Who Are You Wearing?

Do you know what you’re going to be for Halloween? I don’t.

Levana suggested I come to her party as an Exhausted Health Care Advocate. I’ve got that costume. I’ve also got bits and pieces of previous years’ ensembles so I could always put them all together and go as The Ghost of Halloweens Past.

One of my favorites was the Fallen Angel, complete with dirt, branches, and broken halo and wings. You know, as if I actually fell. I’ve also been a Killer Bee (which was an excellent excuse to carry a water gun).

My best couples costume ever was the Mile High Club. I dressed as a flight attendant, and my badge had a picture of a man and a woman with a martini glass between them. My boyfriend at the time wore a suit with his tie askew, lipstick marks on his neck, a plane ticket in his pocket, and toilet paper stuck to the bottom of his shoe.

Once people figured it out, it was a big hit.

Anyway, have a safe and fun holiday, and if I come up with something clever, I’ll fill you in on Monday.

Health Care Mash

Remember Bowzer from Sha Na Na? He’s helping us fight for health care reform and recorded a custom version of the Monster Mash to go along with this weekend’s Halloween-themed pro-reform actions taking place in more than 40 cities across the country.

Press release.

Video:


Top Billing

The House introduced its health care legislation called The Affordable Health Care for America Act during an event on the Hill this morning. Here is our official statement. The image to the left is from that event.

I happened to be on the Hill even earlier than the event to chat with some peeps about the public health insurance option. I put together a very simple 101 for the occasion. Here’s some info from that doc that may be of use:
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IT’S ABOUT LOWER COSTS, COMPETITION, AND CHOICE

People want the choice between private health insurance and a public health insurance option. Choice is key. That’s why we say public option and not public plan.

The public health insurance option is the key to lower costs, real competition in the insurance marketplace, and true choice for consumers.

WHAT IT IS:

It is just one health insurance option for consumers in a new health insurance “exchanges” or marketplace.

It is set up by the federal government but paid for through premiums the exact same way private insurance is paid for.

It is not profit-driven and not beholden to Wall Street investors so it can prioritize people’s health care needs over excessive financial gain.

It won’t need to make money to spend on marketing, advertising, lobbying, corporate perks, pricey overhead, or CEO salaries and bonuses, and it won’t need to appease shareholders.

HOW IT WORKS:

A government body sets policies and bears the risk for paying claims.

Consumers who choose the public option pay premiums the same way they would to a private health insurance company.

It operates under the same rules and regulations as private health insurance companies that want to participate in the exchange or marketplace.

It offers a set of comprehensive benefits, same as the other private plans in the exchange.

WHAT IT ISN’T:

It is not a government takeover of health care.
It is not socialized medicine.
It is not a slippery slope to single-payer.
It is not an entitlement program.
It is not “government-funded.”
It is not Medicare or Medicaid.
It is not an insurance “marketplace” or collection of private health insurance plans like the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

WHAT IT WILL DO:

A public option will introduce competition across the country. One nationwide plan will constrain costs and make the other insurers think twice about passing down a double-digit rate increase to customers.

The choice of a public option will give people a way to vote with their feet. Enrollees can select the plan of their choice, including the public option. People who are unsatisfied with their choice can take their business elsewhere.

The public option will set a benchmark so people will finally know if they’re getting what they should be for their premiums.

Consumers will finally have options and alternatives. Not only will they be able to choose the public option, but they will be able to compare and contrast private plans in the exchange. And when these private plans have to compete with a public option that’s less expensive and more transparent, they’re going to have to clean up their act.

It will give us a system of checks and balances to make sure our one-half trillion investment in tax subsidies for Americans isn’t just lining the pockets of these big corporations.

WHY INSURANCE REGULATION ISN’T ENOUGH:

Today’s insurance market is incapable of bringing down costs for families and slowing cost growth over time.

There is a serious lack of competition in the health insurance market. In 94% of markets, just one or two large companies have control. So instead of competing for your business through lower costs and better service, they compete against one another to drive up prices to see what the market will bear because they know people have nowhere else to go.

Insurers find their way around insurance rules today. Rules aren’t enough. Insurers find it more cost effective to break the rules and pay fines than to play by the rules.

For example, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo conducted an industry-wide investigation early last year and found health insurers were defrauding consumers by manipulating reimbursement rates and saying patients owed more out-of-pocket than they really did. Insurers were using a database called Ingenix which was owned by UnitedHealth. UnitedHealth agreed to settle a class action lawsuit with doctors and patients for $350 million and pay $50 million towards a new database. Amount of money saved by years of overbilling consumers? Upwards of $500 million.

In addition, we know rescissions are illegal, but insurance companies have been revoking insurance policies without good cause for years.
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p.s. For all of the crazies who scream “Read the Bill” or “Let Us Read the Bill,” have at it. It’s all online here.

T(-shirt)V

HCAN’s t-shirt had a cameo on The Daily Show last night:

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Joe The Dumber

Could Joe Lieberman be any more of a worm? Seriously.

Reid Done Good

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today the Senate health care bill will have a public health insurance option with a provision for states to opt out. This is good news. You can read the HCAN statement here.

We’ve also got a petition circulating online to thank Reid and encourage him to keep fighting. We hit 10,000 signatures in the first 30 minutes. You can add you name to that growing list here.

Monday Must-Reads

I’m in the mood to fire you up so here goes. First, SEIU President Andy Stern on HuffPo on how there’s no such thing as a Republican filibuster. Democrats hold the power and must deliver:

And for decades now, Democratic Senators have raised campaign funds by promising that with 60 Democratic Senators, they could deliver real change for our country. Last fall, we were all repeatedly asked, “Dig deeper! We just need 60 – we have never been closer.”

Well Democrats, it’s show time. America elected the 60 you asked for, and America is waiting for results.

But here is the problem with reaching the magical 60: if Democrats can’t deliver the meaningful reforms that they have repeatedly promised, then what’s the point of 60? Why should anyone believe that knocking on doors, making calls, or donating another dollar changes anything if with 60 votes they cannot deliver real reforms?

The Democrats must not squander their 60-vote majority. And after the promises that were made to the American people, there is no excuse for a single member of the Democratic caucus to stand in the way of every member having the opportunity to vote for the health insurance reform this country needs.

Also on HuffPo, Bob Creamer adds more detailed perspective:

Remember that to pass a bill in the Senate you only need 51 votes – or 50 votes plus the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President. We do not need every Democrat to pass a bill. But every one of them must vote to end debate on a bill to allow an up or down vote to take place, since ending debate in the Senate requires 60 votes.

If some Democrats disagree with the content of the bill – or oppose a public option – so be it. They should vote no on final passage. But they should never side with the Republicans on a procedural vote to prevent an up or down, majority vote on the substance of the issue.

Frankly, if a Democrat votes against the party on a procedural vote and empowers the Republicans to block a vote on the party’s top domestic priority, the caucus should strip that Senator of all of the power that comes from being part of the Majority Party – including committee chairmanships.

It is one thing to oppose the substance of a bill. It’s another to oppose the Party Leadership on a procedural motion and block the will of the majority. That kind of breach of party discipline makes it impossible for a majority party to govern. On procedural votes members of a majority party have to stick together or they might as well not be in the majority – they hand the reins over to the minority.

So what’s the hold up? Try all that successful health insurance lobbying. From the LA Times:

The specifics of the healthcare legislation are still being hashed out on Capitol Hill, and key details will evolve in the days ahead. Even so, there is broad agreement that the final plan will, for the first time, require Americans to buy health coverage, with taxpayer subsidies for millions who cannot afford it.

For the health insurance industry, that means millions of new paying customers. What’s more, there are likely to be no limits on what insurers can charge, while at the same time the plan is expected to limit competition from any new national government insurance plan that lawmakers create.

These anticipated wins — from an initiative that has at times been portrayed as doomsday for health insurers — is the result of a strategy developed by one of Washington’s savviest lobbyists, Karen Ignagni. Under Ignagni’s leadership, the industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans adopted the goal of universal coverage while setting out to shape it in a way that benefited insurers — a crucial move that aligned their interests with those of other groups, including consumers and hospitals.

Insurers poured campaign donations into the coffers of key sympathetic members of the House and Senate, and loaded up on lobbyists. And when Obama and other Democrats began attacking the industry, insurers made a strategic choice not to walk away from the negotiating table.

“While so many in this town have been playing checkers, Karen has been playing chess,” said Mark Merritt, a veteran lobbyist who heads the Pharmaceutical Care Management Assn.

Happy Monday.

In Case You Missed It

Our anti-AHIP event was a huge success yesterday. One top health insurance lobbyist gave us a gift in the morning when he said the following (HuffPo):

“There is absolutely no interest, no reason Republicans should ever vote for this thing. They have gone from a party that got killed 11 months ago to a party that is rising today. And they are rising up on the turmoil of health care,” said Champlin. “So when they vote for a health care reform bill, whatever it is, they are giving comfort to the enemy who is down.

Does anyone still believe we’re dealing with a kinder, gentler health insurance industry all in favor of reform? That’s assuming anyone ever really did.

Then we held our presser at 2:30pm just two doors down from the AHIP conference, and the seven speakers could not have been more powerful. One woman in particular – Georgeanne – won over the room when she spoke about her brother Billy. Billy died of a heart attack in March. He had an irregular heartbeat and a defibrillator. When he lost his job, he lost his health insurance and couldn’t get coverage on the individual market because of his pre-existing condition. When his defibrillator ran low on juice, he couldn’t afford the $10,000 to replace it, and his doctor wouldn’t help him without health insurance or the money up front. Billy – a lifelong Republican who had never voted for a Democrat – voted for Obama in November because (as Georgeanne recounted) he believed health care reform could be the miracle that would save his life. Billy died of a heart attack two months after inauguration.

Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA) is Georgeanne’s representative and came to stand with her and champion reform. He too teared up when he spoke about Billy and explained how the health reform legislation he expects to pass the House will guarantee no one in America has to suffer like that again.

After speaking, the families walked outside to meet 600 people rallying in solidarity. Here’s a video of the event:

And is some of the other press attention from yesterday:

USA Today:

Lantz and members of six other families shared stories of denied care Thursday and later joined hundreds of people protesting the private health insurance industry outside the same hotel where the industry’s trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, was holding a conference. The event was organized by Health Care for America Now, a group that supports a government-run “public” health insurance option as part of health care reform.

Lantz said she understands why people feel hesitant about backing “government interference” in health care.

“But when you look at what’s going on from the perspective of a person who’s being failed by the insurance companies, this in a very real way is health rationing and death panels — for profit,” Lantz, 58, said during an interview.

AP:

NPR:

SEABROOK: Also, here’s Kevin Scott. He’s got a scar that runs clear over the top of his head.

Mr. KEVIN SCOTT: It’s brain cancer, a brain tumor, and I can’t pronounce the correct term, the medical term, but it was the same one that Ted Kennedy had.

SEABROOK: Scott says he’s actually grateful that his insurance paid for his brain surgery, but now that he’s in chemotherapy and radiation, he says he feels like he’s being nickled and dimed.

Mr. SCOTT: When I had radiation treatment, I had some skin irritations. So I went to see a dermatologist about that. They won’t cover that.

SEABROOK: His insurance company is now fighting every little thing he needs, says Scott.

Mr. SCOTT: We got letters in the mail saying, denied, denied, denied.

The NPR story could not be more perfect. Listen to the whole thing here.


Drug Mules and Other Animals

Sometimes people send me funny stories.

First one comes from my brother out in California. Dan wrote:

Authorities were tipped off when she made it from the ticket counter to her gate in 4.2 seconds:

Wheelchair user, 92, arrested for smuggling coke

MADRID, Spain (CNN) — A 92-year-old woman with cocaine strapped to her body flew all the way from Brazil to Spain before police arrested her, in a wheelchair, at Madrid’s airport.

They found 4.3 kilos, or nearly 9.5 pounds, of cocaine packets strapped to her legs and torso, and also arrested a 44-year-old female companion, who tried to escape on another plane, a Civil Guard spokeswoman told CNN Tuesday.

Then courtesy of Miss Lindsay, it’s “Seriously Florida, WTF?” Zonkey Edition:

‘Zonkey’ attacks Bay area man

BROOKSVILLE, FL — What do you get when you cross a zebra with a donkey? James Oleson says you’ll get knocked to the ground and bitten.

Hernando County Sheriff’s deputies say Oleson was attacked by the half-zebra, half-donkey at Boyett Groves in Brooksville Monday.

Oleson told deputies he was painting a perimeter fence near the donkey’s enclosure when the donkey put his head underneath the fence and began to bite his feet.

With his mother’s help, Oleson was able to get away from the “zonkey”. He suffered numerous bite marks on his lower legs.

Boyett Groves is a small attraction with exotic animals for tourists to see up close.


Healthy Competition

We’re taking on AHIP – the health insurance lobby – in DC today:

At 2:30pm today, seven families who have traveled to Washington, DC from around the country will hold a press conference inside the Capital Hilton to tell their stories of denied care and atrocious mistreatment by the private health insurance industry. The families have sent a letter to Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of the health insurance lobby, challenging her to face them in person and hear what they’ve endured. Ms. Ignagni has yet to respond. The letter is the basis for the print ad appearing today in Congress Daily AM, Congressional Quarterly, The Hill, Politico, and Roll Call.

While AHIP holds its annual State Issues conference inside the Capital Hilton, hundreds of supports of health care reform that guarantees good affordable coverage with the choice of a public health insurance option will the surround the hotel with signs that read “IT’S A CRIME TO DENY CARE.”

Image above is the print ad. Video below is a TV ad on air in DC for the next three days: