Health Care Reform – Managing the Real Cost of Living

March 31, 2009

(updated below)

Fifteen years ago, Harry and Louise sat at their kitchen table and worried about the possibility of a national health care plan. “They choose, and we lose,” was the theme of their widely-viewed political advertisement. By 2008, the now middle-aged couple acknowledged that “Whoever the next president is, health care should be at the top of his agenda.”

CEOs Urge Reform – Health Care Costs “A Significant Competitive Disadvantage in the Global Marketplace”

Reuters news service reported on a Business Roundtable study released this month:

U.S. business leaders urged lawmakers on Thursday to act quickly on healthcare reform, saying American companies were losing out to other countries with cheaper healthcare and healthier workers. […]

Ivan Seidenberg, chairman and chief executive of Verizon Communications, said an overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system ‘should have been done yesterday’.

Quoting from the study summary (PDF):

According to the Business Roundtable Health Care Value Comparability Study, a new measure of the “value” (cost and performance) of the U.S. health care system relative to our competitors’ systems on a weighted scale, the workers and employers of the United States face a 23 percent “value gap” relative to five leading economic competitors – Canada, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France (the “G-5 group”) – and a 46 percent “value gap” compared with emerging competitors Brazil, India and China (“the BIC group”).

Media Ignores Single-Payer Option

A study by the media watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) concluded that:

Major newspaper, broadcast and cable stories mentioning healthcare reform in the week leading up to President Barack Obama’s March 5 healthcare summit rarely mentioned the idea of a single-payer national health insurance program … advocates of such a system – two of whom participated in yesterday’s summit – were almost entirely shut out. (03-06-09)

What is Single-Payer?

The publicly funded organization Single Payer Central supplies a succinct definition:

Single payer health insurance is a system by which the health care expenditures of an entire population are paid for through one source.

Distinctly different from socialized medicine (where the government owns and operates health care facilities) a “single payer system” is simply a financing mechanism. The government collects and allocates money for health care but has little to no involvement in the actual delivery of services. Care is provided privately at hospitals and clinics but paid for publicly.

Who Wants It?

Recent polls have established that substantial health care reform is a high priority for the majority of Americans. When asked, most favor the single-payer option.

In June of 2008, the U.S. Conference of Mayors resolved to back single-payer health insurance.

An Indiana University School of Medicine’s Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research survey found that a majority of American physicians support national health insurance. Roger Bybee explains why.

The cost of health care insurance administration is a significant portion of the fee paid for a doctor’s office visit. A family practice physician recorded a typical day at his office to show the resources devoted to dealing with “an insidious bureaucratic monster, the health care insurance system.”

Physicians For A National Health Program (PNHP) predicts that a single-payer system “would eliminate the wasteful spending and high administrative costs of private insurance, saving almost $400 billion annually.”

Single-payer advocate Dr. Oliver Fein chronicled his first-hand experience at the White House Health Care Summit.

KDKA radio host Chris Moore interviewed Russell Mokhiber, an organizer of the activist group, Single Payer Action. Mr. Mokhiber talked about mobilizing support for H.R. 676, The United States National Health Insurance Act. You can listen to a podcast of their conversation.

Despite widespread support, single-payer faces formidable opposition from the health care insurance industry. According to Consumer Reports, “In 2006, the nation’s six biggest private health insurers collectively earned almost $11 billion in profits.” But, there are indications that health insurers might not have as many business allies as in 1993. John F. Wasik of Bloomberg News comments that there is “No Reason to Demonize U.S. Single-Payer.”

Our confidence in American financial institutions has diminished. The only thing they’ve earned recently is outrage. The health insurance industry is in danger of catching the spillover of that anger. President Obama and Congress might want to consider that as they negotiate a solution to the real cost of living.

Update: On Tuesday, March 31, the PBS program FRONTLINE presents “Sick Around America,” a report on the failures of the American health care system. From the PBS Pressroom:

As President Obama launches his plan for reforming healthcare, Kaiser Family Foundation president Drew Altman tells FRONTLINE, “This is the first big opportunity for health reform since … [the] early 1990s. And a question is again, pointedly, whether we will blow the opportunity again this time or [whether] we will actually get it all done or get something significant done.” Consultant Laszewski wonders if Americans have the will to make it happen. “Every doctor I meet says he’s underpaid. I’ve yet to meet a hospital executive who thinks he or she can operate on less. I have yet to meet a patient who is willing to sacrifice care. So we have this $2.2 trillion system, and I haven’t met anybody in any of the stakeholders that’s willing to take less. And until we’re willing to have that conversation, we’re just sort of nibbling around the edges.”

FRONTLINE airs from 9:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. EDT. View a preview of “Sick Around America.”

Steve Sikora blogs about governance, media, business and community at Art of Angles.


Butler Residents say not to the sale of Sunnyview

March 29, 2009

March 28th is the day Bulter residents took to the street to protest the potential sale of Butler Counties Sunnyview Home. This blog has picture and video documentation of the day. In the following weeks this blog will post all events and meetings that address the sale as well as any further action that will be taken place.

SEIU Representative
Jim Eckstein Speaks
Resident Counsel President Interview
The March



Minutes of March Meeting of W PA Progressive Network

March 25, 2009

Western PA Progressives

Tuesday, March 10, 2009



A meeting of the Western PA Progressive Network was held on Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at the North Park Lounge in Cranberry Twp. At 7:30 PM



Bob Arlia gave an update on efforts to expose the ineffective representation of Daryl Metcalfe.  Metcalfe has no legislative accomplishments in 10 years, and has only spewed hate.  For more information, refer to web sites:


Randy Shannon gave an update on local efforts to promote HR 676.  Kathleen  Sebelius, nominee for HHS Secretary, was insurance commissioner in Kansas.  This is probably not a good choice.  For info on efforts in Beaver County, refer to

On March 5, Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economics, endorsed 676

On March 7, a health care reform dialogue was held including  insurers, providers and unions

Dr. Fine of NIH urged advocates on 676 to contact congress

Win-win is working with Center School District of Beaver to determine savings to district  through HR 676.  The district buys insurance through a consortium, referred to intermediate unit; will work with them to determine savings at consortium level.


Ed Grystar updated the group on the coalition for single-payer efforts to contact Jason Altmire to solicit his support for HR676


Diane Sipe cited a survey by Hewitt Associates, a major benefits manager, that found that 20% of employers expect to discontinue health insurance coverage for employees over 3-5 yrs.


Lou Hancherick updated the group on the efforts to solicit the support of Kathy Dahlkemper for HR676.  She was apparenty unaware of reintroduction of HR 676 . It was suggested that the next step for the win-win program would be to illustrate the benefit of HR 676 to employers.


Sandy Fox will meet Friday with Mike Doyle, a co-sponsor of HR 676 to contact other legislators to co-sponsor.


Steve Kocherzak spoke about the Ambridge endorsement of HR676.  The measure discussed for several months, when mayor created momentum after being shown the huge cost savings to the borough.


Sandy Fox spoke about the effort in Allegheny County where the resolution passed overwhelmingly, but Dan Onorato did not sign it.  the measure did not require his signature, therefore it is on the books.


Marcia Lehman, updated us on the Ambridge for Obama inaugural party, where it was decided to continue activity, and have largely taken up HR676


Jim Eckstein spoke about the march to stop the sale of Sunnyview Nursing Home by Butler County.  County Commissioners decided to sell this safety net for elderly and disabled, citing a loss of  $250,000 last year.  March 28  at 10 AM the march will be from Diamond Park to Sunny View. Kathy Dahlkemper, other elected officials,  and Union Representatives will be invited.

Jim then spoke about the Butler County pension grab –  pension was originally 1.67% each year vested in 8 yrs. The state passed a bill allowing counties to stay at current levels, or increase to 2% or 2.5% with 5 yr vesting.  Butler took 2.5% with 5 year vesting retroactively.  Passed at meetings with 1 attendee.  Passed on Jan 2 to hide in 2005 budget.


Marcia Lehman and Carl Davidson informed the group that Beaver County peace links will observe the 6 th anniversary of the Iraq War on March 21.  Peace Links has held a vigil at the Beaver County Court house 1-2 PM every Saturday since before the war began.  They would like a larger group present to observe the anniversary.


John Olesnevich urged all to contact Arlen specter to support the  Employee Free Choice Act.   The vote will be close to the 60 vote threshold in the Senate, and Specter is a key vote.  Casey is on support.


Lou Hancherick informed the group of the pot luck birthday party for DFA on Wednesday, March 25, 8 PM on the 9th floor of the United Steel workers bldg., Blvd of the Allies.

Disclaimer:  The above minutes were compiled by Joe Talarico.  Their accuracy is limited by Joe’s poor notes, poorer memory, and inherent biases.  Anyone who was at the meeting and has a differing recollection of the events is urged to make appropriate corrections and additions.  Joe’s intellectual deficiencies, in addition to rendering these minutes of questionable accuracy, also limit his ability to take offense to any corrections.












What is up with the Public Private Investment Program?

March 25, 2009

After briefly reviewing the Public Private Investment Program White paper that I found on the US Treasury Departments website I was left with more questions than answers.  What I found was there is no fine print or “real” details into how this program will work other than the broad ideas of its framework. Here are the following questions I would like some answers too:

1) How did they come to assume that the markets will be stable? It appears it is wishful thinking rather than academic analysis.

 2) How does a repackaging the same Toxic assets to the same current owners solve the problem? It’s a attempt at a free lunch that I believe no one will have a appetite for because the current owners know they have no value and unless the government gives them zero liability to hold them it will fail.

 3) Why does the government think that using the free markets to value these recycled toxic assets will provide a nominal value that will minimize tax payer risk when it is these markets that :

                   1) Gave value to the worthless products

                    2) Are socializing the loses.

4) What is the framework for the oversight and how will they control for conflicts of interest?

5) Why don’t they have the exact requirements and structure of the Legacy Loans Program? What does subject notice and comment rulemaking? Who will be the rule maker? When will it happen? Will it be released on a Friday 11:59pm at night? How does a program move forward with no details? You could not run a small business this way let alone a recovery of financial markets.

6) The whole program is a attempt at improving confidence! That will never happen without anyone, especially Wall Streets, ability to understand how the program will work.

Dear President Obama, Senator’s Cassey & Spector, and Congressmen Altmire

March 20, 2009

250px-boston_tea_party1Today in the New York Times an article “AIG sues US government for over 300 million dollars” illustrates there is a severe crisis of confidence in the financial system, federal legislature, executive, and judicial branches. How is that after AIG received over 150 billion dollars of our money they are able to sue us? AIG is an outrageous entity from the risks it has taken, the negative results thereof,   receiving billions of tax dollars, giving out hundreds of millions in bonuses, and now sues the government / tax payer for more. All I will say is that both Republican and Democrats have played the societal cycles very well whereby the majority rule in government switches after once and a while. What this has allowed to happen is create a world view where Americans blame our ills on the other part, which has made the political game Republican versus Democrat. However, what this AIG situation has brought to light is that we the American people have been taken advantage by both parties. The game is not longer Democrat against Republican but rather the people against the government. Let this letter be fair warning that if you continue down this road you will face a populist political revolution.



The AIG Bonuses – Outrage on Sale

March 19, 2009

Are you a righteous citizen upset about the $165 million in bonuses paid to employees of bailout recipient AIG? How dare they pass out your tax dollars to those unworthy scoundrels! Have you called the White House or petitioned your member of Congress?

Either way, you might want to note the $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills that vanished in Iraq, or better yet, the projected $3 trillion cost for the removal of Saddam Hussein. Don’t sell your outrage cheap.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Tony Norman expressed his thoughts on the subject.

Steve Sikora blogs at Art of Angles.

Its time for a third political party that puts the people first!

March 12, 2009



It appears there are some banks out there that have close friends in high places. It appears these friends have key positions on the House Financial Services Committee. These type of conflicts or appearances of special relationships will  no longer be tolerated. These issues need to have swift investigations to clarify what, if any conflicts influenced decisions when drafting legislation. We need a third party and  stop the back and forth trading of seats between D’s and R’s.