Those Astroturf Shills For Capital

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Image via A Very Public Sociologist’s Twitter (me like the Nambu)

Margaret Talev, McClatchy Newspapers

  • Conservatives for Patients’ Rights is led by health care entrepreneur Rick Scott, the co-founder of Solantic urgent care walk-in centers, which he’s spread across Florida and is looking to expand. While 80 percent of its patients have at least some insurance, Solantic also bills itself as an alternative to emergency-room care and a resource for patients with no insurance. Scott left his job as CEO of the Columbia/HCA hospitals during a federal Medicare fraud probe in 1997 that led to a historic $1.7 billion settlement. He wasn’t prosecuted and got a golden parachute.
  • FreedomWorks, which has been advocating against the overhaul but has not launched TV ads, is chaired by Dick Armey, the former Republican majority leader of the House of Representatives from Texas. But also noteworthy are the group’s other backers and board members. They include billionaire flat-tax proponent and former GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes; Richard J. Stephenson, who founded Cancer Treatment Centers of America, which offers alternative as well as standard therapies, sometimes not covered by insurance; and Frank M. Sands, Sr., chief executive officer of an investment management firm whose offerings include a Healthcare Leaders portfolio.
  • Patients First and Patients United are creations of a larger group called Americans for Prosperity. AFP’s Web site describes a grassroots organization with more than 700,000 members that advocates “for public policies that champion the principles of entrepreneurship and fiscal and regulatory restraint.” It was started by billionaire David Koch, of the Koch Industries oil family, one of the country’s top donors to conservative, free-market causes. The foundation’s board includes Art Pope, a former North Carolina legislator also involved in conservative causes, whose family owns hundreds of discount stores. Tim Phillips, AFP’s president, is a former Republican congressional staffer who helped former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed start up the consulting firm Century Strategies in the 1990s. Clients paid the firm to build Christian grassroots support for various business causes. That included work for since-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Capitalism Means To Kill You

Look America it’s fine, flee from the evil NHS, keep being killed for corporations’ profits. Or… if you are going to fight this hard for something, make the fight worth it, the party claiming to represent your interest, they might be a bit fibby.

Greg Palast– On June 22, President Obama said he’d reached agreement with big drug companies to cut the price of medicine by $80 billion. He extended his gratitude to Big Pharma for the deal that would, “reduce the punishing inflation in health care costs.”

Hey, in my neighborhood, people think $80 billion is a lot of money. But is it?

I checked out the government’s health stats (at, put fresh batteries in my calculator and totted up US spending on prescription drugs projected by the government for the next ten years. It added up to $3.6 trillion.

In other words, Obama’s big deal with Big Pharma saves $80 billion out of a total $3.6 trillion. That’s 2%.

But 2% is better than nothing, I suppose. Or is it?

The Big Pharma kingpins did not actually agree to cut their prices. Their promise with Obama is something a little oilier: they apparently promised that, over ten years, they will reduce the amount at which they would otherwise raise drug prices. Got that? In other words, the Obama deal locks in a doubling of drug costs, projected to rise over the period of “savings” from a quarter trillion dollars a year to half a trillion dollars a year. Minus that 2%.

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Kapital Kills

Health insurers around the world collectively hold $4.5 billion worth of tobacco industry stock, according to a new study. The Consumerist has great highlights on the story, including this killer quote from the study’s co-author, David Himmelstein, “[It’s] the combined taxidermist and veterinarian approach: either way you get your dog back.” 

The People Don’t Get What The People Want

AMY GOODMAN: Why can’t it happen, since polls show most people are for it?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: I guarantee you. I know the members of Congress, and it’s not going to pass in this Congress. So, there are certain things that can’t happen right away, and this is one of them. But I do support a single-payer idea.

Um, democracy anyone? Anyway the fix is in, single payer healthcare is being kept off the ‘table’ (crowded out by nukes earmarked for bombing Iran or not prosecuting war criminals, there’s only so much room on ‘the table’ and we must look forward dontcha know)

Health care activists disrupted a Senate Finance Committee hearing Tuesday, standing up one after the other as Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) tried to restore order. As soon as police escorted one protester out of the room, another would stand up, criticizing the committee for convening a panel of 15 experts and excluding witnesses who support creating a Medicare system for all Americans. About eight were led out of the hearing.

Baucus’ response? “We need more police.”

Baucus eventually quieted the crowd, and said, “I want you to know I care deeply about your views.”

Is it getting boring putting the regulation sardonic Change after every example of continuity of corporate empire? Still, I guess they had to use that as- Suckers! would have blown the whole caper. Whatevs.

PS. Report from the scene-

It has finally happened right here in the United States. Citizens who believe healthcare is a human right have been arrested and are being processed like criminals through the Southeast District of Columbia police station. Their crime? Asking for single payer healthcare reform – publicly funded, privately delivered healthcare – to be discussed during the Congressional hearings on reform.

Doctors and other single payer activists were handcuffed and went to jail today speaking up for single payer to be at the table in the Senate finance Committee’s roundtable discussion on healthcare access and coverage. In stark contrast, Karen Ignagni, head of the industry lobby group American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) was escorted into the room like royalty by staff members of the Senate committee. Clearly, the position of the United States Senate is not with the majority of Americans who support a national, public insurance system.

It made me physically ill to see Maryland pediatrician Margaret Flowers cuffed like a criminal and pushed out the door as the Senators waited to begin their staged roundtable discussion. It made me want to scream. It made me proud of them for being bold but ashamed that not one Senator spoke up for their own citizen-protestors and asked that they at least be allowed to speak. But the insistence that the citizens rising in protest be arrested continued from the chair with each incident.

PBS is Sicko

Last year, former Washington Post reporter T.R. Reid made a great documentary for the PBS show Frontline titled Sick Around the World. Reid traveled to five countries that deliver health care for all – UK, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Taiwan – to learn about how they do it. Reid found that the one thing these five countries had in common – none allowed for-profit health insurance companies to sell basic medical coverage.

Frontline then said to Reid – okay, we want you to go around the United States and make a companion documentary titled Sick Around the America. So, Reid traveled around America, interviewing patients, doctors, and health insurance executives. The documentary that resulted – Sick Around America – aired Monday night on PBS.

But even though Reid did the reporting for the film, he was cut out of the film when it aired this week. And the film didn’t present Reid’s bottom line for health care reform – don’t let health insurance companies profit from selling basic health insurance.

[Read the rest]

St. Neoliberal’s

Hundreds of patients suffered and died unnecessarily as a result of appalling emergency care at a flagship foundation trust, the government’s health watchdog said today in the most damning report ever on an NHS hospital in England.

• Patients arriving in A&E were assessed by unqualified receptionists to determine whether they needed urgent attention. One patient with an open fracture of the elbow had to wait for more than four hours, covered in blood and with no pain relief, because the receptionist failed to give the case priority

• There were too few consultants in A&E to provide on-call cover all day, every day and junior doctors were not adequately supervised

• There were not enough nurses to care for emergency patients. A review of staffing levels in 2007/08 found the trust was short 120 nurses, of which 17 were needed in A&E, 30 in the surgical division, and 77 on the medical wards

• Nurses in the emergency assessment unit were not trained to read cardiac monitors and sometimes turned them off. Patients did not always get the correct medication. Nurses on the wards were not always able to identify when patients were deteriorating after an operation, for example, by monitoring vital signs

• Call buttons were not always answered when patients were in pain or needed the toilet. Relatives claimed patients were left, sometimes for hours, in wet or soiled sheets, putting them at increased risk of infection. Patients at risk of developing pressure sores did not get appropriate care. In one ward, 55% of patients were found to have pressure sores when only 10% had sores on arrival

• Delays in operations were commonplace, especially for trauma patients at weekends. Sometimes a patient’s operation might be cancelled four days in a row, and they would receive “nil by mouth” for most of the day, four days running

The commission analysed the trust’s board meetings from April 2005 to 2008. It found discussions were “dominated by finance, targets and achieving foundation trust status”. When the infection rate of Clostridium difficile doubled in the early months of 2006, the information was not released to the board or the public.

Read the rest.

World Aids Day

Oops, I am reminded it is/was World’s Aids Day. Religious fools still insist on abstinence programs and even fund false information against condom use as being effective. And as the bailouts show money for research into treatment could easily be found if the political will could be formed (if you like- a disease that affected elite wealth got immediate action one that kills people…nah, no biggie). So a ways to go yet, there is always struggle, so be good to one another, have fun & stay safe peeps.

Welsh Porridge

Inadequate mental health care provision at a young offenders’ institution has been criticised as scandalous by Wales’ children’s commissioner and an MP. Both Keith Towler and the MP Madeline Moon have demanded urgent action by the Welsh Assembly Government to address the issue at Parc Prison in Bridgend.

Currently, young offenders with mental health care needs have to be sent to England to serve their sentences. The assembly government said it was committed to support young offenders.
Mr Towler and Ms Moon have called on the assembly government to set up a community mental health service at Parc, the only institute for young offenders in Wales. The category B prison, Wales’ only private jail, has more than 1,000 male adults and young offenders.

Primary health care, such as GP services, is provided to the private prison by Primecare, but other health services such as dealing with serious and enduring mental illnesses are the Welsh Assembly Government’s responsibility.

“Parc Prison has never had an in-reach mental health service – a child and adolescent mental health service – reaching into the prison and we have a serious problem here,” Ms Moon told the BBC’s Politics Show Wales. “Parc was opened specifically so that Welsh youngsters could serve their sentence in Wales as close to their families and communities. Those most needy youngsters with mental health problems have had to be sent to England.”

Ms Towler agreed with Ms Moon’s view that the situation was a national disgrace. “These are children in need regardless of their behaviour and they deserve a response that can meet that mental health requirement,” said Mr Towler. “The stark fact is that we do not have those resources available.

“It is a scandal,” he added.

Let me count the ways…private fucking prison with private fucking healthcare! No mandated mental health care for a group that is recognised to have greater need, the responsibility left to the public sector which then seems to lose its nationalist pride where looking after the most vulnerable is concerned. The irony is Parc used to be…a psychiatric hospital. Scandal & disgrace is right. So while the private prison makes profits from our money, the prisoners in need of healthcare either get none or are sent miles from home to England, which of course the authorities avoid because of costs incurred. So that’s neoliberalism Welsh style, Parc Prison is such a shining beacon-

Two warders from Wales’s first privately-run prison have been sacked after giving an in-mate a hoax note warning of his family’s death. The prisoner at Parc Prison near Bridgend, south Wales, is said to have been distressed by the message which said his entire family had been wiped out in a fire. The pair returned 20 minutes later to explain the claim was a joke.

Parc Prison, which is run by Securicor, has been criticised by the prison inspectorate for its poor race relations. Black prisoners moved to Parc from jails in England have complained of being attacked by white gangs, including the Rhondda Skins. Some inmates have said that one part of the jail is known as a “Ku Klux Klan Wing”. Although more recent inspections have suggested that the situation at Parc has improved, the CRE is anxious to investigate and to explore claims that English young prisoners have been victimised by Welsh inmates.

But the Chief Inspector of Prisons later lauded jail owners Securicor in March 2001 for measures taken to improve matters. Sir David Ramsbottom said Parc Prison had gone on to develop very good systems to deal with sex offenders and drug addicts and to minimise suicides and bullying among its 835 inmates. According to his report, the prison – which suffered a number of high profile problems and suicides by inmates after it opened – had “matured and progressed”.

They certainly have good PR now, hey look a literary festival which seems very progressive, now if they could just actually provide care for the mentally damaged prisoners too.

Ps. Private prisons are also bad for the workers in 2004 a report found

Average hourly basic pay for private sector prison and detention custody officers in England and Wales is 43% less than their public sector counterparts receive, a recent and as yet unpublished official study reveals.

However management saw an increase in pay, 33% for the top managers, try and act surprised.

In Cardiff prison they spend just £1.76 per day on each prisoners food. The figure for Parc is unknown as it being a private prison the figure is kept secret as it is- not a ‘public authority’ as defined by the Freedom of Information Act. Although the referenced Hansard answer claims-

the average cost for establishments operated by the contracted sector ranged from £2.10 to £3.07.

How does PFI work out for the…more fortunate? Parc is the only private prison in Wales, at the moment. A more localised institution will be better but have we assurances it will be public owned? Parc opened a month before Altcourse prison in Liverpool but was not built and designed from PFI scratch so scouseland gets the honour of the first PFI pure private prison. Behold-

The builders of Britain’s first privately financed and run prison have made more legitimate profit out of crime than the small-time crooks incarcerated there could ever dream about, a parliamentary report reveals today.

Profits from Altcourse prison in Fazakerley, Liverpool, the first prison to be built under the government’s private finance initiative, have been so enormous that the companies building it have recovered all their costs in two years.

This will leave them with 23 years of pure profit from the construction, plus extra profits to come from the running of the £247m prison for 600 local inmates. The deal – condemned by the Commons public accounts committee – was described by Alan Williams, MP for Swansea West, as “like coming up with the lottery several times a year”.

The MPs are scathing about the arrangements which led to the Home Office signing such a deal – which saved £1m compared with conventional methods of using taxpayers’ cash – and has led to a 75% rise in profits in tfour years for the consortium run by Group 4 Securitas and Tarmac Construction. Tarmac have subsequently sold its share to Carillion plc.

Privatisation Shills Reform Fail Again

The Church of the Free Market shills ‘think’ tank Reform once again try their ridiculous hand at pushing the privatisation of the NHS this time with…insurance vouchers, sensibly no one is buying, or admitting to it, Clegg’s a bit of a worry though-

Healthcare organisations should compete to insure patients under a state-funded scheme which would radically transform the NHS, a think tank is proposing. Plans from Reform would see everyone given a £2,000 “voucher” each year, funded out of general taxation, to buy health insurance. Competition between private firms and primary care trusts would drive down costs and improve choice, it argues. But leading politicians from all parties criticised the proposals.

Labour described it as a “step backwards” while the Tories said the idea made “no sense”. In a speech on Tuesday, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg will “welcome” Reform’s call for patients to be empowered but reject calls for the way the NHS is funded to be fundamentally overhauled.

Also the piece should start with “A pro-market think tank”, not the proposal in a cold opening which gives it far too much attention before you realise where it comes from. A cursory reader might not twig what a load of old bollocks it is or is the journo fond of Reform? Shares in insurance corporations have we?

Virgin is Sicko

GPs who work in Sir Richard Branson’s planned network of Virgin health centres will be given a percentage of the profits made by the private dentists, therapists and laser-eye surgeons working under the same roof, the Guardian has learned.

The first Virgin polyclinic will open in Swindon this summer, in an experiment that could change the face of the NHS. Within five years Branson hopes to have 20 clinics around the country.

Family doctors would still work for the NHS and be paid by the state, but their practices would be transformed into commercial magnets, pulling patients in to buy services from Virgin Healthcare, Branson’s medical offshoot.

The practices, where receptionists will wear red Virgin uniforms, will be a one-stop shop offering a range of treatments including pharmacy, acupuncture, eye care, dentistry, nutrition advice and help with long-term conditions.

On top of their NHS salary, GPs will get 10% of the profits earned by the entire polyclinic. Under General Medical Council rules the GPs will not be allowed to refer patients to the Virgin therapists in the building unless they make it clear that they have a financial stake in the profits.

A poll of GPs showed 85% believed the polyclinics would damage patient care.

A former employee of Virgin Healthcare, John Spencer, raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest with the company and has passed internal documents to the Guardian. Spencer, who was head of therapies, in charge of recruiting the new private staff, voiced his concerns about potential conflicts of interest within days of starting his job.

“My feeling is that this was being led by people who were commercially driven and rewarded by how much profit they made,” he said. “But they weren’t fully willing to listen when it came to the importance of not undermining patient trust.”

Earlier this year Spencer emailed Adams, raising his concern that GPs might be in difficulties with the GMC if they referred patients to Virgin’s private therapists. Adams replied that he thought “this is a typical NHS grey area”.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the BMA’s GPs committee, said: “The intention really is that Virgin will make money out of private elements within the centre. Our concern is that doctors working within the centre may be coerced or encouraged to make referrals or encourage patients to attend these private facilities. The real risk is the opening of Pandora’s box, which once it is opened will be very difficult to close.”

Watch Sicko if you haven’t (here for free! or watch below),

This is how it happens, until we have what the neoliberal worshippers of the Church of the Free Market want- healthcare for profit, people going untreated when it threatens revenue ie. being killed in order for a corporation to make greater profits.