Archive for the ‘Health Insurance’ Category

>Health Care Reform – mandates from 1798

March 30, 2010

>History is a wonderful thing. Not that it’s always pretty, but there is so much to learn.

Thanks Mooncat and Paul.

Take Health Care reform, for instance. People like Alabama Attorney General Troy King are claiming the new health care reform, signed into law by President Barack Obama, runs afoul of the Constitution.

“These are the oldest victims I’ve ever been called on to defend. They are the founding fathers, the people who wrote the founding documents of this country, and they have been hurt,” he said.

One of those founding fathers was John Adams. In July 1798 President Adams signed into law “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen,” a bill which had been passed by Congress.

This bill created the marine hospital service. How was the marine hospital service funded? By mandating that privately employed sailors purchase health care insurance, from which the proceeds were turned over to the hospitals.

Marine Hospital Service Stapleton Staten Island in 1887

Each ship’s owner was required to deduct 20 cents from each sailor’s monthly pay, and this money was channeled to the hospitals that provided care for the sailors.

Furthermore, failure to comply was discouraged by fining the ship’s owners or captains $100 for each infraction.

Here is the bill that founding father John Adams signed into law. Highlights are mine.

CHAP. LXXVII – An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled –
That from and after the first day of September next, the master or owner of every ship
or vessel of the United States, arriving from a foreign port into any
port of the United States, shall, before such ship or vessel shall be
admitted to an entry, render to the collector a true account of the
number of seamen, that shall have been employed on board such vessel
since she was last entered at any port in the United States,-and shall
pay to the said collector, at the rate of twenty cents per month for every
seaman so employed
; which sum he is hereby authorized to retain out
of the wages
of such seamen.

SEC2. . And be it further enacted, That from and after the first day
of September next, no collector shall grant to any ship or vessel whose
enrolment or license for carrying on the coasting trade has expired, a
new enrolment or license before the master of such ship or vessel shall
first render a true account to the collector, of the number of seamen,
and the time they have severally been employed on board such ship or
vessel, during the continuance of the license which has so expired, and
pay to such collector twenty cents per month for every month such
seamen have been severally employed, as aforesaid; which sum the said
master is hereby authorized to retain out of the wages of such seamen.
And if any such master shall render a false account of the number of men, and the length of time they have severally been employed, as is herein required, he shall forfeit and pay one hundred dollars.

SEC3. . And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the
several collectors to make a quarterly return of the sums collected by
them, respectively, by virtue of this act, to the Secretary of the Treasury;
and the President of the United States is hereby authorized, out of the same, to provide for the temporary relief and maintenance of sick or
disabled seamen, in the hospitals
or other proper institutions now established
in the several ports of the United States, or, in ports where no
such institutions exist, then in such other manner as he shall direct:
Provided, that the monies collected in any one district, shall be expended
within the same.

SEC. 4. .And be it further enacted, That if any surplus shall remain
of the monies to be collected by virtue of this act, after defraying the
expense of such temporary relief and support, that the same, together ,
with such private donations as may be made for that purpose (which the
President is hereby authorized to receive) shall be invested in the stock
of the United States, under the direction of the President; and when,
in his opinion, a sufficient fund shall be accumulated, he is hereby
authorized to purchase or receive cessions or donations of ground or
provision for buildings, in the name of the United States, and to cause buildings,
when necessary, to be erected as hospitals for the accommodation of sick and disabled seamen.

SEC5. . And be it further enacted, That the President of the United
States be, and he is hereby authorized to nominate and appoint, in
such ports of the United States, as he may think proper, one or more
persons, to be called directors of the marine hospital of the United
States, whose duty it shall be to direct the expenditure of the fund
assigned for their respective ports, according to the third section of this
act; to provide for the accommodation of sick and disabled seamen,
under such general instructions as shall be given by, the President of
the United States, for that purpose, and also subject to the like general
instructions, to direct and govern such hospitals as the President may
direct to be built in the respective ports: and that the said directors
shall hold their offices during the pleasure of the President, who is
authorized to fill up all vacancies that may be occasioned by the death
or removal of any of the persons so to be appointed. And the said
directors shall render an account of the monies received and expended
by them, once in every quarter of a year, to the Secretary of the Treasury,
or such other person as the President shall direct; but no other
allowance or compensation shall be made to the said directors, except
the payment of such expenses as they may incur in the actual discharge
of the duties required by this act.

APPROVED July 16, 1798.

The tax rate later was increased to 40 cents per month, and was discontinued in 1884. From 1884 until 1906 the cost of running the marine hospitals was paid from a tonnage tax on vessels entering the country. From 1906 until the hospitals were closed in 1981, they were funded by direct appropriations from congress. NIH reference


Here is a modern day ship in New York harbor. These pictures were taken during our trip to New York last year.

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>Western Tribune column October 28, 2009 Party of No

October 28, 2009

>Western Tribune column today

The party of “no” will be left behind

I’m beginning to wonder why we trust our health care to insurance companies, and why anyone would trust the Republicans to lead on this issue.

We are in the middle of an H1N1 flu pandemic, and seasonal flu season has not even started yet. The H1N1 flu is affecting and killing people in different age groups than the seasonal flu.

The surgeon general holds a key position in educating the public on health issues, and presumably if we had one she could be at work during the current pandemic.

But the top Republican on the senate health committee, Michael Enzi, has indicated he will block the confirmations of Dr. Regina Benjamin and other top health picks from moving forward because of a so-called gag order on health insurance companies that would prevent them from telling their views on health care legislation.

Even after the Obama administration retreated on the order, Enzi is still working to stall the nominees.

Members of the party of “no,” the Republicans, claim health care decisions should be between a patient and his or her doctor. They say they do not want the government involved.

Yet they are fine with insurance companies making decisions about an individual’s care. On an almost daily basis we hear examples of such practices.

A friend of mine had a drug prescribed by a physician, and the pharmacy would not fill it because the insurance company wanted it changed to another drug. Not a generic. Another drug.

I requested a refill of a prescription from a pharmacy one day before I was to run out because I was leaving town. The pharmacy had no problem with filling it, but my insurance company would not pay because I was filling the prescription a day early.

Insurance companies have refused to cover babies who were too fat, and now refuse to cover those who are too thin.

The television and the internet are full of stories of people who have been denied a procedure, or denied coverage, because an insurance company decided so.

Yet when the government is involved, as with the veterans and the seniors, the decisions seem to be made by the doctors and patients.

The party of “yes, we can” is going to pass health care reform with a public option that is now being described as “Medicare, part E (for everyone).

And the party of “no” will be left behind.

>Western Tribune column September 23, 2009 Public Option

September 23, 2009

>This is my Western Tribune column for September 23, 2009. As I have said before, it’s nice when the media and pop culture combine to produce videos that support my views.

Here’s the column:

There are many reasons to support health care reform with a public option and here are three of the most obvious.

The constitution supports it.

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It would be hard to say that the “general welfare” of our country is not promoted by our government assuring that everyone has access to affordable, quality health care.

It’s the Christian thing to do.

Many faith traditions support caring for the sick but for Christians this should be a no-brainer. Jesus spent a lot of time and devoted many words to healing the sick and advocating for the unfortunate. The story of the Good Samaritan and others remind us that we are to care for others – we are our brother’s keeper. We should help to shoulder the burdens of others and this is what a public option would do. Medicare for all is a good way to put it.

A public option is the only way to bring down insurance costs.

Remember, insurance companies exist for one reason – to make a profit, which they do very effectively by collecting premiums and denying coverage.

Here is the total compensation for several insurance executives for 2008.

Ron Williams – AETNA, $24,300,112; H. Edward Hanway – CIGNA, $12,236,740; Stephen Helmsley – UnitedHealth Group, $3,241,042; Phillip Pope – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, $2,950,000; UnitedHealth Group deserves special mention because in 2005 their CEO, William McGuire, received compensation totaling $124,774,000. That’s 124 million dollars and it takes a lot of guts to make that kind of money off of the illness (and sometimes denial of treatment) of Americans.

Can we honestly expect the “for profit” insurance companies to police themselves and bring down costs? Of course not. A public option managed by a not for profit government agency is the only way to assure cost reductions and fair coverage for all Americans.

Those who argue otherwise might want to review the Constitution and the Bible and reconsider. Otherwise they are just as much to blame as the CEOs who are robbing the American people at the expense of the uninsured and under insured. And that could be any of us.

******************************************
As if on cue, Will Ferrell, John Hamm and Linda Cardellini and others made this video as celebrities weigh in on the health care debate. from Funny or Die.

And former insurance executive turned whistle blower Wendell Potter shows up on Bill Maher’s Real Time, which we finally got around to watching last night.

>Health Care Poll

June 22, 2009

>In this morning’s New York Times are the results of a CBS/NYT poll about Health Care.

Would you favor or oppose the government’s offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans?

Favor – 72%, Oppose – 20%.

I favor. Health care is a right not a privilege.

Would you be willing or not willing to pay higher taxes so that all Americans have health insurance that they can’t lose no matter what?

Willing – 57%, Not willing – 37%.

I am willing to help those less fortunate than I by paying a bit more in taxes.

Which is a more serious problem right now: keeping health care costs down or providing health insurance for Americans who do not have any?

Keeping costs down – 26%, Providing for uninsured – 65%.
Among Republicans: Keeping costs down 52%, Providing for uninsured – 44%.
Among Democrats: Keeping costs down 15%, Providing for uninsured – 78%.

I believe providing for the uninsured is more serious. It looks like Republicans are more concerned with keeping a buck or two in their pocket than in helping those less fortunate. Predictable. Shameful.

Is Health Care a Right?

September 24, 2007

A letter writer (Jack Kean of Pelham) to the Birmingham News Middle letter on this page today suggests that health care is not a right. He then takes the obligatory swipe at France and Canada and Germany (why did he leave out Great Britain?) by criticizing their systems and asks the questions “Do you take my money to pay for the health care of others?” and “Do you lower the quality of health care in general so that some level of health care can be provided to all?”

Comparing health care among nations is not easy, but one way to do it might be to compare life expectancies. Even this measure is not simple, as expectancies among lesser developed countries can be skewed by high infant mortality such that if one survives their first year of life, their life expectancy is much greater than the overall life expectancy for the country.

But among the more developed countries of North America And Europe this is not a problem, and its like comparing apples to apples. The 2006 review of the United Nations World Population Prospects Report reveals that life expectancy in the U. S. ranks number 38 at 78.2 years. Ahead of us are Cuba (37 – 78.3 years), Germany (23 – 79.4), U. K. (22 – 79.3 years), Canada (11 – 80.7 years) and France (10 – 80.7 years). U N Report. These are all countries who have health care systems that unlike the U. S. are not controlled by private insurance companies.

What about medical care? President Bush says we have “the best health care system in the world.” The New York times recently published a N Y Times Opinion that addressed this misconception. In the year 2000, the World Health Organization ranked the health care systems of 191 nation, and the U. S. came in 37th, with France and Italy taking the number 1 and 2 spots.

Even more recently the Commonwealth Fund (Commonwealth Fund Mirror Mirror) compared the United States with Australia, Canada, Germany New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and the U. S. came up last in most categories. “The U.S. is the only country in the study without universal health insurance coverage, partly accounting for its poor performance on access, equity, and health outcomes,” the report states.

Of course, in our country there are 45 million or so citizens who have no health insurance and millions more who are underinsured. The New York Times points out that the president “blithely” says they “can always get treatment in an emergency room.” Well that is a whole different issue and just contributes to the problem of inadequate care for some of those who really need emergency services, and just shows how out of touch the president is how he and others in his party who spout such garbage contribute to the misunderstanding that a lot of Americans have on the issue.

To the letter writer, this “lowers the quality of health care” that you might receive if you use the emergency room: this is already happening to you.

And also to the letter writer, who probably supports the president’s position, who do you think pays for those emergency room visits from people who do not have insurance? I know who. You and I do.

This issue is so important that I do not mind revealing that I have to pay almost $800 a month for insurance, and that is with a high ($1500) deductible. That reflects an 11.94% increase in my premiums over last year and I have reached the tipping point and will probably change to a different plan with less coverage offered by the same group (American Veterinary Medical Association Group plan) in order to afford it. The coverage has always been excellent from the AVMA, but their rate increases reflect an industry wide problem that will not be dealt with until insurance companies (and drug companies) are reined in and health care is fairly offered to all. Fairly.

Whether it is HillaryCare, ObamaCare, EdwardsCare (the source of HillaryCare according to Elizabeth Edwards) may not be as important as the fact that the democrats are at least discussing the issue and offering plans (and hope) to address this escalating problem.

Our goal should be “No Patient Left Behind.” *

*without using “No Child Left Behind” as the model.

>Is Health Care a Right?

September 24, 2007

>A letter writer (Jack Kean of Pelham) to the Birmingham News Middle letter on this page today suggests that health care is not a right. He then takes the obligatory swipe at France and Canada and Germany (why did he leave out Great Britain?) by criticizing their systems and asks the questions “Do you take my money to pay for the health care of others?” and “Do you lower the quality of health care in general so that some level of health care can be provided to all?”

Comparing health care among nations is not easy, but one way to do it might be to compare life expectancies. Even this measure is not simple, as expectancies among lesser developed countries can be skewed by high infant mortality such that if one survives their first year of life, their life expectancy is much greater than the overall life expectancy for the country.

But among the more developed countries of North America And Europe this is not a problem, and its like comparing apples to apples. The 2006 review of the United Nations World Population Prospects Report reveals that life expectancy in the U. S. ranks number 38 at 78.2 years. Ahead of us are Cuba (37 – 78.3 years), Germany (23 – 79.4), U. K. (22 – 79.3 years), Canada (11 – 80.7 years) and France (10 – 80.7 years). U N Report. These are all countries who have health care systems that unlike the U. S. are not controlled by private insurance companies.

What about medical care? President Bush says we have “the best health care system in the world.” The New York times recently published a N Y Times Opinion that addressed this misconception. In the year 2000, the World Health Organization ranked the health care systems of 191 nation, and the U. S. came in 37th, with France and Italy taking the number 1 and 2 spots.

Even more recently the Commonwealth Fund (Commonwealth Fund Mirror Mirror) compared the United States with Australia, Canada, Germany New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and the U. S. came up last in most categories. “The U.S. is the only country in the study without universal health insurance coverage, partly accounting for its poor performance on access, equity, and health outcomes,” the report states.

Of course, in our country there are 45 million or so citizens who have no health insurance and millions more who are underinsured. The New York Times points out that the president “blithely” says they “can always get treatment in an emergency room.” Well that is a whole different issue and just contributes to the problem of inadequate care for some of those who really need emergency services, and just shows how out of touch the president is how he and others in his party who spout such garbage contribute to the misunderstanding that a lot of Americans have on the issue.

To the letter writer, this “lowers the quality of health care” that you might receive if you use the emergency room: this is already happening to you.

And also to the letter writer, who probably supports the president’s position, who do you think pays for those emergency room visits from people who do not have insurance? I know who. You and I do.

This issue is so important that I do not mind revealing that I have to pay almost $800 a month for insurance, and that is with a high ($1500) deductible. That reflects an 11.94% increase in my premiums over last year and I have reached the tipping point and will probably change to a different plan with less coverage offered by the same group (American Veterinary Medical Association Group plan) in order to afford it. The coverage has always been excellent from the AVMA, but their rate increases reflect an industry wide problem that will not be dealt with until insurance companies (and drug companies) are reined in and health care is fairly offered to all. Fairly.

Whether it is HillaryCare, ObamaCare, EdwardsCare (the source of HillaryCare according to Elizabeth Edwards) may not be as important as the fact that the democrats are at least discussing the issue and offering plans (and hope) to address this escalating problem.

Our goal should be “No Patient Left Behind.” *

*without using “No Child Left Behind” as the model.