Single-Payer Round-Up From the National Nurses Organizing Committee

The National Nurses Organizing Committee will spend 2007 organizing for John Conyers' "Medicare for All" bill, or an alternative single-payer healthcare system.  This kind of national healthcare plan is the only affordable, just way to provide a single standard of high quality care to all people.

We're developing our internal blog; below is today's news on the fight.

LOS ANGELES TIMES-Superstar columnist Patt Morrison notes the problem at the heart of today's broken health-care system: insurance corporations.  America wastes hundreds of billions of dollars a year to subsidize a private insurance industry that does little but create a middleman between patients and care providers, while frittering away care dollars on marketing, profits, and bureaucrats AND denying coverage to customers it doesn't like.  Take it away, Patt:  

Business, which has a firm grip on the legislative joystick, hits the panic button at talk of single-payer healthcare or universal healthcare, and it hauls out its own boogeyman phrases, such as "job-killer" and "drag on the economy."

I'll tell you what's a drag on the economy. Healthcare insurance that's impossibly expensive, or impossible to get. If the United States wants a vital economy of personal enterprise and risk-taking, then it needs to guarantee health coverage, period. Americans are willing to take chances in business and careers, but not with their families' health, or their own.

There's more...

Saving Money in all the Wrong Places

Various states are trying to solve the healthcare crises at what can only be considered the local level. New York is no exception. What follows below is an Op Ed in published in various papers in Northern New York concerning an inept state solution to healthcare expenditure that is being dictated by the insurance industry. The implications are clear at the national level. I would have so much wanted to be in the new majority to participate in bringing healthcare to every single American in my bid in the last congressional election. I only hope that new majority can resist the Insurance and Pharmaceutical industries:  

The "R" word is now out in the open. Healthcare has been rationed on the ability to pay for decades. It is an immoral abomination that has been tolerated for years because it was easy for the vast majority, who had access to healthcare, to look the other way. Now that majority, who found it so easy ignore the problem, is going find out what it is to be denied access to the very healthcare that they take for granted.

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Wyden's Healthcare Plan

I am of the strong opinion that given the direction Bush is heading in that the 2008 election will be a big referendum on the direction of Iraq, especially if McCain is the nominee.  

After that though, the biggest issue will most likely be healthcare.  As costs grow, citizens, businesses and unions are all looking for a solution.  Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon released his today and it is interesting.  While it is not a pure universal public health system as seen in Canada and Europe, it may be a nice compromise between our current setup and the European system.  This has some advantages in that the entire insurance industry would not be hit hard by a change to public health and employers and public costs would go down substancially over the next decade.

The merits of the plan below:

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Universal Healthcare Effort Begins in Oregon

Last month, the Democrats not only had strong showings in congressional, senatorial and gubernatorial races but also cleaned up in state legislative contests around the country, winning a large number of seats and gaining control of several chambers around the country. As I wrote leading up to the election, these state legislative victories are important for a number of reasons, including replenishing the base of Democratic candidates from which to draw during future elections; stregthening control over states in the period leading up to the next redistricting cycle; and, perhaps most importantly, serving "as incubators for the progressive policies that will make up tomorrow's Democratic Party platform."

Already we are starting to see a movement in that last area. Here in Oregon, where the Democrats retook the state House for the first time in 16 years and will hold the trifecta come January, progressives in the legislature are beginning to look at a universal healthcare program that could serve as a model for legislation on the federal level in the future. The Oregonian's Bill Graves has the story.

A Senate commission has endorsed the framework for a universal health care plan for Oregon that it will ask the 2007 Legislature to approve.

The commission's draft bill lacks crucial details, such as costs, but it does outline a broad proposal for dramatically changing how Oregonians would buy and receive health care.

"We are trying to do something that has not been done in this state or this country before," said Sen. Ben Westlund, an independent from Bend who co-chairs the Senate Interim Commission on Health Care Access and Affordability. "All eyes are once again on Oregon.

Commission leaders, who met Friday in Wilsonville, say the plan would give every Oregonian a health card that could be used to buy a complete health care package -- including dental, mental health and vision coverage -- for less than most businesses and individuals now pay.

In addition to the goal of expanding access, the plan includes features to control costs and improve quality. The same three goals for comprehensive reform are being pursued by the Oregon Health Policy Commission, the Oregon Business Council and former Gov. John Kitzhaber's Archimedes Movement.

There is still room for debate over the details of a plan, specifically looking into ways to fund a universal program using existing healthcare dollars (including Medicaid dollars, which I imagine would be subject to the approval of Congress) and new revenue streams (potentially a new payroll tax that would reimbursed to companies that already provide insurance for their workers). There will no doubt also be a need to figure out the particulars of the spending structures of any eventual program.

But the fact that Oregon's progressives are moving forward with a plan to ensure that everyone in the state has heathcare coverage is a great step in the right direction -- particularly given the Congress' continued inability to provide coverage to the tens of millions of Americans without it. And while the Oregon plan may not be the solution -- it's not even certain to pass even with Democrats in control of the legislature and the governorship -- it could nonetheless continue to move the debate forward so that eventually we can live in a country that values life to such an extent that its citizens are able to receive treatment for their medical problems (and I'm not talking about deporting progressives to Canada...).

There's more...

SEIU NURSE LOCK-OUT: Who is Brent Yessin?

This coverage is sponsored by SEIU.

SEIU nurses in both Desert Spring and Valley Hospitals, both of which are run by Universal Health Services, will tell you this isn't about unions.

It's not even about money.

What it is about these nurses providing the best patient care possible.

There's just one catch. Universal Health Services, which is run by David Bussone, has decided to make it about the union. UHS and Bussone have decided that they, not the nurses, know what's best for patients. So, not only are they pressuring nurses to care for too many patients, but they've brought in the big guns to make sure the nurses know they mean business.

Enter Brent Yessin and Brent Yessin & Associates. He's also a former Vice President of the Burke Group, an anti-union firm. People at these anti-union firms are sometimes called "persuaders." Quaint, isn't it. In California, these "persuaders" have been used repeatedly to undermine the California Nurses Association. In California, nurses are made to attend mandatory meetings where they are lectured by these "persuaders," whose fees range from $118 - $210 per hour, with expenses going into the millions for these anti-union campaigns. Mr. Yessin has earned quite a reputation. He's a master of anti-union campaigns.


It had been brewing for years. Notorious union-busting consultant Brent Yessin was hired by VHS in January 2006, when the two hospitals' contracts with nurses gave up, but the union says agreements were made in the summer of 2005 to bring him in. In September of that year, 39 nurses at Desert Springs made news when they were suspended from work for wearing SEIU pins on their uniforms. In 2003, Desert Springs tried without success to rid themselves of the union, and in 1999, when SEIU was defying the medical field's historical resistance to unions, they and Valley led an unsuccessful charge to keep unions out of hospitals.

Caring for the Caretakers
Nurses and hospitals continue the war over union demands

I've learned a lot about David Bussone's Universal Health Services in a very short period of time. Brent Yessin comes part of the package. They're fighting very hard and mean, but the really tragic thing is that Bussone's UHS is the only group willing to take down nurses and their patients in the process.

There's more...

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