Much needed clarity on what Medicare for All means

The idea of Medicare for All has been steadily increasing in popularity, so much so that pretty much all the Democratic candidates for the presidency have endorsed it, a far cry from when Bernie Sanders advocated for it in his 2016 campaign, when it was seen as some kind of unrealistic Utopian goal. As a result, the right wing attacks on it have intensified and they have made all manner of misleading statements about it.

This ad from the Sanders campaign nicely sets the record straight.

[Read more…]

Insulin price fixing

Insulin is the major drug used by people to deal with diabetes and given the prevalence of the disease, it is very profitable for the drug companies that manufacture them. Many companies do and so one would think that competition among them for market share would lead to price benefits for consumers. And yet, the prices are so high in the US that people in need of the drugs organize trips to Canada where they can some of buy them for one-tenth the price.
[Read more…]

Having health insurance does not mean you can afford medical care in the US

When it comes to health care in the US much of the attention has rightly focused on the plight of those who lack any insurance at all. But this gives the impression that those who have employer-based insurance have few problems and would even suffer with the increasingly popular Medicare For All proposal that has now been embraced by pretty much every Democratic presidential candidate and would replace the current system. But that impression is erroneous. This is because in order to lower insurance premiums, employers are pressuring employees to move to high-deductible plans. But a new study finds that a quarter of people with employer-based health insurance in the US cannot longer afford to pay those deductibles
[Read more…]

Drug price extortion

One of the worst aspects of the for-profit health care system in the US (it could more accurately be called the ‘health couldn’t-care-less’ system) is the price gouging on prescription drugs. This is heartless because drug companies are taking cruel advantage of the fact that people will do anything to save the lives of their loved ones, by jacking up the prices of essential drugs far above what people in other countries pay, enabling the companies to reap enormous profits and pay their executives obscene amounts of money.
[Read more…]

Good News! Health care stocks fall

I have long held that the only economic measure that matters in the US is the stock market. While other measures such as unemployment and wage rates, income and wealth inequality, health and education measures, housing and rental prices and the like may have much greater significance for the vast majority of people, the oligarchy only cares about the value of their stock portfolio. As long as the stock market rises at a healthy clip, champagne corks will be popping even as climate change threatens to destroy the world.
[Read more…]

The fight over Medicare For All begins in earnest

Now that legislation to implement Medicare For All has been unveiled by Washington state member of congress Pramila Jayapal, the opponents in the hospital, pharmaceutical, and insurance industries are gearing up to fight to prevent their source of incredible wealth from drying up. As Kaiser Health News reported, many groups that on the surface seem to be grassroots opponents of MFA are actually fronts for Big Pharma.

Dozens of patient advocacy groups, like the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, recently appeared in national advertisements objecting to a Trump administration proposal that could limit drugs covered by Medicare providers.

But a Kaiser Health News analysis found that about half of the groups representing patients have received funding from the pharmaceutical industry.

Drugmakers funneled more than $58 million to the groups in 2015 alone, according to financial disclosures in KHN’s “Pre$cription for Power” database, which tracks the little-publicized ties between patient advocacy groups and drugmakers. As patient organizations gain ground lobbying Congress and the administration, experts have begun to question whether their financial ties could push them to put drugmakers’ interests ahead of the patients they represent.

Although there are occasions when what’s best for patients is the same as what’s best for drugmakers, people should consider patient advocacy group statements with a “skeptical eye” if groups have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, said Matthew McCoy, a medical ethics and health policy assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Drugmakers and patient advocacy organizations have fundamentally different missions, he said. One wants to make money for shareholders. The other wants to serve patients. Since their goals will inevitably diverge, it’s important that patient groups aren’t swayed by their funders, he said.

[Read more…]

Good choice to head Planned Parenthood

Leana Wen, a 36-year old physician who used to be commissioner of health for Baltimore, has been selected as the new head of the organization. I have followed her career for some time and was pleased to hear that someone so concerned about social justice and a fearless advocate for it had taken on this job. As a child of immigrants who were poor, she knows how tough life is in the US if you lack money.

Now, it’s hard for Wen to pinpoint the pivotal moment when she realized that medicine was not just a matter of science but of social justice. Of course, there was her journey from China, but there was also the time in elementary school when she watched a neighborhood boy die of an asthma attack because his undocumented family was too scared to call 911. There was the woman she saw die in the ER after a botched abortion, the young mother without insurance who waited more than a year to have a breast lump examined and died of metastatic cancer, the middle-aged woman who couldn’t afford her blood-pressure medication and was paralyzed by a stroke. “I mean, there are dozens, hundreds, countless examples like that,” says Wen. “My patients are sick not just because of their illness, but because of so many other factors in our system that are making them ill. And I would not be the best doctor I can be if I did not also fight against these systemic injustices.”
[Read more…]

Medicare For All takes shape

The idea of Medicare For All as a way of creating a pathway to a single-payer universal health care system, that was deemed to be wildly socialistic and unrealistic when first proposed by Bernie Sanders, has now become a platform that any Democratic candidate for president has to pay at least lip service to, because the idea has been embraced by majorities of people.

Now the next step has been reached because actual legislation has been proposed to implement it and this will force people to take an actual stand on it. The crafting of the legislation is led by new congresswoman Premila Jayapal, part of the new breed of progressives who was elected to congress in the 2016 elections. She is a Seattle-based activist no stranger to advancing progressive causes, having served on the Mayoral Advisory Committee that negotiated Seattle’s $15 minimum wage. That measure was harshly attacked by conservatives and the business industry as the death of business in the city, as they would pack up and leave and would thus increase unemployment. That did not happen, even though conservatives seized upon a single flawed study that seemed to support their case before it was repudiated.
[Read more…]

How medical care drives people into bankruptcy

You should not become bankrupt just because you get sick. That seems to me to be an obvious requirement for any civilized society. But that is not the case in the US. As a new study of bankruptcy court filings reveal, medical expenses are the most common cause of bankruptcies in the US. This has been true for some time and it is significant that the Affordable Care Act (known popularly as Obamacare) has not changed the numbers.
[Read more…]

Keeping the Democratic party honest on health care

The Democratic party establishment tries to walk a tightrope. Their party base favors a whole slew of progressive measures. But the party hierarchy consists of either members of the oligarchy or people who are beholden and enamored of it. So they end up saying one thing publicly and another privately to their wealthy donors. We are seeing this now with the idea of Medicare For All as a means of providing universal health coverage. What was portrayed as utterly radical when Bernie Sanders proposed it during the 2016 campaign has caught fire within the party within an incredibly short time, so much so that every single Democrat who has announced a run for the presidency this year has expressed support for it, a remarkable turnaround.
[Read more…]