MD's corporate health coverage bill struck down

Cross posted from DMIblog   (and by Amy Traub)
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This isn't the kind of coincidence I'm fond of. Yesterday, just as the Drum Major Institute finished putting the final touches on the transcript of our most recent Marketplace of Ideas event, making it (as well as audio and video of the event) available to the world, along comes the U.S. District Court and overturns the very legislation we are hailing as a progressive advance.

At issue is Maryland's Fair Share for Health Care Law, requiring the state's largest employers (those with more than 10,000 employees) to pay at least the state's average percentage of payroll costs toward employee health care or pay an equivalent amount into a state health care fund. I've argued that this legislation is primarily about holding large profitable employers accountable to their employees and for the costs they impose on public health care systems by failing to provide insurance. Members of our panel and audience argued that the legislation was also a step toward acheiving universal health care.

All of our arguments, however, may be trumped by the argument of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, representative of the state's big employers, including Wal-Mart, which convinced the Court that states have no jurisdiction to impose health care mandates on companies with employees in more than one state.

The lawyer for the retailers was none other than Eugene Scalia, son of the Supreme Court Justice, who insisted that "attempts to address the [health care] problem are going to require a federal response, not a patchwork of state and local mandates."

The problem, of course, is that there is no effective federal response to our health care crisis in the wings --  I am a fan of Rep. John Conyers' U.S. National Health Insurance Act, but it's not making much progress in Congress. In the meantime, the buck has been passed to states and localities and now their options have been reduced, with disappointing implications both for localities that have already passed Fair Share-style laws and states, like New York, that are contemplating them.

The State of Maryland plans to appeal.

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Where's the lefty blog anger on healthcare?

Of course, lefties care about healthcare. Doesn't everyone?

That's not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about the seething rage that explodes round the lefty sphere like a war movie where the good guy sets light to spilt fuel which flames back to the gas storage tanks which blow up the ammo trucks to create a sudden glaring mego-inferno.

When has there been a reaction like that about healthcare in the lefty sphere?

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9 Million Kids Have No Health Insurance--Can You Help?

When you think of the uninsured in America, what image comes to mind? Is this the face you think of?

If it's not, you're not alone: In a recent survey sponsored by the Catholic Health Association on public attitudes about the uninsured, only 13% of respondents thought first of children as the group most likely to be uninsured. In fact, 20% (approximately 1 in 5) of the 46 million uninsured Americans are children. That means more than 9 million children have no health insurance. This means that millions of children in America can't see a doctor on a regular basis, can't afford prescription drugs, and can't get preventive care, among other services. They are less likely to do well in school, and more likely to encounter problems with their social and emotional development.

It doesn't have to be this way. Make the jump to learn more about why we must cover all kids and to see what you can do about it.

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A Real Solution to Medical Malpractice

I would like to propose a solution to the problem of incompetent physicians who are allowed to continue practicing medicine after settling a malpractice suit, or being found liable in a malpractice suit.  They should have their license to practice medicine revoked.  This is only logical.  Once the bad doctors can no longer practice medicine, we wont have to worry about malpractice.  

And we all know there are bad doctors out there.  I think it is great that there is a legal remedy to address this incompetence in the lawsuit.  The problem is that once a bad doctor is exposed, and has to pay money to their victims, they are still allowed to practice without having any other penalty imposed.  What kind of fucked-up society do we live in that would tolerate this travesty?  What other profession is afforded this preferential treatment?  

Look, if a bus driver was found to be liable for maiming or killing their passengers, would they be allowed to pay off their victims, and STILL BE ALLOWED TO DRIVE THE BUS?  Fuck no!  So why do doctors think they are better than bus drivers?  

Some people may say, "Doctors are only human, they might not be total quacks if they make just one mistake." Ok, lets assume that's true.  As a compromise, I suggest that the first time a doctor harms a patient, the medical license may be revoked for a period of time, let's say a year.  The guilty physician may use that time to both remediate basic medical education, and reflect on the pain and suffering they caused to their innocent victims.  

Now, you may think that, as a physician myself, I am being sarcastic.  I am not.  I believe this would help bring some closure to this endless debate.  Maybe once people realize that they can no longer receive emergency medical care, or obstetrical care, and all specialties suffer serious physician shortages, we can re-evaluate how, as a society, we address the problems of medical errors.  

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Wal-Mart Allies Choose Higher Taxes Over Fair Share

Today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the amount of uninsured workers being forced onto state programs has risen 13% in the last year.  Here are a few specifics from the story:

A recent state Department of Health and Family Services analysis shows that at the 18 biggest employers of BadgerCare recipients, the total number of employees and their spouses and dependents enrolled in the program was 5,573 in March 2006, up from 4,923 in April 2005.

It should be no surprise that the employer topping this list is Wal-Mart Inc.  They came in first with 904 employees enrolled in BadgerCare, the state health care program for low-income families.  They have over twice as many as McDonald's Corp. which placed second.

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