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This Week in Elder News – 18 July 2009

Health Care Reform: “Doing Nothing is Unacceptable”

category_bug_politics.gif Senate Hearings with Judge Sonia Sotomayor notwithstanding, it was a big week in health care reform.

On Tuesday, House Democrats released a bill and on Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), led by Democratic Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, voted along party lines 13 to 10 to approve legislation they have spent many weeks creating.

“It stops insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions,” [said Senator Dodd. “It guarantees that you’ll be able to find an insurance plan that works for you, including a public health insurance option if you want it.”

Both plans contain a public insurance option. The House version includes a wealth redistribution surtax on the richest Americans to help pay for it. Here is a graph from The New York Times explaining the rates:


Wealth redistribution is anathema to Republicans and even Democrat Robert Reich, who was Secretary of Labor for four years under President Clinton, told The New York Times in 2008:

"I don’t believe in redistribution of wealth for the sake of redistributing wealth. But I am concerned about how we can afford to pay for what we as a nation need to do."

Reich clearly believes that the nation needs health care reform badly enough that he has endorsed the surtax idea in the House bill. Writing on his blog, he said

It's the most blatant form of Robin-Hood economics ever proposed. The universal health care bill reported by the House yesterday pays for the health insurance of the 20 percent of Americans who need help affording it with a surtax on the richest 1 percent...

“...to say out loud, as the House has just done, that those in our society who can most readily afford it should pay for the health insurance of those who cannot is, well, audacious.

“There's another word for it: fair. According to the most recent data (for 2007), the best-off 1 percent of American households take home about 20 percent of total income - the highest percentage since 1928...

“A surtax is easy to administer. And the whole idea is easy to understand. Tax the wealthy to keep everyone healthy. Not even a bad bumper sticker.”

Republicans and big business, of course, are howling at the surtax – and at the public option itself.

I still believe a single payer system – expanding Medicare to everyone or creating a new system that folds in Medicare – is the best way to go, but no one, from the president on down, has the courage (or political cojones) to go up against the various health care lobbies to even discuss it.

At the aging conference I attended at The International Longevity Center in New York City, several presenters who work closely with Congress on elder issues said that health care reform “will happen,” probably this year. I sense that is so, although Republicans won't make it easy and there is a danger of the legislation being watered down by the health care industry that is spending $1.4 million per day to lobby against it.

We can help keep up the pressure for reform on Congress. As I posted last week, you can continue to let them know where you stand through this link.

It is the Department of Health and Human Services that will administer new health care legislation. On Wednesday, that agency's secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, was the guest on The Daily Show. As she noted, “Doing nothing is unacceptable.”

Host Jon Stewart was at his best that night, asking good questions that “real” news people don't often do. Here is Part 1 [5:30 minutes]

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Kathleen Sebelius Pt. 1
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

Here is Part 2 of Stewart's Sebelius interview [4:51 minutes]

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Kathleen Sebelius Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mark Sherman: When Relief Trumps Grief


This is sooo imperative; we must put pressure on Congress, particularly Republicans for passage. This week I was fortunate to get a 5 day opportunity to fill in as a substitute clinical instructor for Geriatric Nursing Students.

These young women are spectacular and were given this chance to take a 3 month course and perform good work. Most are from the inner city with no health care. They want healthcare coverage. They care. I am so taken with these women who choose to do this and have the utmost respect for the elderly for whom they are caring, above and beyond what is expected.

They will not make much money but to them it will be a start. And mostly, they want health care coverage. We forget there are over 45 million people without health coverage.

I agree Medicare needs to fold into this government health plan. Each person should be given the same option for health care: young and old. No more prescription meds for some; minimal for others.

Off to work....my that feels good to say.

Having spent some years without health insurance I know how the system works and it is abysmal at best. Something has to be done -- NOW!

Keep on informing your readers of the facts and of the necessity for reform. I know you have changed the minds of some of your readers.

Thank you for joining me on my soapbox.

I think we're ALL in trouble if Washington passes something THEY don't have to live with. If they create the "public option" for us and keep the "Federal
Employees Health Plan" for them...that will lead to the nightmare we fear (where, long-term, cash under the table is required to get quality care...despite the plan).

There is no reason for the plans to be other than equal...but then again...they make the rules.

Thank you for keeping us up-to-date and informed on what's happening with health care. I read everything I see on the issue and hope that something will happen soon. I'm so anxious for every person to qualify for coverage. We've had no insurance for many years due pre-existing conditions. It is unfair that insurance is unavailable to those who need it most.

Thanks for continuing to cover this issue. I never had health insurance all my adult life, and now that I've got Medicare, I discover that it doesn't cover eye, ear or dental care. Does this make any kind of sense? It is shameful, when those three areas of care are so frequently needed by older adults. As the person who gave me a hearing test the other day said, "The government just doesn't want older people to chew, see or hear."

Do I feel paranoid about this issue? You bet--Firefox crashed as I clicked on the link to Roll Call!

Yesterday I called the D.C. office of Rep. Wu, whose district we'll be living in soon. Asked him to sign Kucinich bill on single payer for states. Like all else in this dizzying healthcare landscape, not sure exactly how this will work but seemed good idea, supported by orgs behind HR 676.

Wu's office said it had just passed and he'd voted for it but later news indicates just that he did not vote against. Sigh.

Thanks, Ronni, for keeping us informed. I had missed J. Steward's show, so thanks for featuring it. I had hoped for the single-payer option but that does not seem to be happening. My Blue Cross Blue Shield went up from $710/month to $822. Crazy! Sven now gets Medicare. Whew! At least that is affordable. When we got him hearing aids five years ago, they cost $2000 each. What position is AARP taking on health care reform? I often feel you are a much better advocate for elders than this esteemed, rich organization ....

Since the rich run the country, I doubt seriously there will be any meaningful health care reform.

I think we should consider health care a right, and the system should be like the legal/judicial system (yeah, I know that system has holes for the rich, but, generally, it is designed for everyone), where everyone is treated the same.

Our country wastes more money on idiocy than a national health care system would cost.

And I have no problem soaking the rich a bit for it.

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