Tag Archives: health insurance

To Combat Insulin Price Gouging, California Looks Into Generic Drug Production

“Everyone who cares about the future of U.S. domestic policy should pay attention to this effort in California to build a public option for prescription drug manufacturing,” said one expert. “Potentially game-changing.”

By Kenny Stancil  Published 6-8-2022 by Common Dreams

Photo: Brian J. Matis/flickr/CC

With insulin prices in the United States so astronomical that experts have accused the federal government and pharmaceutical industry of violating human rights, California is exploring a plan to produce its own generic version of the lifesaving medicine and make it accessible to millions of people with diabetes.

“Everyone who cares about the future of U.S. domestic policy should pay attention to this effort in California to build a public option for prescription drug manufacturing,” Steph Sterling, vice president of the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive think tank, said Tuesday. Continue reading

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‘Staggering’: Watchdog Finds Medicare Advantage Plans Deny Necessary Care

“These plans are designed to maximize profits for corporations, NOT to provide high-quality healthcare,” said Social Security Works.

By Jessica Corbett  Published 4-28-2022 by Common Dreams

Photo: Myfuture.com/flickr/CC

A government watchdog revealed Thursday that Medicare Advantage plans—which are offered by private companies but required to follow rules set by the government healthcare program—deny medically necessary care to tens of thousands of enrollees each year.

The revelation came in a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG), which examined a random sample of 250 prior authorization denials and 250 payment denials issued by 15 of the largest Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) during the first week of June in 2019. Continue reading

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‘Utter Travesty’: Uninsured Americans Will Now Be Charged $125 for a Single PCR Covid-19 Test

Government funding cuts to key pandemic programs forced by GOP opposition arrive as progressives in Congress renew their push for Medicare for All.

By Jon Queally.  Pubihed 3-26-2022 by Common Dreams

Employees operating a testing center at the Walmart Supercenter in Elizabethville, PA. Photo: Governor Tom Wolf/flickr/CC

A major testing company in the United States announced this week that it will now charge people without Medicare, private coverage, or other insurance a $125 out-of-pocket charge to receive a Covid-19 PCR test—a fresh example of how the U.S. remains an outlier among wealthy nations for refusing to provide universal healthcare for its people.

According to ABC News, Quest Diagnostics, one of the largest testing companies in the country, has decided that those “who are not on Medicare, Medicaid or a private health plan will now be charged $125 dollars ($119 and a $6 physician fee) when using one of its QuestDirect PCR tests either by ordering a kit online or visiting one of the 1,500 Quest or major retail locations that administer the tests, such as Walmart or Giant Eagle.” Continue reading

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Caravans Across California Set to Hit the Road as State’s Single-Payer Bill Advances

“Single-payer healthcare is long overdue, and while we push for Medicare for All nationally, California can lead the way by enacting CalCare.”

By Brett Wilkins  Pubished 1-7-2022 by Common Dreams

Single-payer healthcare advocates prepare to participate in an April 16, 2020 auto caravan in Ukiah in support of A.B. 1400, also known as CalCare, which would provide all California residents with medically necessary care with no co-pays, deductibles, or other out-of-pocket costs. (Photo: Bob Dass/Flickr/cc)

As a bill to deliver single-payer healthcare to Californians is set to advance to a state legislative health committee next week, more than a dozen automobile caravans will take to the streets of cities and towns across the Golden State on Saturday to promote and show support for what could be a first-in-the-nation universal care program.

The proposed legislation, A.B. 1400 or CalCare, would provide all medically necessary healthcare to every California resident, regardless of immigration status, with no co-pays, deductibles, or out-of-pocket costs.

A related bill, Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 11, that was introduced Wednesday by Assemblymembers Ash Kalra (D-27) and Alex Lee (D-25)—two of A.B. 1400’s primary sponsors—would fund CalCare via a gross receipts tax, payroll tax, and a personal income tax on high earners.

On Thursday, A.B. 1400, which had previously stalled due to questions over how it would be funded, was approved by the Assembly Rules Committee—with strong Republican opposition—and will advance to the Health Committee next week.

At least 15 California caravans are planned for Saturday, from San Diego in the south to Eureka in the north. California Nurses Association (CNA) will host a rally and car caravan to the state Capitol in Sacramento.

“A.B. 1400 and ACA 11 provide Californians a clear understanding of what they can expect from a truly publicly financed, single-payer healthcare system and allows them to decide for themselves if they are better off paying for the most expensive healthcare in the world with the worst outcomes of any wealthy nation or guaranteed healthcare for all with CalCare while reducing overall healthcare costs,” Kalra said in a statement.

“Those that profit off the immoral status quo may not like it, but I am confident that the vast majority of working and retired Californians will see the benefit of significant cost savings as we remove debilitating insurance costs, out-of-reach prescription drugs, and arbitrarily high hospital fees,” he added.

Mike Bonin, who serves on the City Council of Los Angeles—one of more than two dozen municipalities supporting the bill—said in a statement that “single-payer healthcare is long overdue, and while we push for Medicare for All nationally, California can lead the way by enacting CalCare.”

“Unanticipated medical expenses should not doom people to bankruptcy, poverty, or homelessness,” Bonin continued, noting that A.B. 1400 “would offer healthcare coverage to three million uninsured Californians. As we have done with the minimum wage and the fight against the climate crisis, California can lead and show what’s possible.”

Oakland City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Sheng Thao said that “in Oakland, we know health disparities overwhelmingly impact our BIPOC communities in East and West Oakland. As cities across the state work to end health disparities we need California to step up and reaffirm that healthcare is a human right, that nobody should go bankrupt because they are sick, and that our health system prioritizes patients over profit.”

“They can do this by passing AB1400 this year to expand quality, affordable healthcare to every Californian,” she added.

Stephanie Roberson, CNA’s government relations director, said that “in 2022, we already have one guarantee: out-of-pocket healthcare costs for Californians will continue to sharply rise. This time, let’s guarantee Californians can get the care they need without going into medical debt, starting a GoFundMe campaign, or going homeless or not paying for food or heating bills instead.”

Activist Ady Barkan, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), noted that “our whole society has been profoundly disrupted by the Covid pandemic because we have built a healthcare system that prioritizes profits over people, and private wealth over public health.”

“Our state leaders must listen to our cities—large and small—who bear the brunt of our healthcare crisis and deliver guaranteed health care for all through A.B. 1400,” he added.

While then-Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, supported single-payer legislation in the past and called for such a program while campaigning for governor, he has not taken a position on CalCare.

“I don’t know how to do it, because it’s never been done,” Newsom said of single-payer during his gubernatorial run in 2018. “But I believe it can be done. And if any state can prove it, we can. I’m willing to tackle this.”

In addition to the 26 cities and Santa Clara County—home to San Jose—that support the bill, groups including the California Democratic Party, the California Labor Federation, CNA, Public Citizen, and various local chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) back the measure.

“Guaranteed single-payer healthcare for all people regardless of citizenship status would have made my family’s life much more stable and safe when we were undocumented immigrants,” Dr. Haemin Cho, secretary and co-chair of the Progressive Democrats of America’s San Francisco chapter—a supporter of A.B. 1400—told Common Dreams. “CalCare is the best thing we could do during this crippling pandemic to ensure all families are safe from financial ruin due to illness. It can save lives and stabilize our economy.”

Lee, the legislation’s co-author, lamented that “despite being the richest country in the world, the United States is still the only country in the developed world without a system of universal healthcare.”

“The pandemic has made evident that tying your healthcare to employment isn’t just antiquated, it’s dangerous,” he added. “Now is the time to realize healthcare is a human right—and California will lead the way with CalCare.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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Nabisco Strike Ends After Union Members Approve New Contract

“Congratulations to these brave workers on their wins,” said one labor writer. “May their determination and grit be an inspiration for workers everywhere.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-19-2021

Nabisco workers on strike (Photo: BCTGM/bctgm.org)

A strike that started last month in Portland, Oregon and spread to other Nabisco bakeries and distribution centers across the United States ended Saturday after unionized workers voted “overwhelmingly” in favor of a new collective bargaining agreement.

Though some Portland employees opposed ratifying the four-year contract, calling for better terms, it ultimately garnered the necessary support from workers there and at facilities in Aurora, Colorado; Richmond, Virginia; Chicago, Illinois; and Norcross, Georgia. Continue reading

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Once Secret Prices Expose ‘Irrational and Cruel’ Nature of US Healthcare System

While the pricing data is unlikely to lower costs, said one critic, it may help “produce the political will for real reform.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-23-2021

Photo: pxfuel

With hospitals across the U.S. refusing to comply with a new federal rule requiring them to disclose the prices they negotiate with health insurers, a sampling of previously secret data published late Sunday reveals how much basic medical procedures cost at dozens of major hospitals in a project that critics of the for-profit healthcare system said reveals the severity of its dysfunction.

The database of hospital rates compiled by the New York Times and researchers at University of Maryland-Baltimore details how patients are charged drastically different prices for the same medical care depending on what insurance company they use—with some procedures costing less if a patient has no insurance at all. Continue reading

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‘Let’s Do Insulin Next,’ Says Ocasio-Cortez After Biden Backs IP Waiver to Boost Covid-19 Vaccine Access

“We can do it with all lifesaving pharmaceuticals,” tweeted one group.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-5-2021

After the Biden administration on Wednesday caved to global pressure and endorsed waiving intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines, progressives across the United States called for taking a similar approach to other lifesaving drugs and treatments made less accessible by Big Pharma’s greed.

“Let’s do insulin next,” tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a self-described “unapologetic advocate of Medicare for All” who also “believes that all people must have access to safe and affordable prescription medications.” Continue reading

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‘Outrageous’: 46 Million Americans Say They Would Not Be Able to Afford Healthcare If They Needed It

“The American model of health reform—throwing money at private insurers—cannot solve it.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-31-2021

Dr. Christina Bastin De Jong, a critical care physician at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, shares a light moment with Jimmy Porter, who was on the mend following a serious bout with COVID-19, on Thursday, Dec. 10. (Photo by Derek Montgomery for Essentia Health)

A new study released Wednesday morning shows that nearly 50 million Americans would be unable to afford quality healthcare should the need for treatment suddenly arise, a finding seen as further evidence of the immorality of a for-profit insurance system that grants or denies coverage based on a person’s ability to pay.

“People can’t afford their goddamn healthcare,” Tim Faust, a proponent of single-payer healthcare, tweeted in response to the new report. “Families spend less on food so they can make insurance payments. This problem is felt by all, but concentrated among poor people and black people. The American model of health reform—throwing money at private insurers—can not solve it.” Continue reading

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Advocates Sound Alarm Over Quiet Trump Era Move That Could Further Privatize Medicare

“The Biden administration should immediately kill this toxic legacy of the former president.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-13-2021

Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the Trump administration. Photo: Paul Morigi/flickr/CC

A little-noticed scheme hatched in the late stages of the Trump presidency has consumer advocates and universal healthcare proponents warning about a creeping attempt to further privatize Medicare—an effort the Biden administration is being urged to stop in its tracks.

On December 3, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)—then under the leadership of Seema Verma—unveiled an innocuous-sounding proposal titled the Geographic Direct Contracting Model (Geo) with the purported goal of delivering “Medicare beneficiaries value through better care and improved quality.” Continue reading

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‘Seems Like a Good Policy!’ CBO Shows Medicare for All Could Cover Everyone for $650 Billion Less Per Year

The analysis shows that administrative costs under a single-payer healthcare system “will be lower than what even the most rabid Medicare for All supporters have traditionally claimed.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-11-2020

The barriers to Medicare for All, wrote Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project, “are not technical deficiencies or costs, but rather political opposition from Republicans and conservative Democrats who would rather spend more money to provide less health care.” Photo: Public Citizen/flickr/CC

The Congressional Budget Office on Thursday released a report examining the costs associated with universal healthcare proposals that are based on Medicare’s fee-for-service program and found that implementing a single-payer health insurance program in the United States would not only guarantee coverage for every person in the country but would also reduce overall healthcare spending nationwide.

In the words of researcher Matt Bruenig—founder and president of the progressive think tank People’s Policy Project who called the CBO’s working paper (pdf) on the topic “more exhaustive than any other recent study on the subject”—the new analysis shows that administrative costs under a single-payer healthcare system “will be lower than what even the most rabid Medicare for All supporters have traditionally claimed.” Continue reading

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