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NOW members protest the Stupac-Pitts amendment

NOW members protest the Stupac-Pitts amendment

NOW (National Organization for Women) warns that the Senate will vote on an amendment similar to Stupak-Pitts that would prevent millions of women from obtaining insurance coverage for abortion under their version of health care reform, S1796. Is that the bill number or the year they intend to regress to?

It appears advocates will use this amendment to hold health care reform hostage unless this affront against women is included.

This comes on the heals of the passed house Stupak-Pitts, anti-abortion amendment and the more recent mammogram media blitz tactic that blamed the White House for an independent private sector task force recommendation. It appears the health care insurance industry and their friends in Congress are out to target women in an all out effort to discredit health care reform.

NOW posted the following to it members on their website:

Reportedly, Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Bob Casey (R-Penn.) may offer a version of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to be attached to the Senate bill. That means, in all likelihood, if the Senate adopts this harmful amendment, it will remain in the final Senate-House conference bill and become law. Alternatively, a modified variation of Stupak-Pitts could be incorporated into the bill. Either way, millions of women lose — big time.

Please Take Action NOW!

The Stupak-Pitts amendment explained:

* The ban on abortion coverage in insurance would apply to both the proposed public option and to private health insurance plans sold in the new regional health insurance exchanges. It is estimated that some 36 million uninsured persons would be purchasing insurance policies through new exchanges and would be eligible for federal affordability subsidies.
* Health insurers may not sell plans that cover abortion to customers who are paying without a subsidy, if even just one person who is receiving the federal affordability credits (the subsidy) were to purchase a plan. In other words, even if you are paying 100 percent of your insurance costs, abortion coverage would not be available in your plan if anyone with affordability credits joins the same plan.
* Women may purchase a separate abortion “rider” for coverage, though many doubt that these riders would be offered by the insurance companies.
* Small companies (fewer than 100 employees) would also likely purchase health insurance through the exchange, but if any of their employees received affordability credits no abortion coverage could be included.
* Eighty-seven percent of employer-based insurance plans now cover abortion services, but if employers withdraw coverage and send their employees to the health insurance exchanges, those employees would likely lose abortion coverage under these new prohibitions.

There may be a modified version of this harmful amendment that is included in the Senate health care reform bill that will be debated next week. We want to make sure that Stupak-Pitts language is not used and that no variation of this harmful amendment is passed. Please send a message to your senators that you oppose any restrictions on insurance coverage of abortion. Thank you for all the work you do for women’s rights.

Dan Pfeiffer writes, “One of the hallmark tactics from opponents of health insurance reform has been to grab onto any convenient piece of information and twist it into some misguided attack on reform, no matter how unrelated it may actually be….. and Fox News obliges them with the headline ‘Critics See Health Care Rationing Behind New Mammography Recommendations.'” He says the media outlets feed on this kind of opportunistic “controversy.” Ya think?

Gee, how did the mainstream media miss this statement coming from the White House?

Pfeiffer continues that it’s ironic that the the right would spin this government agency recommendation as “health care rationing” that is part of the insurance reform movement. In fact health care reform proponents want to see increased preventative measures, as do most doctors.

One very basic problem with U.S. healthcare is that we have a policy of only providing free health care to people when they are in an emergency or at risk of death. By that time it’s often too late, especially in cancer cases. Staunch reform proponents want socialized medicine for all people to have health care as they need it, when they need it, for all ages – Medicare for all.

So the right is spinning this (what I would call suspicious) recommendation from the independent U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Note the word “independent.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius had stated that she expects no changes to take place in the government or in the health insurance industry as a result of this (independent) USPSTF report. In fact she stated Wednesday that women should continue to get checked at age 40. Yet the right wing liars, as per usual, keep saying this stuff will be part of health care reform.

On the other hand we should indeed keep watch that the health insurance industry doesn’t try to sneak in this kind of cut back on preventative services which would benefit them and which they could blame upon reformers with this kind of media spin. How hard can it be to influence an independent task force when you’re an insurance industry that already has Congress on it’s payroll and has written the recently passed health care bill with lobbyists? This is all out media warfare. The pen is mightier than the sword.

Pfeiffer’s blog continues with the following clarification FAQ:

Will Medicare now stop paying for breast cancer mammography for women because of this recommendation?

Women who are currently getting mammograms under Medicare will continue to be able to get them. There are no plans to change that. The law states that in order to change Medicare coverage of mammograms a formal rule making process must be undertaken and that is not happening.

Isn’t this the first step toward denying coverage for mammograms?

No. The Task force is an independent panel of experts in prevention and primary care that evaluates available evidence and makes recommendations about effective clinical preventive services based on scientific information. Under the health insurance reform legislation, the USPTF would have no power to deny insurance coverage in any way. Their recommendations would be used in health reform to identify effective clinical preventive services.

How will this recommendation affect private health insurance coverage?

The Task Force does not address insurance coverage and payment issues; it focuses on the science of the clinical services it evaluates. Each insurance company is different and makes its own coverage decisions. The Task Force recognizes that clinical and policy decisions involve more consideration that this body of evidence alone. Clinicians and policymakers should understand the evidence but individualize decision making to the specific patient or situation.

Tommy Thompson said the Task Force recommendations were the official position of the U.S. Government. Is that your position?

We have tremendous respect for the Task Force and the work they have done. They are an independent scientific body that makes recommendations based on scientific evidence; however they do not set official policy for the federal government. Under health reform, their recommendations would be used to identify preventive services that must be provided for little or no cost.

Won’t the USPSTF be used to ration care under health reform?

Absolutely not. The USPSTF, an independent task force made up of some of the nation’s top doctors and scientists provides science-based recommendations regarding the most effective preventive, treatment and screening services. The Task Force’s recommendations would be used to help determine the types of services that must be provided for at little or no cost and the Task Force would have no power to deny insurance coverage in any way..

What do these recommendations mean for the current health reform bills?

While the bills are still being drafted and debated in Congress, health insurance reform legislation generally calls for the Task Force’s recommendations to help determine the types of preventive services that must be provided for little or no cost. The recommendations alone cannot be used to deny treatment.

http://www.youtube.com/v/VA5GOSiZ9Q8&hl=en&fs=1&Over 50,000 die every year for lack of health care and more for denial of care despite having health insurance. That’s well over 100 deaths per day. 50 million (and growing) in the U.S. have no health care at all. This is why nine Lieberman constituents and members of Mobilization for Health Care Now were arrested today as they sat-in Lieberman’s DC office and demanded to see him.

Five of the Lieberman Nine have been released. The other four intend to stay in jail until Lieberman meets with them to discuss rejecting the money he accepts from insurance companies!

Meanwhile ABC News reports: “Later we will see much a larger protest from the other side of the political spectrum as potentially thousands of protesters gather with Republican lawmakers on the West side of the Capitol. Those protesters will lobby against Democrats’ health care bills in large part because they include a public option..”

Congress is getting it from all sides. Their compromises with the insurance industry infuriate progressives and as weak as what’s left of a public option is, the right are protesting it’s inclusion. You can’t please everyone so you may as well have a single payer system, medicare for all, problem solved, which is what is buzzing about as we hear that Pelosi is allowing a vote on the Weiner amendment for a single payer system!

Huff post reports the following:

Nine protesters were arrested Thursday in a demonstration at the office of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to demand that he pledge to stop accepting from the health insurance industry.

Lieberman, who last week said he would join a GOP filibuster of any health care bill with a government-run public option, has accepted about $1.5 million from health professionals and insurance agencies since 2003, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Twenty protesters, including four students from the University of Connecticut, marched into the senator’s office in the morning and demanded to speak with him. Aides denied their request, offering constituents a closed-door meeting with two legislative aides, which was rejected. Nine protesters then staged a sit-in, saying they would not leave the office until they could have a discussion with the senator in person.

“We’re waiting to see if the senator for Aetna is ready to be the senator for the people,” explained one protester, Kai, who wouldn’t give his last name. Aetna has spent over two million dollars on lobbying in 2009, and has donated $65,000 to Lieberman’s campaign committee.

Within 10 minutes of the protesters’ arrival, Capitol police were on the scene. They dragged away nine protesters, including two of Lieberman’s Connecticut constituents, as Senate staffers watched from the lobby and office hallways.

After the arrests, five of the remaining protesters continued on to Lieberman’s committee hearing, which was already underway. They stood in the back of the chamber and quietly held up signs reading “Patients Not Profits” and “Insurance $$$ Makes Me Sick.”

“It’s ironic Lieberman is chairing this meeting on corporate crimes,” said Medea Benjamin, who characterized the practice of accepting campaign donations from health insurance companies as criminal.

Mobilization for Health Care has a petition to sign urging Lieberman to “publicly pledge that he will no longer accept any money from any insurance companies.

Over 2000 signed this petition within just a few hours of this story breaking.

http://www.youtube.com/v/oAawqXBUzhc&hl=en&fs=1&Med students have gone to Congress to plead with them to stop provisions in health care legislation that would outlaw affordable generic drugs for the sake of protecting corporate competition. They have seen first hand how people suffer and die because of the inability to obtain life saving drugs, a painful, slow, horrible death for many. This is sadistic. Sign the petition to help.

http://fora.tv/embedded_player

The Healing of America is T.R Reid’s new book that covers his trip to the other industrialized nations in search for a medical solution to his injured shoulder. His book is an excellent survey of how other countries (including France, Germany, Japan, Canada and India) handle healthcare. His question is how do they provide better healthcare than the U.S. at half the cost? He answers that question, but still can’t figure out why the U.S. doesn’t do it better.I was interested to find that France has a multi-payer system, although it is closely regulated with the bottom line that people will not be charged more than fixed amounts for specific procedures. This is far from socialism. In France they have a health card, like a credit card, that has a chip in it (like AMEX) that contains the card holder’s entire medical history. So doctors have no medical records, no files, no one to figure out what is covered and what isn’t. It’s all computerized.

It’s an amazing read.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/all/modules/swftools/shared/flash_media_player/player.swf Doctors have been traveling across the U.S. in a road show they call “Doctors; Mad as Hell”. They want to see serious health care reform. Most support a single payer system. They met with Obama on October 5, 2008 and continue to hold rallies around the country.

http://current.com/e/91327427/en_US

Grigor Sarkisyan tells us of his daughter who was denied treatment and died because of it, as Dr. Matt Hendrickson MD and others get arrested and protesters chant “CIGNA profits, people die, arrest the real criminals.” This happened in Glendale CA as similar sit-ins at health insurance companies take place around the country. Over 900 people have signed up to risk arrest at these ongoing sit-ins including a number of doctors. They do not accept the public option as the answer to this problem. Only a single payer system that covers all Americans at affordable costs is acceptable and these rallies and sit-ins will continue until that happens.

In Louisville KY seven occupied the Humana lobby for over 24 hours. Humana allowed them to stay as long as they wanted and stated they too want health care reform.

In Warwick, CT, sit-protesters, including Robert Darling, a cancer patient being denied care, occupied the United Health Care office, demanding that the insurer cover Robert’s bone marrow transplant immediately. The CEO was unavailable but the PR manager talked with them and promised to meet with Mr. Darling within a week to answer him.

San Francisco 40

40 risked arrest at a San Francisco sit-in while 200 rallied in support and 30 others blocked entrances to Blue Shield offices. Protesters advocated a “single-payer” system in which the state or federal government would create one system of health insurance to cover everyone, as would be created by Rep. John Conyers’ H.R. 676, which would improve Medicare and expand it to cover everyone. The California legislature has twice passed bills creating a similar single-payer system on the state level, but Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed both these bills.

In New York nine were arrested at a Welpoint sit-in.

New York Nine

New York Nine

Simone Morse, a 19-year old student at Hunter College, was the first to be handcuffed and pulled up from the floor this morning at 1 Liberty Plaza in lower Manhattan, the corporate offices of WellPoint, one of the largest health insurers in the United States.

Cameron Gibson, a 23-year-old medical student at SUNY Downstate, was one of the next to go, followed by Frank Broadhead, a 67-year-old senior on Medicare, who was carried out on his back and deposited into a nearby police van by two members of the New York Police Department. In total, nine protesters were arrested on Wednesday morning on charges of disorderly conduct and/or trespassing, according to an NYPD officer on site who spoke off the record.

Matt Hendrickson, MD, arrested at the Glendale Ca CIGNA sit-in.

Matt Hendrickson, MD, arrested at the Glendale Ca CIGNA sit-in.

Matt Hendrickson, MD explains why he was willing to risk arrest at the CIGNA sit-in in Glendale.

“My name is Matt Hendrickson, I am an Emergency Physician and a member of Physicians For A National Health Program.

I am sitting in at Cigna tomorrow to ask Cigna why the health insurance industry is denying health care.

Why are they charging America a 25% tax on all healthcare transactions to support a system that avoids the sick? Why has the number of physicians grown by 200% in the last 40 years while the number of insurance administrators has grown by 3,000%? Why does their industry have 1 million administrators, while there are half as many physicians and Medicare only has 15,000 employees?

Why does Medicare pay their chief executive $150,000 while Cigna pays Ed Hanway $12 million? Why is their industry raising premiums for small businesses by 15% a year? And then diverting 15 cents off every dollar to deny care to their paying customers.

I’m going inside Cigna today to ask these questions. I’m going to bring some pictures with me. Some of the faces will be familiar to Cigna.

Like Nataline Sarkisyan who lived in Glendale until she was 17 when she died because Cigna denied her transplant.

But they may not know Jenny Fritts who was 24 when this picture was taken with her two-and-a-half year old daughter Kylee. She was also seven and a half months pregnant with her second child- a beautiful baby girl. Jenny is dead. Jenny’s unborn baby is dead. They died because she was turned away for appropriate care from a for-profit hospital due to lack of insurance.

I want Cigna to know about this young woman, seen here at her two-year-old son’s birthday. She came to my ER with a mole behind her ear and a swollen lymph node. Her husband had recently lost his job when their tech firm downsized.

We recommended she get a biopsy. The family used part of their savings to get the biopsy done promptly by paying cash. The biopsy revealed metastatic melanoma. Now the Thomas family has no income, depleted savings and the mother of their three young children has an invasive cancer with no health insurance.

If Cigna won’t let me inside their offices, I’ll sit down outside and wait to speak to them. If police won’t let me wait, I will be arrested. It is my duty as a physician and my honor as a citizen to be speak out for My patients who are losing their savings, losing their homes and losing their lives because of the existence of the private insurance industry.

America cannot wait any longer. Our uninsured cannot wait. Our small businesses cannot wait. Our middle class cannot wait.

This is just the beginning Cigna. Other physicians are risking arrest today. And there will be more next month, and the month after that. We will not stop speaking out for our patients and stating unconditionally that private health insurance must go.”

Matt Hendrickson, MD MPH
Vice Chair, PNHP/CaPA LA
Chair, LA Single Payer Coalition

Sam Pullen at the 10/15/09 L.A. Blue Cross sit-inWashington DC – Chanting “patients not profits,” citizens and health care providers held rallies and sit-ins at health insurance company offices in New York, Washington, Phoenix, Palm Beach, Portland, Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Reno. (Full list of cities and arrests below.) 54 were arrested to support an end to insurance abuse and win health care for all. 14 arrested in New York have not yet been released. Sam Pullen, 31, arrested in Los Angeles is refusing to give information to police, vowing to stay in jail until Blue Cross, where he protested yesterday, stops denying care to those who need it most. Another round of sit-ins and rallies is planned for Wednesday, October 28.

Pullen was inspired to action by his mother, who was denied coverage for a lifesaving bone marrow transplant by Blue Cross when he was a teenager. Weakened by her cancer treatments, Pullen’s mother staged a one-woman sit-in at the insurance company office, resulting in the approval of the transplant that extended her life for years. Thanks to the transplant, she lived long enough to see Pullen reach 18 years of age.

“I am honoring my mother’s sprit by refusing to leave custody until Blue Cross ceases its practice of denying doctor-requested treatments for patients with life-threatening conditions,” said Pullen, who is being supported by Mobilization for Health Care for All and other groups. “We will not back down until profit-driven insurance companies no longer stand between the American people and the health care they deserve!”
______________________________________________________________________
The above was copied from the Mobilize for Health Care website, which updates the article daily. Sam Pullen organized the Los Angeles financial district sit-in at the Anthem Blue Cross offices. 12 were arrested there as seen here: http://current.com/items/91210625_single-payer-is-not-off-the-table.htm.

Rallies and more such protest actions are planned for future events and will continue, not until a public option is passed, but until a universal fair affordable health care system is agreed upon, a system such as medicare for all or a single payer system. A silent rage has been awakened in Americans across the country and this will only escalate as the right and the insurance industry push back.

Pelosi has stated that single payer is off the table. But the doctors, health care professionals and other activists who continue to stand up for universal health care will not acknowledge Pelosi’s statement. Single payer is not off the table. It’s the people’s table, not Congress’.

Good luck to Sam and the other American heroes who remain in jail to protest our corrupt monopolistic socialized corporate welfare state insurance industry that preys upon all Americans for it’s very survival.

http://current.com/e/91088270/en_US
President Obama recently mentioned at a town hall on health care reform that he didn’t support a single payer system because it would be too disruptive. He didn’t explain what he meant by disruptive but industry professionals assume he refers to health insurance industry management and employees who would become jobless in short order under a single payer system. It’s not clear if management outnumbers other employees. 

Obama is keeping these insurance industry jobs on as part of the government public option plan to persist health insurance industry control over people’s health care. Even without a public option, insurance companies stand to have an even better stake in the health care market. The future looks bright for health care insurance employees who will be able to continue their never ending thankless job of denying health claims to people in need of medical care. 

The 45,000 people who die every year due to lack of health care and from denial of insurance as well as the 14,000 daily who lose their health insurance are apparently forsaken for the few hundred thousand jobs in the health insurance industry. What’s a few hundred thousand lives and disrupted families every few years to as many well fed well paid industry office workers’ jobs? We need to have at least one or two industries that continue to make record profits while the rest of us face financial ruin. 

The move by Obama is in line with America’s ongoing shift toward corporate welfare socialism. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not have a single payer type system to ensure all it’s citizens have health care and have healthy productive lives. It’s not certain if this fact is the symptom or the result of America slipping into the list of third world countries where 5% or less of the population control 95% or more of the country’s wealth and power. America is no longer considered a democracy by most people who understand the meaning of the term. We are at best an oligarchy, with our government under corporate control by the wealthy few.

In light of America’s failure to deliver health care, despite our advanced technology (only available to the very rich here) we now rank 37th in the world in health care. France is number one.

My suggestion is that Americans stop buying health insurance if they can avoid it. Vote with your wallet. That’s the only thing these people understand.