Tuesday, August 28, 2007 11:21 PM
Thursday, August 23, 2007 4:26 PM
By Donna Smith, American SiCKO, and Founder, American Patients for Universal Health Care
DENVER – In the business section of the Rocky Mountain News
on Tuesday, I read a disturbing article. It read, in part:Physicians are squeezing in more patients for smaller pay increases, according to an annual survey of doctors' salaries.
Median compensation for primary-care physicians rose only 2 percent to $171,519 last year, falling behind the 3.2 percent inflation increase in 2006, according to the Medical Group Management Association. Specialists reported an even lower rate of median compensation gains, with a 1.7 percent overall increase to $322,259.
Doctors are increasingly squeezed by soaring costs and declining payments from insurers and Medicare. The slipping salaries came as primary-care physicians reported a 3.7 percent increase in gross charges, while specialists charged 2.3 percent more.
"Patients can expect to feel the pinch right along with practices as physicians in some specialties see more patients each day for incongruous pay," said William Jessee, president and CEO of Arapahoe County-based MGMA.
But the bad, sad news for docs didn’t end there. The article continued: Some specialists fared worse than others. Salaries for invasive cardiologists dropped 1.3 percent to $457,563, while opthalmologists reported the survey's biggest drop with a 1.6 percent loss in pay to $297,486.
Wait, now let me get this straight. The doctors are unhappy because their salaries didn’t rise enough. And who is going to pay for their discomfort and suffering? Patients. Once again, American patients will pay more for less. And we will do so until we break the cycle by demanding universal, single-payer care for every American.
My husband Larry, another American SiCKO, is working on seeing a cardiologist who supports universal health care because of what that support says about the physicians' motivations, but that's not easy. Physicians for a National Health Program
only has three cardiologists as members listed as living in Colorado, and one of them has already retired. Cardiologists are rather fond of the current health care funding system and many would be even more happy with mandates that every American purchase insurance. The pool of potential Larrys would grow exponentially.
But back to the issue at hand. I am so sorry Larry’s cardiologist will only push half-a-million in salary this year. With his investments in hospitals, clinics and his huge group practice, he might not even clear a million. It’s gonna be tough for him. The multiple buildings that house the various locations for the Aurora-Denver Cardiology
practice group cost an awful lot to operate and manage. And the facilities are not green by any means, so those energy costs must also be nipping at the heels of the group's profits.
But what is going to be tougher is what Larry will face even more of in the doctor’s office: less time with the physician and higher costs.
Larry provides a healthy revenue stream for specialists wherever he goes. With coronary and peripheral artery disease, he provides a plethora of opportunities for increased profits.
His hips and legs have been hurting for years. Whenever he walks more than about 100 feet, pain begins that is only relieved by resting only to begin again with the next short walk. First, the cardiologist referred him to the vascular specialist to check for claudication. Larry has already had two surgeries on his iliac arteries to relieve blockage, but the pain always returns.
The vascular doc charges him plenty and sends him to an orthopedic doc who does not even complete an examination but orders an MRI and charges $300 for the one minute “interview” he has with Larry. He concludes that Larry’s back is fine (he didn’t order an MRI of the hips as he doesn’t treat hips), so when Larry asks “What about my hips?” the response is to refer him yet again.
By the time he has served his time in the whirling dervish of money-making specialty groups, Larry has seen four specialists (a cardiologist, a vascular surgeon, a orthopedic doctor and a neurologist) a total of eight times, has had only one hands-on physical exam and his insurance (Medicare and Humana supplemental policy) have been billed for more than $3,500. And there is no diagnosis. His hips still hurt when he walks. He has contributed mightily to the income of these docs, and they have contributed nothing but frustration and more pain to him.
Now these same specialists are sad about their salary increases for last year, and so Larry will get even less care? And more charges? Wild way to do business.
But what did PT Barnum say about a patient – oops, I mean a sucker -- born every minute? Was he a cardiologist?
By the way, Larry is switching all of his cardiology business (and the insurance payments) to a cardiologist who supports single-payer, universal health care. He thinks other patients should do the same. Let's walk the walk together.
Labels: APUHC, Donna Smith, Larry Smith, PNHP, SiCKO
Monday, August 20, 2007 1:26 PM
By Rev. Andy Bales, President, Union Rescue Mission and American SiCKO
LOS ANGELES -- I usually do not struggle with a theme to blog about, but this week each time I tried to prepare and write, my heart hurt a bit too much to get it out. Even as I was interviewed by the LA Times writer, I couldn’t get out the word ‘involving’ as tears came to my eyes when I said, “We are used to tragedies, but not … babies.”
The thought of a two-month-old baby dying overnight at Union Rescue Mission was too much for me to bear, but that is the news I received over the phone on the day we were getting ready to celebrate my son’s wedding out of state. I hope I held up well during what should have been a happy day in my family and the happiest day in my son’s life, but I have to admit I was extremely broken-hearted for the precious baby, her mom, and for all involved.
All of the details are not in, but what we do know is that our staff -- concerned for the baby’s health and safety -- called the Child Abuse hotline Tuesday morning and the Department of Children and Family Services showed up on Wednesday to connect with the mom and child but could not find her. So, DCFS came back on Thursday and connected with mom and baby, but did not decide to take the baby into protective foster care. Early Friday morning, the young mom dressed her baby, as if she was still alive, and tried to leave the building quietly in the early morning hours. Our staff was alerted and stopped the mom at the door.
Meanwhile, a Department of Children and Family Services staff member was in our elevator on her way to see mom with an order to take the baby into custody and the police had been called, but it was too late to save baby Jasmine’s life or prevent tragedy from striking this young mom and Union Rescue Mission.
Last Saturday at 6:00 a.m., I awakened to a phone call from a concerned lady from Tennessee –Jasmine’s aunt – and I then realized the story had broken into the news. I tried to quickly wake myself up and console the sister, after which, I came down to work to await the throng of media that might show up at the Mission. Jasmine’s aunt sent pictures of the young lady during a happier time in her life, showing a young beautiful mom who had been a successful Atlanta businesswoman before struggling with bipolar disease, leaving home for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles, but only to find the mean streets of Skid Row - my heart was even more broken for this family.
I went out and searched the streets for the young mom, now childless and apparently wandering the mean streets yet again, as I hoped to connect her with her family, someone who could help her through this horrible circumstance, but I could not find her.
Some want to blame the social worker, some want to blame DCFS, while others want to cast all of the blame and responsibility on the young mom. We at Union Rescue Mission have decided to mourn for the precious baby, weep for the young mom, pray for those who are dealing with the load and burden of guilt, encourage our staff to not grow weary in doing good, and shape future policy to make sure not one child ever slips through the cracks again.
Here is the note that I sent to our staff. Keep us all in your thoughts and prayers.
I always pass good news in the media about URM, and so I also feel obligated to share some heartbreaking news in today's LA Times. As I said in the article, we are going to step up our efforts to be extra vigilant and diligent to connect families with County Workers and get children full health screenings right away, in order to make sure we never suffer such a loss again, but our staff did take the action that could have saved this precious child, and I am thankful for all of your hard work and ministry here at Union Rescue Mission. Please take time to weep and mourn this tragic loss, but do not grow weary in doing good.
I am honored and blessed to serve here with you.
Galatians 6:9 (ESV)
9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Philippians 4:5-7 (ESV)
5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Your Co-worker in Christ, Andy B.
Labels: andy bales, SiCKO, union rescue mission
Friday, August 17, 2007 8:43 AM
By Dawnelle Keys, American SiCKO
LOS ANGELES -- Life was hard for me after Mychelle died. She was the only girl in the family since I was born.
My mother has nine grandsons now so you could imagine how happy the family was to have a girl. It devastated the whole family when we lost her. She was my little angel when she was born and she had such a beautiful smile and a warming spirit. I had to deal with the fact that I had to still celebrate Mychelle's birthday Oct. 10 every year without her.
But I still needed and wanted to be there for my son Devion who shares the same birth date but is four years older. Mychelle and Devion were just like twins, and when she died he knew instinctively though he wasn't even at the hospital with us. My sister in-law said he let out a scream at the exact time his little sister went into cardiac arrest, and my mother’s neighbor came to check on him. He still struggles with it everyday.
For me it was a struggle to get up in the morning and go to work and face life without her. I was placed on medication and excused from work for five months.
But the medicine was Prozac, and I became so depressed that I was to the point that I did not want to live and even thought of suicide.
A family friend called and questioned me because she had heard I was acting strange, and she asked about my medication. Once I told her I was on Prozac she suggested that I call the doctor and request to be taken off of it. She worked for a law firm that was handling cases where people on Prozac had attempted and some committed suicide and even worse – some committed murder. That phone call is what saved my life, and I know I would not be here today had God not sent my angel through my friend on the other end of that phone.
Well I phoned the doctor and he only wanted to reduce my dosage, so
it was up to just me and God. I asked him to deliver me without any ill side
Now not a day goes by that I don't think of Mychelle, but it's not a struggle
because I know there was a purpose and reason why she left us. I could not
see it then but now I know that she left us so that we could make a better life
for those who are in the same position as I was in.
My faith is so strong and I know that God does not make mistakes. Even when we were in the ambulance on our way to Kaiser, I kept talking to my little girl and even though she did not answer me with words, but with moans, she was at peace and with God.
That's how I’ve been able to make it this far. My trust in people has not changed, but when I deal with people in the health care field I have a total different opinion.
I had the chance to experience it once again when my son Devion was involved in a roll-over accident last year. I was not allowed to see him until I gave them my insurance card and was told he had a head injury.
Once I spoke with the doctor, I was informed there was a foreign object showing on his X-ray, and the doctor said he would do a scan. Well, the nurse felt it was glass that would wash out once he cleaned it. Devion was discharged without the scan and complained of headaches After two months and several doctor visits, my son was sent to a surgeon who operated two days later and removed a large piece of glass from next to his skull. He continues to have migraine headaches and has to take medication.
My feeling will never change until something is done about the health care system that is so broken. Too many lives have been lost, and it's all about money.
My family is my biggest support, and they are so proud of me. My mother has been
there since day one, and you all will see her again when we come to Washington, D.C., in September for the candlelight vigil
Since 'SiCKO' was released, I have been called ignorant by some people. It's been said to me that Mychelle was not denied treatment and that MLK Hospital
did the right thing by sending her to Kaiser and not treating her.
But I will keep fighting ‘till the end because I made a promise to my daughter that I would not give up until there was a change.
Labels: Dawnelle Keys, MLK Hospital, SiCKO
Wednesday, August 15, 2007 11:38 AM
...by Senator Sheila Kuehl
On August 11th, 2007, at the culminating and boisterous OneCareNow rally
in Los Angeles, as well as eight coordinated “listening” events around the state, sponsored by Blue Shield and the California Endowment, among others, a random selection of thousands of Californians spoke out overwhelmingly in favor of major health care reform.
At the largest rally of the year, more than two thousand advocates, patients, nurses, doctors and universal health care fans gathered on the steps and lawns of the Los Angeles City Hall to excoriate a health care system that does nothing but devastate working families with systematic cancellations, denials and delays in care. This doesn’t promote health, it isn’t care, and it certainly isn’t a “system”-- it’s traumatizing and often deadly for people who thought they would be given care, but, instead, got nothing but a tangle of insurance red tape. Convinced that single-payer universal health care is the only hope for fixing our broken health care system, they gathered to support SB 840 (Kuehl), the only truly universal health care plan proposed in legislation that is shown to contain costs, improve health care quality and allow Californians total choice of their doctors and hospitals.
Perhaps by design, on that same Saturday, health care foundations (including Blue Shield Foundation, Kaiser Family Foundation and the California Endowment) spent over $4 million on an event originally spun as an exercise in "deliberative democracy", but in reality was carefully structured to control discussion, in order to ask randomly selected participants to discuss and “vote” on their preferences for healthcare reform.
Naming the event CaliforniaSpeaks, organizers claimed the event would bring together thousands of Californians to discuss their perspectives on the current health reform proposals still under debate in Sacramento, yet the agenda was careful to exclude single payer from the discussion. Organizers of the event told us the reason that they didn’t include single payer was because the governor said he wouldn’t sign it.
Apparently when they said the event was designed to give Californians the chance to set the health care agenda, what they actually meant was that the event would be an opportunity for the people to jump in line with the Governor’s healthcare agenda. As is often the case, the people had a different idea—they did, in fact, jump; they jumped out of their seats demanding that single payer and SB 840 be included in the discussion, forcing the organizers to tack the issue on at the last minute at the end of the day.
The fact that participants were forced, on their own accord, to demand the inclusion of single payer at the CaliforniaSpeaks events clearly indicates that the conventional political message, mostly propagated by the health insurance companies, has yet to understand that two decades worth of traumatized patients and families, along with an even higher consciousness of our failings set out in Michael Moore’s new film, “SiCKO”, has changed health reform politics forever.
Consider the overwhelming standing ovation that Steve Skvara received (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5SSyS5n6U4
) at last Tuesday’s Democratic Presidential Debate when he asked, chocking back tears, “What’s wrong with America?”, describing how his family lost their guaranteed retiree health coverage when the company who owed it to him filed for bankruptcy. Skvara’s story immediately resonated with millions of Americans across the nation, and he became an instant online celebrity. Why? Because he clearly illustrated our broken health care system and the abuses of corporate greed. Skavara’s story is one of thousands that are positioned to spark the simmering anger that a broad spectrum of Americans feel toward our insurance based non-system.
California families are becoming so hurt and so incensed at insurance company greed and abuse that they are increasingly willing, like nurse Cynthia Campbell’s husband, to pick up a megaphone and plead “Don’t Kill My Wife” in front of Blue Shield’s headquarters. And the transformation crosses the political spectrum. Art DeWerk, the Police Chief for the central valley town of Ceres, spoke out recently in favor of single payer as he described the helplessness he felt after his wife was unable to get timely access to routine medical care as she battled cancer.
These and other stories are found all too often in a health care system where the only competition is between insurance companies focused only on how much risk they can avoid, instead of the more appropriate competition between direct health care providers for quality service, driven by a single payer system that allows total patient choice of doctors and hospitals. And stories like those set out above, as well as others, even worse, will continue until we ditch the “system” that spends 30% of every health care dollar simply to weed out those of us who are sick enough to need our coverage and move to a real universal healthcare system that eliminates the middleman and returns decision making in healthcare to doctors and patients.
By the end of Saturday’s “listening” event, after everyone had discussed the intricacies of the incremental plans, single payer surprised the organizers by polling better than the others, with significantly more people saying they would support it under any condition. For those who supported a generic single payer system, but with conditions, SB 840 was, in fact, the only plan that actually met all the conditions set out by the discussants. For example, 53% of the participants statewide said they would support single payer if they could choose their own doctors and hospitals. SB 840 guarantees this. In contrast, both mandates which define the Governor’s policy paper and the Speaker of the Assembly’s bill, AB 8, received support by the discussants only if there were caps on costs and premiums. In fact, neither proposal currently includes this provision.
Both the rally in Los Angeles and CaliforniaSpeaks showed us that the people of California are way ahead of the Governor, as well as the Speaker, with regard to healthcare. At the end of the day, more participants felt that quality of care shouldn’t depend on how much money you have, that everyone should have access, and that greed should be kept out of the health care system.
Interestingly, and perhaps tellingly, later that same day, the Governor was quoted on a Fresno news station as saying he would sign SB 840 “as soon as we have the money for it”. Of course, the Lewin Report, studying the factors set out in the bill, has already shown how the plan will be funded. But, whether the Governor’s pronouncement signals a serious shift in his thinking, it certainly acknowledges the political momentum that SB 840 has garnered. I welcome the conversation on funding, because we’ve got the money. SB 840 can easily be achieved with our current health care spending, personal, employer and state and federal. It would use the money wasted by the insurance companies on denying care to provide it, to all Californians, without co-pays or deductibles, for one affordable premium each year. What we need is the political will to catch up with the will of the people of California.
Part 3: 'SiCKO' Seeds an Expanding Movementby Donna Smith, American SiCKO
DENVER -- Today I heard about another incredible post-'SiCKO' event in Seattle. Over 200 people packed the largest room at Seattle Central Community College to hear from a panel of inspirational caregivers, activists, and public health advocates. John Geyman of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) spoke as well as a nurse whose experiences left people in tears.
A volunteer who traveled to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina also spoke at the gathering. She sustained major burns from a propane accident and with no insurance, is now thousands in debt. That sounded all too familiar after watching the 9/11 first responders' stories in 'SiCKO.'
The panel was a success, not only because of the wonderful speakers who were able to tie together different aspects of public health, but because of the overwhelming number of energized people who were ready to become an active part of the movement for universal healthcare.
How awesome is this? From one Washington to the other. People are organizing for change and for action.
Before I left Washington, D.C., I sat back and marveled at the beginnings of this social revolution and how a movie like 'SiCKO' can play a role in that process. Will my generation finally take its blinders off, step up to the plate yet again and come back to the political table in force? "Make Love Not War," we cried so long ago. Are we now ready to cry “Health Care Not Warfare?”
As I sat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial looking out over the Mall and the Reflecting Pool, I imagined what Martin Luther King, Jr., saw all those years ago. A sea of people – a sea of Americans -- joined to rally for change. It did not happen overnight. King’s dream of a better nation continues to fuel a passion for political activism, a non-violent transformation and reclamation of government by and for the people.
'SiCKO' is drawing us out of our homes and drawing many of us out of our shame and despair. And the tide is rising from coast to coast. People leave movie theaters energized for change and angry at delay.
Join up with one of the groups out there working or start your own and connect with us.
We stand at the ready from sea-to-shining-sea, waiting for our opportunity to take to the streets joined together to see that the human right of health care is granted to every American.
Here’s a partial list of groups so you – yes, you – can join in this movement. It’s time to reclaim America.
2. Physicians for a National Health Program
3. Progressive Democrats of America
4. Code Pink
5. California Nurses Association
- American Patients for Universal Health Care - email email@example.com
Labels: CNA, Code Pink, Donna Smith, HealthCare-Now, PDA, PNHP, ROOT, SiCKO
'SiCKO' Blog RSS