August 2009

Minutes from the Sunday Supper Club August 9th, 2009

Thanks go out once again to Poplar Springs for hosting yet another meeting at their beautiful facility.  I think all who attended agreed that Dr. Flowers provided us with a wealth of information on the current hot topic of health care reform.  I, for one, now understand the difference between the “public option” and single payer.

A change of circumstances necessitates that the SSC move to another location for future meetings.  We very much enjoyed our three months at Poplar Springs and we offer our gratitude to Howard Foer and the wonderful staff.  Meeting here has been a true pleasure!  For those who were unable to attend our last few meetings , I highly encourage a visit to Poplar Springs for drinks or dinner- this spot is a true gem in Fauquier County!

Ike and Julie Broaddus have generously offered to host the SSC for our September and October meetings.  We look forward to a return to their lovely “Tranquility Post.”

Five Minute Flash Reports:

Treasurer’s Report- After receiving $18.00 at the July meeting, our current balance is $269.77.   Shortly we’ll have our only major expense of the year, $200.00 for our web hosting fee and possibly another couple hundred dollars for a necessary site upgrade.  For those who don’t visit the web site often, you are missing a terrific source of information: articles, upcoming events, previous months minutes (and I know you don’t want to miss these), links to important sites…  As always, any and all donations are accepted and much appreciated!

Farmer Girls LLC- Ike Broaddus reported on the exciting new project of Deborah Williamson and Deanna Childs.  Beginning in a few weeks they will be starting an “electronic farmer’s market”, an online site offering local farm fresh foods.  Consumers will be able to order the products on line and then pick them up at a designated time at Vint Hill.  For those unable to make the Saturday Farmer’s Market this is a great opportunity to “Eat fresh, buy local.”  If you are interested in getting on the email list for this project, please contact Ike Broaddus at ike.broaddus@guru-solutions.com.

The Father and Daughter Alliance- Rebecca King joined us to tell us about the mission of the newly formed Father and Daughter Alliance. This group seeks to “connect fathers with their daughters for education, empowerment and equality in the United States and around the world.” Founded by Pedro Moreno, and based in Warrenton, the organization works to change the attitudes of fathers in regards to the importance of their daughter’s education and then to help make this education a reality. For as little as $35.00 a month support can be provided which allows a young girl to attend school.
Please visit www.fatheranddaughter.org for more information or to make a donation.

November’s Guest Speaker- Linda Swanson unveiled the mystery guest for our November meeting.  Drum roll please…  We’re excited to welcome Dr. Karen Schultz!
Many may know her from her previous role as candidate for state senate in the 27th district, an election she lost by a mere 659 votes.  Although Karen may touch briefly on the Nov. 4th elections, her main focuses will be her new position as Director of the Institute for Government and Public Service at Shenandoah University and the “educational philosophy and course work of Service Learning.”   If you can’t wait until November to learn about Service Learning go to www.sundaysupperclub.org, scroll to November in the calendar and follow the links to the articles about this topic.

No more free mulch- Linda Swanson read a bulletin from Trish Ethier of Fauquier County Environmental Services.
In response to significantly decreased revenue and resulting need to lower operating costs, the Fauquier County Department of Environmental Services has entered into contracts to sell all wood waste directly to commercial landscaping and dairy supply firms. To eliminate wood waste handling and grinding costs, mulch will no longer be available to the public at the Corral Farm landfill. This action is taken with regret and the understanding that mulch being provided at little or no cost has been of benefit for several years to many residents.

If you would like additional information, please contact the Department of Environmental Services, 6438 College Street, Warrenton, VA 20187, 540-347-6811 or write an email toenvironmentalservicesdept@fauquiercounty.gov

July Minutes Correction- Michael Rainger pointed out a correction to the July minutes on his energy presentation.  I wrote that the Fauquier County Schools had experienced a 20% increase in energy use.  The correct information is as follows:  “Fauquier County saw a 20% increase for a recent total cost of $2.5 million for grid-based electricity.  The county is working hard to offset this expense in many ways.”  This error has already been corrected in the July minutes posted on our web site.

New Teacher Dinner- Sally Murray encouraged attendance at the New Teacher Welcome Dinner hosted by the “Committee for Excellence in Education.”  The event will be held Monday August 17th at Fauquier Springs.  If you are interested in attending, or sponsoring a teacher, tickets are $25.00/person.  The group is also putting together goodie bags for each teacher and is looking for businesses to donate items for these bags and for door prizes.  Visit www.excellentteachers.org for more information or to make a donation.

Community Announcements

Erik Granered recommended the book, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems by Van Jones.  The review from Publisher’s Weekly states:

As the “ecological crisis nears the boiling point,” human rights activist and environmental leader Jones (president of the national organization Green For All) lays out a visionary, meticulous and practical explanation of the two major challenges the U.S. currently faces-massive socioeconomic inequality and imminent ecological catastrophe-and how the current third wave of environmentalism, the “investment” wave, can solve both.

Andrea Martens asked for signatures on Equality Virginia’s petition to the Virginia General Assembly encouraging them to pass legislation which would stop workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender state employees.  If you are interested in signing and have not yet done so, you may do so online atwww.equalityvirginia.org.

Guest Speaker

We are so grateful to David Swanson for putting us in touch with this month’s speaker, Dr. Margaret Flowers of Physicians for a National Health Program.  Recently promoted from co-chair of the Maryland chapter to “Congressional Fellow”, Dr.  Flowers reported that she now spends most of her time educating legislators and their health care assistants on the need for health care reform.  Her presentation to the SSC was packed full of useful information.  Visit www.sundaysupperclub.org and look for the area labeled “Single Payer Central” for all relevant links.

History of Health Care
Private insurance goes back to the early 20th century and was not tied to employment.
During WWII employers were not allowed to raise employee pay so instead started offering health insurance.
Many European nations started their national health care programs at around this time.  We attempted to do the same here but were unsuccessful.  Health care had to be dumped in order to allow for the establishment of Social Security.
In 1965, after 7 years of debate and compromise between legislators and the AMA President Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law.
In the 1980’s we saw a switch to investor owned, for profit health care.  Health care was seen as a “fertile field” for profit and consequently our health care costs have been escalating ever since.
For a fascinating history of the health care movement in the United States visit: http://www.pnhp.org/facts/a_brief_history_universal_health_care_efforts_in_the_us.php

Health Care Facts
The U.S. spends 2-3 times more per person on health care than any other industrialized nation yet we have the highest number of preventative deaths with over 110,000 annually.
We are 37th in terms of health care outcomes.
Infant mortality is 2x higher than any other industrialized nation.
Maternal mortality is 3x higher.
50 million Americans do not have health insurance.
The majority of the uninsured work full time.
We are the only industrialized nation in which people actually go bankrupt due to medical bills.
In the U.S. 62% of all bankruptcies are due to medical bills and 80% of these bankruptcies were by people who had health insurance.
Health insurance administration has seen a 3000% growth in jobs.
One third of all health care dollars pays for CEO compensation (CEO’s make up to 30 million a year plus millions more in stock options), administrative costs, and marketing.
Insurance premiums are rising at a dramatic rate; from 2000-2006 they jumped 82%.

Our “system”
The U.S. does not have a true health care system; we have a hodge podge pieced together with Medicaid, SCHIP, and private insurance.
We lack a focus on prevention; even those with insurance only seek preventive care 50% of the time since often this care is covered only partially or not at all.  Insurance companies no longer expect to cover patients for their entire lives so there is little incentive to offer preventive care.
Due to many factors we are losing doctors rapidly:
The current environment for primary care physicians is not good as they are pushed to see more and more patients and must then spend time and resources fighting with insurance companies for reimbursement (it costs approximately $72,000 annually per physician in a practice to secure reimbursement from the insurance companies for services provided).
Doctors also must argue with insurance companies for the ability to provide quality care.
We want to attract people from all backgrounds into the medical field yet the increasing amount of debt incurred by medical students limits the pool of applicants.

Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care
The Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care (LCGHC) is the national alliance for single payer healthcare reform– publicly funded, privately delivered healthcare for all. We are a coalition of groups promoting comprehensive reform legislation to guarantee health care for all Americans as a basic human right.

The extensive list of member groups of the LCGHC includes: the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, Health Care Now, PNHP Progressive Democrats of America, American Medical Student Association, Business Coalition for Single Payer Health Care, International Longshore and Warehouse Union,  NAACP, NEA, NOW…  For the complete list, follow the link to their website at Single Payer Central at www.sundaysupperclub.org (are you beginning to notice a theme here?)

Massachusetts’s Health Reform Plan
Massachusetts passed a health reform plan in 2006 which mandated that nearly every resident of MA acquire health insurance.
Under this law MA subsidizes health care for residents earning up to 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and partially subsidizes health care for those earning up to 300% of the FPL, depending on an income-based sliding scale.
Despite the subsidies many still couldn’t afford the premiums and opted instead to pay the fines.
Cost controls must be part of any reform plan.
For a progress report on the MA plan visit http://www.kff.org/uninsured/7777.cfm

Some facts about the current “debate”
Congress began the current process of health care reform from a position of compromise.
The plans being considered allow you to keep your current insurance if you wish to do so.
Employer sponsored coverage will be unchanged.
Insurance companies have agreed to cover everyone regardless of pre-existing condition if the law mandates that all people must buy insurance.
The insurance companies did not agree not to drop people.  Using the process of “recision”, an insurance company can look back through the past five years of your medical history and can drop your coverage for any of 1400 different conditions.  This means that if you experienced a symptom which might have been related to your current illness, even if no diagnosis was made at the time, the insurance company can terminate your coverage.
Reform, in its current state, may or may not include a “public option.”  Although the public option is ill defined at this moment, it appears that it will be Medicare based and required to play by the same rules as private insurers.   We will simply be adding a public plan to the more than 1300 private plans already available.  The hope is that this will level the playing field.
A public plan would be able to put far more dollars into actual health care as the administrative costs would be much less.
The plan going through congress basically pours more money into the current system.
Although a single payer plan is favored by a majority of Americans, proponents of this plan had to get themselves arrested in order to get their voices heard.
There seems to be a media blackout on the issue of single payer, perhaps due to the fact that the heads of many major news outlets sit on the boards of big pharmaceutical companies.
Profit in health care accounts for 4% of our GDP
Big Pharma is spending 1.4 million dollars a day lobbying against health care reform.

A Few Needed Reforms…
Currently, the lower a person’s income, the greater percentage of their pay goes to health care- this needs to be flip-flopped.
Insurance must cover all medically necessary care.
When countries are responsible for paying for health care this has a strong effect on health policies by creating an incentive to encourage preventive medicine (and healthier living) as a way to save on health care.
Other countries do not have a problem with high costs for malpractice insurance and lawsuit settlements.  People in the US often sue because if they have a bad medical outcome, they need money to cover their ongoing costs.

HR3200: America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 sponsored by Rep. John Dingell (D) of Michigan

Summary of bill from www.opencongress.org
This is the House Democrats’ big health care reform bill. Broadly, it seeks to expand health care coverage to the approximately 40 million Americans who are currently uninsured by lowering the cost of health care and making the system more efficient. To that end, it includes a new government-run insurance plan to compete with the private companies, a requirement that all Americans have health insurance, a prohibition on denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions and, to pay for it all, a surtax on households with an income above $350,000. A more detailed summary of the bill by the House Committee on Education and Labor can be read here:http://edlabor.house.gov/documents/111/pdf/publications/AAHCA-BILLSUMMARY-071409.pdf

Representative Kucinich (D) of Ohio offered an amendment to this bill that would insure that efforts to secure single payer systems at the state level would not be pre-empted by federal law.  The amendment passed with bi-partisan support 27-19 in the House Labor and Education Committee.  The amendment still needs to survive a house floor vote and a House/Senate Conference Committee.

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) announced a plan to introduce a politically-targeted amendment forcing Republicans to vote “yes” or “no” on continuing Medicare on the 44th anniversary of its enactment. Weiner said he wants to tack the amendment onto the health care bill being marked up today — to call bluff on Republicans who say federal intervention into health care has been a failure. “It’s put-up or shut-up time for the phonies who deride the so-called ‘public option’.”

H.R.676: United States National Health Care Act or the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D) of Michigan

Summary from www.opencongress.org

This bill establishes the United States National Health Care (USNHC) Program to provide all individuals residing in the United States and U.S. territories with free health care, which would encompass primary care and prevention, prescription drugs, emergency care, long-term care, mental health services, dental services, and vision care. Such a program would be financed by the USNHC Trust Fund via existing sources of government health care revenue, by increasing personal income taxes of the top 5% income earners and by instituting a progressive excise tax on payroll and self employment income, as well as on stock and bond transactions. While the Indian Health Services would eventually be integrated in the program, the independence of the Veterans Affairs health programs would remain under evaluation.

Proponents of H.R.676 assert that this bill will:
§         Cover everyone
§         Include every doctor and every facility in the program
§         Be comprehensive- providing all medically necessary care
§         Be financed publicly and therefore transparent and held accountable
§         Build in cost cutting measures such as global budgeting, capital allocation based on need, decreased administrative costs, negotiated lower priced on drugs from pharmaceutical companies

HR676 will come to the house floor for debate this fall.

S.703: American Health Security Act of 2009 sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont
Official Summary
3/25/2009–Introduced.
American Health Security Act of 2009 – Establishes the State-Based American Health Security Program to provide every U.S. resident who is a U.S. citizen, national, or lawful resident alien with health care services. Requires each participating state to establish a state health security program. Eliminates benefits under:
(1) titles XVIII (Medicare), XIX (Medicaid), and XXI (State Children’s Health Insurance) (SCHIP) of the Social Security Act;
(2) the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program; and
(3) the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS). Requires each state health security program to prohibit the sale of health insurance in that state that duplicates benefits provided under the program. Establishes the American Health Security Standards Board to:
(1) develop policies, procedures, guidelines and requirements to carry out this Act;
(2) establish uniform reporting requirements;
(3) provide for an American Health Security Advisory Council and an Advisory Committee on Health Professional Education; and
(4) establish a national health security budget specifying the total federal and state expenditures to be made for covered health care services. Establishes the American Health Security Quality Council to:
(1) review and evaluate practice guidelines, standards of quality, performance measures, and medical review criteria; and
(2) develop minimum competence criteria. Establishes the Office of Primary Care and Prevention Research within the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Amends the Internal Revenue Code to create the American Health Security Trust Fund and appropriates to the Fund specified tax liabilities and current health program receipts.

Miscellaneous Information
Only 15% of practicing physicians are members of the American Medical Association
59% of all physicians support a single payer system
60-84% of specialists support single payer.
In MD Medicare pays better than private insurers.

What can we do?
Scribe’s suggestion- Get educated on the health care debate.  Start your research with Single Payer central at www.sundaysupperclub.org -I’m determined to get you to the web site one way or another J  I’ve also included a few links to sources of information in the minutes.  There is A LOT of information out there!
Dr. Flower’s input- Try to talk to one person a day and educate them on the facts.   Write to your representatives and senators and encourage them to support H.R.676 and S703.

Thank you so much to Dr. Flowers for providing us with such a terrific overview of the health care debate and for inspiring us all to learn more about the challenges in reforming our system and, hopefully, to get involved ourselves.

Save the Dates
You won’t want to miss the interesting meetings we have planned!

Sept. 13th- Acclaimed photographer Ken Garrett will share with us about his work on the book “Journey to Hallowed Ground” and other exciting adventures.

Oct. 11th- Karen White of the Afro-American Historical Association joins us to speak about the great work of the AAHA and their newly (as of October) published book.

Nov. 8th- Dr. Karen Schultz  will talk with us about her new position as Director of the Institute for Government and Public Service at Shenandoah University as well as the “educational philosophy and course work of Service Learning.”

Warmly,
Andrea