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 JOIN YOUR LOCAL ACTION TEAM!         INNER CITY BLUES FESTIVAL

Health Care for All Oregon is a grassroots coalition of over 100 organizations that are determined to create a better way of financing health care for every person who lives or works in Oregon.  Our mission is to provide publicly funded, privately delivered, high quality, affordable, universal health care to everyone. People will be free to choose their medical provider to give them the care that they need, free to choose their career, job, and time of retirement independent of health care costs.  We believe that health care is a human right.  The care we receive should not be dependent on what we can afford.  It is time we joined the rest of the free world and provided ourselves with publicly funded health care just like we do for education, libraries, fire fighters, and police.

Fed war on health care spending abuse needs to include Medicare Advantage

Commentary: Obama administration bragging about anti-fraud efforts, but Center report showed bigger dollars are being lost elsewhere

by Wendell Potter
The Center for Public Integrity, March 23, 2015

The Obama administration went to great lengths last week to inform us that it recovered $3.3 billion in fraudulent payments to Medicare health care providers in fiscal year 2014. Officials even went so far as to give an advance copy of their report to The Wall Street Journal, which, like the Center for Public Integrity, has been investigating Medicare fraud and abuse.

In a story that appeared in the Journal before the official release of the report, WSJ reporter Stephanie Armour wrote that the recovery “was part of an effort by the Obama administration to improve enforcement and prevent abusive billing practices.” That effort is run jointly by the Department of Health and Human Services the Justice Department.

HHS secretary Sylvia Burwell was quoted in the story as saying that “we’ve cracked down on tens of thousands of health care providers suspected of Medicare fraud,” an effort she said is helping to extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund.

That’s good news, of course. Taxpayers benefit when doctors and other health care providers get caught trying to rip off the government.

But when it comes taking on big and well-connected insurance companies that have been ripping off the Medicare program for years, the administration has been far less aggressive in catching, much less punishing, the abusers.

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Overwhelming Evidence that Half of America is In or Near Poverty

Photo Credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

Photo Credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

And it's much worse for black families.

The original poverty measures were (and still are) based largely on the food costs of the 1950s. But while food costs have doubled since 1978, housing has more than tripled, medical expenses are six times higher, and college tuition is eleven times higher. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau have calculated that food, housing, health care, child care, transportation, taxes, and other household expenditures consume nearly the entire median household income.

by Paul Buchheit / AlterNet  March 23, 2014

The Charles Koch Foundation recently released a commercial that ranked a near-poverty-level $34,000 family among the Top 1% of poor people in the world. Bud Konheim, CEO and co-founder of fashion company Nicole Miller, concurred: "The guy that's making, oh my God, he's making $35,000 a year, why don't we try that out in India or some countries we can't even name. China, anyplace, the guy is wealthy."

Comments like these are condescending and self-righteous. They display an ignorance of the needs of lower-income and middle-income families in America. The costs of food and housing and education and health care and transportation and child care and taxes have been well-defined by organizations such as the Economic Policy Institute, which calculated that a U.S. family of three would require an average of about $48,000 a year to meet basic needs; and by the Working Poor Families Project, which estimates the income required for basic needs for a family of four at about $45,000. The median household income is $51,000.

The following discussion pertains to the half of America that is in or near poverty, the people rarely seen by Congress.

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Herb Rothschild Jr.: Support single-payer

RELOCATIONS
Posted Jan. 24, 2015 
Ashland Daily Tidings, Opinion

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and of the enactment of Medicare. Not long ago, a U.S. Supreme Court dominated by Republican appointees gutted the Voting Rights Act, and a Democratic president who never could have been elected without it took Medicare for Everyone off the table when he proposed his much ballyhooed health reform.

The American Medical Association tried to defeat Medicare. It cleverly labeled all such proposals “socialized medicine.” Medicare isn’t socialized medicine. The VA health care system is socialized medicine. Its hospitals are publicly owned, and VA staff are salaried employees paid with tax dollars. Medicare is only an insurance program.

So Medicare didn’t threaten the livelihood of physicians. Instead, it added huge numbers of paying clients to their patient base. The AMA had identified the wrong threat. The real threat emerged in the 1980s. It was the private insurance industry, not public insurance, that drastically interfered with the practice of medicine.

Private insurance plans forced most physicians to join groups like health maintenance organizations, hospital systems, and other large groupings — some of them corporations interested in profits, not health care. Often physicians couldn’t treat their patients without approval for payment from the patients’ insurance carriers, whose on-staff medical personnel could second-guess the attending physician. In more subtle but ever-present ways, the imposition of a corporate model has distorted the practice of medicine and diminished the satisfaction of practitioners.

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    Good News For Boomers: Medicare’s Hospital Trust Fund Appears Flush Until 2030

    by Julie Rovner, KHN Staff Writer
    Kaiser Health News
    Jul 28, 2014

    Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, which finances about half the health program for seniors and the disabled, won’t run out of money until 2030, the program’s trustees said Monday. That’s four years later than projected last year and 13 years later than projected the year before the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

    Unlike Medicare, however, the part of Social Security that pays for people getting disability benefits is in far more immediate danger. The Disability Insurance Trust Fund is projected to run out of money in 2016, just two years from now, unless Congress intervenes, the trustees said.

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    Medicare fight ain’t over, Wyden says

    Senator Wyden

    Senator Wyden

    Jul 2, 2014, 1:29pm PDT 
    by  Elizabeth Hayes ,
    Staff Reporter- Portland Business Journal

    Sen. Ron Wyden may not have been able to pass the Medicare payment reform he wanted this spring, but don’t count out the possibility of it happening yet this year.

    A defiant Wyden told the Business Journal staff he is still determined to overhaul the “sustainable growth-rate formula” (known as SGR), which the Senate has patched 17 times since 1997 to prevent steep cuts to physicians.

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    Hospitalized but 'under observation'? Seniors, beware

    Elderly.jpeg

    By Mark Miller
    CHICAGO Thu Jan 23, 2014

    (Reuters) - A growing number of seniors who think they've been hospitalized are finding that they really weren't.

    The problem isn't memory loss, confusion or dementia. Instead, seniors on Medicare who did in fact spend multiple nights in the hospital are learning later on that they weren't formally admitted. Instead, they had "observation status" - a Medicare classification that can cost seniors thousands of extra dollars if they need post-hospital nursing care.

    Medicare covers the first 100 days of care in skilled nursing facilities, but only for patients who were first formally admitted to a hospital for three consecutive days.

    But federal data shows that the number of Medicare patients classified as under observation has jumped sharply in recent years, to 1.4 million in 2011 from 920,000 in 2006. And the trend isn't limited to patients who spend short periods of time in the hospital: The number of observation stays lasting more than 48 hours stood at 112,000 in 2011, compared with just 27,600 in 2006.

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    Weaponized Profits: The US Health Care System

    by Donna Smith  published Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013 on Common Dreams

    Weaponized profits.jpg

    Many people who advocate for an improved and expanded Medicare for all for life health system in the US tend to vilify the for-profit, private insurance industry and big Pharma but ignore the atrocities committed by almost every other segment of the system. If we are to fix what ails the US health care system, we will have to get a whole lot more honest about all of the factions that lift profit-making above all else when engaging in the delivery of health care services.

    And no matter what Congress does or does not do with the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, until those of us being most grossly effected by our dysfunctional, profit-first health care system get honest about all the players and their roles in that dysfunction, we will continue to tinker around the edges and watch the numbers of health care dead and broke climb ever higher.

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    Letter to Representative Walden

    Frank Erickson, MD 

    Frank Erickson, MD 

    by Frank Erickson, MD
    Published in the East Oregonian, Aug. 24-35

    Rep. Walden:

    On Medicare's 48th anniversary, I would again urge you to reconsider your stand on health care and support H.R. 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act in order to achieve universal coverage, cost savings and minimize the profit motive from being used in health care decisions.  The recently published Friedman report shows how full access to care via improved Medicare for all would save over $14 Billion in 2014 alone:

    Quoting from a PNHP.org email today (8/21/13):
    "Professor Gerald Friedman released his new fiscal study, “Funding H.R. 676:  The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act – How we can afford a national single-payer health plan in 2014,” at a well-attended congressional staff briefing on Capitol Hill on July 31. The briefing was hosted by PNHP and Public Citizen. The study shows that a single-payer system would cover everyone, is economically feasible, and would save billions annually."

    Counter to your recent Medford experience cited in your newsletter, many of the docs in the Pendleton IPA can recall how private insurers have postponed with-held payments on thin excuses, cost small offices perpetual extra administrative efforts due to claims and permission shenanigans which have repeatedly delayed and prevented appropriate care; many of us would not be sorry to see private insurers replaced by a universal single payer system that works.  We are not so interested as you seem to be in protecting the existing insurers due to their past history of abuse of both patients and docs in the name of profit.  PPACA simply perpetuates and increases utilization of third party insurers in the non-system we currently call health care in America.  We want the everybody in, nobody out insurance provided by H.R. 676.  Save lives, save money, stop medical bankruptcies.  Support H.R. 676.

    Frank Erickson, M.D. Is a Radiologist from Pendleton, Oregon who toured with the Mad As Hell Doctors in 2011 through eastern Oregon. He has served as a Radiation Safety Officer in the Navy and practiced as a Board Certified Diagnostic Radiologist since 1986. His interests are focussed on maximizing health care outcomes for his patients who he now sees as all of us through his participation in PNHP and Health Care for All Oregon.