Progressive Calendar 07.30.09
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Thu, 30 Jul 2009 05:57:51 -0700 (PDT)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   07.30.09

1. Lobby Franken      7.30 8am/10:30am/1pm/3pm
2. Eagan peace vigil  7.30 4:30pm
3. Northtown vigil    7.30 5pm
4. Palestine movie    7.30 7pm Northfield MN
5. MAC                7.30 7pm
6. Kathy Kelly/Pak    7.30 7pm

7. Palestine vigil    7.31 4:15pm
8. Radical roundtable 7.31 6:30pm
9. Moyers/Potter      7.31 9pm

10. Sen John Marty  - Health reform with a public option: yes, but...
11. David Swanson   - Nine more go to jail for single payer
12. Healthcare-NOW! - It's Medicare's 44th birthday!
13. Robert Dodge    - Healthcare for all: mandate whose time has come
14. Kip Sullivan    - ConDems gut health bills

--------1 of 14--------

From: Michelle Rosier, Sierra Club North Star Chapter
Subject: Lobby Franken 7.30 8am/10:30am/1pm/3pm

Attend Senator Franken's Open House This Thursday

Right now, Congress is creating a new clean energy jobs plan for America,
and the Midwest will play a critical role in shaping its solutions.  This
Thursday, we have an excellent opportunity to show Senator Franken that
Minnesotans want him to lead on developing a strong clean energy jobs plan
that addresses global warming and energy solutions that create jobs.

Our new Senator's staff is holding an open house Thursday, July 30, to
hear from constituents.  We need you to attend with the message that
Minnesotans want green jobs, renewable energy, and strong climate policy.

Open House with Senator Franken's Staff
Thursday, July 30, 8:00 - 10:00 a.m.
Corcoran Neighborhood Assoc, 3451 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis

Senator Franken supports the clean energy jobs plan that came out of the
House of Representatives; however, his office is getting calls from global
warming skeptics and supporters of dirty energy.

Senator Franken needs to hear from us that America needs a strong
Renewable Electricity Standard to create manufacturing jobs in the wind
and solar industries.  We also need to emphasize energy efficiency, which
will create jobs weatherizing homes and retrofitting commercial buildings
and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

There is much opportunity with this legislation, but that also means a lot
of work ahead for all of us.  Help us lay the foundation with Senator
Franken's staff now.

--
From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com>

Attend an Open House with Senator Franken's Staff:

* Thursday, July 30, 10:30 - 12:30 p.m. at Sun Ray Library, 2105 Wilson
Ave., St. Paul
(<http://action.sierraclub.org/site/R?i=YGV96Rqn2GH8cWimLV9Ujw..>map)

* Thursday, July 30, 1:00 - 2:30 p.m. at Merriam Park Library, 1831
Marshall Ave., St. Paul
(<http://action.sierraclub.org/site/R?i=BtQk_EueAuLevvyzB-z4CQ..>map)

* Thursday, July 30, 3:00 - 4:30 p.m. at Rondo Community Outreach Library,
461 North Dale Street, St. Paul
(<http://action.sierraclub.org/site/R?i=n2PnNpjEWxpXpuDLOpirEA..>map)


--------2 of 14--------

From: Greg and Sue Skog <family4peace [at] msn.com>
Subject: Eagan peace vigil 7.30 4:30pm

PEACE VIGIL EVERY THURSDAY from 4:30-5:30pm on the Northwest corner of
Pilot Knob Road and Yankee Doodle Road in Eagan. We have signs and
candles. Say "NO to war!" The weekly vigil is sponsored by: Friends south
of the river speaking out against war.


--------3 of 14--------

From: EKalamboki [at] aol.com
Subject: Northtown vigil 7.30 5pm

NORTHTOWN Peace Vigil every Thursday 5-6pm, at the intersection of Co. Hwy
10 and University Ave NE (SE corner across from Denny's), in Blaine.

Communities situated near the Northtown Mall include: Blaine, Mounds View,
New Brighton, Roseville, Shoreview, Arden Hills, Spring Lake Park,
Fridley, and Coon Rapids.  We'll have extra signs.

For more information people can contact Evangelos Kalambokidis by phone or
email: (763)574-9615, ekalamboki [at] aol.com.


--------4 of 14--------

From: Bill McGrath <billmcgrath52 [at] gmail.com>
Subject: Palestine movie 7.30 7pm Northfield MN

Award-winning documentary, "Occupation 101" will be shown at 7 p.m.
Thursday, July 30, in the Just Food co-op, 516 S Water Street, in downtown
Northfield 55057. Sponsored by Northfielders for Justice in
Palestine/Israel.  -- Bill McGrath (507) 645-7660


--------5 of 14--------

From: Ron Holch <rrholch [at] q.com>
Subject: MAC 7.30 7pm

Metropolitan Airports Commission Meeting
The MAC will be holding a meeting for the cities and public on;
Wednesday July 29th and Thursday July 30 at 7 p.m. at the Schwan Center
in Blaine

The Schwan Center is located at 1700 105th Ave NE; Blaine, MN 55449 - in
the heart of Blaine's National Sports Center. You can access the Schwan
Center on 105th Avenue NE either from the west coming from Central Avenue
NE or from the east on 105th Avenue NE coming off Radisson Road NE.

This is an important meeting especially if you were unable to attend the
last MAC Public meeting in June at the Blaine City Hall.


--------6 of 14--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: Kathy Kelly/Pak 7.30 7pm

Eyewitness Report from Pakistan
"War Without Borders"
THURSDAY, JULY 30, 7:00 P.M.
St. Joan of Arc Church
4537 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis

Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, which she helped to found,
is a long-time peace activist who recently participated in a delegation to
Pakistan. The purpose of the delegation was to learn about the political
and social conditions in the country and to see the effects of the
expanding U.S. war. In Pakistan, she met with a broad range of
organizations and individuals to learn what is really happening in their
country. She reports back about what people there are experiencing.

Kathy has worked for justice and peace in Iraq, Haiti, Bosnia, Lebanon and
Palestine. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times for her
work and is the recipient of countless other awards.  Come hear what she
has to say about conditions of people in Pakistan.

Sponsored by: Twin Cities Peace Campaign-Focus on Iraq, the St. Joan of
Arc/WAMM Peacemakers, Iraq Peace Action Coalition (IPAC), and Women
Against Military Madness (WAMM).

More information: Call 612-522-1861 or 612-827-5364.


--------7 of 14--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net>
Subject: Palestine vigil 7.31 4:15pm

the weekly vigil for the liberation of Palestine continues at the
intersection of Snelling and Summit Aves in St. Paul.  the Friday demo
starts at 4:15 and ends around 5:30.  there are usually extra signs
available.


--------8 of 14--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net>
Subject: Radical roundtable 7.31 6:30pm

Radical Roundtable July Free Speech Slam
"The Economic Crisis - What's Class Got to do with It?"

Friday, July 31
6:30 - 8:30
May Day Books

- a free speech salon starring YOU & other regular peeps
- a couple of yokels kick it off, then YOU take the mic!
- discuss the sad state of the economy, dis the man, woo the audience
- put a little poetry, pizazz or what-what into it, and you might not get
heckled

Format - Topic presentation, comments/rebuttal from YOU and closing remarks

Alternative Happy Hour starts at 6:30
Opening at 7:00 pm.
Close around 9:00 pm

May Day Books 301 Cedar Ave S Mpls


--------9 of 14--------

From: t r u t h o u t <messenger [at] truthout.org>
Subject: Moyers/Potter 7.31 9pm

Bill Moyers Journal | Profits Before Patients
http://www.truthout.org/072909Y?n
Bill Moyers Journal: "With almost 20 years inside the health insurance
industry, Wendell Potter saw for-profit insurers hijack our health care
system and put profits before patients. Now, he speaks with Bill Moyers
about how those companies are standing in the way of health care reform."


--------10 of 14--------

To the Point!
Health Reform with a Public Option: Yes, But...
by Senator John Marty
July 28, 2009

We need health care reform.  Comprehensive reform.  Health care that
covers everyone, for all of their medical needs, including dental care,
prescription drugs, mental health, and chemical dependency treatment. And
we need to deliver it in a wise, more efficient manner so that it is
affordable.  The public is pleading for this.

President Obama has made clear that the status quo is not acceptable, and
it's great to hear the President's vocal push for reform.  The legislation
in Congress will cover tens of millions of people who have no access to
healthcare.  For people without any health insurance, gaining coverage is
not a minor thing.  Providing them with access to care is a matter of life
or death.  Literally.  Eighteen thousand Americans die every year for a
lack of access to health care.  We cannot wait any longer to change that.

In order for the Obama proposal to reach many of the most sick and
vulnerable people, a "public option" - a public health insurance plan
that people can select as an alternative to private insurance coverage -
is an essential part of this legislation.  People with serious mental or
physical health challenges don't stand a chance against a private
insurance plan that is challenging their need for care day after day.

While the federal legislation will require insurance companies to cover
people regardless of preexisting conditions, insurance companies will find
ways to deny them needed care, effectively pushing them onto the public
plan.  Of course this means that the public option may eventually cost
much more than the private plans, making it unsustainable, despite
attempts to shift funds from insurance companies to adjust for it.  But
for now, people who are unable to advocate for themselves need a public
option in order to get appropriate care.

This legislation will be life changing for millions of people.  I want to
underscore the need to fight for its passage. But...

Even with a public option, the proposals fall short.  The bill that passed
a couple of House committees is promoted as providing "universal coverage"
though it will only reach 94% of the population, according to
congressional estimates.  That is better than the 81% of the public that
currently has some sort of insurance coverage, but far from universal. And
the benefits offered by insurance companies under the proposal will not be
comprehensive because they leave out needed services and medications.

Also, despite congressional attempts to slow the growth in health care
costs, the legislation will do very little for the tens of millions of
people who already have insurance coverage, but still cannot afford the
care they need.

The United States spends about twice what other countries spend for health
care, yet the proposals under consideration will add significantly to what
is already being spent, with a price tag reaching a trillion dollars over
the next decade.  When health care reform is done right, it will cost
less, not more.

Other countries have found a way to provide health care for everyone, yet
the reforms being pushed in Washington - even before the compromises are
negotiated - would only reach 94%.  That's not good enough.  Why can't
congress push for universal care?  President Obama said that "the truth is
unless you have what's called a single-payer system in which everyone's
automatically covered, you're probably not going to reach every single
individual."

So why isn't single payer on the table?  Senator Max Baucus, the chair of
the committee putting together the Senate legislation says "it's not on
the table...because it cannot pass. It just cannot pass."

Baucus' lack of enthusiasm for a single-payer health care system might be
better understood after one hears that Baucus has received hundreds of
thousands of dollars from the health insurance lobby.  Is it any surprise
that he wants to require people to buy insurance instead of offer health
care for all?

I want us to treat health care the way we treat police and fire
protection.  If you call the police because your home is being
burglarized, the police dispatcher doesn't ask, "Do you have police
insurance?  Does your plan cover home burglary?"  They don't waste time
and money having you fill out forms so your insurance company can be
billed.  The police response does not depend on your insurance status.
Everyone is covered. It's the American way.

We have a chance to deliver health care to all in Minnesota.  The
Minnesota Health Plan (MHP) would provide health care to everyone for all
of their medical needs, cradle to grave.  It lets people choose their
doctors, and leaves medical decisions to them and their doctors, instead
of insurance companies or government.  And it would be delivered in a
wise, more efficient manner costing less than the current system, not
more.

The MN Health Plan has many co-authors, and it has passed through two
Senate committees.  While health insurance companies and the
pharmaceutical lobby will go all out to defeat the MHP, it is time to
stand up to the special interest money and deliver health care for all. It
may take three or four years, but we must do it.

I am deeply disappointed that people in Washington take the insurance
lobby's campaign contributions and settle for a very costly plan that
doesn't cover everyone.  Congress and the administration should not
promote the legislation as if it is a solution when millions of people
won't be covered and health care still won't be affordable to many of
those families who have insurance.  Nevertheless, for the sake of the
millions who would gain access to care, we have to fight hard for the most
comprehensive reform that they will consider in Washington.  Our work for
a real, long term solution is no excuse for ignoring current needs.

To make both immediate and long term progress on health care, we should
push for congressional passage of a bill with a robust public option, even
as we press forward here in Minnesota for systemic change.  A new
Minnesota health care model, built on the Minnesota Health Plan, will
provide high quality, affordable care for all Minnesotans in a sustainable
manner.  And it will, at the same time, show the rest of the nation the
way out of our health care crisis.


--------11 of 14--------

Nine More Go to Jail for Single Payer
David Swanson
Monday 27 July 2009
truthout

Following a pattern of civil resistance in Washington D.C. and around the
country, citizens in Des Moines Iowa on Monday risked arrest to press for
the creation of single-payer healthcare, the establishment of healthcare
as a human right, and an end to the deadly practices of Iowa's largest
health insurance company, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Dr. Margaret Flowers, who has herself gone to jail for single-payer in our
nation's capital, was on hand to speak in Des Moines. She called me with
this report. Nearly a month earlier, on June 19, 2009, Des Moines Catholic
Workers had delivered a letter (PDF) to Wellmark addressed to its CEO John
Forsyth requesting disclosure of Wellmark's profits, salaries, benefits,
denials and restrictions on care. The letter had not been acknowledged by
Monday, and the Catholic Workers and their allies decided to take action
again.

Thirty people arrived in the Wellmark lobby in Des Moines and asked to see
Forsyth or any of the members of the board of directors or the operating
officers. They were told that none were available, and instead the police
arrived. Nine of the 30 refused to leave and were arrested.  Flowers did
not yet know what the charges will be but suspected trespassing. The nine
latest supporters of single-payer to go to jail for justice are:

Mona Shaw, Renee Espeland, Frankie Hughes (age 11), and Frank Cordaro, all
from Des Moines Catholic Workers; Leonard Simmons from Massachusetts;
Robert Cook; Eddie Blomer from Des Moines; Kirk Brown from Des Moines; and
Chris Gaunt from Grinnell, Iowa.

These nine and others like them around the country represent, I think, the
incredible potential to energize the American public on behalf of a
struggle for the basic human right of healthcare, a potential being
blocked by the work of activist organizations that reach out from
Washington to tell the public that single-payer is not possible, rather
than reaching into Washington from outside to tell our public servants
what we demand.

Here's a blog from Digby acknowledging the reduction of the public option
from where it started to next-to-nothing. It's not clear whether Digby
thinks it would have been smarter to start with single-payer, in order to
end up with a better compromise than what you get by initially proposing
the weakest plan you'll settle for. But Digby argues that proposing
single-payer from the start would not have given single-payer itself any
chance of succeeding, and this is proven -- Digby says -- from the fact
that the public option is having such a hard time succeeding.

I can't prove this is wrong. Everything Digby writes is smart and to the
point. But this does omit an important factor or two. Namely:
single-payer turns an obscure wonkish policy mush into a clear and
comprehensible civil rights issue. Even with it blacked out and shunned by
the White House and astroturfing activist groups, single-payer still has
people sacrificing and going to jail for it. Nobody goes to jail for a
public option.* Nobody even knows what it is. Nobody will even know
whether they got it if a bill is passed until experts debate the point for
them -- at which point it's too late. Making healthcare a right rather
than a legislative policy energizes people, and that potential has hardly
been tapped and should not be written out of consideration.

John Nichols understands this, as does Glen Ford from Black Agenda Report.

Even defenders of a public option depict it as a step toward single-payer,
while missing the potential of single-payer activism in the short term to
improve the public option. So, all agree that in the long run a movement
for single-payer is needed. It can begin with phone calls this week in
support of these measures and with a massive presence on July 30 in
Washington, D.C.

* Note: Joe Szakos of Virginia Organizing Project went to jail this week
for a public option, but nobody he'd organized went with him. His action,
like that in Iowa, was protesting an insurance company, an entity that
would be eliminated only by single-payer.


--------12 of 14--------

Date: Thu, 30 Jul 2009 05:48:26 -0500
From: Healthcare-NOW! <email [at] healthcare-now.org>
Subject: It's Medicare's 44th Birthday!

It's Medicare's 44th Birthday! Call Congress today!
Tell them we want improved and expanded Medicare for all (national,
single-payer healthcare).
Call the Capitol Switchboard at 866-338-1015.

Dear Healthcare-NOW! Supporter:

Today, single-payer supporters from all over the country are celebrating
the 44th birthday of one of the nation's most popular public programs:
Medicare.

On this anniversary of Medicare, we are calling for an end to a wasteful
private health financing model based on earning profits through the
restriction and denial of needed health care.

This could be done through the passage of HR 676, "Expanded and Improved
Medicare for All," or S 703, "American Health Security Act."

We need your help in telling members of Congress that the people want
single-payer now.

Please, call your Senators and Representative today.

If you don't know your Congress Members, or want to email them rather than
call, go to www.VoteSmart.org. Otherwise, call the Capitol Switchboard at
866-338-1015.

Make these four requests:

1. If you haven't, cosponsor single-payer legislation today. (HR 676 for
Reps. and S. 703 for Senators)

2. Join Senators Schumer, Harkin, and Sanders in asking the CBO to score
single-payer legislation. Past cost-benefit analyses (including from the
CBO) reflect the cost neutrality of a single-payer system, and savings of
healthcare dollars overall.

3. Vote for single-payer amendments to current legislation going through
House and Senate committees. The grassroots movement is closely watching
the outcomes of the votes on single-payer amendments. This will be
documented and remembered in the midterm elections.

4. Refuse to accept campaign contributions from the healthcare industry
and support publicly funded elections. The receipt of healthcare industry
dollars is a conflict of interest as you vote on healthcare policy.

We are greatly concerned that the current legislation will not be
universal, protect individuals from bankrupting medical bills, or
guarantee needed healthcare to people. Even with proposed private
insurance reform, the quality of coverage available will vary
significantly depending on ability to pay, which is flagrantly
discriminatory. Healthcare is not a product, it is a necessity, and all
deserve equal access to care. In addition, there are no realistic
cost-containment measures.

A single-payer system of publicly-financed and privately-delivered care
solves all of these issues and provides true health security. It is the
only proposal that is both socially and fiscally responsible.


--------13 of 14--------

Universal healthcare for all: Mandate whose time has come
By robert dodge
Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 30 marks the 44th anniversary of Medicare providing healthcare to all
over the age of 65. That system has provided a safety net to all of our
seniors, irrespective of their ability to pay. As a single-payer system
with the lowest administrative costs, it has proved the most
cost-efficient for our nation.

It is the most fair and moral way to deliver healthcare.

When you get sick, you get care and the bill is paid. Nothing could be
simpler.

Prior to Medicare, the whims of health, illness, luck and infirmity were
the gamble facing the oldest segment of our population. Today, that same
dilemma faces more than 45 million Americans - yes, 1 in 6 without health
insurance.

According to a 2004 report by the Institute of Medicine of the National
Academy of Sciences, this has resulted in the deaths of 50 Americans each
and every day because they lacked health insurance! That is more than
18,000 American lives lost every year, not from war or the H1N1 flu
pandemic, but lack of health insurance. Additionally, an estimated 50
million Americans have inadequate insurance, putting them in the
precarious position of being one illness away from health or financial
disaster.

As practicing physicians, every day, we face decisions of how to provide
the best healthcare to our patients. Let there be no misconception. Our
current system rations care based on financial means and ability to pay.
Even those with coverage face the idiosyncrasies and gaps of
health-insurance companies.

This was perhaps best said in recent testimony before the U.S. Senate
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation by Wendell Potter,
former head of corporate communications at Cigna: "I know from personal
experience that members of Congress and the public have good reason to
question the honesty and trustworthiness of the insurance industry.
Insurers make promises they have no intention of keeping, they flout
regulations designed to protect consumers and they make it nearly
impossible to understand - or even to obtain - information we need."

These realities do affect outcomes and severity of illness, resulting in
higher costs. In the words of former Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders,
the U.S. has the best "sick care" in the world. This has also resulted in
the most expensive care in the world. The excess costs are paid by all of
us - each individual and business each and every day. We pay in
cost-shifting, bankruptcy costs and, lastly, when businesses add their
employee health costs to their product price and we reimburse them at the
cash register.

Two-thirds of U.S. bankruptcies in 2007 were due in part to medical bills
or illness, amounting to 1 million bankruptcies annually. Three-quarters
of these individuals had insurance at the onset of their illness.

Healthcare is the fastest-growing part of our economy, currently consuming
18 percent of gross domestic product and growing. This is not sustainable.

How should we respond to this unacceptable and unethical dilemma? There is
a solution to provide cost-effective, comprehensive healthcare to all. A
reformed "Medicare for All," as embodied in Rep. John Conyers' bill (HR
676 in the House) with its 83 co-sponsors, provides the answer. This
proposal involves removing the insurance company middlemen from the
healthcare equation, substituting a "Medicare for All" single-payer
program. This provides public financing with a private delivery system.
Polls show that 62 percent of the public and 59 percent of physicians
support this option.

How will it be paid for?

It is estimated that private insurance companies spend 31 percent of
premium dollars on administration compared with 3 percent for Medicare.
This amounts to approximately $400 billion annually in excess of the
administration costs of the Medicare program. Under a single-payer
"Medicare for All" program, these dollars would be put to healthcare
delivery.

The estimated costs of the current healthcare-insurance proposals being
considered by Congress (and used to engender fear by the opposition and
vested interests) amount to $100 billion to $150 billion annually - far
less than the expected savings amounting from a single-payer system. Thus,
coverage for all under this plan would provide better care with far
greater savings.

In addition, choice of physician and hospital would be maintained. Also,
the focus would be changed to wellness and preventative health.

Americans have spoken and have the right to universal healthcare. Our
elected officials who are often "bought" by corporate American dollars
work for the people.

The problem is both Democrats and Republicans have shared in the $46
million in campaign contributions from the insurance industry and current
estimates of $1.5 million spent daily by the industry to defeat these
proposals. Our leaders have the obligation to respond to our demands to
provide a solution to this crisis in healthcare. Divergent views will be
held, but, make no mistake of what is at stake. The status quo is not
acceptable. Proposals that do not cover all Americans with uniform,
nonfragmented healthcare are not solutions, but only added problems to be
dealt with at a later date.

Now, at long last, is the time to realize the goal first stated by
President Harry Truman in 1945 of healthcare for all.

- Robert Dodge, M.D., of Ventura is a family physician; Evan Slater, M.D.,
of Ventura is an oncologist; Thomas F. Golden, M.D., of Ventura is an
orthopedic surgeon; Fran S. Larsen, M.D., of Santa Paula is a family
physician; Charles L. Murphy, M.D., of Ventura is a family physician; and
Geoffrey L. Loman, M.D., of Ventura is a family physician.

Author's Bio: Robert Dodge is the father of 3 sons. He is a family
physician in Ventura, California. He serves on the board of Physicians for
Social Responsibility Los Angeles and is president of the Ventura County
Chapter. He also serves on the board of Beyond War (www.beyondwar.org) and
is the co-chairman of Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions (www.c-p-r.net) .
He firmly believes that an individual can make a difference.


--------14 of 14--------

Does the Congressional Progressive Caucus care about its "public option"
principles?
by Kip Sullivan
Jul 28, 2009
http://www.pnhp.org/blog/

It has become obvious that the Democratic leadership in Congress will not
fight for a large "Medicare-like" program or "public option," to use the
lingo adopted early in 2009 by advocates of this idea. As I reported in an
article posted on this blog on July 20, "public option" advocates
originally claimed they stood for a "Medicare-like" program that would
enroll 130 million non-elderly Americans, but somewhere along the line
they got comfortable selling the "public options" proposed in legislation
introduced by Senate and House Democrats a few weeks ago that will, at
best, enroll 10 million people.

A "public option" that small will have no effect on the cost of health
care in the U.S., which means it cannot bring us closer to universal
health insurance. I noted in my July 20 article that neither the original
proponents of the "public option," nor Democrats in Congress, have warned
the public that the "public options" contained in the Democrats'
legislation are tiny and powerless compared with the original model.

It is difficult to understand why "public option" advocates outside
Congress would conceal this from the public. It is even more difficult to
comprehend why members of Congress - people who actually have something
tangible to lose (namely, power and a livelihood) if the "public option"
turns out to be a joke - have remained silent about the degradation of the
"public option".

If you were asked to think of one group of Congress members who should be
leading the campaign to warn America that the "public option" in the
Democrats' legislation is not what it's been cracked up to be, you would
think of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).

With 82 members (according to CPC's latest count), representing the most
progressive members of the House of Representatives, the Congressional
Progressive Caucus is the largest caucus. The CPC has said not a word
about the incredible shrinkage of the "public option" that occurred
between the time the concept was originally proposed by Jacob Hacker (the
man "who is credited with developing the public-plan idea") and the time
it was written into the Democrats' bills. This omission might be
justifiable if the "public option" were a small afterthought in the
Democrats' "reform" legislation. But it is not. According to its
proponents, it is "the heart" of the Democrats' proposal and an essential
plank in the Democrats' cost-containment platform.

Nevertheless, the CPC has been silent about the remarkable transformation
the "public option" has suffered during the course of the campaign that
propelled it to center stage. What explains this behavior? To answer that
question, it helps to take a close look at the statements the CPC has made
about the "public option" in recent months.

          The CPC's endorsement of the "public option"

Between early April and early June of this year, the CPC aggressively
promoted the "public option" in the same vague terms many of the groups
associated with Health Care for America Now have promoted it - as if it
were a slogan on a bumper-sticker unaccompanied by position papers and
data one could turn to find out what it meant. On April 2, long before
either house had drafted "public option" provisions, the Progressive
Caucus sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi stating:

Regarding the upcoming health care reform debate, we believe it is
important for you to know that virtually the entire 77-Member
Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) prefers a single-payer approach to
health care reform. Therefore, it will come as no surprise as you work to
craft comprehensive health care reform legislation, that we urge the
inclusion of a public plan option, at a minimum, in the final legislation.
We have polled CPC Members and a strong majority will not support
legislation that does not include a public plan option that is supported
on a level playing field with private health insurance plans.

In an April 28 press release, the CPC again expressed its strong support
for a "public option" and threatened a no vote on the entire "reform" bill
if a "public option" was not in the final bill:

[O]ur support for enacting legislation this year to guarantee affordable
health care for all firmly hinges on the inclusion of a robust public
health insurance plan like Medicare.

Although the CPC's press release placed the word "robust" before "public
option," they did not define what that term meant to them. Is it not odd
for any legislator, much less dozens, to "hinge" their support for an
entire (and very important) bill on the inclusion in that bill of an
entity they have not defined?

          The CPC's criteria for a "public option"

It was not till early June that the CPC got around to identifying criteria
that had to be met in order for the CPC to define a "public option" as
"robust". In a June 5 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which laid out
these criteria, CPC's co-chairs, Reps. Raul Grijalva and Lynn Woolsey,
warned the Speaker that these criteria "must be included" in the final
bill in order to win CPC support.

The CPC's list of criteria includes about a dozen "principles". The
principles are an odd mix. Although the letter to Speaker Pelosi repeated
the "public option" proponents' mantra that the "public option" should be
"robust - like Medicare," the criteria enunciated in the letter were far
weaker than the criteria Jacob Hacker originally proposed for his version
of the "public option," a version which would have enrolled 130 million
people. The CPC's criteria refer to only one of the features of the
"Medicare-like" program that Hacker called for, namely, the one calling
for giving all non-elderly Americans access to the public program (as
opposed to limiting access to uninsured people and employees of small
businesses). Missing from the CPC list of criteria are these four features
of Hacker's original proposal:

. the public program must be pre-populated with tens of millions of
people;
. subsidies must go only to Americans who enroll in the public program;
. the program must be authorized to use Medicare's payment rates; and
. the insurance industry must be required to offer the same benefits
the public program is required to offer.

One CPC criterion would actually reverse one of Hacker's: The Progressive
Caucus insists on paying the insurance industry the same subsidies the
public program gets.

The CPC document containing these criteria does not explain why the CPC
adopted them, nor why the CPC thinks their criteria are sufficient to
guarantee the "public option" will survive and have any influence on the
insurance industry and the number of uninsured and underinsured. Of the
CPC's "criteria," only two would have a direct, positive influence on the
public program's ability to set its premiums below those of the insurance
industry. They require the "public option" to:

. Consist of one entity, operated by the federal government, which sets
policies and bears the risk for paying medical claims to keep
administrative costs low and provide a higher standard of care.

. Be available to all individuals and employers across the nation without
limitation.

Significantly, the CPC would prohibit the "public option" from attempting
to "compete" with private insurers by limiting patient choice of provider.
This standard reads: "Allow patients to have access to their choice of
doctors and other providers "..

For two reasons this criterion will almost certainly make it harder for
the "public option" to undersell the insurance industry (or even keep its
premiums from being above those of the industry).

First, people in poor health are more likely to value freedom to choose
their own doctor and hospital. If the "public option" is the only insurer
in a multiple-insurer setting that is not limiting choice of provider, the
"public option" is likely to suffer "adverse selection," which means it
winds up enrolling a disproportionate number of sick people. "Public
option" premiums would go up and premiums of the insurance industry would
go down.

Secondly, if the "public option" is not allowed to channel patients to a
small network of providers, it will be more difficult for the "public
option" to extract discounts from those providers, let alone match the big
discounts large insurers typically get. Again, that would drive "public
option" premiums up vis a vis those of the industry.

But as weak as the Congressional Progressive Caucus criteria are, they are
better than nothing. But to be better than nothing, weak criteria have to
be enforced. What has the CPC done?

                   The CPC avoids its first test

The first test of how seriously the Progressive Caucus would take its own
weak principles arose on June 19. On that day, the House leadership
unveiled a "reform" bill, a bill they would introduce a month later as HR
3200. The "public option" in this bill failed to meet all but one of
Hacker's criteria and nearly all of the important CPC criteria.

The CPC's initial statement included a promise to evaluate the "public
option" provisions in the bill. But even at this date (more than a month
later), the CPC's website contains no evidence that the CPC has published
an evaluation of HR 3200's "public option" provisions. The CPC has
apparently endorsed those provisions anyway.

Here is what the CPC said in a press release published the same day (June
19) as the House draft bill was published:

We welcome the draft [bill] and will evaluate the language in the upcoming
days. In our evaluation, we will pay close attention to the language
outlining the public option. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has
already submitted principles for a public plan that provides a guarantee
of healthcare coverage - and which lowers costs for all consumers.. As we
work with our colleagues toward a final bill, the CPC will be vigilant in
ensuring that the bill's public option is robust and is linked to the
existing infrastructure of Medicare, in order to maintain transparency and
provide consumer protection in its administration...

The statement closed with this plaintive remark:

[W]e hope that our evaluation of the language in this draft bill upholds
our principles.

                The CPC dodges its second test

When HR 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act, was formally
introduced on July 14 (with "public option" language virtually identical
to the draft language), the Congressional Budget Office released a copy of
its "preliminary" assessment of the bill. The CBO said the "public option"
might enroll 9 to 10 million people and would leave 16 to 17 million
uninsured. This was a very different assessment from that promised by
Hacker and the "public option" movement - 130 million enrolled in the
public program and only 2 million people left uninsured. The CBO's report
should have been an immense red flag for the CPC. If it was, the CPC
didn't let on. The Progressive Caucus press release, issued the same day
(July 14), consisted of a short, cryptic remark. Here is the entire text:

The Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive (CPC), Reps. Lynn Woolsey
(D-CA) and Ral M. Grijalva (D-AZ), issued the following statement in
response to the release of the introduction of America's Affordable Health
Choices Act: The public option is central to our support of health care
reform. The Congressional Progressive Caucus is confident that the final
legislation will retain a robust public option linked to Medicare that
will cut costs, promote quality care and offer coverage to all.

There was no reference in this statement to the CPC's "principles," no
indication whether the CPC had performed the "evaluation" of the bill's
"public option" provisions promised a month earlier, nor any indication
whether an evaluation would be forthcoming.

On July 22, by which time HR 3200 had cleared the Ways and Means Committee
and the Education and Labor Committee, the CPC sent a letter to President
Obama in which they seemed to say that, yes, after all, they were
endorsing HR 3200's "public option". The letter read:

As the health care proposal continues to move forward in the House and
Senate, we ask that you continue your commitment to the inclusion of a
strong public option and do not weaken the language that has already
passed through two committees. Let us be clear: A strong public option is
already a compromise for the CPC. Many of us strongly supported a
single-payer approach. We will not support a weakened public option..
[emphasis added]

What does "a weakened public option" mean? Compared to what? Where were
the CPC's "principles"? Where was the evaluation of the bill's "public
option" provisions promised a month earlier?

The CPC released a similar statement two days later in the form of a
letter to Nancy Pelosi. In it, the CPC objected for the first time to an
actual provision in HR 3200, in this case, to the provision allowing
providers to opt out of the "public option". (As I noted in my July 20
article, this provision in HR 3200 inflicts a crippling injury on the
"public option's" ability to get started.) The CPC's letter to the House
Speaker stated:

We want to assure you that for our continued support, the public option ..
must be on a level playing field .. And, it must be connected to the
Medicare infrastructure, including the provider and payment system.
Allowing providers to opt out of the public option has already created a
loss of $91 billion in savings. We cannot tolerate further weakening of
the public option.

What does "further weakening" mean? Compared to what? To Hacker's
criteria? To the CPC's "principles"? When the long-awaited evaluation of
HR 3200's "public option" is published, will it answer these questions?

    HR 3200's "public option" does not meet the CPC's criteria

If the CPC ever gets around to conducting an evaluation of HR 3200, they
will have to report that the "public option" section fails to meet several
of the CPC's more important criteria. To begin with, there is nothing in
HR 3200 that requires or guarantees that the "public option" will be
"robust - like Medicare". Medicare enrolls 45 million Americans, and pays
about 20 percent of all U.S. health care costs. According to the
Congressional Budget Office July 14 report, HR 3200's "public option"
might enroll 10 million non-elderly people, which means, it will pay 1 or
2 percent of the entire U.S. health care bill.

One reason the CBO concluded the "public option" would be so small is that
HR 3200 bars the vast majority of Americans from buying insurance from it
and from getting the subsidies that would make buying health insurance
from any source financially feasible for most Americans. HR 3200 thus
clearly violates another CPC criterion, the one requiring the public
program to be "available to all individuals and employers across the
nation without limitation".

Finally, there is nothing in the bill requiring the "public option" to
permit enrollees to use any clinic or hospital they want. How could it be
otherwise when this bill explicitly states that providers don't have to
participate in the "public option"? In fact, the bill states the "public
option" is subject to the same rules the insurance industry is subject to,
including "provider network requirements". How can enrollees in the
"public option" have complete freedom of choice of provider if the "public
option" is setting up "provider networks"?

       The CPC must take a principled stand immediately

Two of the three health care "reform" bills that will be introduced in
this Congress by Democrats have now been introduced. They are HR 3200 and
the bill written by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
(HELP) Committee. As debilitated as HR 3200's "public option" is, it is
not as degraded as the one called for in the Senate HELP Committee bill.
==
The "public option" in the HELP Committee bill is weaker for two reasons.
First, it calls for "community health insurance options," and then defines
these things as "health insurance coverage" which can vary by state. That
implies there will be no single national "Medicare-like" program, but
rather dozens, perhaps hundreds, of insurance companies sponsored by the
federal government, each of which will be called "a community health
insurance option". Second, the bill does not authorize these "options" to
pay providers rates below those paid by insurance companies as HR 3200
does. It was mainly for this latter reason that the CBO reported to
Congress that the "options" in the HELP Committee bill would be unable to
keep their premiums below those of the insurance industry.

The third bill - the one being written in the Senate Finance Committee -
promises to be even worse than the Senate HELP Committee bill. It may not
include provisions for a "public option," or if it does, it will not call
for a federal program like Medicare, but instead will probably call for
the establishment of small, privately run cooperatives. Slinging little
insurance co-ops into the insurance market will be like dumping a bucket
of minnows in a shark tank.

So unless something changes, the Democrats' bill writers have set in
motion a process that will inevitably result in either no "public option"
or a very weak one. And a very weak "public option" means nearly all of
the $1 trillion in payments to insurers projected for the next decade will
go to the insurance industry and very little will go to the "public
option". Is that what the CPC wants?

If an intervention within Congress is going to occur, one might expect it
to come from the CPC. But so far the CPC's strategy appears to be to do
nothing to strengthen the puny "public option" in HR 3200. The CPC appears
to have adopted a strategy of (a) insisting that the final bill contain a
"public option", and (b) begging other Democrats not to let anyone degrade
HR 3200.s "public option" any further. If this observation is accurate,
and if the Senate Finance Committee bill turns out to be as bad as
everyone expects it to be, then it is safe to say the bill Congress sends
to Obama will contain either no "public option" or a very, very weak
"public option". And if that.s the case, the bill will be a pure, or
99-percent pure, health insurance industry bailout.

The CPC needs to remind itself that the goal of most of its members is
comprehensive, universal health insurance under a single-payer system. CPC
members need to ask themselves whether their current strategy is moving
America toward or away from that goal. They should take immediate steps to
compare the "public option" in HR 3200 with their own principles, or
better yet Hacker's original principles, and then issue a report telling
the public what they found. To facilitate this report, I propose to the
CPC that it adopt the following resolution:

Proposed resolution for the Congressional Progressive Caucus

WHEREAS the Congressional Progressive Caucus has evaluated the "public
option" in HR 3200;

WHEREAS the CPC has determined that the "public option" in HR 3200 is not
"robust";

WHEREAS HR 3200, therefore, is just another Massachusetts-style bailout
for the health insurance industry;

WHEREAS a Massachusetts-style debacle on a national scale will set back
the movement for universal coverage under a single-payer system;

WHEREAS the CPC has repeatedly put Democratic leaders on notice that they
intend to vote against legislation with a weak "public option:; therefore
be it

RESOLVED that the Congressional Progressive Caucus members will instead
support an amendment to HR 3200 that replaces HR 3200's language with that
in HR 676, The United States National Health Care Act.

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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