Shame seems to be the issue of the day. The North America Free Trade Agreement is also among the topics discussed. Health Care plans are reviewed. As the Presidential campaigns progress, let us reflect, and recall why these matters move the media and the people.
It was a cold day in January. The year 2007, after much debate and ample discussions, Hillary Rodham Clinton concluded the time was now. The climate was ideal. The former First Lady sat poised on a couch. The colors in the room were warm. A lamp placed behind the sofa was lit. Sunlight streamed into the room. Photographs of the family were visible on a table nearby. Finally, the stage was set. The New York Senator looked into the eyes of her visitors. Gently she smiled. Hillary Rodham Clinton opened her home and her heart to an American audience desirous of change. The woman many had hoped would be the first woman President of the United States affirmed “I’m in.”
Hillary Clinton invited us all to join her in a conversation. She mused, she had a feeling; it was going to be very interesting. Indeed, it is. Weeks ago, the candidate realized a deep dip in the contributions. This drop in donations caused much clamor. On February 21, 2008, during the Democratic Debate, First Lady Clinton offered her admiration to the man who appeared to be more prominent in the eyes of the people, Barack Obama. Then, a mere forty-eight hours later Hillary Clinton attacked her adversary.
The Senator from New York claimed, while in the crowd at an event in Cincinnati, Ohio, just days prior to that State’s primary, she was handed two mailers. A brilliant woman, organized, and aware, ready to take on the responsibilities of the Oval Office the day she crosses the threshold, did not realize that ten days earlier, the Ohio Daily Blog published an essay which spoke of the brochures. Jeff received his copies. Yet, Hillary had not yet sampled hers.
The experienced, professional politician fumed as she spoke, of the accounts. As a mother scolding her child potential President Hillary Clinton shrieked, “Shame on you Barack Obama!” The genteel First Lady pointed her finger and challenged her rival Senator Obama to “meet me in Ohio, and let’s have a debate about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign.”
As Americans listen to the words of the woman we once thought would receive her just coronation into the White House, we are reminded, this political campaign has never truly been about issues. Personality, popularity, electability, and the ability to connect to wealthy contributors have long been the focus among the candidates and by extension the electorate. Voters are subject to the voice of those who speak of what is important to them personally. We might recall the times a candidate or two expressed what is true. For them, this campaign is personal, full of personal attacks.
A day later, the Clinton Camp announced they would engage in a calculated campaign of smear. Conduct unbecoming a possible Commander-In-Chief, when named Barack Obama is quite befitting of a potential President Clinton.
In the robo-call voiced by Clinton, she said she wants to set the record straight. “Sen. Obama has sent out attack mailers that distort my record on NAFTA, but I believe Ohio deserves the truth,” Clinton says, “NAFTA has hurt Ohio families and I have a plan to fix it. My opponent does not. I’ll appoint a Trade Prosecutor to enforce our trade agreements, and crackdown on China’s unfair trade practices. I’ll eliminate tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and invest in creating good jobs right here in Ohio.”
The Clinton attack mailer cites press reports of Obama praising NAFTA and other trade deals. “Don’t be fooled by Barack Obama.” [or Hillary Clinton?]
Might we take a moment to reflect. Let us begin with the records. The text of Barack Obama comments may enlighten us on the issue of tactics and behavior, the topics Hillary Clinton would like to discuss in an Ohio debate. The background also offers insights.
(Alan Keyes wanted to withdraw completely from trade agreements.) “Keyes, the Republican nominee, said the United States should move away from negotiating multinational trade agreements, arguing the country can cut better deals by bargaining one-on-one and imposing tariffs on countries that undercut American farmers with cheap products. ‘Why is it in American economics that you say ‘tariffs’ and everybody thinks you cursed,’ Keyes said. ‘We need to make sure we get a fair deal.’ He also called for complete elimination of the inheritance taxes, as well as the income tax.
“But Democrat Obama said Keyes’ ideas could lead to trade wars that would harm farmers, who are always looking for new markets willing to buy American crops. He said the United State should continue to work with the World Trade Organization and pursue deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the country must be more aggressive about protecting American interests. ‘We don’t want to set off trade wars. What we want to make sure of is that our farmers are treated fairly,’ Obama said. ‘The problem in a lot of our trade agreements is that the administration tends to negotiate on behalf of multinational companies instead of workers and communities.'” (AP, 9/8/04)
Hillary Clinton took a stand on the North American Free Trade Agreement and has for years. The Former First Lady spoke in support of her husband’s Bill’s legendary policy.
Clinton promoted her husband’s trade agenda for years, and friends say that she’s a free-trader at heart. “The simple fact is, nations with free-market systems do better,” she said in a 1997 speech to the Corporate Council on Africa. “Look around the globe: Those nations, which have lowered trade barriers, are prospering more than those that have not.”
Praise for Nafta
At the 1998 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, she praised corporations for mounting “a very effective business effort in the U.S. on behalf of Nafta.” She added: “It is certainly clear that we have not by any means finished the job that has begun.”
Clinton “is committed to free trade and to the growing role of the international economy,” said Steven Rattner, a Clinton fundraiser and co-founder of Quadrangle Group LLC, a New York buyout firm. “She would absolutely do the right thing as president.”
However, as Hillary Clinton herself reminds us, speeches are not solutions. While at a General Motors plant, the Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton proposes, “That’s the difference between me and my opponent, I offer solutions. It’s one thing to get people excited. I want to empower you to live your dreams so we can all go forward together.”
“Now, over the years, you’ve heard plenty of promises from plenty of people in plenty of speeches. And some of those speeches were probably pretty good. But speeches don’t put food on the table. Speeches don’t fill up your tank, or fill your prescription or do anything about that stack of bills that keeps you up at night.” Only jobs and a stable income can keep Americans safe and secure; hence, the need for American policymakers to assess the North American Free Trade Agreement. As Senator, Clinton could finally take actions that would rescind a policy that haunts her husband and his heritage. Thus, she did or did not. Please ponder the documentation.
Voted against CAFTA despite Bill Clinton’s pushing NAFTA. (Oct 2005)
Voted YES on free trade agreement with Oman. (Jun 2006)
Voted NO on implementing CAFTA for Central America free-trade. (Jul 2005)
Voted YES on establishing free trade between US & Singapore. (Jul 2003)
Voted YES on establishing free trade between the US and Chile. (Jul 2003)
Voted NO on extending free trade to Andean nations. (May 2002)
Voted YES on granting normal trade relations status to Vietnam. (Oct 2001)
Voted YES on removing common goods from national security export rules. (Sep 2001)
Rated 17% by CATO, indicating a pro-fair trade voting record. (Dec 2002)
What is a voter to think? Hillary Clinton Biographer Carl Bernstein avows, Hillary Clinton’s economics, the ones she preached to her husband in the White House are much closer to John Edwards then you would think. She argued with Bill Clinton when she was First Lady, her husband, she said ‘Bill, you are doing Republican economics when you are doing NAFTA.’ She was against NAFTA. Yet, as the author expresses in his own assessment of the candidate . . .
A new biography’s unflattering portrayal of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton as someone who “camouflages” her real self for political gain is starting to attract attention – and not for the salacious stories, most books recount about the Clintons.
“A Woman in Charge,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein, gives scant attention to the tense days the former First Lady spent in the White House when Bill Clinton was sneaking around with his intern, Monica Lewinsky. Instead, the former Washington Post reporter, who helped blow the lid off Watergate, attempts to portray Hillary Clinton as someone who is willing to rewrite her own history to advance the political career she put on hold when she moved to Arkansas with her college sweetheart who would later become president.
“This is a woman who led a camouflaged life and continues to,” Bernstein told TODAY host Matt Lauer on Friday in an exclusive interview. “This book takes away that camouflage.”
The Bernstein book, which the writer refers to as the first “real biography” of Hillary Clinton, is a recent edition. There is ample, additional information; Hillary Clinton was for, no against, the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA]. Hence, again, we can only do as Hillary advises; look at the votes for verification. As we observe, duplicity and a commitment to convenience, seem apparent.
This inconsistent configuration is no less obvious in the banter and behavior of Barack Obama. The expressions of Barack Obama and the conduct of Hillary Clinton are, as the First Lady imagined them to be many months ago, interesting.
Words are not separate from work, whether we speak of one candidate or the other. Even constituents can be considered complex beings. We have wants, needs, among these are Universal Health Care. Barack Obama understood this on that cold frigid day in Springfield, Illinois. In February, on the 10th day of the month, in the year 2007, Illinois Senator Barack Obama stood in front of the Old State Capitol building. A throng of supporters frozen; yet full of fervor positioned themselves where they could best see the man they admired.
Dignified as he spoke Presidential hopeful Obama reminded Americans that more than a century ago, on these same steps, Abraham Lincoln called on a divided house to stand together. Barack Obama stated that in Springfield, Illinois he learned that “common hopes and common dreams still” live. Then, the man who speaks and writes of the audacity of hope offered . . .
Let’s be the generation that finally tackles our health care crisis. We can control costs by focusing on prevention, by providing better treatment to the chronically ill, and using technology to cut the bureaucracy. Let’s be the generation that says right here, right now, that we will have universal health care in America by the end of the next president’s first term.
Yes, we can . . . be the generation that declares we will provide medical coverage for one and for all. Yet, Barack Obama is, as of yet unwilling to propose that we, the people be insured equally. Senator Obama, has not worked towards Universal Health Care. Indeed, he argues against it, and presents a proviso, the plan may changed if need be.
Like former senator John Edwards (N.C.), who outlined his health-care goals in February, Obama would pay for his plan, which could cost more than $50 billion, by increasing taxes for people earning more than $250,000 and reversing tax cuts that President Bush approved. Obama would require almost all employers to offer insurance to workers or face a tax penalty, an idea that many businesses abhor and that is also in Edwards’s proposal. This employer mandate drove much of the opposition to the Clinton plan in 1994.
Like Clinton, who in a speech last week laid out some of her health-care ideas, Obama is focused as much on reducing the costs for those who are insured as on expanding coverage to the estimated 45 million Americans who are not. He called for the federal government to pay part of the costs for patients with chronic illnesses, so that employers would not have to do so, but also emphasized the importance of preventive care. It is important to “listen to our wives when they tell us to stop smoking,” he said, referring to his own unhealthy habit.
Like many Democratic politicians, he blamed drug and health insurance companies for stopping the passage of more expansive health-care proposals.
The lack of new ideas in Obama’s health plan in part reflects his approach. He has emphasized his freshness as a rationale for his candidacy, but that freshness has been much more about his tone and his rhetoric about hope and bipartisanship than his policy proposals . . .
One concept that Obama’s plan does not include is a popular idea from both Democrats and Republicans who work on health-care issues: an “individual mandate” that would require every American to buy health insurance. . . .
The Clinton and Edwards campaigns quickly criticized Obama for not offering a plan that would require insurance for all. ” . . .
Obama’s advisers argued that such a mandate is less important than adding subsidies and other ways to make health care more affordable. . . .
“The key is not the mandate,” said David Cutler, an economics professor at Harvard, who advised Obama on the plan. “It’s the affordability and the accessibility.”
It seems Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, neither of whom offer a Single Payer, Not For Profit, Universal Health Care can tout as they do with credibility. Each vocalizes, “I will be the people’s President.” Yet, as the nation peruses the plans it remains evident, that if either of these aspirants [or the Republican rival] enters the Oval Office in 2009, all men will remain unequal. Those who lost jobs to Free Trade agreements will likely remain unemployed or become underemployed. Circumstances for the constituents will continue to be dire. Millions of citizens will be unable to afford or access medical care at any cost, to say nothing of the twelve or more million migrants who go without health care. Mailers be damned. Shame on Barack Obama? Shame on Hillary Clinton? It is a shame that the people were never given a voice or entrée into the election.
Dennis Kucinich, potential President of the people, a live-time Union member, the one person to actively propose an end to the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA], the war in Iraq [remember that refrain?], and Single Payer, Not For Profit, Universal Health Care, I miss you.
Health care is in the news again. This week, Senator, and Presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton proposed the latest cure for what ails this country. Clinton declared medical insurance must be mandatory. Under her plan, all Americans will be covered. Days later, President George W. Bush spoke of how he believes we can best heal the ills of impoverished children in this country. Mister Bush proclaimed parents must pay for the care of their progeny. The medical system must remain in the hands of private industry. There are no handouts here. If Moms and Dads have income, they must provide for their children. While the plans may seem drastically different, they are very similar.
In each, the “citizen” is still basically a “consumer,” not part of the commonweal Thomas Paine spoke of in 1776 when he explained, to ensure shared stability, government and society must be intertwined.
In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest; they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought.
A thousand motives will excite them thereto; the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same.
Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labor out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him to quit his work, and every different want would call him a different way. Disease, nay even misfortune, would be death; for though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.
People rarely relate to the idea of death or serious illness. Most of us imagine we are immortal. As a child, many believe in fairy tales. Some trust a fairy Godmother will come and care for them when they are ill. The Wizard lives in Oz, and he too can heal a heart, or mend an injured brain. In our youth we are certain, “There is no place like home.” Mom and Dad will keep us safe and warm. Parents provide food, shelter, and when we do not feel well, they will take us to a capable physician. The compassionate doctor will cure our pain. Ah, the miracle of medical science is better than fancy.
As adults, we accept there is a need for medical care in our lives. After a certain age, we understand; we are mere mortals. Accidents occur. Infirmity is inevitable. Dream as we might that we are and will remain healthy throughout the course of our lives, as years go by we learn everlasting good health is not likely to be. There is no assurance that we will always be fit. We understand that we must do what we can to prevent illness and injury.
A mature mind grasps that mishaps happen. As an individual, we recognize health insurance is a must. Still, in the Wild West, independent-minded Americans are reluctant to insure every individual. The notion of natural liberty negates the necessity we experience as a society. Much as we would wish to believe I am separate from my neighbor, none of us are. If my fellow citizen cannot care for himself, the cost of his illness, injury, and demise will be mine to bear. Just as I need to garner support from my friend to acquire funds for my needed health insurance, so too does my brother, my sister, and their child.
Most civilized nations realize the dire need for universal medical indemnity. Other countries have established plans to ensure that preventative measures will be taken, whenever possible, to stave off sickness. Traditionally, in America, each man, woman, and apparently, child must fend for themselves.
There is talk; perhaps, it is time to change. Nonetheless, the conversation is convoluted. Some speakers say those that are happy need not consider how their choice to stay with a plan might affect another. The words of founding father Thomas Paine have not helped Hillary Clinton or George Bush to appreciate every American is part of a broader society. Clinton and Bush are not alone. Virtually every Presidential candidate and citizen mirrors the idea of independence as they discuss health insurance.
In this tome, I could continue to analyze the oratories, as others have done before me, or I could pen, as I believe I must. As political campaigns progress and people posture, I realize I need to disclose more. I thought to broach the discussion more than a year ago, and I did, although, in truth, I was evasive.
This topic is an embarrassing one for me. Since the age of seventeen, when I first left my parents home to live on my own, I became a national statistic. I was one of the shunned, those that suffer in silence. I was a person most Americans look down upon. I remained so for all but twelve months of my adult life. I was not among the acceptable for all but a scant time. When I was covered, it was only for a few weeks at a time. For all but those periods, I did not have medical insurance.
On occasion, I would have to divulge this reality outside of a physicians’ office. Those that heard of my plight were surprised. Subtly, statements were made. Friendly faces turn sour when they learn that you have no health care.
My dentist knew. Granted, some health care packages do not include dental plans. However, most provide a bit of protection. I had none. I had to tell my sweet dental care physician. Paul pleaded with me. Take a job, any job, that had excellent benefits, dental in particular.
I am a very well educated person. As are many Americans that have no insurance. I worked in many prestigious places and held positions that one would think included health insurance as part of the standard package. In one University teaching assignment I learned more than a decade later, an offer of coverage is not required although it is available to those that know they can request it.
In that situation and other similar circumstances, people are purposely not placed on tenure tracks for it is too costly to the college. A large portion of the faculty, while teaching the same number of hours as a full time professors are considered only “part-time.” Contracts are renewed. Workers Unions do not assist employees such as I. Nonetheless, people assume they do.
Much is taken for granted. We all have appearances to uphold. Even if the illusion is maintained only to save ourselves from what we fear, what we project others accept. At times, even the most knowledgeable among us is confronted with stark realities they never imagined.
The majority of people we [Authors of Uninsured in America, Susan Starr Sered and Rushika Fernandopulle] met in our travels across the country lack consistent access to health care of reasonable quality despite having been employed all or most of their adult lives. Approximately one-third of the people with whom we spoke are well educated but have had the misfortune to end up in jobs that do not offer insurance: substitute teachers, adjunct professors, part-time social workers. These Americans have not chosen to be uninsured; rather, their employers have found it cost-effective to reduce the number of permanent full-time positions while maintaining an unprotected pool of workers whose jobs by definition do not offer benefits.
In America, in a free enterprise Capitalist system, costs are the central concern. Profits are primary. This is true for publicly traded companies and for private or state funded institutions. People are only a means for principal gains. Perhaps, that is the problem. In a market economy, products are sold. Image is everything. We all wish to appear well and well-off. That may be the reason that millions of Americans do not speak of their health care situation. They, we, do not wish to seem unstable, inadequate, or unworthy, although we may feel as though we are. I definitely did.
As a mature individual, I contribute to society. Often, I maintained and sustained a job that was somewhat secure, as much as anyone might make that claim in modern America. I am a professional person. Postgraduate degrees adorn my walls, or they would if I ever chose to hang them. Yet, I did not have the where-with-all, nor the worth of a person with health insurance. My employer did not pay for my care, and I certainly could not afford the benefit.
On the radio and television, we hear the numbers. As many as forty-seven million Americans are uninsured. At times, I have heard figures far higher. In periodicals, “average” Americans read the data. The assumption is, “those” people are uneducated, low wage, service workers. Those in the mainstream think, surely, no one similar to me, would be without a health care plan.
The homeless, the impoverished, the immigrants, these individuals must be the persons included in the tens of millions without medical coverage. At least that is what Rushika, a physician specializing in health policy, thought. This medical expert turned researcher and author was certain public programs must attend to the needs of those without health insurance. She never imagined what might be true. Most people do not. Those without health care do not speak of their predicament. Persons satisfied with provisions medical services provide have no reason to ponder the possibilities, let alone the realities others face.
[W]hen Rushika, a physician specializing in health policy, met Susan, an anthropologist who recently had returned to the United States after living for two decades in Israel and Japan, countries that have national health care programs. With the fresh eyes that an outsider sometimes can bring to a situation most of us take for granted, Susan asked Rushika: “Where are the bodies? If forty million Americans don’t have health insurance, there must be a lot of bodies. I would think that American cities would look like Delhi or Calcutta, where trucks collect corpses from the streets each morning. Where is America hiding its uninsured sick and dying citizens?”
Rushika initially responded with standard answers: We have government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. Many counties run clinics with sliding-scale fees. Our hospitals offer charity care to indigent patients. And, with the support of the Bush administration, churches have opened up faith-based clinics.
Yet, when the two of us began to look more closely at the statistics, we saw that these responses did not speak to the actual experiences of many people in our country. In 2003, Medicaid covered only slightly more than half of Americans whose family income was below 200 percent of the poverty line (that is, below $36,800 for a family of four). Public clinics typically are so overwhelmed that the wait for an appointment can be several months.
Hospitals often fail to inform patients that charity programs exist, instead simply billing their uninsured patients and turning their accounts over to collection agencies. In fact, although the government requires not-for-profit hospitals to offer charity care, many hospitals avoid doing so by redefining the uncollectable debt as “charity care.” And faith-based clinics, which were touted as a compassionate safety net to take the place of big government bureaucracies, usually seem to flounder, seeing patients only a few evenings each week and relying on volunteer physicians to squeeze in a couple of clinic hours a month on top of their already overflowing private practices.
Oh, how I know this well. I sat in many a waiting room for hours on end. At times, what might be a hour out of the day for those will medical insurance would be an all day visit for me. The uninsured, and even underinsured, are patient people. They have to be. “Beggars cannot be choosers.” Perhaps, those with little or no coverage are so grateful for a pittance, or they are as mortified as I was. Possibly, we are resigned to what is.
We, the forty-four, forty-seven, or fifty-three million, [I have heard each of these statistics bandied about over the years] feel powerless against the Medical and Pharmaceutical industries. Collectively, or as individuals, there seems little we can do to battle the big businesses that employ us. We need our paycheck to purchase the basics. Food, clothing, and shelter are necessary to survive. Health care, well, as long as I am alive I can endure. The “no pain, no gain” attitude permeates the American culture. I am tough; I can take it. Boys do not cry. Women are willing to make sacrifices. Some say, “I can wait.” “I am fine.”
Years ago, while writhing in pain, sweat poured from every part of my body. Although I am often cold and covered in clothing, I took every garment off,. The fabric irritated my flesh. I curled up into a ball. My hope was this primal position would relief the distress. Oh, to return to the womb, or perhaps perish. Either would be better than what I experienced. I lay on the floor. I moaned; I groaned. None of this is “normal” for me. After a time, the heat that rose from my torso diminished. The ache in my abdomen did not.
Suddenly I had chills. I felt frozen. I covered myself in down. I moved, stayed still. Nothing lessened the sting, the sensation, or the unimaginable, intolerable torment that came from within. I moved to a hammock. The loose support I though might reduce the misery. It did not.
Finally, after seven hours I called my family physician. A pre-existing condition, another unrelated affliction was the reason I knew of a doctor to telephone. The other ailment was also a reason I feared I would not qualify for medical insurance coverage. That aside, my internist suggested I call the paramedics. I could not. I was able to dial 911, just as I had my doctor. However, I knew if I asked for assistance from a medical service, there would e a charge. I could not afford that.
Hours more passed. I fell in and out of consciousness. Nine hours after the first twinge I realized I must seek help. Nine-One-One to the rescue, or so I hoped. The emergency medical transporters arrived. They drove me to the nearest hospital. All I could think of was the cost. The recompense to drive my aching body less than a mile down the road was approximately one thousand dollars. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not state, the paramedics monitored my blood pressure before we drove off. There is more to this story. The details, drama, and trauma abound. I might tell other tales instead. However, I use this one only to illustrate the depth of reluctance to request medical attention when an individual has no insurance.
Many have a narrative to offer. Anecdotes, such as this, in America, are not uncommon. We, as a nation know there are problems with the current system. We have understood this for years. Television, radio, and written reports are abundant, and were long ago, long before this dialogue that aired in 2002.
Gwen Ifill: Today’s new census report boils down the health care affordability crunch into cold, hard numbers. The number of Americans without health insurance keeps rising, but last year so did household income. Here to discuss the reasons why and the policy implications of these findings is Susan Dentzer of our Health Unit. The unit is a partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
So, Susan, a 5 percent increase in the number of uninsured, why?
Susan Dentzer, News Hour Health Correspondent: Gwen, what we see is that, five years into an economic recovery and expansion since the recession of 2001, and six years of rising health uninsurance numbers, we see that basically what’s happening is the performance of the economy and workers’ wages and what’s going on in health insurance are wildly different tracks.
Health insurance premiums are still rising about 7 percentage points a year; that’s more than double workers’ wages and more than double the rate of inflation. So, what’s happening is that health insurance is becoming increasingly unaffordable for many Americans. Concomitant with this, many businesses are dropping health insurance coverage because they find it unaffordable.
Gwen Ifill: So it’s unaffordable for Americans and for the people who they work for?
Susan Dentzer: Exactly, for businesses who are in many cases providing, contributing towards that coverage. In fact, in this most recent set of data, we see that fewer than 60 percent of workers now are covered by employer-provided insurance, 59.7 percent.
So, what’s happening is that health insurance is becoming more expensive, less affordable. Employers are dropping coverage. And as a consequence, what we see out the other end is 2.2 million more Americans uninsured in the most recent year, a total of almost 9 million more Americans now uninsured since 2000.
Affordability problems remain
Gwen Ifill: But the same time, in the same report we hear that household income has gone up. So, doesn’t that make it more affordable?
Susan Dentzer: Well, it’s gone up modestly. The real median income rose in the most recent period measured — again, this was from 2005 to 2006 — by 1.1 percent to $48,500. But again, a 1 percentage point real increase in incomes doesn’t come anywhere near making a 7 percent compounded rate of growth of health insurance more affordable for families.
And in particular, we see this happening now, not just in low-income households, where it’s very difficult to afford — the average family health insurance policy now is pretty close to $12,000 a year. Imagine a family earning $48,500 affording $12,000 a year. But when you look even higher up the income scale, 1.4 million of the people who became uninsured in this most recent period had incomes of $75,000 and more, household incomes.
So it says that even higher-income families now are having enormous difficulty affording insurance and likely to be working for employers who are dropping coverage.
Still we sit settled with what is. We, as individuals, do not wish to show our worry, our fears, or our shaky status. The thought of what might occur, if we allow ourselves to think of our personal situation, might drive any of us insane. Mortality may be on the minds of those without coverage. However, unless there is a need to speak of such, why would we? The fact that I did not have indemnity against illness or injury was not a subject I felt at ease to discuss.
The idea of a life threatening illness deeply effects those that have what they hope is adequate medical care. In truth, most of us know of someone, who lost his or her life savings to illness. The cause for half the bankruptcies in this nation can be traced back to medical maladies.
I could site the statistics with glee. I trust if you chose to, you too could offer chapter and verse. There are facts and figures aplenty. Formulas and figures may vary greatly depending on the source, the situation, and sadly, the scheme that the spokesperson wishes to promote. Nevertheless whichever truth we wish to adopt there are statistics to share.
I know if we engage an exchange of raw information it is merely an intellectual endeavor. For decades, in discussions with those I did not know well, data helped me maintain distance. I dared not state what was my truth. I had no health insurance. I can vouch for the validity of these figures. For this is, was, and I fear may be my life forever and a day.
The percentage of Americans without insurance rose to 15.9 percent in 2005, higher than the 15.6 percent level in 2004 and much higher than the 14.9 percent level in 2001.
The percentage of Americans who are uninsured rose largely because the percentage of people with employer-sponsored coverage continued to decline, as it has in the past several years.
The percentage of children under 18 who are uninsured rose from 10.8 percent in 2004 to 11.2 percent in 2005, while the number of uninsured children climbed from 7.9 million in 2004 to 8.3 million in 2005, an increase of 360,000.
Lack of insurance is much more common among people with low incomes. Some 24.4 percent of people with incomes below $25,000 were uninsured in 2005, almost triple the rate of 8.5 percent among people with incomes over $75,000.
This is the slant Americans wish to accept. The problem is greatest among the poor. If we focus on the failures of the pitiable, blame the people that we wish to believe have not worked as hard as we have, we can ignore the essential truth. The gap between $25,000 and $75,000 is large and perhaps, this gorge is where millions of uninsured live.
Average families, with children are severely affected by the current health care crisis. The Number of Uninsured Children Rises. “Census Figures Show 8.3 Million Youths Lacked Health Coverage in 2005.” Two, almost three years later, the figures are higher. In 1997, Congress created the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan. The intent was to provide health coverage for children whose families do not qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford insurance on their own. Often these families have incomes that far exceed the poverty level. While the program was popular for well over a decade, the number of uninsured children swells.
The latest census figures show that a record 46.6 million Americans had no health insurance in 2005, up from 45.3 million in 2004. Among those who did have coverage, fewer were receiving it through their jobs. In 2001, for instance, 62.6 percent of Americans had employer-sponsored coverage. By last year the figure was 59.5 percent, census figures show.
Politicians do not wish to discuss the depth and details of this scenario or those that surround it. People at every income level are losing health insurance coverage. Adults and children are affected by the inefficient and expensive system. Medical service providers place profits above people. Monetary concerns dictate more than a desire to care.
Days ago, George W. Bush justified his intent to veto a Bill that would help provide health care for those most in need. Our dependant children, the little ones, those sweet souls that are our future, and may be reminiscent of our past, apparently, according to the President are too costly.
As mothers and fathers unexpectedly lose their health care coverage, we continue to deny the dilemmas that affect our society. Americans are in dire straits.
If we are to be honest as we assess our circumstances, we must acknowledge that those mothers and fathers who bring home salaries of 75,000 are frequently no longer able to live a comfortable life. Permanence is a precarious term. The expression “benefits” belies the truth that many of us live with. Penury, is but a pay check away. While thirty-seven million people, or about one in eight Americans live below the poverty line, the number of uninsured Americans rose by more than 1 million people. This includes more than 360,000 children added to the rolls. The presumed new total of uninsured person in 2006 is 47.5 million, give or take.
And, Susan, unemployment has remained low. Household income ticked up slightly. So why that increase in the number of uninsured?
Susan Dentzer, NewsHour Health Correspondent: Ray, I think what it says is that having a job in America is increasingly becoming detached from the question of whether or not you have health insurance.
We see now, as you said, economic recovery since 2001 has created numbers of new jobs. But, in fact, it hasn’t necessarily translated into more coverage for many people and, in fact, quite the opposite.
We see employment-based coverage continuing to crumble, and that’s the real story of the rise in the health un-insurance numbers that were released yesterday, that the number of people who became uninsured, 1.3 million, the driving force behind that was the loss of employer-based coverage in the private coverage market.
Ray Suarez: Is there such a thing as a typical uninsured person? Or has a lot of that growth come from one kind of worker?
Susan Dentzer: Well, what we’ve known for a long time is that four out of five people without health insurance are workers or in families where somebody is working full time. So the vast majority of the uninsured have, for a long time, been working people, primarily lower paid people, and also, to a large degree, Hispanics and, to a lesser degree, blacks.
But what we saw most recently — and in 2005, the numbers released yesterday bear this out — increasingly we’re seeing also a loss of coverage in households and families earning $50,000 a year and more, in the middle class. And so, that shows that the loss of coverage really is hitting a broad swath of American workers.
It’s tending to be workers who are working for small businesses, people who are working in kind of cyclical-driven industries that go up and down with the economy. But by and large, it’s hitting a broad swath of workers. And the driving force behind that is the cost of health insurance coverage.
Care for single persons soar. For Moms and Dads the price of health care is high. Children, while wonderful, are a costly commodity. The truth of this is more evident when we concede, jobs are not secure. Even careers rarely last a lifetime. Home loans are hefty. The price of gas, food, and the attire needed for work alone is outrageous. Play money? What is that. Little is discretionary; less is disposable. Dollars are tight. Each expense increases daily. The cost of living coupled with the fact that employers are no longer willing to bear the burden of benefits makes what was once a sizable income barely adequate.
Medical care co-payments alone can contribute to an impending crisis. Prescription disbursement can be dear. Pills are pricey; injections exorbitant. The family budget in America today is fragile enough. Additional expenditures for health care seem unnecessary in comparison to other considerations.
We resign ourselves, for most of us know not how to stop what politicians endorse. As political campaigns progress and people posture, I realize I needed to reveal more than I wished to. I thought to broach the discussion more than a year ago, and I did, although, in truth, I was evasive. Each time I read statistics on the tens of millions Americans who are uninsured I am not surprised. You, dear reader many have noticed as I frequently have, the numbers vary greatly depending on the source, the situation, and sadly, the scheme
In February, Presidential hopeful John Edwards introduced his health care plan. Many Americans cheered. Finally, someone was willing to discuss Universal Health Care.
I understand Edwards may have been first to offer a “health” plan; however a “first strike” policy, is not always best. We must realize if we adopt his plan or Clinton’s, nothing will change. Big businesses will still control the health care community. Might we read what John Edwards expressed as he documented his plan. I share a snippet from the John Edwards website. I think you might find it informative. There is often more than initially appears behind the rhetoric.
Choice between Public and Private Insurers: Health Care Markets will offer a choice between private insurers and a public insurance plan modeled after Medicare, but separate and apart from it. Families and individuals will choose the plan that works best for them. This American solution will reward the sector that offers the best care at the best price. Over time, the system may evolve toward a single-payer approach if individuals and businesses prefer the public plan.
In the Iowa debate, held September 20, 2007, candidate Edwards explained he must endorse the agenda Hillary Clinton proposed. It is virtually identical to his agenda. Bravo! I admire the admission. Undeniably, I do not embrace either proposal. Hillary insists we must all have medical care coverage. Can she imagine what a strain that might put on persons such as I, In the past and now, discretionary income is not part of my repertoire. I am unsure how to define “disposable” dollars. Are these the pennies that I accidentally drop and then scrounge around for as I desperately attempt to pay my bills. Perchance, a Newshour discussion might help to explain.
Ray Suarez: Well, you talk about this affecting even higher than the median-income workers. If they wanted to buy their own health insurance, what are we talking about as the cost to buy health insurance?
Susan Dentzer: The average health insurance premium for a family now exceeds $11,000 a year. It’s higher than the earnings that you could earn, earning a minimum-wage job. It’s about a quarter of that median family income, so it’s a huge, huge dent in the pocketbook.
And it’s because of that rising cost that so many businesses are dropping coverage. Just since the year 2000, according to a survey done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, we’ve lost about — it’s gone from about 69 percent of employers offering coverage to their workers. We’re now down to about 59 percent, just in the period since 2000.
And, again, the reason by and large has been the cost of health insurance. Although the cost is growing now at a lower rate than it was earlier in this decade, it’s still growing annually at about two to three times the rate of inflation overall.
And for some small businesses, premiums can still go up 20, 30, 40 percent a year. That’s pushing a lot of businesses out of the business of offering health insurance to their workers. And to the degree they pass those costs along to workers, sometimes workers are passing up the coverage that is offered to them by their firms.
Ray Suarez: Now, even with those rising costs, if you look at where the action has been on answering the needs of the uninsured, in state legislatures and national government, there’s been a lot of emphasis on children, yet this time we saw 361,000 more children uninsured. Why?
Susan Dentzer: And that’s exactly what makes these numbers so troubling to so many people. Since 1997, as you said, when we enacted the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, coverage has mostly been growing for kids. The deliberate efforts on the parts of states to reach out to low-income families and pull children into both SCHIP coverage, as it’s known — State Children’s Health Insurance Program — and Medicaid.
What seems to have happened in the last couple of years is that states have reversed that. There are fewer outreach efforts; there are more barriers being erected to enrollment of people in those programs.
In some instances, it’s cost — there are deliberate efforts to make it harder to re-enroll once you’re already enrolled in the programs. So the net effect seems to be pushing people, children in particular, who are qualified for these programs out.
And that’s especially troubling, because we know that there are probably 4 or 5 million uninsured children still out there who are qualified for these programs but not enrolled. So to the degree we’re adding to the pool of people that are qualified but not enrolled, it’s a serious problem.
Life tells me that as long as medicine is business, we, the people, human beings whose existence is fragile, will be viewed as nothing more than consumers.
I long for a planet where people embrace the construct of mans’ humanity to his fellow man, woman, and child. As the Presidential aspirants attempt to convince us that they are not affected by the financial agendas of their supporters, I sigh in frustration. My own emotional reaction to such duplicity leaves me lost for words. Thus, I turn to Jamie Court. I cannot explain my concerns better than Mister Court did in a recent editorial. I invite your review of the commentary aired on Market Place Morning.
And that’s the problem. Mandatory private health insurance proposals are all stick and no carrot.
The average health insurance premium for a family of four is just over 12 grand per year. What middle-class family making, say, 60,000 bucks per year can afford that bill?
What we need is the carrot of affordable health care. That means government standardizing charges by insurers, doctors, hospitals and drug companies. No more $6 Tylenol in the hospital.
The reason health insurance is so unaffordable today is that no one is watching the costs. With standardization, insurance would be cheaper and people would want to buy it — not have to because the government is threatening them with a tax penalty.
Oh wait, I can hear the plaintive cry of the free market. You can’t tell a doctor, insurer, hospital or drug company what’s reasonable to charge. That’s socialism. Well, how reasonable then is it to tell every American you have to buy a product whose cost is obscene if you want to be a U.S. citizen? Isn’t that corporate socialism?
Mandatory health insurance is a government bailout of a free market that’s failed its customers. Fewer people and employers are buying private health insurance because it costs so much more and delivers so little.
So rather than let customers demand a new and better product, politicians are forcing us to buy it. Whatever happened to creative destruction?
There’s a business plan of course. Mitt, Arnold, and Hillary each received six or seven-figure campaign contributions from the insurance industry. The plan is insurers send the bill and we have to pay it.
Jamie Court is president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.
We might look at the Obama plan; however, few think his agenda meets the needs of the growing uninsured population. More than one pundit or publication has stated the Obama “program” is sparse on substance and broad on rhetoric. For some, a careful read of the details, reinforces a need to question. Answers are not forthcoming in the Obama agenda.
Obama, who is among the front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination, offered few new ideas in laying out his plan to expand health insurance and to greatly reduce health-care costs. Instead, he cast his proposal in the themes that have defined his candidacy: optimism and a desire to move beyond partisan politics. He offered ideas that have long been proposed to solve one of the country’s most vexing problems: increasing subsidies for those who cannot afford insurance but do not qualify for public programs, spending more federal money on disease prevention and making health records electronic.
Personally, the only Single Payer Plan which Dennis Kucinich presents speaks to me, the common person. As I peruse a commentary that compares and contrasts the essence of each proposal, I believe the essential concerns are covered in the Kucinich proposal. I am not alone in this view.
Dennis Kucinich rarely gets much airtime in Democratic presidential debates. That was underscored recently when ABC’s George Stephanopoulos called on him in an Iowa forum to talk about God. Kucinich said, “George, I’ve been standing here for the last 45 minutes praying to God you were going to call on me.” . . .
With poll numbers at 1 or 2 percent, the Ohio congressman is the nudge kicking at the knees of the Democratic Party to offer more than incremental change. He deserves more attention than he gets. On healthcare, he says what Americans believe, even as his rivals rake in contributions from the industry.
In a CNN poll this spring, 64 percent of respondents said the government should “provide a national insurance program for all Americans, even if this would require higher taxes,” and 73 percent approve of higher taxes to insure children under 18. Those results track New York Times and Gallup polls last year, in which about two-thirds of respondents said it is the federal government’s responsibility to guarantee health coverage to all Americans.
Such polls allow Kucinich to joke that, far from being in the loony left, “I’m in the center. Everyone else is to the right of me.” More seriously, in a recent visit to the Globe, he accused the other Democratic candidates of faking it on healthcare reform.
Having been among the uninsured for decades, while working full time in respectable professional positions, I cannot imagine a nation more insensitive than this one is! We, as a nation attend to the health needs of those we intentionally maimed and massacred, the civilians of Iraq [and our own soldiers,] more so than we do to our local citizenry, those suffering or simply surviving in this nation. With this novel plan, circumstances will worsen.
I thank you Congressman Jim McDermott for pointing this out.
Madam Speaker, we already pay enough for universal health care in this country, but we are not getting it. The administration misleads the American people by having the Secretary of Health and Human Services say, and I quote, “You are still taken care of in America. That certainly could be defined as universal coverage.” The truth is that every other industrialized nation in the world has a universal health system except the United States. Half the bankruptcies in this country are due to health care costs.
I discovered long ago that many were as I. They were embarrassed to admit that they were without medical coverage. People look down on the uninsured, as though they are uninformed, uneducated, lacking in intelligence rather than struggling to survive. Funds are few when we live in a society that strokes the needs of the already affluent and disregards the needs of the common folk. It seems in America, we just do not care. Creating a community or a country that thrives is not our agenda. Here it is every man or woman for him or herself. Businesses no longer promote loyalty. Profits are their goal. Margins are steep. Mister Bush now wants to make these steeper.
What is already scarce, adequate health care, will be made more scarce if President Bush has his way.
The Census Bureau estimates that 175 million Americans obtain private health insurance through employers, while 27 million people are covered by insurance bought outside the workplace. The rest, with the exception of the 47 million uninsured, are covered through government programs like Medicare and Medicaid and military health care.
Under Mr. Bush’s proposal, people buying health insurance on their own would receive a tax break similar to the one that has historically been available to people who receive coverage through their jobs. The plan is tied to the average cost of family health coverage, which is currently $11,500 a year.
I must stop here and ask how will those that are already strapped purchase a plan, or pay taxes on policies that already deplete their budgets? Granted, Mister Bush has never needed to balance a budget. Congress seems to cater to his whims and allocate funds for what is not placed in the financial plan [consider the Iraqi war] however, most of us do not have infinite resources to turn to.
More and more in America, people are foregoing health care services because they simply cannot afford them. Even those that have insurance realize there are and pay handsomely, the deductibles. More and more, corporations are “asking” employees to pay for their health insurance policies. Those companies that still supply this necessary benefit require their personnel to pay a large portion of the costs. Where might workers find the funds to cover the proposed tax? Nevertheless, here are the details
It [the Bush Health Care Plan] would work like this: The administration would cap the amount of benefits that can remain tax free at $15,000 for a family and $7,500 for an individual. Anyone whose health insurance cost more than that would pay taxes on the difference. For example, a family with coverage costing $16,000 a year would pay taxes on $1,000.
The cap would also be used to establish the amount of the new deduction for people who lack coverage. In this example, a family buying insurance on its own could take a $15,000 deduction – even if the insurance cost less. The cap would rise with some measure of overall inflation, but would not necessarily keep pace with the costs of medical care and health insurance.
A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to upstage the president, said, “The vast majority of people with employer-provided coverage will benefit as well.”
One of the nation’s leading experts on tax policy, C. Eugene Steuerle, a Treasury official in the Reagan administration who is now a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, said the proposal “would probably help increase the number of people with health insurance at no cost to the budget.”
Yes, let us provide a false sense of security while penalizing the people at no cost to the government. I once believed that the government was of, by, and for the people. We worked together for the greater good.
United we are strong. When divided, us and them, management or employee, government or gravelling low-life, we fall. Nevertheless, the great “uniter” continues to divide us. Thank fully, even entrepreneur see the flaw in this logic.
The administration official said the White House envisioned health insurance companies offering new plans to meet a growing market. But employers expressed doubts.
“This is a classic case of robbing Peter to help Paul pay for coverage,” said E. Neil Trautwein, a vice president of the National Retail Federation, which represents retailers of all sizes. “I do not think the president will find many backers in the employer community for this proposal.”
In trying to address the problems of the uninsured, Mr. Trautwein said, “we should not start by endangering coverage for people who already have it.”
Voices of calm, those that care have been speaking of the benefits of a Universal Health care system for decades. However, their rational falls on deaf ears. I submit some of the reasoning for your review once again.
Why doesn’t the United States have universal health care as a right of citizenship? The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee access to health care as a right of citizenship. 28 industrialized nations have single payer universal health care systems, while 1 (Germany) has a multipayer universal health care system like President Clinton proposed for the United States.?
Myth One: The United States has the best health care system in the world. Fact One: The United States ranks 23rd in infant mortality, down from 12th in 1960 and 21st in 1990
Fact Two: The United States ranks 20th in life expectancy for women down from 1st in 1945 and 13th in 1960
Fact Three: The United States ranks 21st in life expectancy for men down from 1st in 1945 and 17th in 1960.
Fact Four: The United States ranks between 50th and 100th in immunizations depending on the immunization. Overall US is 67th, right behind Botswana
Fact Five: Outcome studies on a variety of diseases, such as coronary artery disease, and renal failure show the United States to rank below Canada and a wide variety of industrialized nations.
Conclusion: The United States ranks poorly relative to other industrialized nations in health care despite having the best trained health care providers and the best medical infrastructure of any industrialized nation
Myth Two: Universal Health Care Would Be Too Expensive
Fact One: The United States spends at least 40% more per capita on health care than any other industrialized country with universal health care
Fact Two: Federal studies by the Congressional Budget Office and the General Accounting office show that single payer universal health care would save 100 to 200 Billion dollars per year despite covering all the uninsured and increasing health care benefits.
Fact Three: State studies by Massachusetts and Connecticut have shown that single payer universal health care would save 1 to 2 Billion dollars per year from the total medical expenses in those states despite covering all the uninsured and increasing health care benefits
Fact Four: The costs of health care in Canada as a % of GNP, which were identical to the United States when Canada changed to a single payer, universal health care system in 1971, have increased at a rate much lower than the United States, despite the US economy being much stronger than Canada’s.
Conclusion: Single payer universal health care costs would be lower than the current US system due to lower administrative costs. The United States spends 50 to 100% more on administration than single payer systems. By lowering these administrative costs the United States would have the ability to provide universal health care, without managed care, increase benefits and still save money.
With a deep sigh of relief, I see that there are those that do represent the people’s interest or try to.
Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., said Monday that the tax changes, which Bush will promote in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, would encourage employers to stop providing health insurance.
”Under the guise of tax breaks, the president is pursuing a policy designed to destroy the employer-based health care system through which 160 million people receive coverage,” the lawmaker said.
Stark, who oversees a key House Ways and Means subcommittee, said he would not consider holding hearings on the proposal, which includes a trade-off. Contributions from employers toward health insurance would begin to be treated as taxable income. At the same time, a standard deduction for taxpayers with health insurance would be set at $15,000 for families and $7,500 for individuals.
The White House says 80 percent of workers with health insurance through their jobs would see a tax cut as a result of the change. But about 20 percent would see a tax increase — those workers whose health insurance cost more than the standard deduction.
The change in tax policy is one of two major health proposals announced by Bush last weekend. The other would take some federal money now going to hospitals and other facilities and give it to states for programs to reduce the number of uninsured.
Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said there are better uses for some of the $30 billion a year the government spends on bills for the uninsured.
”When you subsidize institutions but not people, oftentimes the institutions get taken care of, and the people don’t,” he said.
Leavitt said he can redirect some on the money on his own, but he needs help from Congress for other transfers.
I thank you Secretary Mike Leavitt. May I reiterate, for emphasis your own words.
”When you subsidize institutions but not people, oftentimes the institutions get taken care of, and the people don’t!”
Please I plead with this administration and all those apathetic souls that allow those in authority to choose for them. Please may we work towards Universal Health Care. May we show those in other nations that we are the superpower we claim to be. Let us be a compassionate as all other industrialized countries are. Let us care for all our people, impoverished, common, and affluent.
Please peruse the plan and thoughts about the further health care inequity . . .