Cosmas and Damian: Patron Saints of Universal Health Care

Saints Cosmas and Damian

Martyr. Patron saints of doctors. According to legend, these two early Christian martyrs were twins. Born in Arabia, they are said to have studied medicine in Syria. They then set up a practice in Aegeae, in Cilicia.

They were considered brilliant at their work, but what set them apart from other doctors at the time, was their refusal to charge any fees for their services. They believed that as Christians this was the best form of charity they could practice.

During the Diocletian persecutions, Lysias, the governor of Cilicia, had them arrested and tried. They were hung on crosses and a mob stoned them. Archers then shot them with arrows. Finally they were cut down and beheaded. This took place around 303AD.

The bodies of the two doctors were taken to Syria and buried at Cyrrhus.

In later years many people, including the Emperor Justinian I, would dream of these two saints when ill. In the dreams the doctors would advise patients on treatments and many healings took place after the dreams.

Justinian built a church in their honour in the city of Constantinople. A basilica at Cyrrhus and another in Rome was also dedicated to them. Their names are mentioned in the Roman Canon of the Mass. —Independent Catholic News

Why It Makes Jesus Cry When UnitedHealthcare Screws People

By Rose Berger and Heidi Thompson

This week UnitedHealthcare told a young stroke victim that her health insurance with them does not include the rehabilitation necessary for her to walk, eat, or speak again.

This “hip, young, vibrant and beautiful woman,” as her sister described her to us, entered the hospital in December. After more than a month in recovery from a highly unusual massive cerebral stroke, her sister said that UnitedHealthcare has now “pulled the plug on her rehab and is sending her home with me.”

The victim’s sister, who prefers to remain anonymous, does not live in the same state; nor is she equipped to provide the care needed. “My sister cannot walk, stand, wash, toilet herself, count or read, and speaks only garbled phrases.” The hospital insists that it will discharge her, or start to bill her sister daily, even though she has told them repeatedly that her “only current option is to take her to a handicapped-accessible motel room.”

When insurance representatives were questioned on the wisdom – or basic human decency – of sending her incapacitated sister home with her to a motel, she was told “this is a ‘social problem’ not a ‘medical problem’ and thus, the insurer has no duty to continue rehab.”

Whoa, United Healthcare! You think that’s a “social problem”?

Denial of coverage for this young American woman who worked for and earned her health coverage is not a social problem.  It’s a “criminal problem.” It’s called stealing from the sick to feed the greed of the rich. Sadly, this is not an isolated case. In 2009, UnitedHealthcare in New York was investigated and found seriously wanting. Rather than go to court, UHC coughed up$350 million to settle the class-action suit. In 2007, UHC agreed to pay the largest settlement in the Nebraska Dept. of Insurance’s history when UHC was found to have violated 18 Nebraska laws more than 800 times in a one-year period. My conclusion is that UHC has a “criminal problem.” But we’ll let the lawyers and courts sort that one out.

However, we can tell you what definitely is a social problem: the fact that across America today there are thousands of people who have insurance, yet are denied care.

Another social problem is that our elected officials appear impotent in the face of health insurance companies’ power and swagger. While we are glad for the tiny baby steps forward with the health care reform legislation that we Americans achieved last year, this sad story shows how far we have yet to go.

For-profit health insurance companies, no matter what reforms or regulations we put in place, are not the answer. By their very definition, health insurance companies profit by denying sick people medical care.

That’s the way insurance works. You pay the insurer, betting that at some point you will get sick and you will need care. The insurer takes your money but doesn’t take care of you when you do get sick, at least if the insurer is UnitedHealthcare. As health care advocate Donna Smith said in a recent column, “Americans know that health insurance is not health care.” In this case, UnitedHealthcare has once again made the point.

“Writing a check to Blue Cross or Humana or Aetna or Cigna or UnitedHealthcare,” says Smith, “is not any guarantee at all of anything except that we’ve sent money to an insurance company. That’s it. Armies of administrative people make sure they guard the gates to the actual delivery of health care. The generals who make sure those administrative soldiers hold the line are far behind the scenes in white coats and locked offices to make sure no insurgent patients without payment in place actually get near them. In the health care delivery world, the disconnect between those who would give us care and those of us who need it is systemic and growing worse.”

But back to our original point. Why does this make Jesus cry? Unquestionably one of Jesus’ hallmark characteristics was his concern for and ministry with the sick. From healing the lepers and the woman with an issue of blood to healing Jairus’ daughter and the Roman soldier, Jesus publically called to account the levitical “health care” system of his time.

The religious purity laws of the day — what we might call “pre-existing conditions” — created “a system of social boundaries,” writes biblical scholar Richard Ascough, which served “to remove socioeconomically burdensome populations, and especially the chronically ill, from society.” What the system said was just not possible to heal, Jesus showed was very possible with few resources and a little compassion. It wasn’t that the system didn’t have the ability or finances to heal the sick; it was that the system didn’t care.

“I am enraged, bewildered, and powerless to take on the U.S. health ‘care’ system,” this young woman’s sister told us. She has left phone messages with her UHC “inpatient Care Manager” faxed letters requesting a written explanation for why coverage has been denied. To date, she has not heard back. “I want people to know what it means in basic human terms to watch a loved one sent home when medical help might give her back some minimum quality of life.”

Somewhere tonight we’re sure a UnitedHealthcare insurance representative is praying for forgiveness for what he or she has done to this young woman who is sick and needs support. We’re equally sure that Jesus will offer that forgiveness — but not without shedding a tear.

You’ve Got Mail: Barack Sends His Thanks to YOU

President Barack Obama signs the healthcare reform bill Tuesday in the White House as 11-year-old Marcellus Owens looks on. CHARLES DHARAPAK / AP
President Barack Obama signs the healthcare reform bill Tuesday in the White House as 11-year-old Marcellus Owens looks on. CHARLES DHARAPAK / AP

This morning I had a doctor’s appointment at Kaiser. I was sitting in the waiting room when the CBS special report came on the TV announcing that the President of the United States was making a speech before he signed into law historic legislation to reform how health care is delivered in this country.

All the hum of talk died down and everyone turned toward the television. “It’s about time,” said one. “Them Southern states are gonna fight it,” said another. “Let ’em try,” chimed in some one else. “Is this gonna help with my mother’s prescriptions?” somebody asked. And the whole room cried out, “Yes!”

When President Obama finally signed the bill (and signed and signed and signed it with all those “historic” pens), everyone sitting around me gave a little cheer — nurses, patients, doctors, janitors, everybody.

In the President’s speech today, he thanked YOU. Because it’s been the push from every corner of the country that kept health care reform from dying. It’s not a perfect bill. It’s not universal coverage. It leaves out the undocumented workers among us. But in order to build a new house, you first have to pour a foundation. That’s what this bill is — a solid foundation on which to build. I know you all are working hard out there on many issues that you care about. But take a moment to savor this change and to drink in a President of the United States telling you thanks for your good work. Here’s an excerpt from his speech:

After a century of striving, after a year of debate, after a historic vote, health care reform is no longer an unmet promise.  It is the law of the land.  It is the law of the land.   And although it may be my signature that’s affixed to the bottom of this bill, it was your work, your commitment, your unyielding hope that made this victory possible.  When the special interests deployed an army of lobbyists, an onslaught of negative ads, to preserve the status quo, you didn’t give up.  You hit the phones and you took to the streets.  You mobilized and you organized.  You turned up the pressure and you kept up the fight. When the pundits were obsessing over who was up and who was down, you never lost sight of what was right and what was wrong.  You knew this wasn’t about the fortunes of a party — this was about the future of our country.

And when the opposition said this just wasn’t the right time, you didn’t want to wait another year, or another decade, or another generation for reform.  You felt the fierce urgency of now. You met the lies with truth.  You met cynicism with conviction.  Most of all, you met fear with a force that’s a lot more powerful — and that is faith in America.  You met it with hope.  Despite decades in which Washington failed to tackle our toughest challenges, despite the smallness of so much of what passes for politics these days, despite those who said that progress was impossible, you made people believe that people who love this country can still change it.  So this victory is not mine — it is your victory.  It’s a victory for the United States of America.

For two years on the campaign trail, and for the past year as we’ve worked to reform our system of health insurance, it’s been folks like you who have propelled this movement and kept us fixed on what was at stake in this fight.  And rarely has a day gone by that I haven’t heard from somebody personally — whether in a letter, or an email, or at a town hall — who’s reminded me of why it was so important that we not give up; who reminded me why we could not quit. …

Now, as long a road as this has been, we all know our journey is far from over.  There’s still the work to do to rebuild this economy.  There’s still work to do to spur on hiring.  There’s work to do to improve our schools and make sure every child has a decent education.  There’s still work to do to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  There’s more work to do to provide greater economic security to a middle class that has been struggling for a decade. So this victory does not erase the many serious challenges we face as a nation.  Those challenges have been allowed to linger for years, even decades, and we’re not going to solve them all overnight.

But as we tackle all these other challenges that we face, as we continue on this journey, we can take our next steps with new confidence, with a new wind at our backs — because we know it’s still possible to do big things in America —  because we know it’s still possible to rise above the skepticism, to rise above the cynicism, to rise above the fear; because we know it’s still possible to fulfill our duty to one another and to future generations.  So, yes, this has been a difficult two years.  There will be difficult days ahead.  But let us always remember the lesson of this day — and the lesson of history — that we, as a people, do not shrink from a challenge.  We overcome it.  We don’t shrink from our responsibilities.  We embrace it.  We don’t fear the future.  We shape the future.  That’s what we do.  That’s who we are.  That makes us the United States of America.

Read the whole address here.

More Healthcare: Leading U.S. Catholic Newspaper Stands With Sisters on Healthcare

hcr-is-pro-lifeIn more late-breaking news, the nation’s leading Catholic newspaper the National Catholic Reporter, released an editorial backing the passage of the current health-care reform bill before Congress. “Congress, and its Catholics, should say yes to health care reform,” states NCR.

This move aligns NCR with thousands of Catholic sisters and millions of lay Catholics (see Catholic Nuns Pick Up Where Bishops Fall Down) , but puts it at odds with U.S. Catholic bishops, who said earlier this week that they could not support the current bill.

We do not reach this conclusion as easily as one might think, given the fact that we have supported universal health care for decades, as have the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Health Association and other official and non-official organs of the Catholic church. There are, to be sure, grave problems with the bill the House will consider in the next few days. It maintains the squirrelly system of employer-based health care coverage that impedes cost reduction. Its treatment of undocumented workers is shameful. It is unnecessarily complicated, even Byzantine, in some of its provisions. It falls short of providing true universal coverage.

Nevertheless, NCR sees passing healthcare reform as a giant step forward in correcting a failed system and putting the country on the right track for continued improvements. NCR acknowledges that much of the heated debate as we get closer to victory will be around the abortion issue.

All sides agreed to abide by the spirit of the Hyde Amendment, which for more than 30 years has banned federal funding of abortion. But the Hyde Amendment applies to government programs only, and trying to fit its stipulations to a private insurance marketplace is a bit like putting a potato skin on an apple. Pro-choice advocates could not understand why a government that currently subsidizes abortion coverage through the tax code should balk at subsidizing private plans that cover abortion in the insurance exchanges the bill establishes. They have a point. Pro-life groups understandably worry that opening the door to federal funding of abortion, even indirectly, risks further encroachments on Hyde. They have a point, too.

NCR also addresses the diverging opinions this week between the pro-passage stance taken by Catholic Health Association and Network, a Catholic social justice lobby representing more than 59,000 Catholic sisters and the anti-passage stance taken by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. I appreciated NCR delineating the different roles each sector plays.

[The Catholic Health Association] actually knows how health care is provided at the ground level. The USCCB’s inside-the-beltway analysis is focused on possible scenarios, many of them worst-case scenarios. The U.S. bishops’ conference is right to worry about such things and the sisters are right to put those worries in perspective.

In the final analysis, NCR reiterates that the current legislation is not “pro-abortion,” and there is “no, repeat no, federal funding of abortion in the bill.”

What is being debated is not the morality of abortion but the politics of abortion, concludes NCR, and there is plenty of room for honest and respectful disagreement among Catholics about politics. Amen to that!

Healthcare: Catholic Nuns Pick Up Where Bishops Fall Down

Sr. Carol Keehan, Catholic Health Association president
Sr. Carol Keehan, Catholic Health Association president

This week as seen a bizarre split in Catholic allegiances on passing the health care bill. On Monday, 15 March, U.S. Catholic bishops, who have been a strong, clear, and powerful advocate for health care reform have backed off from it over concerns that the language written by pro-life Dems Ben Nelson and Bob Casey doesn’t go far enough in preventing federal funding for abortion.

The bishops announced that they must “regretfully hold that it must be opposed unless and until these serious moral problems are addressed.” Yesterday, Catholic commentator E.J. Dionne wrote in his Washington Post column:

Yet on the make-or-break roll call that will determine the fate of health-care reform, bishops are urging that the bill be voted down. They are doing so on the basis of a highly tendentious reading of the abortion provisions in the Senate measure. If health reform is defeated, the bishops will have played a major role in its demise.

What a shame! But, where the Catholic bishops have dropped the banner, American Catholic sisters have picked it up.

Sister Carol Keehan, President and CEO of the Catholic Health Association (the largest Catholic health organization in the country, representing 1200 Catholic health facilities and 800,000 employees), issued a statement (The Time is Now for Health Reform) on Monday, maintaining support for the health care bill and explaining how the current provisions will work:

The bill now being considered allows people buying insurance through an exchange to use federal dollars in the form of tax credits and their own dollars to buy a policy that covers their health care. If they choose a policy with abortion coverage, then they must write a separate personal check for the cost of that coverage.

There is a requirement that the insurance companies be audited annually to assure that the payment for abortion coverage fully covers the administrative and clinical costs, that the payment is held in a separate account from other premiums, and that there are no federal dollars used.

In addition, there is a wonderful provision in the bill that provides $250 million over 10 years to pay for counseling, education, job training and housing for vulnerable women who are pregnant or parenting. Another provision provides a substantial increase in the adoption tax credit and funding for adoption assistance programs.

Two days after Sr. Keehan’s statement of support for the health care bill, more Catholic sisters representing hundreds of communities sent letters to Congress also in support of passing the health care bill.

NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, headed up by Sr. Simone Campbell, released the text of the letter they delivered to each member of Congress on St. Patrick’s Day. NETWORK represents 59,000 Catholic sisters and more lay Catholics.

We write to urge you to cast a life-affirming “yes” vote when the Senate health care bill (H.R. 3590) comes to the floor of the House for a vote as early as this week. We join the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), which represents 1,200 Catholic sponsors, systems, facilities and related organizations, in saying: the time is now for health reform AND the Senate bill is a good way forward.

As the heads of major Catholic women’s religious order in the United States, we represent 59,000 Catholic Sisters in the United States who respond to needs of people in many ways. Among our other ministries we are responsible for running many of our nation’s hospital systems as well as free clinics throughout the country. …

The health care bill that has been passed by the Senate and that will be voted on by the House will expand coverage to over 30 million uninsured Americans. While it is an imperfect measure, it is a crucial next step in realizing health care for all. It will invest in preventative care. It will bar insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. It will make crucial investments in community health centers that largely serve poor women and children. And despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions. It will uphold longstanding conscience protections and it will make historic new investments – $250 million – in support of pregnant women. This is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it.

Of course, as all this plays out, conservatives against health care reform — including Americans United for Life, which is running a $350,000 ad campaign aimed at eight Democratic lawmakers who supported the Stupak-Pitt’s amendment which prohibited federal funding for abortion and allowed individuals to purchase private insurance that may or may not cover abortions — are cranking back up their machines and may be strong-arming behind the scenes to push House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (also a Catholic) toward the “deem to pass” or “self-executing” option.

CHA president Sr. Keehan wrote for Sojourners last November. I appreciated her clear, concise, and profoundly educated approach when she said:

“Health care must respect and protect human dignity from conception to natural death. In that spirit, coverage for everyone is a moral imperative and a matter of social justice.”

Once again, I’m proud to see Catholic women leading the way toward sane and humane governance and policy.

‘When Fortune Turns Against One of Us …”: In Defense of Liberalism

cardboardcityorigLast night, at the end of his health care speech, President Obama gave one of the great defenses of the modern Liberal political tradition — the important role that government has to play in defending liberty and providing for the common good.

He layed out a healthcare reform platform that sets in place a cushion for those times “when forture turns against one of us.” It’s an organized way of making sure that we are “there to lend a helping hand.” We do this because it is right, because it makes us better human beings, because it’s spiritually enlivening, because it is fiscally appropriate, and because it’s what we want someone to do for us and our kids if we ever need it.

In some ways, the reactionary town-hall tiffs orchestrated by a few folks on the Far-Right forced Obama to teach a national civics lesson. Sixth grade civics covers the meaning of citizenship; how citizens exercise roles, rights, responsibilities of civic duty at local, state, and national levels; how power, responsibility, and authority are distributed, shared, and limited; the purpose, organization, and function of local, state, and national government, etc.

Obama framed the end of his speech with excerpts from a letter from Ted Kennedy: “What we face,” Kennedy wrote, “is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.”

Here’s the last section of Obama’s speech:

Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it the most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true.

That is why we cannot fail. Because there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed — the ones who suffer silently, and the ones who shared their stories with us at town halls, in e-mails, and in letters.

I received one of those letters a few days ago. It was from our beloved friend and colleague, Ted Kennedy. He had written it back in May, shortly after he was told that his illness was terminal. He asked that it be delivered upon his death.

In it, he spoke about what a happy time his last months were, thanks to the love and support of family and friends, his wife, Vicki, his amazing children, who are all here tonight. And he expressed confidence that this would be the year that health care reform — “that great unfinished business of our society,” he called it — would finally pass. He repeated the truth that health care is decisive for our future prosperity, but he also reminded me that “it concerns more than material things.” “What we face,” he wrote, “is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.”

I’ve thought about that phrase quite a bit in recent days — the character of our country. One of the unique and wonderful things about America has always been our self-reliance, our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government. And figuring out the appropriate size and role of government has always been a source of rigorous and, yes, sometimes angry debate. That’s our history.

For some of Ted Kennedy’s critics, his brand of liberalism represented an affront to American liberty. In their minds, his passion for universal health care was nothing more than a passion for big government.

But those of us who knew Teddy and worked with him here — people of both parties — know that what drove him was something more. His friend Orrin Hatch — he knows that. They worked together to provide children with health insurance. His friend John McCain knows that. They worked together on a Patient’s Bill of Rights. His friend Chuck Grassley knows that. They worked together to provide health care to children with disabilities.

On issues like these, Ted Kennedy’s passion was born not of some rigid ideology, but of his own experience. It was the experience of having two children stricken with cancer. He never forgot the sheer terror and helplessness that any parent feels when a child is badly sick. And he was able to imagine what it must be like for those without insurance, what it would be like to have to say to a wife or a child or an aging parent, there is something that could make you better, but I just can’t afford it.

That large-heartedness — that concern and regard for the plight of others — is not a partisan feeling. It’s not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character — our ability to stand in other people’s shoes; a recognition that we are all in this together, and when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand; a belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgment that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.

This has always been the history of our progress. In 1935, when over half of our seniors could not support themselves and millions had seen their savings wiped away, there were those who argued that Social Security would lead to socialism, but the men and women of Congress stood fast, and we are all the better for it. In 1965, when some argued that Medicare represented a government takeover of health care, members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans — did not back down. They joined together so that all of us could enter our golden years with some basic peace of mind.

You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter — that at that point we don’t merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.

That was true then. It remains true today. I understand how difficult this health care debate has been. I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them. I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road — to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.

But that is not what the moment calls for. That’s not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it’s hard. I still believe — I still believe that we can act when it’s hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test.

Because that’s who we are. That is our calling. That is our character. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Read the whole transcript here.

Beyond Health Care Debate to Viable Reform

James Smith, left, waits at the Wise County Fairgrounds to access a health clinic that offers free medical, dental, and vision care on a first-come, first-served basis, so lines start early and get long quickly. By Michael Williamson (Washington Post)
James Smith, left, waits at the Wise County Fairgrounds (VA) to access a health clinic that offers free medical, dental, and vision care on a first-come, first-served basis, so lines start early and get long quickly. By Michael Williamson (Washington Post)

Below is a good article, A Leading Health Researcher Looks Beyond the Reform Debate, on health care reform options beyond the hype. It’s out of the RAND Corporation – which has used its excellent researcher skills for ill (e.g. how to more effectively kill North Vietnamese and the most efficient way to nuke Soviets), rather than good at times.

But much of RAND’s current research provides balanced look at economic realities and long-term viability. RAND is going to err on the side of what’s good for business rather than care for “the least of these,” but it’s important to have as much information as possible as we wade through the issues.

I’d also recommend checking the RAND Compare Web site and and their hot health care legislation issues Web site for more on sorting through the health care debate.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Meet Elizabeth McGlynn.  Associate director of RAND Health and one of the top 100 U.S. health care “innovators,” according to healthspottr.com, McGlynn is also codirector of the Comprehensive Assessment of Reform Efforts (COMPARE) initiative, which includes an online tool, developed at RAND, to help policymakers, the press, and others understand, evaluate, and design proposals for health care reform, not just for the current legislative session but also over the long term.

“Much of the information being provided in the health care debate comes from individuals or organizations that are advocates or opponents of particular ideas for fixing the health care system,” said McGlynn. In contrast, the COMPARE initiative offers “objective analysis from a neutral third party about the likely effects of policy choices on cost, quality, and access at the national level and for different stakeholders.”

She explained that the health care debate in Washington today revolves around two of the key pressing issues: expanding health insurance coverage and decreasing health care costs. “There is a philosophical debate about how best to fix the system,” said McGlynn. “Some people believe we should get everyone covered and that this will make it easier to control costs. Others believe that until we figure out how to reduce health care spending, we should not bring anyone new into the system.” McGlynn went on to observe that both issues, coverage and cost, would have to be addressed simultaneously.

Another key issue – health care quality – has received less attention in the current health reform discussion than have coverage and cost. Numerous RAND studies have shown that the United States faces a substantial gap between what is known to work in health care and what is actually provided. For example, McGlynn and colleagues have shown that American adults receive just half of recommended care for the leading causes of death and disability and that American children receive less than half of necessary care.

Read more here.

‘The Ethics of Sustainable Healthcare Reform’

27462-clipart-illustration-of-a-stethoscope-up-against-planet-earth-on-the-african-continent-symbolizing-world-heath-or-ecologyHere’s an interesting article The Ethics of Sustainable Healthcare Reform by bioethicist Jessica Pierce and Dan Bednarz, co-editor of Health after Oil, on the necessity of approaching the healthcare system from the perspective that Wendell Berry calls “solving for pattern.”

Pierce and Bednarz look at the healthcare system costs in our national economy (16% of national economy) and why reform is necessary to get us out of the economic death-spiral in which U.S.  market-capitalism finds itself. They also look at how the medical industry builds up massive ecological debt–a debt that will have to be paid sooner, rather than later.

Simply stated, the present healthcare system is unsustainable for two sets of (interconnected) reasons,  fiscal and ecological. The fiscal side receives attention in the current debate, but most discussion underestimates the problems and proposes solutions that provide little more than temporary band-aids. It is in the main unappreciated that the nation is in socioeconomic decline—primarily in the form of massive debt and defaults on that debt, deflation of asset values, and unemployment—which threatens the present healthcare system. Our collective understanding of the ecological dimension is abysmal, especially its connection to the economy, and if grasped would lead to the abandonment of politics and business as usual in medicine and throughout society.

Read the whole article here.

Remember Way Back When the Republicans Supported “Death Panels”?

bio-amy-sullivan

Since this craziness is all over the news, I thought I’d publish Amy Sullivan’s nice little piece of research here. Amy’s life-long dream has been to be a political pundit — and she’s GOOD at it! Check out her original.

Oh, Those Death Panels
by Amy Sullivan

You would think that if Republicans wanted to totally mischaracterize a health care provision and demagogue it like nobody’s business, they would at least pick something that the vast majority of them hadn’t already voted for just a few years earlier. Because that’s not just shameless, it’s stupid.

Yes, that’s right. Remember the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill, the one that passed with the votes of 204 GOP House members and 42 GOP Senators? Anyone want to guess what it provided funding for? Did you say counseling for end-of-life issues and care? Ding ding ding!!

Let’s go to the bill text, shall we? “The covered services are: evaluating the beneficiary’s need for pain and symptom management, including the individual’s need for hospice care; counseling the beneficiary with respect to end-of-life issues and care options, and advising the beneficiary regarding advanced care planning.” The only difference between the 2003 provision and the infamous Section 1233 that threatens the very future and moral sanctity of the Republic is that the first applied only to terminally ill patients. Section 1233 would expand funding so that people could voluntarily receive counseling before they become terminally ill.

So either Republicans were for death panels in 2003 before turning against them now–or they’re lying about end-of-life counseling in order to frighten the bejeezus out of their fellow citizens and defeat health reform by any means necessary. Which is it, Mr. Grassley (“Yea,” 2003)?

Who Lit The Fire Under the Right-Wing ‘Populists’ Against Healthcare Reform?

obamacareBy now, we’ve all seen the angry “regular Americans” who are rising up to resist health-care reform. They are demonstrating loudly at town hall meetings. They are holding rallies. They are e-mailing all their friends and family about the absolute horrors that will accompany any gov’t run program of Obama-Care.

Who are these people? Where did they come from? Is this really how Americans feel about healthcare reform?

I started digging a little into organizing strategy behind this “grassroots” movement and found … wait for it … Ralph Reed!

You remember Ralph from the Christian Coalition, right? He was the political strategist for the far-right Republican wing and handed the political far-Right a “faith-based” cover for their political agenda. More recently, he ran for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia in 2006 but lost due his involvement in the Abramoff Indian gaming and Congressional bribery scandal. In 1997, Ralph started Century Strategies, a political consulting firm for Republican candidates and causes. His clients have included Enron, online gambling companies, Indian gambling firms, and the cable industry to fight decency standards proposed in Congress.

So, when far-right political operatives and insurance industry giants wanted to defeat major health-care reform, who did they call? Their old buddy Ralph Reed.

Ralph’s friend, and former Century Strategies’ business exec, Tim Phillips, was tasked to head up Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing PR firm funded primarily by Koch Industries (global energy firm that runs coal plants, agribusiness, major oil refineries, etc. Papa Koch was a card-carrying member of the John Birch Society, according to BusinessWeek). AFP is part of a handful of corporate industry front-groups that are leading the propoganda campaign against health-care reform. AFP’s health-care targeted subsidiary is called Patients First. PF is launching bus tours against health-care reform right now. It’s AFP who brought you “Joe the Plumber,” the “Drill, Baby, Drill” rallies, the “tea-bagging parties” (ahem), and most recently the “Survivor” TV ad with the Canadian woman who had to sneak into the US to get her cancer treated, because “in Canada, treatment is delayed or denied.” Wrong.

Here are a few of the groups: Club for Growth is a right-wing lobbying organization that represents the Wall Street elite.  RecessRally.com is the network getting people out to the townhall meetings. It’s a subsidiary of the American Liberty Alliance, whose excutive director is Eric Odom, a far-right media strategist and president of Strategic Activism, his online political strategizing company. RecessRally is networked with American Majority, a right-wing non-profit that is staffed primarily with conservative Christians who came out of the Bush administration and the Generation Joshua project (a Christian youth league training students in conservative activism).

So, that’s a rough roundup of who’s leading the so-called “populist uprising.” As Rachel Maddow said in her excellent expose, “Corporate interests do this ‘fake grassroots’ movement as an industry. This is a professional PR campaign to line their own pockets. It is professional, corporate-funded Republican PR  and should be named and reported as such.”

I recommend reading Lee Fang’s article Tim Phillips, The Man Behind The “Americans For Prosperity” Corporate Front Group Factory. And, in the interest of full disclosure, Fang works for the Center for American Progress, a think-tank full of operatives for the Dems. But Lee is a really good researcher. Here’s a bit of his article:

The rate at which the Koch Industries funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP) churns out front groups to promote its right-wing corporate agenda sets the organization out among similar conservative “think tanks.” This week, AFP created their latest front group called “Patients United Now,” an entity set up to defeat health care reform. Patients United follows a familiar pattern AFP has used for their other front groups: create a new stand alone website, fill it with lines like “We are people just like you” to give the site a grassroots feel, and then use the new group to recruit supporters and run deceptive advertisements attacking reform.

Access to adequate health care is a human right. Human rights generally are antagonistic to corporate interests. As people of faith we are called to stand up for human dignity and human rights. Now would be a good time to go ahead and shine the Light on these corporate con artists, especially the one’s masquerading as Christians.