Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Supreme Court’

U.S. Healthcare Near the Bottom

U.S. Healthcare Worse Than Almost All Other Industrialized Countries
by Carey L. Brown
Inter Press Service/Nation of Change
11 January 2013

U.S. citizens suffer from poorer health than nearly all other industrialized countries, according to the first comprehensive government analysis on the subject, released Wednesday.

Of 17 high-income countries looked at by a committee of experts sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the United States is at or near the bottom in at least nine indicators.

These include infant mortality, heart and lung disease, sexually transmitted infections, and adolescent pregnancies, as well as more systemic issues such as injuries, homicides, and rates of disability.

USHealthLongevityLow011113

Together, such issues place U.S. males at the very bottom of the list, among those countries, for life expectancy; on average, a U.S. male can be expected to live almost four fewer years than those in the top-ranked country, Switzerland. U.S. females fare little better, ranked 16th out of the 17 high-income countries under review.

“We were stunned by the propensity of findings all on the negative side – the scope of the disadvantage covers all ages, from babies to seniors, both sexes, all classes of society,” Steven H. Woolf, a professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University and chair of the panel that wrote the report, told IPS.

“It’s unclear whether some of these patterns will be experienced by other countries in the years to come, but developing countries will undoubtedly begin facing some of these issues as they take on more habits similar to the United States. Currently, however, even countries in the developing world are outpacing the U.S. in certain outcomes.”

Although the new findings offer a uniquely comprehensive view of the problem, the fact is that U.S. citizens have for decades been dying at younger ages than those in nearly all other industrialized countries. The committee looked at data going back to the 1970s to note that such a trend has been worsening at least since then, with women particularly affected.

“A particular concern with these findings was about adolescents, about whom we document very serious issues that, again, stand out starkly from other counties,” Woolf says.

Beyond insurance

The unusually high levels of population who lack health insurance in the U.S. would certainly seem to be one factor at work here. In 2010, some 50 million people, around 16 percent of the population, were uninsured – a massive proportion compared with the rest of the world’s high-income countries.

Of course, after a rancorous debate and more than a decade of political infighting, in 2010 President Barack Obama did succeed in putting in place broad legislation that will bring the number of uninsured in the United States down significantly.

Further, Obama’s winning of a second term in office, coupled with a recent decision by the Supreme Court, will now undercut most attempts by critics to roll back Obama’s new health-care provisions.

And yet, according to the new findings, the insurance issue has relatively little impact on the overall state of poor health in the United States. (In fact, those 75 years old or more can expect to live longer than those in other countries, a clear indication of the tremendous money and effort that has gone into end-of-life care.)

“Even advantaged Americans – those who are white, insured, college-educated, or upper income – are in worse health than similar individuals in other countries,” the report states. Likewise, “Americans who do not smoke or are not overweight also appear to have higher rates of disease than similar groups in peer countries.”

Indeed, some of the few categories in which U.S. citizens are found to do better than their peers in other countries include smoking less tobacco and drinking less alcohol. They also appear to have gained greater control over their cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

At the same time, people in the United States have begun to suffer inordinately from a host of other problems that can contribute to a spectrum of additional health concerns.

Sky-high obesity rates, for instance, are undergirded by findings that people in the U.S. on average consume more calories per person than in other countries, as well as analysis that suggest that the U.S. physical environment in recent decades has been built around the automobile rather than the pedestrian.

Health disadvantage

Confusingly, people in the United States not only record far lower health indicators on average when compared to other high-income countries, but also score far lower on seemingly unrelated issues related to environmental safety – for instance, experiencing inordinate numbers of homicide and car accidents.

The committee clearly had trouble putting together these seemingly disparate datasets.

“No single factor can fully explain the U.S. health disadvantage,” the report states. “More likely, the U.S. health disadvantage has multiple causes and involves some combination of inadequate health care, unhealthy behaviors, adverse economic and social conditions, and environmental factors, as well as public policies and social values that shape those conditions.”

According to Samuel Preston, a demographer and fellow committee member, “The bottom line is that we are not preventing damaging health behaviors. You can blame that on public health officials or on the health care system … but put it all together and it is creating a very negative portrait.”

Read entire article and other stories at Nation of Change.

The Politics of Money

Dear Friends Across the U.S.

The flood of corporate and special interest money pouring into our elections is corrupting American democracy to the breaking point, but we have a powerful opportunity to begin to take our democracy back if we act in the next 48 hours.

Since the Supreme Court’s radical 2010 Citizens United ruling gutted most legal limits on what billionaires and corporations can spend on influencing our elections, so-called “SuperPACs” have raised more than $300 million from a tiny group of super wealthy donors. With this money, Big Oil can block efforts to fight climate change, Wall Street can block fair taxation and defense lobbyists can rev up the war machine — even when the public is opposed. The threat to good government is existential — yet the candidates are barely talking about it. We can change that by making sure big money in politics and the need for a Constitutional Amendment to fix the problem is a central topic in the first presidential debate.

PBS’s Jim Lehrer will moderate the debate — and his staff told Avaaz that if we petition for him to ask a question on this issue, they’ll present it to him this Friday, along with how many people signed. So let’s build a massive call — sign below and share with everyone you know:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/us_election_debate_i_full_us_list/?bMPbqab&v=18232

Just one man, Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, has already vowed to spend more than $100 million dollars supporting Mitt Romney’s candidacy. Adelson is a savvy investor — a new analysis shows he stands to win back more than $2 billion in tax breaks if Romney ends up in the White House. But the problem affects both parties. The system is broken and most Americans know it: in poll after poll, a supermajority of Americans of all political persuasions say they want common sense limits put on what the super-rich can spend on our elections.

Centuries ago, America’s founders designed a way for us to put this genie back in the bottle, a way for us to amend what’s broken: by reversing the Supreme Court decisions that created this mess with a Constitutional Amendment. Some argue that an amendment is too hard to achieve, but organizing for an Amendment is a powerful tool in itself which forces candidates to stake out a position on this issue for voters to judge and can serve as leverage for other reforms like transparency and public financing, which are also needed. That’s why calls for an Amendment are gaining steam – several versions have already been introduced in Congress and President Obama recently offered support for the idea.

Jim Lehrer is no dummy: he knows that few issues are more worthy of debate than big money and corruption in government. But the campaigns will be pushing for softball questions, so it’s our job to remind Lehrer that the purpose of these debates is to force candidates to address the issues that matter to us, on the record and unscripted. Sign now and forward this to others:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/us_election_debate_i_full_us_list/?bMPbqab&v=18232

Around the world Avaaz members have come together by the millions to challenge government corruption and pay to play politics. With our fragile democracy in the US now at risk of being taken over completely by the 1%, it’s time to fight back. That’s why we’re launching Elections not Auctions, an Avaaz project to stem the flow of unlimited money into our democracy. They have the money, but we have the power.

With hope and determination and fighting spirit,

Ian, Joseph, Morgan, Dalia, David and the entire Avaaz team

Indefinite Detention in U.S.

Gabriel,

Let’s take a moment to remember what’s at stake:

Our own government asserts that the military has the right to lock you — civilians, even American citizens — up indefinitely, without charge or trial, if it decides that you’re really really bad.

It’s still astounding to consider, even six months after it became the law.

Please click here to support our ongoing efforts to put an end to indefinite detention. We’re trying to raise $20,000 this week.

It is ONLY because of the lawsuit by Chris Hedges, Tangerine Bolen, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and others that the current position of the federal courts is that indefinite detention is unconstitutional.

This case could eventually reach the Supreme Court.

Tens of thousands of Demand Progress members have supported that lawsuit — and more than 200,000 have urged congress to oppose indefinite detention, generating ever-growing support for our cause.

Now we need to raise funds to keep the fight alive: Our goal is to raise $20,000 to support the efforts of Demand Progress, RevolutionTruth, and the plaintiffs’ lawyers, so we can keep contesting indefinite detention on every front that’s open.

(Your donation will also help fund Demand Progress’s ongoing work against CISPA and in support of Internet freedom.)

Our success to date has been amazing — and because we’ve won in court and helped foment opposition to indefinite detention in Congress, we’re now invested in an effort that could drag out for some time.

The extraordinary attorneys Bruce Afran and Carl Mayer have been working for free — but court costs are piling up, and they’ve got to feed their families.

We expect Obama to appeal federal judge Katherine Forrest’s decision, and we need your help to make sure the lawyers can keep on fighting as the government continues its crusade against our dearly-held civil liberties.

This case could be headed all the way to the Supreme Court.

Please click here to help us keep up our anti-indefinite detention efforts — there are more than one million of you, and as little as 10, 25, or 50 dollars apiece makes a TREMENDOUS difference.

Demand Progress and RevolutionTruth have dedicated a huge proportion of our (rather modest) resources to the cause of blocking indefinite detention.

The campaigns have been successful beyond our wildest imaginations: We’re winning in court, and a bipartisan coalition in the House came close to killing indefinite detention a few weeks ago.

As the battle moves to the Senate and to a higher federal court, our organizations need your help so we can keep our work going.

(Demand Progress will, of course, also be fighting CISPA and doing other work to promote civil liberties and maintain a free and open Internet.)

Thanks for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us as we continue this critical work.

-Demand Progress

California Single Payer Saves

California’s Historic Fight for Single Payer Continues BIG TIME

Dear Gabriel,

On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that a man was denied health care insurance because years before he had donated one of his kidneys to save his daughter’s life. It didn’t matter that kidney donors live as long as people with two kidneys. To Blue Cross and Blue Shield, it’s always and only about the bottom line. As long as private, profiteering insurance companies are in charge, this will never change.

That’s why the California OneCare campaign will continue to fight for universal, single payer, improved Medicare-for-All regardless of the imminent decision from the U. S. Supreme Court. The Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will come this month, perhaps even this Monday.

If the justices uphold the Act, the health care system will still be broken

More than 3 million Californians will remain without health insurance and millions of middle-income families will be required by law to buy second-rate health plans that will consume up to 9.5% of their income. Insurers will continue to tell us which doctors we may use, and medical co-pays will go on wiping out the life savings of families who thought they were covered.

If the law is struck down, we will be left as we are now

Seven million Californians will remain without health coverage, medical bankruptcies will escalate and medical costs will continue to spiral out of control.

Whatever the Supreme Court decision, the fight continues: a 19-City Bus Tour starts Tuesday in San Diego, then a Summer Conference on July 7-8

Last year, we joined the new statewide coalition of single payer activist groups called the Campaign for a Healthy California (CHC). CHC will help kick off a first-ever 19-city bus tour on June 19 and then stage a two day Summer Conference on the UCLA campus. To learn more about the coalition and how you can help, you’re invited to attend the CHC Summer Conference on July 7th & 8th.

Full Care, for All for Less!

With your continued help and support, the fight for single payer will not stop until ALL Californians are covered by California OneCare. We WILL Win.

Andrew McGuire, Executive Director
California OneCare

Unethical Supreme Court

The High Court’s Supremely Unethical Activists
Nation of Change
by Joe Conason

How the Supreme Court majority will rule on President Obama’s Affordable Care Act may well have been foretold months or perhaps years ago — not so much by their questions during argument this week, as by their flagrant displays of bias outside the court, where certain justices regularly behave as dubiously as any sleazy officeholder.

While the public awaits the high court’s judgment on the constitutionality of health care reform, it is worth remembering how cheaply Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in particular have sullied the integrity of their lifetime appointments, and how casually Chief Justice John Roberts and their other colleagues tolerate such outrages.

What is most scandalous in Washington, as a wise pundit once suggested, are the things politicians do that are perfectly legal but shouldn’t be — an observation that applies with particular force to the Supreme Court, which is not subject to the ethics restrictions applied to lesser judges on the federal bench. That was why Scalia and Thomas, for instance, could appear as guests of honor at a fundraising dinner for the right-wing Federalist Society — which was sponsored by Bancroft PLLC, a major firm involved in litigation against the Affordable Care Act — on the very same day last November that they reviewed an appeal brief on the case from Paul Clement, the Bancroft attorney whose arguments they received so cordially this week.

In fact, Clement sat at a table “sandwiched between” the two justices. Scalia was seated with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had told the Federalists that he would rely on them to help undo the “affront” represented by health care reform. And for good measure, Justice Samuel Alito enjoyed the event at another table nearby.

If they were mere federal district or appeals judges, neither Scalia nor Thomas would have been permitted to attend the Federalist celebration, while Alito’s attendance would have been questionable, to say the least. But members of the right-wing majority abuse their immunity from ethics regulation without sanction. Poised to reject the Affordable Care Act with the kind of sweeping opinion that could tear down decades of Commerce Clause jurisprudence, they merit the sharp scrutiny of their motives and conduct that they have largely escaped until now, even as they drift further and further toward the corporate right.

Investigative reports have revealed partisan and ideological ties that the justices themselves have sought to conceal, dating back to Scalia’s duck-hunting trip with then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who had pending before the court a lawsuit challenging the secrecy of his Energy Task Force.

No federal judge would have dared to rule in such circumstances, but Scalia dismissed the obvious appearance of conflict with an unbecoming sneer.

As Scott Horton reported in Harpers magazine, Scalia’s duck-hunting patrons in Mississippi had brought other vital matters before him to get their way, again in a manner that any self-respecting ethical jurist would instinctively abhor.

More recently, Scalia and Thomas were used as celebrity bait by the ultra-right Koch brothers, David and Charles, to draw well-heeled supporters to a secretive conference on undermining the Obama administration at a fancy Western resort. It would be hard to imagine any activity less appropriate for a Supreme Court justice, unless it was Thomas’ wife Ginny accepting huge payments from a tea party organization devoted to repeal of health care reform, which she did in 2010. The justices failed to report any of these screaming conflicts on their disclosure reports, compounding the offense with the coverup.

Read entire Op-ed at Nation of Change

History of US Healthcare

Healthcare history: How the patchwork coverage came to be.
by Bob Rosenblatt
Los Angeles Times
February 27, 2012

Workers swarmed through Henry J. Kaiser’s Richmond, Calif., shipyard in World War II, building 747 ships for the Navy. The war “had siphoned off the most hardy specimens,” a newspaper reported, so Kaiser was left with many workers too young, old or infirm to be drafted.

The workers needed to be in good health to be effective on the job, and Kaiser offered them care from doctors in company clinics and at company hospitals. The workers paid 50 cents a week for the benefit.

It was something new in industrial America — a bonus offered to attract scarce labor while wages were frozen during the war.

The war ended, the workers quit the shipyards, leaving behind hospitals and doctors but no patients. So the company decided to open the system to the public — and that’s how generations of Californians who never heard of Kaiser shipyards have since gotten medical care.

It is just one example of the way America’s health insurance system has grown into the strange patchwork program it is today.

Most of us get health insurance through our jobs, a system puzzling to the rest of the industrial world, where the government levies taxes and offers health coverage to all as a basic right of modern society. But for many Americans, their way feels alien — the heavy hand of government reaching into our business as some bureaucrat tells doctors and patients what to do.

We always seem to fight over the role of government in our healthcare. In 1918, California voters defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have organized a state-run healthcare program. Doctors fought it with a publication declaring that “compulsory social health insurance” was “a dangerous device invented in Germany, announced by the German Emperor from the throne in the same year he started plotting and preparing to conquer the world.”

The amendment was defeated by a huge margin.

This year’s presidential and congressional election campaigns will feature intense argument over the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama in 2010, the most ambitious effort yet to bring health insurance to all Americans. Everyone is required to have health insurance, and all but the poorest citizens face a tax penalty if they don’t comply.

For liberals, the act is a culmination of the dream to complete the work of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. For conservatives, many of whom scornfully refer to the law as Obamacare, it is big government run amok. The first battleground will be in the U.S. Supreme Court next month, when the justices hear arguments on whether it is constitutional for the federal government to make citizens buy health insurance.

The long-standing tension between public and private healthcare in America has produced a unique and confusing way to provide protection against the cost of ill health.

It was Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose party that first suggested, in the 1912 presidential campaign, that Americans would need help paying their medical bills.

Medicine was becoming safe and even effective. Doctors could treat typhoid and diphtheria. Hospitals were becoming places that could help you get better rather than serving as dumping grounds for the insane or warehouses for paupers.

Being able to treat sickness meant that healthcare started to cost more.

When FDR became president in 1933, the committees that developed the concept of Social Security for him also considered national health insurance. Roosevelt flirted with the idea but never threw political muscle behind it.

After Harry S. Truman became president in 1945, he called on Congress to provide national health insurance but could never bring it to a vote. Opponents included the American Medical Assn., which in 1948 asked each of its members to kick in $25 to fund a campaign warning that Truman’s “socialized medicine” plan could lead to socialism throughout American life.

Health insurance, when it did emerge on a mass basis, came from the business world, as exemplified by the Kaiser shipyard story. World War II-era employers faced government-mandated wage freezes to prevent them from competing with dollars for scarce workers, which would drive up prices and cause inflation. But the IRS allowed companies to offer benefits up to 5% of the value of wages without counting them as taxable income.

The ruling became permanent in 1954, creating the foundation for the insurance system we have today.

After the war ended, the powerful labor union movement focused on expanding health coverage as well as boosting wages. Health insurance became a standard feature in labor contracts. Elsewhere in the economy, nonunion employers too decided it was a good tool to attract workers.

And then, in 1965, after years of hearings and campaigns, the federal government dived into healthcare in a big way.

For years, there had been talk of the needs of the elderly, who couldn’t afford the hospital bills that came with the ravages of old age. Old people were a sympathetic and deserving group for politicians. President Lyndon B. Johnson, armed with the power and prestige of a landslide victory in 1964 and the support of big Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, pushed through a legislative three-layer cake.

For people ages 65 and older, there would be Medicare Part A. It would pay their hospital bills with taxes collected from workers, just as the government collects taxes from workers to pay for Social Security retirement checks.

The second layer on the cake was Medicare Part B, set up in a fashion to win over doctors: They would receive their usual and customary fees for each thing they did for patients.

The third layer on the cake was Medicaid, a federal-state program of care for the poor.

Even after Medicare became law, there were great fears it might be too controversial to work. Would doctors refuse to see Medicare patients? Would Southern hospitals agree to dismantle their segregated wards and have patients of different races sharing the same rooms?

The doctors didn’t strike. And the hospitals were immediately integrated without protest.

Today, Medicare seems like the birthright of every American who reaches age 65. John Breaux, a former U.S. senator from Louisiana, likes to tell the story of an elderly woman who accosted him at an airport, declaring, “Don’t let the government mess with my Medicare.”

Seniors had their national health insurance, and the Democrats thought they had a winning issue. Bill Clinton entered his presidency in 1993 with an ambitious plan to extend national health insurance to everyone.

Hundreds of experts spent hours behind closed doors drawing up intricate plans. But Congress felt excluded and insulted, and the plan never came to a floor vote in the House or Senate. Its fate was sealed when the GOP made big gains in 1994, giving Clinton a Republican House to deal with for the rest of his presidency.

The big plan had failed.

When President Obama approached the health insurance dilemma, he avoided the Clinton tactic of creating a detailed blueprint without input from Congress.

Instead, he relied on the congressional process. It was filled with deals.

Read entire article at Los Angeles Times.

Overturn Citizens United

Dear Gabriel,

I have some exciting news for those of us who want to overturn the horrible Citizens United vs. FEC Supreme Court decision, which opened the floodgates for unlimited amounts of corporate money to flow into our political system.

The California state Assembly just voted to pass AJR 22, a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and send it to the states for ratification.

AJR 22 now goes to the state Senate. If it passes there, California will be among the first states to officially call on Congress to amend the Constitution to undo Citizens United.

Tell your state senator, Joe Simitian: Support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

We deserve a government of, for and by the people — not one where our elected officials are bought and paid for by big corporations.

Sadly, we might need to work really hard to get unlimited corporate money out of politics and re-establish the common sense and democratic view that only people are people, not corporations.

But with 85% of the public opposed to the Citizens United decision, there is a potential for a broad coalition of Democrats, Republicans and Independents who all want to restore our democracy.

Your state senator, Joe Simitian, needs to hear from you, regardless of where he/she stands on this issue.

It won’t be easy to pass a constitutional amendment.

We need to show all the state senators that their constituents are part of a broad movement demanding action — not only to convince them that overturning Citizens United is the right thing to do, but also that it’s possible.

Today, take a step to be part of that movement.

Tell your state senator: Support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

We can’t allow there to be inaction on this issue. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Citizens United decision fundamentally threatens the integrity of our democracy.

Even before the Citizens United decision, we too often saw the interests of Main Street subverted in favor of the interests of Wall Street.

But with the Citizens United decision now the law of the land, large corporations have the power to spend unlimited amounts of money from their general treasuries to buy elections.

What’s more, Citizen United opened loopholes that allow corporations to hide their campaign expenditures by laundering the money through non-profit advocacy organizations.

And because Congress cannot pass a law that supersedes a Supreme Court ruling, it may take a constitutional amendment to undo the worst aspects of the Citizens United decision and end corporate personhood.

Fortunately, momentum is on our side right now in California. Speak out now to keep it going.

Tell your state senator: Support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:

http://act.credoaction.com/r/?r=5542120&id=37135-266627-8wgdXWx&t=10

Thank you for speaking out.

Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Tag Cloud