Friday, October 30, 2009

CIGNA Kills Girl, Doctor Arrested

Grigor Sarkisyan tells us of his daughter who was denied treatment and died because of it, as Dr. Matt Hendrickson MD and others get arrested and protesters chant "CIGNA profits, people die, arrest the real criminals." This happened in Glendale CA as similar sit-ins at health insurance companies take place around the country. Over 900 people have signed up to risk arrest at these ongoing sit-ins including a number of doctors. They do not accept the public option as the answer to this problem. Only a single payer system that covers all Americans at affordable costs is acceptable and these rallies and sit-ins will continue until that happens.

Margaret Flowers MD, seen in this video after a Senate hearing this summer, was arrested Thursday 10/28/2009 and remains in custody vowing to stay there until she gets a meeting with the CEO of CareFirst 3401 Boston St &1501 S Clinton St, Canton Crossing, MD.

In Louisville KY seven occupied the Humana lobby for over 24 hours. Humana allowed them to stay as long as they wanted and stated they too want health care reform.

In Warwick, CT, sit-protesters, including Robert Darling, a cancer patient being denied care, occupied the United Health Care office, demanding that the insurer cover Robert’s bone marrow transplant immediately. The CEO was unavailable but the PR manager talked with them and promised to meet with Mr. Darling within a week to answer him.

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40 risked arrest at a San Francisco sit-in while 200 rallied in support and 30 others blocked entrances to Blue Shield offices. Protesters advocated a “single-payer” system in which the state or federal government would create one system of health insurance to cover everyone, as would be created by Rep. John Conyers’ H.R. 676, which would improve Medicare and expand it to cover everyone. The California legislature has twice passed bills creating a similar single-payer system on the state level, but Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed both these bills.

In New York nine were arrested at a Welpoint sit-in. Simone Morse, a 19-year old student at Hunter College, was the first to be handcuffed and pulled up from the floor this morning at 1 Liberty Plaza in lower Manhattan, the corporate offices of WellPoint, one of the largest health insurers in the United States.

Cameron Gibson, a 23-year-old medical student at SUNY Downstate, was one of the next to go, followed by Frank Broadhead, a 67-year-old senior on Medicare, who was carried out on his back and deposited into a nearby police van by two members of the New York Police Department. In total, nine protesters were arrested on Wednesday morning on charges of disorderly conduct and/or trespassing, according to an NYPD officer on site who spoke off the record.

“My name is Matt Hendrickson, I am an Emergency Physician and a member of Physicians For A National Health Program.

I am sitting in at Cigna tomorrow to ask Cigna why the health insurance industry is denying health care.Why are they charging America a 25% tax on all healthcare transactions to support a system that avoids the sick? Why has the number of physicians grown by 200% in the last 40 years while the number of insurance administrators has grown by 3,000%? Why does their industry have 1 million administrators, while there are half as many physicians and Medicare only has 15,000 employees?

Why does Medicare pay their chief executive $150,000 while Cigna pays Ed Hanway $12 million? Why is their industry raising premiums for small businesses by 15% a year? And then diverting 15 cents off every dollar to deny care to their paying customers.

I'm going inside Cigna today to ask these questions. I’m going to bring some pictures with me. Some of the faces will be familiar to Cigna.Like Nataline Sarkisyan who lived in Glendale until she was 17 when she died because Cigna denied her transplant. But they may not know Jenny Fritts who was 24 when this picture was taken with her two-and-a-half year old daughter Kylee. She was also seven and a half months pregnant with her second child- a beautiful baby girl. Jenny is dead. Jenny’s unborn baby is dead. They died because she was turned away for appropriate care from a for-profit hospital due to lack of insurance.

I want Cigna to know about this young woman, seen here at her two-year-old son’s birthday. She came to my ER with a mole behind her ear and a swollen lymph node. Her husband had recently lost his job when their tech firm downsized.

We recommended she get a biopsy. The family used part of their savings to get the biopsy done promptly by paying cash. The biopsy revealed metastatic melanoma. Now the Thomas family has no income, depleted savings and the mother of their three young children has an invasive cancer with no health insurance.

If Cigna won’t let me inside their offices, I’ll sit down outside and wait to speak to them. If police won’t let me wait, I will be arrested. It is my duty as a physician and my honor as a citizen to be speak out for My patients who are losing their savings, losing their homes and losing their lives because of the existence of the private insurance industry.

America cannot wait any longer. Our uninsured cannot wait. Our small businesses cannot wait. Our middle class cannot wait.

This is just the beginning Cigna. Other physicians are risking arrest today. And there will be more next month, and the month after that. We will not stop speaking out for our patients and stating unconditionally that private health insurance must go.”

Matt Hendrickson, MD MPH
Vice Chair, PNHP/CaPA LA
Chair, LA Single Payer Coalition

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rape in the Ranks: The Enemy Within

This is a synopsis of the 28 minute French film by Pascale Bourgau who interviewed US military women raped on duty. It's been seen on European TV but not in the US. Pascale, a reporter for the Belgian channel RTBF (Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon), while six months pregnant, along with Anne Barrier, toured the United States to meet these women and tell of their pain, rebellion and today, their struggle. The documentary was selected for the New York Independent Film Festival and will be shown Monday evening, October 26 at 5:45pm at the City Cinema East, 181 2d Ave, NYC. Following the showing of "Rape in the Ranks", we will have a panel to discuss rape in the US military at the Telephone Bar and Grill, 149 2nd Ave (212-529-5000). See Filmmaker Pascale Bourgaux is available for interviews. Her telephone is 212-982-0684 and 646-2638402.
Raped by their comrades, Tina, Jessica, Suzanne and Stephanie have been ignored by U.S. military officials in seeking justice. Though the Pentagon acknowledged receiving 3,000 reports of sexual assault in 2006 alone, and had launched a rape prevention program in 2004, the number of reported sexual assaults has since skyrocketed, but not the number of convictions. Only 2% of accused rapists are ever brought before a courts martial. Very few women have been willing to speak out, with the exception of these four brace women. Unable to stand the nightmarish daily rapes by her commander in Iraq, 21-year-old Suzanne refused to report back for mission and was brought before a courts martial. 25-year-old Jessica was raped in the U.S. and Korea, yet still dreams of going back to active service and seeing her attackers brought to justice. Stephanie has come to regret never reporting her own rape and perpetuating the law of silence. 20-year-old Tina, who was raped in Iraq, is no longer around to recount her nightmare. She supposedly "killed herself." Her mother claims she was murdered. This report tells the story of their pain, revolt, and uphill battle for justice.
Image captions: Left: Pascale Bourgaux interviewing Ann Wright, a former colonel who resigned before the war in Iraq; now a pacifist and defender of the cause of raped female soldiers (Washington, outside the White House). Right: Jessica and her husband Brendan Brinkman.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Single Payer is NOT Off the Table

Los Angeles 10/15/09 – 12 arrested for a sit-in at Anthem Blue Cross offices as Maureen Cruise, Public Health Nurse, explains why single payer is not off the table. Along with a contingent of doctors, Cruise believes universal health care (a.k.a. single payer or medicare for all) is the only option. As Dr. Jo Olson recently told me, single payer is the only fiscal and moral solution. She has been working for a single payer system for the past five years. Nurse Cruise was an L.A. public health care nurse at numerous clinics until they all closed with the recent economic downturn. As she explains, over 100 people die every day for lack of health care in the U.S. More die every day because they are denied health care from insurance companies despite paying their high premiums. Yet we see public free clinics closing. People are forced into medical debt and foreclosure to pay for health care, unlike every other country. “What kind of country does this to it’s people?” she asks.

Nurse Cruise goes on to say that Pelosi’s announcement to the world that single payer is off the table was a ploy to make everyone forget about it and go for a public option instead, a public option written by and for the insurance industry, which spends over a million dollars per day lobbying Congress. The public option, as she says, is an insurance industry bailout, because with our economic downturn and the insurance industry’s annal retentive (my words) policy of raising rates to make up for losses, they are losing customers and so they look to the deep pockets of our government in the corporate welfare state we call America. But as long as we don’t have a viable health care system without the for profit insurance factor, and as long as we don’t have universal health care, people will continue to rally.

It’s interesting that the right tea baggers agree with the left in this area. Both sides agree that government bailout spending is wrong. But the right has been deluded by the right wing bumper sticker mentality media propaganda into believing that it is an Obama socialism agenda at fault. in fact it is a Wall Street corporate socialist agenda, since as cruise and many others agree, Wall Street owns Congress, and seemingly the Presidency as well.

But the bottom line is that, by law and on paper, this is still a democracy for and by we the people, not the corporations; and so the people have taken to the streets, lead by doctors and health care professionals like nurse Cruise, Dr. Olson and many others. They hold rallies and sit-ins around the country and get arrested in protest. Dr. Susie Baldwin calls the public option a government insurance industry jobs program, which leads me to wonder, why can’t the insurance industry make an honest living selling a service that people need? Why must they resort to living off the government, pushing Congress to make laws forcing people to buy their worthless product which amounts to a mafioso payoff to keep their useless thug industry alive. Why must the insurance industry live on government corporate welfare? Are they too lazy to get a real job and pay their way like the rest of us?

As Dr. Paul Papenek told me, people don’t need actuaries or claims adjusters. People need doctors and nurses. Shouldn’t we forsake the misguided careers of insurance professionals, not only for the 45,000 lost lives every year for lack of health care, but also for the high cost and fiscal deterioration of our country due to the exorbitant waste, fraud and spending on health care due to a corrupt monopolistic health insurance industry.

Parts of this clip will be included in a feature documentary, Got Healthcare?

Sam Pullen Arrested at Health Care Sit-In Remains in Jail to End Insurance Abuse

Washington DC – Chanting “patients not profits,” citizens and health care providers held rallies and sit-ins at health insurance company offices in New York, Washington, Phoenix, Palm Beach, Portland, Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Reno. (Full list of cities and arrests below.) 54 were arrested to support an end to insurance abuse and win health care for all. 14 arrested in New York have not yet been released. Sam Pullen, 31, arrested in Los Angeles is refusing to give information to police, vowing to stay in jail until Blue Cross, where he protested yesterday, stops denying care to those who need it most. Another round of sit-ins and rallies is planned for Wednesday, October 28.

Pullen was inspired to action by his mother, who was denied coverage for a lifesaving bone marrow transplant by Blue Cross when he was a teenager. Weakened by her cancer treatments, Pullen’s mother staged a one-woman sit-in at the insurance company office, resulting in the approval of the transplant that extended her life for years. Thanks to the transplant, she lived long enough to see Pullen reach 18 years of age.

“I am honoring my mother’s sprit by refusing to leave custody until Blue Cross ceases its practice of denying doctor-requested treatments for patients with life-threatening conditions,” said Pullen, who is being supported by Mobilization for Health Care for All and other groups. “We will not back down until profit-driven insurance companies no longer stand between the American people and the health care they deserve!”
The above was copied from the Mobilize for Health Care website, which updates the article daily. Sam Pullen organized the Los Angeles financial district sit-in at the Anthem Blue Cross offices. 12 were arrested there as seen here.

Rallies and more such protest actions are planned for future events and will continue, not until a public option is passed, but until a universal fair affordable health care system is agreed upon, a system such as medicare for all or a single payer system. A silent rage has been awakened in Americans across the country and this will only escalate as the right and the insurance industry push back.

Pelosi has stated that single payer is off the table. But the doctors, health care professionals and other activists who continue to stand up for universal health care will not acknowledge Pelosi’s statement. Single payer is not off the table. It’s the people’s table, not Congress’.

Good luck to Sam and the other American heroes who remain in jail to protest our corrupt monopolistic socialized corporate welfare state insurance industry that preys upon all Americans for it’s very survival.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Public Option: Obama's Health Insurance Jobs Program

President Obama recently mentioned at a town hall on health care reform that he didn't support a single payer system because it would be too disruptive. He didn't explain what he meant by disruptive but industry professionals assume he refers to health insurance industry management and employees who would become jobless in short order under a single payer system. It's not clear if management outnumbers other employees.

Obama is keeping these insurance industry jobs on as part of the government public option plan to persist health insurance industry control over people's health care. Even without a public option, insurance companies stand to have an even better stake in the health care market. The future looks bright for health care insurance employees who will be able to continue their never ending thankless job of denying health claims to people in need of medical care.

The 45,000 people who die every year due to lack of health care and from denial of insurance as well as the 14,000 daily who lose their health insurance are apparently forsaken for the few hundred thousand jobs in the health insurance industry. What's a few hundred thousand lives and disrupted families every few years to as many well fed well paid industry office workers' jobs? We need to have at least one or two industries that continue to make record profits while the rest of us face financial ruin.

The move by Obama is in line with America's ongoing shift toward corporate welfare socialism. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not have a single payer type system to ensure all it's citizens have health care and have healthy productive lives. It's not certain if this fact is the symptom or the result of America slipping into the list of third world countries where 5% or less of the population control 95% or more of the country's wealth and power. America is no longer considered a democracy by most people who understand the meaning of the term. We are at best an oligarchy, with our government under corporate control by the wealthy few.

In light of America's failure to deliver health care, despite our advanced technology (only available to the very rich here) we now rank 37th in the world in health care. France is number one.

My suggestion is that Americans stop buying health insurance if they can avoid it. Vote with your wallet. That's the only thing these people understand.
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This video is a clip from a longer film currently in production. The title of this clip is based on Dr. Susie Baldwin's reaction to Obama's statement that a Single Payer system would be too disruptive, as seen in this video. So blame her for it.

Much of this video was shot at the recent Mad as Hell Doctors' rally in Hollywood last week. Special thanks to Dr. Jo Olson, Dr. Susie Baldwin, Dr. Paul Panacek, Dr. Nikki Mihara, and Dr. Horace Williams for their participation.

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