Tag Archives: Universal Health Care

Overheard at the US Drug Pharmacy Counter: Greed in Action

Overheard at the US Drug Pharmacy Counter: Greed in Action

At our local pharmacy counter, we often hear way too many stories of trauma and anger as people try to negotiate through a for-profit health care system that fights to keep profits growing ever higher by denying medications. We know our struggles are shared because we cannot help but overhear other patients and family members arguing the same issues. And we watch as pharmacists try to fix the messes, offer discount cards to the uninsured, and find ways to assist people who are being denied medications they truly need.

The issue of Americans taking way too many drugs can remain for another day, though it is important to the story too. It is the great push-me-pull-me of the for-profit health system in America. One huge profit-making entity wants sales to rise while another needs usage to drop to increase its profits. Drug companies want sales; insurance companies do not want claims for medications. Providers want patients to receive treatment and procedures; insurance companies want people never to get sick or hurt and need care. Patients are caught in the middle or worse. Patients don’t always know who to trust at all as it seems everyone has his or her finger in the health industry pie of profits.

My husband fought for more than two weeks to get an insurance denial resolved for one of his medications. His Medicare Part D is managed by Humana, and Humana felt that his doctor’s orders should be second-guessed. So, the company approved only half the month’s worth of meds and left my husband to fend for himself or pay in full to take the prescription as ordered. The doctor tried to reason with Humana. No luck. Finally, as the days ticked down to my husband having no pills left to take, his doctor came up with the idea to write a new prescription for one pill each day at double the dosage prescribed earlier. The claim went through.

So, ordering a patient to take two 5 mg tablets each day was denied while ordering one 10 mg tablet daily was approved. And this cost everyone in terms of personnel costs, etc. Mostly, though, it trapped my husband in the middle between his doctor, the insurance company, and the pharmacist who was taking all the heat as the first line of defense or at least the place where the denials are communicated for medications. And while waiting for his now-approved tablet to be approved, my husband heard the pharmacist apologize to another person because the cost for one medication the person was picking up for his sister had risen in costs to over $500 per month.

We need a transformed system under which we can negotiate the best prices for needed medications and care. An improved and expanded Medicare for all for life model would do just that. Providers could be paid fairly under such a system without the need to build in costs for expensive administration like the abomination we now have playing out every minute of every day at pharmacy counters and in provider offices all across America.

Today’s count of the health care dead and broke for profit in the U.S.:

The 2013, to date, U.S. medical-financial-
industrial -complex system dead: 24,610

The 2013, to date, U.S. health care system
bankrupt: 394,610

** These figures are calculated based on the Harvard University studies on excess deaths in the U.S. due to lack of insurance coverage or the ability to pay for needed health care, and the Harvard University study that calculated the high percentage of personal bankruptcies attributable to medical crisis and debt in the U.S. 123 people die daily due to lack of coverage or cash to pay for care; 1,978 go bankrupt every day due to medical crisis and debt though the majority had insurance at the time their illness or injury occurred. This statistic is also based on the 1.2 million bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2012, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and calculating those medically-related bankruptcies from that number.http://www.healthcareforallcolorado.org/endorse_right_to_health_care

Deb Richter: A Cure for Broken Health Care

Yes! a non-profit subscriber supported magazine, with in-depth analysis, tools for citizen engagement, and stories about real people working for a better world recently published The Yes Breakthrough 15 their list of people transforming the way we live.

Dr. Deb. Richter made their list for her advocacy of single payer healthcare in Vermont. Last May, Vermont became the first state in the nation to pass a single-payer health care plan.

“I never felt like I had a choice about getting involved in this struggle … I couldn’t stop and I never will.” —Dr. Deb Richter

In her interview with Yes!, Dr. Richter explains, “A lot of my patients didn’t have insurance. I would prescribe medicines for patients but they wouldn’t be able to afford them, and then they would just get sicker. I was mortified…I knew I couldn’t continue to practice if this situation continued. I didn’t want medicine to just be for wealthy people.”

“This will be an enormous change for people without insurance,” says Richter of the Vermont bill, which will guarantee every resident an essential health benefit package from birth. Read more…

Sick Around The World | An Examination of 5 Capitalist Democracies with Universal Health Care

Ah, the possibilities of an open mind.

Other rich countries have universal health care. FRONTLINE teams up with T.R. Reid, a veteran foreign correspondent for “The Washington Post,”   in “Sick Around the World,” to find out how five other capitalist democracies–United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland–deliver health care and what the United States might learn from their successes and their failures.

Watch the whole show online at http://www.pbs.org/frontline/sickaroundtheworld/ Share widely. Read more…

More from last Wednesday’s Senate Health Committee vote

Read California Healthline’s roundup of last Wednesday’s successful vote on SB 810:

Friday, May 06, 2011

Senate Health Committee Moves Single-Payer Bill

by David Gorn
Many dozens of single-payer supporters crammed the Senate Committee on Health chambers on Wednesday for hearing on a bill that would set up a single-payer health system in California.
The supporters were respectful and emphatic as they all stepped, one by one, up to the microphone to voice their support for such a model. After all of the advocates took their turn and returned to their seats, Senate Health Committee Chair Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) wanted to know if there were any more speakers, so he politely asked if there was anyone else in the audience who was in favor of the bill.
And a sea of hands went up, as nearly everyone in the audience spontaneously and quietly raised their hands.

That has been the history of single-payer legislation in California, with enthusiastic, almost fervid, support of it by many citizens and organizations in the state, but a tepid, almost embarrassed, reception by many lawmakers.

Read more…

SB 810 Passes Senate Health Committee

Facing possible extinction for the first time in four years, the single payer bill SB 810 pulled through, passing the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday on a 5-3 vote, state Sen. Mark Leno’s office reported. Up until a couple of days ago, committee chair Sen. Ed Hernandez had been undecided, putting the bill in jeopardy. But intense pressure from single payer advocates across the state and a massive phone campaign finally secured a “yes” vote from Hernandez. In addition, hundreds of single payer supporters descended upon the Capitol in Sacramento to attend the hearing.

Leno’s office released the following statement after the vote:

“California is being overrun by out-of-control health care costs, which has a significant impact on the state budget, businesses and families,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “Our single payer plan not only guarantees universal coverage for all Californians, but also contains health care costs, which is essential to solving our state budget crisis in the long term.”

SB 810 creates a private-public partnership to provide every California resident medical, dental, vision, hospitalization and prescription drug benefits and allows patients to choose their own doctors and hospitals.

Read more…

California State Senators Urged to Back SB 810

Pressure is building on two Democratic state Senators on the Senate Health Committee to get them to change their minds on the single payer health care bill, SB 810. The bill is scheduled for a hearing before the committee this Wednesday after being postponed from last week. Committee chairperson Sen. Ed Hernandez (Los Angeles) is publicly saying he has not decided how he will vote on the bill, while Sen. Michael Rubio (Fresno) has said he will vote “no.” If Hernandez also votes no, SB 810 will have died in the state Senate for the first time after having successfully passed the chamber the last three years. Last year, SB 810, sponsored by San Francisco-area state Sen. Mike Leno, passed the state Senate, but died in the Assembly.

The liberal grassroots advocacy group, Democracy for America, has sent out an alert to its membership calling on them to flood Hernandez and Rubio’s offices with phone calls:

“On Tuesday the Vermont Senate passed a bill that puts the Green Mountain State on the path to a single-payer health care system, and next week California’s Senate Health Committee has the same opportunity on May 4th.

Read more…

Vermont Clears Another Hurdle; Is California’s SB 810 In Trouble?

It looks like California and Vermont could go on two different trajectories in America’s battle for healthcare equality. On Tuesday, the Vermont Senate approved by 21-9 health reform legislation that would create a single payer system in the state. Once the bill is reconciled by both chambers of the Vermont legislature, it will land on Gov. Peter Shumlin’s desk. Shumlin is a strong supporter of single payer.

Meanwhile, in our state of California, SB 810 could be in jeopardy. Wednesday’s scheduled hearing in the state Senate Health Committee was postponed to May 4. According to single payer advocacy group, Single Payer Central, two Democratic members on the committee – chairman Ed Hernandez and member Michael Rubio – are apparently wavering on the bill:

The Senate Health Committee was scheduled to discuss SB 810 on Wednesday, April 27 at 1:30pm. The Health Committee meeting has now been postponed to Wednesday, May 4th at 1:30pm. Read more…

Nobel Laureate Endorses Single Payer

Here’s what Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has to say about single payer, in an interview published in The Times of India:

Why have you been pitching for a single payer system for health insurance rather than a system where several private companies compete?The US model of private health insurers has been proven inefficient and expensive. Insurance companies have a very strong incentive to do cream skimming. They make more money figuring out the high cost and low cost people. Rather than provide better healthcare at lower costs, insurance companies innovate at finding better ways of discrimination. They are inefficient because they are trying to figure out how to insure people who don’t need the cover and keep out people who need it. With many companies, they also need to spend on marketing and advertising. The incentives are all wrong and the transaction costs are very high and you have to give them a high profit.

Read more…