:: to the teeth ::    thoughts on social justice, medicine, race, hope and beats

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." :: Arundhati Roy ::

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." :: Alice Walker ::
Sunday, June 11, 2006  

Report-back from HMO "row"

Last week, I mentioned here that folks were gathering in Woodland Hills, CA (san fernando valley) to go on a "walking tour" of the headquarters of several HMOs -- putting together an innovative education and creative direct action event.

Here's a link to a podcast by the California Nurses Association around the event, and Deborah Burger (president of the california nurses association) wrote a report-back from the event, at the Huffington Post:
Everything you need to know about can be found in just one block of America, a quiet business-park block in a San Fernando Valley town named Woodland Hills. Here we find such the headquarters of such titans of the healthcare world as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Wellpoint, Health Net, and Meridian Healthcare Management.

In just this handful of companies, we find the three values that mark today's system of big-business healthcare: denial of care, cash register politics, and huge profits amidst a growing crisis.

Our tour guide Sue Cannon, RN, starts at Blue Cross, to talk about the corporate need to save money by denying care--hardly the way a health CARE system is supposed to work. We're at Blue Cross because they've just been sued by numerous patients who've for"retroactive denial of coverage." Here's how that works: you get sick and Blue Cross approves a certain medical procedure. Then they go over your original application to see if they can find any inconsistencies; if so, they boot you out of the system, and leave you with the bills they just approved...

Our final stop is WellPoint, to discuss the disparity between huge healthcare industry profits and the growing crisis of the uninsured. WellPoint used to be a for-profit division of non-profit Blue Cross. Subsequently, it bought Blue Cross of California, turning the whole organization for-profit. Why? In the words of one stock analyst, to "liberate them from their social responsibilities." This liberation led to $2.5 billion in profits in 2005, and $157 million in direct compensation to their top five executives over the past three years. Yet HMOs have led the fight against a universal healthcare system based on a single standard of care for all, despite the fact that some 50 million Americans and over 6 million Californians have no health insurance.

Denial of care, cash register politics, and record profits from a health care crisis. That's the health care system we enjoy in America today. Thousands of people die unnecessarily each year because of this, and every year we fall further behind countries like Canada and England that haven't handed their health care off to big corporations like these in Woodland Hills.
And, I just received an update from CNA organizer Joseph Newlin on an upcoming CNA day of action:
July 11 is going to be a major day of action around the country to protest an anticipated ruling from the National Labor Relations Board that would re-classify thousands of nurses as supervisors and make them ineligible for union membership.
Reclassify nurses as supervisors because they make clinical patient care assignments to other staff? (rendering them incapable of having union representation) What? More information here. Can we think of other creative ways to exacerbate the critical shortage of nurses in our country?

I'm sure the national Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) union, of which our hospital's resident physicians are well organized around and which is part of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), will be working with the CNA on this action. I'll keep ya'll updated. If we don't support our nurses, who are the backbone of our healthcare system, the system will will go to hell in a bigass diaper and no amount of policywonking or healthcare reform will matter.

posted by Anjali Taneja | 6/11/2006 12:57:00 PM | |


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