February 2024 Newsletter

February Webinar: Against all Odds: What the US Can Learn From the Cuban Healthcare System

Join National Single Payer and Pittsburgh-Matanzas Sister Cities Partnership Tuesday, February 13, 2024 at 5 pm PT / 8pm ET as we welcome David Ramirez Alvarez, Second Secretary of the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba who will present Against All Odds: What the U.S. Can Learn from the Cuban Health Care System.

Secretary Ramirez Alvarez is former Cuban attaché to the U.S. General Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is currently Second Secretary in the Cuban Embassy, representing Cuba’s cultural and political forces sectors. He will be presenting an historical and current analysis of the Cuban health care system, how it differs from our profit-driven system, how Cuba provides comprehensive primary and quaternary health services in the face of a decades’ long illegal and brutal U.S. blockade and still has better outcomes than ours. Secretary Ramirez Alvarez will also address how the training of health care providers and scientists in Cuba is intimately connected to the socialist culture derived from the Cuban Revolution. Is a socialist culture necessary to displace our capitalist health care system?

What can we learn from a system that expressly prohibits private ownership of health care?

You must register for this webinar!

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

o you want to get down to the joy of working for national single payer? Join us Wednesday, February 28 at 5 p PT/8 pm ET for the NSP Working Group Session! This is where the work of educating, activating, organizing, and mobilizing happens! Stay tuned for date and zoom link to the event.

January Webinar Recap

Listen to our presentation from January’s Educational Webinar: McMedicare for All here on Vimeo.

High Costs Are Dooming Traditional Medicare

Reposted from counterpunch.org

Medicare was originally established as a quasi single payer system in 1965 because of the insurance industry’s refusal to cover seniors since they didn’t generate enough profit. Over the decades, powerful industry lobbying and weak, unprincipled, bipartisan Congressional connivance are permitting the same forces of privatization that control the rest of our health care delivery system to destroy Medicare.

Traditional Medicare provided payment for about 80% of covered healthcare costs but intentionally was legislated with coverage holes that necessitated separate “gap” insurance to pay for costs not covered in the original plan. 

Enrollees also pay a monthly premium deducted from their Social Security check and an annual deductible. Also, traditional Medicare does not cover prescription drugs, dental, and vision. To obtain these coverages, one must “purchase” more insurance plans. 

With costs rising, now you’re starting to talk about real money, making it more difficult for more and more people to keep traditional Medicare. For example:

In 2023, I figured the costs for my wife and I for Medicare deductions from Social Security, Medigap premiums, Part B deductibles, Part D premiums and deductibles. The total amounted to: 

$9992 – out of pocket costs to be on “traditional” Medicare. 

This does not include all copays for physician visits and prescriptions which brings it well over $10,000/yr. Dental and vision added even more costs. Friends I have talked to are paying even more due to higher prescription costs. 

This ever escalating amount is fuel for the right wing privatizers as Medicare is fast becoming a “high deductible plan” like most of the health insurance being sold on the market and available via employers. 

Medpage Today ran an article titled, “Will All Seniors Eventually Have No Choice but Medicare Advantage?” MedPAC chair, Michael Chernow says there is a problem and tinkering around the edges by cutting some of MA will improve the fiscal solvency of the Medicare program. He is not asked nor does he comment on what value or savings (none) MA brings to Medicare. Nor is it asked why not solve the problem by eliminating all privatization, including billions in tax subsidies and overcharges which bring no value to health care delivery? 

Unlike Medicare Advantage which is tax subsidized private insurance, people like traditional Medicare because it does not have gatekeepers that limit access, most providers accept its payments and it has no networks, geographic restrictions or excessive denials of care. It’s no mystery why people are unfortunately turning to Medicare Advantage. These costs have made traditional Medicare increasingly difficult for many and hence the rise of MA enrollment — yes– doomed to privatization unless we act accordingly.

How do we deal with this?

For starters, let’s understand that the for-profit monster controlling the American health care delivery system has its tentacles around us all.  No one is immune. Whether you’re young, old, sick, healthy, a worker, independent contractor, disabled… or a business. 

Given the systemic nature of our dilemma and with a supportive public looking for honest and independent analysis, we must clearly educate, organize and act to expose why the whole for-profit health care delivery system is our problem. 

That’s why the privatization monster and its acolytes do not fear those who talk about finding “common sense and realistic” solutions with the insurance industry, drug companies, spineless politicians or those who preach the “practicality” of such efforts. It’s more than a few “Bad Actors” who are creating the problem with Medicare Advantage. It’s the systemic decades of bipartisan privatization, billions of wasted tax dollars and insurance profits handed out to the whole industry that has to go. This must be our focus. We must work in labor unions and talk with workers everywhere to show that many of the 600 plus labor unions that signed resolutions for M4ALL over a decade ago are now led by leaders who say that the “political climate” is not right to end the profiteering in healthcare and it’s “unrealistic” to oppose Medicare Advantage Plans so go ahead and sell these “unrealistic” plans yourself. A totally losing strategy that must be exposed.

Confront the Monster Head-On

What is needed is an organizing call to replace the corporate health care monster with the only solution: A National Improved Medicare For All single payer system that covers everyone. Educating and organizing for it promotes the elementary and common solidarity needed between the millions in the USA without any coverage and those struggling with high deductible plans, medical debt, narrow networks, co-pays and ever rising premiums eating more and more of paychecks or retirement income.

What hinders our movement is the cavern between what is needed and possible and the political disconnect which talks of piecemeal backward steps as all that is possible when the public needs and wants much more – dumbing down and deflating our goal for real healthcare justice rather than inspiring, lifting up and showing the way forward.

The rising costs of traditional Medicare bring with it the siren song of privatization inherent in the for-profit American health care system. Unless it’s stopped, its insatiable demands in its DNA will destroy, commodify and sell everything benefiting the public interest. Nothing is safe. Along with our healthcare, labor rights, environmental protections, health, safety and everything benefiting the public will be subordinated to the profit motive.

We in National Single Payer believe that we have the people on our side. Join with us to build the kind of strong independent movement that can provide the new direction needed to deliver a health care system we all deserve.

Humana Reports Steep Losses, Signals More Trouble for Next Year

“Humana executives on a call with analysts suggested that the industry was facing a fundamental reset. ‘The company and its rivals will need to raise prices or curtail benefits to bolster margins,’ Humana said, and it warned that it could hurt membership.” Continue reading at wsj.com (paywall)

Humana threatens to leave the business but where are the enrollees going? Medicare was established because the private industry abandoned seniors decades ago. Today, these same profiteers now control more than half of Medicare enrollments and will use this as leverage to extract more tax subsidies from a corrupted Congress. 

The only solution is a national not for profit single payer health care system.

Marketing Medicare Advantage to seniors of color – even when it’s bad for their health

Read at Wendell Potter’s Substack.

More damning evidence that the MA program needs to be eliminated. It’s a weak argument that somehow Congress got swindled, or is confused and can’t figure out the corruption and deceptive marketing inherent in for profit healthcare. Top Congressional and many others are on the “take” and are happily defending and write weak and ineffectual rules when it should be eliminated.

The Case Of The Missing Health Care Providers

Many health insurers’ online provider directories are inaccurate or out-of-date, to the detriment of patients and health care professionals alike. 

A Lever analysis of the UnitedHealthcare online directory of in-network physical therapists in Boulder County found that more than a quarter of the providers listed either do not provide physical therapy, are out-of-network, or don’t seem to currently exist at all. Other research suggests the issue of inaccurate health insurer provider lists extends far beyond this particular Boulder County directory.

Continue reading on Lever

No big changes to Medicare Advantage, 61 senators urge

“A bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging CMS to maintain “payment and policy” stability in Medicare Advantage. 

In a letter to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the group of 60 senators asked the agency to “consider the ongoing implementation of program reforms finalized last year and provide stability for the Medicare Advantage program in 2025.”  continue reading at beckerspayer.com
Another unfortunate example of how the bipartisan duopoly works, whether in Congress or the Senate.  61 US senators sign support letter that continues to push the privatization of traditional Medicare. 

They simply ignore the public interest and support for NIMA. It’s up to us to make a difference.