lose insurance when their insurance companies chose to cancel their policies rather than make them comply with the ACA. Indeed, many more Americans now have insurance as a result of the law. According to a survey by the Rand Corporation, the number of adults aged 18 to 64 without health insurance has declined from nearly 21 percent in late 2013 to 16.6 percent as of March 22. And contrary to the GOP, “Obamacare” is not a job-killer. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that it will actually create jobs.

In reality, millions of Americans have already benefited from the law and millions more will. Thanks to the ACA, there are fewer Americans who will have to rely on the Emergency Room for basic health care services and pass the costs along to those who do have insurance. Thanks to the ACA, there are no lifetime caps on the amount insurance companies will pay for an individual’s care. Thanks to the ACA, millions of Americans will no longer be facing financial ruin as the result of catastrophic illness.

Yet Teapublicans are still trying to stop “Obamacare.” The GOP-led House has voted to repeal or change the ACA more than 50 times. And Teapublican candidates are making “Obamacare” the central issue of their campaigns. They claim that the law will bankrupt the nation despite a CBO analysis that found the law will save billions of dollars. They claim that, if elected, they will repeal and replace the law. Yet they offer no replacement. They simply want us to trust them that they will come up with something better – better than the idea that they once promoted before President Obama embraced it.

The only thing the GOP has to offer is going back to what we had – a broken system that left more than 50 million Americans uninsured; a system that was the primary cause of personal bankruptcies in America; a system that led to double-digit inflation of health care costs; a system that encouraged US companies to send American jobs offshore.

But, trust me, no matter what happens in this Fall’s elections, we’re not going back. The millions of Americans who have already benefited from the ACA simply won’t permit it.

Has Our Education System Failed Teapublicans?

Over the last several years, it has become obvious that Republicans and their Tea Party Parasites lack basic comprehension skills. For example, when the President made a speech talking about the role of government, he said, “…look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.”

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

It was obvious that President Obama was referring to the fact that businesses benefit from government-provided infrastructure. But Teapublicans couldn’t grasp that. All they heard was “you didn’t build that.”

Likewise, during a lengthy Senate hearing on Benghazi, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had tired of answering the same loaded questions over what led to the attack on the consulate, she finally said, “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they would go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator. Now, honestly I will do my best to answer your questions about this, but the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information.”

Teapublicans failed to comprehend the content of her testimony. All they heard was “what difference does it make?”

More recently, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report that, among other things, noted the impact of the Affordable Care Act (for you Teapublicans, that’s “Obamacare”) on the labor market. The CBO report stated that the ACA would result in as many as 2.5 million people voluntarily leaving their full-time jobs because they would no longer be bound to those jobs for employer-based health insurance. The impact, according to the CBO, is that up to 2.5 million jobs openings would be created by 2024.

Teapublicans, of course, failed to comprehend the report. They believed that 2.5 million jobs would be lost…not created…and immediately labeled the ACA a “job killer.”

No wonder theTeapublicans are so angry all the time. They seem to lack the basic hearing and reading skills to comprehend the spoken word and written reports. Obviously, our education system has failed them.

Beheading More Right Wing Lies.

According to the right wing blog, Freedom Outpost, “more than 68,105 new medical codes are being added due to the Obamacare monstrosity.” The blog claims that the codes are intended to “link us to the international system created by the World Health Organization (WHO). It goes on to state, “One thing is for sure. This coding is directly related and tied to creating their ‘International One World Government.’ While the WHO pretends to be for helping people, they create codes for ‘Legal Execution’ by beheading.”

You read that right. The author is claiming that Obamacare will result in the legal beheadings of patients! Presumably the claim was spawned by Sarah Palin’s “Death Panels.”

Of course, once Freedom Outpost sent this claim into the blogosphere, it was picked up and repeated by most other right wing blogs. It was passed from one Tea Party Parasite …er, Patriot… to another until it became so prevalent that Politifact.com had to debunk it with a “Pants on Fire” rating.

Obviously, the only ones who have lost their heads are Teapublicans afflicted with what some have called Obama Derangement Disorder.

This lunacy is not new. There have been other wild accusations such as the claim that Obama created a program that allows school children to earn higher grades by studying Islam; that a hidden provision in the health care law taxes sporting goods as medical devices; that Obamacare will provide insurance to illegal immigrants; that Muslims are exempted from the health care mandate; that the Obama administration plans to take away our guns as part of a UN treaty; that the Obama campaign offered citizens cell phones in exchange for votes; that Obamacare includes a 3.8 percent sales tax on all real estate transactions; that President Obama doubled the national debt; that Michelle Obama said “all this for a damn flag” during a 9/11 memorial; that President Obama banned prayer in the military academies; that President Obama demanded all military headstones with crosses be replaced. There have been hundreds more.

All of these have been awarded the “Pants on Fire” rating by Politifact.com.

Although Politifact.com draws no conclusions as to why so many of these preposterous claims have dogged President Obama, I’ll state the obvious: racism. Why else would conservatives question the president’s birthplace? Why else would they claim he is a radical Muslim? Why else would there be a six-fold increase in racist hate groups during his presidency?

Yes, I know, right wingers are quick to deny prejudice (most claim to have black friends) and they try to turn the tables by accusing those who call attention to their lunacy of “playing the race card.” Still, the racism of these “patriots” is both obvious and undeniable. Virtually every Tea Party rally has included racist chants, blatantly racist depictions of President Obama, and an abundance of Confederate flags. And it’s not just the far right wing wackos who have displayed their racism. So-called “mainstream” Republicans have piled on.

I believe that no matter how much they deny it, conservatives – they of family “values” and supposedly strong religious beliefs – simply were not ready for a black president. Most can accept black athletes, black entertainers and black co-workers. But black neighbors? Or (gasp) a black president? A black man who has real power?

Of course, these conservatives continue to say they’re not racists. They’re just passionate about freedom and patriotism.


From Obstruction To Subversion.

By now, we all know the incredible lengths to which Teapublicans have gone in order to repeal, defund and obstruct “Obamacare.” But now, it seems, Teapublicans have taken a step over the cliff to outright subversion.

It appears one of the reasons for the difficulties of the HealthCare.gov website is a cyber attack tool named “Destroy Obama Care!”

The acting assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Cybersecurity and Communications testified that there have been at least 16 confirmed cyber attacks on the website. The most serious of these is a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack designed to make the website unavailable to intended users by bombarding the site with more traffic than it’s designed to handle.

According to a story by Examiner.com, right wingers have been distributing the DDoS through social networking. You know, one “patriot” to another.

Does anyone not see the problem with such tactics? In order to get their way, a minority of political extremists intentionally and willfully disrupt a legitimate function of our federal government thereby denying the majority an opportunity to take advantage of a legal, constitutionally-approved law. This is not typical political campaigning. It’s not merely a conflict of ideals and ideas. It’s not the equivalent of civil disobedience. Such an act is not only illegal, it’s immoral. It is nothing less than cyber terrorism.

If another government committed such an act, it might be construed as an act of war.

Where does the opposition to the Affordable Care Act stop? When is enough enough? Do the extremists need a list of those who are suffering from the lack of access to affordable health insurance? Do they need a list of those who die from their obstruction to understand the injustice of their actions? Do they need a body count?

Such extremists do not deserve their self-proclaimed title of patriots. They do not deserve to be called Americans. Indeed, they do not deserve to be called human.