Political Diagnosis: Single Payer Advocates Get Hearing; Obama to Speak Before AMA; Congressional TriCaucus Takes on Health Disparities; Healthy Families Act …

By Christine |

Confused About Health Care Reform? Start Here: Check out the Kaiser Family Foundation resources explaining the basics of health care reform. It’s worth pointing to each week, especially since it’s continually updated.

Arguments for Single Payer Make the Record: Single-payer advocates finally got a hearing last week before the House Education and Labor Committee’s subcommittee on health, employment, labor and pensions. C-SPAN has the video.  Dana Milbank brings the snark.

american_medical_associationObama Meets the AMA: President Obama today will address delegates at the American Medical Association meeting in Chicago. It’s the first time since 1983 that a president addressed an AMA delegates meeting, and it’s bound to get interesting.

The AMA came out against a government-sponsored insurace plan designed to compete against private insurance companies (also known as the “public option”); the group later softened its opposition. AMA President Dr. Nancy Nielsen on Saturday said that AMA’s priorities are increased payments from Medicare and medical liability reform.

Obama suports the public insurance plan. And this weekend he outlined “$313 billion in proposed cuts over the next decade to the Medicare insurance program for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor to help cover the cost of expanding insurance coverage.”

But he is open to reining in medical suits.

AMA is the largest physician lobby, representing 180 medical societies, but it has lost clout over the years. Medical school students account for its largest member groups, and less than 20 percent of all practicing physicians are members of the AMA. Over at ThinkProgress, Lee Fang explains a bit about the AMA’s ties to the health industry:

Started in the mid 19th century as an accrediting organization, the AMA has morphed into a behemoth lobbying and member services entity that is deeply entwined with the for-profit health industry.

In the past century, the growth of AMA has been not only funded by health industry lobbies such as drug makers, but this relationship has tailored AMA’s anti-reform policy agenda. In reading the Huffington Post and the New America Foundation articles revealing AMA’s opposition to health reform during the New Deal, its efforts to block the passage of Medicare, and the AMA’s critical role in defeating health reform in 1993, questions arise over why the AMA has historically opposed any initiative to take health care out of the hands of the for-profit health industry.

Read on.

Senate Members Look for More Options: “As President Obama traveled to the heartland to sell a government-run insurance plan as essential to health-care reform, Senate negotiators began to explore a possible bipartisan compromise modeled after rural cooperatives,” reports the Washington Post.

That model was presented by Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota who has introduced, as a “potential compromise” on the public plan, a system of federally-chartered co-ops that could offer a non-profit alternative to for-profit insurance companies. Ezra Klein has a Q&A with Conrad.

rep_barbara_leeMinority Groups Joins Forces on Health Care: Members of the Congressional TriCaucus — comprised of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus — last week introduced The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009. The groups are working together to ensure that the health needs of minorities are taken into account in any health reform plan and that the elimination of racial and ethnic disparities becomes a priority.

“Today over 47 million people lack health insurance in America and although racial and ethnic minorities account for about one third of U.S. population, they account for more than half of the uninsured,” Congressional Black Caucus Chair Barbara Lee (CA-09) said in a statement.

These are the reform elements the TriCaucus has identified as priorities:

·    A public health insurance option that is universal and includes mental and dental health services.

·    Elevating the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health and strengthening the Office of Minority Health within the Department of Health and Human Services.

·    Addressing cultural and linguistic concerns such as credentialing for medical translators and ensuring adequate reimbursement for language and translation services.

·    Healthcare provisions regarding clinical trials must also — whenever possible — include racial and ethnic diversity to find out effects on a broad range of groups.

“Access to culturally competent quality health care should be one of the most basic of all entitlements,” said Rep. Danny K. Davis (IL-07), who serves as co-chair of the CBC Health and Wellness Taskforce. “Expansion of community, migrant, family and rural health centers will help make this concept a reality.”

Plus: “Public health officials have long recognized — and tried to eliminate — the sharp disparities in health among racial and ethnic minorities. But there is another group as well that ranks well below average on many measures of health: people with disabilities,” reads this Boston Globe editorial in favor of state legislation that addresses health disparities faced by people with disabilities, as well as other minorities.

Solutions for Healthcare Reform: The Chicago Tribune recently published a package of stories featuring reform suggestions from industry leaders, including pharmacists, insurers and doctors in smaller practices.

Plus: It appears a solution for the cost of reform is even trickier.

Healthy Families Act Gets Hearing: Five years after it was first introduced, the House last week held its first-ever hearing on the Healthy Families Act. The bill would enable workers at companies with more than 15 employees to take up to seven paid sick days per year to care for themselves or a sick family member.

The AFL-CIO blog reports on the hearing and points to a new study (pdf) from the Center for Economic and Policy Research that found mandatory paid sick days do not lead to higher unemployment.

Plus: Did you know the United States is the only country among 22 countries ranked high for economic and human development that does not guarantee paid sick days or sick leave for workers? CEPR breaks it down in a separate study, “Contagion Nation.”

Take Action

National Partnership for Women & Families: Support paid sick days. Find out if your elected officials have cosponsored the Healthy Families Act, and please urge them to do so today.

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2 Comments

  1. Keith says:

    Good post. This is going to be a big issue going forward, and I doubt it will be resolved anytime soon. As for the AMA speech, Obama was both cheered and boo’ed…guess it was the boo’ing that led to Maher make this comment (towards end of vid):

    http://www.newsy.com/videos/pushing_policy_playing_politics

    And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what is wrong with American politics: too many distractions, mistrust and avarice among both the government and activist groups with a media that thrives on conflict.