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HCAN’s Health Care ’09 Rally Was a Huge Success

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The organization Health Care for American Now (HCAN) invited thousands of health care supporters from around the country to DC to lobby their Members of Congress for real health reform on Thursday, June 25.  According to Jason Rosenbaum from HCAN’s blog, “10,000 people from just about every state in the Union came to DC. People came from all walks of life – pastors, bricklayers, restaurant workers, small business owners, actors and actresses, doctors, nurses – and they gave their legislators a clear message – we want health reform, we want health reform that’s real (including a strong public health insurance option), we want health reform that will lower costs, and we want it now, in 2009, because we can’t wait.”

In the weeks leading up the event, HCAN encouraged organizations interested in health care reform to call and email Members of Congress to support the choice of a public health insurance option, promoted the rally with customized videos with Edie Falco, and encouraged supporters to create Twitter accounts and Twitter to the hash tags of their Members of the Congress during the rally.

The rally started off in the morning in Upper Senate Park.  Industry leaders, supporters, and Members of Congress, including Dr. Howard Dean, Anna Berger, Senators Schumer and Brown, Congresswoman Allison Schwartz, and actress Edie Falco discussed health care issues and shared their stores before one of the largest crowds the Capitol Police had ever seen.  Following the rally, town hall meetings and one-on-one lobbying visits were scheduled with dozens of Members of Congress so that they could hear directly from the people on the issue of health care reform.

HCAN’s grassroots health care rally was an impressive event and a huge success – people from all over the country came out to voice their opinions and demanded government accountability and health care reform.  For more information and photos from the event, please visit HCAN’s blog:


About the Author: Tina Yang is a Summer Intern for Workplace Fairness, where she helps draft legal content relating to health and safety, health care, and employment benefits.  She is currently a 2L at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

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Small Business Owners and Support for the Public Option

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Republican opponents of serious health reform like Senator Mitch McConnell love to claim that a public option would hurt small business owners. On the ground, though, the picture is more complex and, if anything, the opposite. Small business owners are suffering under the current system, and many of them strongly support health reform that includes a public option. That’s because enacting real health reform would be a boost – not a blow – to America’s economy.

Looking at the status quo, we find “health care costs choking small businesses.” Listen to the story of this businessman:

Maryland auto shop owner Brian England offers health care coverage to his 18 employees, including part-time staff. He calls it “the right thing to do,” and besides, he knows taking care of his employees makes good business sense.

But every year his insurance premium costs rise another 10 or 20 percent, and England worries about the day when the fees will overwhelm him. After payroll and rent, health care is his largest business expense.

“A business down the road could have their labor rate $5 cheaper than us because that’s how much it costs for us to provide health care,” England said, referring to the hourly rates his business and competitors might offer customers.


For England, shopping for policies and finding a way to afford to offer the benefits has become a yearly headache.

I’m in the business to do auto repair,” England said. “I’m not in the business of trying to find out how to provide health coverage and how to get the right sort of plan…. And it’s not easy.”

Brian England goes on to say that he supports a public option.

But anecdotes don’t tell us everything we need to know. In the same story, one of Brian’s peers (albeit someone who employs over nine times as many people) expresses some skepticism about the public option. Turning to quantitative data, then, we get another perspective on small business owners and health care.

Last week, New York Small Business United for Health Care released the results of its statewide survey of 202 small businesses in New York (.pdf). 73% of respondents favored the public option.

Turning to the economic impact of health reform, we see that even the conservative small business groups that oppose a public option recognize the potential economic benefits of an overhaul in the health system.

The prospect of health care reform raising costs for small businesses is “a legitimate fear,” said John Arensmeyer, CEO of Small Business Majority, an organization that believes employers should provide insurance to their workers.


A study commissioned by the organization found that businesses with fewer than 100 employees could save as much as $855 billion over the next 10 years if health care reform is enacted.

And going back to the story of Brian England’s auto shop, we learn that

Of the 46 million Americans living without health care, an outsized majority — about 60 percent — work for small businesses, according to the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute. Owners of those businesses say Congress needs to find a solution to an increasingly costly problem — but they disagree about how to get it right.

Taking all these pieces together, it’s clear that small business owners recognize our current health care system is broken. Moreover, it’s clear that when Republicans say small business owners oppose a public option, they are speaking for a minority. Both survey data and anecdotal evidence suggests that small businessmen are far from united in their viewpoints on health care, and that within the business community many support the public option.

Is that a surprise? Not with over 70% of Americans in favor of the public option. Surely that number includes thousands of hard-working small businessmen and women.

Whether it’s the uninsured, the underinsured, the struggling middle class, or the business owner worried about how to do the right thing for her employees and make her business more competitive, Americans want health reform with a public option. Let’s hope Congress doesn’t get mislead into believing that the men and women who are the engine of our nation’s economy do not want this change.

About the Author: Alex Thurston is a research intern for Healthcare for America Now.

This article originally appeared in Health Care for America Now! Re-printed with permission by the author.

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Washington Post Makes Up Competition In the Insurance Market

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It’s amazing how far the conservative Washington Post editorial board will go to deny the fact. Here is the blatant falsehood from their editorial today (emphasis mine):

More disappointing was Mr. Obama’s restated commitment to a public health insurance option as part of the array of available plans. A public plan is not necessary to maintain a competitive market in health insurance, but including a public plan is almost certain to doom what Mr. Obama says are his hopes for a bipartisan agreement. Given the high stakes involved in an overhaul of this magnitude, it would be unfortunate indeed if health reform were to be a one-party endeavor.

Here you’ve got a conservative lie and a inside-the-Beltway platitude all rolled into one. Let’s take them piece by piece.

First, the Washington Post editorial board actually believes there is a competitive insurance market right now to maintain, and that a public plan isn’t necessary to keep that competition up?

Do the Washington Post editors read their own paper? Because they published a story via the Associated Press (now offline) on Health Care for America Now’s report showing there is no competition between health insurers. In most states, insurance markets are dominated by one or two insurers, and the Justice Department feels they are at risk for monopolies. That is not a “competitive market in health insurance.” Clearly, the Washington Post editorial board wants to deny the facts.

Or maybe they just want to keep the status quo. They imply by their word “maintain” that we have a market they like right now. Maybe the Washington Post editorial board wants to see the insurance industry continue raking in money hand-over-fist using their near-monopoly powers. Maybe that constitutes a competitive market in their minds.

Next, the Washington Post editorial board goes on to say they’d rather have a bipartisan health care plan than one with a public health insurance option to do important things like control costs and provide better health care. In other words, they’d rather see health reform in name only than health reform that actually means anything, another vote in favor of the status quo, where one American every 30 seconds files for bankruptcy due to high health care costs.

Robert Creamer has a bit of a history lesson on the fallacy of bipartisanship:

Of course you never heard a word about “bi-partisanship” from the insurance industry or Republicans when they passed the notorious “Medicare Part D” prescription drug plan in 2003. Back then, they froze Democrats out of all negotiations, and passed the bill on a 220 to 215 vote in the House (with only 16 Democrats voting yes). In fact, Medicare Part D would be their idea of a “good” health care “reform”: taxpayer subsidies for private insurers with no competition from a public plan. And if we went that route, the results of health care reform would look pretty much like the results of Part D as well – no cost control, giant gaps in coverage, and confusing options for consumers.

Now that the political tide has turned, and last year’s economic collapse has given voters a fresh lesson in the consequences of turning public policy over to corporate CEOs and insurance giants like AIG, the Republicans and insurance companies have had an eleventh-hour conversion to the benefits of “bipartisanship” when it comes to health care reform.

It’s no surprise then that in the current debate, the advocates of this position have made it clear that, to them, “bi-partisanship” means one thing: Americans should be denied the choice of a public health insurance option like Medicare. Their problem is that while a public health insurance option may not have bi-partisan support in Congress, it has big time bi-partisan support among the voters.

He also points out, a public health insurance plan has bipartisan support among the people, whether it has it in Congress or not:

A poll conducted earlier this year by the highly respected Lake Research Partners found that voters overwhelmingly want everyone to have a choice of private health insurance or a public health insurance plan (73%), while just 15% prefer everyone having private health insurance.

And the preference for a choice between public and private health insurance plans extends across all demographic and partisan groups, including Democrats (77%), Independents (79%) and Republicans (63%). So in fact, President Obama’s proposal that creates a choice of a public health insurance option is a bi-partisan plan – whether is has “bi-partisan” support in Congress or not.

The Obama plan for health care reform has massive bi-partisan support throughout the United States. Let’s get busy making sure that it becomes the law of the land whether the insurance companies and the Republicans in Congress support it or not.

It doesn’t matter if this thing is bipartisan, because just being bipartisan doesn’t mean it helps the American people. That’s the bottom line. It needs to be good for you and me. If Republicans want to play ball and pass something real, great. If they don’t, it’s more important to get health reform than to get a bipartisan bill. But of course, the beltway insiders at the Washington Post disagree.

Why don’t you take a moment and write them a letter to the editor. Explain how their facts are wrong and how their inside-the-beltway attitude is hurting this country in the fight for real health care reform. Email your letter to letters@washpost.com.

About the Author: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.

This article originally appeared in Health Care for America Now! on June 8, 2009. Re-printed with permission by the author.

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$82 Million and United for Health Care

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The big number the press will concentrate on today, from the press conference today launching America’s Future Now and progressive health care campaigns, is $82 million:

Progressive groups are poised to spend more than $82 million to support President Obama’s goal of achieving quality, affordable health care for all this year, according to leaders gathered today at the “America’s Future Now” conference in Washington.

Truth be told, it is a big number. But if you think for one second that the insurance industry or the drug industry couldn’t double or triple that in a push against health care reform if they want to, you’ve got another thing coming. $82 million is chump change to big PhRMA.

The real story today is the fact that progressives are united behind President Obama’s health care plan:

Participants in the effort include the Health Care for America Now campaign; the two main labor federations, the AFL-CIO and Change To Win; as well as MoveOn.org, Democracy for America and mobilization groups representing people of color, women and young people. The various organizations serve different functions, with the bulk of the spending financing advertising and grassroots organizing on- and off-line across the country.

The collective effort involves the more than 1,000 organizations that are part of Health Care for America Now, representing over 30 million members committed to winning a guarantee of quality, affordable health care for all this year. It is the largest national progressive issue campaign in history, one that was lacking when President Clinton’s health care proposals were defeated by the health care industry and conservative groups more than a decade ago.

This is where our strength comes from, and this is why we will win. We can mobilize America, and we have voters on our side.

It is this level of organization and coordination with will move health care reform through Congress and on to the President’s desk. It is our ability to talk to broad swaths of America, to mobilize volunteers to go door-to-door, and to get voters to contact their Members of Congress that will manifest the public pressure we’ll need to pass historic legislation.

And of course, this contrasts pretty strongly with what’s happening on the conservative side of the spectrum. There is a war for the GOP going on between moderates and hard-line conservatives. They’re attention is diverted and unity is hard to find. As has been noted elsewhere, Republicans have been fairly silent on health reform, and a lot of their natural constituencies (big business, the insurance industry) are ostensibly on the side of reform.

There is a reason we have unity over health care – it’s because it is perhaps the most important issue that touches everyone in America every day. Reforming health care will do more for the average person in America than anything that has been passed by progressives in the last 40 years. America knows this, and progressive groups know this. As Dr. Howard Dean said at the press conference today, “This is a center-left country.”

And so, we’re united in working to bring this change to America, change that America wants and needs.

About the Author: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.

This article originally appeared in Health Care for America Now. Reprinted with permission by the author.

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Health Care, Labor, Economy, Prosperity

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It goes without saying that a healthy worker is a better, more productive worker. Sickness not only cuts into productivity by taking an employee out of the office, but chronic, untreated conditions can sap energy, happiness, and ability, resulting in a less productive environment for both the employee and the employer.

This is why in the 1940s, when businesses were competing for workers but couldn’t raise wages due to wartime wage controls, health insurance was introduced as a benefit. It was a win for both sides. Back then, health care was a non-profit enterprise, and everyone was charged the same premium no matter their age, sex, or pre-existing conditions, so costs were much lower. And employers realized that healthy workers were better for business. Today, this is how most Americans get their health care, as a benefit provided by their employer.

Of course, a lot has changed since then. Today, private insurers of the mostly for-profit type cherry-pick the customers they can make money on while dumping those who actually need to access the care they’ve paid the insurance companies to provide either on their own without insurance or on the rolls of state programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Combined with the rising cost of health care as technology transforms medicine, and you have a system that currently allows insurance companies to rake in sky-high profits while the rest of us are facing sky-high premiums we can’t afford to pay. And even if we can pay them, insurance companies work to deny our claims.

The solution is fairly straightforward. We’ve all got to share the risk. Insurance companies should be forced to take on all patients, and public plans should be forced to do the same. This way, risk is shared fairly.

These skyrocketing costs hit businesses hard. As Amber Sparks from UFCW explains, health care costs are now so high, they threaten companies and their employees:

Every time UFCW members go to the bargaining table to negotiate a new contract, health care is the five hundred pound gorilla in the room. It’s the same fight that we face in every contract negotiation these days, that battle for quality, affordable health care for all of our members.

As the costs of health care continue to march up an infinite incline, everyone suffers–employers are no exception. And employers respond by trying to cut their health care costs when negotiating a new contract, forcing us to spend all our energy and resources to preserve the quality of health care and keep workers’ costs down, too.

So, let’s review. Healthy workers are productive workers, so businesses want to offer health benefits to their employees to stay competitive. Yet, because private insurance has blocked fair risk sharing, skyrocketing costs are borne by businesses in the form of higher premiums to insure their workers, and these costs are either passed along to the worker in the form of rising health care contributions, or health benefits are scaled back or cut altogether. In short, our health care system is sapping our productivity and putting a huge burden on our businesses. It goes without saying that this isn’t good for the economy.

At it’s heart, health care is an economic issue, and that’s something that gets the attention of everyone in America, both progressives and conservatives.

So, workers, business owners, and labor activists need to be talking about health care. And to a large extent, most people get it. There is a reason every labor union has health care reform as one of their top political priorities. Now we’ve just got to get the rest of the country on board.

About the Author: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.

Got Plans for Sunday? On Sunday, September 14th, people will gather at over 300 house parties around the country to watch the new film Diagnosis: Now!, a new documentary by Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films, which tells the saga of our failing health care system. If you attend a house party in your area, you can be part of this historical effort to win quality, affordable health care for all in 2009.

Want to check out the trailer for the film? Click here to watch the trailer and find a house party in your area!

If you don’t find a house party in your area, or would rather participate online, Firedoglake.com will be hosting a virtual house party on September 14th at 7pm EST, with special guests Rep. Pete Stark of CA, Jim Gilliam, whose story is featured in the film, and Roger Hickey of Campaign for America’s Future.

Click here to sign up for the virtual house party!

Across America on September 14th, not only will Americans watch this new documentary, but they will mobilize together for change. Be part of this historical effort to win quality, affordable health care for all in 2009!

This post cross-posted at the NOW! blog.

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