[W]e did not develop this medicine for Indians…[w]e developed it for western patients who can afford it.

Pure evil mastermind Bayer Pharmaceutical CEO Marijn Dekkers on his company’s new cancer drug Nexavar

The drug, which is particularly effective on late-stage kidney and liver cancer, costs approximately $69,000 per year in India, so in March 2012 an Indian court granted a license to an Indian company to produce to the drug at a 97 percent discount.

Bayer sued Natco Pharma Ltd., but in March of last year, the High Court in Mumbai denied its appeal. Dekkers called the compulsory license issued by the Indian court “essentially theft.”

Nexavar costs approximately $96,000 per year in the United States, but Bayer assures“western patients” that they can have access to the drug for a $100 copay.

Spain pushes for harsh law on abortions, sparking outrageDecember 22, 2013
The Spanish government has approved restrictions on abortions, allowing the procedure only in case of rape or serious risk to mother’s health. Outraged opposition and women rights activists say the law will take women’s rights back to the 1980s.
The law is yet to be passed by the parliament where the ruling party has a majority, but Spain’s Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardon said in his traditional post cabinet press conference that it is almost sure to happen.
The legislation puts a stop to the women’s rights to terminate their pregnancy in the first 14 weeks. Plus, the women won’t be able to make an abortion if the fetus is found to be malformed.
According to the legislation, the only reasons making the abortion possible are if the woman’s health is under threat by the continuing pregnancy, or if she had been raped.
Moreover, in the case of any hazard to health, the woman will have to provide a paper signed by two specialists to prove her case.
As for younger girls under 18 years old, they will need permission from their parents to abort – something that the previous government got rid of in 2010.
Currently, the legislation allowed abortions without any restriction until the 14th week of pregnancy and up to 22 weeks if the fetus is shown to be seriously deformed.
The new law would provide ”defense both for the protection of the life of the unborn child and women’s rights”, the Justice Minister Ruiz Gallardon indicated.
He also said the new bill would penalize those who carry out abortions but would not criminalize women for having the procedure.
The opposition and women’s rights activists are strongly against the law, saying it will take women’s rights in Spain back 30 years – and indeed, the new legislation is more restrictive than that in 1985.
As a result women ”will go to underground places”, Salim Chami, a gynaecologist at the Isadora abortion clinic in Madrid, told AFP.
Elena Valenciano, deputy leader of the opposition Socialist (PSOE) Party, called for those who were against the new law to show their opposition and ”mobilize society against what is going to be a reduction in women’s freedom which is impossible to understand.”
Source

Spain pushes for harsh law on abortions, sparking outrage
December 22, 2013

The Spanish government has approved restrictions on abortions, allowing the procedure only in case of rape or serious risk to mother’s health. Outraged opposition and women rights activists say the law will take women’s rights back to the 1980s.

The law is yet to be passed by the parliament where the ruling party has a majority, but Spain’s Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardon said in his traditional post cabinet press conference that it is almost sure to happen.

The legislation puts a stop to the women’s rights to terminate their pregnancy in the first 14 weeks. Plus, the women won’t be able to make an abortion if the fetus is found to be malformed.

According to the legislation, the only reasons making the abortion possible are if the woman’s health is under threat by the continuing pregnancy, or if she had been raped.

Moreover, in the case of any hazard to health, the woman will have to provide a paper signed by two specialists to prove her case.

As for younger girls under 18 years old, they will need permission from their parents to abort – something that the previous government got rid of in 2010.

Currently, the legislation allowed abortions without any restriction until the 14th week of pregnancy and up to 22 weeks if the fetus is shown to be seriously deformed.

The new law would provide ”defense both for the protection of the life of the unborn child and women’s rights”, the Justice Minister Ruiz Gallardon indicated.

He also said the new bill would penalize those who carry out abortions but would not criminalize women for having the procedure.

The opposition and women’s rights activists are strongly against the law, saying it will take women’s rights in Spain back 30 years – and indeed, the new legislation is more restrictive than that in 1985.

As a result women ”will go to underground places”, Salim Chami, a gynaecologist at the Isadora abortion clinic in Madrid, told AFP.

Elena Valenciano, deputy leader of the opposition Socialist (PSOE) Party, called for those who were against the new law to show their opposition and ”mobilize society against what is going to be a reduction in women’s freedom which is impossible to understand.”

Source

In death, HIV-positive man may become symbol of transplant hope for othersDecember 19, 2013

Lamont Valentin needed an oxygen tank to breathe. Everything he did — whether it was traveling by bus from his home in Harlem to his doctor’s office, teaching HIV-positive kids photography at a New York City nonprofit or taking care of his 2-year-old son — the tank accompanied him.
About a year and a half ago, it became clear a lung transplant was Valentin’s only hope to breathe easier. And he could have been a good candidate for the procedure — he was young and otherwise healthy. He, his friends and some medical experts believed he would have been able to survive for many more years if he had been given new lungs.
But when he began looking for a transplant, he was denied almost everywhere he turned, supporters said.
Holding him back was the virus he was born with in 1984, HIV. Early in life, before he began using modern antiretroviral drugs, it left him with permanent lung damage.  
Despite years of living with HIV, Valentin had virtually undetectable levels of antibodies of the disease in his blood throughout his 29 years.
But his lungs became progressively more inflamed and infected until about two years ago, when he became reliant on the oxygen tank. As his condition deteriorated, so did his outlook on the chances of getting the procedure that would save his life.
"Over the past month I watched his morale begin to decline," his friend Adam Melaney said. "He called me and said, ‘I don’t understand why no one wants to take care of me.’"
On Dec. 3, while riding a New York City bus back home from a doctor’s appointment, Valentin died.
Now activists are hoping to use his story as a way to spark a conversation about the patchwork of policies that influence medical decisions surrounding the medical treatment of HIV-positive people.
The activists say they hope to highlight that while new and better medicine has made procedures like lung transplants — once deemed too risky for people infected with HIV — feasible, the policies that guide doctors’ decisions have not caught up.
As more and more HIV-infected people have longer lives, and therefore require more non-HIV-related care, the activists and some experts say adapting medical practice to the new reality is imperative. They say that if the policies were modernized, people like Valentin could live longer.
The circumstances leading up to his death are complex, and most of his friends and supporters don’t place blame on any particular doctor.
But they say several prominent hospitals failed to live up to their high standards of care by ruling out a lung transplant for Valentin because of his HIV status. They say that at the very least, hospitals like New York–Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, where Valentin received much of his care, had the responsibility to see if he would have made a good candidate for pulmonary transplantation.
On Wednesday, Valentin’s friends will join protesters from the AIDS activism group ACT UP at Rockefeller Center to express their dismay at his treatment, and to remember his life.
His friends say that when he died, he took with him a legacy of inspiration for people born with HIV.


'Insurmountable factors'


Valentin was born to a drug-addicted mother with HIV. His mother died when he was 6, kicking off his years-long journey through the foster care system, homelessness and an eventual rebound through Camp AmeriKids, an organization that provides services to children with HIV.
Valentin attended summer camp and year-round programs there until he aged out, at which point he became a leader at the camp, helping kids deal with the emotional toll of living with HIV.
"He was always this shining example for other people and how to choose what’s best in life," Melaney said. "He could have gone on disability, had his rent paid for and not work. But he didn’t do that."
Eventually, though, Valentin was forced to stop working because of his deteriorating lungs.
He had to stay home, being cared for by his wife, Lah-Nah, whom he married last summer.
As his lungs got worse, the bureaucracy surrounding his care became bigger.
He and his friend Jose Gonzalez would spend hours at a time on the computer looking at studies about lung transplants, paying special attention to studies — of which there are only a few — on HIV-positive people.
Gonzalez and others say no doctor in New York City was willing to consider the surgery.
"He loved his son and Lah-Nah," Gonzalez said. "He got to experience some of the love he didn’t have in his life (previously). He became determined to keep experiencing that."
So Valentin and his family began exploring options outside the city. Doctors at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said they’d be willing to put him through tests to see if he was a good candidate for transplant.
But it gradually became clear that neither California nor Massachusetts was a practical option. In order for Valentin to be tested, he and his family would need to move close to one of the hospitals, integrate his continuing care within a new hospital system and persuade his insurance company to accept the switch of providers. He had neither the money nor the good health to make the switch.
"There were just too many insurmountable factors," Melaney said. "That’s when he started to get scared."
Valentin and his family got their hopes up when President Barack Obama signed the HOPE Act in late November. The act legalized organ donation from HIV-positive people to other HIV-positive people for the first time. But, as with any law, its effects will take years to be fully felt.
In the meantime, Valentin hoped that the intervention of groups like ACT UP would help persuade hospitals in New York to seriously consider giving him new lungs.
The group targeted New York–Presbyterian, one of the only lung transplant hospitals in the city. Protesters said that because the hospital was providing other care to Valentin, and because its doctors had performed risky transplants in the past, it had a responsibility to give him a shot.
New York–Presbyterian could not be reached for comment in time for publication of this story.
While some experts say Valentin would have been a good candidate for a transplant, lung transplants are rare, and those in HIV-positive people are even rarer.
There’s no law barring people with HIV from receiving transplants, no requirement that doctors report when they determine a transplantation contraindicative because of HIV, and therefore no way to know how common situations like Valentin’s are.
But experts say that as people with HIV live longer, it’s likely that the need for lung and other organ transplantation will rise dramatically. Valentin’s story provides an example of what may happen more frequently if policies are not clarified.
"Because there’s no blanket regulation, it’s very hard to know what the numbers are," said Tim Horn, the HIV project director for Treatment Action Group, which advocates for research and improved treatment for patients with various illnesses. “But I think Lamont’s story is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Full article
Lamont lived a full life surrounded by his family & I’ve heard stories of what a dedicated worker he was at Streetwork Project, where I currently work. The rally yesterday was a powerful testament to how vital & life-saving Lamont’s Law would be. 

In death, HIV-positive man may become symbol of transplant hope for others
December 19, 2013

Lamont Valentin needed an oxygen tank to breathe. Everything he did — whether it was traveling by bus from his home in Harlem to his doctor’s office, teaching HIV-positive kids photography at a New York City nonprofit or taking care of his 2-year-old son — the tank accompanied him.

About a year and a half ago, it became clear a lung transplant was Valentin’s only hope to breathe easier. And he could have been a good candidate for the procedure — he was young and otherwise healthy. He, his friends and some medical experts believed he would have been able to survive for many more years if he had been given new lungs.

But when he began looking for a transplant, he was denied almost everywhere he turned, supporters said.

Holding him back was the virus he was born with in 1984, HIV. Early in life, before he began using modern antiretroviral drugs, it left him with permanent lung damage.  

Despite years of living with HIV, Valentin had virtually undetectable levels of antibodies of the disease in his blood throughout his 29 years.

But his lungs became progressively more inflamed and infected until about two years ago, when he became reliant on the oxygen tank. As his condition deteriorated, so did his outlook on the chances of getting the procedure that would save his life.

"Over the past month I watched his morale begin to decline," his friend Adam Melaney said. "He called me and said, ‘I don’t understand why no one wants to take care of me.’"

On Dec. 3, while riding a New York City bus back home from a doctor’s appointment, Valentin died.

Now activists are hoping to use his story as a way to spark a conversation about the patchwork of policies that influence medical decisions surrounding the medical treatment of HIV-positive people.

The activists say they hope to highlight that while new and better medicine has made procedures like lung transplants — once deemed too risky for people infected with HIV — feasible, the policies that guide doctors’ decisions have not caught up.

As more and more HIV-infected people have longer lives, and therefore require more non-HIV-related care, the activists and some experts say adapting medical practice to the new reality is imperative. They say that if the policies were modernized, people like Valentin could live longer.

The circumstances leading up to his death are complex, and most of his friends and supporters don’t place blame on any particular doctor.

But they say several prominent hospitals failed to live up to their high standards of care by ruling out a lung transplant for Valentin because of his HIV status. They say that at the very least, hospitals like New York–Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, where Valentin received much of his care, had the responsibility to see if he would have made a good candidate for pulmonary transplantation.

On Wednesday, Valentin’s friends will join protesters from the AIDS activism group ACT UP at Rockefeller Center to express their dismay at his treatment, and to remember his life.

His friends say that when he died, he took with him a legacy of inspiration for people born with HIV.

'Insurmountable factors'

Valentin was born to a drug-addicted mother with HIV. His mother died when he was 6, kicking off his years-long journey through the foster care system, homelessness and an eventual rebound through Camp AmeriKids, an organization that provides services to children with HIV.

Valentin attended summer camp and year-round programs there until he aged out, at which point he became a leader at the camp, helping kids deal with the emotional toll of living with HIV.

"He was always this shining example for other people and how to choose what’s best in life," Melaney said. "He could have gone on disability, had his rent paid for and not work. But he didn’t do that."

Eventually, though, Valentin was forced to stop working because of his deteriorating lungs.

He had to stay home, being cared for by his wife, Lah-Nah, whom he married last summer.

As his lungs got worse, the bureaucracy surrounding his care became bigger.

He and his friend Jose Gonzalez would spend hours at a time on the computer looking at studies about lung transplants, paying special attention to studies — of which there are only a few — on HIV-positive people.

Gonzalez and others say no doctor in New York City was willing to consider the surgery.

"He loved his son and Lah-Nah," Gonzalez said. "He got to experience some of the love he didn’t have in his life (previously). He became determined to keep experiencing that."

So Valentin and his family began exploring options outside the city. Doctors at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said they’d be willing to put him through tests to see if he was a good candidate for transplant.

But it gradually became clear that neither California nor Massachusetts was a practical option. In order for Valentin to be tested, he and his family would need to move close to one of the hospitals, integrate his continuing care within a new hospital system and persuade his insurance company to accept the switch of providers. He had neither the money nor the good health to make the switch.

"There were just too many insurmountable factors," Melaney said. "That’s when he started to get scared."

Valentin and his family got their hopes up when President Barack Obama signed the HOPE Act in late November. The act legalized organ donation from HIV-positive people to other HIV-positive people for the first time. But, as with any law, its effects will take years to be fully felt.

In the meantime, Valentin hoped that the intervention of groups like ACT UP would help persuade hospitals in New York to seriously consider giving him new lungs.

The group targeted New York–Presbyterian, one of the only lung transplant hospitals in the city. Protesters said that because the hospital was providing other care to Valentin, and because its doctors had performed risky transplants in the past, it had a responsibility to give him a shot.

New York–Presbyterian could not be reached for comment in time for publication of this story.

While some experts say Valentin would have been a good candidate for a transplant, lung transplants are rare, and those in HIV-positive people are even rarer.

There’s no law barring people with HIV from receiving transplants, no requirement that doctors report when they determine a transplantation contraindicative because of HIV, and therefore no way to know how common situations like Valentin’s are.

But experts say that as people with HIV live longer, it’s likely that the need for lung and other organ transplantation will rise dramatically. Valentin’s story provides an example of what may happen more frequently if policies are not clarified.

"Because there’s no blanket regulation, it’s very hard to know what the numbers are," said Tim Horn, the HIV project director for Treatment Action Group, which advocates for research and improved treatment for patients with various illnesses. “But I think Lamont’s story is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Full article

Lamont lived a full life surrounded by his family & I’ve heard stories of what a dedicated worker he was at Streetwork Project, where I currently work. The rally yesterday was a powerful testament to how vital & life-saving Lamont’s Law would be. 

Texas abortion bill marginalizes rural, poor & women of colorJuly 24, 2013
On July 8, I was fortunate to travel from my home in El Paso, to Austin, an eight-hour drive, to witness the Texas State Senate hearings on reproductive health care access in my state. The mood was very intense, the senate floor was full so I sat in a viewing room for most of the day. The Capitol was divided by pro-life supporters wearing blue, and pro-choice supporters wearing orange.
As I sat in the viewing room, I was, at times, surrounded by a sea of blue, but mostly, I was surrounded by the orange of solidarity. The testimonies given that day spoke volumes on the necessity to preserve reproductive health care for all women.
Many pro-life women who had experienced abortions also testified having experienced botched abortion procedures performed by inexperienced doctors.  They also spoke of experiencing guilt, depression, coercion and pressure from doctors and they wanted to ban abortion all together and/or they advocated the new heightened provisions to HB2, so women wouldn’t have to experience the same thing they had.
Because of these issues, many women felt the heightened restrictions presented in HB2, such as requiring doctors who provide abortions to be within 30 miles of and have admitting privileges to a hospital as well as requiring clinics that provide abortions to be ambulatory surgical centers, would be a critical blow to women’s reproductive rights.  These pro-life women did not see the provisions as a blow to reproductive health rights, while pro-choice women did see the new provisions as an obstacle to reproductive health care.
Proponents of the bills say the changes, when implemented, will provide the best care for Texas women. I agree, completely. However, the rhetoric surrounding this argument overlooks the point that these new heightened standards will not provide safe care for women who live along the U.S.-Mexico border and women who live in West Texas.
Because, these new standards will close all but 5 of Texas’ 42 clinics, which provide free or affordable health care for women, 90% of the procedures in these clinics are not abortions, rather cancer and STI screenings, birth control and general women’s health. This sends a message that the women of South and West Texas are not worthy of such heightened standards and care. Rather, women who live in the big cities of East Texas, like Austin and Dallas Fort-Worth are.
Currently in El Paso County, the place I call home, there are only two abortion providers, and while they do have admitting privileges to hospitals, their admitting privileges are only for private hospitals in the area.  Proponents of HB2 argued abortion clinics would be able to afford the upgrades necessary to be in compliance with the new law, however, clinics may have lease agreements that do not permit such upgrades, and a move would also be financially impossible.
Clinics in El Paso County face closure because they simply cannot meet all the new requirements. If this was truly about providing safe care for women during the abortion procedure, then there would be a real effort by the state to provide some type of assistance so clinics can become compliant with the new laws and provide these new heightened standards for all women in Texas.
The House of Representatives addressed 47 amendments on Tuesday July 9th, and every single amendment was tabled. The amendments addressed each provision of HB2 and how these new provisions would place an undue burden on women. This is important to note because the Roe vs. Wadedecision specifically states that women cannot have undue burden place upon them.
Reproductive choice is a fundamental constitutional right. Women who live in West Texas and along the U.S. Mexico border will have to travel a very long distance to receive any abortion or reproductive care (if they are uninsured) under these new laws, thus placing an undue burden on women who wish to practice their constitutional right to reproductive autonomy.
By not addressing the serious socio-economic and cultural issues that surround the abortion debate, the full picture cannot be seen.  In Texas, 49% of children are part of low-income families; Texas has a higher poverty rate than the whole of the United States.
Conservative pro-life politicians in Texas are willing to gut K-12 education, they are willing to cut Medicaid programs, and they are willing to cut food programs, all which help low-income people. A true pro-life movement would advocate for healthy, educated communities, where jobs paid living wages. Women would not need abortions if better socio-economic safety nets and access to sexual education and reproductive care was available for them. Choosing to have an abortion is the hardest decision to make, but it is the decision of the woman, possibly her family, along with the medical guidance of a trusted doctor, to make.
These new laws will not limit abortion, they will not create well-trained doctors who know how to safely perform the procedure and they will not lessen the need. Abortion is legal in the United States and in Texas.
What these new laws will do is limit access for low-income women of color, thus making these laws racist and classist. Women all across the United States deserve the best reproductive health care access. The fight is not over after this. There is so much work to be done. Election season is quickly coming upon Texans; we must rally together and continue to fight.
Written by a fellow radical El Pasoan: Anessa Anchondo-Rivera is a feminista, mother, wife and graduate student studying sociology, and women & gender studies at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).  Anchondo-Rivera is active in the social justice community in El Paso County. She is also a part of the artist collective Movimiento Hunab Ku who partners with their sister collective Rezizte from Ciudad Juarez Chihuahua Mexico, for various art/social justice events.
Source
In the latest on Texas’ war on women, legislators have filed for a ‘Heartbeat bill’ which will ban abortions when a heartbeat is detected (usually six weeks).

Texas abortion bill marginalizes rural, poor & women of color
July 24, 2013

On July 8, I was fortunate to travel from my home in El Paso, to Austin, an eight-hour drive, to witness the Texas State Senate hearings on reproductive health care access in my state. The mood was very intense, the senate floor was full so I sat in a viewing room for most of the day. The Capitol was divided by pro-life supporters wearing blue, and pro-choice supporters wearing orange.

As I sat in the viewing room, I was, at times, surrounded by a sea of blue, but mostly, I was surrounded by the orange of solidarity. The testimonies given that day spoke volumes on the necessity to preserve reproductive health care for all women.

Many pro-life women who had experienced abortions also testified having experienced botched abortion procedures performed by inexperienced doctors.  They also spoke of experiencing guilt, depression, coercion and pressure from doctors and they wanted to ban abortion all together and/or they advocated the new heightened provisions to HB2, so women wouldn’t have to experience the same thing they had.

Because of these issues, many women felt the heightened restrictions presented in HB2, such as requiring doctors who provide abortions to be within 30 miles of and have admitting privileges to a hospital as well as requiring clinics that provide abortions to be ambulatory surgical centers, would be a critical blow to women’s reproductive rights.  These pro-life women did not see the provisions as a blow to reproductive health rights, while pro-choice women did see the new provisions as an obstacle to reproductive health care.

Proponents of the bills say the changes, when implemented, will provide the best care for Texas women. I agree, completely. However, the rhetoric surrounding this argument overlooks the point that these new heightened standards will not provide safe care for women who live along the U.S.-Mexico border and women who live in West Texas.

Because, these new standards will close all but 5 of Texas’ 42 clinics, which provide free or affordable health care for women, 90% of the procedures in these clinics are not abortions, rather cancer and STI screenings, birth control and general women’s health. This sends a message that the women of South and West Texas are not worthy of such heightened standards and care. Rather, women who live in the big cities of East Texas, like Austin and Dallas Fort-Worth are.

Currently in El Paso County, the place I call home, there are only two abortion providers, and while they do have admitting privileges to hospitals, their admitting privileges are only for private hospitals in the area.  Proponents of HB2 argued abortion clinics would be able to afford the upgrades necessary to be in compliance with the new law, however, clinics may have lease agreements that do not permit such upgrades, and a move would also be financially impossible.

Clinics in El Paso County face closure because they simply cannot meet all the new requirements. If this was truly about providing safe care for women during the abortion procedure, then there would be a real effort by the state to provide some type of assistance so clinics can become compliant with the new laws and provide these new heightened standards for all women in Texas.

The House of Representatives addressed 47 amendments on Tuesday July 9th, and every single amendment was tabled. The amendments addressed each provision of HB2 and how these new provisions would place an undue burden on women. This is important to note because the Roe vs. Wadedecision specifically states that women cannot have undue burden place upon them.

Reproductive choice is a fundamental constitutional right. Women who live in West Texas and along the U.S. Mexico border will have to travel a very long distance to receive any abortion or reproductive care (if they are uninsured) under these new laws, thus placing an undue burden on women who wish to practice their constitutional right to reproductive autonomy.

By not addressing the serious socio-economic and cultural issues that surround the abortion debate, the full picture cannot be seen.  In Texas, 49% of children are part of low-income families; Texas has a higher poverty rate than the whole of the United States.

Conservative pro-life politicians in Texas are willing to gut K-12 education, they are willing to cut Medicaid programs, and they are willing to cut food programs, all which help low-income people. A true pro-life movement would advocate for healthy, educated communities, where jobs paid living wages. Women would not need abortions if better socio-economic safety nets and access to sexual education and reproductive care was available for them. Choosing to have an abortion is the hardest decision to make, but it is the decision of the woman, possibly her family, along with the medical guidance of a trusted doctor, to make.

These new laws will not limit abortion, they will not create well-trained doctors who know how to safely perform the procedure and they will not lessen the need. Abortion is legal in the United States and in Texas.

What these new laws will do is limit access for low-income women of color, thus making these laws racist and classist. Women all across the United States deserve the best reproductive health care access. The fight is not over after this. There is so much work to be done. Election season is quickly coming upon Texans; we must rally together and continue to fight.

Written by a fellow radical El Pasoan: Anessa Anchondo-Rivera is a feminista, mother, wife and graduate student studying sociology, and women & gender studies at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).  Anchondo-Rivera is active in the social justice community in El Paso County. She is also a part of the artist collective Movimiento Hunab Ku who partners with their sister collective Rezizte from Ciudad Juarez Chihuahua Mexico, for various art/social justice events.

Source

In the latest on Texas’ war on women, legislators have filed for a ‘Heartbeat bill’ which will ban abortions when a heartbeat is detected (usually six weeks).

Texas Republican files ‘Heartbeat’ ban, prohibiting abortion after six weeks

July 18, 2013

Just hours after a massive anti-abortion bill was signed into law by Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry, new legislation was introduced to restrict safe abortion access in the state even further. On Thursday, Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) introduced HB 59, a “prohibition on abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat.” The bill would ban abortions even earlier in gestation than HB 2, negating one aspect of the newly-signed law, which as of September will ban abortions after 20 weeks (if it is not tied up in litigation by then). But a limited period for debate in the special session, as well as a history of heartbeat laws not being implemented, leaves the future of the proposed bill in doubt.

Although the text of HB 59 has not been released, similar heartbeat bans have popped up in other states in the last few years, all designed to ban abortion at the point when an embryonic heartbeat can be detected. In some cases, that could be as early as six weeks’ gestation (or four weeks after conception), which is before many people are even aware they are pregnant.

An Arkansas heartbeat bill that would have banned abortion after 12 weeks was blocked by the courts as unconstitutional. A North Dakota heartbeat bill that would ban abortions even sooner has not yet gone into effect, but reproductive rights advocates sued to have it enjoined as well.

The Texas legislature is on break until July 25. It is unclear if the new bill will be heard in this session, which is the second special session of this legislative year.

Source

In related news, Planned Parenthood has announced it will close three clinics in Texas.

7 Texas abortion bills that didn’t get filibusteredJuly 17, 2013
This weekend, the Texas Senate voted to pass HB 2, the abortion bill that state Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered two weeks ago. The law bansmost abortions after 20 weeks, requires clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and requires abortions to take place in ambulatory surgical centers. The law will likely close all but 5 of the state’s 42 clinics. Gov. Rick Perry has confirmed he’ll sign the bill into law, possibly as early as the middle of this week.
While Davis’ 11-hour stand focused national attention on this bill, Texas lawmakers have quietly slipped at least seven other bills onto the legislative agenda that would restrict women’s access to abortion. All of them have been proposed since the July 1 opening of the special legislative session called by Perry to force a vote on HB 2 after Davis and her supporters successfully stalled the first vote. These special sessions are unique in that a bill only requires a simple majority to pass rather than the two-thirds majority required during a regular session.
With that advantage in hand, the state’s Republican lawmakers have gone on an abortion restriction spree. Here are the bills they’ve proposed in the last two weeks:
ABORTION ACCESS
SB 9: Sponsored by Sen. Dan Patrick, who also sponsored Texas’ sonogram bill, SB 9 would require that abortion-inducing drugs be dispensed only at abortion clinics. Combined with the bill that passed last weekend, this means women could have to travel for hours to obtainmifepristone and misoprostol, the FDA-approved drug regimen used for early nonsurgical abortions. The law then requires them to return to the clinic for a follow-up appointment 14 days later.
HB 17: This bill would prohibit sex-selective abortions. Abortion rights advocates consider such bills, which have passed in several other states, tangential and unenforceable ploys to further restrict abortion rights.  
HB 26: If passed, this bill would require women to fill out a “coerced abortion form" before the procedure, confirming they are acting voluntarily. The bill’s vague wording leaves room for a physician to deny an abortion if they believe she seems coerced—even if that’s not indicated on the form or said by her outright.
ABORTION AND MINORS
HB 18: Though Texas requires parental notification and consent for a minor to get an abortion, currently minors may bypass that requirement by way of a court petition. This proposed law would further complicate the red-tape-heavy process in a number of ways, including eliminating an existing rule that allows minors to move forward with the procedure if a judge does not rule within two days of a hearing.
HB 27: Taking HB 18 even further, this bill would extend the amount of time a court has to consider a minor’s initial request for an abortion (and subsequent appeals) from two to five days. It would also require minors to testify about their reasons for wanting an abortion, be evaluated by a state mental-health counselor, and prove their maturity with examples like “traveling independently” and “managing her own financial affairs.”
SEX ED AND ABORTION
HB 50: This bill aims “to reduce the occurrence of abortions and the use of abortion facilities” by creating a public education program encouraging men to support women with unexpected pregnancies. That might not be a terrible idea, but the bill says that any state agency can work on the program (pregnancy info brought to you by the Texas Department of Transportation?!) and that they can’t contract with any health care providers, facilities, or advocacy groups to educate the public.
HB 22: If passed, this bill would prevent any affiliate of an abortion provider from providing information on sexuality or family planning for sex ed curricula. That means any information at all, whether it’s related to abortion or not. So Planned Parenthood, for example, which offers abortions (though they make up just 3 percent of their services, nationally) would be barred from providing any information—about women’s health, STDs, contraception, etc.—for use in Texas classrooms.
AND ACROSS THE AISLE…
Democrats have proposed a few bills during this special session to counter the stream of anti-abortion legislation. SB 23 would preventhospitals from denying admitting privileges to abortion-clinic doctors on the basis of where they work. Another measure, HB 45, mandates that all abortion laws passed in the Texas Legislature from now on can’t go into effect until 60 days after Texas abolishes the death penalty.
Source

7 Texas abortion bills that didn’t get filibustered
July 17, 2013

This weekend, the Texas Senate voted to pass HB 2, the abortion bill that state Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered two weeks ago. The law bansmost abortions after 20 weeks, requires clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and requires abortions to take place in ambulatory surgical centers. The law will likely close all but 5 of the state’s 42 clinics. Gov. Rick Perry has confirmed he’ll sign the bill into law, possibly as early as the middle of this week.

While Davis’ 11-hour stand focused national attention on this bill, Texas lawmakers have quietly slipped at least seven other bills onto the legislative agenda that would restrict women’s access to abortion. All of them have been proposed since the July 1 opening of the special legislative session called by Perry to force a vote on HB 2 after Davis and her supporters successfully stalled the first vote. These special sessions are unique in that a bill only requires a simple majority to pass rather than the two-thirds majority required during a regular session.

With that advantage in hand, the state’s Republican lawmakers have gone on an abortion restriction spree. Here are the bills they’ve proposed in the last two weeks:

ABORTION ACCESS

SB 9: Sponsored by Sen. Dan Patrick, who also sponsored Texas’ sonogram bill, SB 9 would require that abortion-inducing drugs be dispensed only at abortion clinics. Combined with the bill that passed last weekend, this means women could have to travel for hours to obtainmifepristone and misoprostol, the FDA-approved drug regimen used for early nonsurgical abortions. The law then requires them to return to the clinic for a follow-up appointment 14 days later.

HB 17: This bill would prohibit sex-selective abortions. Abortion rights advocates consider such bills, which have passed in several other states, tangential and unenforceable ploys to further restrict abortion rights.  

HB 26: If passed, this bill would require women to fill out a “coerced abortion form" before the procedure, confirming they are acting voluntarily. The bill’s vague wording leaves room for a physician to deny an abortion if they believe she seems coerced—even if that’s not indicated on the form or said by her outright.

ABORTION AND MINORS

HB 18: Though Texas requires parental notification and consent for a minor to get an abortion, currently minors may bypass that requirement by way of a court petition. This proposed law would further complicate the red-tape-heavy process in a number of ways, including eliminating an existing rule that allows minors to move forward with the procedure if a judge does not rule within two days of a hearing.

HB 27: Taking HB 18 even further, this bill would extend the amount of time a court has to consider a minor’s initial request for an abortion (and subsequent appeals) from two to five days. It would also require minors to testify about their reasons for wanting an abortion, be evaluated by a state mental-health counselor, and prove their maturity with examples like “traveling independently” and “managing her own financial affairs.”

SEX ED AND ABORTION

HB 50: This bill aims “to reduce the occurrence of abortions and the use of abortion facilities” by creating a public education program encouraging men to support women with unexpected pregnancies. That might not be a terrible idea, but the bill says that any state agency can work on the program (pregnancy info brought to you by the Texas Department of Transportation?!) and that they can’t contract with any health care providers, facilities, or advocacy groups to educate the public.

HB 22: If passed, this bill would prevent any affiliate of an abortion provider from providing information on sexuality or family planning for sex ed curricula. That means any information at all, whether it’s related to abortion or not. So Planned Parenthood, for example, which offers abortions (though they make up just 3 percent of their services, nationally) would be barred from providing any information—about women’s health, STDs, contraception, etc.—for use in Texas classrooms.

AND ACROSS THE AISLE

Democrats have proposed a few bills during this special session to counter the stream of anti-abortion legislation. SB 23 would preventhospitals from denying admitting privileges to abortion-clinic doctors on the basis of where they work. Another measure, HB 45, mandates that all abortion laws passed in the Texas Legislature from now on can’t go into effect until 60 days after Texas abolishes the death penalty.

Source

Women are socialized to be quiet. We are socialized not to be political and to keep our opinions to ourselves. We are socialized to ask for things — to wait for things.

I and some other activists had even been talking that day about organizations insisting that demonstrators could not in any way be aggressive, that someone in an orange shirt [a symbol of being part of the reproductive rights contingent at the Capitol] doing something like that could ruin the whole thing.

That’s ridiculous. It’s civil disobedience and it’s civil disobedience for a reason.

Texas is a beautiful place. A diverse place. A place I’ll love for the rest of my life — but it’s an oppressive place. People, I think, with the ability and privilege to wait on the next election can say, “We’ll just keep quiet and wait.” But I think that we can’t wait. We have to stop them. […] What’s it going to take? Women dying like they did before Roe vs. Wade?

Texas activist Sarah Slamen on the passing of one of the country’s strictest abortion bills that bans abortions after 20 weeks.

Right before launching her testimony of the Texas legislative process, calling it “a farce,” Slamen was dragged out by Texas state troopers and escorted out of the Capitol. You can watch her speech here.

Sadism as politics: Rick Perry, Paul Ryan, anti-abortion politics & kicking the poorJuly 1, 2013
The victory in Texas on Senate Bill 5 - the successful filibuster by State Senator Wendy Davis and the crowd of pro-choice Texans who packed the Capitol to stand with her, who shouted down the vote in what Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst petulantly called “Occupy Wall Street tactics" - may be short-lived, as Governor (and failed Republican presidential candidate) Rick Perry has already declared that he’s calling another special legislative session to pass the bill.
As if that’s not enough, Perry gave a speech Thursday at the National Right to Lifeconference and used Davis’ personal life as an example of someone who was “born into difficult circumstances,” the daughter of a single mom and a teen mother herself.
Perry’s immediate need not just to argue with Wendy Davis and the people who stood with her but to shame them personally, to tell a crowd that "The louder they scream, the more we know that we are getting something done" is just the latest reminder of what this kind of anti-abortion politics is really about: power.
It’s not just a tactic to move toward banning abortion slowly, inch by inch, hoping that we don’t notice our rights disappearing. This strategy of passing more and more restrictions on how and when and where and with whose permission one can obtain an abortion is itself a method of demonstrating and reiterating power over our bodies; it’s a sharp reminder that they exercise this power largely because they can. Because as members of a privileged class - economically and politically as well as by virtue of race and gender - they will wield that power, not for our own good but in spite of our desires, and the more we scream the more pleasure they take in their victory. The discipline, Perry’s comment shows, is the point.
Perry, and his comrade-in-sadism Paul Ryan, aren’t just anti-abortionists, of course. They’re also big fans of punishing and controlling the poor - usually imagined, often not entirely correctly, as non-white people. Ryan has proposed drastic cuts to Social Security, wanted to turn Medicare into a voucher program, and just last week voted to support an amendment that would boot people off food assistance if they can’t find a job; Perry wants to drug test the unemployed and recipients of food stamps and presided over the largest cuts to public education since World War II.
And of course, the granddaddy of today’s vicious, sadistic politics is Newt Gingrich, about to be launched back into our living rooms via CNN’s resurrected Crossfire program. Americans remember him recently telling us that low-income children should work as janitors in schools and should remember him, too, as the driving force behind the 1990s welfare “reform” signed and promoted by Bill Clinton. Welfare reform is perhaps the perfect policy to demonstrate where these issues come together. The Gingriches of the world would deny low-income parents the right to plan their families, and then would punish them for having families at all by forcing them into dead-end low-wage jobs, all the while beating them up rhetorically as well for not being the kind of full-time parents that conservatives dream of. Reproduction is always another pathway to punishment.
And we shouldn’t forget that the night before Perry spoke these words, he presided over Texas’ 500th execution since resuming capital punishment in 1982 - of a woman, Kimberly McCarthy, convicted of the 1997 murder of her neighbor during a robbery. Perry’s been in charge of more than half of those 500 executions - 261, to be exact - over the course of his three terms as governor, more than any other governor in the country.
In consensual S&M, the exchange of power, the restriction of freedom down to what a dominant allows, is done for pleasure, for boundary-pushing. It’s about control willingly given up - without that willingness, play violence turns real. The thrill is seeing how far you can go, not in actually being abused.
In the game that Perry and his comrades are playing, there has been no informed consent; there is no safe-word we can use to stop the pain, and the “no” of thousands of Texas women is just an excuse to try it again. We may think we see the psychosexual glint in Perry’s eye when he talks about women “screaming,” but what he reveals is much bigger than a personal kink - it’s the connections between sadistic economic policy, sadistic reproductive health policy (if you can call it that) and sadistic “justice” policy.
These issues are of a piece, and the piece is control. Many of us like to point out that abortion is an economic issue, and this is certainly true, but what Perry shows us is that even economic policy is about more than money. It’s not enough that unemployment remains high and the people in Texas who are finding jobs are largely finding them in low-wage, no-security industries; no, he has to keep finding ways to turn the rack. A thoroughly cowed working class that has to beg for scraps is less likely to rise up and exercise its own power when the punishment for doing so grows ever harsher. Those of us who’ve spent time in and around the labor movement know that the boss is often willing to grant workers a raise if they’ll give up their demands for a union - giving up a bit of power and control to the workers is infinitely more threatening to bosses than money. They regularly shell out plenty of cash to anti-union “consultants" to make sure their underlings remain suitably scared. The question is not money, but power.
Full article

Sadism as politics: Rick Perry, Paul Ryan, anti-abortion politics & kicking the poor
July 1, 2013

The victory in Texas on Senate Bill 5 - the successful filibuster by State Senator Wendy Davis and the crowd of pro-choice Texans who packed the Capitol to stand with her, who shouted down the vote in what Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst petulantly called “Occupy Wall Street tactics" - may be short-lived, as Governor (and failed Republican presidential candidate) Rick Perry has already declared that he’s calling another special legislative session to pass the bill.

As if that’s not enough, Perry gave a speech Thursday at the National Right to Lifeconference and used Davis’ personal life as an example of someone who was “born into difficult circumstances,” the daughter of a single mom and a teen mother herself.

Perry’s immediate need not just to argue with Wendy Davis and the people who stood with her but to shame them personally, to tell a crowd that "The louder they scream, the more we know that we are getting something done" is just the latest reminder of what this kind of anti-abortion politics is really about: power.

It’s not just a tactic to move toward banning abortion slowly, inch by inch, hoping that we don’t notice our rights disappearing. This strategy of passing more and more restrictions on how and when and where and with whose permission one can obtain an abortion is itself a method of demonstrating and reiterating power over our bodies; it’s a sharp reminder that they exercise this power largely because they can. Because as members of a privileged class - economically and politically as well as by virtue of race and gender - they will wield that power, not for our own good but in spite of our desires, and the more we scream the more pleasure they take in their victory. The discipline, Perry’s comment shows, is the point.

Perry, and his comrade-in-sadism Paul Ryan, aren’t just anti-abortionists, of course. They’re also big fans of punishing and controlling the poor - usually imagined, often not entirely correctly, as non-white people. Ryan has proposed drastic cuts to Social Security, wanted to turn Medicare into a voucher program, and just last week voted to support an amendment that would boot people off food assistance if they can’t find a job; Perry wants to drug test the unemployed and recipients of food stamps and presided over the largest cuts to public education since World War II.

And of course, the granddaddy of today’s vicious, sadistic politics is Newt Gingrich, about to be launched back into our living rooms via CNN’s resurrected Crossfire program. Americans remember him recently telling us that low-income children should work as janitors in schools and should remember him, too, as the driving force behind the 1990s welfare “reform” signed and promoted by Bill Clinton. Welfare reform is perhaps the perfect policy to demonstrate where these issues come together. The Gingriches of the world would deny low-income parents the right to plan their families, and then would punish them for having families at all by forcing them into dead-end low-wage jobs, all the while beating them up rhetorically as well for not being the kind of full-time parents that conservatives dream of. Reproduction is always another pathway to punishment.

And we shouldn’t forget that the night before Perry spoke these words, he presided over Texas’ 500th execution since resuming capital punishment in 1982 - of a woman, Kimberly McCarthy, convicted of the 1997 murder of her neighbor during a robbery. Perry’s been in charge of more than half of those 500 executions - 261, to be exact - over the course of his three terms as governor, more than any other governor in the country.

In consensual S&M, the exchange of power, the restriction of freedom down to what a dominant allows, is done for pleasure, for boundary-pushing. It’s about control willingly given up - without that willingness, play violence turns real. The thrill is seeing how far you can go, not in actually being abused.

In the game that Perry and his comrades are playing, there has been no informed consent; there is no safe-word we can use to stop the pain, and the “no” of thousands of Texas women is just an excuse to try it again. We may think we see the psychosexual glint in Perry’s eye when he talks about women “screaming,” but what he reveals is much bigger than a personal kink - it’s the connections between sadistic economic policy, sadistic reproductive health policy (if you can call it that) and sadistic “justice” policy.

These issues are of a piece, and the piece is control. Many of us like to point out that abortion is an economic issue, and this is certainly true, but what Perry shows us is that even economic policy is about more than money. It’s not enough that unemployment remains high and the people in Texas who are finding jobs are largely finding them in low-wage, no-security industries; no, he has to keep finding ways to turn the rack. A thoroughly cowed working class that has to beg for scraps is less likely to rise up and exercise its own power when the punishment for doing so grows ever harsher. Those of us who’ve spent time in and around the labor movement know that the boss is often willing to grant workers a raise if they’ll give up their demands for a union - giving up a bit of power and control to the workers is infinitely more threatening to bosses than money. They regularly shell out plenty of cash to anti-union “consultants" to make sure their underlings remain suitably scared. The question is not money, but power.

Full article

In fact, even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. She was the daughter of as single woman, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate. It is just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters.

Breaking: North Dakota Becomes First State To Ban All Abortions By Defining Life At Conception

March 22, 2013

North Dakota lawmakers voted on Friday afternoon to pass a “personhood” abortion ban, which would endow fertilized eggs with all the rights of U.S. citizens and effectively outlaw abortion. The measure, which passed the Senate last month, passed the House by a 57-35 vote and will now head to Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s desk.

The personhood ban will have far-reaching consequences even beyond abortion care, since it will charge doctors who damage embryos with criminal negligence. Doctors in the state say it will also prevent them from performing in vitro fertilization, and some medical professionals have vowed to leave the state if it is signed into law.

The measure is so extreme that some pro-life Republicans in the state have come out against it, planning to join a pro-choice rally in the state capital on Monday to oppose the far-right abortion restriction. “We have stepped over the line,” Republican state Rep. Kathy Hawken (R-Fargo) said of the recent push to pass personhood. “North Dakota hasn’t even passed a primary seatbelt law, but we have the most invasive attack on women’s health anywhere.”

Personhood advocates have pushed their agenda in states throughout the country over the past several years, but their measures have so far been unable to advance. North Dakota is the first state to pass a personhood abortion ban.

Source

The sickening cost of health care: Why Americans pay the highest health care costs in the worldMarch 18, 2013
Health care costs in the United States continue to skyrocket, with dire consequences ranging from personal bankruptcies to the growing national debt. Yet the even more outrageous fact is that these inflated costs—the highest in the world—produce health outcomes that trail countries which spend far less.
In a Time magazine special report titled "Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us," published in February, investigative journalist Steven Brill pulls back the curtain to expose the price-gouging and profiteering that explains why health care in the U.S. costs so much.
Brill’s article details the devastating impact that health care costs—which are behind six in 10 personal bankruptcies—have on working-class people. As Time managing editor Richard Stengel pointed out, Brill “inverts the standard question of who should pay for health care and asks instead: Why are we paying so much?”
Barack Obama used the urgency of this crisis to press Congress to pass his health care law. But the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does little to address rising health care costs.
On the contrary, it will almost certainly make things worse by requiring the uninsured to get coverage from for-profit companies and providing subsidies from taxpayer revenues to pay the premiums. Rather than challenging industry giants, Brill writes, “Obamacare enriches them. That, of course, is why the bill was able to get through Congress.”
Meanwhile, outsized health care costs—which continue to rise faster than inflation—are a central reason for big government deficits, which the very same politicians then use as a pretext to push for cuts in “entitlement” programs like Social Security and Medicare, by reducing payments for the former and raising the eligibility age for the latter.
However, as Brill points out, Medicare, the government’s universal health care system for the elderly, is one of the few bright spots in the current system. Whatever its flaws, caused by cuts and restrictions over the past few decades, it is still far more efficient than private insurance, it offers universal coverage while even Obama’s health care law will leave tens of millions of people uninsured—and it has mechanisms to keep costs down.
If Medicare, instead of being cut, was expanded to cover everyone and to provide even better care than it does now, it would save about $380 billion per year by cutting down on administrative waste, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine—and on top of that, it would actually improve health care.
Over ten years, that’s just about the same amount—$4 trillion—that Barack Obama’s deficit reduction commission proposes to save, with massive cuts to entitlement programs that dwarf proposed increases in taxes.
It’s true that government spending on Medicare has been rising much faster than inflation and is a major cause of government deficits. Medicare spending, after adjusting for inflation, increased fivefold from $110.2 billion in 1990 to $554.3 billion in 2011,according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). And that was after it nearly tripled in 10 years from $37.4 billion in 1980.
In fact, according to Congressional Budget Office figures, protected increases in health care costs are behind most of the expected growth in government debt.
While a significant part of this increase is the result of a growing and aging population, much of the increase in Medicare spending is being driven by increased health care costs overall. The CMS reports that total per capita health care spending in the U.S., adjusted for inflation, more than tripled from $2,854 in 1990 to $8,680 in 2011. Health care accounts for nearly one-fifth of the GDP in the U.S..
Other advanced industrial countries such as Germany have a significantly higher percentage of their populations over age 65. Yet they spend much less on health care than the U.S.—and achieve better outcomes.
In “Bitter Pill,” Brill examines hospital bills to expose how extreme price inflation generates massive hospital industry profits, while driving health care costs sky-high—a price that is ultimately paid by consumers.
According to Brill, hospitals charge patients different amounts for the same equipment and procedures, depending on what kind of insurance they have. While Medicare and Medicaid pay a set amount for each item, various insurers negotiate the rates they pay. Many insurers negotiate a discount off the “chargemaster”—a hospital’s list of charges for everything from aspirin and gauze to major procedures and cancer drugs that cost tens of thousands of dollars each.
Because hospitals use the chargemaster as a starting point in negotiations, these prices are much higher than the items actually cost. To cite one example, Brill points out a hospital that charges $24 for a niacin pill which costs about 5 cents in an ordinary pharmacy: a markup of 47,900 percent.
Hospitals also gouge patients by charging multiple times for the same procedure. In the article, Brill quotes Patricia Palmer, who is paid to negotiate with hospitals on behalf of patients to lower exorbitant bills:

First, they charge more than $2,000 a day for the ICU, because it’s an ICU and it has all this special equipment and personnel. Then they charge $1,000 for some kit used in the ICU to give someone a transfusion or oxygen…And then they charge $50 or $100 for each tool or bandage or whatever that there is in the kit. That’s triple billing.

For the un- or underinsured, tragic illnesses can be a financial catastrophe. The terminally ill can even be forced into an impossible choice: whether to extend their lives and leave their families with a crippling debt, or give up time with their families to avoid burdening them financially.
This was the choice faced by Steven D., who Brill profiles in his article. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Steven’s wife Alice, who earns about $40,000 a year, racked up over $900,000 in debt to pay for treatment to keep her husband alive for an extra 11 months. Although Alice was able to get Medi-Cal (Medicaid) coverage and hired an advocate to negotiate with the hospital, she still ended up owing $142,000, more than three times her yearly salary. Not only did she have to cope with losing her husband, but she was left financially crippled as well.
When pressed by Brill, hospital administrators weren’t able to give a plausible explanation for the chargemaster rates, except to say that they are only a starting point and patients aren’t actually expected to pay them. The grim irony is that it is the uninsured patients—those among the least likely to be able to afford it—who are charged full chargemaster prices. And many don’t know negotiation is an option.
Full article

The sickening cost of health care: Why Americans pay the highest health care costs in the world
March 18, 2013

Health care costs in the United States continue to skyrocket, with dire consequences ranging from personal bankruptcies to the growing national debt. Yet the even more outrageous fact is that these inflated costs—the highest in the world—produce health outcomes that trail countries which spend far less.

In a Time magazine special report titled "Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us," published in February, investigative journalist Steven Brill pulls back the curtain to expose the price-gouging and profiteering that explains why health care in the U.S. costs so much.

Brill’s article details the devastating impact that health care costs—which are behind six in 10 personal bankruptcies—have on working-class people. As Time managing editor Richard Stengel pointed out, Brill “inverts the standard question of who should pay for health care and asks instead: Why are we paying so much?”

Barack Obama used the urgency of this crisis to press Congress to pass his health care law. But the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does little to address rising health care costs.

On the contrary, it will almost certainly make things worse by requiring the uninsured to get coverage from for-profit companies and providing subsidies from taxpayer revenues to pay the premiums. Rather than challenging industry giants, Brill writes, “Obamacare enriches them. That, of course, is why the bill was able to get through Congress.”

Meanwhile, outsized health care costs—which continue to rise faster than inflation—are a central reason for big government deficits, which the very same politicians then use as a pretext to push for cuts in “entitlement” programs like Social Security and Medicare, by reducing payments for the former and raising the eligibility age for the latter.

However, as Brill points out, Medicare, the government’s universal health care system for the elderly, is one of the few bright spots in the current system. Whatever its flaws, caused by cuts and restrictions over the past few decades, it is still far more efficient than private insurance, it offers universal coverage while even Obama’s health care law will leave tens of millions of people uninsured—and it has mechanisms to keep costs down.

If Medicare, instead of being cut, was expanded to cover everyone and to provide even better care than it does now, it would save about $380 billion per year by cutting down on administrative waste, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine—and on top of that, it would actually improve health care.

Over ten years, that’s just about the same amount—$4 trillion—that Barack Obama’s deficit reduction commission proposes to save, with massive cuts to entitlement programs that dwarf proposed increases in taxes.

It’s true that government spending on Medicare has been rising much faster than inflation and is a major cause of government deficits. Medicare spending, after adjusting for inflation, increased fivefold from $110.2 billion in 1990 to $554.3 billion in 2011,according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). And that was after it nearly tripled in 10 years from $37.4 billion in 1980.

In fact, according to Congressional Budget Office figures, protected increases in health care costs are behind most of the expected growth in government debt.

While a significant part of this increase is the result of a growing and aging population, much of the increase in Medicare spending is being driven by increased health care costs overall. The CMS reports that total per capita health care spending in the U.S., adjusted for inflation, more than tripled from $2,854 in 1990 to $8,680 in 2011. Health care accounts for nearly one-fifth of the GDP in the U.S..

Other advanced industrial countries such as Germany have a significantly higher percentage of their populations over age 65. Yet they spend much less on health care than the U.S.—and achieve better outcomes.

In “Bitter Pill,” Brill examines hospital bills to expose how extreme price inflation generates massive hospital industry profits, while driving health care costs sky-high—a price that is ultimately paid by consumers.

According to Brill, hospitals charge patients different amounts for the same equipment and procedures, depending on what kind of insurance they have. While Medicare and Medicaid pay a set amount for each item, various insurers negotiate the rates they pay. Many insurers negotiate a discount off the “chargemaster”—a hospital’s list of charges for everything from aspirin and gauze to major procedures and cancer drugs that cost tens of thousands of dollars each.

Because hospitals use the chargemaster as a starting point in negotiations, these prices are much higher than the items actually cost. To cite one example, Brill points out a hospital that charges $24 for a niacin pill which costs about 5 cents in an ordinary pharmacy: a markup of 47,900 percent.

Hospitals also gouge patients by charging multiple times for the same procedure. In the article, Brill quotes Patricia Palmer, who is paid to negotiate with hospitals on behalf of patients to lower exorbitant bills:

First, they charge more than $2,000 a day for the ICU, because it’s an ICU and it has all this special equipment and personnel. Then they charge $1,000 for some kit used in the ICU to give someone a transfusion or oxygen…And then they charge $50 or $100 for each tool or bandage or whatever that there is in the kit. That’s triple billing.

For the un- or underinsured, tragic illnesses can be a financial catastrophe. The terminally ill can even be forced into an impossible choice: whether to extend their lives and leave their families with a crippling debt, or give up time with their families to avoid burdening them financially.

This was the choice faced by Steven D., who Brill profiles in his article. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Steven’s wife Alice, who earns about $40,000 a year, racked up over $900,000 in debt to pay for treatment to keep her husband alive for an extra 11 months. Although Alice was able to get Medi-Cal (Medicaid) coverage and hired an advocate to negotiate with the hospital, she still ended up owing $142,000, more than three times her yearly salary. Not only did she have to cope with losing her husband, but she was left financially crippled as well.

When pressed by Brill, hospital administrators weren’t able to give a plausible explanation for the chargemaster rates, except to say that they are only a starting point and patients aren’t actually expected to pay them. The grim irony is that it is the uninsured patients—those among the least likely to be able to afford it—who are charged full chargemaster prices. And many don’t know negotiation is an option.

Full article

Here are just a few of the largest budget cuts from the sequester that went into effect on March 1. $85 billion will be cut in 2013 with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years.
Health care
$20 million cut from the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs 
$10 million cut from the World Trade Center Health Program Fund 
$168 million cut from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 
$75 million cut from the Aging and Disability Services Programs
Housing
$199 million cut from public housing 
$96 million cut from Homeless Assistance Grants 
$17 million cut from Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS 
$19 million cut from Housing for the Elderly 
$175 million cut from Low Income Home Energy Assistance
Disaster and Emergency
$928 million cut from FEMA’s disaster relief money 
$6 million cut from Emergency Food and Shelter
$70 million cut from the Agricultural Disaster Relief Fund at USDA
$61 million cut from the Hazardous Substance Superfund at EPA
$125 million cut from the Wildland Fire Management
$53 million cut from Salaries and Expenses at the Food Safety and Inspection Service
Obamacare
$13 million cut from the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan Program (Co-ops)
$57 million cut from the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control 
$51 million cut from the Prevention and Public Health Fund 
$27 million cut from the State Grants and Demonstrations 
$44 million cut from the Affordable Insurance Exchange Grants program
Education
$633 million cut from the Department of Education’s Special Education programs 
$184 million cut from Rehabilitation Services and Disability Research 
$71 million cut from administration at the Office of Federal Student Aid 
$116 million cut from Higher Education 
$86 million cut from Student Financial Assistance
Immigration
$512 million cut from Customs and Border Protection 
$17 million cut from Automation Modernization, Customs and Border Protection 
$20 million cut from Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology
Security
$79 million cut from Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance 
$604 million cut from National Nuclear Security Administration 
$232 million cut from the Federal Aviation Administration 
$394 million cut from Defense Environmental Cleanup
Source

Here are just a few of the largest budget cuts from the sequester that went into effect on March 1. $85 billion will be cut in 2013 with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years.

Health care

  • $20 million cut from the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs 
  • $10 million cut from the World Trade Center Health Program Fund 
  • $168 million cut from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 
  • $75 million cut from the Aging and Disability Services Programs

Housing

  • $199 million cut from public housing 
  • $96 million cut from Homeless Assistance Grants 
  • $17 million cut from Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS 
  • $19 million cut from Housing for the Elderly 
  • $175 million cut from Low Income Home Energy Assistance

Disaster and Emergency

  • $928 million cut from FEMA’s disaster relief money 
  • $6 million cut from Emergency Food and Shelter
  • $70 million cut from the Agricultural Disaster Relief Fund at USDA
  • $61 million cut from the Hazardous Substance Superfund at EPA
  • $125 million cut from the Wildland Fire Management
  • $53 million cut from Salaries and Expenses at the Food Safety and Inspection Service

Obamacare

  • $13 million cut from the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan Program (Co-ops)
  • $57 million cut from the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control 
  • $51 million cut from the Prevention and Public Health Fund 
  • $27 million cut from the State Grants and Demonstrations 
  • $44 million cut from the Affordable Insurance Exchange Grants program

Education

  • $633 million cut from the Department of Education’s Special Education programs 
  • $184 million cut from Rehabilitation Services and Disability Research 
  • $71 million cut from administration at the Office of Federal Student Aid 
  • $116 million cut from Higher Education 
  • $86 million cut from Student Financial Assistance

Immigration

  • $512 million cut from Customs and Border Protection 
  • $17 million cut from Automation Modernization, Customs and Border Protection 
  • $20 million cut from Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology

Security

  • $79 million cut from Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance 
  • $604 million cut from National Nuclear Security Administration 
  • $232 million cut from the Federal Aviation Administration 
  • $394 million cut from Defense Environmental Cleanup

Source

Public need over greed: The outcry at new NHS privatisation planFebruary 28, 2013 
A quietly announced piece of legislation has attracted a storm of criticism from both Liberal Democrats and GPs (Doctors, General Practitioners), and garnered over 190,000 signatures in but a few days to stop it. SI 257 is a new amendment to the controversial Health and Social Care Act passed early last year. Upon its implementation on April 1st, all National Health Service contracts in England will be opened up to “compulsory” competition, and making whatever a monitor regards as an “unnecessary” barrier to competition illegal.  Many fear that this new amendment will force privatisation on communities, despite reassurances from ministers that the final decision will lie in the hands of local people.The latest in a long lineThis is not the first time privatisation has been on the cards for the NHS. Prime Minister David Cameron argued in Prime Minister’s Question Time that current privatisation plans are merely a continuation of New Labour’s health reforms which included the introduction of Private Funding Initiatives, which resulted in the department debts of up to £150 million. The Health and Social Care Act, passed in March 2012, allowed for 49 percent of contracts to be bid upon by private companies. The result was a wave of buy-ups of NHS services, with some 400 NHS contracts worth over a quarter of a billion pounds going to private providers. However, the bill only passed through thanks to reassurances to the Liberal Democrats from the then Health Secretary Andrew Lansley that “there is absolutely nothing in the bill that promotes or permits the transfer of NHS activities to the private sector.” Services such as Manchester’s patient transport were up for grabs, though GPs and other frontline services were to remain in the public sphere. Public backlashSince the discovery of the amendment, GPs have begun campaigning for its repeal. Senior GP Dr. David Wrigley has urged clinicians and NHS staff to back his campaign to bring about a new parliamentary debate on the “forced privatization” of the NHS, citing the former Health Secretary’s promises to maintain local choice on whether to use competition. GP action culminated in one retired doctor standing in the recent Eastleigh by election, as a candidate from the NHS Action party. The Liberal Democrats, the Conservative party’s coalition partner, have also been raising concerns over the bill, so much so that government sources have said that the current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was prepared to review the regulations to satisfy the liberals amid fears of a fresh rebellion over health reforms. There has also been a quick social media reaction despite the BBC’s near total silence on the issue, with one petition on the 38 Degrees protest website garnering over 190,000 signatures since the amendment went public.How will this affect patients?Luckily, the current reforms contain nothing about having to pay for services. Healthcare looks set to stay universal for all. The real issue in contention is how this will impact the quality of healthcare. The fear is that the introduction of a for-profit healthcare system will lead to a proliferation of the “penny pincher” attitude that the service has become notorious for. It even more so removes the objective of the service away from care and instead towards private profit. There’s also the potential that it could lead to a full-scale market system and the end of the NHS. After deregulation of public transport during the 1980s, private bus companies initially provided free services, similar to private companies within the NHS today. However, eventually these services were dropped, just as public and free gas, electricity and railways eventually were. There is also the issue of democracy and accountability. Such privatisation plans were not on the Conservative manifesto during the 2010 election, and even ran with the election tagline “We’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS”. A recent YouGov poll found that 4 out of 5 voters across the political spectrum do not want any more markets in the NHS. These measures are not what the majority people voted for or want. Also, when the HSCA was first passed its measures were far less extreme (as mentioned earlier), and passed under the assumption that it was to be the limit of privatisation. However, this new extension of the act will not and has not been debated in parliament, and only merited a passing mention in today’s Prime Minister’s Question Time.
- Christopher M.

Public need over greed: The outcry at new NHS privatisation plan
February 28, 2013 

A quietly announced piece of legislation has attracted a storm of criticism from both Liberal Democrats and GPs (Doctors, General Practitioners), and garnered over 190,000 signatures in but a few days to stop it.

SI 257 is a new amendment to the controversial Health and Social Care Act passed early last year. Upon its implementation on April 1st, all National Health Service contracts in England will be opened up to “compulsory” competition, and making whatever a monitor regards as an “unnecessary” barrier to competition illegal.  

Many fear that this new amendment will force privatisation on communities, despite reassurances from ministers that the final decision will lie in the hands of local people.

The latest in a long line

This is not the first time privatisation has been on the cards for the NHS. Prime Minister David Cameron argued in Prime Minister’s Question Time that current privatisation plans are merely a continuation of New Labour’s health reforms which included the introduction of Private Funding Initiatives, which resulted in the department debts of up to £150 million.

The Health and Social Care Act, passed in March 2012, allowed for 49 percent of contracts to be bid upon by private companies. The result was a wave of buy-ups of NHS services, with some 400 NHS contracts worth over a quarter of a billion pounds going to private providers.

However, the bill only passed through thanks to reassurances to the Liberal Democrats from the then Health Secretary Andrew Lansley that “there is absolutely nothing in the bill that promotes or permits the transfer of NHS activities to the private sector.” Services such as Manchester’s patient transport were up for grabs, though GPs and other frontline services were to remain in the public sphere.

Public backlash

Since the discovery of the amendment, GPs have begun campaigning for its repeal. Senior GP Dr. David Wrigley has urged clinicians and NHS staff to back his campaign to bring about a new parliamentary debate on the “forced privatization” of the NHS, citing the former Health Secretary’s promises to maintain local choice on whether to use competition.

GP action culminated in one retired doctor standing in the recent Eastleigh by election, as a candidate from the NHS Action party. The Liberal Democrats, the Conservative party’s coalition partner, have also been raising concerns over the bill, so much so that government sources have said that the current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was prepared to review the regulations to satisfy the liberals amid fears of a fresh rebellion over health reforms.

There has also been a quick social media reaction despite the BBC’s near total silence on the issue, with one petition on the 38 Degrees protest website garnering over 190,000 signatures since the amendment went public.

How will this affect patients?

Luckily, the current reforms contain nothing about having to pay for services. Healthcare looks set to stay universal for all. The real issue in contention is how this will impact the quality of healthcare. The fear is that the introduction of a for-profit healthcare system will lead to a proliferation of the “penny pincher” attitude that the service has become notorious for. It even more so removes the objective of the service away from care and instead towards private profit.

There’s also the potential that it could lead to a full-scale market system and the end of the NHS. After deregulation of public transport during the 1980s, private bus companies initially provided free services, similar to private companies within the NHS today. However, eventually these services were dropped, just as public and free gas, electricity and railways eventually were.

There is also the issue of democracy and accountability. Such privatisation plans were not on the Conservative manifesto during the 2010 election, and even ran with the election tagline “We’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS”.

A recent YouGov poll found that 4 out of 5 voters across the political spectrum do not want any more markets in the NHS. These measures are not what the majority people voted for or want.

Also, when the HSCA was first passed its measures were far less extreme (as mentioned earlier), and passed under the assumption that it was to be the limit of privatisation. However, this new extension of the act will not and has not been debated in parliament, and only merited a passing mention in today’s Prime Minister’s Question Time.

- Christopher M.