Daily Pulse: “I Love My Socialist Kidney”

Lindsay Beyerstein

To most Americans, single-payer health care seems like political science fiction, but most don’t realize we already have single-payer options: Medicare (for the aged) and Medicaid (for the poor). Jennifer Nix knows first hand about single payer....

This article appears in partnership with The Media Consortium, of which Rewire is a member organization.

Lindsay Beyerstein interviews Jennifer Nix: Listen here. Nix is a journalist and the publisher of Guernica Magazine. She published an essay in Salon this week about her personal and political history with single-payer health care titled “I Love My Socialist Kidney.”

To most Americans, single-payer health care seems like political
science fiction; a bold idea that could never happen here. Most people
don’t realize that the U.S. already has single-payer options for
certain groups of people. The familiar examples are Medicare (for the
aged) and Medicaid (for the poor). My guest Jennifer Nix knows first
hand about another group of Americans who get single payer health care:
Patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) who need dialysis or
kidney transplants.

In 2008, Nix learned that she had inherited the same cystic kidney
disease that nearly killed her father in the early seventies. In 1972,
Wayne Nix was a young schoolteacher with two small children, a new
mortgage, and renal failure. Dialysis was astronomically expensive and
private insurers refused to cover patients with ESRD. Luckily for the
Nix family, activists successfully lobbied to create Medicare ESRD, a
program that has since helped over 1 million Americans survive with
ESRD since 1973, regardless of their ability to pay.

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Amazingly, the program enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the
seventies. It was assumed that covering ESRD patients was just a
stop-gap to tide them over until universal health care covered
everyone. Even Republican president Richard Nixon was on board with the
idea. As we all know, we’re still waiting for universal health care.
Luckily, when Jennifer Nix found out she needed a kidney transplant,
the Medicare ESRD was still there for her. If single-payer works for
one disease, Nix argues, why shouldn’t all Americans enjoy the same
health security?

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Analysis Health Systems

The World’s “Finest Healthcare System,” Senator McConnell? I Don’t Think So

Casey Martinson

Much has been made already of Sen. McConnell’s seeming disregard for the issue of those 30 million uninsured Americans. But what about this contention that the Affordable Care Act is a “Western European system?” McConnell needs a fact check.

When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appeared on Fox News Sunday earlier this month to advocate repealing the Affordable Care Act, host Chris Wallace wanted to know how his party would address the fact that 30 million Americans have no health insurance. After twice refusing to answer the question, he finally said that providing universal coverage to those uninsured people was “not the issue.” He then went on to assert that US already has “the finest health-care system in the world.”

“Let me tell you what we’re not gonna do,” he continued, “We’re not gonna turn the American healthcare system into a Western European system. That’s exactly what is at the heart of Obamacare.”

Much has been made already of Sen. McConnell’s seeming disregard for the issue of those 30 million uninsured Americans. But what about this contention that the Affordable Care Act is a “Western European system?”

The term “Western European system” is a bit misleading since there are well over a dozen countries in Western Europe, and each system is unique. It’s true that most have some form of “universal” health insurance or health care, but there is still a lot of variation on how these systems are financed and implemented.

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But even if we were to carelessly lump all Western European systems together, the fact is that the Affordable Care Act goes nowhere near such systems: there’s no public option, no Medicare-for-all, no single payer. Universal public healthcare is just not on the table under the reforms that were passed. Even with the Medicaid expansion, most newly insured Americans will be covered by the private insurance market.

Now how about this idea that the American healthcare system is already “the finest” in the world? How do we stack up against good old Western Europe?

Sorry, Sen. McConnell, but the facts are not on your side. Take a look at the World Health Organization’s hefty compilation of 2012 World Health Statistics. With a little basic number crunching, you can easily see how “Western Europe”* (on average) stacks up against “the finest” system in the world:

Life Expectancy?  Western Europe: 80.6 years.  United States: 79.  Europe wins, if even by only a year and a half.

Neonatal Mortality (Deaths per 1,000 live births)? Western Europe: 2.1; United States: 4.  Almost twice as many neonatal deaths here in the US. That can’t be good.

Maternal Mortality (Deaths per 100,000 live births)?  Western Europe: 7.4.  United States: 21.  Yikes! Almost three times as many maternal deaths.

Hospital Beds (per 10,000 residents)?  Western Europe: 50.  United States: 30. The capacity of Western European hospitals is clearly greater.

Teen Pregnancy (pregnancies per 1,000 girls age 15-19)? Western Europe: 10.9.
United States: 40.  But who needs comprehensive sex ed and expanded access to family planning services, right?

Total Expenditure on Healthcare as a Percentage of Gross Domestic Product? 
Western Europe: 10.3 percent.  United States: 17.6 percent.  And they spend relatively less money overall.

Government Expenditure on Healthcare as a Percentage of Total Health Care Spending?  Western Europe: 76.6 percent.  United States: 47.7 percent.  Hmm….Seems like government spending is proportionately higher in these countries that are beating us on so many levels. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions there.

I’d like to also point out that Western Europe doesn’t only surpass us on average. In fact, every single country across the pond is doing better than we are in almost every area.**

Since neither our current system, nor the system we’ll have when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented will approximate anything they have in Western Europe, we’re not likely to see Western European results like those outlined above.

But the very good news is that the ACA is a tremendous step in the right direction that will result in better outcomes across the board, starting with the measures that are already (or soon to be) in place: extended eligibility for young people covered by their parent’s insurance, preventive health services without co-pays, an end to higher premiums for women, no more pre-existing conditions, and so on.

Sen. McConnell can talk all he wants about repealing these benefits, but the more they are understood by the American public, the less popular such talk will be. In the wake of the Supreme Court smack-down on repealers’ dreams of going back to the same-old-same-old, a majority of Americans say it’s time to move on and focus on jobs and the economy — you know, the issues that people were so fired up about when they voted to shake up congress in 2010. If the only the GOP had spent the last two years working on those issues instead of waging a war on birth control.


*For our purposes, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

**Here are the exceptions: Portugal has the same average life expectancy as we do. Luxembourg’s maternal mortality is almost as high (20 vs our 21). Sweden has fewer hospital beds per 10,000 residents (28 vs our 30).

Roundup: Carhart’s Maryland Clinic Opens to a “Pray Out”

Robin Marty

The doors to Dr. Carhart's new clinic in Maryland open today, but anti-choice activists are praying a condo meeting this afternoon may shut it down.

Dr. Leroy Carhart has announced his plans to open multiple new clinics throughout the country now that his Nebraska clinic will no longer be allowed to provide abortions to women past 22 weeks gestation.  The first of these, in Maryland, opens its doors today, and the reception is, frankly, about what you would expect.

Via the Baltimore Sun:

Anti- abortion activists say they plan to protest at a Germantown clinic staffed by a Nebraska late-term abortion doctor.

Organizers say activists, clergy and others plan to picket Monday morning at the Reproductive Health Services clinic in Germantown.

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Dr. LeRoy Carhart has said he wants to ensure more women have access to the procedure by expanding to states where it remains legal. A new Nebraska law does not allow abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The protesters will be a regular feature in front of the clinic site in the hopes that they can force the new startup to close through pressure from other businesses in the area, who they will also try to disrupt business for, according to the Washington Post.

Organizers said they plan to stage regular, peaceful demonstrations as long as Carhart is working at the clinic. By holding regular protests, they hope other businesses in the office park will put pressure on Carhart to leave, [Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition] said.

Some business owners in the office park said news of Carhart’s planned arrival took them by surprise. They said they were unhappy about the planned protests.

“I don’t like looking at those bloody signs,” said lawyer Alice Pare, whose office faces the public sidewalk where demonstrators are allowed to gather. “They get kind of vulgar.”

Dentist Leslie Sabo, whose office faces the same sidewalk, said he was concerned about “the type of notoriety” associated with Carhart and the business impact of prolonged protests.

Mahoney, of the Christian Defense Coalition, said his organization has been contacted by business owners in the office condominium association who are upset about publicity surrounding Carhart. He declined to identify them.

At their request, his organization is providing legal assistance to the condo association to determine whether it can block Carhart from working at the clinic, he said.

Meanwhile, anti-abortion activists are planning to “pray out Carhart,” but they will also hit his condo association board meeting today, just in case that helps, too.

Keep up the prayers! We found out last night that the Condo Association
that controls the Business Park where Carhart will be practicing is having an
EMERGENCY
meeting on Monday at 12noon…DURING OUR PRAYER VIGIL!
Ask God to move on that meeting and lead the association to not only
Kick Out Carhart, but Kick Out the Abortion Center.

Please join us at the event on Monday, 11am in Germantown.

In Maryland, abortions are only legal after viability in cases of health problems for fetus and/or mother.  So who would Dr. Carhart be assisting at this new clinic?  Couples like this:

As the article opened, the husband, whom we’ll call Hank, described the three weeks leading up to his and his wife’s final decision that an abortion was necessary. As he depicted his wife, whom we’ll call Molly, grief seemed to seep out of his words. Hank noted her incessant tears in the weeks prior, and it was evident that his heart broke as he watched Molly’s heart break.

The morning finally came in which they were to go to the local women’s clinic. As Hank and Molly stepped out of their car upon their arrival, they were horrified to hear a group of protesters across the street labeling Molly a murderer.

Hank did not go into much detail about the protestors other than to make it clear they were Christians; however, he wrote something I will never forget. “I’ve never believed in heaven or hell. But there is a hell on Earth. Hell is sitting next to the person you love most and listening to her wail hysterically because her heart just broke into a million pieces. Hell is watching her entire body convulse with sobs because she’s being tortured with grief.”

Upon reading this, I was at a loss for words, and my eyes filled with tears.

As I continued reading, my tears only intensified. You see, Molly and Hank had not originally planned on having an abortion at all. Three weeks prior, their unborn baby had been diagnosed with Sirenomelia, a congenital deformity in which the baby’s legs were fused together. What’s worse, the baby would have been born without a kidney or bladder—a zero percent chance of survival. They had finally come to the conclusion that an abortion was necessary, because Molly couldn’t bear the thought of birthing a precious baby only to watch it die hours later.

Mini Roundup:  Need some “different” birth control ideas?  How about a tummy tattoo, or some crocodile poop?

December 6, 2010

December 5, 2010

December 4, 2010

December 3, 2010