On Medicare’s 49th Birthday Statewide Actions Call to: Protect, Improve, and Expand Medicare to All

Let's Have Medicare for All bannerOn Medicare’s 49th birthday, Wednesday, July 30, the Campaign for a Healthy California plans actions in 15 cities throughout California to celebrate Medicare’s successful provision of guaranteed health care to millions of elderly senior and disabled Americans for nearly half a century.

These actions will underscore the need to protect, improve and expand Medicare at a time when it is under attack, with efforts in Congress and the White House to reduce coverage, raise the eligibility age, eliminate providers and turn Medicare into a voucher program.

“It’s very important for people to remember that the Medicare program has been in existence for 49 years and that’s long enough to see that it works.  We don’t want it privatized because we know that the proposed schemes, such as vouchers, will hurt many people,” said Myrtle Braxton, Vice President of California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA).

“Medicare’s birthday is a time to reflect on what works and what doesn’t. While the ACA extended health coverage to a number of low and moderate -income individuals and families, there are still far too many people who remain uninsured or inadequately covered,” said Martha Kuhl, RN, CNA treasurer and a Children’s Hospital RN in Oakland, who represents CNA in the coalition. “We need guaranteed universal coverage with a single standard of high quality care that is not based on ability to pay. Medicare’s terrific track record indicates that is best achieved through single payer reform, and expanding and updating Medicare to cover all Americans,” said Kuhl.

This week’s anniversary events coincide with the release of a new report Monday by trustees for Medicare and Social Security showing the trust fund that pays for Medicare is in much better shape than the doom and gloom predictions of the budget cutters and legislators who favor cutting benefits, raising the eligibility age or privatization. Now the trustees say that Medicare is on solid financial footing through 2030. The best way to further improve the funding, says CNA, is to expand the risk pool by adding more healthy people, as in extending the eligibility age to cover everyone.

“We are also trying to draw attention to how the 10% cuts, made in March 2013, are currently hurting people who are trying to access their Medicare benefits,” said Myrtle Braxton. “For example, where I live in Richmond, the cuts have further reduced access to the Social Security office, which administers Medicare benefits in addition to Social Security benefits. The office was already inaccessible to people who don’t have cars and now, with cuts in staff and hours, it’s impossible to reach people on the phone and many poor people, disabled and seniors don’t have computer access so that’s not an option for them,” said Braxton, who is also Chairperson of the Health Ministry at Easter Hill United Methodist Church in Richmond, CA.

July 30th actions will be taking place in: Berkeley, Modesto, Fresno, Oakland, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Diego, Richmond, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, San Bernardino, Bakersfield, Stockton, and Walnut Creek. For more information on attending an event near you, view the list of event details or call 213-359-3997.

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Single Payer Healthcare National Conference – Oakland – August 22-24

The Campaign for a Healthy California is hosting a conference with three national single payer organizations:  Labor Campaign for Single Payer, Healthcare-Now!, and One Payer States.  We know healthcare justice is a great concern of yours and would love to have you attend.  Our conference agenda is chock full of substantive and interactive workshops we know you will enjoy.

You can register online now for the August 22-24 super-conference that will bring together One Payer States, Healthcare-NOW! and the Labor Campaign for Single-Payer Health Care, in Oakland, CA!  A discounted group rate is available for the Oakland Airport Hilton if you need lodgings and the information on that is also located on the registration page. Just follow the hotel registration step on the Healthcare-Now! registration page.

For $60 registration fee you can now attend the entire One Payer States conference, workshops being organized jointly by Healthcare-NOW! and the Labor Campaign, as well as a reception and keynote speakers for all three groups. We expect over 300 activists to attend, giving attendees a chance to learn from the best organizing going on around the country, build bridges between labor and community groups, and energize the movements for both state and national single-payer reform.

You can view the tentative agenda for the conference: http://www.healthcare-now.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/Full-Conference-Agenda.pdf

Please register today, so that you will have time to make travel and housing arrangements! And please, make your hotel reservation as you are registering for the conference.

We’re incredibly excited to be joining the Labor Campaign, One Payer States and Healthcare-Now!, and we will update you with keynote speaker, and other additions as the information becomes available!

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MGMA ACA Exchange Implementation Survey Report


Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) conducted member research in April 2014 to better understand the impact of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) insurance exchange implementation on medical group practices.

Summary of Findings

MGMA noted three main themes within the findings:


Practices have experienced difficulty identifying patients with ACA exchange coverage and obtaining essential information related to that coverage.

  • 62% of respondents reported moderate to extreme difficulty with identifying a patient that has ACA exchange coverage as opposed to traditional commercial health insurance.
  • Compared to patients with traditional commercial coverage, nearly 60% of respondents indicated that for patients with ACA exchange coverage it is somewhat or much more difficult to:
    • verify patient eligibility
    • obtain cost-sharing or network information
    • obtain information about the plan’s provider network in order to facilitate referrals.

“We are going to have to hire additional staff just to manage the insurance verification processs.”

“Identification of ACA plans has been an administrative nightmare.”

“We thought we would be able to identify ACA insurance exchange products by their insurance card, but quickly found out this isn’t so. “


Practices are facing a number of challenges related to patient cost-sharing for ACA exchange coverage.

  • 75% of respondents reported that patients with ACA exchange coverage are very or extremely likely to have high deductibles compared to patients with traditional commercial coverage.
  • Practices reported significant patient confusion about the substantial cost-sharing related to many ACA exchange products, and practices are working to help patients understand the complexities of their coverage.
  • Practices cited some of the main reasons for not participating with ACA exchange products were related to concerns about financial burdens from patient collections (such as burdens related to collecting high deductibles from patients and concerns about financial liability from the 90-day grace period).

“Patients have been very confused about benefits and their portion of the cost. Once the patients find out their deductible, they’ve cancelled appointments and procedures.”

“The at-risk piece of eligibility is tremendously hard to determine and explain to patients.”

“Patients don’t always understand how health insurance works, so we’ve been engaging in educational events for the community.”


Practices have concerns about the impact of the network design of many ACA exchange products.

  • Almost half of respondents reported they have been unable to provide covered services to ACA exchange patients because the practice is out of network.
  • 20% of respondents reported that their practice was excluded from a narrow network that they would have liked to participate in and 10% of respondents chose not to participate in a narrow network.
  • Narrow networks may create challenges related to patient referrals for appropriate treatment and hospital care. Even if the practice is included in the network, without robust representation by a wide range of providers, it may be difficult for a practice to coordinate a continuum of care consistent with the patient’s needs.

“Many patients purchased products with a very narrow network and didn’t understand the ramifications. They are very upset once they learn that they can’t go to the specialist or hospital of their choice. As primary care providers, we are now faced with the extra burden of trying to find them care within their new narrow network. Payer directories are woefully inaccurate and impossible to rely on.”

“Former patients were shocked to learn about their very narrow network of providers. It was terrible to have to inform them of their lack of coverage.”

“We are consistently denied ‘out of network’ approvals for the very sick who truly need to continue their care with providers who have worked with the patient for years.”


Statement of Susan Turney, MD, MS, FACP, FACMPE, president and CEO of MGMA:

“Physician group practices are expressing dissatisfaction with the complexity and lack of information associated with insurance products sold on ACA exchanges. The more administrative complexity introduced into the healthcare system, the less time and resources practices can devote to patient care. Even though there hasn’t been a huge influx of patients into physician offices as many predicted, simple tasks such as obtaining patient insurance coverage information or finding specialists for in-network referrals have proven to be significant challenges.”



Comment by Don McCanne

Much has been written about the consequences of the high deductibles and narrow networks of the ACA exchange plans in impairing access and affordability for patients. This new survey demonstrates that these same features add more administrative headaches for physicians who are already overburdened by the administrative complexity of our dysfunctional health care financing system. For those who could care less about the physicians, keep in mind that these ACA plan features are preventing physicians from assisting patients in obtaining the health care that they should have. It is really about the patients.

The quotations in the report above are especially helpful to our understanding of the problems because they reveal the real world consequences of the highly flawed ACA exchange infrastructure.

Single payer would eliminate the confusion over coverage, the barriers of patient cost sharing, and the loss of choice due to network limitations. People would simply get the care that they need when they need it.

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Town Hall Meeting to Save Doctors San Pablo

Let’s Demand the County Take Charge town hall meeting May 22 at 6:30pm at Easter Hill United Methodist Church

Let’s Demand the County Take Charge town hall meeting May 22 at 6:30pm at Easter Hill United Methodist Church

Registered nurses, hospital workers and community members are holding a public meeting May 22 to plan the next steps in their effort to keep Doctors Medical Center San Pablo (DMC) and its emergency department open.

Closure of DMC would create a dire public health crisis in the West Contra Costa County.  We are urging Contra Costa County to assume authority to ensure the continued operation of the facility as an acute care hospital with a fully staffed Emergency Room and ICU.

What: Town Hall Meeting to Save Doctors San Pablo
When: May 22, 6:30pm
Where: Easter Hill United Methodist Church – 3911 Cutting Blvd, Richmond

The meeting will provide residents, community groups, and health care providers with a briefing on the latest developments, and then determine the next steps in a campaign to save the hospital including pressuring the County to step in.

Studies have shown that the closure of Doctors Medical Center will lead to medical catastrophe. In 2004, a study by the Abaris Group concluded that in the case of a closure, “it is unlikely that all ambulances could be safely diverted to other regional EDs without some risk to patient care.”

In 2011, further study by the Abaris Group concluded the elimination of DMC would eliminate critical infrastructure needed to support the community in the event of another disaster like the 2012 Chevron refinery. DMC has 80 percent of the inpatient hospital beds in West County and receives 60 percent of the ambulance visits.

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FREE HEALTH FAIR and community discussion – April 12th

Have you lost your health care? Will you be covered by Covered California, the Affordable Care Act? Are your deductible or co-pays too high? Were you denied treatment? Are you unable to afford prescriptions? Are you unable to get dental care?

We can have a TRULY COMPREHENSIVE, AFFORDABLE HEALTH PLAN FOR EVERYONE. Learn how. Let’s stand up for our rights! Come to a FREE HEALTH FAIR and community discussion on how to fight for our health care.

The Santa Clara County contingent of the Campaign for a Healthy California is holding its annual  Health Fair at Andrew Hill High School, located at 3200 Senter Road (at Capitol Expressway) on Saturday, April 12th  from 10a – 2p. The Health Fair includes a free health clinic available to all who attend.

Health Fair 2014 – English flyer

Health_Fair_2014 – ESPANOL_flyer

Health Fair 2014 – Vietnamese flyer

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Thinking It Through – Health care debate far from finished

Sara Foss's Thinking It Through

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The other night I attended a debate at The Linda in Albany, WAMC’s performing arts studio, on whether the U.S. should adopt a single-payer health care system.

Sponsored by the Albany Medical College chapter of an organization called Students for a National Health Program, the debate pitted a doctor who favors a single-payer system against a doctor who opposes such a system.

Under a single-payer system, the government, rather than insurers, would pay all medical costs, much as it does through Medicare for Americans 65 or older.

The pro single-payer side was represented by Dr. Paul Song, a California oncologist from the group Physicians for a National Health Program. Offering an opposing view was Dr.

Mitchell Heller, a New Jersey-based emergency room physician representing the Benjamin Rush Society, a libertarian organization that supports limiting the government’s role in health care.

I’ll admit my bias upfront: I support a single-payer model.

And though both men were able debaters, I wasn’t surprised when an after-debate poll showed Song had won. Heller did a great job of articulating his vision for the health care system — a vision most people found horrifying.

When Song cited the fact that medical bills are the biggest cause of bankruptcy in the U.S., and that many of the people declaring bankruptcy actually have insurance, as evidence that America’s health care system doesn’t work, Heller replied that bankruptcy really wasn’t bad at all. If a patient declares bankruptcy, it means he or she received needed treatment, he explained, which is true.

However, most of the people in the audience seemed to think that America can do better — that it can create a system where people receive the treatment they need and don’t have to go into bankruptcy to get it.

Will the Affordable Care Act create such a system? Nobody at the debate seemed to think so.

One of the things I found most interesting about the discussion was the simple fact of its existence.

After all, the U.S. health care system is undergoing a big transformation, courtesy of the Affordable Care Act. But this hasn’t stopped people from advocating for something different. Conservatives often complain that the ACA goes too far, while progressives believe it doesn’t go far enough. Listening to the debate, one thing seemed clear: Nobody is especially happy with the state of health care in America and Obamacare is unlikely to change that.

Recent surveys show health care costs remain the top concern for local business leaders.
The Siena Research Institute’s annual survey of upstate New York business leaders found that 80 percent of respondents cited health care cost as the challenge they are most concerned about; 69 percent said they believe the law will have a negative impact on their business.

Polls show that Obamacare also remains unpopular among the general public.
According to a January Gallup poll, nearly half of Americans say the Affordable Care Act will make the U.S. health care situation worse in the long run, while slightly more than one-third think it will make the situation better. A majority of uninsured Americans who visited a health insurance exchange website reported having a negative experience, which is especially troubling, since these are the people who stand to benefit most from the law.

One of my friends, a self-employed photographer who hasn’t had health insurance in years, was initially very excited about Obamacare and its promise of affordable, easy-to-purchase health insurance. But after spending roughly 30 hours on the federal website and phone, trying to sign up for a plan, her enthusiasm had cooled.

It’s possible that public opinion of the Affordable Care Act will improve as the kinks get worked out and benefits begin to kick in. But only time will tell, and much will hinge on whether patients are satisfied with their overall experience with the health care system.
And since the system is overly complicated, needlessly opaque and expensive, satisfaction seems unlikely.

Costs will continue to rise and employers will continue to pass those costs along to their employees, who will come to regard statements and letters from their HMOs with confusion and dread, if they don’t already. Yes, the Affordable Care Act will enable millions to obtain health insurance. But health insurance comes with its own set of frustrations, as anybody who’s ever seen their co-payments steadily rise or been denied coverage for recommended treatment can tell you.

Meanwhile, the rollout of Obamacare continues. More than 501,205 New Yorkers have received insurance through the state’s online marketplace; in the past two weeks more than 88,000 people enrolled. Will these people be satisfied with their new insurance? Or will they yearn for something better? Again, only time will tell.

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at (sfoss @ dailygazette.net). Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Her blog is at >>

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DEMAND Whole Foods’ CEO Stop Spreading Lies about Obamacare

Whole Foods’ CEO, John Mackey, has been using his position as head of one of the most respected companies in America to promote anti-Obamacare lies and deter people from signing up for life-saving health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.Fight back against this kind of confusing misinformation and SIGN THE PETITION to demand John Mackey stop misleading Americans. Statements like these confuse people about the law and scare them away from signing up for the coverage they desperately need. Join Courage’s Obamacare Reality Response Team and add your name to the statement below:

“Mr. Mackey, stop spreading misinformation about the Affordable Care Act. Despite the fact that millions of Americans believe a single-payer solution would work better, Obamacare is a FREE MARKET approach to the healthcare crisis — not a “government takeover,” as you claim it is. It’s shameful that you would use your business prestige and media influence to actively promote destructive confusion and lies about affordable healthcare options when the lives of millions of Americans are at stake.” SIGN THE PETITION!

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