Health

Health Care Front Group Provides New Clothes for GOP Medicare Privatization Plan

Wolf in sheep's clothingIf you think Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare is dead, think again.

Last week, the insurance industry and its allies began what I predict will be a massive campaign to sell the public and policymakers on the idea of moving forward with the Ryan plan -- albeit with a few tweaks and new a new sales pitch to make it seem more consumer-friendly.

An outfit called the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) announced in a press release a scheme that could be called Ryan-lite, but don't be fooled: the plan would -- to use a favorite industry term -- take us down the "slippery slope" toward a complete corporate takeover of the Medicare program. (Insurers and their allies for years have warned Americans that enacting sweeping health care reforms they don't like would lead us down the slippery slope toward socialism.)

Walgreens' "Million Hearts" HealthWashing Ploy

smoking heartOn September 13, 2011, Walgreens announced it is partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in a "new effort to fight heart disease" called the "Million Hearts Initiative." Walgreens says the goal is to help prevent one million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years by "finding ways to reduce the number of people who need treatment and improve the quality of treatment for those who need it." The chain's press release about the  Initiative says heart disease and stroke are the first and third leading causes of death, respectively. What Walgreens doesn't say is that while it searches for ways to prevent heart disease, the chain also continues to sell one of the nation's leading causes of heart disease and stroke: cigarettes. Not only that, but when the city of San Francisco passed an ordinance in 2008 banning pharmacies from selling cigarettes (based on the logic that as health-promoting businesses, pharmacies should not promote smoking) Walgreens fought the measure. The chain even issued an
action alert (pdf) saying it needed to keep selling cigarettes to help people quit
smoking. When that failed, Walgreens sued the city of San Francisco to try and block the ordinance. When the court threw out Walgreens' suit, the chain filed an appeal to continue the challenge.

No

GOP Backs Insurance Industry-Friendly, Anti-Consumer Bills

House Republicans, unable to repeal President Obama's health care reform law outright, have decided to go after it piece by piece. If they are successful, what's likely to remain is the kind of reform the insurance industry dreamed of, but never really thought could be the law of the land.

Health insurance costsAlthough the Republican-controlled House passed legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act several months ago, the Senate, controlled by Democrats, rejected it. Bills are now being considered in the House that would strip some of the most important consumer protections from the new law. If the bills' sponsors are successful, health insurers would be free to spend as little of our premium dollars on our health care as they want, and they would be able to continue setting lifetime limits on policies and cancel our coverage at the time we need it most -- when we get sick. Other important benefits to consumers would also disappear.

Rick Perry's Texas Health Care Hoax

In his quest to win the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is perpetuating a convincing hoax: that implementing Texas-style tort reform would go a long way toward curing what ails the U.S. health care system.

Texas Governor Rick PerryLike his fellow GOP contenders, Perry consistently denounces "Obamacare" as "a budget-busting, government takeover of healthcare" and "the greatest intrusion on individual freedom in a generation." He promises to repeal the law if elected.

Nurses Take the Message "Heal America Tax Wall Street" to 60 Congressional Offices

Heal AmericaAcross the country on September 1, nurses will converge on local congressional offices to demand a tax on Wall Street financial speculation, a move they say is a step towards healing the nation, trimming the deficit, and preserving social programs.

National Nurses United (NNU) is planning a day of action in over 60 congressional offices in 21 states. In Wisconsin, the group is sponsoring a soup kitchen outside of Rep. Paul Ryan's Janesville office "to provide residents with the sustenance they are not getting from Paul Ryan," says NNU spokesman Charles Idelson.

Insurers Deliberately Confuse Policyholders and Dump the Sick

A couple of years ago, when Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia asked me to testify about little-known health insurance industry practices at a hearing of his Senate Commerce Committee, I initially was reluctant. I knew that if I was completely honest, my life would change forever.

What he was asking me to do was to disclose practices that have contributed to the growing number of Americans without insurance, the even faster growing number of us who are underinsured, and the phenomenal increase in insurance industry profits over the years, even as the ranks of those without coverage swelled.

Corporations are People, My Friend, and So are States, Say GOPers

While on the campaign trail in Iowa, former corporate executive and Republican governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney shot back at hecklers who were challenging his stance that it would be unfair and unwise to raise taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations to reduce the deficit.

Corporations are people"Corporations are people, my friend," Romney said. "Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? People's pockets! Human beings, my friend."

Democrats were quick to pounce.

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