Investigative journalism that gets results

For the Christmas holiday, I thought I would post a good news story.

I am a financial supporter of the investigative journalism outfit ProPublica and today comes a news item that makes me glad that I am doing so. Some months ago, they had an expose of a nonprofit hospital affiliated with the Methodist church in Memphis, Tennessee that was suing poor people for not paying their bills, even going to the extent of garnishing their wages which is devastating for people who live paycheck to paycheck. The hospital was essentially using the courts as a collection agency by threatening people with severe legal penalties. Thanks to that expose, the hospital and the church was shamed into canceling the debts and in a follow up story today, we hear about the results, starting with the case of Danielle Robinson.
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The future Johnson-Trump deal following Brexit

Lee Fang of The Intercept writes that US health industry lobbyists are just waiting for a Conservative victory on Thursday to shred British consumer safeguards and raise drug prices as part of their demands in the trade deal that the US will agree upon with a Conservative government following Brexit.

Departing the EU could mean that British consumers would no longer be protected by broad EU-wide regulations on chemicals, food, and cosmetics, among other products. Several international corporate groups have pushed to ensure that in the event of Brexit, such safeguards are abandoned in exchange for a regulatory standard that conforms to the norms of the U.S.

Consultants working directly on the Brexit deal in London and in Washington, D.C., have asked to limit the ability of British regulators to set the price for pharmaceutical drugs, lift safety restrictions on pesticides and agricultural products, and constrain the ability for the U.K. to enact its own data privacy laws.

Dean Baker, a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, noted in an email to The Intercept that such regulatory demands by industry are “always part of trade deals.” Baker said that U.S. trade to the U.K. is relatively trivial, at around 2.5 percent of GDP, making incentives for rushing a trade agreement relatively small.

“On the other hand,” Baker wrote, “paying higher prices for drugs and being unable to regulate the Internet is likely to impose very substantial costs.”

“A government weighing these factors carefully would almost certainly refuse a deal, but a Johnson government that made Brexit front and center is likely to feel strong political pressure to have a deal with the hope few people will pay much attention to the content,” Baker noted. “Johnson could tout the deal as a big success. People would only see the negative effects years down the road.”

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Jeremy Corbyn accuses Boris Johnson of secret deal to sell the NHS

The rumors that the Conservative party will seek to use the National Health Service as a bargaining chip in getting a trade deal with the US after they leave the EU has been around for a long time. The Conservatives and Boris Johnson have vigorously denied it because for all the grumbling about its shortcomings (mainly caused by insufficient government finding) people are fond of the NHS and would fiercely resent giving it up and letting the poisonous American private health system be foisted on them.

But Corbyn says that they have received a leaked dossier that shows that Johnson has already been in negotiations with the US to put the NHS up for sale.
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Why Brexit endangers the British National Health Service

American actor Rob Delaney has experienced both the private American health care system and the British government-run National Health Service (NHS) and says that there is no comparison. He describes the NHSas “the pinnacle of human achievement”. He says that it would be crazy to vote for Boris Johnson and the Conservatives because after they get Brexit they would break up and sell the NHS to the private sector as the price of getting a trade deal with the US to make up for the losses of no longer being part of the EU.
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Elizabeth Warren’s single payer health care plan

She has released her plan to provide universal health care coverage through a single payer system that will save ordinary people money by producing savings and charging rich people and corporations to pay for it. Naturally, this has aroused opposition from all those who benefit from the current system (hospitals, doctors, health insurance and drug companies). But it is also being criticized by other Democratic candidates such as Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg, all of whom represent the corporate-friendly Democratic party establishment.
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Bernie Sanders and two economics professors explain the benefits of Medicare for All

Sanders keeps making very clear arguments about its benefits in order to counter the distortions.

Economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman explain how the Sanders’s plan for Medicare for All will result in reduced taxes, because what we now pay in health care premiums are in fact taxes, something that opponents of universal health care plans try to ignore.
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What do you get when two bad systems combine?

There are two terrible systems in the US that I have been highlighting: health care and criminal justice. The first is more focused on squeezing money out of people to provide profits for the health insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital industries, and for high salaries to executives and health care professionals than in serving the needs of people. The second is more focused on squeezing money out of taxpayers and the people caught in its web in order to provide revenue for the private prison industry and local police forces and government than in treating prisoners humanely in order to rehabilitate them. The investigative journalism outfit ProPublica reports on what happens when these two systems come together. As you might expect, the outcomes are not good.

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How Bernie Sanders’ Medicare For All plan works

Bernie Sanders has had to have surgery to install two stents for a blocked artery. This is a pretty routine procedure now but needing medical treatment of any kind is not good for a candidate about whom questions have been raised about age.

In this clip, he cuts through all the distortions about his Medicare For All plan and lays out for Stephen Colbert how it will work.

Meanwhile Elizabeth Warren is making all the right enemies. After Wall Street executives warned the Democratic party that they would abandon he party if she ended up being the nominee, now Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says that he “will go the mat” to prevent her plan to break up the big tech companies because they have too much power.

Health insurance as a weapon to control workers

The cost of health insurance in the US has been steadily rising. Since most people get their health insurance through their workplace, employers have been passing on much of the increased costs to the employees in the form of high-deductible policies but it still represents a big cost for businesses. For a long time, I wondered why big business were not the biggest supporters of government-run, single-payer health care systems like Medicare For All since that would shed them of one of their biggest costs as well as rid them of all the cumbersome paperwork that accompanies it. You would think that this would be a good thing for them. So why were they not the biggest supporters? I had put it down to their ideological dislike of anything that smacks of socialism.
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With friends like these …

There is no question that affordable universal health care coverage is an idea that has caught on as the awfulness of the current system becomes increasingly apparent, and almost all the Democratic candidates have signed on to it. The most comprehensive plan, and in my view the simplest one to understand and implement, is the Medicare for All plan proposed back in the 2016 campaign by Bernie Sanders and endorsed by most progressives. So where does this leave those ‘centrist’ and ‘moderate’ Democrats (those being euphemisms for Democratic politicians like Joe Biden whose have strong allegiances to the business and financial world) who do not wish to alienate the health insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital lobbies whose profits feel threatened by this proposal? These groups come under the labels of Third Way and the Center for American Progress and are favored by the Democratic party establishment.
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