Progressive Calendar 06.05.09
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Fri, 5 Jun 2009 07:55:25 -0700 (PDT)
           P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    06.05.09

1. Civil rights/KFAI 6.05 11am
2. Ffunch/eat/talk   6.05 11:30am
3. Cuban 5/banner    6.05 4:30pm
4. Stevens Sq/arts   6.05 7pm
5. Moyers/war $$$    6.05 9pm

6. Peace walk        6.06 9am Cambridge MN
7. Pancake breakfast 6.06 9am
8. WAMM walkVweapons 6.06 11am
9. Northtown vigil   6.06 2pm
10. Poor justice/CTV 6.06 9pm

11. Alan Muller  - Increased garbage burning in Minneapolis?
12. Fairvote MN  - Cindy Reichert resigns throwing Mpls IRV into a bind
13. Kip Sullivan - Dems hype about health care reform will hurt them

--------1 of 13--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com>
Subject: Civil rights/KFAI 6.05 11am

Fri.June 5, 11am on KFAI Radio
Tune in to CATALYST:politics & culture for a discussion about why the
Minneapolis Civil Rights Department shoulld NOT get the axe from Mayor
R.T. Rybak.

Members of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), Council of Black
Minnesotans, and Jewish Community Action (and possibly other groups) will
talk about why even with an African-American in the White House, the
Minneapolis Civil Rights Department (and others like it around the nation)
are essential to making "rights on paper" be enforced to make "equal under
the law" a reality.

KFAI Radio 90.3fm Minneapolis 106.7 fm St. Paul Live-streaming.archived
for 2 weeks after broadcast at: http://www.kfai.org/catalyst


--------2 of 13--------

From: David Shove <shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu>
Subject: Ffunch/eat/talk 6.05 11:30am

 ffunch        ffunch        ffunch        ffunch

Meet the FFUNCH BUNCH!
11:30am-1pm
First Friday Lunch (FFUNCH) for progressives.
Informal political talk and hanging out.

Day By Day Cafe 477 W 7th Av St Paul.
Meet on the far south side.

Day By Day has soups, salads, sandwiches, and dangerous
apple pie; is close to downtown St Paul & on major bus lines
 ffunch        ffunch        ffunch        ffunch


--------3 of 13--------

From: Joan Malerich <joanmdm [at] iphouse.com>
Subject: Cuban 5/banner 6.05 4:30pm

Great opportunity to get out and bike! Come and banner and rally for the
Cuban Five Heroes who political prisoners in the US and who are awaiting a
decision from the US Supreme Court re hearing their case!

Too far to bike??  No problem!  Then consider taking the bus.  Call
Metro transit at 612-373-3333 or go to their trip planner at
http://metrotransit.org/tripPlanner/Default.aspx

Sponsored by the MN Cuba Committee
Informational bannering about the Cuban Five
Friday, June 5, 4:30 - 6:00 - East River Road bridge over US 94 in
Minneapolis. For map directions, go to
http://www.mapquest.com/maps?city=Mpls&state=MN&address=East+River+Road+And+Interstate+94&zipcode=55408

---
Monday, June 8 - 7:00
Free the Cuban Five Political Prisoners Held in the US
425 Blegen Hall -  University of Minnesota West Bank
http://www1.umn.edu/twincities/maps/BlegH/

For ten years an international campaign has been waged to win freedom for
five Cuban revolutionaries who have been unjustly locked up in U.S. jails
for more than a decade.

Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labańino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González,
and René González were in south Florida monitoring rightist groups that
have a history of carrying out deadly attacks on Cuba. They were arrested
in Miami in September 1998 and later convicted in a political frame-up
trial on charges including failure to register as foreign agents,
conspiracy to commit espionage against the US government, and, in the case
of Hernández, conspiracy to commit murder .In the coming month the U.S.
Supreme Court will be considering whether to accept a petition to review
an appellate court decision that rejected defense arguments that the five
were prevented by the political atmosphere in Miami from receiving a fair
trial.

The issues in this case are connected to the other fights for democratic
rights against the government in this country today.  The FBI secretly
broke into their homes, copied documents, and listened in on their
conversations. Unable to find any evidence they were "spying," Washington
brought trumped-up conspiracy charges against them. They were kept in
solitary confinement for 17 months.  In spite of an atmosphere of
intimidation in Miami, the court refused to grant a change of venue.

The Cuban Five set an example for all. They continue to speak out from
prison and to conduct themselves there as freedom fighters on the
frontlines of the struggles for justice in the US. Their resolve, dignity,
optimism, and commitment to the struggles of the oppressed have won their
fight for freedom international recognition and support.

Speakers include Bruce Nestor, a member of the Cuban 5 legal team,
president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild; Rafael
Ortiz, professor at Metro State and Morgan France-Ramirez, member of the
Venceremos Brigade to Cuba (http://freethefive.org/ for more information
on the case).


--------4 of 13-------

From: Stevens Square Center for the Arts <ssca [at] stevensarts.org>
Subject: Stevens Sq/arts 6.05 7pm

The Neighborhood Show*
June 5-28
Opening Night Reception on Friday, June 5 from 7-10 pm

Framed by two major freeways and a narrow strip of Franklin Avenue,
Stevens Square/Loring Heights is the smallest - and the most densely
populated - neighborhood in the entire city, comprising a total area of
just 0.26 square miles.

Most of the 4,000 residents of Stevens live within just four blocks of one
another, in the historic brownstone apartments surrounding Stevens Square
Park. It is a neighborhood in transition, a border zone where downtown
developers rub shoulders with homeless veterans, and Victorian mansions
butt-up against group homes and subsidized apartments (20 percent of the
neighborhood's residents live below the Federal Poverty Level).

Yet, despite its small size, Stevens Square has always had a
disproportionately high number of artists living and working within the
neighborhood.

Perhaps this is because of the neighborhood's close proximity to two
major art museums and the Minneapolis College of Art & Design (MCAD). Or
perhaps it is the combination of low rents, dozens of ethnic restaurants,
and locally-owned small businesses that lures people to the Stevens
community.

Whatever the reason, Stevens has become a hot spot for the arts: from Zine
Fest and the annual Red Hot Art Festival, to Cinema and Civics in the Park
and the ongoing theater and VocalEssence performances at Plymouth Church,
there's a whole lot of creative activity taking place within the space of
a quarter-mile.

It is no coincidence that Third Avenue is now referred to as the "Avenue
of the Arts."

But until recently, the artists living in Stevens had few opportunities to
exhibit their artwork within their own community.

Since 2003, the Stevens Square Center for the Arts (SSCA) has provided
local artists with affordable studio spaces and a noncommercial venue in
which to display their work. Now, in conjunction with the 7th Annual Red
Hot Art Festival, the SSCA is throwing open its doors. Anyone living and
working in Stevens Square has been invited to submit their artwork to
"The Neighborhood Show," a non-juried exhibition open to persons of all
skill levels.

The SSCA invites you to come celebrate the diversity of the Stevens
neighborhood and the local artistic community.

Please join us for an opening night reception on Friday, June 5th from 7
-10 pm.

The Neighborhood Show runs from June 5 - 28, 2009 at the Stevens Square
Center for the Arts.


--------5 of 13--------

From: t r u t h o u t <messenger [at] truthout.org>
Subject: Moyers/war $$$ 6.05 9pm

Bill Moyers Journal | Politics and the Price of War
http://www.truthout.org/060309U

Bill Moyers Journal: "From $1 billion sought for embassies in Pakistan and
Afghanistan to May's highest casualties for US forces in Iraq since
September, the wars abroad are taking their toll on our nation. Bill
Moyers sits down with award-winning investigative journalist Jeremy
Scahill to examine the human and financial costs of America's wars."


--------6 of 13--------

From: Ken Reine <reine008 [at] umn.edu>
Subject: Peace walk 6.06 9am Cambridge MN

every Saturday 9AM to 9:35AM
Peace walk in Cambridge - start at Hwy 95 and Fern Street


--------7 of 13--------

From: tom [at] organicconsumers.org
Subject: Pancake breakfast 6.06 9am

NE Farmers Market Pancake Breakfast THIS Saturday June 6, 9:00am
Our cozy and wonderful NE Mpls Farmers Market opening day is Satuday June
6, 2009 from 9am-1pm in the Parking Lot of St. Boniface Church on the
corner of University and 7th Avenue NE.

There will be an old-fashioned pancake breakfast in the basement of St.
Boniface from 9am-1pm, featuring fabulous whole grain organic pancakes
with real maple syrup and real butter; local and organic breakfast
sausages; Organic, Fair-Trade Peace Coffee; Cedar Summit Organic Milk (and
Cream for your coffee); & Organic Orange Juice.

If you are at all in the neighborhood, stop by for some really, really
delicious food, while listening to a superb accordian player, and dine
among like-minded folks who love good, wholesome food, conversation and
music.

Teresa Schweitzer 612-331-0165 teresitags [at] hotmail.com Feliz Dia!


--------8 of 13--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: WAMM walkVweapons 6.06 11am

Second Annual
WAMM Walk Against Weapons!
SATURDAY, JUNE 6
10:30 a.m. volunteer/walker check-in
11:00 a.m. walk begins

Meet at Bakers Square, 928 Prairie Center Drive, Eden Prairie map and
directions on the WAMM web site at www.worldwidewamm.org

Join in the second annual WAMM Walk Against Weapons, a three-mile walk
from Bakers Square to Alliant Techsystems (ATK) in Eden Prairie. Everyone
all ages welcome. Anonymous donors will contribute $5.00 per mile to all
participants under the age of 30. All those who qualify must simply
mention that they are under 30 upon registration the day of the walk. If
you have a WAMM T-shirt please wear it; a limited number available at the
walk, plus lots of "Troops Out Now!" visors. The Walk Against Weapons is
both a protest and fundraiser for Women Against Military Madness and is in
collaboration with AlliantACTION, a local group that holds weekly vigils
to oppose the work of ATK, the largest Minnesota-based military
contractor.

Alliant Techsystems (ATK) is the largest Minnesota-based weapons
manufacturer and the primary supplier of depleted uranium munitions,
cluster bombs, landmines and nuclear missile rocket motors to the U.S.
Department of Defense. Alliant Tech represents: violent solutions to
complex world problems; a bloated military budget and the "military
industrial complex" President General Eisenhower warned of; a company in
clear violation of International Law, placing all employees at legal risk;
and a business model based solely on profit as opposed to the common good.
ATK was formed in late 1990 when Honeywell spun-off part of its military
operations. More info at www.alliantaction.org

MORE INFO AND PLEDGE FORMS FOR WAMM WALK AGAINST WEAPONS See
www.worldwidewamm.org or call 612-827-5364 or visit www.worldwidewamm.org.


--------9 of 13--------

From: Vanka485 [at] aol.com
Subject: Northtown vigil 6.06 2pm

Peace vigil at Northtown (Old Hwy 10 & University Av), every Saturday
2-3pm


--------10 of 13--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net>
Subject: Poor justice/CTV 6.06 9pm

MOVE-ed Minneapolis Television Network (MTN) viewers:
Sat., 6/6, 9pm and Tues, 6/9, 8am

Poor People's Justice
Carolina Lamas, Executive Director of the Neighborhood Justice Center in
St. Paul and Michael Friedman, Executive Director of the Legal Rights
Center in Minneapolis share the basics of the legal process for people who
are at risk of arrest including many poor people and people of color.
Guest hosted by Jude Ortiz.


-------11 of 13--------

Date: Tue, 02 Jun 2009 09:37:24 -0500
From: Alan Muller <amuller [at] dca.net>
Subject: Increased garbage burning in Minneapolis?

Ms. Kimberly Holien, City Planner
City of Minneapolis

Dear Ms. Holien:

I left you a phone message yesterday.  I've been told you are involved in
evaluating the request of Covanta to increase the allowed daily tonnage
limit of garbage burnt in Minneapolis at the "Covanta Hennepin Energy
Resource Company" (HERC) by a bit over 200 tons.

Can you provide me with some information on how this is being handled and
what opportunities exist for the public to be involved?  What criteria are
the City using in evaluating this request?  Are neighboring jurisdictions,
which would also be impacted by increased air pollutants, being consulted?

A quick look at MPCA information available online for the HERC
(http://www.pca.state.mn.us/air/permits/issued/05300400-003-aqpermit.pdf)
suggests that a 20% increase in garbage burning would cause an increase of
around 200 thousand pounds per year in emissions of health-damaging air
pollutants.

At the same time a stadium is being built next to the burner, inevitably
increasing human exposure to air pollutants from the incinerator.

The air permit for the facility expired on May 14, 2003.  (I presume a
timely application for renewal was filed but have not seen it.)  Very
oddly, the PCA has continued to issue amendments to this expired permit,
even loosening emission limits.  This, at the least, raises questions
about whether emissions from the HERC are being adequately regulated.

The final report of the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group
(http://www.mnclimatechange.us/ewebeditpro/items/O3F16697.pdf) found
increases in recycling to be far more cost effective than incineration
both in dollars and reduction of carbon equivalent emissions. "The
recommendations for AFW-7 represent a significant change from BAU waste
management in the State: for source reduction, the goal is to achieve 0%
increase in waste generation per capita by 2020 and a reduction of 3% in
waste generation per capita by 2025;5 for recycling, a 50% recycling rate
should be achieved by 2011 and a 60% recycling rate by 2025;6 and for
composting, a rate of 10% by 2012 and 15% by 2020.7 The recycling and
composting elements achieve a total of 75% diversion of waste from
landfilling or waste to energy (WTE) by 2025. The combined "front-end"
waste management elements produce substantial GHG savings of 7.4 MMtCO2e
in 2025 ...." I have by no means comprehensively investigated the Covanta
request.  But the facts cited above suggest that the Covanta request is
untimely, at best, and would not be beneficial to the residents of
Minneapolis.

I would appreciate being kept informed of the progress of this matter.
Yours very truly,
Alan Muller

[I know I would be willing to breathe bad air and choke a lot and die
early if it would make even one rich person even just a tad bit richer.
After all, their wealth is what life on earth is all about. We are meant
to go down so they can go up (excelsior!). -ed]


--------12 of 13--------

From: Fairvote MN
Subject: Cindy Reichert resigns throwing Minneapolis election preparations
into a bind.

Dear Ranked-Choice Voting supporter,

With the resignation last week of Minneapolis elections director Cindy
Reichert, our city council members are faced with the challenge of filling
a critical staff position. We have urged the city to move quickly to fill
this position on a contract project basis to keep implementation on track
and bring on the person or team to lead the election this year.

At this time, your council member could use a kind word of encouragement
from you. We suggest that you send a quick e-mail to or call your council
member <http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/council/> , letting her or him
know that you appreciate all they have done so far to implement
Ranked-Choice Voting, and that despite the new staffing challenges they
face, along with the gloomy
<http://www.startribune.com/local/45798947.html?elr=KArksUUUU> staff
predictions of the length of time it will take to conduct a hand count, we
have full confidence that they will keep moving towards Minnesota's first
Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) election this November 3.

Council member Barb Johnson, who has opposed RCV, doesn't share our
optimism and gave "notice of intent" to introduce a resolution at the June
12th council meeting, to state the city isn't ready to implement RCV in
the fall election.

So when you contact your council member, remind them that the city's Test
Election affirmed the city's readiness to implement this year and the only
reason to pull back from implementation is if the MN Supreme Court rules
against RCV. We fully anticipate a favorable court decision and it should
come ahead of city's June 12 deadline to delay implementation.

The only disappointing news <http://www.fairvotemn.org/node/1258> coming
out of the city's Test Election was the unduly long hand count
estimates, which has surprised us and some council members.

We have asked staff and the council to continue to assess the process and
find ways to eliminate bottlenecks in the procedures, make the process
more efficient overall and give everyone a better sense of the resources
needed to make it happen.

We will continue to work with the city to improve the hand count process
and reduce the time estimates so that all elected officials can
comfortably take office on January 2nd.

There may be an elections committee meeting to update the city council on
Thursday morning (June 4) at 9:00 a.m. If you choose to write to your
council member please do so before Thursday morning.

Please check the calendar on our website <http://www.fairvotemn.org/> for
confirmation of the meeting and if you are able, attend to show your
support and hear the update first hand.

Stay tuned for updates and action alerts - if needed - to keep RCV on the
implementation track.

Stay tuned, as well, for the launch of our voter education campaign this
month and opportunities to volunteer to help educate voters about RCV!

Thank you for all you do to help make RCV a reality in Minneapolis!
FFI: Contact Jeanne Massey, Jeanne.Massey [at] fairvotemn.org

--
Date: Thu, 04 Jun 2009 10:28:31 -0500
From: Dave Garland <dave.garland [at] wizinfo.com>

Actually, it's not at all clear that the DFL Party wants IRV.  They talk
like they want it, because they know it's a popular concept.  But IRV may
not be good for incumbents (whatever their stripe), and the Minneapolis
City Council will probably claim that three years was not enought time to
get ready, and try to avoid having it applied to their own election this
fall.

If you're an incumbent, you don't like the idea of messing with the
formula that got you into office.

[Indeed. The DFL likes to think is has permanant possession of all 13
seats. If another party (eg the Green Party) wins seats, the DFL
redistricts them out of their seats. The DFL hack top level is implacable,
remorseless, guiltless, sociopathic. They count for all, citizens zero. If
we want IRV and justice, we will have to drag them kicking and screaming
into it.  Only thru knockdown dragout fighting will we achieve victory
against the smugly job-entrenched. -ed]


--------13 of 13--------

Democrats' hype about health care reform will hurt them
by Kip Sullivan
http://www.pnhp.org/blog/

President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders are playing a
dangerous game with health care reform. They are raising the public's
expectations sky high before figuring out how to meet those expectations.
They are promising to give us the moon - significant cuts in health care
costs and universal coverage or something close to it - but even at this
late hour they have failed to publish anything resembling a detailed plan
to do that. And the hints they have given us about the "reforms" they are
likely to endorse indicate they haven't got a clue how to cut costs.

Obama's response to a question about single-payer health insurance at a
town hall meeting in New Mexico on May 14 illustrates the quandary the
Democrats are creating for themselves. The question was, "Why have they
taken single-payer off the plate?" The woman posing the question was
referring to a statement by Sen. Baucus, who chairs the committee with the
most influence over health reform issues in the Senate, that "single payer
is off the table". Obama's response, essentially, was that single-payer is
off the table because the insurance industry is too powerful to beat, and
there are other ways to cut health care costs that don't require
implementing a single-payer system. He is wrong on both counts.

Obama began his reply to the woman's question with a statement about the
necessity of cost containment: "If we simply insured everyone under the
current system we couldn't afford it. We'd go broke. We've gotta drive
down costs". So far so good. Obama is unquestionably correct about this.
America's per capita health care costs are double those of the rest of the
industrialized world. Congress will never find the political will to
establish a sustainable universal health insurance program unless it finds
a way to cut the high cost of health care.

But then Obama went on to imply that we don.t need a single-payer system
to cut costs. "There are ways that we can drive down costs," he said. He
cited three ways: greater use of preventive services, (not by making
insurance companies pay for them, but by changing the way doctors are
paid); electronic medical records; and a public program to compete with
private insurers. The first two ideas are straight out of the insurance
industry's hymnal. The third idea, the proposed public program (which its
advocates now refer to as "the public option") will either quickly morph
into a single-payer or it will accomplish little or no cost containment.

Here are excerpts from Obama's response:

If we emphasize prevention and wellness programs - so that we're
reimbursing doctors, not just for treating people after they get sick but
for helping people stay well, if we use medical technology to reduce error
rates and ensure electronic medical billing - these are simple things we
can do that will save us money.

But the research does not support Obama's claims. Even assuming the way to
deliver more preventive services is to focus on doctors rather than
insurance companies, more preventive services will not reduce costs.
Proven preventive services definitely improve patient health, but the vast
majority of preventive services cost so much, and have to be given to so
many people who would not otherwise have gotten sick, that the cost of the
services outweighs the savings from reduced illness.

Flu shots are an example. If you consider only the fact that flu shots
cost $30 per person to administer, and that the medical costs of treating
an adult with flu come to about $8,500, you might be lulled into thinking
flu shots pay for themselves hundreds of times over. But when you realize
the $30 flu shot has to be given to hundreds of people who wouldn't have
gotten the flu in any case just to prevent one hospitalization for flu
(research indicates flu shots have to be given to 1,000 seniors to prevent
one hospitalization for flu), you're forced to reach a different
conclusion. A 2008 review of the literature on preventive medicine
concluded, "Although some preventive services do save money, the vast
majority reviewed in the health economics literature do not" (Joshua T.
Cohen et al., "Does preventive care save money? Health economics and the
presidential candidates," New England Journal of Medicine
2008;358:661-663).

The research reaches the same conclusion about a slightly more complex
form of preventive services called "disease management". Whereas
preventive services are defined as those given to people without any
detectable sign of disease, disease management refers to services given to
people who already have signs of a disease. A typical disease management
service is education of patients by a nurse on how to follow their
doctor's instructions. Several reviews of the research on disease
management have reported that most forms of disease management do not save
money and, in fact, like preventive services, probably raise total costs
(Soeren Mattke et al., "Evidence for the effect of disease management: Is
$1 billion a year a good investment?" American Journal of Managed Care
2007;13:670-676).

During his campaign, Obama claimed that switching all Americans' medical
records from paper to electronic form would save $77 billion a year. He
based this claim on a paper financed by Hewlett Packard and other members
of the computer industry. This paper was soundly thrashed by the
Congressional Budget Office in a report issued in May 2008. (The CBO is a
non-partisan research arm of Congress which analyzes the impact of federal
legislation on the federal budget.) The CBO's analysis and other research
has shown that electronic medical records have mixed effects on quality of
care and are likely to raise total costs. It is true that computers can
reduce some types of errors, but they also facilitate new types of errors.
And they are not free. Installing the hardware and software necessary to
create electronic medical records for all 300 million Americans will
probably raise total spending by about 2 percent.

After telling his audience that cost containment is absolutely essential
if we're going to get to universal coverage, and then telling them
prevention and electronic medical records will save money when they won't,
Obama took up the question about why Baucus was refusing to take testimony
on single-payer. Obama, being the good teacher he is, first defined the
term:

For those of you who don't know, a single-payer system is, Medicare is
sort of like a single-payer system. The way it works is, the idea is you
don't have insurance companies as middle-men. The government goes directly
and pays doctors or nurses.

There is more one could say about how single-payer systems save money, but
Obama's description captured their most important feature: They save large
sums of money by reducing the administrative waste generated by the health
insurance industry. Obama was correct to hold up the traditional Medicare
program as an example of a single-payer. That program does not funnel tax
dollars through insurance companies so they can scrape 20 percent off the
top and send the remaining 80 percent to doctors and hospitals with
strings attached about how to practice medicine. By bypassing the
insurance industry and paying doctors, hospitals and other providers
directly, the classic Medicare program (in which 80 percent of Medicare
recipients are enrolled now) avoids paying for the wasteful insurance
industry overhead costs (including marketing, "managing" doctors,
underwriting, lobbyists, and profit). Compared with the insurance industry
overhead of 20 percent of expenditures, Medicare's overhead is 2 percent.

Single-payer or Medicare-for-all-style systems also lower system-wide
administrative costs because providers incur lower billing costs when they
have to deal with only one cooperative public insurer (or payer) rather
hundreds or thousands of obstinate private-sector insurers. The
administrative savings alone from switching from a multiple- to a
single-payer system will be in the range of 10 to 15 percent. Another 10
percent is easily achievable through a reduction in prices, especially for
specialist services and drugs, that single-payers achieve.

Having properly defined a single-payer system, Obama continued:

If I were starting a system from scratch, then I think that the idea of
moving toward a single-payer system could very well make sense.. The only
problem is that we're not starting from scratch. We have... a tradition of
employer-based health care. We don't want a huge disruption as we go into
health care reform where suddenly we're trying to completely reinvent
one-sixth of the economy.

Note how cautiously Obama talked about "disruption". He didn't say who
would be bothered by "disruption". Under a single-payer or
Medicare-for-all system, patients would notice no change in their clinics
or hospitals, and all Americans and all employers would be relieved of the
immense hassle of buying insurance, paying for it, and playing "captain
may I" with the insurance industry when people get sick. The "disruption"
Obama is concerned about is the disruption a single-payer system will
cause for the insurance industry when it gets knocked off its perch at the
top of the health care food chain. Obama's statement about "disruption,"
then, may be translated as, "I don't want to make the insurance industry
mad".

Having told his audience that cost containment is absolutely essential,
and having misled them about the ability of prevention and computers to
cut costs, and having asserted that we dare not "disrupt" the insurance
industry, he turned to what he would probably call the central plank in
his cost-containment platform - a public program that will sell health
insurance to the non-elderly in competition with the existing insurance
companies:

So what I've said is, let's set up a system where if you already have
health care through your employer and you're happy with it, you don't have
to change doctors and you don't have to change plans, nothin' changes. If
you don't have health care or you're highly unsatisfied with your health
care, let's give you choices - including a public plan that you could sign
up for. That's been my proposal.

Note that Obama did not claim that setting up a government-run insurance
program to sell insurance to the non-elderly in competition with the
insurance industry will save money. But other advocates of this idea,
which over the last few months has come to be called "the public option,"
are making precisely that claim. Their argument starts out on a sound
footing, and then veers into the ditch. They assert that Medicare has
proven to be more efficient than any insurance company ever will be. That
is true. I have already indicated that Medicare spends a much lower
proportion of its expenditures on administration than private insurers do.
Medicare's large size also permits it to pay clinics and hospitals roughly
20 percent less than smaller private insurers pay. (However, Medicare's
lower reimbursement rates are offset by its cooperativeness with
providers, which results in lower overhead costs for providers

So the premise that Medicare is unusually efficient is correct. But then
"public option" advocates take a wrong turn. They claim that if a program
"like Medicare," but separate from Medicare, were authorized to start
selling health insurance to the non-elderly, it would automatically enjoy
Medicare's advantages (low overhead, low provider rates, and large size)
and would, therefore, be able to set its premiums below those of the
private insurance industry and seize a very large portion of the
non-elderly "market" for health insurance. (Don't ask me why "public
option" advocates want the new program to be separate from Medicare. I
would bet it's because they understand the new program is going to suffer
from "adverse selection," that is, from disproportionate enrollment by the
sick, and that this would raise Medicare's costs dramatically and annoy
the elderly.)

But why should we assume that a public program for the non-elderly will
enjoy Medicare.s advantages? Medicare enjoys those advantages precisely
because it is a single-payer. How can a "Medicare-like" program for the
non-elderly be expected to function with Medicare's efficiency when it
won't be a single-payer - when it will be merely one of more than 1,000
insurers scrambling to make a sale? Won't the "Medicare-like" program have
to open offices around the country and hire a sales force and advertise?
Won't it have to hire bureaucrats to "manage care" like Aetna and Cigna?
If it doesn't, won't it develop a reputation for being kinder and gentler
to sicker patients and attract a disproportionate number of the sick, and
won't that drive up the new program's premiums?

It is impossible to know what Obama and the vast majority of "public
option" advocates think about these issues because there is no "public
option" proposal or bill to discuss. There is only the naked claim that a
"public option" will "make the insurance companies compete" and that
competition always leads to lower costs.

Jacob Hacker is one of the very few people who has actually written in
some detail about the public program he envisions competing with the
insurance industry. Hacker has recommended that anyone who buys a policy
from the "Medicare-like" program receive subsidies from the federal
government that people who buy policies from private insurers would not
receive. Obviously, this policy would give the new program an advantage
over private insurers. But the insurance industry's lobbyists are no
dummies. They understood this might be a feature of "public option"
legislation and they have already persuaded key Democrats in the Senate,
including Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY), to ensure that the new program enjoys
no such advantages.

If the "Medicare-like" program really does turn out to possess some or all
of Medicare's advantages, or if the law Congress passes actually does
subsidize purchase of the public program's policies but not those of the
private insurers, then the "public option" idea should permit the public
program to undersell the insurance industry and drive the insurance
industry off the market. In that event, we will have achieved a
single-payer system by a process of "creeping capitalism". But in view of
how eagerly Democrats like Sen. Schumer and people like Hacker are
reassuring the insurance industry and their Republican allies that the
"public option" will not lead to a single-payer system, it is reasonable
to predict that the "public option" will, if it is established, have
little or no effect on premium levels across the country and will not
bring us closer to a single-payer system.

In fact, if the Democrats, in their zeal to mollify the insurance
industry, strip the public program of all advantages and subsidies and the
public program suffers adverse selection, the public program might well be
bankrupted by the insurance industry. In that event, the industry and its
right-wing allies will chortle about how single-payer and "public option"
advocates were naive to think that publicly run health insurance programs
could be more efficient than private insurance companies. The single-payer
movement, and the entire universal coverage movement, will have suffered a
serious setback.

Here is Obama's final comment in his reply to the woman who asked him why
single-payer was "off the plate":

"I'm confident that both the House and Senate are gonna produce a bill
before the August recess. And it may not have everything I want in there
or everything you want in there, but it will be a vast improvement over
what we currently have. .. I'm confident we're going to get health care
reform this year ".

I voted for Obama. I fervently wish him well. But I'm confident we won't
get anything resembling "health care reform" this year, or even in Obama's
first term or second term, if Obama persists in thinking prevention and
computers will save money, and if Obama backs a form of "the public
option" that does not possess Medicare's advantages.

Obama's Organizing for America project has asked Obama supporters to
attend house meetings across the country on June 6 (this coming Saturday).
People who care about Obama, universal health insurance or both should
attend one of these meetings and warn people that Obama and Congressional
Democrats are leading us into an ambush. They are promising universal or
near-universal health insurance when they know or should know their
proposed methods of cutting costs are not going to cut costs, much less
cut costs sufficiently to pay for the $1 to 1.5 trillion it will cost to
cover all uninsured Americans over the next decade. The Democrats should
tone down their happy talk now or, better yet, put single-payer
legislation (HR 676/S703) "on the table".

Kip Sullivan belongs to the steering committee of the Minnesota chapter of
Physicians for a National Health Program.


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   - David Shove             shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu
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