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Covering health care reform

June 25, 2009

Tags: health reform

Having trouble thinking through the key issues in health care reform? A good place to start reading is Trudy Lieberman's interview with Wendell Potter, who left the health care industry because he "didn’t want to be part of another health insurance industry effort to shape reform that would benefit the industry at the expense of the public." This interview is part of a penetrating series: Excluded Voices, Trudy Lieberman's interviews on health care reform, in Columbia Journalism Review. You can also listen to Bill Moyers interview Potter (July 10) or read the transcript and Potter's testimony before Congress. [This item added to original blog post later.]

Other useful resources include
The Cost Conundrum: What a Texas town can teach us about health care (Atul Gawande's fascinating story in The New Yorker, 6-1-09. It's not the uninsured patients from across the border who are driving up costs in McAllen, Texas, a border town with the lowest household income in the country.)
Health Care Reform: What It Means for You (an interesting chart in the Washington Post), with the story In Retooled Health-Care System, Who Will Say No? questions About Cost and Limits Linger by Alec MacGillis
Health Affairs (the policy journal of the health sphere)
HELP Is on the Way (Paul Krugman on why universal health coverage is affordable)
Physicians for a National Health Program (supports single-payer national health insurance)
Guaranteed Health Care (National Nurses Organizing Committee, California Nurses Association)
Find Help (HRSA links to free and inexpensive care)
A consumer guide to handling disputes with your employer or private health plan, 2005 update, Kaiser Family Foundation
DrSteveB's blogroll (helpful Daily Kos blogger--and check his blogroll for other resources)
Thanks to Lynn Wasnak for alerting us to Trudy Lieberman's works.

More links to material about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) , often called Obamacare by its opponents
Health care reform and prevention of medical error


  1. July 20, 2009 10:35 AM EDT
    Several readers have pointed out that you can watch Michael Moore's documentary, Sicko online. You can hear on Bill Moyers' interview with Wendell Potter how the insurance industry planned to defuse reactions to Moore's documentary. As Potter states: "The industry has always tried to make Americans think that government-run systems are the worst thing that could possibly happen to them, that if you even consider that, you're heading down on the slippery slope towards socialism. So they have used scare tactics for years and years and years, to keep that from happening. If there were a broader program like our Medicare program, it could potentially reduce the profits of these big companies. So that is their biggest concern." Potter himself says of the documentary, "I thought that he hit the nail on the head with his movie. But the industry, from the moment that the industry learned that Michael Moore was taking on the health care industry, it was really concerned."
    - Pat McNees
  2. July 24, 2009 11:20 AM EDT
    I'm not listing all the stories out there on the very anxious anti-health-care-reform lobby's attempts to scare people out of wanting a more sensible health care system, but there is no way to avoid the personal attack on Prez Obama discussed on Daily Koz: BamaCare: Coming soon to a clinic near you and Talking Points Memo: Conservative Activist Forwards Racist Pic Showing Obama As Witch Doctor.
    - PM, thanks to Lynn Wasnak
  3. July 27, 2009 11:31 AM EDT
    A must read: Why markets can’t cure healthcare by Paul Krugman (The Conscience of a Liberal, NY Times, 7-25-09). Another important issue: where the money comes from to cover the costs of the formerly uninsured: Reach of Subsidies Is Critical Issue for Health Plan (Robert Pear, NY Times, 7-26-09)
    - PM
  4. July 29, 2009 3:31 PM EDT
    These are the eight basic consumer protections the White House wants health care reform to cover, listed on something they just sent out: (1) No discrimination for pre-existing conditions, (2) No exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles or co-pays, (3)No cost-sharing for preventive care, (4) No dropping of coverage if you become seriously ill, (5) No gender discrimination, (6) No annual or lifetime caps on coverage, (7) Extended coverage for young adults, (8) Guaranteed insurance renewal so long as premiums are paid. Learn more about these consumer protections, says the White House, at Whitehouse.gov http://www.whitehouse.gov/
    - PM
  5. August 11, 2009 11:55 AM EDT
    Health Insurance Woes: My $22,000 Bill for Having a Baby (And I had coverage for maternity care! Sarah Wildman, DoubleX, 8-3-09). "Our insurer, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, sold us exactly the type of flawed policy—riddled with holes and exceptions—that the health care reform bills in Congress should try to do away with. The “maternity” coverage we purchased didn’t cover my labor, delivery, or hospital stay. It was a sham."..."The individual insurance market is like that old joke about the food being terrible and the portions too small; it’s expensive, shoddy, and deeply unsatisfying. Those of us who buy into it are not protected by the federal and state laws that govern employer-based health care. In fact, there’s no one looking out for us at all."
    - PM
  6. August 13, 2009 10:00 AM EDT
    The Georgetown University Health Policy Institute researches and produces Health Insurance Consumer Information (news you can use), with blogs that follow the health care debate and discuss news of health insurance coverage around the country, and a Consumer Guide for Getting and Keeping Health Insurance for each state and the District of Columbia. The American Cancer Society and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other organizations provide support for this research. Worth checking out.
    - PM
  7. August 19, 2009 8:15 PM EDT
    C-Span's Health Care Hub is a good place to find various town hall discussions, hearings, wonderful links. C-Span, you're wonderful!
    - PM
  8. August 22, 2009 2:14 PM EDT
    SurveyUSA News Poll on Health Care Data (showing public opinion on various aspects of the health care debate, by gender, race, party affiliation, ideology, level of college education, income,region, and age)
    - PM
  9. August 24, 2009 11:13 AM EDT
    Insurers explore savings in overseas care: Major health firms offer doctor networks at lower rates in foreign countries. AP/MSNBC story. ("more insurers are offering networks of surgeons and dentists in places like India and Costa Rica." "The four largest commercial U.S. health insurers — with enrollments totaling nearly 100 million people — have either launched pilot programs offering overseas travel or explored it....Growth has been slow in part because some patients and employers have concerns about care quality and legal responsibility if something goes wrong. Plus, patients who have traditional plans with low deductibles may have little incentive to take a trip.") This is the health insurance industry's approach to health care reform?
    - PM (thanks to Anita Bartholomew)
  10. August 24, 2009 11:26 AM EDT
    "For once, mainstream journalists did not retreat to the studied neutrality of quoting dueling antagonists," writes Howard Kurtz in Journalists, Left Out of The Debate: Few Americans Seem to Hear Health Care Facts (Washington Post 8-24-09). "They tried to perform last rites on the ludicrous claim about President Obama's death panels, telling Sarah Palin, in effect, you've got to quit making things up. But it didn't matter. The story refused to die." As always, Kurtz provides an intelligent analysis of the situation, stating that "the healthy dose of coverage has largely failed to dispel many of the half-truths and exaggerations surrounding the debate. Even so, news organizations were slow to diagnose the depth of public unease about the unwieldy legislation. For the moment, the story, like the process itself, remains a muddle."
    - PM
  11. August 27, 2009 10:33 AM EDT
    T.R. Reid, author of The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care, had an excellent piece in the Washington Post on 8-23-09:5 Myths About Health Care Around the World. The five myths: 1. It's all socialized medicine out there. 2. Overseas, care is rationed through limited choices or long lines. 3. Foreign health-care systems are inefficient, bloated bureaucracies. 5. Health insurance has to be cruel. He concludes: 'In many ways, foreign health-care models are not really "foreign" to America, because our crazy-quilt health-care system uses elements of all of them. For Native Americans or veterans, we're Britain: The government provides health care, funding it through general taxes, and patients get no bills. For people who get insurance through their jobs, we're Germany: Premiums are split between workers and employers, and private insurance plans pay private doctors and hospitals. For people over 65, we're Canada: Everyone pays premiums for an insurance plan run by the government, and the public plan pays private doctors and hospitals according to a set fee schedule. And for the tens of millions without insurance coverage, we're Burundi or Burma: In the world's poor nations, sick people pay out of pocket for medical care; those who can't pay stay sick or die.
    This fragmentation is another reason that we spend more than anybody else and still leave millions without coverage. All the other developed countries have settled on one model for health-care delivery and finance; we've blended them all into a costly, confusing bureaucratic mess.
    Which, in turn, punctures the most persistent myth of all: that America has "the finest health care" in the world. We don't. In terms of results, almost all advanced countries have better national health statistics than the United States does. In terms of finance, we force 700,000 Americans into bankruptcy each year because of medical bills. In France, the number of medical bankruptcies is zero. Britain: zero. Japan: zero. Germany: zero.
    Given our remarkable medical assets -- the best-educated doctors and nurses, the most advanced hospitals, world-class research -- the United States could be, and should be, the best in the world. To get there, though, we have to be willing to learn some lessons about health-care administration from the other industrialized democracies. It's worth reading the whole article and I am definitely going to buy the book: The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid.
    - PM
  12. September 1, 2009 10:56 AM EDT
    •• Twenty-six Lies About H.R. 3200 (FactCheck.Org, 8-28-09). A notorious analysis of the House health care bill contains 48 claims. Twenty-six of them are false and the rest mostly misleading. Only four are true. A widely circulating chain e-mail purports to give "a few highlights" from the first half of the bill, but the list of 48 assertions is filled with falsehoods, exaggerations and misinterpretations. FactCheck.org runs down the list. For example: 'The e-mail claims that page 30 of the bill says that "a government committee will decide what treatments … you get," but that page refers to a "private-public advisory committee" that would "recommend" what minimum benefits would be included in basic, enhanced and premium insurance plans.'
    - PM
  13. September 4, 2009 10:14 AM EDT
    The Real Death Panels: Insurers Deny 22% of Claims (National Nurses Movement on Daily Kos, 9-3-09)
    - PM via AB
  14. January 30, 2010 12:05 PM EST
    President's Question Time (Obama, Republicans spar in Q&A (Video of debate 1-29-10, plus Andrew Sullivan's commentary, Daily Dish)
    - PM
  15. March 16, 2010 12:05 PM EDT
    See also Myths and Falsehoods on budget reconciliation (Media Matters, fighting conservative misinformation) Reconciliation Bill Markup, Part 1 (House Committee budget, on C-Span, 3 hrs, 38 minutes)
    - PM
  16. March 20, 2010 1:15 PM EDT
    The Alliance for Health Care Reform (a nonpartisan organization) has a helpful website and excellent resource guides for reporters.
    - PM