Reform Health Insurance

I just watched Michael Moore's latest film, SiCKO. One thing that stood out was the contrast in incentives to health care providers. The US doctors working as medical examiners for the insurance companies are rewarded for denying claims and thereby saving money, while the French doctors are rewarded for improving the health of their patients. Which got me to thinking …

As consumers of health insurance, we Americans are not doing our jobs as smart shoppers. When you look for an insurance company, do you want one that is likely to deny your claims? Or do you want one that does their best to keep you healthy? Universal, single payer "Medicare For All" is my preference, but supposing we cannot overcome the vested interests of the billionaires in the insurance industry, if we are stuck with the free market approach to health care, then we need to set up some incentives to encourage insurance companies to provide their customers with quality health care. For starters, we can require that, to every person considering health insurance, the insurance companies must disclose certain statistics necessary for the comparison shopper to evaluate the services they would be purchasing. Like:

What percentage of claims made to the insurance company are denied? You wouldn't want to buy insurance from a company with a reputation for denying coverage to their customers. Let's see that statistic right up front, so we can know if the company is a deadbeat or not.

How many of their customers have died in the last 5 years? Break this down by age, so that we can see if a company has an unusually high rate of infant mortality, for example. The smart shopper would go with the company with the lowest mortality, for a number of reasons -- that company may be less likely to deny preventative care, more likely to respond to needs early so problems are treated before they get worse, and that company would probably be in a good financial position to pay out if needed.

Here's a third statistic: How many of their customers declared bankruptcy due to medical expenses? This could be you, if you are not a careful shopper, so take note!

These statistics must be included in every sales pitch that the company makes, updated quarterly. Mortality rates should be shown compared to the national average and the global average. Our breakfast cereal tells us about its ingredients and vitamin content. Why shouldn't our medical insurance tell us its vital statistics?

Smart shoppers need to know. Don't be afraid to ask!

For those of us who get our health care from our employers, if our employers have selected a deadbeat insurance company for us, why should we be stuck with that? We need the right to switch our insurance to another provider. Why should we allow our bosses to make this critical decision for us, when our lives and our health depend on it? Employers should be required to cover the equivalent expense to any provider, so that we smart shoppers can get the best value.

This may address some of the problems that Michael Moore exposed, but does nothing for the people who cannot afford or do not qualify for insurance, and those unfortunates probably need health care the worst. That's why I still prefer universal single payer Medicare for All. But to the presidential candidates who champion some form of insurance for all, ask them if they would require this type of disclosure. It's the least we can do to start uprooting the deadbeat insurance companies who are literally making a killing.

Wendy Barth
Cedar Rapids, Iowa


Balance of Powers

Hasn't anyone noticed that the Separation of Powers isn't working?

Someone with more impressive credentials than mine should be proposing amendments, if amendments would solve the problem. A dictatorial president has paid off Congress by approving most or all of its pork barrel proposals for the past six years, more or less. The supine Congress has returned the favor by granting him everything he has asked for. The Supreme Court is packed with four hyper-conservatives, with a strong conservative fifth justice (Kennedy) who may cast the decisive vote on many important issues. Each of the three branches of government is supposed to operate as a restraint on improprieties of the other branches. In fact, all three branches appear to be under Bush's virtual control. Of course, we can pray that the Supreme Court would come to democracy's rescue. But there is reason to feel uncertain.

For lack of any detailed study of the situation, to my knowledge, we lack serious proposals -- hopefully from constitutional scholars -- that might confront this problem, which may well recur in the future even if we somehow manage to emerge from our present predicament.

Instead we hear loud calls for impeachment but that conviction would clearly be impossible as things are. Impeachment by the House is roughly comparable to indictment by a grand jury. Even if the present (supposed) Democratic House is able to impeach Bush, they couldn't get a parking ticket enforced by the Senate. Should the House undertake to indict Bush, which might be done in spite of an undependable group of conservative Democrats, it might be possible to hold hearings that would expose and promote publicity about his criminal behavior. I doubt that I would be putting any new ideas into the putrid minds in the neocon cabal if I expressed concern that Bush and company -- or mysterious unknowns lurking in the background -- might stage a provocation to justify extension of the war into Iran. Then Bush might call off the 2008 election because of this "emergency," using the incredible war powers the cowed and cowardly Congress bestows upon him.

Excuse my paranoia.

Bill Barger
Manhattan Beach, Calif.


Palestinians Right to Fight

In response to the anti-Palestinian letter you printed ["Lunatic Left," 7/1-15/07 TPP]: The Palestinians have lost 82% of their original homeland to Israeli wars and thefts since 1948.

On the remaining 18% of their land, Israelis have seized more land in dozens of illegal settlements, made final by Israel's militarized "facts on the ground." The Israelis have:

• Seized 25% of Palestine's water, filling their swimming pools while Palestinians lack water for everyday needs and their dwindling agriculture;

• Built Israeli-only modern roads and highways that Palestinians cannot use in their own land, forcing them to take roundabout routes or foot paths;

• Established myriads of checkpoints manned by armed and insolent Israeli soldiers where occupied Palestinians are humiliated and delayed for hours as they seek to pass through, and where Palestinian women have even given birth on the ground when they are not allowed to get to medical services;

• Built what is scheduled to be a barrier wall more than 400 miles long that usurps more Palestinian land and divides Palestinians from their farmland, schools and companion communities.

There are many more examples, too many to chronicle, that make the lives of occupied Palestinians miserable. Were Americans subject to such conditions, we would be fighting back too.

Jeanne Riha
Corvallis, Ore.


Government Needs Fixing

Desperate changes are needed in our political and economic system to stop the huge waste of our nation's resources, manpower and machine power and energies that are directed to killing people all over the world, all in the name of "defense," when we have the atomic power and missiles in place to wipe out any possible threat from any nation on earth, small or large. If the true facts were told, there would be no excuse to continue the immoral lies that keep changes from being made. Our so-called representative government does not represent 95% of our people. It maintains the "status quo," for the benefit of 5% of the money powers that maintain the status quo through their conflict of interest Democrats, Republicans, etc. (all politicians).

If only that 5% would investigate the possibilities of directing our huge production and distribution potential towards moral purposes, their personal lives would have happiness and security insured for themselves and their heirs for 100 years.

The answers are there and have been for 80 years. They were studied for 12 years by highly educated scientists, engineers, economists, etc. from 1920 to 1932. It was found that our country needs a scientific, functional government to be run like a giant corporation from top to bottom, but not for the bottom line (profit), but to raise the standard of living for every citizen in North America.

Check out Technocracy, Inc., a non-profit research organization, at www.technocracyinc.org or call 360-366-1012.

Edmond D. Vongehr 2nd
Bandon, Ore.


Terrorism's Many Fronts

Counterfeit Viagra. From China. Defective automobile brake pads. From China. Deadly cat and dog food. From China. Tainted catfish nuggets. From China. And now, poisonous toothpaste. From China.

Well, there you have it! Proof that "Global Terrorism" exists, and "The War On" it must be waged! This calls for an immediate retaliatory response! Let's hit 'em with a "dirty" Peter Pan on whole wheat.

J.L. Stone
Laceys Spring, Ala.


Try Impeachment


While coming back from a jaunt two weekends ago up to Schoharie County, N.Y., where there are a whole lot of humble but pretty communities, we passed by a lone house among many with a sign out front that simply read "IMPEACH." While it is possible that an action proposed without any particular object was meant to keep suggestion vague and therefore objections from neighbors minimal, I thought it was interesting to have even the verb just out there since a lot of fancy speechin' in print has been devoted of late to how much pain the nation was spared by the pardoning of Nixon by Republican G. Ford, the implication being that going after present government leadership would just tear our poor little hearts out. Nothing of course is said about the pain Republican efforts to nail Clinton caused -- that was truly painful because it was all so unnecessary and mostly political theater of the absurd. As I recall, lying was a big issue banging people's drums back then, whereas the lying and cheating that has been perpetrated by members of present leadership is conveniently excused.

Clinton was ultimately acquitted, and it would seem that supporters of Bush and friends are trying to convince us to just skip to the pardoning part and get on with things. Without further digression on the subject of the seemingly radioactive mutation of normal hypocrisy in government into a nation-eating weed with legs, the point is that "impeach" is not a dirty word, despite efforts on the part of current regime and its supporters to convince us the people that it is. The possibility to pursue impeachment of a president or vice president who has appeared to abuse the powers of office was incorporated into our Constitution to safeguard democracy and keep the offices of the presidency and vice presidency from becoming unassailable thrones.

Ultimately, the pain for the nation will be in not taking a stand for its own laws and in not insisting that our leaders live by them and up to them.

C.C. Halitsky
South Orange, N.J.


Make My Day


I always look forward to receiving my copy of The Progressive Populist, as I depend on it to inform me about what's really going on in the nation and the world.

My favorite columnist, now that Molly Ivins is gone, is Hal Crowther. He reminds me of an Old Testament prophet, predicting doom and destruction for us sinners. As an old-fashioned New Deal Democrat, I share his pessimistic views and, like him, "feel so fortunate that most of my life is behind me."

Thanks for continuing to publish Hal Crowther, Jim Hightower and other liberal voices who tell it like it is.

Emily B. Calhoun
Cornelia, Ga.


10 Commandments for Government

1. Campaigns to run 3 to 4 months (as in England).

2. No money involved. All Candidates to get equal time on TV, radio, media etc.

3. Outlaw all voting machines and the Electoral College.

4. Use paper ballots with paper trails.

5. Congress to vote on ONE issue at a time -- no last-minute amendments and no late-night deals!

6. Separate the Food and Drug Administration, each to oversee their own area.

7. Outlaw all chemicals in food, drugs and elsewhere. Independent people should oversee these areas.

8. Outlaw hand guns, factory farms, genetic engineering, illegal immigration, the military-industrial complex, all nuclear plants and war! Ben Franklin said, "There's never been a good war or a bad peace!"

9. No more bribes, corruption, dishonesty and lying. What a horrible reputation this country now has!

10. Bring back common sense, honesty, fairness and good judgment, so we can be a democracy again!

We are no longer The United States of America. We are The United Corporations of America with Bush & Cheney as president and vice president.

Helen W. Campbell
South Yarmouth, Mass.


Minimal Wage

Member countries of the EU are in the process of establishing minimum wage levels for workers. Here are a few already in place: UK = $10.94; France = $11.16; Netherlands = $11.76 (converted to US$.) In the US it has taken over 9 years to bring about an increase from $5.15 to $5.85.

Joe Bahlke
Red Bluff, Calif.


Editor Notes: The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, signed into law on May 25, 2007, raises the federal minimum wage in three increments: to $5.85 per hour on July 24, to $6.55 per hour July 24, 2008, and to $7.25 per hour July 24, 2009. We have some catching up to do.</script>

From The Progressive Populist, August 15, 2007

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