Conclusive new report: Democrats are an adjunct of insurance corporations

The industry bill Democrats presented to the American people at 1 A.M. makes perfect sense, and should not surprise anyone. The Senate bill reflects a simple and time-honored way of doing business in Washington, one hand washes the other.

But as I often say, no need to believe me, just read this report from the Medill News Service and the Center for Responsive Politics.

Congressional staffers go from their stints working on Capitol Hill to lucrative lobbying jobs. Legislation favorable to industry is the goal, since a lucrative post-Congressional staffer lobbying job depends on doing the bidding of your future employer.

Let’s return to The Medill News Service and its just released a report which everyone must read, particularly now, in light of what we witnessed last night. The database of collusion between the healthcare industry and those responsible for this dangerous legislation, (annexed to the report), is a damning indictments of our political system. It explains perfectly why, this morning, we are dealing with such an atrocious outcome.

An analysis of public documents by Northwestern University’s Medill News Service in partnership with the Tribune Newspapers Washington Bureau and the Center for Responsive Politics found a revolving door between Capitol Hill staffers and lobbying jobs for companies with a stake in health care legislation.

At least 166 former aides from the nine congressional leadership offices and five committees involved in shaping health overhaul legislation — along with at least 13 former lawmakers — registered to represent at least 338 health care clients since the beginning of last year, according to the analysis.

Their health care clients spent $635 million on lobbying over the past two years, the study shows.

The total of insider lobbyists jumps to 278 when non-health-care firms that reported lobbying on health issues are added in, the analysis found.

Part of the lobbying pressure on current members of Congress and staffers comes from the powerful lure of post-congressional job possibilities.

"There’s always a worry they may be thinking about their future employment opportunities when dealing with these issues, particularly with health care, because the stakes are so high and the breadth of the issues — pharmacies, hospitals, doctors," said Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz.

Lobbyists’ earnings can dwarf congressional salaries, which currently top out at $174,000 annually for lawmakers and $156,000 for aides, though committee staff members can earn slightly more.

When I first walked into the Rayburn House office building with Jane Hamsher many long months ago, I had an immediate reaction–a blink, if you will. The lobby and cafeteria of this edifice to our democracy,reminded me of a middle-eastern bazaar. A sea of eager buyers and sellers. The political class–selling access in return for campaign contributions. The lobbyists–there to earn their oversized salaries and cut deals for their well-heeled clients. Last night was the culmination of this political reality.

Before I left Washington, over a rare long lunch, Jane explained to naive me how things work on Capitol Hill. As usual, she was frighteningly prescient. She said that whenever important legislation is being teed up, the lobbyists get in on the act very early. They do this to get a huge head start in manipulating the legislative process to favor their clients. The outcome we witnessed last night was almost predictable given how corrupt and dysfunctional our government has become.

The American people and our needs, get barely a second thought, Jane said. Then she sketched a diagram on a tiny paper napkin, to show me how rigged the process has become. The lobbyists circling their prey like hungry sharks, are able to manipulate the legislative levers early and often, to insure the outcome be exactly what they’ve paid for. Jane told me Progressives had learned a lot over the years. On the healthcare battle (which would be the mother of all fights, like nothing we’d ever seen), we’d be in early, and fight just like them. This is exactly what we’ve done, focusing our efforts on House Progressives where we can, and will make a huge difference in the House Senate Conference. We did all this with small contributions from you, not the tens and hundreds of millions the insurance corporations have spent to buy Democrats in the United States Senate into doing their bidding.

And make no mistake, the fight is far, far from over. Get ready for the mother of all battles.

AHIP Stands Down

For many long years, I’ve rummaged around the AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans) web site quite regularly. Do yourself and the American people a favor, and in the days and weeks ahead, check in from time-to-time with this despicable organization.

AHIP has been issuing a steady stream of updates throughout this ordeal about the legislative process.

If you go to the AHIP web site, you’ll notice that their last official news update came on November 19th.

There’s no doubt, this miserable lobbyist, knows silence, not gloating or even a comment, is the way to react to the -legislation- giveaway.

They’ve won–everything.

Operational silence from AHIP.

Since we’re on the verge of passing a totally pro-industry bill, AHIP which represents the universally loathed for-profit insurance industry, is going to ground. This is the only way to greet their great victory, and our tremendous loss.

As the recipient of tens of millions of new -customers- victims, AHIP and its members know full well the only way to greet this sellout to the American people is a stony silence.

But before I go any further. (more…)

AHIP Stands Down

For many long years, I’ve rummaged around the AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans) web site quite regularly. Do yourself and the American people a favor, and in the days and weeks ahead, check in from time-to-time with this despicable organization.

AHIP has been issuing a steady stream of updates throughout this ordeal about the legislative process.

If you go to the AHIP web site, you’ll notice that their last official news update came on November 19th.

There’s no doubt, this miserable lobbyist, knows silence, not gloating or even a comment, is the way to react to the -legislation- giveaway.

They’ve won–everything.

Operational silence from AHIP.

Since we’re on the verge of passing a totally pro-industry bill, AHIP which represents the universally loathed for-profit insurance industry, is going to ground. This is the only way to greet their great victory, and our tremendous loss.

As the recipient of tens of millions of new -customers- victims, AHIP and its members know full well the only way to greet this sellout to the American people is a stony silence.

But before I go any further. Have you watched the latest Bill Moyers with health care, economist Robert Kuttner and journalist Matt Taibbi? Watch it! The entire sordid healthcare story in 35 minutes of explosive television.

Returning to AHIP.

In addition to its policy statements, AHIP also has a so-called blog, which they update relentlessly with pro industry news articles.
The most recent update comes from the Economist, but the AHIP employee responsible for the updates, must not have read the entire article.

The Economist article makes the AHIP point that mandates are an essential component of universal healthcare, and that we Americans, will need to get used to a new world order where covering everyone requires mandates.

But the article goes on to say that surely the U.S. government will also mandate cost controls and "premium regulations". But no, not for we exceptional Americans. The writer, unfamiliar with the U.S. healthcare/industrial complex, made an assumption, which we know AHIP would not tolerate. Price regulation of insurance policies would present an intolerable intrusion into the profits of AHIP members. Hence Americans will continue to remain fully at the mercy of the insurance corporations with no escape provided.

But another way to look at it is this: Americans are still not used to the way universal health-insurance systems work. Mr Olbermann, for example, is angry that working-class Americans will be obliged to buy health insurance that could cost up to 17% of their incomes. Mr Olbermann is right; that figure is too high. But there is plenty of time before 2013 to ensure that no one ends up paying such extortionate premiums, and it’s a good bet that, if reform passes, no one will. What happens in systems where people are obliged to buy health insurance is that, if such insurance is unaffordable, governments are forced to find a way for people to afford it, or governments are voted out of office. In the Netherlands and Switzerland, the private-based universal health-insurance models to which America’s current reform aspires, governments employ a mixture of provider-cost controls, premium regulations, and subsidies to make sure nobody has to pay 17% of their income for health insurance. If people were forced to pay that much for health insurance, governments would fall—and they have.

David Axelrod knows full well that what he has recently been saying is not true. Axelrod knows that the insurance industry is no longer fighting this -legislation- giveaway tooth and nail. Why would they, they’ve received everything and more? Administration spokespeople, small favor please, don’t insult our collective intelligence. We lived through eight years of deceit, now we want our information straight up.

Matter of fact, I could tolerate more easily what the Administration is foisting on us if the truth started to seep out. This pact with the Devil was made because this is the way you keep the $$$ flowing from the insurers to the Democratic party and Obama 2012.

Axelrod: "Every single day we’re battling the insurance industry who are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat this bill".

The insurance industry has gone to ground, they are silent, they love this bill.

One more thing, let’s start to get into the weeds on the definition of affordable.

“We’re dying slowly”, working Americans plead for healthcare

I want you to meet an American heroine. There is not a human being alive doing more to ameliorate the pain and suffering of our collapsed healthcare system than Nicole Lamoureux, the executive director of the National Association of Free Health Clinics. I’m honored to call Nicole a friend.

Late in the afternoon of the second day of the clinic, there was a long line of patients without appointments. Nicole and her team were doing everything humanly possible to accommodate everyone, but the clinic was operating above capacity for all those with scheduled appointments.

I met a heartbroken Nicole while I was videotaping the people patiently waiting and hoping to get in.

"We’ve been here for two days and it’s just not enough, we’re doing the best we can and it’s just not enough."

The New York Times needs to start to cover this catastrophe in a more enlightened way. Would you please take a moment to forward this diary or your own letter or comment about the Third World conditions within the continental United States, to the paper of record? The Times needs to be bombarded with emails. It’s not enough to have Bob Herbert write on the editorial page, this must be covered on Page One above the fold. Here’s how to do it.

NEWS DEPARTMENT

To send comments and suggestions (about news coverage only) or to report errors that call for correction, e-mail nytnews@nytimes.com

[I think it’s probably best to email the executive editor or the managing editor]

The Editors

executive-editor@nytimes.com

managing-editor@nytimes.com

It’s hard to convey the heartbreak I witnessed at every bend in the road while I was at the Kansas City Free Health Clinic, so I’ll let the people I met tell you their stories. This morning the Los Angeles Times has yet another story of an out of work American struggling to make the exorbitant COBRA payments month-after-month.

Most of the people I met were working people, 83% of the people who come to these clinics are employed. But over and over and over, I heard about unaffordable junk insurance, unaffordable premiums, obscene co-pays, and during these very difficult economic times, the choice always comes down to food, clothing, heat or insurance and healthcare. I also repeatedly heard people say that when they had insurance, they still got stuck with the bills so what’s the point of having insurance? Yes, we all know about that scam.

Then Nicole, who moments earlier, had been unable to control her emotions about the people she always refers to as "my patients", had to break the sad, sad news that the clinic simply could not accommodate anyone else.

Victoria Moss – laid off from Citibank. Doesn’t want a handout. Needs a mammogram.

Good people like Rand Hodson, who is self-employed and uninsurable had to be turned away. Rand has had two heart attacks but no insurance, no medication and no doctor.

Nicole Abel (turn the sound up for this one). Type 1 diabetes, no job, no insurance, family held a fundraiser for her. Raised about $3000 for her healthcare needs.

"I’m constantly on the phone looking for help."

Don’t be fooled.

Almost everyone at these clinics are hard working Americans, or certainly Americans who want to work and had been working until the corruption on Wall Street brought this country and the economy to its knees.

Working Americans like Carol Dale, who just cannot afford the outrageous premium for herself and her daughter.

And this should make all but the most affluent Americans tremble, because today it’s them, tomorrow it could be one of us.

Gina Williams works for Hilton Hotels has three children, one has sickle cell anemia, this child has state insurance. But her other two children aren’t covered. Her mother is a federal employee with unaffordable junk insurance.

"WE’RE DYING SLOWLY. . . WE’RE DYING SLOWLY."

Meet Diandria Pigese.

Even this vast 120,000 square foot convention center could not accommodate all those in need.

And I’ll leave you with this. The Line. At 5PM, about an hour or so before I found out that some without appointments would be turned away.

Kansas City Free Clinic: Haunting Video from the Heartland

[Ed. Note: Eve is in Kansas City today, helping out and talking to folks at the free health care clinic organized by the National Association of Free Clinics with funding raised in large part by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. MSNBC will be streaming their own video from KC starting at noon EST; Eve has more video of her own after the jump. If you need help finding affordable medical assistance in your area, NAFC has this directory of free clinics.]

I don’t need to amplify what these good people have to say about their need for healthcare and how grateful they are, yes grateful, for the opportunity to receive long overdue medical attention.

Many of the people I met today are working full time and simply cannot afford the exorbitant monthly health insurance premium, so they go without. The choice is stark. Health insurance or rent, food and clothing for the kids.

Others are unemployed. In America, you lose your job and there goes the health insurance–what else is new?

COBRA? Even with the government subsidy, for many, it’s still unaffordable.

As uninsured Americans, they cannot afford medications for chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis. They cannot go to a doctor and they suffer in silence.

There will be no Christmas for these good Americans. (more…)

Haunting videos from the heartland of Americans in desperate need of healthcare

I don’t need to amplify what these good people have to say about their need for healthcare and how grateful they are, yes grateful, for the opportunity to receive long overdue medical attention.

Many of the people I met today are working full time and simply cannot afford the exorbitant monthly health insurance premium, so they go without. The choice is stark. Health insurance or rent, food and clothing for the kids.

Others are unemployed. In America, you lose your job and there goes the health insurance–what else is new?

COBRA? Even with the government subsidy, for many, it’s still unaffordable.

As uninsured Americans, they cannot afford medications for chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis. They cannot go to a doctor and they suffer in silence.

There will be no Christmas for these good Americans.

Natasha Stevenson and her three daughters who need dental care.

Seven year old Madeline says: "I haven’t even been to a dentist at all"

Diane Smith Hasn’t been to a doctor in seven years.

Dennis Cahill: Two heart attacks, no money for medications, no insurance, no doctor, no follow up.

Diandra, suffering for months with terrible dental pain.

Then I came to the blankets and I just lost it. How many Americans sleep on the streets? How many Americans sleep in cold homes because they can’t afford heat? Too many, way too many.

I’m sorry to inflict these terrible images on you, but we need the world to see our great American shame.

As the Senate debates, in Kansas City, thousands of Americans brave bitter cold for urgent free healthcare

I’m in Kansas City covering the Kansas City Free Health Clinic for Firedoglake.

The weather here is numbing cold. The great heroes who run the National Association of Free Clinics, have arranged for the patient waiting line to be moved indoors, due to the Arctic chill which has settled over the heartland. Even a one block walk from the Crowne Plaza to the Convention Center was an ordeal. But thousands are expected to brave the bitter cold and come in droves.

The doors open at 12 noon, and already American citizens are arriving to take advantage of long overdue healthcare.

I’ve been asked by the organizers to let everyone know that if you require healthcare and you can get to Kansas City, please come. And I’d ask anyone reading this, to please pass along this information.

If you would like to schedule an appointment please call 1-877-249-5030 or come to the Kansas City Missouri Convention Center.

Here’s a preview of the dental clinic. Patients requiring dental care will get x-rays and treatment. I’m told most care will involve extractions of badly decayed and abscessed teeth.

Here’s a preview of the full clinic. The scope is almost impossible to convey.

I’ll do my best to keep you up-to-date today and tomorrow. The clinic expects to treat over two thousand people in dire need of healthcare.

45,000 Americans die every year simply because healthcare in the United States is a privilege not a right. Yet the "debate" continues in Washington. Should healthcare in the richest country on the planet remain a privilege of our uniquely American pay or die healthcare system? So humanitarian organizations like the National Association of Free Health Clinics, funded entirely by private donations, are stepping into the gaping and tragic void.

The Best Place for U.S. Senators to Receive Healthcare? The Floor of a Convention Center or an Animal Stall?

The November 21st Little Rock Free Health Clinic set up operations on the floor of the Little Rock Convention Center.

I recorded the heroic volunteers the night of November 20th, as they prepared the 80,000 square foot exhibition center to receive Americans in desperate need of healthcare the following day.

As I wandered around and observed all the work, more than anything, I reflected on what it means to live in a country which treats healthcare as a privilege not a right. Here I was standing in the middle of a MASH tent in a major American city–this would undoubtedly be the last hope for many of the people we’d meet the next day.

When Remote Area Medical set up in Wise County Virginia, they treated American citizens in animal stalls. In Little Rock, Americans were treated with great care, compassion and dignity on the floor of a convention center.

This is from the interview CIGNA whistle blower Wendell Potter described gave to Bill Moyers.

Potter began his trip from health care spokesperson to reform advocate while back home in Tennessee. Potter attended a “health care expedition,” a makeshift health clinic set up at a fairgrounds, and he tells Bill Moyers, “It was absolutely stunning. When I walked through the fairground gates, I saw hundreds of people lined up, in the rain. It was raining that day. Lined up, waiting to get care, in animal stalls. Animal stalls.”

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/07102009/profile.html

As Keith Olbermann said the other night, and this is a paraphrase, if members of the United States Senate didn’t have healthcare, they would have dealt with this national cataclysm many decades ago.

But at the end of the day, dear friends, we have only ourselves to blame because we continue to vote for people who allow this vast and cruel American calamity to continue unabated decade after decade.

Two time uninsured cancer survivior: “My family comes together and sacrifices” to pay for my care

Shelley Dockery is doing everything correctly to achieve the American dream. She’s young, beautiful, articulate and pursuing a masters degree in graphic design. But Shelley is falling right between the cracks. She’s an uninsured two time cancer survivor. As she says, "the health care system kind of drops you at the age of twenty-five".

Her parents "help her out and make sacrifices", and the family "comes together" to pay for her care.

I asked her what would happen if she needed an expensive diagnostic test like a CAT Scan or an MRI? She said, "we’d be plum out of luck".

As it is, Shelley’s family just finished paying off medical bills in excess of $20,000 for her last bout of cancer.

Here’s Shelley in her own words:

Ask Shelley Dockery whether healthcare in the United States is a right or a privilege.

Little Rock Clinic Volunteers: If we fail to pass healthcare reform, “we’ll be damned for all mankind”

More from the November 21st, 2009 Little Rock Free Health Clinic.

Meet David and Jane Carounis. David and Jane traveled all the way from Florida to volunteer. When I asked them why they came, after all they don’t live around the corner, they said, “we couldn’t stay away.”

I think Jane summed up perfectly, and dare I say, with great understatement, that the United States will be “damned for all mankind” if we fail to pass healthcare reform, including a robust public option.

I’m heading to the Kansas City Free Clinic on December 9 and 10, to bring more images of the American healthcare catastrophe to the world.

Always remember, the United States is the only industrialized nation where healthcare remains a privilege not a right.