March 23, 2010
March 22, 2010
The following statement was released today by leaders of Physicians for a National Health Program, www.pnhp.org. Their signatures appear below.
As much as we would like to join the celebration of the House's passage of the health bill last night, in good conscience we cannot. We take no comfort in seeing aspirin dispensed for the treatment of cancer.
Instead of eliminating the root of the problem - the profit-driven, private health insurance industry - this costly new legislation will enrich and further entrench these firms. The bill would require millions of Americans to buy private insurers' defective products, and turn over to them vast amounts of public money.
The hype surrounding the new health bill is belied by the facts:
* About 23 million people will remain uninsured nine years out. That figure translates into an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths annually and an incalculable toll of suffering.
* Millions of middle-income people will be pressured to buy commercial health insurance policies costing up to 9.5 percent of their income but covering an average of only 70 percent of their medical expenses, potentially leaving them vulnerable to financial ruin if they become seriously ill. Many will find such policies too expensive to afford or, if they do buy them, too expensive to use because of the high co-pays and deductibles.
* Insurance firms will be handed at least $447 billion in taxpayer money to subsidize the purchase of their shoddy products. This money will enhance their financial and political power, and with it their ability to block future reform.
* The bill will drain about $40 billion from Medicare payments to safety-net hospitals, threatening the care of the tens of millions who will remain uninsured.
* People with employer-based coverage will be locked into their plan's limited network of providers, face ever-rising costs and erosion of their health benefits. Many, even most, will eventually face steep taxes on their benefits as the cost of insurance grows.
* Health care costs will continue to skyrocket, as the experience with the Massachusetts plan (after which this bill is patterned) amply demonstrates.
* The much-vaunted insurance regulations - e.g. ending denials on the basis of pre-existing conditions - are riddled with loopholes, thanks to the central role that insurers played in crafting the legislation. Older people can be charged up to three times more than their younger counterparts, and large companies with a predominantly female workforce can be charged higher gender-based rates at least until 2017.
* Women's reproductive rights will be further eroded, thanks to the burdensome segregation of insurance funds for abortion and for all other medical services.
It didn't have to be like this. Whatever salutary measures are contained in this bill, e.g. additional funding for community health centers, could have been enacted on a stand-alone basis.
Similarly, the expansion of Medicaid - a woefully underfunded program that provides substandard care for the poor - could have been done separately, along with an increase in federal appropriations to upgrade its quality.
But instead the Congress and the Obama administration have saddled Americans with an expensive package of onerous individual mandates, new taxes on workers' health plans, countless sweetheart deals with the insurers and Big Pharma, and a perpetuation of the fragmented, dysfunctional, and unsustainable system that is taking such a heavy toll on our health and economy today.
This bill's passage reflects political considerations, not sound health policy. As physicians, we cannot accept this inversion of priorities. We seek evidence-based remedies that will truly help our patients, not placebos.
A genuine remedy is in plain sight. Sooner rather than later, our nation will have to adopt a single-payer national health insurance program, an improved Medicare for all. Only a single-payer plan can assure truly universal, comprehensive and affordable care to all.
By replacing the private insurers with a streamlined system of public financing, our nation could save $400 billion annually in unnecessary, wasteful administrative costs. That's enough to cover all the uninsured and to upgrade everyone else's coverage without having to increase overall U.S. health spending by one penny.
Moreover, only a single-payer system offers effective tools for cost control like bulk purchasing, negotiated fees, global hospital budgeting and capital planning.
Polls show nearly two-thirds of the public supports such an approach, and a recent survey shows 59 percent of U.S. physicians support government action to establish national health insurance. All that is required to achieve it is the political will.
The major provisions of the present bill do not go into effect until 2014. Although we will be counseled to "wait and see" how this reform plays out, we cannot wait, nor can our patients. The stakes are too high.
We pledge to continue our work for the only equitable, financially responsible and humane remedy for our health care mess: single-payer national health insurance, an expanded and improved Medicare for All.
|Oliver Fein, M.D.|
|Garrett Adams, M.D.|
|Claudia Fegan, M.D.|
|Margaret Flowers, M.D.|
|David Himmelstein, M.D.|
|Steffie Woolhandler, M.D.|
|Quentin Young, M.D.|
|Don McCanne, M.D.|
Senior Health Policy Fellow
Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org) is an organization of 17,000 doctors who support single-payer national health insurance. To speak with a physician/spokesperson in your area, visit www.pnhp.org/stateactions or call (312) 782-6006.
March 21, 2010
The President of the Treasury Board called yesterday for a blitz of negotiation as desired by the Common Front. He welcomes this announcement, but will judge the tree by its fruit. "On other occasions, including February 19 last, the President of the Treasury Board announced a period of intensive negotiations we have never seen color. We remain cautious and next week will see the level of government commitment. Trade unions members of the Common Front is available to negotiate aggressively, but remember that there will be no global agreement without being intervened agreements at sectoral level. This means that to achieve the goal of March 31, sector work should absolutely release and the government must show its good faith by withdrawing some of the major irritants that impede progress, "say the representatives of the Common Front.
Ensuring the sustainability of public services
"These negotiations are crucial for the future of public services in health, education for human security and environmental protection. The government must hear the message of the thousands of citizens gathered today to seek concrete solutions to problems encountered in workplaces that have a direct impact on services to the population, "said the president of the CSN Claudette Carbonneau.
Hundreds of people, unionized private sector and community groups joined the protest to support the claims of the Common Front. For these people, public concern us all because they come from the collective choices of Quebec society. They provide a social safety net is essential and the best tool for redistributing wealth.
"In the past, the public sector was the envy of many other sectors of society, but this is no longer the case today. Delays wage worsening year after year and working conditions have deteriorated shall ensure that the public has lost its former glory, "added the President of the Federation of Workers in Quebec (FTQ), Michel Arsenault.
For the Common Front, "it is urgent to make a turn to ensure the sustainability of public services to attract and to retain a skilled workforce. The staff shortage is already being felt in all categories of jobs for several years. In addition, it will worsen because of massive departures to retirement, poor working conditions and remuneration not competitive. The sectors of health, education and public service are less attractive and many are seduced by the private company that offers better working conditions and higher wages, "confirmed the spokesman Intersyndical Secretariat of Public Services (SSIS), Dominique Verreault.
The Common Front claims of wage increases of 2% per year to protect the purchasing power of wage earners and employees. In addition, he wants to undertake a remedial pay to make wages in the public sector more competitive. In this regard, he requested a remedial annual salary of 49 cents per hour on average, equivalent to 1.75% of average earnings.
About the Common Front
The Common Front comprises 475 000 persons employed in public services. These officials and professionals from government, workers and unionized workers of the health, education and certain government agencies. The Common Front is composed of SISP (CSQ, FIQ, SFPQ, APTS and SPCA), the CSN (FSSS, FEESP, FNEEQ, FP) and the FTQ (CUPE SQEES, COPE, SIU).
QUEBEC IN MOTION
CBC Montréal, edited by RY
Thousands of employees of the civil service and parastatal Quebec participated in a demonstration this afternoon in Montreal.
They responded well to the invitation of the Common Front the unions representing state employees in negotiations with the government.
According to Claudette Carbonneau, president of the CSN, what its members want is a collective agreement. "Our members are tired of living on love and water. [...] They are burnt out. [...] They want respect, "she said.
"In good years, salaries were frozen at 2% per year. The government can not afford to have employees paid less. The competition is going private to ensure that public services will decline as people responsible will go elsewhere. If you want to keep our services must pay wages that it requires" said Michel Arsenault, president of the QFL.
The Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) said Friday it had "less and less hope" that the Charest government and 475 000 unionized Quebec public service workers will manage to conclude a new labor contract by March 31, the date that the collective agreement expires, imposed by the government in December 2005.
"We continue to make the necessary efforts at the negotiating table, but we can never reach an agreement as the employer insists on wanting to cut back on our working conditions so to bring us bellow the conditions under which we are currently covered by decree," the president of the CSQ, Réjean Parent, said Friday on the sidelines of a regional council of negotiations of the CSQ.
In a statement released Friday morning, Mrs. Gagnon-Tremblay said she still believes in a negotiated settlement by March 31. "In the hope of achieving this, I propose now a blitz of negotiations. It is necessary that the talks are progressing significantly in the coming days, both at the central table as sectoral tables, "she writes.
"Our negotiators have all the necessary mandates and government is willing to solve pressing problems, including those related to the work of nurses, strengthening the support for teachers, particularly those working with students with learning difficulties to improve academic achievement and the revision of the job structure to ensure greater flexibility in work organization in public service, "said Ms. Gagnon-Tremblay.
Quebec proposes an increase in overall compensation, which includes all benefits, 7% over five years. The salary increase would be limited to 5%. This offer may be enhanced by 0.75% for each of the last two years if economic growth is higher than expected.
The unions, meanwhile, demand a wage increase of 11.25% over three years (3.75% per year) so they say, protect the purchasing power of employees and reduce the wage gap compared to employees of the federal government, other provinces or the private sector in Quebec.
According to the CSQ, the wage offer of the Government of Quebec will result in a loss of 8% of state employees.
The government for its part maintains that all applications filed by the Common Front on October 30 will cost more than $ 8 billion over three years to taxpayers.
Given the large deficit of the Government of Quebec and "the challenges posed by a return to fiscal balance by 2013-2014," Ms. Gagnon-Tremblay calls the common front to discuss the bases "more realistic".
The front brings together all the major unions in the public and parastatal sectors or organizations grouped within the Secretariat Intersyndical utilities (CSQ, FIQ, SFPQ, SPCA and APTS), the CSN (FSSS, FEESP, and FNEEQ FP) and the FTQ (CUPE SQEES, COPE and SIU).
This pretty pretty McLeans snap shows Iggy with his youth friends.
Toronto Star (March 19, 2010)
Ignatieff missing in the fight to save health care
By Bob Hepburn
Ever since he became leader of the Liberal party, Michael Ignatieff has been searching for an issue on which he can make a real difference in the lives of Canadians.
He's tested topics ranging from the economy and Afghan detainees to government waste and foreign trade. But he's had virtually no impact on any of them.
Strangely, though, Ignatieff has ignored medicare, which needs a national champion to lead the fight against the wave of health privatization sweeping across Canada.
Health care ranks first or second in almost every poll asking Canadians to list their biggest concerns. More than 80 per cent of us also fear health-care spending will be slashed in coming years as Ottawa and provincial governments tackle their deficits.
And yet Ignatieff, like most federal politicians, appears afraid to enter what may be the most important debate in Canada over the next several years. Any talk of preserving or reforming medicare instantly becomes a point of controversy, and politicians like Ignatieff love to avoid controversy.
In an open letter last month to Stephen Harper outlining Liberal priorities for the current session of Parliament, Ignatieff urged him to implement 13 initiatives.
Not one of them dealt with health care.
Ignatieff's failure to even mention health care was a huge mistake because Canada's cherished medicare system is under siege.
Like every developed country, our system is faced with spiralling costs and uneven quality of care. Over the past decade, Ontario and other provinces have closed small hospitals, consolidated others and laid off nurses and other health-care workers in a bid to control health costs, which can eat up as much as 50 per cent of a provincial budget.
The main federal tool to regulate health care, the Canada Health Act, is no longer enforced by Ottawa. Indeed, some provinces, notably British Columbia and Quebec, blatantly thumb their noses at the act by allowing private hospitals and clinics to open without any fear of sanctions by Ottawa.
At the same time, supporters of private delivery of health care are increasingly vocal. They are touting the so-called benefits of private health care, about "choice" and "liberalization," which are softer words than "privatization."
Let's be clear, though. Private health care is first and foremost about making huge profits for private hospitals, insurance companies, doctors and others with a vested interest in private delivery of health services.
In Canada, the debate over health care is about to heat up again as Ottawa and the provinces get ready for the next major fight over funding.
That's because the current federal health accord, signed in 2004 by former prime minister Paul Martin, expires in 2014. That's four years from now, but many for-profit groups are already preparing their assault on medicare as we know it.
The 2004 accord gave the provinces $41 billion extra to help lower hospital wait times and improve overall health delivery. Last year, the federal government paid $129 billion in health transfers. The provinces would be hard-pressed to make up any cuts by Ottawa.
The coming talks are critical because, besides dealing with just money, they will offer an opportunity for Canada to reaffirm the basic tenets of medicare, especially equity, quality and sustainability.
Who will lead this fight?
Surely it won't be Harper, (LOL! - Ry eds) who isn't likely to give the provinces any extra money, but will allow them even greater power to introduce more and more private health care.
So it must fall to Ignatieff. Despite his reluctance so far, he still can become the champion of medicare. His first chance comes next weekend when, during their three-day policy conference in Montreal, the Liberals will hold a 75-minute session discussing the future of health care.
Ignatieff should use the occasion to defend medicare, counter the attacks by the private health-care advocates and outline a vision of how to fund the system in the future.
If he fails to do so, medicare could be at serious risk.
RY Eds - health care is already at serious risk
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