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US Health Care System

Current US Health Care System Problems

Project: US Health Care System
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Mark Colombo, 57, is told by a heart specialist at Redding Medical Center in California, that he needs a double bypass surgery. When he asks a surgeon for a second opinion, he is told the problem is so severe that he shouldn’t go home until after it has been done. The following day, he undergoes surgery. But months later, a Sacramento cardiologist tells him the operation was probably not necessary. In 2004, Colombo, along with more than 769 other heart patients, will sue Tenet Healthcare Corp., which owns the hospital, and settle for $395 million (see December 21, 2004). The company had allegedly performed hundreds of unnecessary bypass surgeries and other medical procedures between 1992 and 2002. [San Francisco Chronicle, 12/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Tenet Healthcare Corp.

Category Tags: US Health Care Problems

Tenet Healthcare Corp. settles with more than 769 patients over allegations that one of its hospitals, Redding Medical Center in California, performed hundreds of unnecessary operations on its patients between 1992 and 2002. A 2002 FBI affidavit alleged that perhaps as many as 50 percent of the heart surgeries and tests performed by doctors at the hospital were not necessary. Of those, as many as a quarter did not even involve patients who had serious heart issues. According to Russell Reiner, the attorney who represented about half the patients, at least 20 patients died after undergoing unnecessary heart surgery at the hospital, while other patients suffered strokes, brain damage, or amputations. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Tenet will pay the former patients $395 million. [San Francisco Chronicle, 12/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Tenet Healthcare Corp.

Category Tags: US Health Care Problems

The Family Research Council, an organization of religious and social conservatives, sends a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) protesting a department Web site that for six years has provided the public with information about gay-related health issues. Two weeks later, the entire Web site disappears. [Savage, 2007, pp. 106]

Entity Tags: US Department of Health and Human Services, Family Research Council

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: US Health Care Problems

Tenet Healthcare Corp., the country’s second largest hospital chain, agrees to a $900 million settlement with the Justice Department over allegations that it defrauded Medicare. In 2003, the company was charged with violating the False Claims Act. The government alleged that Tenet had billed for services not rendered, inflated reimbursable costs, and paid kickbacks to doctors for referrals. The company, which admits no guilt—only that it made billing “mistakes”—will pay $725 million over a four-year period to resolve the billing dispute and will forfeit its right to collect $175 million in Medicare payments for past services. Wall Street analysts had expected the amount to be well over a billion. [Reuters, 6/29/2006; US Department of Justice, 6/29/2006; Tenet Healthcare Corp., 6/29/2006 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Tenet Healthcare Corp.

Category Tags: HCA - Inflated Costs, US Health Care Problems, Medicare

Wendell Potter, a senior health care executive with the insurance giant Cigna, visits a “health care exposition” in Wise, Virginia, not far from his home town. Potter is shocked at what he sees at the Wise County Fairgrounds. As he will later recall (see July 10, 2009), he assumed he would see booths set up for people to get their blood pressure checked and so forth. What he actually sees is doctors providing a range of care in livestock stalls and tents. Some patients are treated while lying on gurneys, under a rainy sky. “And I saw people lined up, standing in line or sitting in these long, long lines, waiting to get care,” he will later say. “People drove from South Carolina and Georgia and Kentucky, Tennessee—all over the region, because they knew that this was being done. A lot of them heard about it from word of mouth. There could have been people and probably were people that I had grown up with. They could have been people who grew up at the house down the road, in the house down the road from me. And that made it real to me.… It was absolutely stunning. It was like being hit by lightning. It was almost—what country am I in? I just—it just didn’t seem to be a possibility that I was in the United States. It was like a lightning bolt had hit me.” Potter will describe himself as “insulated” from the harsh reality of American health care before visiting the expo. “I had a great job. And I had a terrific office in a high-rise building in Philadelphia. I was insulated. I didn’t really see what was going on. I saw the data. I knew that 47 million people were uninsured, but I didn’t put faces with that number.… [W]hen you’re in the executive offices, when you’re getting prepared for a call with an analyst, in the financial medium, what you think about are the numbers. You don’t think about individual people. You think about the numbers, and whether or not you’re going to meet Wall Street’s expectations. That’s what you think about, at that level. And it helps to think that way. That’s why you—that enables you to stay there, if you don’t really think that you’re talking about and dealing with real human beings.” Potter finds it difficult to reconcile his executive lifestyle with relatives and neighbors being treated in livestock stalls. He will eventually resign his position with Cigna. [PBS, 7/10/2009]

Entity Tags: Wendell Potter, Cigna

Category Tags: US Health Insurers, History of US Health Care System, US Health Care Problems

In an op-ed, the New York Times calls the idea that the US has “the best health care system in the world,” as recently stated by President Bush, or provides “the best medical care in the world,” as recently stated by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giulani, a “delusion.” “That may be true at many top medical centers,” the Times writes. “But the disturbing truth is that this country lags well behind other advanced nations in delivering timely and effective care.” The Times notes that in 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the health care systems of 191 nations. France and Italy were first and second; the US came in 37th. The Times notes a more recent study by “the highly regarded Commonwealth Fund,” which “has pioneered in comparing the United States with other advanced nations through surveys of patients and doctors and analysis of other data”; the latest Commonwealth Fund study put the US last among six highly developed nations (see May 15, 2007). “Other comparative studies also put the United States in a relatively bad light,” the Times notes.
Lack of Universal Coverage - Unlike every other major industrialized nation, the US does not provide universal health coverage. In the US, some 45 million people have no health insurance whatsoever, and millions more suffer with poor coverage. The Times writes, “Although the president has blithely said that these people can always get treatment in an emergency room, many studies have shown that people without insurance postpone treatment until a minor illness becomes worse, harming their own health and imposing greater costs.”
Lack of Access - While citizens of foreign nations often face longer waits before they can see specialists or undergo elective surgery than do Americans in comparable situations, “[t]he real barriers here are the costs facing low-income people without insurance or with skimpy coverage.” However, “even Americans with above-average incomes find it more difficult than their counterparts abroad to get care on nights or weekends without going to an emergency room, and many report having to wait six days or more for an appointment with their own doctors.”
Unfair Disparities - The dichotomy between the care provided to economically well-off Americans and their more economically challenged fellows is worse than in any other industrialized nation. “Americans with below-average incomes are much less likely than their counterparts in other industrialized nations to see a doctor when sick, to fill prescriptions, or to get needed tests and follow-up care.”
Unhealthy Living - The US ranks last among 23 nations in its infant mortality rate—more American children die in infancy than in 22 other countries. “But the problem is much broader,” the Times continues. “We rank near the bottom in healthy life expectancy at age 60, and 15th among 19 countries in deaths from a wide range of illnesses that would not have been fatal if treated with timely and effective care. The good news is that we have done a better job than other industrialized nations in reducing smoking. The bad news is that our obesity epidemic is the worst in the world.”
Varying Quality - The Commonwealth Fund study notes that the US ranks first in providing the correct care for a given condition, and does very well in providing preventative care to its citizens. But it does much worse in coordinating the care of chronically ill patients, in protecting the safety of patients, and in meeting the needs and preferences of patients. Overall, the quality of health care in the US is the lowest among the six nations profiled by the study.
Varying Survival Rates - US citizens live longer than their foreign counterparts with breast cancer, and second-longest with cervical cancer and childhood leukemia. But US citizens rank last or next-to-last in life expectancy for patients with kidney transplants, liver transplants, colorectal cancer, circulatory diseases, respiratory diseases, diabetes, bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema.
Poor Patient Satisfaction - Only 40 percent of Americans are satisfied with the nation’s health care system. Of 17 countries surveyed, the US comes in 14th. The US ranks first in negative public perceptions, with a third of Americans calling for a system-wide revamp of American health care.
Poor Use of Information Technology - American health care providers are years behind their foreign counterparts in their use of information technology, electronic medical records, electronic prescriptions, and more. “This makes it harder to coordinate care, spot errors, and adhere to standard clinical guidelines,” the Times writes.
Conclusion - “With health care emerging as a major issue in the presidential campaign and in Congress, it will be important to get beyond empty boasts that this country has ‘the best health care system in the world’ and turn instead to fixing its very real defects,” the Times concludes. “The main goal should be to reduce the huge number of uninsured, who are a major reason for our poor standing globally.… The world’s most powerful economy should be able to provide a health care system that really is the best.” [New York Times, 8/12/2007]

Entity Tags: Commonwealth Fund, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, World Health Organization, George W. Bush, New York Times

Category Tags: Other health care systems, US Health Care Costs, US Health Care Problems

Larry Niven.Larry Niven. [Source: Larry Niven]A group of science fiction writers calling themselves SIGMA is engaged in advising the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on how to protect the nation. Undersecretary of Science and Technology Jay Cohen says he likes their unconventional thinking. Two of the approximately 24 members are right-wing libertarian authors Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, who have collaborated on a number of books as well as writing numerous novels and short stories on their own. One of Niven’s more controversial ideas is to help hospitals stem financial losses by spreading rumors in Spanish within the Latino community that emergency rooms are killing patients in order to harvest their organs for transplants. Niven believes the rumors would discourage Latinos from using the nation’s emergency rooms and thus ease the burden on hospitals. “The problem [of hospitals going broke] is hugely exaggerated by illegal aliens who aren’t going to pay for anything anyway,” Niven says. Pournelle asks, somewhat jokingly, “Do you know how politically incorrect you are?” Niven replies, “I know it may not be possible to use this solution, but it does work.” [National Defense Magazine, 2/28/2008] One blogger, apparently angered by Niven’s proposal, later writes that Niven’s idea comes from his “magical, mystical fictional universe where hospitals don’t have to treat rednecks who OD on meth, insurance companies aren’t inflating the cost of hospital care, under-regulated drug companies aren’t making massive profits, and uninsured children of hardworking parents don’t fall off skateboards.” [Mark Frauenfelder, 3/28/2008]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, Jay Cohen, Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, SIGMA

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: Defense of corporate interests, US Health Insurers, US Health Care Problems

John LaBruzzo.John LaBruzzo. [Source: Daniel Erath / Times-Picayune]Louisiana State Representative John LaBruzzo (R-Metarie) says he is considering a legislative proposal to offer poor women $1,000 to be sterilized. LaBruzzo says that poor people who receive government aid such as food stamps and publicly subsidized housing are reproducing at a faster rate than more affluent, better-educated people. Offering poor women money to have their fallopian tubes “tied” would lower their birth rates, LaBruzzo explains. “We’re on a train headed to the future and there’s a bridge out,” he says of what he calls potentially dangerous demographic trends. “And nobody wants to talk about it.… What I’m really studying is any and all possibilities that we can reduce the number of people that are going from generational welfare to generational welfare.” Such payments would be voluntary, he says, and might include other forms of birth control, including vasectomies for men. He would also consider tax incentives for college-educated, higher-income couples to have more children. LaBruzzo, who represents the same district that sent former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke to the Louisiana State House in 1989, is receiving criticism that calls his proposal racist, sexist, unethical, and immoral. LaBruzzo counters that since more white people are on welfare than black people, his proposal is not targeting race. “It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, he’s a racist,’” LaBruzzo says. “The hard part is to sit down and think of some solutions.” LaBruzzo is opposed to abortion in any form, and describes his sterilization program proposal as providing poor people with better opportunities to avoid welfare, because they would have fewer children to feed and clothe. [New Orleans Times-Picayune, 9/23/2008]

Entity Tags: John LaBruzzo, David Duke

Category Tags: Abortion controversy & violence, US Health Care Problems

During the year, a number of states enact over 77 laws and other measures that affect reproductive rights, a sharp upturn from the 33 enacted in 2008. Some of these laws protect and enhance reproductive rights (see 2009), others restrict them. Some of the restrictive laws are as follows:
bullet Arizona adopts what the Guttmacher Institute calls “a massive omnibus measure that essentially revamps abortion policy in the state,” requiring in-person counseling, long waiting periods before a woman can legally seek an abortion, and new restrictions on minors seeking abortions; the measure restricts the performance of abortion procedures to physicians only and grants providers new rights to refuse to participate in abortion-related services. The new measure is shepherded through the state legislature by Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ), a strong opponent of abortion rights. Many of the new measures are not in effect due to legal challenges. Eighteen other states attempt to enact measures relating to parental involvement in attempts by minors to seek abortions, but fail.
bullet Arizona, Kansas, North Dakota, and Ohio adopt laws requiring abortion providers to post signs informing women that they cannot be coerced into having abortions, and encouraging their clients to contact authorities or clinic staff if they feel they have been subjected to such pressure.
bullet Arizona and Arkansas adopt measures restricting so-called “partial-birth abortions” similar to a federal ban upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007 (see April 17, 2007). In all, 17 states have such restrictions. Utah tightens the availability of such late-term abortions in its laws. A measure that would have entirely banned “partial-birth abortions” and restricted other such procedures was vetoed in Kansas.
bullet Iowa, Maryland, and Minnesota continue existing prohibitions on public funding for abortion.
bullet Kansas and Nebraska enact laws requiring that women seeking abortions after 19 weeks’ gestation be given information on the availability of ultrasound procedures. In all, 16 states now have similar requirements on the books.
bullet Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, and Washington enact substantial cuts in family planning programs.
bullet North Dakota enacts a law requiring women seeking abortions to be told that the procedure will “terminate the life of a whole, separate, and unique human being.” Similar provisions were enacted by the Kansas legislature, but vetoed by Governor Mark Parkinson (D-KS).
bullet Oklahoma enacts laws banning abortions for purposes of “sex selection,” and institutes what the Guttmacher Institute calls “intrusive abortion reporting requirements” that will result in making private information about women seeking abortions public (see November 1, 2009).
bullet Utah requires women seeking abortions to be provided with information on the purported ability of a fetus to feel pain, information many medical providers consider false. The state also institutes an “Abortion Litigation Trust Account” to cover the cost of defending the state against legal challenges filed against its anti-abortion laws.
bullet Tennessee joins six other states in restricting access to contraceptive services.
bullet Virginia authorizes the sale of license plates with the “Choose Life” slogan, and earmarks profits from the sale of those plates to fund “crisis pregnancy centers” (see April 2006) across the state. Twenty-one states now offer such license plates. [Guttmacher Institute, 1/2010]

Entity Tags: Mark Parkinson, Guttmacher Institute, Jan Brewer

Category Tags: Abortion controversy & violence, US Health Care Costs, US Health Care Problems

During the year, a number of states enact over 77 laws and other measures that affect reproductive rights, a sharp upturn from the 33 enacted in 2008. Some of these laws restrict reproductive rights (see 2009), others protect and enhance them. Some of the latter are as follows:
bullet California, Iowa, and Minnesota refuse to enact cuts in funding family planning programs.
bullet Colorado, in a move designed to protect contraceptive services from state restrictions on abortion, adopts a law formally defining contraception as any method used to prevent a pregnancy from occurring.
bullet Georgia and Wisconsin expand Medicaid recipients’ access to contraception, joining 19 other states with similar mandates.
bullet Hawaii and North Carolina enact laws requiring that sex education provided in public schools be medically accurate and include a discussion of contraception; in all, 17 states require inclusion of contraception in sex education curricula. North Carolina also mandates abstinence-only education and a discussion of sexually transmitted diseases.
bullet Illinois, North Dakota, Utah, and Vermont expand access to STI (sexually transmitted infections) treatment and prevention.
bullet Oregon enacts a new law to reduce the incidence of HPV (human papillomavirus) infections, joining five other states with such legal mandates.
bullet Utah and Virginia adopt laws designed to expand access to emergency contraception to women who have been sexually assaulted. In all, 12 states have similar provisions.
bullet Wisconsin passes a law requiring private insurance plans to cover contraceptive services and supplies under most circumstances; 27 states mandate similar coverage. [Guttmacher Institute, 1/2010]

Category Tags: Abortion controversy & violence, US Health Care Problems, Medicaid

The California Nurses Association (CNA) releases the results of a study which found “a national single-payer style health care reform system would provide a major stimulus for the US economy by creating 2.6 million new jobs, and infusing $317 billion in new business and public revenues, with another $100 billion in wages into the US economy.” The study was conducted by the Institute for Health & Socio-Economic Policy (IHSP), a “non-profit policy and research group” that is “the exclusive research arm of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.” In addition to the growth in jobs and revenues generated by covering the 47 million Americans who were uninsured as of 2006, the study also found that universal coverage “could be achieved for $63 billion beyond the current $2.1 trillion in direct health care spending,” according to the press release for the study, which also notes that this figure is “six times less than the federal bailout for CitiGroup, and less than half the federal bailout for AIG.” [CalNurses.org, 1/14/2009]

Entity Tags: Institute for Health & Socio-Economic Policy, California Nurses Association

Category Tags: Health Care Cost, Studies-Academic, History of US Health Care System, Obama Health Care Reform, Other health care systems, US Health Care Costs, US Health Care Problems

Dave Schultheis.Dave Schultheis. [Source: NowPublic (.com)]Colorado Republican State Senator Dave Schultheis votes against a bill requiring pregnant women to be tested for HIV so their unborn children can be treated to prevent the virus’s transfer. Instead, Schultheis says the babies should be allowed to have HIV so as to punish the mother’s actions. “This [HIV] stems from sexual promiscuity for the most part, and I just can’t go there,” he says. “We do things continually to remove the consequences of poor behavior, unacceptable behavior, quite frankly. I’m not convinced that part of the role of government should be to protect individuals from the negative consequences of their actions.” Lois Tochtrop, a Democratic Senator who co-sponsored the bill, replies: “HIV does not just come from sexual promiscuity. It comes from many other things, contaminated blood for one.” Fellow Democrat Jennifer Veiga calls Schultheis’s comments “shameful.” Minority Leader Josh Penry, the leader of the Senate Republicans, says he has no intention of muzzling the members of his caucus, though he says he has reminded his colleagues “we should never lose sight of the humanity of people on the other side of an issue.” Penry accuses Senate Democrats of attempting to “gin up the outrage machine,” and says Democrats have made their share of questionable comments. The bill in question has the support of every Senate Republican except Schultheis; Penry is a co-sponsor. Schultheis’s is the only “no” vote. House member Marsha Looper is one of the few Republicans to question Schultheis’s comments, and the Senate Republican leadership’s failure to publicly criticize his remarks. “What are they doing over there?” she asks. “I find their comments inappropriate and offensive, and I question their motives.” Former Governor Bill Owens, a Republican, says he cannot understand Schultheis’s vote: “It’s extremely inconsistent for any person who is pro-life to oppose this effort to potentially save the life of a child.” For his part, Schultheis answers Democratic criticism by making further comments which many find even more offensive. “What I’m hoping is that yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that,’ he says. “The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity and it may make a number of people over the coming years… begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior. We can’t keep people from being raped. We can’t keep people from shooting each other. We can’t keep people from jumping off bridges. People drink and drive, and they crash and kill people. Poor behavior has its consequences.” [Rocky Mountain News, 2/25/2009; Denver Post, 2/26/2009]

Entity Tags: Marsha Looper, Bill Owens, Dave Schultheis, Jennifer Veiga, Josh Penry, Lois Tochtrop

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: US Health Care Problems, HIV/AIDS Epidemic

Pie chart showing the focus of New York State’s stem cell research.Pie chart showing the focus of New York State’s stem cell research. [Source: New York State Stem Cell Science]President Obama lifts restrictions on federal funding for research on new stem cell lines. Promising to “vigorously support” new research, Obama’s decision reverses the Bush administration’s policy of blocking government spending for researching human embroynic stem cell lines created after August 9, 2001. “When it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced into what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values,” Obama says during the signing ceremony. “In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering.” Obama says the decision authorizes the change “so many scientists and researchers and doctors and innovators, patients and loved ones have hoped for and fought for these past eight years.” Scientists say the new research will lead to a variety of medical breakthroughs, and polls show most Americans support the research. Some religious and social conservative groups oppose the research, as does the Vatican. Obama promises that the government will never fund research into human cloning or other such controversial areas of study. Using discarded embryos for stem cell research is routine in private clinics, but illegal under Bush’s 2001 executive order. Analysts say that the policy change is part of Obama’s pledge to make clear that his administration wants scientific research to be free from political interference. [BBC, 3/9/2009; Guardian, 3/10/2009]
Praise for Decision - The co-director of Harvard University’s stem cell research institute, Doug Melton, says: “It is a relief to know that we can now collaborate openly and freely with other scientists in our own university and elsewhere, without restrictions on what equipment, data, or ideas can be shared.… Science thrives when there is an open and collaborative exchange, not when there are artificial barriers, silos, constructed by the government.” Harvard spokesman B. D. Colen says that the practical effects of the Obama reversal will be dramatic: “This will mean the end of the quite onerous bookkeeping and segregation of supplies, equipment, and people that were necessary under the Bush executive order,” he says. “Literally, you could not pick up a pencil off a bench if you were working with embryonic stem cells.” [Guardian, 3/10/2009] Peter Wilderotter, president of the Christopher and Dana Foundation, praises Obama for “removing politics from science” and freeing researchers. Wilderotter leads a foundation created by actor Christopher Reeve, whose fall from a horse paralyzed him and led him to die at a relatively early age. Reeve believed that stem cell research could find a treatment for his condition. Obama says that Reeve dreamed of being able to walk again, and adds: “Christopher did not get that chance. But if we pursue this research, maybe one day—maybe not in our lifetime, or even in our children’s lifetime—but maybe one day, others like him might.” [BBC, 3/9/2009; Guardian, 3/10/2009]
Republican Criticism - House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) decries the decision, and accuses Obama of undermining “protections for innocent life, further dividing our nation at a time when we need greater unity to tackle the challenges before us.” Political correspondent and pundit Chris Cillizza writes: “The stem cell signing—like the economic stimulus bill—is an example of the two different tracks that Obama and Republicans are currently on. Obama, with his base solidly on his side, is making policy with broad support among independents. Republicans, on the other hand, remain in the wilderness and are looking to rebuild from core principles.” [BBC, 3/9/2009]

Entity Tags: Chris Cillizza, Barack Obama, Peter Wilderotter, B.D. Colen, John Boehner, Obama administration, Doug Melton

Category Tags: US Health Care Problems

BlueCross BlueShield logo.BlueCross BlueShield logo. [Source: TopNews (.us)]Health insurers have mobilized tens of thousands of employees to fight against the Democrats’ health care reform initiative, according to reports by the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. The insurance industry’s primary motive seems to be financial gain, according to the Times reporters. Many of the nation’s largest insurers, including UnitedHealth, have urged their employees to become involved in protesting health care reform, and provided advocacy “hot line” telephone numbers, printed “talking points,” sample “letters to the editor,” and other materials in almost every Congressional district throughout the nation. And many insurers, including BlueCross Blue Shield, have sponsored anti-reform television ads targeting conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats, many of whom are considered vulnerable to pressure from the industry. The insurance industry is paying for over 900 lobbyists, spending $35 million in the first half of 2009 lobbying Congress and the White House. AFL-CIO spokesman Gerald Shea says: “They have beaten us six ways to Sunday. Any time we want to make a small change to provide cost relief, they find a way to make it more profitable.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/24/2009; Wall Street Journal, 8/24/2009]
Jamming the 'Town Halls' - Insurers like UnitedHealth and others are sending their employees to “town hall” meetings to protest against reform. The Journal reports, “[T]he industry employees come armed with talking points about the need for bipartisan legislation and the unintended consequences of a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers.” But they are instructed not to become contentious and argumentative, according to a “Town Hall Tips” memo provided by the industry’s chief lobbying organization, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP—see Before August 6, 2009). The memo warns those attending the meetings to expect criticism, and to stay calm. “It is important not to take the bait,” the memo cautions. AHIP president Karen Ignagni says the town hall meetings are an opportunity “to strongly push back against charges that we have very high profits. It’s very important that our men and women… calmly provide the facts and for members of Congress to hear what these people do every day.” Larry Loew, who works for the insurance administration firm Cornerstone Group, says he attended a recent town hall meeting hosted by Representative Alan Mollohan (D-WV) because “my whole industry is being threatened.” Loew claims he was not coached by AHIP, but admits to preparing for the meeting by gathering talking points from hospital and insurance company Web sites. AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach says about 50,000 employees have been engaged in writing letters and making phone calls to politicians or attending town hall meetings. [Wall Street Journal, 8/24/2009]
'Hallelujah!' - One industry proposal that is gaining traction among some in Congress is the so-called “individual mandate,” which would require all citizens to buy some form of health insurance. That provision would guarantee insurers tens of millions of new customers—many of which would receive government subsidies to help pay the premiums. Robert Laszewski, a former health insurance executive who now heads the consulting firm Health Policy and Strategy Associates, says of the provision, “It’s a bonanza.” The industry’s reaction to early negotiations can, Laszewski says, be summed up in a single word: “Hallelujah!” Linda Blumberg, a health policy analyst at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, says, “The insurers are going to do quite well” with health care reform. “They are going to have this very stable pool, they’re going to have people getting subsidies to help them buy coverage, and… they will be paid the full costs of the benefits that they provide—plus their administrative costs.” Aetna’s chief executive, Ron Williams, says: “We have to get everyone into the insurance market. That is a huge, big deal [and] everyone has coalesced around that.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/24/2009; Wall Street Journal, 8/24/2009]
Battling the Public Option, - Insurers have fought most strongly against the so-called “public option,” which would create a government-run, non-profit alternative to private health insurance. Some polls are showing public support for the public option has declined, and stock prices for the insurance corporations have tracked upwards. Other insurance industry proposals are gaining ground. The Senate Finance Committee is considering a proposal to lower the proposed mandatory reimbursement rate for insurers to policyholders from 76 percent to 65 percent, and the industry is pressuring Congress to lower the limit that insurers must meet to cover a policyholder’s medical bills, leaving more of the money it gleans from premiums as profits. “These are a bad deal for consumers,” says J. Robert Hunter, a former Texas insurance commissioner who works with the Consumer Federation of America. Insurance companies would reap huge profits by providing less insurance “per premium dollar,” he says. Former Cigna executive Wendell Potter says, “It would be quite a windfall” for the insurance industry. [Los Angeles Times, 8/24/2009]

Entity Tags: Consumer Federation of America, UnitedHealth Group, Urban Institute, Wall Street Journal, BlueCross Blue Shield, Alan Mollohan, Senate Finance Committee, AFL-CIO, Aetna, America’s Health Insurance Plans, Wendell Potter, Robert Laszewski, Health Policy and Strategy Associates, Gerald Shea, Cornerstone Group, J. Robert Hunter, Robert Zirkelbach, Ron Williams, Linda Blumberg, Karen Ignagni, Larry Loew, Los Angeles Times

Category Tags: Obama Health Care Reform, US Health Care Problems, US Health Insurers

Health insurance corporations defend their use of “rescissions,” or denials of care due to what they term “pre-existing conditions” among their customers. Washington Post reporters interview Los Angeles businesswoman Sally Marrari, who in 2006 had her coverage canceled by Blue Cross & Blue Shield after the firm claimed she had withheld information from them about a back problem. Marrari was undergoing treatment for a thyroid disorder, a heart problem, and lupus. After her coverage was canceled, Marrari was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and quickly racked up over $200,000 in medical bills. She says she had no idea at the time that she had any back issues. She is currently suing the company, and is getting health care by trading office visits for work on her doctor’s 1969 Porsche at the garage she owns with her husband. Marrari’s tale is one of many cited by the Post as illustrative of the insurance industry’s unpopular practice. The Post writes, “Tales of cancellations have fueled outrage among regulators, analysts, doctors, and, not least, plaintiffs’ lawyers, who describe insurers as too eager to shed patients to widen profits.” Insurance company spokespersons claim to have little knowledge of just how and why particular patients are subjected to rescission, and Congressional investigators point to a patchwork of state laws and policies which lead to confusion. Since 2008, California’s five largest insurers have paid almost $19 million in fines for unfairly canceling policyholders’ insurance after those clients filed claims. One insurer, Health Net, has admitted to offering bonuses to employees for finding reasons to cancel policies. Gerald Kominski of the Center for Health Policy says: “This is probably the most egregious of examples of health insurers using their power and their resources to deny benefits to people who are most in need of care. It’s really a horrendous activity on the part of the insurers.” But insurers say the rescissions are necessary to combat fraud among policyholders. An Anthem Blue Cross spokeswoman says: “We do not rescind a policyholder’s coverage because someone on the policy gets sick. We have put in place a thorough process with multiple steps to ensure that we are as fair and as accurate as we can be in making these difficult decisions.” Blue Cross has been fined $11 million over the last two years by California state overseers, and required to reinstate dozens of canceled policies. Officials from three insurance companies recently told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee they had saved $300 million by canceling about 20,000 policies over five years. [Washington Post, 9/8/2009]

Entity Tags: BlueCross Blue Shield, Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, Sally Marrari, Gerald Kominski, Health Net

Category Tags: US Health Insurers, US Health Care Problems

Frances Kissling.Frances Kissling. [Source: University of Pennsylvania]Frances Kissling, the former head of pro-choice organization Catholics for a Free Choice, writes that the pro-choice movement made a grievous mistake in not successfully opposing the so-called “Hyde Amendment,” which since 1976 has denied federal funding for abortions in most instances (see September 30, 1976). Kissling is spurred to write in part by President Obama’s recent characterization of the Hyde Amendment as an “American tradition.” She writes: “It seems that pro-choice legislators, following the president’s lead, now explicitly consider that throwing women who cannot afford to pay for their own abortions under the bus is a reasonable compromise between those who favor and those who oppose legal abortion and a sensible concession to those who think abortion is immoral. The compromise is the logical outcome of one of Roe’s essential weaknesses: the fact that the constitutional right to abortion was based on the principle of privacy rather than non-discrimination. A private right, even a fundamental one, did not, according to the Supreme Court, require the state to pay for its implementation.” Kissling notes that in the years when Hyde was under consideration, the nascent pro-choice movement, in a decision “[b]ased substantially on the advice of direct-mail and political consultants,” decided to let Hyde go through without serious opposition, and focused instead on the “less real” threat of an anti-abortion constitutional amendment. Kissling writes: “The advice was clear and classist. It accepted the racism that lay buried in middle class hostility to poor women, ‘welfare queens,’ and the ‘sexually promiscuous’—all those who might be expected to look to Medicaid to pay for abortions—whom the rest of us should not support.” In hindsight, Kissling writes: “[n]ot concentrating on overturning Hyde was arguably the worst decision the mainstream choice movement made.… [T]he largely unchallenged Hyde Amendment emboldened anti-abortion groups to pick off powerless constituencies one at a time.” Instead of working to restore federal funding for abortions for women unable to pay for their own procedures, the pro-choice movement has, Kissling writes, taken on far more unpopular issues such as so-called “partial-birth” abortions (see April 1996 and November 5, 2003), but has never mounted a clear and unified challenge to Hyde. Kissling calls on the pro-choice movement to mount just such a challenge, and to continue to do so until Hyde is overturned. [Women's Media Center, 1/3/2010]

Entity Tags: Frances Kissling, Barack Obama

Category Tags: Abortion controversy & violence, US Health Care Costs, US Health Care Problems, Medicaid

Bob Marshall.Bob Marshall. [Source: Chicago Now (.com)]Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall, a Republican, says that disabled children are God’s way of punishing women who have had abortions. Marshall makes his statement at a press conference outlining his opposition to Virginia funding for Planned Parenthood. “The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically,” he says. “Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children.… In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.” Dean Nelson, head of the Network of Politically Active Christians, says at the same press conference that Planned Parenthood is an “unethical, immoral, and racist” organization because it includes abortions in its comprehensive care for women, and says it should change its name to “Klan Parenthood” because its founder, Margaret Sanger, made statements some considered racist in the 1930s. At the same conference, the Reverend Joe Ellison says he is “declaring war against Planned Parenthood.… We’re asking pastors to shut them down in the community. We’re asking pastors to pray them out. And we’re asking Planned Parenthood to leave our children alone.” Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) opposes continued funding for Planned Parenthood. A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood says the only Virginia funding it receives is from Medicaid reimbursements; in 2009, the organization received $35,000 in state funds. Marshall later denies any intention of insulting disabled children, and implies that his words were misquoted or misconstrued. In a post on his Web site, he writes: “No one who knows me or my record would imagine that I believe or intended to communicate such an offensive notion. I have devoted a generation of work to defending disabled and unwanted children, and have always maintained that they are special blessings to their parents. Nevertheless, I regret any misimpression my poorly chosen words may have created as to my deep commitment to fighting for these vulnerable children and their families.” [Gainesville Times, 2/22/2010; CBS News, 2/22/2010] Video of Marshall’s statement proves that his words were reported accurately. [Right Wing Watch, 2/23/2010] A day after the news breaks in the press, Jean Winegardner, a writer and the mother of an autistic child, lambasts Marshall’s statements in a post on the Washington Times Web site. She writes in part: “Mr. Marshall, I don’t much care that you have reinterpreted your statements after they came under fire. What I do care about is that you told my disabled child—and every other disabled child—that he is a punishment, that he is less than, that he is wrong. You have also told him that his mother is wrong. You have created a situation where someone has to be to blamed for disability. You say that you have ‘devoted a generation of work to defending disabled and unwanted children.’ I don’t know your record because I haven’t followed your career, but working to defend children starts by accepting them as valued and right. You can’t say in one breath that these children are fundamentally flawed by their mother’s ‘sin’ and then turn around and claim to defend them. If you really do support people with disabilities… treat them with respect. Show us with your actions that you really do value this segment of society. Prove us doubters wrong by standing up tall for individuals with disabilities. And always remember that words hurt—just as your words hurt me and my family. My disabled child has never and will never be a punishment. I value him, love him, and am grateful for his perfect autistic existence every day of his and my life. His being is a gift, and could never be described as ‘nature’s vengeance.’” [Washington Times, 2/23/2010]

Entity Tags: Margaret Sanger, Joe Ellison, Dean Nelson, Bob Marshall, Jean Winegardner, Planned Parenthood, Bob McDonnell

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: US Health Care Problems, Medicaid

Fox News host Glenn Beck, touting his “Plan” for government entitlement spending, tells his viewers: “Tomorrow, we’re going to roll up our sleeves and begin. We’re going to cut health care. Right now, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are 40 percent of our budget. They’re going away. It’s going to be ugly, a lot of crying, but America needs a cure.” [Media Matters, 4/12/2010; Media Matters, 9/7/2010]

Entity Tags: Glenn Beck, Fox News

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: US Health Care Polls, US Health Care Problems, Medicare, Medicaid

Conservative pundit and columnist Tucker Carlson says it is “unfortunate” that Republicans won’t “state unequivocally” that they “want to do away with” Medicare and “most” Social Security. Carlson, a guest on Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity’s broadcast, is asked by another guest, Fox News contributor Bob Beckel, “Why don’t you just state unequivocally that you want to do away with Medicare, which is what the Republicans want to do, and do away with most Social Security?” Carlson replies: “Unfortunately, they don’t. Unfortunately, they don’t. Unfortunately, most Republicans in positions of elected authority are unwilling to—are unwilling to look right in the camera and say, ‘We’re going to have to pull back on entitlements.’” [Media Matters, 9/7/2010]

Entity Tags: Bob Beckel, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Fox News

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: US Health Care Problems, Medicare

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), a Fox News contributor and possible 2012 presidential candidate, castigates President Obama for being what she calls the “most pro-abortion president to occupy the White House,” and warns that health care reform will lead to more abortions in America. At an event in Dallas, Palin tells her audience: “It is even worse than what we had thought. The ramifications of this legislation are horrendous.” Palin calls on the newly elected Republican majority in the US House of Representatives to repeal the health care reform legislation passed in 2010. “The biggest advance of the abortion industry in America has been the passage of Obamacare,” she says. Although Obama signed an executive order prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortions, Palin calls the order “nonbinding” and irrelevant. She also says that the Obama administration has allowed federal funding for some “high risk” insurance pools in states that allow elective abortions. [ABC News, 11/11/2010] Liberal blogger Heather Parton, writing for her blog Hullabaloo, says Palin is “lying through her teeth. In fact, the opposite is true because the administration tightened the rules for the sickest women.… [Palin and her supporters] actually want women who are battling terrible diseases to go through impossible hoops rather than have their sacred tax dollars touch dollars that paid for a necessary abortion.” [Heather Parton, 7/17/2010; Heather Parton, 11/13/2010]

Entity Tags: Sarah Palin, Heather Parton, Barack Obama

Category Tags: Abortion controversy & violence, Obama Health Care Reform, US Health Care Problems

Republican presidential contender Ron Paul (R-TX) tells CNN talk show host Piers Morgan about his position on rape. If the woman in question is reporting what Paul calls “an honest rape,” he says that she “should go immediately to the emergency room,” where he would recommend they receive “a shot of estrogen.” Paul is a retired OB/GYN. Paul, a libertarian who opposes abortion, says that while the government should ban most abortions, he is less sure about the situation facing a woman who has been impregnated due to a rape. “A person immediately after rape?” he says to a question on the subject. “Yes, it’s a tough one. And I won’t satisfy everybody there.” He refuses to clarify what he considers to be “an honest rape,” or in exactly what situation a raped woman should be allowed to have an abortion, though he does say that “an hour after intercourse, or a day afterwards, there is no legal or medical, uh, problem.” He describes his position on the question as “in limbo.” In a column on Paul’s interview, Jessica Pieklo of the activist organization Care2 asks what Paul would consider to be “an honest rape.” “What kind of evidence would we need to show a lack of consent?” she asks. “Does a woman need to have signs she resisted? How much resistance counts before a rape goes from being ‘fraudulent’ to being ‘honest’? Can spousal rape ever be ‘honest’? What about other forms of familial rape? What exactly is the bright line here?” She also asks if Paul believes his recommended “shot of estrogen” would actually do anything at all for the rape victim: “About that shot of estrogen. What exactly is this shot of estrogen supposed to do? Paul is purportedly an ob/gyn, so he must know a shot of estrogen won’t do a thing to prevent fertilization and implantation. So what’s that shot for?” Pieklo concludes, “I’m not sure what is the most dangerous aspect to come from Paul’s statements here: that his platform is built on a criminal disdain of women or as a doctor he doesn’t know his ear from his elbow.” [CNN, 2/3/2012; Raw Story, 2/4/2012; Care2, 2/4/2012] AlterNet’s Lauren Kelley notes that Paul attempts to paint the situation as highly unlikely, and focuses his comments on late-term abortions, such as a woman who decides “one minute before” she gives birth to terminate her pregnancy. Kelley notes: “Women do get raped by their husbands and partners. That’s not some out-there hypothetical. Intimate partner rape is a major problem—and yes, it happens to well-to-do women like Ron Paul’s daughters too.” Secondly: “Although Paul keeps going back to women seeking abortions late in their pregnancies, the reality is that 90 percent of abortions occur in the first trimester. So his focus on late-term abortions is disproportionate to the number of women actually seeking late-term abortions.” [AlterNet (.org), 2/4/2012]

Entity Tags: Ron Paul, Piers Morgan, Lauren Kelley, Jessica Pieklo

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections

Category Tags: Abortion controversy & violence, US Health Care Problems

Foster Friess.Foster Friess. [Source: New York Magazine]Foster Friess, a multi-millionaire who is the chief supporter of a “super PAC” supporting the presidential candidacy of Rick Santorum (R-PA), weighs in on the controversy surrounding new federal mandates for providing birth control in employers’ health care coverage. Friess dismisses the controversy by suggesting that if women just kept their legs closed, they would not need contraception. In an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Friess is asked if Santorum’s rigid views on sex and social issues (see April 7, 2003, April 23, 2003 and After, January 2011, January 7, 2011, October 18, 2011 and After, June 2011, September 22, 2011, January 1-3, 2012, January 2, 2012 and January 4, 2012) would hurt his chances in the general election. Friess responds by saying: “I get such a chuckle when these things come out. Here we have millions of our fellow Americans unemployed; we have jihadist camps being set up in Latin America, which Rick has been warning about; and people seem to be so preoccupied with sex. I think it says something about our culture. We maybe need a massive therapy session so we can concentrate on what the real issues are. And this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s [so] inexpensive. Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.” Mitchell says, “Excuse me, I’m just trying to catch my breath from that, Mr. Friess, frankly.” Think Progress’s Alex Seitz-Wald writes: “Given that [a]spirin is not a contraceptive, Friess seems to be suggesting that women keep the pill between their knees in order to ensure the[ir] legs stay closed to prevent having sex. Conspicuously, Friess doesn’t put the same burden on men.” [Think Progress, 2/16/2012; National Public Radio, 2/16/2012] Friess’s comment draws quick reaction from a number of sources, with many women’s groups expressing their outrage. Santorum quickly distances himself from the comment, calling it a “bad joke” and implying that the media is trying to smear him with it: “When you quote a supporter of mine who tells a bad off-color joke and somehow I am responsible for that, that is ‘gotcha,’” he tells a CBS News reporter. [Washington Post, 2/17/2012] Fox News’s late-night political humor show, Red Eye, features guest host Andy Levy sarcastically speculating that Friess’s joke is part of a “guerrilla marketing” scheme by the Bayer Corporation, which manufactures Bayer aspirin. Guest Anthony Cumia dismisses Friess’s comment by saying that Friess is “an old guy, he’s got old jokes.” [Mediaite, 2/17/2012] The next day, Friess issues an apology on his blog that reads: “To all those who took my joke as modern day approach I deeply apologize and seek your forgiveness. My wife constantly tells me I need new material—she understood the joke but didn’t like it anyway—so I will keep that old one in the past where it belongs.” New York Magazine’s Dan Amira writes, perhaps sarcastically, that he does not understand why either Santorum or Friess apologized, as he believes Friess stated Santorum’s position on sex and birth control rather clearly. “‘Hold an aspirin between your knees’ is just a more colorful way of saying, ‘just keep your legs closed,’ which is tantamount to ‘just don’t have sex,’” Amira writes. “It’s abstinence, pure and simple. Which is exactly what Santorum advocates. He’s said that unless you’re trying to procreate, you shouldn’t be having sex, and therefore, contraception is ‘not okay.’ He has promised to make this argument to the American people as president. As far we can tell, the only difference between Friess’s bad contraception joke and Santorum’s actual contraception beliefs is an aspirin.” [New York Magazine, 2/17/2012; Foster Friess, 2/17/2012] Friess is often described in the press as a “billionaire,” but both Friess and Forbes magazine say that appellation is inaccurate. [Forbes, 2/8/2012]

Entity Tags: Andrea Mitchell, Alex Seitz-Wald, Fox News, Rick Santorum, Dan Amira, Foster Friess, Andy Levy, Anthony Cumia

Timeline Tags: 2012 Elections

Category Tags: Abortion controversy & violence, US Health Care Problems

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA) attempts to clarify his stance on contraception, after recent media reports of an October 2011 interview he gave focus on his personal opposition to contraception and his stated belief that he would take action against its use if elected president (see October 18, 2011 and After). Santorum now says that while he personally opposes contraception, he thinks it should be available. In a Columbus, Ohio, campaign event, he says: “Birth control can and should be available if people want to use it. They have a right to use it.… I believe the better alternative is abstinence education.… My personal position is well known.… I do my best to be a faithful Catholic. My wife and I don’t practice birth control as an article of faith in our church.” [Wall Street Journal, 2/17/2012] Santorum has repeatedly stated that he believes state governments should be free to outlaw the availability and use of birth control if they so choose (see January 2, 2012).

Entity Tags: Rick Santorum

Timeline Tags: 2012 Elections

Category Tags: Abortion controversy & violence, US Health Care Problems

Five men, including several conservative religious leaders, testified before a House committee on female contraception issues. No women were allowed to testify. The Senate later blocks a bill restricting contraception from passing.Five men, including several conservative religious leaders, testified before a House committee on female contraception issues. No women were allowed to testify. The Senate later blocks a bill restricting contraception from passing. [Source: Twitter / London Daily Mail]The Senate votes down the controversial “Blunt amendment” 51-48, on a nearly party-line vote. The amendment, offered by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) as a rider to a routine highway bill and co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and 22 other senators, would have allowed health care providers to refuse to pay for contraception and other health care procedures on religious or moral grounds. If the amendment had passed, health insurance plans and employers could refuse to provide or pay for coverage of “specific items or services” if the coverage would be “contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan.” Blunt and the bill’s supporters characterize the legislation as an attempt to restore religious freedoms taken away by the Obama administration’s “government health care takeover,” in Blunt’s words; opponents say the bill is an attack on women’s rights and an effort to ban contraception. Blunt said during the debate of the bill: “This amendment does not mention any procedure of any kind. The word ‘contraception’ is not in there because it’s not about a specific procedure. It’s about a faith principle that the First Amendment guarantees.” McConnell says the bill is an attempt to fight for “religious liberty,” which he and others say is under attack by the White House and Congressional Democrats. The Obama administration’s health care policy requires organizations to cover the cost of contraception, but does not require religious establishments to cover the cost. Employees of religious establishments can still obtain contraception from the health care insurance company. Mitt Romney (R-MA), a Republican presidential candidate, first stated his opposition to the bill, then quickly reversed course and said he was for it. The only Senate Republican to vote against the bill is Olympia Snowe (R-ME), widely considered a moderate Republican; three conservative Democrats vote for the bill. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), considered a strong candidate to run as the Republican vice-presidential nominee in the 2012 elections, says the Senate’s refusal to pass the bill is “a setback for religious freedoms in America.” Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) calls the bill a straightforward effort to ban contraception. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wrote in a recent op-ed, “Instead of coming together to fix our economy and strengthen the middle class, the Senate is considering a measure so extreme that it would allow any employer—religious or secular—to deny their employees coverage of any preventive service, including contraception, mammograms—anything the employer deems unfit to be covered.” Senator Patty Murray (D-MA) says, “The Senate will not allow women’s health care choices to be taken away from them.” Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) says Republicans are attacking women’s health care as part of “a systematic war against women.” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius had asked the Senate to reject the proposal, saying, “The Obama administration believes that decisions about medical care should be made by a woman and her doctor, not a woman and her boss.” Dr. Hal C. Lawrence of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists came out against the amendment, saying contraception “improves and saves babies’ lives, improves maternal health, and can be life-saving for women with serious medical problems.” The American Cancer Society released a statement opposing the amendment, saying it would allow employers to deny coverage of life-saving preventive services like mammograms and smoking cessation programs based on “undefined religious beliefs or moral convictions.” [New York Times, 3/1/2012; The State, 3/1/2012; The Week, 3/2/2012] After the bill is voted down, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh vilifies Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who was not allowed to testify before a House committee meeting debating the bill [Think Progress, 2/16/2012] , calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” for advocating the free availability of contraception (see February 29, 2012). Fluke gave her testimony before a panel of House Democrats and posted it on YouTube, where she discussed the needs of young women who use birth control and other contraceptives for medical needs such as cancer prevention. Specifically, she cites the example of a friend who needed, and was unable to obtain, birth control pills to manage polycystic ovarian syndrome. [Think Progress, 2/16/2012] Democrats and others criticized committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) for only allowing men to testify before the House Oversight Committee on the topic of female contraception. It was Issa’s decision to bar Fluke from testifying before the committee. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said at the time: “The Republican leadership of this Congress thinks it’s appropriate to have a hearing on women’s health and purposely exclude women from the panel. I may at some point be moved to explain biology to my colleagues.” Issa only allowed committee Democrats to name one witness; they named Fluke, whom Issa barred from testifying as she was “unqualified” to speak. [Daily Mail, 2/17/2012]

Entity Tags: Kirsten Gillibrand, Kathleen Sebelius, Darrell E. Issa, Charles Schumer, Barbara Mikulski, American Cancer Society, Willard Mitt Romney, US Senate, Rush Limbaugh, Hal C. Lawrence, Olympia Snowe, Obama administration, Nancy Pelosi, Patty Murray, Mitch McConnell, Roy Blunt, Marco Rubio, Sandra Fluke

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections

Category Tags: Abortion controversy & violence, Obama Health Care Reform, US Health Care Costs, US Health Care Problems

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) condemns talk show host Rush Limbaugh for his “incendiary comments” about Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Murkowski says she was “stunned” by his statements, and says that Limbaugh’s rhetoric is “just adding to this sense that women’s health rights are being attacked.” Moreover, she says, “I’m a little bit disappointed that there hasn’t been greater condemnation of his words by people in leadership positions.” Does that expectation include Republicans? she is asked, and she responds: “Everybody. What he said was just wrong. Just wrong.” Murkowski also says she “regret[s]” her vote in favor of a Senate amendment that would have terminated mandated insurer coverage for contraception (see March 1, 2012), the basis of Limbaugh’s attacks against Fluke. “I have never had a vote I’ve taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me,” she says, explaining that she intended to cast a vote in favor of religious freedom and not against women’s rights. Of Limbaugh, she says: “I think women when they hear… mouthpieces like that say things like that they get concerned and they look to policymakers. That’s where I feel like I have let these women down is that I have not helped to give these women the assurance they need that their health care rights are protected.” [TPM LiveWire, 3/6/2012; Anchorage Daily News, 3/6/2012]

Entity Tags: Rush Limbaugh, Sandra Fluke, Lisa Murkowski

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: Abortion controversy & violence, Obama Health Care Reform, US Health Care Problems

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