What lit me up today?
6/8/2015 – Are You a Sheep or a Crazy?
There are a lot of sheep in this country. People who keep their heads down, who disguise “going along to get along” as righteous pacifism, who abhor confronting wrong (or confronting anything), who speak softly and politely for fear of being laughed at, dismissed, or even noticed, never raising their voices in passionate commitment or defense of the truth, the ones who don’t cause trouble, don’t rock the boat, never discuss politics or religion in social situations.
And then there are the crazies. The ones who don’t care if they’re laughed at, scorned, rejected, or punished for thinking their ideas will make a difference, the ones who will never not confront lies and injustice, whose arguments are loud, profane, passionate, and knowledgeable, who gleefully not only rock the boat but stand up while doing it (and occasionally get dumped in the sea), who impishly discuss politics and religion in any situation and debate armed with facts.
I own that I used to be a sheep. I went along to get along. I was repressed, polite, so politically correct that I won a $50 savings bond for a speech I wrote for a VFW contest extolling the virtues of the U.S., none of which I actually believed.
And then “show biz” hit. Following several roles in high school musical choruses, I proceeded to take “Summer Theatre” at Eastern Illinois University where John Malkovich, Gary Sinese, and Joan Allen were blossoming as future stars. And I learned that there are indeed “no people like show people.” I learned that unique sense of belonging that exists nowhere else but in the tribes of the performing arts, labor unions, the military, and those who help each other survive war and natural disasters.
I spent 21 years working in theatre, film, opera, and dance and then alternative healthcare hit, followed by certification as a clinical herbalist and a practice that led me into the HIV/AIDS community in Chicago where another nine years was spent never quite finding my place of belonging, but teaching me the all-too-common truth that a board of directors will eventually fuck up any non-profit, no matter its original reason for being. Hence one reason why no organization of mine will ever be a 501(c)(3).
And then I was diagnosed with an uncommon liver disease and healthcare became the dominant concern in my life. I didn’t just sit and worry – I used my tiny pulpit as a writer for the national HIV journal Positively Aware to start being an activist in the only way I knew – by “using my words.”
But it wasn’t enough. I had just been told my lifespan would be significantly shortened. I didn’t have time to sit and talk – I found myself hungry for action of some sort and since there didn’t seem to be any available, I decided to make my own and the Demonstration for Universal Healthcare (DUH) was born, much to the derision of certain leaders and lack of general enthusiasm and that sense of belonging I’d begun to feel, weak as it was, evaporated.
OK, so doing things on my own has never stopped me – I set a date, applied and got the permit from the National Park Service, discovered I was pretty comfortable with a microphone in my hand and a message to convey, and went to my first single-payer conference in Houston. There I met Terry and Laurie of The Healthcare Movie, Debbie Silverstein, and Katie Robbins, saw Margaret Flowers speak for the first time, witnessed Cathy Courtney and the Texas advocates in action, and was asked by Lisa Parsons to speak at the Global Health & Humanitarian Summit where I met Donna Ellington. Those friends and allies, as well as Ryan Splitt, Bob Sisler, and Doris Votalja proved to be the “missing pieces” necessary to turn the Demonstration into the Drive for Universal Healthcare – still DUH because Does America still need a new healthcare system? DUH!
The trips DUH has taken to 14 states have helped me find the single-payer tribe. From Julie Keller-Pease in Maine to Dawn Dersham in California to Wes Brain in Oregon to Philly Meyers in Georgia and Leslie Boyd in North Carolina, I now know the tribe exists, is growing, and is everywhere!
Now DUH is the driving force behind the Healthcare Justice March because when I first mentioned the possibility of a demonstration on the National Mall, California’s Dr. Bill Honigman was the rabble rouser who urged us to have it for Medicare’s 50th anniversary. At the single-payer conference in Oakland last August, when I announced the Healthcare Justice March, the reaction of the crowd was much more enthusiastic and John Nichols even donated right there on the spot! So I must thank Dr. Bill for standing up in that boat to rock it!
But there is doubt, skepticism, cynicism. “No one will come,” we hear. “You’re being unrealistic to think you can raise that kind of money,” they say. I can’t help but think there are a few who think, “Who do you think you are??” Rumors fly about the event being cancelled completely. Not only is there no sense of unity, of belonging, but I have days when I feel the sheep would rather we just go away and take our unrealistic, grandiose idea with us.
I don’t know how many of you will spend the time, energy, and money to be there in person. I don’t know if you’ll donate enough money so that we can have a stage and sound and everything else we need to make this rally something to be taken seriously.
But I believe in my heart that the people who show up, whatever the number, will be the people who are meant to be there, the ones who will have been there through the decades and will be there at the end when President Sanders signs the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act into law. Because they understand the importance of unifying, of the rising up of that feeling of “we’re all in this together.”
Steve Jobs said, “…the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” I’m a proud crazy – are you?
From the Mouth of a Buffoon
Rebuttal of Rush Limbaugh’s rant on single-payer
By Sue Saltmarsh
For two years now I’ve been advocating for the single-payer movement to become more strategic in its thinking and organize “rapid response teams” that would spring in to action when the Wrong Right dominates the media with alarmist, false propaganda. Rush has given me the opportunity to walk my talk, though this has certainly not been “rapid!”
I’ve taken the transcript of Rush’s May 28 tirade against single-payer and added my responses (in red) as if I had been there with him when he went off. Because of his repetitive style, it took me six hours to get through the whole transcript — in the interest of not boring you to tears, I’ve edited out much of Rush’s repetition. I’ve also included links at the end of the treatise to all the data I quote. To those who would defend Rush by saying his radio show is an “opinion” show, I say there is a difference between opinion and propaganda and opinions can be informed by the facts, as mine are. So, to begin…
Rush: I told you, folks. You know, I hate to come here with this know-it-all attitude. I don’t mean to portray that. But, I mean, this is a giant nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah, see, I told you so. And it’s not something difficult to predict. In fact, the first time I made this prediction goes all the way back to Hillarycare. Back in 1993-1994, I made the prediction, a prediction based on what the whole purpose, the real long-term purpose of Hillarycare was, and I made the same prediction again once Obamacare surfaced.
And the prediction, by the way, is not singular to me. It was, and is, that all of this is a smoke screen for the real coup de grace. The real purpose of Hillarycare, the real, ultimate goal, the end point is single payer, government-run, cradle to grave, no insurance company, no insurance industry health care.
That has been the objective from day one. Fifty years ago when the left first began talking about health care, that’s where they ultimately want to go. And all of this chaos that is part of Obamacare is part of the design. All of the rapid cost increases, the inability of average, ordinary people to afford it. The inability of average, ordinary people to even find out what it is and to get the best policy for them. The increasing difficulty in getting treatment. The increasing difficulty in actually having health care, much less health insurance, is all part of the grand design to get to total government control of health care.
Sue: Well, Rush, I only wish it had been as deliberate as you make it sound. But you know as well as I do that liberals are myopic when it comes to strategy. The kind of plot you describe could only be Republican in origin…say, like Romneycare? But, shocking to you as it may be, I totally agree with you that while the ACA has ensured the elimination of the “pre-existing condition” rip-off and enabled 21 – 25 year olds to stay on their parents’ insurance, it has done NOTHING to increase access to CARE for average Americans and that’s because the insurance companies, not the government, are still calling all the shots.
Rush: Call it whatever you want — single payer — I don’t like that term because the low-information crowd thinks, “Hey, single payer, government pay, oh, wow, cool, that makes sense.” It’s not cool, it doesn’t make sense, but, you know, single payer sounds simple. Which is why I don’t like the term. It’s misleading. Socialized medicine, government-run medicine, government-run health care is the preferred term, and we’ve just taken a dramatic step closer to it, again by design.
Sue: Rush, Rush, Rush. You seriously think I’m going to let you get away with that old “socialized medicine” chestnut? It’s an historical fact that when Truman made his attempt at establishing universal healthcare, the American Medical Association (AMA) hired the lobbying and public relations firm of Whitaker and Baxter, a husband and wife team, to coordinate a $1.5 million advertising campaign that was intended to combat any remnant of support for a national health care program. The most effective weapon used by the AMA was linking Truman’s plan to “socialism.” The campaign was so successful that even people who supported Truman’s plan identified it as “‘socialized medicine.”1
But you must know the difference between true socialized medicine and what is being proposed in the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act – H.R. 676 – don’t you? No? Let me help you out.
Socialized medicine, like the system in Great Britain, is when the government owns the system.2 Providers are in their employ, facilities are manned by government-employed staff, all employees, from the janitors to the brain surgeons, are paid by the government, albeit widely different amounts! No, Rush, brain surgeons are not slaves being paid the same wage as janitors!
Single-payer healthcare, like the system they have in Canada, is privately owned and run. Providers open their own practices where they choose to practice, they hire and pay their own staff, and hospitals and other facilities are also privately owned and run. All medical decisions are made by the patient and the provider(s). The government has no role in the delivery of healthcare. They collect the money, annually assess and negotiate fee rates with providers, medical supply and device manufacturers, facilities, and drug companies. And, most importantly, the government, a single payer, pays the bills. We don’t have to make it sound simple – it IS simple!
Rush: There it is in the Associated Press: “NY Assembly Votes for Universal Health Coverage.” Now, we’re not there yet, but this is the next step. This is the next phase, and in a liberal Mecca like New York, you can’t miss it. Just being very open about it now. [Like it’s supposed to be some sort of shameful secret? Oh, come ON, Rush, NY is rightly proud!] “The New York Assembly voted 89-47 on Wednesday for legislation to establish publicly funded universal health coverage in a so-called single payer system.” This is an AP story. [Sure is! Finally the corporate media does its job!]
Now, for those of you who don’t know, the New York Assembly is the lower house of the bicameral legislature, and it is heavily Democrat. The New York Senate is the other half, the upper house, if you will, of the New York legislature, and it has just become majority Republican. But that fact no longer guarantees that the Senate will kill the bill. It wasn’t that long ago that the Republicans existed to kill ideas like this. Democrats come along and propose a massive expansion of government. The Republicans would move right in to stop it.
Sue: I have to stop you right there, Rush. Did you not take English in school? The NY Assembly is heavily DEMOCRATIC and IN the Senate REPUBLICANS HAVE JUST BECOME THE MAJORITY. Grammar, sir! Or are you identifying with the “low-information crowd?”
And Democrats are not proposing a “massive expansion of government” – they are proposing a massive change to the state’s healthcare system. The NY government will have no weight gain here – in fact, according to a study3 by leading economist Gerald Friedman (who I know you hate simply because he tells the truth), the New York Health Act would save the state billions, create 200,000 jobs, increase health care access, and provide better health outcomes. The study says NY is especially primed for it because the current conditions are unsustainable.
Rush: But now, because it’s health care, and because Obamacare’s tentacles are now woven deep like a huge web of deceit, Republicans everywhere — New York, Washington — are feeling scared to death at the prospect, “Oh, no, we don’t want to take anything away from people. [Except food stamps, Social Security, public education, Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP, ADAP…] Oh, my God, they’ll hate us if we’re seen as taking away a benefit or an entitlement.” And that’s part of the plan, too, don’t care how it operates, don’t care whether it works, just implement it. In fact, the more it doesn’t work, the better for the long-term goal.
Sue: And what is the link to the research on that?
Rush: My only point, just because the Republicans run the upper house in New York state does not automatically mean that they are going to stop this. And, of course, we have a governor, New York Democrat, the son of Mario “The Pious,” the late, Mario the late pious — (interruption) [a little oxycodone reverb there, Rush?] I know New York can’t afford to do. [again, some factual data, please!] Nobody can afford to do it, but it’s not stopping anybody. It’s not stopping anybody in Washington from doing anything they want to do, the fact that we don’t have the money for it.
Sue: Rush, you seem to be turning purple – are you alright? Are you trying to come up with a source to cite for those last comments? We don’t have the money to make the healthcare system work for everyone the way it worked for you when you had your little addiction problem but we’ve got enough to pay for Bush’s wars? We don’t have enough money to create hundreds of thousands of jobs on infrastructure projects all over the country but we’ve got enough to let Shell off the hook for their taxes while they ruin the Arctic? Again, Rush, either back up your histrionics with FACTS or be quiet until you learn the facts!
Rush: The Senate is poised to kill the bill in New York, but if you read to the end of the story, what you find out is that the Republicans in the New York Senate are working on their own version of the bill, not killing it. [Good for them!] They’re working on their own version, and it mirrors the Republicans in Washington who are making these public claims of opposition to Obamacare, threats or promises to repeal it and so forth. But in truth, they’re scared to death of this upcoming Supreme Court decision. So it’s not axiomatic that we have a Republican Party that wants to ditch Obamacare, and it’s not assumable, axiomatic in New York State that Republicans in the senate there would kill universal health care in New York state.
Sue: Will you listen to what you just said? You actually want it to be “axiomatic” to “kill universal healthcare?” Seems to me that if you ever want to see a Republican in the White House again, the party should wake up to the fact that the majority of Americans favor single-payer (51%)4 just as they favor same sex marriage (63%),5 raising the minimum wage (70%),6 and background checks for gun purchases (92%).7
Rush: Back to the AP story. “All New Yorkers could enroll. Backers said it would extend coverage to the uninsured and reduce rising costs by taking insurance companies and their costs out of the mix.” Yes, exactly according to plan from decades ago, except, ladies and gentlemen, Obamacare already theoretically did all of this. [No, it didn’t. The insurance companies still control our healthcare system and as evidenced by the 2014 data on the salaries of those company CEOs (Humana CEO Bruce Broussard is the “99%” of that group, making “only” $10.1 million8), profit is still the priority.] Everybody was supposed to be able to enroll. Backers said that it would extend coverage to the uninsured, which it did, but now we learn the uninsured can’t afford to use it ’cause they now have insurance but they can’t afford the deductibles. So for all intents and purposes, they don’t have it because they can’t use it. And we were gonna get rid of the evil insurance companies.
Sue: You’re certainly right about people now having insurance they can’t use due to sky-high deductibles. But the business of enrolling would be solved by single-payer. Everyone would already BE enrolled. No computer “glitches,” missed deadlines, or incorrect information. And nowhere in the summary of the bill that I read was there any mention of “getting rid of the evil insurance companies,” though I wish there had been.
Rush: Remember how that was a big part of the sales pitch from Obama?
Sue: I believe you may be referring to the oft-spoken line about how the public option would “keep the insurance companies honest.” But of course, insurance companies couldn’t have that, so they sent their lobbyists into Democratic legislators and the public option was done away with.
Rush: Because they had, after all these years of attacking capitalism and corporate America, the Democrats had succeeded in convincing many Americans the insurance companies were thieves, and of course some insurance companies convinced people of that on their own. They’re not totally innocent here. But the Democrats certainly piled on.
Sue: No, Rush, we should have “piled on” but we couldn’t. We had no choice but to survive as the medical industrial complex grew and grew and we got sicker, poorer, medically bankrupt, and even died because good “capitalists” kept their eyes on the prize – more profit!
Rush: Obamacare already did all of this and there hasn’t been any reduction in costs, and there hasn’t been any broad-based sign-up. I mean, we’re not better off with Obamacare [[well, marginally better]. It’s an absolute disaster, and here come the people in New York saying, “You know what? Let’s just scrap everything. We’ll just simplify everything. Just sign up everybody. If you’ve got a Social Security number, you’re signed up. And we’re gonna cover you from the state, and that’s it, single payer, go to the doctor, whatever you want…”[You mean “when you need to?” You’re actually against being able to go to the doctor when you need to?]
Rush: Listen to this next from the AP on this. “With no patient premiums –” oh, wow, what a panacea. No premiums? Are you kidding me? No deductibles? Wow, you mean there are no deductibles, single payer? No, there aren’t. “With no patient premiums, deductibles or co-payments for hospital and doctor visits, testing, drugs or other care, New York Health would pay providers through collectively negotiated rates. It would be funded through a progressive payroll tax paid 80 percent by employers and 20 percent by employees.”
Sue: Incomplete information and ignorance of the way bills move through a legislative body, Rush. Anyone can read the text of the New York Health Act online.9 And because it would be an appropriations bill, there would have to be debate over and final passage of the actual percentage by the Appropriations Committee. All that could be provided now would be what the bill’s sponsors hope for.
In the NY bill, it says, “Full funding for New York Health would come from the revenue measures to be proposed by the Governor under guidelines in the bill, plus available federal funds. The revenue package would also replace: local share of Medicaid, the state share of Medicaid, state and local payments for public employee health coverage, and various other health care spending. Numerous analyses document that a single-payer system would be most effective for reducing and controlling costs, for taxpayers, employers and individuals.”
Rush: There’s no mention here what the tax rate’s gonna be. Now, that’s a little detail that they’ll hit you with later. So while you’re thinking, “Wow, no patient premiums, no deductibles?” Yeah, wait ’til you see the new payroll tax. Somebody’s gonna pay for that, and it’s always going to be us. No matter how many times they say the word “free,” no matter how many times they concoct misleading names like “single payer,” “universal health care,” whatever, you are going to pay for it one way or the other.
Sue: No one who really knows about single-payer would say that it’s free. It isn’t. Everyone who works pays into it, no matter if they’re minimum wage workers or multi-millionaires. I like to call it pre-paid healthcare because contrary to propaganda from your side, it isn’t free. People pay into the Healthcare Trust Fund, as they pay into the Social Security Trust Fund now, and when they need care – not a useless insurance card – it’s there for them at no cost because they’ve already paid for it. And if you don’t like “single-payer” or “universal healthcare,” what would you like to call it? Oh, wait, let me guess – “socialized medicine.” Except it isn’t (as I said earlier) and it is both universal in that everyone is covered no matter their economic status, race, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or any other divisive categorization and there is ONE payer – the government. But perhaps it’s the universal part you object to – I mean, how dare those bleeding heart liberal, poor, black/brown/red/yellow, old, female, gay or Muslim/Jewish/Buddhist/Unitarian Universalist/Wiccan people dare to think they deserve the same access to healthcare as you with your patriotic, capitalistic, lily-white, Christian, male, drug-addicted ass?
[Here the rant was diverted to phone and Internet service for the rural poor, exemplified by these immortal lines:] ”Everybody’s got phone service one way or the other. We don’t need to be subsidizing phones for farmers. We don’t need to be subsidizing phones for people that live out in the sticks. We’ve taken care of that. But now we’ve got a new reason to keep the program alive. For some reason there are just a bunch of poor people and rural people and hayseeds and so forth that do not have the Internet, and, by God, we can’t expect them to pay for it, why would we?
They’re just gonna be asking for more money left and right on the basis the poor don’t have enough, they can’t get enough, the rich have too much, the middle class has too much. So here comes the first push for socialized medicine, right on schedule, happening in the state of New York. One more little tidbit here says, “Waivers would be sought so federal funds now received for New Yorkers in Medicare, Medicaid and Child Health Plus would apply.” Well, hello complication. This is a simple little accounting thing that these two bureaucracies, the governments in New York state and Washington will totally screw up and make an even bigger mess, and this money will all go missing someday.
Sue: This just makes me tired, Rush. Someone seriously says the middle class has too much??? And the “tidbit” is because waivers are required by law in order for a state to implement its own healthcare system, though insurance company lobbyists will probably make it close to impossible for a state trying single-payer to get one. As for the likelihood of two governmental bodies to “totally screw up and make an even bigger mess, and this money will all go missing someday,” do you mean like when Saint Reagan stole $2.7 trillion from Social Security to pay for his “supply-side economics?10
Rush: But here is Assemblyman Richard Gottfried. Ready for this? “Employers are shifting more and more health care costs to workers or are dropping it entirely. The only ones who benefit are the insurance companies.” And so because these employers are not playing ball, we’re gonna have to fix them.
And, by the way, this notion here, the new payroll tax where the employer pays 80% and you pay 20%. No, you pay 100% of the payroll tax. I mean, you may think that the employer’s paying half today and you may think that the payroll tax is you being taxed and your employer matches it. You may think that’s what’s happening, but it’s not. You are paying 100% of your payroll tax. And I’ll be glad to explain that again if anybody needs it.
[Here ensues another rant involving the payroll tax in which he claims employers pay nothing. I’m sure the CFOs of any company or even the business managers of non-profits, would have something to say about that lunatic assertion. Bu t evidently, Rush is not as pro-business as he’d like you to believe. I pick up in the midst of this nonsensical ramble…]
Rush: Now, the health care benefit is not entirely free anymore. There are costs to you, but it still costs the employer whatever it is that he’s been able to negotiate with his insurance health rates or what have you, or however you now get your health insurance. Maybe you don’t get it at work anymore, but in the days when you did, it worked this way.
Now, let’s go to FICA. You believe that you are paying 5%, in my example, and the employer is paying and matching 5%. But the fact is you’re paying all of it because it’s what it costs the employer to hire you. You just never see it. You’re paying every bit. So when New York comes along and says the way we’re gonna fund our new single payer health plan is with a new payroll tax where the employer will pay 80% and the employee will only pay 20, you’re gonna pay a hundred percent of it, folks.
It’s gonna cost the employer that much more to keep you employed. It’s money being paid to keep you on the payroll. A lot of money being paid, but not to you. It’s going straight to the state of New York in this example. All the money that all Americans are paid that they never see that first goes to taxation, and then the government comes along and tells you little fibs about, “Well, yeah, you have Social Security, but that’s your insurance account, that’s your retirement account,” which you now know is not true, either. “And the employer, we are gonna make the employer match your contribution.” There’s no matching. There’s a total FICA payment due, and all of it is deducted from what it costs to hire you.
My only point here is, what if you figured out you’re being paid 125, or 130 thousand a year, when you think you’re being paid a hundred? [I’d be thrilled to be making half that.] Would you rather have all of that yourself and be responsible for your health care and for your Social Security, or are you content to let 30, $40,000 be taken away from you before you ever see it for all these government-run programs which have been demonstrated to be totally inefficient [while Medicare’s overhead and administrative costs come in between 1.3 and 3%, private insurance costs, including exorbitant salaries and profits, are estimated between 17 and 30%11] and they don’t work, and now, I just saw this the other day, too. This is starting to percolate again. That is, more and more unions and more and more private sector companies are announcing that they are not gonna be able to meet their pension requirements.
Now, they tried single payer in Vermont, you might recall, and they gave it up after three months. “Governor Abandons Single Payer Health Care Plan.” This December 17th of last year. “Calling it the biggest disappointment of his career, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Wednesday he was abandoning plans to make Vermont the first state in the country with a universal, publicly funded health care system. Going forward with a project four years in the making would require tax increases too big for the state to absorb, Shumlin said.”
What do you mean tax increases too big for the state to absorb? What he means is the people. His citizens don’t have the money to pay in taxes what the single payer health system would cost, and yet it’s all being presented to everybody as a way to cut costs, a way to finally drive down that cost curve. That’s the new lingo. “Yeah, we gotta get that cost curve going in a different direction. We gotta get that cost curve pointing down.” When has it ever, when health care is involved, health care and government equals costs going down? When have you ever seen that? You haven’t, and you won’t.
Sue: Yes, Rush, Vermont failed in their first attempt, but not because the people didn’t want it. I believe Vermont is a lesson every state can learn from and New York has done that. In having Dr. Friedman analyze the economic realities of their bill and formulate a funding plan that included more than tax revenue, they are better prepared to “market” the financing better than Vermont did and hopefully, Governor Cuomo won’t back away.
The number of citations I could list that note the cost savings of single-payer over any private or “hybrid” plan, from people of all political affiliations, is too long to add here, but you can read Drs. Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein’s new study at the website of Physicians for a National Health Program12, Rick Ungar in Forbes13 or even Sheldon Adelson’s interview in The Wall Street Journal14 to know that intelligent (perhaps the operative word) people understand the significant good that lower cost, higher quality healthcare would do for our country on many levels.
Conservative Andrew McMurphy blogged, “Let’s face it, health insurance is a drag on American competitiveness. Every major trading partner of the United States has some form of government-organized health care, so why do we continue to saddle American corporations like working donkeys with such expensive costs?”15
And in 2013, a Republican blog published Ten Reasons for Republicans to Embrace a Single Payer Healthcare System.16
In summary, I think it’s safe to say that Rush and I have little in common. While I agree with some of his assessments of the ACA, my agreement comes with a profound sense of disappointment and sorrow for President Obama rather than Rush’s vitriolic bigotry.
I also feel pity and frustration for the waste of the minds of his listeners who absorb his toxic fantasies as if they were facts. Their brainwashed conditioning isolates them from reaching their highest human potential and from seeing the world as populated by potential friends, teachers, allies and caregivers rather than the enemies, dictators, freaks and captors Rush sees. As long as Rush and his ilk are around to spew their poison, their followers will be exactly what Rush wants them to be – stupid, disempowered sheep who will always vote against their own best interests, thus keeping the corruption intact. WAKE UP, People!
2. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/ health_reform_for_beginners_th_1.html
5/7/2015 – Re-Inspired
If there’s one thing I didn’t expect when I started this journey back in 2011, it’s that I would have to convince people and organizations that identified as single-payer supporters or advocates that they should participate in an event created to further their own cause. After all, I thought, if you believe in something, you support any effort to get it done, right?
I look at the People’s Climate March – 400,000+ from all over the world and I’m sure many of them risked money they couldn’t afford to get to a demonstration they might not have been sure was going to happen, certainly not on the scope that it happened. New York is not a cheap place to stay either, just like Washington. And yet they came.
I noticed when looking at the list of their partnering organizations (which I’m proud to say DUH was on) that the Sierra Club and several of its chapters had endorsed, but other “big” environmental names (Greenpeace, the Nature Conservancy, Earth First) had not. Perhaps their Sierra Club equates to our PDA endorsement and the number of Healthcare for All Wherever chapters who’ve endorsed even though Healthcare-NOW! has not. Perhaps the People’s Climate March, too, had some convincing to do and, like the Healthcare Justice March, decided to go with getting as many other endorsements as possible and not waste time trying to convince people who shouldn’t need convincing.
Today I had occasion to go to the DUH website and I re-read the report on our SE trip.
“I admit to having a lump in my throat and dueling theme music (West Wing vs. House of Cards) in my head when I first caught a glimpse of the Washington monument and the Jefferson Memorial as we drove in from Alexandria.
But the next morning, after our meeting with Marisa Richardson, the Park ranger who has been with us since the first incarnation of DUH back in 2012, it was almost overwhelming as Miles and Ben from National Events, our production company, met us at the site of the pre-March rally, West Potomac Park. This is Ben providing scale – the flock of geese were just curious!
The theme music in my head was replaced by a concrete vision of that field teeming over with people, signs, banners, as well as the mountainous task that lay before us to get them there, to pay for it, to find sponsors who would donate water and other goods and services, volunteers to help direct the crowd, the logistics of parking, transportation, and accessibility, the “talent” and speakers not yet acquired…and then suddenly all that chaos went away and I stood in that field, knowing – not just thinking or believing, but knowing - that no matter how many attended or how all those other things were done, this IS happening. This barren ground is our “field of dreams” and together, we’re building it and the ones who are supposed to be there will come, despite all the reasons the nay-sayers give them for staying home silent, consenting, clinging complacently to the status quo.
In Need, Joshua Lowe sings:
So close your eyes and look inside,
Take a breath and a moment and try to define
What it is you truly need in life,
And in the process, you might find out what you really are.”
Will YOU be there? Will you risk it? Will YOUR voice be among the crowd demanding the end of profit-over-people healthcare? No doubt, no skepticism can stop me and only money could stop the March. It’s that simple – if you want it to happen, if you want to be a part of it, prove it. Send us $5 or $20 or $100.
SHOW US YOU GIVE A FLYING BUCK! CLICK THE ‘DONATE’ BUTTON OR CONTRIBUTE TO OUR CROWDRISE CAMPAIGN!
3/31/2015 – No Shame, Just Gratitude
In this time of healthcare horror stories, I find that I have a unique experience unfolding. After months of struggling to keep my health insurance under the COBRA program, in October the premium went from $609 to $989. My income was never enough to cover the lesser amount, so my parents had shouldered that burden, much to my shame at the age of 58. I wasn’t about to allow them to pay the higher amount, my income had decreased even more, I still hadn’t been able to see a doctor (none in the network down here), and I wascoming up on six months with NO monitoring of my liver disease, which had called for an endoscopy and ultrasound every four to six months back in the days when I had insurance in Chicago. So I applied for Medicaid.
With an income of around $300 per month, I had no doubt I’d qualify and indeed I received notice in November that I did. Since I have a suspicion that I won’t live long enough to take full advantage of paying into Medicare most of my adulthood, I convinced myself that receiving Medicaid benefits was an reasonable return on that investment. Then came the process of experiencing the labyrinthine and obscenely wasteful Medicaid system in Illinois.
First, you get over the hurdle of the application – nothing unexpected about the questions they ask and the lack of substantiating documentation requirements is staggering – they, in essence, take your word for what you say your income is, what you say about your health, and other details that I’d expected there to be rigorous proof required for.
But hurdle it I did and then the realities of “managed care” emerged. First, I had to “choose a plan” from the two available in my area at the time. Health Alliance Connect had 947 primary care providers, 294 specialists and 25 hospitals in their network, no co-pays, and the absurd “four prescriptions per month” rule (I take six) doesn’t apply. Illinois Partnership for Health had 857 PCPs, 6501 specialists, and 63 hospitals, but they said nothing definitive about co-pays and the four-drug rule did apply to anyone over age 19. I chose Health Alliance Connect.
Though it took me two months to find and book an appointment with the same doctor I’d seen in September, one of the few who was accepting new Medicaid patients, the Health Alliance customer support phone line was extremely helpful in straightening out the bad listings in their directory and dealing with my growing fear of esophageal varices getting set to rupture as I was still unchecked and now knew I would be until sometime in January.
At my appointment on January 15 with Dr. Baker, she assured me she’d refer me to the gastroenterologist (Dr. William Peterson) I’d chosen after doing extensive research into the specialists available in my network and concluding that his education, experience, and approach was the best in the area – I left feeling relieved that I would soon be in good hands with an endoscope checking out those varices and banding the ones about to blow.
Unfortunately, that was not to be. It seemed Dr. Peterson only took referrals from other doctors at the Springfield Clinic – Dr. Baker was from the SIU School of Medicine and the best she could do for me was to refer me to the area’s ONLY hepatologist, Dr. Fariba Javadi, who was educated in the West Indies, did her internal medicine internship and residency in Albany, NY, a fellowship in hepatology in Houston, TX, and has been practicing for 16 years. Compared to Dr. Peterson’s 34 years experience, all-American education, and double fellowships and Board certifications (internal medicine and gastroenterology), along with my inability to understand accents, be they British, French, Middle Eastern, or American South, I had doubts about whether Dr. Javadi would be a good fit for me.
Though I waited a long time at her office, I was pleased both with Dr. Javadi’s knowledge of my disease and her complete lack of an accent! She seemed to understand completely the urgency of getting me in for an endoscopy as soon as possible and also said she wanted to order an MRI. That surprised me since my Chicago doctors had made do with ultrasounds and CT scans, since my insurance had refused to approve an MRI. Here I was, a Medicaid patient, and she thought she could get approval for an MRI??
The endoscopy was scheduled for March 25 and it was Dr. Javadi’s husband, Dr. Saliminijad (educated in Ghazvin, Iran, fellowship at USC in L.A., 22 years of experience), who unfortunately did have an accent I couldn’t always decipher. But he was friendly, banded four varices, and at least I know that he and my hepatologist can discuss my case over dinner!
There can be no question that I sorely miss Dr. Andrew Albert, my Chicago gastro guy, who got his MD at George Washington University and did his residency at Boston Medical Center and who always made me feel safe, confident in his judgement and abilities, and who respected my choices as well.
But the Medicaid experience is surprising me. I do not ask for help easily and even when it’s given by my family, I rarely escape feeling ashamed that I need it or guilty that I’m cutting into my parents’ resources or my sisters’ inheritances. I expected to feel the shame that many people on Medicaid or any other kind of assistance feel, especially at my age, when the possibility of a whole new “career” is not realistic or, honestly, desired. And then I got the letter confirming my MRI for Friday, April 3.
Far from shame, what I felt was immense gratitude and the blessed silence of the “jackhammer effect” of the constant nerve-jangling pounding and biting that the pressure of “how am I going to pay?” creates. Laurie Simons and Terry Sterrenberg, my friends who made The Healthcare Movie, talk about this as a uniquely American ubiquity and now I get it. I may always feel the presence of the disease I live with, but I no longer worry about being out here alone with no medical care, liver deteriorating unchecked, crises on the horizon. Drs. Baker, Javadi, and Saliminijad are on the job!
Medicaid may be the closest I can get to experiencing what a truly universal healthcare system would be like – I have already paid my “premium” through my taxes, I have no deductibles, co-pays, or co-insurance. It covers 100% of my costs and can’t be denied because of my “pre-existing” condition or in case I get sicker. Even though Illinois made a huge mistake turning it over to private managed care companies who waste millions if not billions in unnecessary steps and administrative procedures, I am so grateful that I have it. Medicaid makes it possible for me to focus on the Healthcare Justice March and it inspires me to continue to fight for the silencing of the jackhammer for everyone!
1/20/2015 – Show Me the Money
Back in 2012, when DUH stood for the Demonstration for Universal Healthcare, I got a permit for a demonstration on the National Mall. I was told repeatedly that it was a “pointless exercise,” a “stupid idea,” that it was “the wrong time” and that “we tried to do that ___ years ago and no one will come.” But the thing that killed that demonstration in the end was NO MONEY.
I was naive then and of all the things I didn’t expect, the most shocking to me was the lack of support from single-payer organizations. I couldn’t understand – this demonstration was for single-payer! Did I not donate to every single-payer effort that asked me to? Did I not pay dues to local and national single-payer organizations, none of which offered an action like this? Did I not support individual activists in their Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and other crowdfunding campaigns? I made $35,000 a year at the time and more than half my income went to pay the high rent and costs of living in Chicago, but I always managed to come up with $10 bucks and occasionally more for a good cause. Was it just that I had no credibility in the community? Had I just not found the right “tipping point?” Was it simply that they didn’t like me?
After I was inspired by Detroit’s “rolling demonstrations” where, in protest of the fascist policies being imposed there, people took to their cars and bottled up the expressways by creeping along slowly across three lanes, the Demonstration became the Drive for Universal Healthcare and at this point, we’ve visited 12 states. We’ve met hundreds of healthcare advocates, as well as those who come to our events out of curiosity. We’ve come to know some “stars” of the single-payer movement. And as I write this, endorsements, both individual and organizational, continue to flow in.
And there have been those on the Walking Their Talk page who have put their money behind their words and intentions. One, I happen to know, gave $10 that she truly couldn’t afford, being the caregiver for her disabled sister and living on a thread – not even a shoestring. Others have been able to give more and have stepped up at the first call. They are ALL heroes to me.
But I’ve spent the better part of two days creating, with Donna’s help, the Money and Walking Their Talk pages on this website, trying to find the key, the trick, the sure thing way to inspire anyone visiting these pages to back their single-payer commitment with cash.
The majority of people who’ve endorsed the March have answered “Maybe” to the question asking if we can count on their financial support. We’ve had 19 firm “No”s and five “Yes”es out of 69 endorsements. But none of the “yes” or “maybe” folks have actually donated.
I’m grateful for EVERY endorsement and for the hundreds who’ve registered to attend, especially those who say they’re bringing a busload. To the three volunteers who’ve signed up, I thank you profusely. But it will all be for naught unless we raise the money we need to pay for everything.
This is the last try I have in me. I’m relying – admittedly perhaps too much – on “if you build it, they will come.” But in order to build it, we need the money. Show us the money. Please. Fundraising Websites – Crowdrise
Our PayPal button is up and running, you can always contribute to the CrowdRise campaign or send a check made out to Healthcare Justice March to 517 S. Park Ave., Springfield, IL 62704.
1/8/2015 – Lessons From The Walking Dead
I confess. I’ve just finished binge-watching four seasons of The Walking Dead on Netflix. I started it out of curiosity, having heard that Michael Rooker was in it. I went to the DePaul/Goodman School of Drama at the same time he did and while I wouldn’t say we were best friends, he wove his own short, bright line in my life’s tapestry just when I needed it most, helping me to get a costume design job for a play he was in when I graduated. I’ve watched his career from afar bemusedly since this sweet man who seemed to squeeze every drop of joy out of life almost always plays evil psychotics, rednecks, racists, and thugs, which held true with his role as Merle Dixon. In any case, though I was sorry to see Merle zombie-fied, watching the show became irresistibly compelling for more than Michael’s performance.
Early on, the “good guy” Rick and the band of survivors he reluctantly leads find themselves struggling not just with putrid, shuffling “walkers” out to eat them, but also with internal struggles over what they must do to survive. Rick is always second-guessing himself about doing “the right thing.” His wife Laurie lives in a state of hypocrisy, having done plenty of the wrong things and yet holding Rick to a standard she could never meet herself. Dale, the senior citizen of the group, and Herschel, a country veterinarian and somewhat mystic wise man, provide the bleeding heart liberal voices, advocating for treating the zombies as if they were just regular folks who are “sick” or “different” – you can almost hear them thinking “living is a human right.” Only in their world, the agonizing choice is deciding whose “living” trumps anyone else’s – do you put your own life first and slam that knife into a walker’s brain or do you keep them locked in a barn and feed them rats, hoping that someday you’ll see a spark of your spouse or child catch hold and burn the “sickness” out?
I found this show, with its absurd premise of a zombie apocalypse to be weirdly relevant to me as an activist. I have often advocated in my writing and my spoken words, that we can no longer afford to be dismissed as bleeding heart liberals – that we must instead become kick-ass liberals that can’t be dismissed or ignored.
The Wrong Right is so good at using our own compassion, passivism, and respect for others against us that they’ve turned us into the zombies – slow, clumsy, with seemingly no tendency to think strategically, certainly no creativity in getting through the barriers they set up, and ending up with our heads whacked off with barely any effort on their part.
I have a different take on the zombie-killing, just as I seem to on healthcare activism. I saw nothing but pitiful misery from the walkers. They weren’t evil – they had no ability to judge right from wrong. They were just hungry. Every time one was killed, I saw it as being freed from that misery. In terms of the activism, as DUH travels around the country, we are often thanked by members of healthcare advocacy groups for “doing something.” We’ve also been encouraged by a number of our Facebook followers expressing the same sentiment about the March. While there will always be great purpose and need for talk – debate, teaching, sharing of ideas – I believe this is the time for action. We’re hungry! We don’t want to continue to be shuffling aimlessly toward a goal we can’t reach. Maybe the Healthcare Justice March and other events being planned to mark Medicare’s 50th can free us from that frustration.
But we do have evil to fight. The medical industrial complex and the 1% live on our misery. But like the “Samauri” Mishonne with her deadly sword, we could fight that human evil as she fought “the Governor” and his megalomaniacal vision of a society he could reign over, which seems eerily close to what the 1% and their toadies want to make of our society. She had no qualms about swinging that sword effectively, be it on zombies or humans; about using two “disarmed” (literally) walkers as camouflage; about using both strategy and force to defeat enemies and protect herself and others. She appeared to me to be the one character who adapted to the horrific reality of the world she lived in without losing herself and without the internal storm that drove others to crazy-time. I hoped that I could find way to do that if I were in that world.
But I’m in this one. A world in which the “Governors” seem intent on collecting us in pits of debt or desperation we can’t climb out of. Like the zombies, we have no super-powers. Like the zombies, our one way to victory is the “overrun” where there are so many of us that they can’t kill us off fast enough. I’m not eating them raw, however – a good grilling and a lot of mayo will do nicely.
These three days (and nights) have been a strange combination of dark, wasteful, illuminating, fun, and achy (that headache you get from too much watching). They certainly took me away from the things that weigh heavily in my “real” life – my mother’s health decline, the neglect of my own health due to not being able to find even a primary care doc who takes new Medicaid patients, how I’m going to fund the next DUH trips, let alone the March, when I can’t even pay my phone bill. But it’s time to get back, as they say – I have work to do. And maybe there’s somewhere here where I could learn to swing a big sword…you know, just in case.
1/1/2015 – Our Victory Year
So the new year has begun. As we settle in to watch bowl games, movies, finish those holiday leftovers, or perhaps do some Internet shopping, I wonder if this year will turn out to be one of significant progress, growth, and success.
There are those who would sneeringly say, “Are you nuts?? Republicans control both chambers of Congress—there’s NO WAY they’ll even allow mention of single-payer, let alone support it enough to get it out of committee.”
My reply to that is “So what?” Are we just supposed to give up? Slink off spinelessly, apologizing for even thinking it might be possible?
“It’s not time,” others say. “We should regroup and wait for a better time politically.”
And when would that “perfect” time be? Right now we are seeing people wake up, shake off complacency, and become activists for other causes—why not healthcare? As more and more are finding out that being “insured” means paying and paying and paying and still not getting the care and treatment they need, what better time to make our outrage known? There will never be a perfect time, but if we focus more on the desperation and anger of we, the people, and less on who’s controlling Congress, we have a chance to make 2015 a year of victory.
Victory. What does that mean? To me, the ultimate victory will be when the first generation of babies are born who will receive their U.S. healthcare number and grow up never knowing what a medical bill is. But there will be smaller victories along the way.
There will be the victory of declassification—the end of dividing each other into races, ethnicities, religions, political parties, geographic areas, education levels, and economic conditions. We ALL suffer the injustice of our current healthcare system. We need to quit playing “I have it worse than you do” and realize that the only people who have it good are those with the money to buy the medical providers, hospitals, tests, treatments, and cures that the majority of us are denied because we can’t afford them.
There will be the victory of alliances between groups that are now conditioned to believe each other are opposing forces. Business owners and employees, unions and management, patients and pharmaceutical companies, liberals and conservatives, and many more. Healthcare has caused an epidemic of enmity between people who really share essentially the same interests and concerns. Time for us to realize the power in that.
There will be the victory of empowerment, especially (I hope) on August 1 in Washington, D.C. when thousands of people who have been or will be victimized by the current system come together and yell, “NO MORE!” In feeling the power of numbers, in demanding, not asking, for a healthcare system based on the needs of the people instead of profit, and in rejecting any further victimization, we will be strengthened, fueled to take the fight further in the knowledge that we, too, can be “too big to fail!”
So you have a choice to make. You can continue to sit and watch, smug in your belief that we can never win even the smallest victory—a good bet, a safe, if cynical, choice for which no one will ever call you nuts.
Or you can dare to buck the odds, to go out on a particularly shaky limb, and reach for the Big Victory. Sure, it’s not safe; it’s not logical; and we may truly be nuts, but one thing is certain—no one will ever be able to truthfully say, “The U.S. has no healthcare because back in 2015 when they had a chance of getting it done, no one even tried.”
It may be shaky out on this limb, but we’re trying.
12/5/14 – Not Until We Get It Right
In a piece in The Hill’s overnight brief on healthcare, it was reported that New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer is now one of several Democrats who are questioning the “political cost” of the ACA.
Political cost? What about the physical, financial, and quality of life costs we out here are now forced to pay because they hung the public option out to dry and instead created a system that, in ACA co-author Tom Harkin’s own words, is “complex, convoluted, needs probably some corrections and still rewards the insurance companies extensively.”
I, as a single-payer activist, hear the rallying cry. If Democrats are publicly questioning the law, what better opportunity can we have to encourage those who are critical of it, target those who are fence-sitting, and maybe even win over some Republicans who are smart enough to recognize the political value of at least a public option?
One disturbing detail in the article was the prevalence of statements by such Democratic leaders as Schumer, Jon Tester, and Steve Israel that the party must now “focus on the middle class” instead of the poor who are dismissed as “not reliable voters.”
Granted, those low income people have earned that distinction by their lack of political engagement, but seriously, who cares about who’s in Washington when you’re hungry, don’t have a roof over your head, or are exhausted by the three jobs you’re working in order to pay the bill for your health insurance, medications, rotten teeth, and mental health services? Those politicians don’t give a shit – why should you?
It’s been awhile since Democrats were truly “the party of the people.” Is it our responsibility to remind them what they stand for? YES! Just as it’s our responsibility to launch a strategic, cohesive offensive of healthcare activism.
It starts with each of us writing letters, emails, making phone calls to our elected legislators. It continues with each of our organizations putting aside petty operational, philosophical, or ideological differences and supporting each and every method, effort, and action that calls attention to the crisis of healthcare and moves our cause forward. It is sustained by our commitment – of time, skills, resources, and yes, money. It is continuously rejuvenated by reaching out beyond our “choir,” inviting and welcoming new members to our tribe. It is celebrated and encouraged every time we create an opportunity for us all to come together and share ideas, energy, and inspiration. And it lives because there are enough of us who won’t let it die, who won’t give up no matter how overwhelming the odds are against us.
Yes, I want the Healthcare Justice March to be such an opportunity. But I also hope that just as change will come by questioning the worth of the ACA, change and advancement of the single-payer cause will come because we have the courage and honesty to look to our past, questioning and changing what hasn’t been working and trying new ways. We can be true to what we believe as individuals while still being a fierce and unrelenting fighting force. Yes, it will take fighting. We cannot be polite and reasonable. We can’t be pushovers who give the medical industrial complex a fair chance to change. They’ve had decades and generations and they’ve only gotten greedier and more destructive and we’ve let them. Time to say NO.
Vermont Democrat Peter Welch is quoted as saying, “The law is the law…we did it and it’s done. We’ve got to move on.”
No. Not until we get it right.