Archive for the 'US Health Care' Category

2015 Left Forum in NYC: The Health Track & Something to celebrate

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Timeline Cover Photo 851 X 315


The 2015 Left Forum will take place on the weekend of May 29-May 31, 2015 at John Jay College in the Bronx.  Readers of the Social Medicine Portal readers may be interested in the Health Track.  (LF 2015 Health Track Flyer). We have a special reason to celebrate as the New York Assembly has just voted in favor of a Single Payer plan for New York State.  This is a small but significant victory.

Please come to our session on Faultlines in the Medical Industrial Complex on Saturday at noon.

Matt Anderson, MD

Damaged Care back in NYC: The Musical Comedy about Health Care in America

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Damaged Care

When: Saturday, April 5th and Sunday, April 6th both shows at 2PM

Where: Don’t tell Mama: 343 West 46th Street (Restaurant Row)

Cost: $15 Cover, 2-Drink Minimum (Cash Only)


The Singing Doctors Greg Lagana and Barry Levy are back in New York City this weekend to perform Damaged Care: The Musical Comedy about Health Care in America. The show, now in its 18th year, has been presented tomany different types of organizations and institutions, including hospitals and state medical associations, medical societies and public health associations, medical specialty societies and nursing organizations, educational institutions, and pharmaceutical industry organizations.

For a taste of the show, check out these You Tube Videos:

Health Care Business

Another Outbreak of Us Superbugs

Doctors in Cyberspace

Send in the Dogs

The Spare Parts Blues

posted by Matt Anderson

Debate 1/14/2014: “Single payer is the best way to achieve universal health coverage in the U.S.

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Health Policy Debate

Tuesday, January 14 at the Price Center Le Frak Auditorium, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York

Motion: “Single payer is the best way to achieve universal health coverage in the U.S.”

The debate will be moderated by Dr. Patricia (Tia) Powell.
Wine, cheese and heroes will be available in the Block Pavilion (right outside of LeFrak Auditorium) at 6:30pm.  The debate will kick off at 7pm.

Dr. Peter Carmel MD Former AMA president;Professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at NJ Medical School
Dr. Oliver Fein MD, Former PNHP President; Professor of Clinical Medicine and Public Health, Weill Cornell Medical College
Dr. Alieta Eck, MD Former president of Association of American Physicians and Surgeons; Co-founder, Zarephath Health Center
Dr. Mary O’ Brien, MD Faculty at Columbia College of Physicians; Surgeons and co-author of the book “10 Excellent Reasons for National Healthcare.”

2014 Einstein Student Run Social Medicine Course

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The Social Medicine Course at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine was founded by a group of 8 students in 1998 and is now in its 17th year. It remains entirely student-run. Course schedules going back to 2007 can be accessed at this page on the Portal.  The talks run from 5:30 to 6:30PM and take place on the 5th floor Forchheimer Lecture Room. They are open to the public.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Dr. Robert E. Fullilove
Health and Racial Disparities in New York City

Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Dr. Sunil Kumar Aggarwa
Compassionate Care: Medical Marijuana In New York

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Dr. Marji Gold
Reproductive Rights and Abortion Care

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Dr. Oliver Fein
Direct Action: Lessons from the Young Lords Occupation of Lincoln Hospital

Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Mychal Johnson South Bronx Unite:
FreshDirect and its Health and Social Costs in the South Bronx

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Dr. Maria Caban
Harm Reduction and Syringe-Exchange in the South Bronx

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Dr. Mark Heath
Bioethics of Lethal Injection

Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Dr. Rosy Chhabra
Community Based Participatory Research

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Dr. Danny Lugassy
Healthcare Reform in 2014: Why do we still need Single Payer?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Dr. Neil Calman
Segregated Health Care in the South Bronx

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Dr Aaron Fox
Prison Medicine

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Dr. Nancy Berlinger
Access to Healthcare for Undocumented Immigrants

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Dr. Alan Blum
Ending The World Tobacco Pandemic

posted by Matt Anderson, MD

Single Payer in Seven Minutes!

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PNHP’s Dr. Robert Zarr has produced an engaging 7 minute film about the reasons for a single payer (EINO Everybody In Nobody Out) health plan for the US. The film called “CureALL” is directed by Kaylen Larson, an undergraduate student from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who interned with him in the fall.

March 16 to March 28: A week of Action to Strike Medical Debt

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strike debtJoin Strike Debt for a Week of Action to Declare a Healthcare Emergency: It’s a Matter of “Life or Debt”

In the U.S., healthcare is a bankrupt system run on debt:

  • 62% of personal bankruptcies are linked to medical bills. ¾ of people who declare bankruptcy due to medical bills had health insurance when they incurred those bills.
  • 86% of doctors begin their professional lives with medical school debt. This debt limits medical school to the upper classes and forces even socially-minded young doctors to choose lucrative specialties. The restrictive cost of nursing school further reduces the availability and quality of primary care.
  • Community hospitals deemed “unprofitable” are being closed left and right because they have fallen too deeply into debt.

These debts are literally killing patients, students, providers and communities. They deepen the already entrenched inequalities that divide races, classes, and genders. Our healthcare system doesn’t make us well; it prolongs our illnesses in the name of profit.

In reaction to this system, Strike Debt’s Rolling Jubilee initiative will make a big announcement in March. We have bought and abolished a large amount of medical debt. Though this will provide real relief to thousands of people who need it, it is only crumbs in light of the 70 million who still owe money on medical bills.

We want to use the attention this buy will generate to highlight the profound inhumanity and inequality of our medical payment system and to create a vision of a world where healthcare is truly treated as a right. We demand the cancellation of all medical debts and a radically transformed healthcare system based on everybody’s need for wellness and not the 1%’s desire for wealth.

Strike Debt is calling for a week of education and organizing culminating in a day of action in New York City on March 23.

If you’ll be in New York, save the date. Stay tuned for updates.

If you won’t be in New York, join us in bringing this action everywhere! Wherever you are:

  • Protest a closed community hospital
  • Support a struggling community hospital
  • Protest a private insurance company
  • Protest a pharmaceutical company
  • Do a creative direct action!
  • Organize a healthcare or debt speak out
  • Organize a free health screening or health fair
  • Organize free legal advice and debt/financial guidance
  • Provide free education about debt and/or healthcare

Some helpful slogans and messages:

  • Healthcare: a Matter of Life or Debt
  • Debt on Arrival
  • End Medical Debt
  • Strike Medical Debt
  • Healthcare is a Human Right
  • Medical Knowledge Put Me into Debt
  • Single-Payer Now
  • Medicare for All
  • Isn’t Being Sick Bad Enough?
  • Cause of Debt: [Heart Attack, Diabetes, Private Hospital]

Hashtags for the action: #lifeordebt #M23 #strikedebt

The Supreme Court Should Rule with the People, by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese

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June 14, 2012

The Best Chance for an Affordable, Universal National Public Health System is Repeal of Mandate in the Obama Health Law

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese
June 13, 2012

Six years after Massachusetts enacted the state version of Obama’s health law, the people of Massachusetts are not happy. According to a June 11th poll in Massachusetts, 78% of patients say the cost of care in Massachusetts is a serious problem and 63% say it has gotten worse in the last five years. Patients report longer waits, higher premiums, higher co-pays and are less satisfied with health care. The number of bankruptcies due to medical illness and costs has continued to increase in Massachusetts too.

Despite what the corporate media report,Romney-Care, on which Obama-Care is modeled, is not working.

Americans want the Supreme Court to find the Obama law unconstitutional. More than two-thirds of Americans hope the Supreme Court will overturn some or all of the 2010 health care law, according to a June 7th New York Times-CBS poll. A mere 24% said they hoped the court “would keep the entire health care law in place.” Forty-one percent of those surveyed said the court should strike down the entire law, and another 27% said the justices should overturn only the individual mandate, the requirement that people purchase private insurance if they are not insured or pay a fine.

Overturning the entire law may have less of an impact now that three of the nation’s largest insurers, UnitedHealth, Aetna and Humana, say they will continue popular provisions such as allowing young adults under 26 to gain coverage under their parents’ plans and covering preventive care.

And overturning the law may provide an opportunity to push for a real solution to the ongoing health care crisis, to finally create a national universal and publicly-financed health insurance such as improved Medicare for All.

Perhaps this time around the nation could have a real debate about proven solutions to the fundamental problems causing the health care crisis. Private for-profit insurance and medical corporations are at the heart of that crisis. It was these corporations that heavily influenced and in some cases wrote the Obama health legislation so that it enhanced their profit margins.

For example, emails and other documents recently released by congressional investigative committees find that the Obama administration worked closely with the Pharmaceutical industry, agreeing to a back-room deal that protected their profits by opposing the re-importation of prescription medicines at lower prices. Re-importation was something President Obama supported in his 2008 campaign when he criticized the Republicans’ behind-closed-doors deals with Big Pharma.

Further the White House coordinated their $150 million advertising campaign with major pharmaceutical companies. And nearly $70 million was spent through two Super PACs — political action committees — organized by White House officials. Advocacy groups like Families USA and the unions coordinated their advertising with the White House and Big Pharma too.

The Obama law will not control costs, provide universal coverage or improve the quality of health care. More and more commentators are recognizing that there is a constitutional way to do so – remove two words “over 65” from the Medicare law. This would cover every American and be a major step toward improving health outcomes in the United States.

In an amicus curiae brief, we joined 50 doctors to make the case that Congress has already demonstrated it can regulate healthcare markets effectively by implementing single payer systems such as Medicare or the Veterans Health Administration.

We argued that the mandate was obviously unconstitutional, otherwise Congress could “reform” any failing private industry – whether it be automobiles, coal, pharmaceuticals or any other – by enacting legislation requiring that every American purchase the industry’s goods or services in exchange for some perceived public good the industry provides. As some of the justices noted in oral argument, this would change the relationship between citizen and government. Indeed, forcing the purchase of products is crony capitalism on steroids.

The brief demonstrates the superior efficiencies of single-payer systems. Only 2% of Medicare’s dollars go to administration and overhead, compared to private insurance which spends 16.7%. Under a single payer system, overall administrative costs would fall from the current 33% of health care spending to less than 5%, saving hundreds of billions of dollars. In fact, studies conducted by the nonpartisan General Accounting Office and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office have consistently concluded that if a national single payer system were implemented in the United States, administrative cost-savings alone would be enough to guarantee universal coverage without increasing overall healthcare spending

The brief shows that the cost of Medicare has increased more slowly than the cost of health care generally and more slowly than the cost of private insurance. And Medicare is rated highly by senior citizens, who are its primary beneficiaries, 51% of seniors give their health insurance an “excellent” rating.

Single payer has been supported by super majorities of the American people for more than a decade. This silenced majority of Americans who wanted real universal health care under a national health plan may get another opportunity to push for what they want if the Supreme Court rules with the people and against crony capitalist health care.

Medicare for all saves lives and saves money. Say ‘No’ to Romney/Obama health care and ‘Yes’ to Medicare for all now.

Margaret Flowers, a pediatrician Kevin Zeese, an attorney, are both are advocates for single payer health care and the co-direct, ItsOurEconomy.US which filed an amicus brief along with Single Payer Action and 50 doctors urging the court to find the mandate unconstitutional.

First National Meeting of the People’s Health Movement, USA, July 28-29

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The first People’s Health Movement USA National Meeting will be held July 28-29, 2011, at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles CA, in conjunction with the annual assembly of Doctors for Global Health. We invite those who endorse the People’s Charter for Health to participate in identifying our medium-term goals and developing a plan to reach them. This is an opportunity for you to get more involved with the international movement that has set the people’s agenda for global health for the last 12 years.

The People’s Health Movement is a global network of people’s organizations, civil society organizations, NGOs, social activists, health professionals, academics and researchers who believe we can provide health for all by tackling the social and economic underpinnings of health status, and providing community based comprehensive primary health care. PHM in the United States has been working in solidarity with health activists around the world, and promoting solutions emerging internationally as a result of local research and action for health.

We have many challenges both domestically and internationally. At this first national meeting we need your input to make decisions about where to focus our energy and how to take advantage of upcoming opportunities. One of those is the 3rd People’s Health Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa next July. If you have thought about attending the PHA3, you should participate in this meeting.

Soon we will send out a pre-meeting survey to hear from as many people as possible as we develop the agenda.

To register for the meeting, go to

For more information, email

If you would like to participate but are unable to travel to LA, we will be setting up some kind of virtual participation connection for part of the meeting. Please email if you would like to participate virtually.

Discussion, learning, and action across organizations, disciplines, race and class is needed to build the movement to demand for health for all in the US and globally. We will lay a foundation July 28-29 in Los Angeles.

In Solidarity,

People’s Health Movement–USA National Meeting Organizing Committee

Sri Shamasunder
Sarah Shannon
Laura Turiano
Jyoti Puvvula
Linda Sharp
Lily Walkover
Evan Lyon

Posted by Matt Anderson

The health law at one year: Should we celebrate?

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Physicians for a National Health Program Blog, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011

On March 23, a year after President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), “the most expansive social legislation enacted in decades,” according to the New York Times, it’s worth taking a look at Massachusetts.

After all, PPACA was inspired in the Massachusetts health plan, which sought universal coverage through Medicaid expansions for individuals living under 150 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), partial subsidies for those between 151 and 300 percent of the FPL, a state-based exchange to act as a one-stop-shopping place of private insurance plans, and a mandate to purchase one of those plans under penalty of a fine.

And yet, four years after implementation, health reform Massachusetts-style has failed a critical test. As a recent study in the American Journal of Medicine showed, the percentage of personal bankruptcies linked to medical bills and illness, at 52.9 percent, has not decreased significantly, and the absolute number of medical bankruptcies has increased, from 7,504 in 2007 to 10,093 in 2009. How so?

Well, it’s not hard to understand why. Health insurance is a means to an end. The end is health care. And skimpy policies with significant, and increasing, out-of-pocket costs are useless when people need care.

And in Massachusetts, skimpy policies are not even cheap. For example, as study authors pointed out, the least expensive individual coverage available to a 56-year-old Bostonian carries a premium of $5,616 and a deductible of $2,000, and covers only 80 percent of the next $15,000 in costs of covered services (uncovered services fall 100 percent on you).

This is not small change if your annual income is around $32,000, or 300 percent of the FPL, so you’re not entitled to subsidies (which, mind you, come from taxpayers’ pockets).

But what about at least slowing the increase in health care costs? Fail again. Double-digit increases in premiums have become routine in Massachusetts, and insurers have warned this will continue next year, even as “consumer-driven” policies that shift more costs to individuals multiply.

But won’t PPACA, a federal program, control costs in U.S. health care? No, at least if you go by its effect on California, where, maybe to celebrate PPACA’s first year anniversary, Blue Shield recently announced its third premium hike since October 2010. An outside consultant found, unsurprisingly, that the planned hike was “reasonable.” (PPACA does not forbid insurers to raise their prices; it only demands that they show that increases are deemed “reasonable” by authorities that have little power to enforce their standards of reasonableness anyway.)

And what about the promise that kids with “pre-existing conditions” would not be charged more than other kids? Good luck with that one. This past October HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius already backed down on that promise, allowing insurers to charge more to cover sick kids to, according to the New York Times, “persuade companies to offer child-only policies.”

And Medicaid expansions, which would enroll at least 16 million individuals? Not a chance, especially after governors throughout the nation begin to implement the creative ideas offered by Sebelius explaining how, as state budgets collapse and nobody bails them out, Medicaid costs can be reduced “by cutting benefits,” as noted in California Healthlines.

Wait a minute, you might say. Whatever problems it may have, the law offers (near) universal coverage, no? Out of luck again. The law will leave around 23 million uninsured close to 10 years out from its implementation (and over 50 million annually over the next three years). Many of these will be undocumented immigrants, whom the law forbids to buy coverage from the insurance exchanges, even with their own money.

On the bright side, as the failure of the attempt to further strengthen the worst of the U.S. health care system — for-profit insurance for medically necessary care, and trading uninsurance for underinsurance — becomes increasingly apparent, a space will open up for Americans to demand real health care reform: a publicly financed, privately delivered health care system that provides comprehensive and equitable health care to everybody in the United States: an expanded and improved Medicare for All.

Claudia Chaufan, M.D., Ph.D., is assistant professor at the Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco. She teaches sociology of health and medicine, sociology of power, public health, comparative health care comparative health care systems and sociological theory. Dr. Chaufan is also vice president of Physicians for a National Health Program-California (

From "consumer-driven" health care to "consumer-driven" fire department.


While “consumer-driven fire department” sounds decidedly weird, for some reason some have been brainwashed to believe that “consumer-driven health care” makes sense.

But it does not. It makes no more sense to let people’s house burn down because they cannot pay their fire-department fees — maybe they chose the wrong “plan”? or a plan with a deductible they cannot afford? – than to let them die because they cannot afford their health care.

Now, why the new federal law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act P-PACA), will fail to keep its two key promises (protecting patients and making health care affordable), is not the topic of this posting, because I and many others have commented on it extensively elsewhere.

Rather, it is to point out that if we continue turning health care more and and more into a “consumer good” that those who have the ear (and pockets) of Congress and the White House can make a profit off of (and P-PACA reinforces the trend ), we are up to extremely unpleasant experiences.

Such as, for instance, looking at our homes burn down while the Fire Department watches. And unfortunately, this nightmare is already with us. It happened just a few days ago, in Tennessee.

Here is a video clip produced by, illustrating the story and the debate it ignited in cyberspace:

“No pay, no spray”.

Interestingly, one reporter critiques the city implementing the fee because it likens a public service, fire protection, to auto insurance (note: remember the comparison made by President Obama  between health insurance and auto insurance, once even the token gesture, the ‘public option’, towards his progressive base had been cast aside to give full way to the Well Point-crafted federal legislation?)

And here is how the episode is described in Amy Goodman’s show, Democracy Now:

Tenn. Fire Department Allows Home to Burn Down over Unpaid $75 Fee

In Tennessee, a local fire department refused to put out a house fire last week because the homeowner had forgotten to pay $75 for fire protection from a nearby town. The firefighters showed up to the scene of the fire and then watched as the home of Gene Cranick burned to the ground. Cranick’s neighbors had paid the $75 fee, so when the fire spread across the property line firefighters took action, but only to save the neighbor’s property.

The local mayor defended the actions of the firefighters. South Fulton Mayor David Crocker said, “Anybody that’s not in the city of South Fulton, it’s a service we offer. Either they accept it or they don’t.” On Monday, Gene Cranick appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Gene Cranick: “Everything that we possessed was lost in the fire. Even three dogs and a cat that belonged to my grandchildren was lost in it. And they could have been saved if they had been—they had put water on it. But they didn’t do it, so that’s just a loss.”

Keith Olbermann: “When you all called 911, as I understand it, you told the operator you’d pay whatever was necessary to have the firefighters come put out and prevent the fire from spreading to your house. What was their response?”

Cranick: “That we wasn’t on their list.”

Are we going to watch in disbelief while our homes burn down?

As Dr. Bill Skeen, executive direction of Physicians for a National Health Program-California, wrote:

Sadly, those of us who believe healthcare is a right know that this country has never assumed the mantle of providing healthcare to all its residents. Currently we leave 50 million of our brothers and sisters uninsured; 45,000 of them die each year because of it. It is time for us to stand up and demand that our nation return to the real American values of empathy and compassion and caring about our neighbors’ wellbeing.

Last night we as a nation let a family’s house burn to the ground while those who could save it watched and did nothing. Everyday we let more than a hundred people die who have no health insurance. Are we willing to standby and do nothing to stop it?

We don’t need to. And we mustn’t.

Let’s pick up the phone and call our U.S. Representatives today, and tell him or her to co-sponsoer HR676 when it is reintroduced next year in Congress. Tell him or her that you are outraged at what happened in Tennessee and that these two issues, fire protection and health care for all, are one and the same at their core. They demonstrate the incontrovertible need for government to protect the common good, and for we Americans to show our humanity to each other.

The Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 / 202-224-3121  can connect you to the office of your Representative.

See below for a list of US Representatives that demonstrated their support this year for single payer by co-sponsoring HR 676. Please thank those legislators for their support, and urge the others to get on board!

Let us demand Medicare for All – everybody in, nobody out!

Name                                  State    District    Date signed
Rep Woolsey, Lynn C.        CA        6             01/26/09
Rep Miller, George             CA        7             03/19/09
Rep Lee, Barbara               CA        9             01/26/09
Rep Honda, Michael M.      CA      15             02/11/09
Rep Lofgren, Zoe                CA     16             05/20/09
Rep Farr, Sam                    CA      17             01/26/09
Rep Berman, Howard L.     CA     28             01/26/09
Rep Becerra, Xavier           CA     31              03/17/09
Rep Chu, Judy                   CA     32              07/31/09
Rep Watson, Diane E.        CA    33              01/26/09
Rep Roybal Allard, Lucille   CA    34             03/30/09
Rep Waters, Maxine           CA    35             03/19/09
Rep Napolitano, Grace F.   CA    38             01/26/09
Rep Baca, Joe                   CA    43              10/07/09
Rep Filner, Bob                  CA    51              02/11/09