Redefining Universal Healthcare: What Consequences will this have on vulnerable workers with poor leadership? by Paul Donovan

Introducing a new featured writer whom I’ve posted a couple of his pieces in the past, Paul A. Donovan. Please see: Donovan-Paul A. to read his past articles. ~ Lo

by Paul Donovan
featured writer
Dandelion Salad

October 19, 2007

SEIU Mission Statement:

“We are the Service Employees International Union, an organization of more than 1.9 million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide and dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society.”

My Disclaimer:

First and foremost, I wish to make it clear that I wholeheartedly support the mission of the SEIU. I myself work in the service economy, and have for some time, and therefore recognize the vital role the union plays in today’s expanding labor movement, where defense of worker’s rights is needed desperately. This article is not directed towards the SEIU’s membership, but rather its leadership who have revealed themselves to be very much out of touch with those whom they are supposed to represent. It appears that some of our union leaders across the country are in on this giant health care scam being perpetrated by Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama, and even John Edwards, and are thus fooling their constituencies.

Presently the Democrats, under the tutelage of Hillary Clinton are running a campaign to trick the American public into a new definition of “Universal Healthcare”. Several factors are precipitating this shameful scam on an unsuspecting and desperate public in need of real leadership and even more so solutions. The list below reveals and aids in explaining some of the reasons this issue is being co-opted and morphed by powerful for profit healthcare lobbyists and the politicians that serve their interests over the peoples:

1) Michael Moore’s film SICKO did a fine job bringing the criminal private medical industry into the public’s eye, explored successful alternative systems already in place in nations such as France and Cuba, and thereby placed what was already a boiling hot issue back on the front burner directly next to this atrocious war that Hillary Clinton voted for. How many times can this woman “get it wrong” before she packs her bags and leaves the political theater? The two issues affecting this nation most immediately are the healthcare crisis and Bush’s “preemptive wars”. Subsequently, our people’s movements should therefore centralize around these two key culprits that are tearing apart what’s left of the fabric of our nation.

2) Probably most important, the healthcare crime families comprised of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, that bare the brand names of Aetna, Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Pfizer, Glaxosmithkline, Johnson and Johnson (just to name a few) know that a true universal health care system, or one which removes the profit motive out of the medical equation, would threaten to put them out of business. Therefore, these slippery companies have become very creative in dodging criticism and finding “solutions” which would preserve their flow of income, and keep outlandish profits soaring for themselves, and shareholders.

3) Corporate America has taken the liberty of hiring Hillary Clinton to dupe the public into thinking they will have an “Americanized form” of Universal Healthcare. As most of us already know, the big pharmaceutical lobbyists contributing to her record-breaking campaign are simply ridiculous. Senator Clinton stated that if elected President, she would bring the medical behemoths to heel, but on the contrary those who stuff your campaign coffers are likely to be the one’s holding the leash.

4) Health care is becoming too expensive across almost all demographic stratum (naturally excluding the rich), including many employer’s, who unlike us receive negotiated reduced rates, yet still shoulder much of the costs themselves. Thus if a federal/state alternative is put on the healthcare “menu,” the corporations will slowly be alleviated of the burden of insuring their workers, as more workers opt for “state or federal insurance”. This would also help Hillary Clinton get her small business folks on board who truly have a real problem providing affordable health insurance for their employees.

5) The public, as well as businesses both big and small, are up in arms about the rising costs of premiums and the cost of drugs. This stinging reality is coupled by the fact that 46 million people are not covered, and many more are in serious trouble being they are underinsured. Of course the business minded folk are just slightly more concerned with hiring high-risk employees, or keeping them on, or in other words watching their bottom line in today’s highly competitive market. The Plutocrats don’t plan to bring us all affordable healthcare, but rather they plan to shift the cost off the company and onto the public, who would then purchase their insurance plans from the same people as before. The only difference now is that if you are out of work (and chances are have no money to the pay the bills), in theory you can purchase your mandated insurance through a state or federal plan via a private company, for practically the same exorbitant prices, with maybe a small tax credit at the end of the year…whoopdie do! However, this “out of work” factor matters little because you would have to spend the month recycling cans full-time instead of looking for work in order to pay for it. Does that sound like “Universal Healthcare” to you? Oddly enough to some it does, and unfortunately among the list of those “signing on” to these twisted incarnations of Universal Healthcare are America’s labor leaders.

Recently, the Boston Globe featured an interview with Dennis Rivera, president of the New York-based 1199 SEIU, and the organizations United Healthcare Chairman. When the Globe pressed Rivera for an answer as to which Democratic nominee the SEIU would endorse for President in 2008, he said something to the effect of not being at the liberty of speaking for the union, nor has the union reached any definitive conclusion in respect to a candidate, but he noted many “support” Hillary Clinton.

The following segment below from a recent Boston Globe interview reveals that the union leadership of the SEIU is either naïve enough to fall for the healthcare scam, or is in cahoots with the very corporations that own Hillary, which are not addressing the root of the crisis in healthcare. Personally, I am under the impression that the union members believe the line of their leadership, and do not fully realize they are being bamboozled. Further, the leadership knows full well it’s a scam and stands to benefit if they are complacent, agreeable, and if remain so until the election, which will most likely secure their share in the spoils of preserving the status quo. Otherwise, how can one explain why they would support such obviously inadequate healthcare reforms, in light of candidates such as Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) who have plans already formulated that would work for everyone, leaving no American uninsured or underinsured for any reason.

Is this some sort of healthcare conspiracy you ask? Observe the excerpt below, and how Dennis Rivera of the SEIU, pours maple syrup all over Hillary like he was starving and she were a stack of pancakes.

The B-Globe (Q): Who are you backing in the Democratic primary for president?

Rivera (A): The organization has not made a decision. It is far too early.

The B-Globe (Q): It seems significant, since you are based in New York and have such influence, that you have not already come out for Hillary Clinton.
Rivera (A): Hillary is an amazing friend, and she has an amazing knowledge about healthcare reform. I remember when she called me when I announced that I was going to be taking this leadership role, and she said to me, “Dennis, it would be great for me as president of United States and you as leader of healthcare workers of the United States to work together to craft universal healthcare coverage.” I have immense sympathy for her. And she is a fantastic leader. But it is fair to say that in our organization, I don’t make the decisions. There is a lot of sympathy right now for John Edwards. There is a lot of sympathy for Barack Obama. There is a lot of SUPPRORT for Hillary Clinton. There is also a lot of support for Bill Richardson.

Does anyone know where Dennis Kucinich’s name is even mentioned in this interview, being he is the only candidate running on a true Universal Healthcare plan, endorsed by thousands of Physicians for Universal Healthcare? Hillary, Obama, and Edwards’s plans are not only not good enough, but take a ton of patience to sort through before you realize it’s just more of the same old same, with maybe a couple of new band-aids, such as Hillary’s tax credits.

Does anyone believe that if alive and politically active today, Big Bill Haywood, or Eugene Debs of the IWW would be expressing such embarrassing sentiments, shameless fawning, and “fantastic” of all words, for the woman famous for burying Universal healthcare the first time around, and has since been notorious for taking money from the astoundingly corrupt, evil, and twisted mafia families that make up the health care “industry”? It is my belief that true liberals and radical union leaders would be endorsing universal coverage for all workers. That would mean every person (not customer) would have healthcare regardless of their ability to pay for it at any given moment, and would not have to rely on such weak solutions and false promises of government puppets trying to control the cost of healthcare. Many on the left would ideally prefer Socialized medicine, but I am sure a Single Payer System would do just fine if it meant the 18,000 Americans that die every year from lack of needed care would finally receive it, as it is done beautifully in France, Sweden, Canada, Germany, and every other industrialized nation where people are the primary concern of healthcare – not profiteering.

Imagine if it were your mother or brother laying there dieing because he/she couldn’t get the care they needed because an insurance company deemed their surgery “unnecessary” or “too risky.” All the while your hard earned tax money was going to provide millionaire Senators like Hillary Clinton with the best care our tax money can afford them. In reality, the people of this nation pay for their healthcare coverage, but I suppose what’s good for them isn’t good for us. We foot the bill for their wars of attrition, as well as for their health insurance, and what do we get in return, if lucky, our families, friends, and co-workers back home with dismembered limbs, mental illness, shattered families, and joblessness.

Is Rivera not aware that American service workers have unaffordable, and inadequate healthcare, or did all of those prestigious studies put out by Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein of John Hopkins University get lost under the Hillary Clinton photos shuffled all over his desk? Did Rivera also happen to miss Michael Moore’s movie SICKO? After all Mr. Rivera and Clinton are both “New Yorker’s” correct? So naturally they must have read the article in the New York Times on June 12th 2006, which stated:

“Separate analyses by the Center for Responsive Politics, an independent group that tracks campaign finance, and by The New York Times show that Senator Clinton has received $854,462 from the health care industry in 2005-6, a larger amount than any candidate except Senator Santorum, with $977,354. Other industries have opened their wallets to Senator Clinton, a formidable fund-raiser. But none warred with her as the health care industry did.

Contributions to Senator Clinton over the last 18 months include more than $431,000 from doctors and other health care professionals and more than $142,000 from hospitals and nursing homes.”

Abraham Lincoln once stood before Congress, and boldly stated in regards to the worker’s of America “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” Lincoln’s First Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1861″

Those were the words spoken to congress by a real American President in his FIRST annual message to Congress. Unlike these criminal actors and actresses performing for the cameras today, President Lincoln knew what being a leader of the people meant. I doubt corporate minion, pseudo feminist, faux-populist, and political opportunist Hillary Clinton would utter such bold words even in rhetoric before congress if they all gathered around her deathbed – she doesn’t even know what they mean. Are we going to throw all of our support behind Hillary out of fear that Dennis Kucinich is unelectable because he lacks the corporate media celebrity and backing of the super rich elite owners of this nation? In reality, it is principles, concrete plans, and courage combined that would destroy the possibility that Rudy Giuliani, or Fred Thompson could emerge in 2008 as President.

If nobody has noticed yet, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic front-runners are trying to redefine the words “Universal Healthcare” for us. Now Universal Healthcare basically means having the “option” to buy private insurance at the state or federal level from the same drug dealers in silk suits. As Marlon Brando states in regards to the exploiter class in Elia Kazan’s Viva Zapata “A monkey in silk is still a monkey”. Under this smoke and mirrors system of “Universal Healthcare,” everyone technically has access to private health care, meaning it is technically “universal”, yet who is going to make healthcare affordable in the hands of the multinational psychopaths that feel they have the right to own our health? Who is going to remove the snake of wasteful for profit insurance and medications from the sheets of our costly hospital beds? Is Mr. Rivera going to make sure we get the health care we deserve by “supporting” Hillary, Edwards, or Obama? Technically speaking, everyone has access to buying a Mercedes as well, but not everyone, especially the unemployed, or the working poor, or even the lower middle classes that often live paycheck to paycheck, can afford it, and the same rule applies for healthcare. The truth of the matter is neither Hillary Clinton nor Mr. Rivera seems to posses the leadership foresight that people need to obtain true Universal coverage, or they would endorse the Kucinich/Conyers’ house bill H.R. 676.

The radicals of this country need to muster up the wherewithal to stomach the putrescence found in American politics, and it’s vast array of class collaborationist institutions. We need to invade the union halls and grab any opportunists we may encounter by the horns and demand accountability from the upper ranks, or else we will be marginalized, and have no platform to fight against the rapacious G.O.P and their counterparts in the conservative wing of the Democratic Party.

One of the best tools we can utilize in our struggle for humane healthcare is the information found in H.R. 676. If you are not already familiarized with this plan, let me fill you in on some of the history, being you won’t find the corporate media paying it much mind:

“In 2003, Representative Conyers first introduced HR 676, the United States National Health Insurance Act (USNHI). This bill would establish a unique American universal health insurance program with single payer financing. As a publicly financed, privately delivered health care system that improves and expands the already existing Medicare program, it would be available to all U.S. residents, and all residents living in U.S. territories.

The goal of the legislation is to ensure that all Americans will have access, guaranteed by law, to the highest quality and most cost effective health care services regardless of their employment, income or health care status. They would receive all medically necessary primary care, dental, mental health, prescription drugs, and long term care services by the physician of their choice, and with no restrictions on what providers they could visit. With 47 million uninsured Americans, and another 50 million who are underinsured, the time has come to change our inefficient and costly fragmented non-system of health care.”

At one time in American history, leftist believed that unions were powerful engines for social change. They paid close attention to the feelings of worker’s, and some unions still do. As Mr. Rivera says “We have been having conversations with the CEOs of hospitals. At the same time, many of our colleagues have had many conversations with workers around Boston.”

This past summer, I did some work for a food workers union in the North East, and I smelled a rat from the word go. Essentially the union assignment involved planting us outside of a movie theater playing SICKO, in which we were to hand out buttons that read “Universal Healthcare for all”, which was in reality a state sponsored initiative in our state very similar to the system in place in Massachusetts.

The union informed us that we would be advocating for Michael Moore’s SICKO, but in reality we came to learn their activities were being funded by Aetna, and was endorsing state mandated insurance – nothing like H.R. 676. Why would a profit base corporation such as Aetna, estimated in 2006 with a net worth of 9.96 billion dollars be funding Michael Moore’s film, and furthermore using the union as a front to push the initiative? The answer is simple, because we will be purchasing the “Universal Healthcare” from them – nothing will change. They can’t deny the problem in front of them, so they are saying they are on board in getting us Universal Healthcare. This whole federal/state-mandated health care plot is a giant hoax being perpetrated on a public that is not educated on alternative systems of health care, yet to my surprise after browsing the Internet, some people are not so fooled, yet many are still chanting Hillary!

How can Americans receive true Universal healthcare, as other industrialized nations have had for years? We can get educated NOW on H.R. 676, at present being endorsed by Presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich and running mate John Conyers. Another effectual method would be reading and recording H.R. 676, and demanding your local radio station broadcast the “Medicare for All” bill.

Even measures as easily implemented as a small payroll tax on big corporations, or a higher federal income tax on the super-rich, or the reallocation of our bloated military defense budget could mean with the stroke of some pens all of the healthcare coverage worries would be over, and a memory we would be more than happy to forget fast. Citizens of other industrialized nations, for all of their flaws, are shocked and appalled at our countries treatment of its people in the realm of healthcare.

Some of the methods we may want to adopt in order to transform this dream into a reality may seem difficult to imagine materializing but are nonetheless possible, as long as we work together, utilize our political vehicles capable of organization such as student and anti-war movements, grass roots organizations, third party alternatives, and unions, and opt not to include the enemy, or the CEOs in the healthcare conversation, so we may have a chance of winning this battle. One way we can educate is by infiltrating, organizing, and speaking out against profit-based solutions that leave the present system in tact. Any candidate’s so called solution which inserts the profit motive into the formula should be a signal to everyone that the individual or group advocating for “Universal Healthcare” may very well be trying to sell you the same crap in a box just with a different colored ribbon.

Only apathy and fear can deter our efforts. We have the facts and truth on our side, and that’s enough to take on the top brass of this country, who for some reason contrary to reality, think they have the divine right to own this nation and to let their archaic “free-market” decide who lives and who dies. It’s time we jumped into the cold pool, so the next time a “Mr. Rivera” near you stands up at a convention and is ready to take questions after he has backed a faux-universal healthcare plan, you will be armed with the knowledge to conquer the myths, and thereby put the people listening on the course to truth and determinative action. If a third party solution couldn’t penetrate the mainstream with the astoundingly powerful presence of Ralph Nader at the helm, then we are left no choice but to crash their party, and make no excuses for our bad manners.



Only dogma and corporate capture can explain this

7 thoughts on “Redefining Universal Healthcare: What Consequences will this have on vulnerable workers with poor leadership? by Paul Donovan

    • Paul!!!!! So great to hear from you. I’ve missed you and your great work. Remember to send me anything new that you’ve written.

      Yes, you certainly did call this one.

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  3. I agree with the need for Universal Health Care, I just disagree with the method to achieve it. I would like to address some of the arguments made in Charles response.

    1. Who would decide what was necessary and not? The system as it works now, those decisions are in the hands of insurance providers, including the government programs. These decisions should be made on a MEDICAL basis, NOT on a business basis. With government sponsored health care, these decisions are, and would be, made by bureaucrats with the budget as their primary concern. I have seen many, many people denied necessary treatments because of the cost involved. We can not even make an argument based on medical need because the decision makers have no medical knowledge. With government-sponsored, single-payer health care, I am afraid this situation would only get worse.

    2. I couldn’t agree with your second point more. Again, I just may not agree with the way it is accomplished. Government needs to get their hands out of the health care system. Imagine a small community based hospital that specializes in treating diabetes. It would provide the outpatient care with all the physicians and specialists required to manage the disease, as well as a small number of hospital beds for those requiring inpatient treatment. The entire hospital would only treat those with diabetes and they would become very good at managing those patients as they would spend 100% of their time treating diabetes. Currently, it costs an average of $30,000/yr to treat someone with diabetes when you include all their testing supplies, tests, physician visits, etc. So, pay this clinic $30,000 a year for each diabetic patient they treat. For this money, they must supply all care and supplies to their patients. In addition, make public reporting of outcomes mandatory and standardized. Similar to SEC reports filed by publically traded companies. If you allow this clinic/hospital to be for profit, you have then provided a financial incentive to keep their patients as healthy as possible. First, they get the same amount of money no matter the level of care needed, so patients with their diabetes more under control would mean more money. Also, with accountability for outcomes, better outcomes would mean more patients. With the current system of government control of hospitals, this model is impossible. This also illustrates why I am against mandating non-profit status.

    3. I work as an RN in a pediatric ICU. Would you like to know how many steps are already mandated to reduce medication errors? Let’s just use an example. Let’s say the patient is a 1 month old baby who just had open heart surgery to repair a heart defect. This is my area of specialty. The baby is still intubated (have a breathing tube in) and the ventilator is breathing for them. This is necessary because their body needs as much rest as possible to recover from surgery. The baby starts to wake up and is in pain, agitated by the fact that they have all these tubes and wires on/in them, and is getting upset, understandably. In order to not stress their heart that was just operated on, they need to stay calm. This can not be explained to a 1 month old baby. So, as the nurse, I go to the physician who orders Versed, a sedation medication. The biggest side effect with Versed is that it can cause you to not want to breathe. However, the baby is already on a ventilator, so this is really not an issue. Realistically, the machine breathing for them is helpful as it reserves even more energy for healing. So, the doctor writes the order and I give the medicine, right? Not so fast. First, a pharmacist must double-check the order to make sure it is appropriate as far as dose, interaction with other meds, etc. So, the pharmacist ok’s it and I give it, right? Again, not so fast. Since it is a sedative and in the category of what is called a “high alert” medication, I must also have it double checked by another RN. Keeping in mind that there is a severe RN shortage worldwide right now and we all care for more patients than we really should, and this is not as easy as it sounds. So now, both RN’s must be at the patients bedside, check the doctors order, make sure the dose is right for the patients weight, double check the patients ID band to verify that it is the right patient and give the medication. In all, 4 different medical professionals have double checked this medication before the patient receives it. This is the process that is currently MANDATED. Is it possible for all 4 professionals to make the same mistake? I guess it is possible. Most medication errors take place when this process is not followed. In a life and death (code) situation where every second counts, the only step that may legally be skipped is the check by the pharmacist. Remember that medications are administered 10’s of MILLIONS of times EVERYDAY in hospitals across the country when you hear the media reports about medication errors. Even 10,000 errors a DAY would only be a 0.1% error rate. We are only human and as hard as we try, we do make mistakes. I would like to say that I have never given a medicine in error in my career, but I am not God and I am not perfect, try as I might. I can say I have never yet given a medicine in error that has caused harm to the patient. I am tired of the general public expecting doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to be God and be perfect. We could practice for 20 years never making an error, but make one mistake, and your career is over. What other profession has that kind of expectation? I would like to know what type of system you would propose to better accomplish your goal?

    4 and 5. Do you really believe that the majority of providers out there do not care about these same things? It’s too bad only the “bad apples” are seen in the media. Also, all the pharmaceutical commercials and ads need to stop. The huge number of people who request a specific drug because of ads and then cry foul when the doctors tell them that drug is not helpful for them is a huge burden on the system. Most unnecessary tests and treatments are done at the insistence of the patients and their families. It’s too bad that the industry has decided that patients are now customers and not patients. Should patients be satisfied with their care–yes, of course. Should this satisfaction be based on tests being done because the patient/family demands them, even when there is no medical benefit? I’ll leave it to you to answer this question, but let me just say that this is the current state of the system.

    I apologize that this has gotten a little longer than I anticipated, but it is frustrating to me how the public is constantly mislead as to the current state of affairs. Is the system broken and does it need fixing is not the question. Rather, what is the best way to fix it is the question. I do love this line quoted from your response – “We have to erase the mind-set that more is better.” – Too bad that illustrates the publics attitude , not the health care professionals attitude. Is it really the public’s perception that physicians, nurses, etc. are to blame for the overuse of the resources?

    Marty G., RN-PICU

  4. Universal Health Care in its simplest is affordable and feasible IF:

    1. We halt reimbursement for unnecessary procedures, for unnecessary diagnostic testing, for unnecessary utilization of services such as the ER visits, and for self-referral by providers to facilities in which they have a financial interest.
    2. Chronic illnesses such a diabetes are managed effectively.
    3. We insist steps to reduce medication errors.
    4. We implement measures to improve quality of care such as preventions of post-operative complications and infections.
    5. All providers are held accountable for medically unnecessary care, for over-utilization of services, and for below standard quality and outcome of care.

    We have to erase the mind-set that more is better.

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