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All reports by LindsayBeyerstein


Weekly Pulse: Pro-Choice Cabinet Picks Boon to Health at Home and Abroad


by LindsayBeyerstein, The Media Consortium: Wed., Nov 26, 2008
Filed under: transitionHealth Care NewsletterNewsLadderUncategorized

Clinton and Obama

It’s finally official: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will be Barack Obama’s Secretary of State.

Some observers thought Clinton was a curious pick because she made a point of differentiating her foreign policy views from Obama’s during the Democratic primary.

However, optimism is running high in the reproductive health community that Clinton will use her new office to champion women’s health issues worldwide. They expect that Clinton will push for changes in foreign aid criteria to make it easier to provide comprehensive sex ed and reproductive health services to the world’s neediest girls and women.

Back in the U.S., Clinton and Sen. Patty Murray introduced legislation to block the finalization of the rules changes at Health and Human Services that would have given employees the right to refuse to administer any birth control or abortion-related services that offended their religious beliefs. These changes would have restricted access to reproductive health services nationwide.

Emily Gould of RH Reality notes the deadline for submitting rules changes is 60 days before the inauguration, but the HHS has classified these “conscience clause” changes as “non-major,” thereby giving themselves a 30-day extension. It’s a sneaky procedural move, but the stalling won’t circumvent the Clinton/Murray bill.

Additional presidential appointments are starting to give shape to President-elect Obama’s health care agenda. Melody Barnes has been named Obama’s Senior Domestic Policy Adviser. Barnes is one of the few cabinet appointees so far who can be regarded as an unequivocally progressive choice. Barnes is a former executive policy director for the Center for American Progress and well-known in the progressive community.

“By appointing policy leaders like Barnes who see the connections between health and the economy, Obama appears to have pulled together an economic team that reflects many of the goals he set out during his campaign,” wrote Todd Heywood in RH Reality Check.

Ezra Klein of the American Prospect compares satisfaction ratings across several countries, and between Americans on Medicare vs. private insurance: “Medicare has much higher satisfaction ratings than private insurance. Americans are much less satisfied with their health system than they are in other countries.”

Healthcare reform is gathering momentum in Congress and the White House. The health insurance industry can’t help but take notice and offer a few preemptive reassurances, in the hopes of forestalling more fundamental change.

As part of his ongoing coverage of the health insurance industry: Ezra Klein of the American Prospect phones Robert Zirkelbach, America’s Health Insurance Plans’ director of strategic communications to discuss the trade organization’s recent pledge “[…] too guarantee that health plans provide coverage for preexisting conditions in conjunction with mandate that individuals keep and maintain healthcare coverage.” Zirkelbach admits that the insurance companies have not pledged to make this coverage affordable. He also says that the Association resists competition from public plans as a strategy to drive down costs.

Here’s a fun fact courtesy of Mother Jones to bring up around the Thanksgiving dinner table: Scientists have shown that obesity in mice is linked to the diets of their grandmothers. If pregnant mice were fed a high-fat diet, their offspring were more likely to be obese and insulin insensitive. The surprising result was that the next generation were predisposed to the same problems.

To close this Thanksgiving edition, we offer you a list of 10 things science says will make you happy, courtesy of YES! Magazine. Unaccountably, tryptophan didn’t make the list, but gratitude did.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care. Visit Healthcare.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. And for the best progressive reporting on the ECONOMY, and IMMIGRATION, check out, Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Economy.NewsLadder.net.

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

The Secretary and the Czar: Obama Bets Big on Daschle


by LindsayBeyerstein, The Media Consortium: Thu., Nov 20, 2008
Filed under: transitionHealth Care NewsletterNewsLadder

tom-daschle.jpg

It’s official, former Sen. Tom Daschle will be Barack Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. Daschle will also serve as Health Czar, which means he will be in charge of developing Obama’s healthcare program in addition to running HHS.

Ezra Klein writes in the Prospect: “This is huge news, and the clearest evidence yet that Obama means to pursue comprehensive health reform. You don’t tap the former Senate Majority Leader to run your health care bureaucracy. That’s not his skill set. You tap him to get your health care plan through Congress.

Ezra argues that Obama has learned the lessons of Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful attempt to reform healthcare in 1994. Ezra’s view, the Clinton plan failed because its architects were so focused on crafting the perfect policy that they neglected to figure out how they were going to sell there plan politically.

The hope is that Daschle has the political skills to actually get a healthcare plan passed.

Greg Sargent agrees that the Daschle pick is a sign that Obama intends to act quickly on healthcare.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care. Visit Healthcare.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. And for the best progressive reporting on the ECONOMY, and IMMIGRATION, check out, Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Economy.NewsLadder.net.

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

Healthcare: Out with the Old, In with the New


by LindsayBeyerstein, The Media Consortium: Wed., Nov 19, 2008
Filed under: Health Care NewsletterNewsLadder

health-care_c2ac157862_m.jpg

Because if it bleeds, it leads… Sarah van Schagen rates the environmental impact of feminine hygiene products for Grist.

In all seriousness, this has been a very exciting week in healthcare news. The Bush administration is racing to take away as many reproductive rights as it can before leaving office. The Democrats in Congress are taking the lead on healthcare reform by writing up their own proposal before president Obama takes the Oath of Office.

Last week, Sen. Max Baucus unveiled a detailed proposal to provide health insurance for all Americans. Brian Cook has a roundup of reactions.

Note that the Baucus plan is by no means a call for radical change.  The blueprint proposes to fix the healthcare system with the same piecemeal strategies that  get trotted out every time Americans talk about healthcare reform. The stated goal is to enable more people to buy “affordable” private health insurance while expanding Medicare and Medicaid for the poor and the elderly.

Why such timidity? As Josh Marshall argues at TPM, Obama’s election is a mandate for fundamental structural change in the healthcare system.

The fact is, majority of Americans support single-payer health insurance, even if they’d have to pay higher taxes. Daina Saib reports in YES! that even Republicans are getting on board. Saib introduces us to an unlikely champion of single-payer, Dr. Rocky White, conservative Christian and former Republican who started advocating for single payer when the system made his own practice unmanageable.

As we talk about the dire state of the Big Three automakers, remember that the Canadian auto industry stays competitive because the government takes care of health care, unlike in the ‘States where automakers and unions are struggling to pay for it.

Ezra Klein gives us a crash course two strategic approaches to healthcare reform. He explains that there are two basic schools of thought: delivery system reform and financing reform. Delivery reformers hope to make the system work better by bringing down costs and delivering better value for money. Financing reformers focus on how we’re going to pay for it all. The Baucus blueprint is financing reform. Repealing Medicare Plan D would be delivery reform.

These two approaches are complementary. Ezra writes: “[T]he two agendas fit neatly in a comprehensive reform package. Coverage expansion isn’t sustainable unless cost growth is slowed. Cost growth can’t be slowed without delivery system reform.”  He notes that The Center for American Progress has a new, free, book on healthcare reform, available for download, here.

The Bush administration is weighing an eleventh hour rules change that could prevent women on Medicaid from receiving birth control, deny rape victims emergency contraception, and push the country one step closer to theocracy with a single stroke of the pen.

The proposed rule would prevent any entity that receives federal funds (e.g., hospitals, universities, etc.) from requiring employees to “assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity” financed by the Department of Health and Human Services” or “participate in abortions or sterilizations” if these activities offend their religious or moral convictions.

President-elect Obama has already spoken out against the proposed rules change.

Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones notes that civil rights law already protects employees from discrimination on the basis of religion. In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that enforces the federal employment discrimination law, is strenuously objecting to the new rules because they would create an absolute right to religious accommodation, as opposed to the balance between employer and employee that exists under current law.

With Sarah Palin back in Wasilla, we thought we’d heard the last about victims paying for their own rape kits. Not so fast. While the Violence Against Women Act forbids victim-pay rape kits for civilians, women in the armed services may not enjoy the same protections.

Penny Coleman, writing in AlterNet, explains: “TRICARE, the United States Department of Defense Military Health System that covers active duty members, will only pay for rape kits if the victim is seen in a military or a VA facility.” However, service women are being seen in a non-VA facility in the USA, they shouldn’t be paying for their rape kits, thanks to VAWA.  This shouldn’t be happening.

Another sobering statistic: The US military loses the equivalent of a brigade of veterans to suicide each year–yet more evidence that mental health parity should be a priority in health care reform.

Finally, Stephanie Losee interviews Valerie Frankel, the author of Thin is the New Happy, a memoir about coming to terms with weight and body image in an appearance-obsessed society.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care. Visit Healthcare.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. And for the best progressive reporting on the ECONOMY, and IMMIGRATION, check out, Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Economy.NewsLadder.net.

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

Yes We Can (Be Healthy): Obama’s Healthcare Agenda


by LindsayBeyerstein, The Media Consortium: Thu., Nov 6, 2008
Filed under: Health Care NewsletterNewsLadderPresidential campaign 2008Religious right

Before a cheering crowd in Chicago, Barack Obama thanked his supporters, his campaign staffers, his running mate, and his family for his historic victory.

I hope he also sends a nice note to Sarah Palin. He couldn’t have done it without her.

Palin was chosen for her impeccable culture war credentials in the hopes of galvanizing the Republican base. Ironically, Palin energized the conservative base and the progressive base, in equal but opposite measure.

Palin’s candidacy, as the running mate of a 72-year-old cancer survivor, forced us to imagine a young earth creationist, anti-abortion zealot in the White House. To their great credit, Americans said, “Thanks but no thanks.”

The Obama victory can be seen as a mandate for science and rationality across the board, especially in health care policy. The economic crisis has become an excuse to ignore health care, but nothing could be more shortsighted.

Election night also saw anti-choice ballot initiatives defeated in Colorado, California, and South Dakota. RH Reality recaps the ballot battles: Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot initiative that would have given human rights to fertilized eggs, South Dakota’s notorious Measure 11 was defeated, and the latest California parental notification bill stalled out.

Had it passed, Measure 11 would have been the most sweeping abortion ban in the post-Roe era. Measure 11 was billed as a kinder, gentler, saner version of the old South Dakota abortion ban, but the anti-choicers weren’t fooling anyone. The bill’s so-called health exemption only applied to women facing organ failure.

William Smith hopes that the Obama administration will put an end to the boondoggle of abstinence only indoctrination. Obama pledged to take a scalpel to the budget and excise programs that don’t work. Abstinence only education should be the first to go. It doesn’t work. It devalues gays and women while misleads about science. And to top it all off, it’s a $200 million/year wingnut welfare program. It’s time to cut it out.

So, does an Obama victory mean the end of the culture wars? Not likely. Although, according to Mike Madden, the mood at New Life Church, ground zero of American fundamentalism, was uncharacteristically subdued in the week before the election.

Yet, the religious right is nothing if not resilient. After getting trounced 3 to 1 in Colorado, champions of egg personhood reacted by forming a nationwide organization, Personhood USA, to fight for ovo-Americans nationwide.
Lest our own victories make us complacent, we should remember that gay rights are under siege nationwide. Voters in California, Arizona, Florida, and Arkansas approved ballot measures restricting the rights of gay couples to marry. In Mother Jones, Richard Kim discusses California’s notorious Proposition 8, which revokes same sex marriage in California.

The pundits are already wagging their fingers at San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and gay rights activists for overplaying their hand and demanding too much, too fast. They’re thinking small.

The culture warriors have never been afraid to seize the initiative or press their advantage. Maybe progressives should take a page from the right wing playbook. The Defense of Equal Marriage Act has a nice ring to it. How about it, President Obama?

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care. Visit Healthcare.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. And for the best progressive reporting on the economy, and immigration, check out, Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Economy.NewsLadder.net.

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.