Kentucky Celebrates Medicare’s 52nd Birthday

On Sunday, July 30, 2017, Kentuckians for Single Payer Health Care celebrated Medicare’s 52nd birthday wi20375820_1746727645338002_1409526750731116281_nth cake, great company, and a film at the Tim Faulkner Gallery in Louisville on Portland Avenue.  The celebration was one of many across the country that promoted the single payer Medicare model as the solution to the health care crisis.

Christine Perlin and Mary Dunbar headed the committee to organize the event.  Kristi Thomas, Doris Bailey Spencer, Harriette Seiler, and others helped.  Participants viewed the film, “Fix It–Healthcare at the Tipping Point” and followed up with a discussion period.   The magnificent cake was provided by Mary Dunbar.

Medicare, signed into law on July 30, 1965, was implemented within ten months in a time before the digital age, far outpacing the Affordable Care Act which takes effect in stages over a ten year period.  Medicare brought care to those over 65, the part of the population that insurers were not eager to cover.

Before Medicare about one half of seniors did not have hospital insurance.  Many lived without care, many in poverty.

There are more reasons to celebrate Medicare.  Medicare desegregated the nation’s hospitals by making compliance with Title VI a requirement for receiving Medicare funds.  In the blink of an eye, decades of barriers based on race fell to a well-designed federal program with economic consequences for those who would not comply.

Kristi Thomas (L) and Mary Dunbar, RN (R) at the Medicare Celebration.
Kristi Thomas (L) and Mary Dunbar, RN (R) at the Medicare Celebration.  Photo by Doris Bailey Spencer

The gains in access to hospital care for African Americans in Mississippi “coincide with a striking reduction in black post-neonatal death for causes considered preventable with timely hospital care.”  Medicare showed what the country could do when the objective was patients rather than profits.

In addition, Medicare pays $9.1 billion a year to teaching hospitals, which goes toward resident salaries and direct teaching costs, as well as the higher operating costs associated with teaching hospitals, which tend to see the sickest and most costly patients.

Over the decades some parts of Medicare expanded to cover the disabled and those suffering from end stage kidney disease.  In 2010 it was expanded to cover those in Libby, Montana, suffering from the diseases of asbestos exposure.  Medicare has done a lot of good.

Other changes to Medicare were not positive.  There were attacks in the guise of improvements.  During the Clinton administration in 1997, the Budget Reconciliation Act established “Medicare+Choice,” opening the door to private insurers selling Medicare plans to seniors while pocketing the profits.  That door was widened in 2003 when the Medicare Modernization Act established an entirely privatized drug plan and gave additional taxpayer money to the insurers selling privatized plans known as Medicare Advantage.

The drug plan forbids any use of bulk purchasing power to negotiate better drug prices.  While the Veterans Administration can use its power to lower drug prices by about 40%, Medicare is barred from doing the same.  Billy Tauzin, the sponsor of the Medicare drug plan, went on to work for big Pharma with a million dollar a year job.  Seniors continue to struggle with drug costs.  The public pays about 14% more for these private Medicare plans while the insurers find the ways to lure seniors in.

20430064_1746727642004669_899497785518615893_nMedicare Advantage plans now account for 30% of Medicare recipients.  These inferior plans can threaten traditional Medicare solely because they have been able to keep monthly premiums low or zero, attracting the elderly who must keep monthly costs uppermost in mind.

Subsequent legislation allows means testing for Medicare payments and changes in doctor payments in ways that pretend to pay more for greater value but in reality impose massive administrative costs on doctors’ offices.   These crude attempts to measure what is not scientifically measurable are cause for concern.

There are further problems.  Medicare now covers only about 51% of seniors’ health care costs, leaving them vulnerable to economic hardship, bankruptcy, and going without care.  To preserve Medicare we must improve it and expand it to all.  That was the promise of Medicare when it was passed and that is the clear solution for today’s healthcare crisis with its soaring costs yet incomplete coverage and care.

Medicare shows by in its single payer structure that it can be improved and expanded to cover the entire nation while bringing costs under control.  That is what Congressman John Conyers’ legislation, HR 676 does to assure that every person will be covered for all medically necessary care.   Support is growing by leaps and bounds.  There are currently 116 cosponsors of HR 676 in the House of Representatives.

A well informed and passionate national movement can change what is politically possible and make universal care a reality by passing HR 676!

 

 

“Lives on the Line” Healthcare Rally in Pikeville

On July 29, 2017, Kentuckians for Single Payer Health Care (KSPH) joined in the Pikeville Rally to demand that every person have the right to care.

“We’re here because we’re human beings and every human being deserves health care,” said Bev May, a Floyd County member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) who emceed the event. “Every life counts, and every life needs health care.”

Rally attendees signed large letterIMG_1591s to Rep. Hal Rogers and Gov. Matt Bevin telling them to support the people they represent and stop their efforts to take away health care for thousands of people.

 

“What kind of country will we have without a healthy population?” asked Dr. Van Breeding, who practices in Whitesburg. “This is the most important foundation to any country, to have adequate health care.”

Mark McKinley, Jill Harmer, Larry Hovekamp and Dr. Garrett Adams drove from Louisville to participate.   Dr. Adams, past President of Physicians for a National Health Program, addressed the crowd with a message of support for single payer, improved Medicare for All.  He is in the above photo.

Mark McKinley interviewed a number of participants about their health care needs and their views on single payer health care.  Those voices were broadcast on KSPH’s weekly radio show that can be heard in Louisville at 106.5 FM on Wednesdays at 5 pm and Thursdays at 9 am.597fa1d88fdc9.image

A fuller report of the rally can be seen at this KFTC link.

In the photo at right, Jill Harmer and a member of the Steelworkers Union display their views on the backs of their shirts.

A video of the rally can be seen on facebook at this link.

The Louisville KSPH group also visited the  Eula Hall Health Clinic.  They are pictured below, left to right, Larry Hovekamp, Jill Harmer, and Mark McKinley.

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“Lives on the Line” Rally for Healthcare in Louisville

On July 29, 2017, Kentuckians for Single Payer Health Care rallied with Indivisible and many others at Metro Hall in Louisville to insist that legislators recognize and implement the right of all to health care.   KSPH Vice Chair, Edgar Lopez, MD, FACS, and Secretary Harriette Seiler were among the featured      20376078_2039094242986279_3301665503518539025_nspeakers.  Dr. Lopez, who is bilingual and volunteers many hours at the Free Clinic in Butchertown, is pictured here holding the “Improved-Expanded Medicare for All” sign.

In the days before the rally, the Senate voted narrowly, 51 to 49, against a proposed bill that would have repealed major parts of the Affordable Care Act.  That Senate bill w20604250_2039094179652952_9150418127486774519_nould have stripped away coverage for millions according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The threat to take away care has galvanized the single payer movement across the country, as many recognize the precarious nature of the gains made and the problems that continue with 28 million still uninsured and many millions more who have insurance but are still unable to afford medicines and care.

The Courier-Journal covered the rally.

Harriette Seiler, below, a former Canadian, brought the message of what single payer health care has meant to her Canadian family and friends.  KSPH activist Antonio Wilson, left, faithfully attends every healt20374609_2039094249652945_5653991998981624156_nh care rally.  Photos by Holley Holland.

 

 

Kentucky and Indiana Walk the Bridge for Improved Medicare for All

“Today my heart is so full.  It was so amazing to witness people from the Kentucky and Indiana side come together in the name of the common good.  I’m so proud of us!”  That was the feeling of Mary Dunbar, RN, about the July 24, 2017, event “Millions Marching for Medicare for All” that took place on the Big Four Bridge between Louisville and Jeffersonville and in cities across the country.

Mary Dunbar was interviewed by the  press at the event.  She and Kristi Thomas, activists in Kentuckians for Single Payer Health Care, organized the Kentucky side of the bridgewalk.

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Celebrate Medicare’s 52nd Birthday in Louisville, Sun. July 30, 2017

Celebrate Medicare’s 52nd Birthday in Louisville

July 30 @ 4:00 pm6:00 pm

19748822_10213003707344240_7193641073796674985_nPlease join us as we celebrate the ‘birthday’ of Medicare!

Sunday, July 30, 2017, 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm

FREE FILM and FREE FOOD.

This is a casual and informative event where you can show your support, ask questions about universal healthcare, watch the film “Fix It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point” and just hang out at the beautiful Tim Faulkner gallery, 1512 Portland Ave. Louisville, KY 40203!

Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided, the gallery has a cash bar.

Frankfort Rally to Save Our Healthcare and Promote Single Payer

On Monday, June 26, 2017, Karen Armstrong-Cummings of Together Frankfort emceed a rally in the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort urging calls to Senators Mitch McConnell (202) 224-2541 and Rand Paul (202) 224-4343 to demand hearings on the McConnell bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Together Frankfort organized the standing room only rally and Indivisible Bluegrass, Our Revolution Central Kentucky, and Together We Will Bluegrass joined them.

 

Speakers included Dustin Pugel of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy; Robin Rider-Osborne, an advocate for those with mental illness and those on Medicaid; Greg Welch of Together We Will Bluegrass; and Coleman Eldridge, former Assistant to former Governor Steve Beshear.

 

Beshear is nationally acclaimed for assertively implementing the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky, bringing coverage to over half a million people. About 470,000 of those are covered under the expansion of Medicaid. That coverage is now threatened by the Ryan bill that was passed by the House and the McConnell bill that is pending in the Senate.

Health Care Rally

 

Kay Tillow of Kentuckians for Single Payer Health Care was the featured presenter. Armstrong-Cummings explained that Together Frankfort did not want only to oppose bills that are harmful but also to project a positive way forward. Hence single payer was right up front at the rally.

The Northern Kentucky Tribune reported:

Kay Tillow, Director of Kentuckians for Single Payer Healthcare, said health care costs in the U. S. are about $10,000 per person annually.

“The health care systems of the other industrialized nations average about $5,000 per capita,” Tillow said. “The tragic story is all those countries with half the money are doing better on outcomes.”

While supportive of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” the group say they are in favor of a bill sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, which would establish a nationwide single-payer health care system.

Full story:   Northern Kentucky Tribune.

 

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Following the rally the group walked to the Republican headquarters to deliver the message to save healthcare and promote single payer. KSPH Steering Committee member Jill Harmer was among the marchers.

 

 

 

 

 

The rotunda statue of Roosevelt’s VP, Alben Barkley of Paducah, sported a single payer, HR 676, Improved Medicare for All sign as well, and Christine Perlin stood by Abraham Lincoln.

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The Lexington Herald Leader and the State Journal in Frankfort also covered the story.

There are many more photos on the Together Frankfort facebook page.

Ending the rally, Coleman Eldridge brought the crowd to their feet by asserting that “Health care is a right, not a privilege. This is a matter of moral right and wrong… If we can put a man on the moon, we can ensure that millions of Americans and Kentuckians have access to affordable health care.”

(Link to Kentucky blogger Mommyof3 story on the rally.)

 

Rep. John Conyers Hosts Press Conference to Announce 111 Cosponsors on HR 676, Improved Medicare for All

On May 24, 2017, eight current congresspersons participated in the Rep. John Conyers’ press conference to celebrate the 111 cosponsors and the growing public support for HR 676, improved Medicare for All.  The 111th cosponsor is Rep. Joe Crowley, NY, Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.  There are 193 Democrats in Congress, so the vast majority of them are now supporting this single  payer legislation.  Before the day was over, Texas Rep. Marc Veasey also signed on, bringing the total to 112.

Congressman Conyers spoke with renewed confidence as he told of the wild popularity of Medicare for All in town hall meetings across the country.    “For years people have said, including people who support single payer,that it’s not time yet, that Medicare for All will have to wait,” said Conyers.  “Well, Dr. Martin Luther King said that ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never.’  We’re here to say that we’re done waiting.  It’s time now, Medicare for All,” Conyers stated.

Congresspersons Bonnie Watson Coleman, Ro Khanna, Peter Welch, John Conyers, and Steve Cohen at May 24, 2017 Medicare for All Press Conference
Congresspersons Bonnie Watson Coleman, Ro Khanna, Peter Welch, John Conyers, and Steve Cohen at May 24, 2017 Medicare for All Press Conference

“We will never get universal care building on the foundation of private for-profit insurance.  The only way we will get there is the way every other advanced country on the planet has, through a universal system like expanded Medicare for All,”  Conyers concluded.

Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland told of his very positive experience with the French health care system.

Congressman Ro Khanna of California said that he represents Silicon Valley and that those high tech start ups suffer great pressures to outsource jobs because of the high cost of health care.

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey said that the 25 best paid hedge fund managers in the U. S.  earn, as a collective, 11 billion dollars a year while at the same time over 20 million Americans do not have health care.  “I refuse to believe that in this great nation we cannot provide health care for all,” she said.

After reporting massive cheering for Medicare for All in town halls across Wisconsin, Congressman Mark Pocan said, “I recently did a Town Hall in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in Paul Ryan’s district.  If the Republicans aren’t going to do Town Halls, we’re going to do Town Halls.  And again, in his district, the largest response of the Town Hall was when we get to the subject of Medicare for All.  So let’s face it, the people are there, the people are leading.”

Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis, Tennessee, at HR 676 Press Conference
Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis, Tennessee, at HR 676 Press Conference

Congresspersons Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Peter Welch of Vermont, and Keith Ellison of Minnesota also spoke.

National Nurses United CoPresident Jeanne Ross, RN, said “Registered Nurses do not give up on our patients and we will not relent until we win Medicare for All.”

Phil Verhoef, MD, PhD, an ICU physician with Physicians for a National Health Program cited recent research that places the U. S. health system 80th out of 195 countries and by far the worst of the wealthy countries.  He declared our system critically ill and said “But we have a solution, we have a therapy for this critically ill patient, our health care system, and that is HR 676, improved and expanded Medicare for All.”

All of the speakers had much more to say.  They were passionate and upbeat, sometimes profound and on offense.  There is a transcript of their remarks at this website.

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to Single Payer on Forward Radio, 106.5 FM in Louisville

Kentuckians for Single Payer Health Care is pleased to announce that discussions of single payer, improved Medicare for All, can be heard on Forward Radio on each Wednesday at 5 pm and Thursday at 9 am at 106.5 FM.  The transmitter is atop the Heyburn Building and the station can be heard throughout the city and even further on your car radio.

Forward Radio Schedule. KSPH can be heard at 5 pm on Wednesdays and at 9 am on Thursdays.
Forward Radio Schedule. KSPH can be heard at 5 pm on Wednesdays and at 9 am on Thursdays.

FORward Radio is a community-based, low power FM radio start-up and media project operating as an educational arm of the Louisville chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) in pursuit of peace and social justice.

https://louisvillefor.org/forward-radio/

We are grateful to the Fellowship of Reconciliation and to Mark McKinley, KSPH Steering Committee Member, who have struggled over many years to create this new instrument of communication.

If you are interested in telling your health care story on the radio, please contact Mark at markjmckinley@gmail.com.

Harriette Seiler, Tom Moffett, Dr. Barbara Casper, Charlie Casper, Jill Harmer, Dave MacCool, Kay Tillow, Dr. Garrett Adams, are among those who have already been featured on the Single Payer Program.

 

West Kentuckians speak up for single payer health care at Town Hall meeting in Marshall County

Judy Tuggle of Mayfield (on the right) at Comer's Town Hall in Benton, KY
Judy Tuggle of Mayfield (on the right) at Comer’s Town Hall in Benton, KY

On May 10, 2017, at First District Congressman James Comer’s Town Hall meeting in Benton, Kentucky, Judy Tuggle of Mayfield spoke up for single payer health care.

Judy Tuggle said, “I watched President Trump when the Australian Prime Minister was visiting last week, and I lived in Australia for over a decade.  They have cradle to grave, single payer, medicare for all.” (Applause)

“President Trump touched the Australian prime minister on his knee and said “I know you have better health care than we do,” said Tuggle.  (Applause)

“When are you and the rest of the 435 people not supporting what works in the rest of the industrialized world…  You say you’re pro-business.  It handicaps American employers to have to pay for healthcare for the employees.   The German employers don’t have to.  The English don’t have to.  The Australians don’t have to.  It handicaps our business people.  Single payer works,” said Tuggle.

(Applause)

Rep. James Comer said he was for free enterprise, but if something is not done that is the direction we are headed in. (Loud cheers and applause.)

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Jennifer Smith’s speech at Rep. James Comer’s May 10, 2017, Town Hall:

“On March 24, I introduced myself to you, on April 12, I told you about my experience with single payer health care, and why I believe we need HR 676, which would guarantee health care for every American. I had hoped you were listening. You stated your commitment to protecting those of us with pre-existing conditions our access to insurance and health care, but instead, on May 4, you reneged on that promise, and voted for the horrendous bill, the AHCA.

Jennifer Smith at Rep. James Comer's Town Hall in Benton, KY, on May 10, 2017
Jennifer Smith at Rep. James Comer’s Town Hall in Benton, KY, on May 10, 2017

“In response to the outrage from your constituents, you stated on your Facebook page that the bill protected pre-existing conditions, and that those protesting and distorting the truth were far left liberals like the DNC, and Planned Parenthood.  You either lied, or in trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, you are naive and have been grossly misled by your friends in Washington.

“I am a two time breast cancer survivor.  I am a mother, and a grandmother.  I am not being paid by any organization to be here. I am a pre-existing condition that disagrees with your vote, as the AHCA will probably be the death of me.

“The radical left wing organizations that you say are against you include the American Cancer Society, Komen, the National Patient Advocate Foundation, and over 25 other cancer and health advocacy groups.  The American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Hospital Association, and AARP have also come out strongly against the bill.  All of the organizations have cited the catastrophic impact this will have on those of us with pre-existing conditions, and every other consumer of health care.

“You attempt to distort the impact of the bill, by saying that the high risk pools will protect us.  That would have some truth, if the funding in the bill was anywhere near what would be required to have the high risk pools be functional.  The funding would only cover approximately 110,000 individuals with pre-existing conditions.  However, there are an estimated 2.1 million people in this country with pre-existing conditions, so what happens to us?

“You also neglect to mention that with the states right to opt out, that it is almost a certainty that Kentucky’s governor Bevin would take that option, just as Wisconsin’s Governor Walker has already stated his intent.

“The reality is that this bill with drive up costs for the poor and those with health issues to the point that there is no access, because we will not be able to afford to pay the premiums or out of pocket expenses.  This is a simple grammar lesson, just because we may buy health insurance doesn’t mean we can.

“The AHCA repeals the protections of the ACA.  Insurance no longer is required to cover:
Ambulatory care or outpatient care.
Hospitalization
Mental health or substance abuse
prescriptions
rehab for injuries, disabilities, chronic mental or physical deficits.
Preventative screenings like mammograms or colonoscopies.
Maternity and newborn care,
Laboratory
Emergency.

“It also reduces payments for medicaid patient’s home health attendants.

“Many of these costs currently covered by insurance will now be out of pocket, and will certainly result in more bankruptcies, and in some cases, death, as people will skip getting their preventative screenings and care.

“The CBO has stated that with this bill, 14 million people will become uninsured, and that by 2026, 52 million people will be uninsured.

“All of this so that the wealthy can get tax cuts, when history proves that these tax cuts balloon the deficit.  The estimate attached to the tax cuts in this bill are that the deficit will be 111 % of the GDP by 2027.

“At the meeting in Cadiz, you stated that perhaps we had to consider that we could not as a country provide what was needed for our citizens, and turn to churches and charities to provide these services. When I was diagnosed for second time in 2015, my bill at Vanderbilt was almost $600,000 by the end of my chemotherapy and surgeries.  I had a Go Fund Me page, but what was interesting to me is that it was not people of wealth donating, but my friends who had also had cancer and were almost as financially challenged as we were.  I can assure you, Go Fund Me is not a health care provider!”

The crowd applauded Jennifer.

Others spoke as well, many concerned about health care.   The public radio report is here.

There is a full audio of the town hall here.

Article on this Town Hall by Berry Craig, Kentucky congressman wants Trumpcare, but town hall crowd cheered for single-payer