Healthcare: Out With the Old, In With the New

Lindsay E. Beyerstein

An exciting week in health care news: the Bush administration is racing to take away as many reproductive rights as it can before leaving office. Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress are taking the lead on healthcare reform.

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

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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 complimentary. 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 and deny rape
victims emergency contraception and push the country one step closer to

The proposed rule would prevent any entity that receives federal
funds (e.g., hospitals, universities, etc.) to require 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.

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