Health professionals, patients demand expansion of Medicare

Chanting “55 is not enough, Medicare for all,” 9 protesters were arrested at a sit-in at Sen. Schumer’s office in mid-town Manhattan this morning.

Referring to Schumer’s push to lower Medicare age eligibility to 55, advocates for Medicare-for-All state that opening it up to only one portion of the population is not enough and will not begin to tackle the real culprit of skyrocketing costs of the whole healthcare system: private health insurance.

“We need to spread out the risk pool and take out the profit motive of private health insurance. That’s the only way to cover everyone and control costs,” says Laurie Wen, an organizer at Healthcare-NOW!, which organized the action.

Those arrested include patients who have experienced abuse from private health insurance companies as well as a doctor, a nurse, and a medical student.

Sen. Schumer has been the center of attention since news broke Tuesday evening that Democrats had reached “broad agreement” on certain parts of the Senate healthcare reform bill. He led negotiations among a group of ten liberal and moderate Democrats, where a key proposal emerged to lower the age eligibility of Medicare from 65 to 55.

Bev Rice, a retired nurse who was arrested, says “Throughout my career I’ve seen so many people suffer and die prematurely because insurance companies denied the care they needed. I have Medicare and it works. Making Medicare available to people from age 55 on is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. It should be open to everyone.”

“I want a publicly funded healthcare system because my life should not be in the hands of insurance CEOs who profit from denying me care,” says Kate Barnhart, whose doctor ordered a brain scan for a tumor in early September, but the procedure’s approval has been repeatedly delayed by her insurance company. Barnhart was one of 17 people arrested at a September sit-in protesting against an insurance company’s frequent and sometimes deadly practice of denying care. “I had been paying $900 a month for my premium,” she says. “Last week, my insurance company terminated my policy. Does my senator think this is OK?”

Medicare was established in 1965 and has since become one of the most popular government programs. It’s financed through taxes, and seniors have the freedom to choose their doctors. Advocates say a Medicare-for-All system is the most cost-effective way to deliver health care.

“It’s very simple: you take out the private middleman, and what do you get?” asks another arrestee, Dr. Laura Boylan, referring to the private health insurance industry. “$400 billion worth of profits, CEO salaries, stock options, and administrative waste.”

A neurologist who is a member of Physicians for a National Health Program, Dr. Boylan sums it up, “Expansion of Medicare to everyone would save money and lives; we’d all be better off.”

The New York sit-in was organized by Mobilization for Health Care for All, a national civil disobedience campaign advocating for a Medicare-for-All system. The campaign has organized over 35 sit-ins across the country in the last two months. On December 10th, International Human Rights Day, 20 actions are taking place at senators’ offices in 16 states and Washington, D.C. For a complete list of participating cities, go here.

3 Comments

  1. tommy west on December 10, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    dear sir or madam:

    i am very displeased from the
    news, concerning the health care
    bill.

    from what i’ve heard in the news, the public
    option and expansion of medicaid are
    out…because of a few democrats and
    the independent joe lieberman…if this
    news is true…then the american public
    should finally take a firm stand against
    this so-called “reform” bill and demand
    at least 2 things:

    1. keep the public option in the bill

    2. put back in the bill the provision
    where medicaid would be expanded

    this so-called “reform” is no reform, at
    all…it’s a sell-out, a pay-back, to the
    insurance companies, the health care lobbyists, etc.
    …and now those democrats and joe liberman who were against
    the public option should not only be voted
    out of office, when the next election rolls
    around…but they should at least listen
    to what the american public who are for the
    public option and the expansion of medicaid
    has to say about all of this
    ….and the american public should demand
    that these few senators put those 2 provisions
    back in the bill.

    if these senators don’t do this, then
    the other senators who are for the
    public option and the expansion of medicaid
    should definitely not sign this travesty of
    a bill…and the american public should protest
    this so-called “reform bill”…only calm, peaceful
    protests, of course…but, protests, nontheless…

    they should protest this “reform bill” and demand
    those 2 things…keeping the public option and
    the expansion of medicaid in the bill

    it’s time that these few senators listen to the
    american public and do the right thing.

    a public option is the only way that health
    care costs will be under control…without it,
    there will be absolutely no hope for meaningful
    health care reform.

    in closing, i would like to say this to these
    few senators who are against the public option:

    please keep those 2 provisions in the health
    care reform bill…the public option and the
    the expansion of medicaid. they are both extremely
    important, and they will save the government plenty
    of money. so, please do this. please do
    the right thing.

    thank you and have a very good evening.

    sincerely,

    tommy.west51@yahoo.com



  2. tommy west on December 10, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    dear sir or madam:

    hello again.

    i would like to make a
    few things clear.

    earlier, when i was talking
    about “payback” from the senators
    to the insurance companies and the
    lobbyists…i’m sorry if i sounded
    offensive or anything like that..
    i assure you that is not the case.

    these are just simply my opinions.

    i wasn’t trying to offend anyone.
    …and i’m sorry about my accusatory
    language. if i did offend anyone in
    writing this, i’m terribly sorry about
    that. i used very bad judgement.

    but i do realize these accusations
    might be considered inflammatory…
    and i’m very sorry about that.

    in the future, should i again write about
    health care problems, i will be a lot more
    careful about what i write and definitely
    not make accusations…or inflammatory
    statements…unless i have the absolute,
    total truth, to back up my opinions…and
    even then, i’ll still be very careful about
    what i write. in short, i’ll use much better
    judgement.

    these are simply my opinions…i’m
    not trying to offend anyone or make
    inflammatory statements.

    i am simply trying to make a point.

    what i meant to say was this:

    in my opinion, this reform bill is
    a payback and a sell-out, from the
    senators to the insurance companies….
    but only my opinion…and that’s it…
    only my opinion.

    so, again, i sincerely apologize…
    not for speaking out for the public
    option and for the expansion of medicaid…
    but for making those remarks about payback
    and sell-out, from the senators, to the
    lobbyists and the insurance companies.
    again, these remarks were not meant to
    offend or upset anyone…these
    are simply my opinions.

    so, please accept my very, very
    humble apologies.

    again, have a very good day.

    sincerely,

    tommy.west51@yahoo.com



  3. czander on December 19, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    In the spring of 2007 several organizations demonstrated outside the annual shareholders meeting of United Health Group the largest HMO in the U.S. to “decry the gap between need and greed.” United Health Group CEO William McGuire, and his replacement Stephen Helmsley, as well as other Minnesota HMO executives, took billions in stock options. McGuire was the highest-paid CEO in Minnesota history, with stock options totaling $2 billion. Helmsley, who replaced McGuire, has stock options in excess of $750 million. In 2009 Helmsley’s compensation came to $57,000 an hour. McGuire and other executives who were ousted in October, 2006, are under criminal investigation due to stock option backdating fraud. According to Herbert Sacks past President of the American Psychiatric Association, when asked where does this money come from, he replied “from the denial and interruption of…patient care.”
    Not only are CEO salaries excessive but so are their Senior VPs’, VPs’, and board members. For example, in 2007, the top 6 health plan boards paid themselves a whopping $277,998,793 (Jodell, 2009).
    Estimates of the compensation cost for health care CEO’s and their executives total about $7 to 10 billion a year. If their pay was reduced by 80 percent it would cover health insurance for 500,000 families enrolled in a government insurance program at $10,000 per year per family. Also, if health care was nationalized the administrative savings alone would be enough to provide health care coverage for the one million uninsured in America. One third of every dollar spent on health care goes to administrative overhead and half of that goes to executives. According to the Security and Exchange Commission between 2000 and 2007 the 10 largest publicly traded health insurance corporations increased their profits 428 percent from $2.8 billion to $12.9 billion, as premiums increased 87 percent.
    Health care institutions have lost the confidence of a public that once valued their altruistic mission and many maintain that executive pay is a significant part of the health care problem in America. For example, Patrick Soon-Shiong the CEO of APP Pharmaceuticals stepped down as CEO in the spring of 2008, but the former surgeon still held 83 percent of the company’s shares. In July, he agreed to sell APP to a German firm. The sale finalized two months later for an initial $3.7 billion cash payment, as a result Soon-Shiong’s personal fortune gain $3 billion in 2008,