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Week of 8.14.09

Gambling With Health Care

Is the economic collapse creating a health care calamity?

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Losing your job is a blow not just to your income, but also to your health insurance. Many can't afford high COBRA premiums, much less private insurance. And the sputtering economy is making a bad situation tragic.

The Weekly Q
NOW travels to Nevada, where a huge budget deficit, spiking unemployment, and cuts in Medicaid and other public services are forcing people to gamble with their own lives. Recently, the only public hospital in Las Vegas had to shut its doors to cancer patients and pregnant women. Should the government be helping out?

NOW shares the human stories behind the distressing numbers, and investigates possible solutions and responses with insight from Dr. Howard Dean, former Vermont governor and chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

With the economic disaster blowing holes in society's health care safety net, who's left to catch our fall?

This show was originally broadcast on March 20, 2009.

In the News

Web Features

Interview: Howard Dean
Why the former government of Vermont thinks universal health care is the only way forward.

Tips for the Unemployed and Uninsured
Health care coverage options for people who have lost their jobs.

In Your State: Quality of Health Care
How does health care in your state measure up?

Associated Press: A look at the House Democrats' health bill

Associated Press: House Republicans unveil $700B health care plan

Bill Moyers Journal Single-Payer: Is Nationalized Health Coverage the Way to Go?

The Economist America's health-care plan: Soak the rich

National Public Radio: The Politics Behind The Health Care Overhaul J

The NewsHour: Protests Rattle Health Town Hall Meetings

The New Yorker: Getting There from Here

The New York Times: A Primer on the Details of Health Care Reform

The Washington Times Editorial: Killing it softly

Related Links

The Center for Budget and Public Policy: New Fiscal Year Brings No Relief From Unprecedented State Budget Problems

Families USA: Medicaid and the Economic Recovery Package

The Kaiser Family Foundation: Impact of Tight Budgets on Families and States

The New England Journal of Medicine: Medicaid and the U.S. Path to National Health Insurance

Viewer Comments

Commenter: Anoynomus
I am a high school student who has become extremly upset at the idea that our health is not being taken into consideration. As an american I feel that it is our right to be provided with help for ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. Our founding fathers came here for a better opprotunity and not alowing us the right to free health care gives us no opprotunity. When a mother must decide her home over her health, it becomes more and more clear how important this situation is in creating something for all of us as americans. To better the world, we must better ourselves and come together as a nation rather then fight this idea of equal opprotunity.

Commenter: C. Brozo
I am a 58 male, age 58 with diagnosed Bi-Polar Depression and alcohDepressive disorderdisorder, becauseolism. I found out that alcohol abuse is a prime symptom of the Bi-Polar disorder since we often self-medicate, thinking that everyone feels like this and we are weak. So much for background, I was allowed to retire early, at 55, and would be allowed to keep my health care, the co-pay for which was $60 per month. After 33 years with the same employer, it was determined that my pension would be $625 per month, before taxes of course. Therefore I had the choice of keeping my utilities functioning or keeping the health care that I couldn't afford, if I went to the doctor and made the co-pay, I could not afford the co-pay for the prescriptions I needed for the depression, high blood pressure, and there was a working medicine that cut alcohol use. I am currently functioning passably well, yet I do not have any means to get the meds or professional help I need. Don't even ask about going through the system, I was told there was a freeze on medicaid in MI, and there aren't alternatives as I do not have a car. My home was paid for, but the rest of the bills eat up everything except about $30 per month. I suggest we take away free health care for the Senate and house, and let's see how those overfed porcines deal with the flu or a common cold, much less a serious illness. The money saved by doing this should cover a good bit of the cost they are grousing about, or at least get them to act faster on health care!

Commenter: IRA
I think that townhall protesters have a right to vent their opinions--as long as they don't drow
out opposite viewpoints. Freedom of speech doesn't give one the right to stifle dissent. Civility's\called for.

Commenter: Lou Del Pozzo
Re Elizabeth Warren
Congress will make rules to benefit the people who finance their election campaigns: Big money interests. Time to change to full public financing of election campaigns. Congress will never kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

Commenter: Jenny
No matter if you have insurance or ot health care cost is rising. Insurance company is paying less and less. My son had surgery and sine he is 19 we (parents) have no say so about his health care. He was sent to the Dr by his football coach and the dr dr said he needed surgery and he schduled the surgery with out informing us(parents). He had to call the Dr and the Hospital business department to say that they are allowed to talk to us. However he does not work and is in college they still insisted to say they can not talk to the parents about the bill. I ask the hospital how do they expect to get paid without talking to us and they kept insisting that it is the privacy act. Now they are turning him over to the collection agent to try to get paid. They did took our unsurance and our last 500.00 in savings, but my son still owes 1500.00. greenville Hospital has turned it over to the collection agent. They are still not going to get money from my son because he has nothing!!!!!!!! If only they will talk to us we could send then 20.00 a month to try to pay it. I have a large medical bill too so it is hard on us. My husband and I are teachers and last year the school district took money away from us. So What I am trying to say we pay alot for health insurance but it does not pay worth a flip. we have to pay 750.00 out of pocket before insurance pays plus a 10.00 co pay plus 20 % Should we try to get more insurance?

Commenter: Heinz G. Nonnenmacher
Single Payer is the only way to go. WE must insist on it!! Obama sold out without even trying. The current abomination being discussed is administratively so complex, that it simply cannot work, even with the best of intentions, and will again leave people bankrupt, uninsured and dying. Single Payer consists of one plan, ONE, not 1,300. When I am ill I am taken care of, no limits, no exclusions, no co-pays, no tax credits, no vouchers, no doughnut holes, no subsidies for the poor and all this other tricky and treacherous garbage. Everybody is simply covered for all circumstances. They even include dental and vision and a few weeks vacation at a resort-hospital for recovery after a difficult operation. That's how it works in Europe. I have personally experienced it. I never saw a bill!! Yet it is not for free. The monthly premiums are pretty hefty, and even perfectly healthy 20 year olds pay them. (It's the old insurance idea: one for all, and all for one. But that's communism. You idiots!) When you are ill and need help, you need not worry. Bankruptcy? unheard of. Denied coverage? unheard of. Pre-existing conditions? unheard of. Million Dollar salaries for their CEO's are also unheard of. Why can they do it? Because they don't have the greedy slime balls in their system at all. In Europe nobody can exploit another person's misfortune with health. A for-profit health care system is a crime against humanity! America should be ashamed of itself.

Commenter: Robert - 28, J.D. and Uninsured
Why do grandma and grandpa get coverage, but not me? I don't see seniors tearing up their medicare cards.

If socialized medicine was such an evil thing, why does every other country have it? If universal coverage is supposed to be so expensive, why is it cheaper in every nation that has it, and why is our private system so expensive?


Commenter: Corky Byam
The people that have health care , should worry about the people that dont have it, Muc of Omaha would not renew me because I was on furosmide water pill, had to go with other co. for a year , then switch to Muc of Omaho, my rate went from $104.00 to $150.00 I am for public option am not worried about Grassly and his dumb ideas , he will be out next term anyhow

Commenter: Richard Curtin
We badly need a universal health care system. The public plan is a poor substitute but at least it is something. Would it destroy the health insurance companies?? I certainly hope so. Health care should be a right not a commodity to be sold only if you can afford what the insurance companies offer at their price. Too many times nothing at all.
I am now on Medicare and as a retired physician I note with interest than practically no one, and none that I have found, would like to change their "Government program" for a private plan.

Commenter: shari fill
It's shamefull that this supposedly great country is such a slave to the special interests that we can't provide health care for all. There are many hard working Americans who can't afford the huge payments required in order to get health insurance, and if they have a pre-existing condition it's even worse. These people who are protesting reforms to health insurance should try living without it! They should also consider the fact that they are getting the advantage(lower prices on the goods and services they purchase)of the low wage work provided by the uninsured. They should also realize that it is costing society more in the long run for people to go without health insurance. Where is the incentive to work hard, save money and purchase a home if it will all be taken away as soon as you get sick? Also, when diagnosis and treatment are delayed, they cost more and have poorer results(leaving more patients disabled or too ill to work for long periods, which leaves them dependent on society).

Commenter: Virginia Abraham, LPN
I left nursing when the ratios of LPN's to Elders exceeded 40:1. Now I think we are all in the same boat: do we fund pork or healthcare? Aung San Suu Kyi puts it well (from John Quinones book, "Heroes Among Us"): "It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and far of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it". Until we act fearlessly about ditching the greedy insurance co's., we all suffer the consequences.

Commenter: Ziya Bilen
I am the physician director of intensive care unit in a NCI designated cancer hospital, with over 20 years of experience in critical care. I have had a recent unfortunate experience of my son being assaulted with severe injuries requiring intensive care and surgeries. He is insurance coverage under my plan was denied because he was unable to continue his schooling due to severe depression we have to deal with. Bills are mounting over $84.000 just for the hospitalization of 6 days.
Unfortunate reality of our country's circumstances is that we are talking about an American Health Care System, when there is no system, but absolute chaos. Citizens, policy makers, even the majority of educated, intellect are not able to comprehend the circumstances in its complexity.
When, everybody needs a basic coverage in a modern advanced society, at federal level, when we should educate our population what the health care really not the shows they watch in TV shows such as ER, when we should educate the population about end of life at every level, what is "I want every thing possible" means, unfortunately the popular discussion degenerates into demagoguery.

Ziya Bilen MD

Commenter: Jennie
To those who comment that PBS is too "biased" and too far to the left: Apparently, facts and anecdotes are simply inconvenient for you. The stories in this show are real people's lives. They are not fabricated, and I personally know many people in similar situations, as well as people who have never had health insurance at all--even as children--because their families made too much money to qualify for Medicaid, yet not enough to afford private insurance, and their employers did not provide coverage for them. I have also lived in France and Italy as an adult, and have seen healthcare systems that WORK. In those countries, which spend far less of their GDP than the US while providing universal coverage, nobody goes bankrupt because they have an accident or fall ill, and nobody is denied life-saving treatment because a for-profit insurance company decides it is not a medical necessity, or because they do not have coverage. Americans who feel the status quo is OK have been sadly misled; they have obviously never lived in another country where healthcare DOES work.

Commenter: Edward O
America needs a single payer system now.

Commenter: Jan Miller
Not sure if I would necessarily say that the doomsayers at the town hall meetings are unpatriotic for questioning healthcare reform. But as a healthcare professional for over 30 years, and as someone who has excellent coverage, I can say that we must not only think of ourselves in regards to reform. I am not worried about me, but I am worried about my patients who cannot afford insurance and therefore completely neglect their health but who are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, the patients who go broke paying out of pocket and the ones who have "excellent" coverage and who are denied potentially lifesaving treatment by their insurance companies who exist as for profit entitites after all. These insurance companies are already making decisions about which doctors you see and what will be covered. Medicare/Medicaid does not generally do that. I also want my brother and his wife to be able to afford insurance for themselves again. Their children are covered through the state of Illinois but they can no longer afford the plan they have had for many years through her employer because of the increase in out of pocket and monthly expenses. How is it that a great country, one that is civilized, cannot cover all of its citizens health care costs, but France, who we spent so many years under the last administration demonizing, can do it so well?

Commenter: Ron Harders
I find that anyone who supports this abomination of the health care scam is either improperly informed or a communist fellow traveler.


Commenter: Susan D.
The people running this country are behaving like there are not people in crisis in the United States. You don't have to dig very deep to see that there loads of people in this country in crisis. People are going to die (probably already are) because of politics, special interests

Commenter: Tony Wilhelm
Health care crisis caused by decades of hiding the true cost in company paid plans, Medicare, and Medicaid. The third party payer allowed the public to increase it's appetite for health care without being aware of the cost. I see the proposed plan changing the payer and adding government control, but not revealing the cost. The money saved through efficiency will be lost in corruption and over grown bureaucracies. The public needs to know the difference between health insurance and free health care. If people can't afford health insurance, the problem is economic. Health care is just one of the economic risks that should be included in family budgets. If we allow this to be put in place, it will be there for ever. Just like Social Security, it will continue after its need has gone, because no one can refuse a free lunch.

Commenter: Gene Beckman
You need unbiased people in NOW. Your people are too far to the left and too far from reality. It is time that PBS gets out of theroy and into real eductation. Back to a trusted source of news, not a political agenda show. YOU NEED NEW leadership.

Commenter: Margaret O'Kray
I am in the same boat as many of the women with cancer in your stories. I voted for Barack Ombama as did the majority. It seem unfair a few big mouths get their way. It is too bad the people could not vote on a national referendum.

Commenter: seasea
I have serious health problems that caused me to leave my well paying job a year ago. Now I am struggling to pay the high cobra payments and would keep struggling to pay the high the high premiums, simply because health insurance is crucial for me but cobra will run out in six more months. You can only stay on cobra for 18 months. What can I do to extend the cobra? I absolutely cannot be without health insurance since I am subject to have surgery at any moment, and any other health insurance is out of the question because of the complexity of my pre-existing health problems.

Commenter: Gerry
Fear mongering is all the Republicans know how to do. They have no leaders. They have no platform. They have no ideas. So the only thing they have left is to try to undermine all the good ideas that everyone else presents.
They act like a bunch of sixth-graders making up stuff, yelling simplistic phrases like "death panel" and "kill grandma" and posting childish depictions of the president as a demon. There are many people who have studied the problems with our health care system at great length and President Obama is accessing their knowledge to try to formulate a SUSTAINABLE health care system for all Americans. What we have today, led by the corrupt health insurance companies, is a total disaster. Today we, the USA, spends twice as much on health care as a percentage of GDP than other western nations. And costs are continuing to escalate at an ever increasing rate. If we do not reform the system and place a permanent check on the health insurance companies these companies will not change, and they will find whys to circumvent the reforms. This is why it was so critical that we have a public option that would act as a control. And without the public option there will be no MEANINGFUL reform. So thank you simplistic Republicans for killing the only chance we had at true lasting reform. When our health care system finally collapses we'll at least know who to blame.

Commenter: Jude Hart
The Bush Administration former official who was the head of Medicaid Dennis Smith now from Heritage Foundation. He said Medicaid eroded the private companies by giving insurance to people who should buy their own. His example is healthy women (code word: single mothers) and their children! That is what Reagan did with all kinds of services for children and the disabled. He removed their financial support in California and went on to finish it off at the federal level.

He would take healthy women, young mothers and healthy children.
He tried to weasel around the issue of healthy women and children should not get any help if they are poor by bringing up the idea of lifestyle and liberty and freedom. Are those code words for what?

When he would have the government pay the private care plans but prohibit "We the people" from running our own health plan and take efficient care of each other and ourselves.

He doesn't have a problem with the private insurers who will not insure people and a government plan who would. The health care business of care (not insurance) would increase and the economy would boom with healthy people.

Commenter: James Lipke
Two things:

First, people who get loud at town hall meetings are acting VERY patriotically. Whether they are for or against the National Healthcare Bill. On the other hand, people who sit quietly, are more likely to be unpatriotic. America is a nation founded upon voicing dissent of government actions.

Secondly, I'm not sure I understand why the Democrats, led by Obama, are trying to overhaul the healthcare system in one big motion. Why not take some baby steps? Afterall, the government is known for making things worse. Just look at the housing/finance crisis.

Anyway, how about limiting the Bill to a few items. Like mandatory healthcare for those employed. Standardizing minimum levels of benefits available from insurance plans. Standardize billing so that administrative costs are minimized. Subsidies for research in healthcare so that some costs could come down or at least stabilize. And finally, a third-party revue system similar in style to crash-testing in the automotive industry.

Let's keep it simple, stupid, I mean people.

Commenter: Wes
I watched your program today that discussed the national health care debate. The opinions expressed clearly saw only one side of the issue. I heard it mentioned that our present system is too costly and many people remain uninsured. Yet while the government run program being presented by our President and the Congress want to include these uninsured they don't tell us how we are going to pay for it. Everyone knows you just can't add millions of people to the program and expect the costs to remain the same.

People fear the only way to control costs is to ration care. The town hall meetings where voices are being raised in protest clearly see the problems being presented here. One has to wonder why these decent citizens are being criminalized for exercising their first amendment rights and opposing further out of control government spending.

We need to reduce waste in our current system and Medicare fraud. One way to do this is to put a cap on malpractice lawsuits. I understand that under our current system doctors need to pay excessive malpractice insurance and order additional tests just to protect themselves from being liable. The extra cost for this adds 25% to our health care expenses. This is not to say that doctors who make mistakes shouldn't be held accountable nor that patients who have been injured should not receive just compensation but we need to bring this under control. Most of the money from these lawsuits goes to the lawyers and the patients only receive a portion. However, we all pay for this with higher premiums.

The two suggestions I'm making here (ie. Medicare fraud control and malpractice lawsuit limitations) if brought under control would more than pay for the uninsured and we wouldn't need to completely revise our entire health care system to do it.

Since this is such a personal and emotional issue it should be moved forward much more carefully than we are currently seeing. People should have the right to choose their own doctors and the treatment options they will need. I sincerely hope that the government doesn't force this legislation through in haste because as it is currently being discussed it will reduce our options in health care in an effort to broaden the number of insured Americans.

Finally, I think a good litmus test would be to see if our legislators also participate in any health care insurance reform package that they vote on.

Commenter: Maureen from Chicago
While I'll agree something needs to be done about the ever rising costs of health care. Why is it no one mentions Tort Reform?
Obviously the cost of health care increases when millions of unnecessary exams are required NOT for the sake of the patient's health , but as a safeguard against future pending malpractice lawsuits . In our litigious society Preventative Healthcare has been replaced by Defensive Mal-practice Medicine .

We all pay for those multimillion dollar settlements thru our insurance premiums . Since Congress has not found a means to pay for the Government Healthcare Plan , where will the funds needed to pay billions in financials settlements come from? Will my tax dollars or my grandchildren's taxes be used to pay huge settlements to those in the legal profession who take their 30 percent off the top in malpractice claims.

Its easy to criticizing insurance companies and for- profit hospitals but what about for-profit lawyers, their lobbyists and heavy campaign contributions. When that issue is addressed I will be more accepting to Obama's suggestions.

Commenter: Robert Gardner
Where is it said that all Americans are to have health care coverage?

Every one that comes to our country has the idea that everything is FREE.

The money has to come from someone and that's the tax payers. I'm tired of giving my money to people that come to this conntry with a had out and nerver work, or for some reason think it's owed to them.

The people need to get a job or get out of our country. Go get help from where they cames from.

Commenter: Wes Potts
I watched your program today that discussed the national health care debate. The opinions expressed clearly saw only one side of the issue. I heard it mentioned that our present system is too costly and many people remain uninsured. Yet while the government run program being presented by our President and the Congress want to include these uninsured they don't tell us how we are going to pay for it. Everyone knows you just can't add millions of people to the program and expect the costs to remain the same.

People fear the only way to control costs is to ration care. The town hall meetings where voices are being raised in protest clearly see the problems being presented here. One has to wonder why these decent citizens are being criminalized for exercising their first amendment rights and opoosing further out of control goverment spending.

We need to reduce waste in our current system and medicare fraud. One way to do this is to put a cap on malpractice lawsuits. I understand that under our current system doctors need to pay excessive malpractice insurance and order additional tests just to protect themselves from being liable. The extra cost for this adds 25% to our health care expenses. This is not to say that doctors who make mistakes shouldn't be held accountable nor that patients who have been injured should not receive just compensation but we need to bring this under control. Most of the money from these lawsuits goes to the lawyers and the patients only receive a portion.

The two suggestions I'm making here (ie. medicare fraud control and malpractice lawsuit limitations) if brought under control would more than pay for the uninsured and we wouldn't need to completely revise our health care system.

Since this is such a personal and emotional issue it should be moved forward much more carefully than we are currently seeing. People should have the right to choose their own doctors and the treatment options they will need. I sincerely hope that the government doesn't force this legislation through and reduce our options in health care in an effort to broaden the number of insured Americans.

Finally, I think its immoral for our legislators to put any national health care insure package together that they don't also participate in.

Commenter: Paul Revere
Those of us who still believe in our Constitution, will work to restore our Founders Republic from the abyss of collectivist doom. We will never, NEVER give in to the degrading and destructive spirit of Socialism, nor shall we condemn our children to the slavery it promises. If you think our protests are about healthcare and the nuances of its implementation (which equal nothing but a negotiated surrender on our part), please re-read our founding documents. Re-read the Declaration, the Bill of Rights, Paine, Jefferson. Understand clearly that you approach the jewel of the Peoples Liberty with malice, and now We the People have that well noted. We will not allow you to re-frame these protests as having all to do with healthcare, when the people arrive crying "treason". Make no mistake. This is about a treasonous attack on our rights and liberties. You are witnessing the beginning (yes "beginning") of the peoples response to the lefts attempts to bring about the final fall of our Republic. Yes, we take it that seriously. Have you not read the signs? "Treason". "Traitor". "Socialism". The common folk show up saying these things- people who have never carried a sign in their lives. The continual re-framing of these protests to exclude the true substance of the peoples grievances, betrays not simply poor reporting, but willful collusion between press and government to suppress the issues brought forth. In the mean time, your effort to ram this down our unwilling throats is soooo 50's U.S.S.R. The parading of child plants in your Pravda style audiences reminds me of that famous painting "Roses for Stalin". In case you have not noticed, or are in denial, your efforts have not only failed, but are in fact fanning the flames. Conservative Americans have had it with you. This is not about "healthcare" (as you wishâ¦as you NEED it to be) It is more about a "long train of abuses and usurpations"â¦.

Commenter: Gonzalo Valdes
There is no doubt in my mind that we need Insurance healthcare reform. What the Obama administration has done is totaly mishandled the way they are presenting this to the American people. Simple, simple, simple. Clear, clear, clear. Cost, cost, cost. At the same time I do not want to create a society that figures out that it's better to stay home and do nothing than to actualy go out and work.I pray to God (or is that even permitted to be said)that this is not what our govenment is trying to achieve.

Commenter: Ed Fields
Is the economic collapse creating a health care calamity?

No, I believe it is the opposite. You want to stimulate the economy? Free people from the yoke of excessive medical expenses, co-pays, deductibles, limits, or even worse no coverage at all. Only Single Payer (Medicare for All) H.R. 676 will address this issue.

Commenter: Ivy Hall
Protests were considered patriotic when George W Bush was president. Just ask Hillary Clinton. She screamed that at a rally.

Commenter: excoe
Who's left to catch our fall? Obama seems to feel it is our children and grandchildren. The stimulus bill and his half hearted attempt at healthcare reform are entirely selfish acts by a generation unwilling to suck it up. The same people who can't afford their healthcare run around in cars they can't afford, while they default on the houses they never could afford, with $50K of credit card debt from big screen TV's; all so they could impress their neighbors who are in the same boat. What if we take the $740B that hasn't been spent yet on the stimulus bill (which was just a laundry list of payoffs and liberal pet projects), and apply it to this problem?

Commenter: Dave
Those of us that work and have good health insurance shouldn't have ours stripped away and be forced to pay for the health care of the chronically unemployable and the eternally lazy. Sorry, we are damn tired of it. You can't help these people and you'll never satisfy them, all they do is take more and more from the productive sector of the country.

This is just another play by the left to get an unearned benefit on the backs of those who actually stayed in school, learned a trade or went to college, and are productive members of society for those that do nothing, produce nothing,and never will (except complaints that it isn't really their fault that they never used the opportunities presented to them, of course).

Between that and the Democrat's "final solution" for ridding society of the elderly (who use about 70% of health care dollars) by denying them treatment and giving them "end of life counseling" instead, I'd say we are about 2 ticks away from conflict.

Commenter: jan
You can tell that twit named Smith (?) that I spent the first 6 months of this year trying unsuccessfully to get my health insurance company to enroll my kids (pre-existing condition) so that I could get them off medicaid. You can tell that twit named Smith (?) that every time I cleared one of the series of barriers they put another one in place. I paid for that insurance for the entire 6 months. You can tell that twit named Smith (?) that if he wants people off medicaid then he better devise a way to force insurance companies to take them as patients because I tried and it was impossible.

Commenter: JoAnn Witt
Dear David,

Most of those protestors are, probably, insurance company employees. I can't believe that those "adults', really, believe what they are yelling. I think, they are just doing their job of trying to keep the insurance companies in charge.

Commenter: Fletch
UnPatriotic No, acting like idiots in that that yell and scream, Yes.

Commenter: PharmaPerson
I watched this show with much interest, for being an industrialized country we have the highest amount we spend on healthcare.
Healthcare should be affordable for everyone, that one family of 4 was paying $1,500 a month???? this is ridiculous....cost containment is what we need.
American should have the same health care benefits that members of Congress have. I am sick and tired of footing the bill for others while we can barely pay our own medical bills. I work for a pharmaceutical company and I can tell you all the insurance companies control everything! In California they have outsouced Blue Cross to manage part of our state MediCaid system (MediCal)
Lets quit paying insurance for people who are here illegally. This is robbery!
Those people at the town hall meetings are acting with FEAR, because of propaganda spewed by the Insurance companies. They all want change, but change is a frightening word for all humans.
Socialized medicine is already a big part of the US healthcare system (VA, MediCal, Medicare, MediCaid, etc.,) This system will hopefully contain the costs but still allow us PPO people to choose our physicians and care.

Commenter: Tom Chavez
I can see the Left Bias in this show as easily as an elephant in the living room. Of all the potential solutions to a problem that may exist, the Socialist will always find an answer to be more government. Sure you give up a little bit of freedom, but you weren't using it anyway were you? Of course Socialism/Communism/Liberalism, what ever you want to call it, does not work, has never worked, will never work... but don't let that stop you! Capatilism works most of the time, but don't try that for a solution. Sure Canadians come accross the border for health care, but why use that to guide you. Ted Kennedy is not running to stand in line in Canada or Europe for health care, but why let that interfere with your decisions. There is some child somewhere in danger, the only way to same him/her is for you to give up your hard won freedom, and get on the government dole. Do you really not wonder why you are called unAmerican? It is because you do not understand the principals by which America exists. You clearly want to be European socialists, why not just move there, where they have that and be what your heart tells you to be? Just stand in line for health care, jobs, toilet paper, pay higher and higher taxes for less and less, and let America be America!

Commenter: Robert M Ellis
The private ins plan is temporary.It can and will be
taken away several times during one's lifetime.
Thousands of people become uninsured thru no fault
of their own tho they have paid in all their lives.
We need a permanent plan that you never lose cover
age and cause your bankrupcy or death.The gop plan
for private coverage is terrible.We need universal
coverage.Put the cost under the $800000000000 defen
budget since half of this is wasted.The way it is
should be named the "Death Care" plan.Much worse
than putting 80 yr olds to death per palin.

Commenter: Tom Bass
DEATH to the New World Order!


Groups working together from 9/11 Truth'ers, Tea Party'ers, EndtheFed members, Anti-War Protesters, Birth'ers, Alex Jones Fans, Pro-Lifers, and MORE!

Forget the million man march... this will be a 10 million patriots march at the National Mall!

Travel Details at

Pass it On!

Commenter: Kyle Christensen
I spent a year in Scandanavia (mostly Denmark) and lived with their single was excellent, immediate and free. Before you believe people quoting the Hoover Institute, you may want to consider what profit they stand to lose from a non-profit health care system.

Its not socialied care--its civilized care. Anything else is half baked. Wall St owns your "health care" now--is that ok with you, folks? Really? Are we a moral nation?

BYW--thanks for including some info on Medicaid, which seems to often be confused with Medicare these days.

Commenter: garyro
great program.

Too little media attention paid to the real horror stories around the nation in healthcare.

I wonder if those fearless leaders really understand that real folks suffer and some die while they play the "political sausage" games in DC and statehouses?

One hope there is a just God, one whom will hold some of these folks accountable for amounts to murder

Commenter: Eph Weiss
One of the largest cost of health care is due to the 40-million (more or less) uninsured, who end up in the emergency room. This cost is reflected in our insurance premiums. It would be immoral to deny this basic care. Universal health care would reduce the cost by providing the uninsured with more preventive care, and earlier treatment.
How will the legislation reduce these costs?

Commenter: BJ Lee
This is about HIPAA, a health insurance crisis, and a cancer diagnosis.

I saw the program segment where the woman had been covered under her husband's health insurance plan, was diagnosed with cancer, needed surgery, then her husband lost his job and unexpectedly found his company did not have Cobra, possible only because it had fewer than 20 employees. The woman could not get coverage under a new plan because she had a preexisting condition.

I was in similar situation in 1997, though I was on my own plan under my employer, not my spouse's. I too was diagnosed with cancer just days before my employment contract ended and needed major surgery to save my life. Thinking I still had health coverage through Cobra, I went to a second visit to an oncologist who turned me away without even seeing me because their records check showed I was without health insurance. My employer had had fewer than 20 employees, and no Cobra. Then, shopping for a new insurance plan, I was told I couldn't get coverage for my condition because it was now classified as a preexisting condition.
It took many phone calls to state and federal authorities with the guidance of a few key government and insurance bureaucrats with good hearts and the right information to help me navigate the system--I was able to get coverage under a new individual insurance plan because of HIPAA's provision that IF YOU HAD 18 MONTHS OF PREVIOUS COVERAGE UNDER A GROUP PLAN, YOU COULD GET COVERAGE FOR YOUR CONDITION ON A NEW HEALTH PLAN, a provision that had apparently only recently been signed into law by President Clinton. I just had to prove my previous group coverage which I was able to do.

I don't know if this HIPAA clause still applies in 2009, but you should definitely look into it.

PS: I was extremely lucky on top of this, as I was able to get retroactive coverage on a new individual plan so there was no break in time between the old plan and the new policy, my surgery a month after the diagnosis was successful too, and I was able to start a new job with full health coverage on a group plan only a month after that. I am alive and well today thanks to all those who helped me along the way, much good luck, and HIPAA.

Commenter: Laura
Not only are disrupters behaving unpatriotically, many of them are acting in concert to disrupt the democratic process. Our representatives are holding town hall meetings to communicate with their constituents--this is democracy in action. But when Republican and insurance industry attack dogs obstruct these meetings, they are guilty not only of disorderly conduct but of conspiracy to disrupt and overthrow the government--they have even come out and said so: their "protests" are intended to "break" the President himself. When duly elected officials--our representatives--are attacked in this way, it is an attack on America. They know precisely what they're doing and they ruthlessly continue. Quite frankly, they should be brought up on charges of conspiracy and summarily punished.

Commenter: Thrash
I'm with Howard Dean: Universal health care is the only way forward! Reforming the present system is almost not worth it!

After working for Obama starting with the primary here in PA, I had great hopes. Now the whole thing is starting to get depressing. The Democrats

Commenter: Anne Schur
It is the money stupid, so many want to continue the provision of all aspects of healthcare via private enterprise for the purpose of making money for themselves only. How can they use the argument that a reason to have a private system is because nations with nationalized medicine have patient waiting lists. While true they are ommiting the fact that in our country so many do not even have the option to be on a waiting list and that number is growing. Why are so many in denial.

Commenter: Carl C
Keeping the democratic process from determining what the best health plan is, and politicizing health care as a means of preventing action are costing lives. We NEED universal health care. People are dying by being denied expensive treatments as a means of saving the insurance companies money. People with preexisting conditions are denied employement and insurance. Uninsured are dying, or forced to use the ER as a family doctor. Insurance companies are paying people to disrupt meetings. Palin is a liar about "death panels." Enough already!

Commenter: John Hudson
Health care is a basic human right. Health is not a commodity

Commenter: Ramon
Sec. 102: 'Grandfathering" privately-paid health insurers would continue after the start of the law provided NO coverage change is ever made (ludicrous!), while employer-provided health insurers would be given until the end of the FIFTH YEAR from the start of the law to make 'qualifying' modifications. Meanwhile, no adult would be ALLOWED to start a NEW individual health coverage plan with ANY health insurance issuers AFTER the start of the law! This is a phasing-in of a compaalete government take-over of healthcare, resulting in a single-payer system by 2017. Meanwhile again, Obama has ADMITTED that it is his intention that the option for private health coverage WILL BE ELIMINATED at some point in the future. He intends to completely vanquish the free market in this country.

Commenter: William Zaffer
I could not help but feel that every person I saw on the program on health care tonight on Now that most were over-weight and their kids were going in that direction. What we forget is many of our health problems could be diminished over the years if we did like Kennedy had in schools exercise programs, got junk food out of our schools, taught better eating habits, taxed the junk food industry and changed our agri-business agricultural programs that are making the public sick. See "Food Inc." All this creates cancer, diabetes, heart problems, and birth defects. Such a long term cultural new paradigm program should be mandatory in any health program. Part of freedom is showing responsibility just more sympathy since were are all brothers and sisters, however until we live clean and green I just do not think we can afford it in this McWorld and WalMart Model world of low paying jobs has created unless you have a college education but that is no guarantee today. We face doing nothing could hurt us far beyond our imagination and by giving aid with no responsibility could break us. Of course with tons of money and lobbyists in Washington and lobbyists what real common sense approach can be obtains. America wake up.

Commenter: Rev./Bro. Franchesco Beardsley
I am extremely saddened by the self-centered response of some of our American citizens who are only concerned with keeping their own insurance. I wonder what some of these folks are going to do when they lose their jobs and find themselves without insurance. They need to stop listening to the insurance companies and listen to the tragic stories of families that had insurance and now are facing possible death of themselves or a family member because they cannot afford to pay for insurance or the medical expenses. Shame on fear mongers and people who prefer to believe outrageous lies than the truth!

Commenter: Nancy Eckel
I am 74 and get just enough ($874 per month) Social Security that I am too "rich" to qualify for Medicaid. And the 20% required by Medicare is making my final years miserable! I needc help but can't afford a private insurance plan. I am scared that I will die before any kind of realistic health care plan is enacted. This is NOT a restful and fulfilling retirement! This is constant scrapping to pay the bills (which can't be done) and being dunned and worrying - and I will undoubtedly leave huge debts for my children. So much for the golden years. More like tarnished brass!

Commenter: Katherine D. Doerr
If private health insurance was denied to every working American, because of a pre-existing condition or loss of a job, what would we all do about illness, pandemic, accidents, or chronic conditions?
I think the opposition to health care changes once a person faces such a challenge. Those who still can afford it are having a hard time understanding those who can't. Private insurance doesn't have to include everyone and is a for-profit endeavor. Seems to me that means health care is being rationed on the basis of money already.

Commenter: Sonja
I want to explain why I voted that the disruptive people at the town meetings are being unpatriotic. It's because most of these people are Republican plants and puppets, and are carrying out the Republicans' plot to keep the status quo for their insurance company cronies by scaring Americans with lies and diverting attention from the important principles in President Obama's plan.
However, quote the opposite of the above-described evil ones, when people disrupt things or take to the streets and demonstrate, etc., because of things *they* really believe in, I think that is one of the highest forms of patriotism and democracy.

Commenter: Bernard
I find the republican organization to be the most vicious group of individuals I have ever seen, heard or have read. The tactics these people employ are negative and engage the most despicable acts.

To scare a group of individuals who do not understand what is being presented along with shutting down another by engaging in combat. There are children and seniors who do not deserve what the republicans are doing at these meetings. Should these people not get their health cover they will die?

As an independent voter and I will not ever vote for another republican nor any thing they bring to the table, it is disgusting what they are doing.

Commenter: Kendall Tawes
I have no health insurance, my dad lost his when he lost his job after contracting lime's disease, and my mother was dumped from the company she had been paying for 20 years after she contracted cancer. The company actually dropped out of the health care industry and she wasn't able to get another plan. She died in debt, my dad is still in debt and can't work because he wasn't able to receive enough care when he needed it, I have been taking care of him missing out on a university education to do so and I haven't been to a doctor since 2006, all of this by the age of 21. If we don't get health care taken care of and a public option I maybe stuck under the poverty line forever. To top it all off I have been laid off even though I can build a computer in 10 minutes and an engine in 2 hours.

To think that anyone is against healthcare reform right now proves to me that some people don't care about humanity. When even children are losing healthcare coverage the system is broken. It only benefits the greedy and is supported by the stupid. Yes, if you like the current healthcare system you are either rich and greedy or poor and stupid. Nothing can prove to me otherwise, not while my father and many others suffer under the stranglehold of the corporate interest of the healthcare industry.

Commenter: Jane
I watched NOW just a little while ago and was not surprised, but I am alarmed. I'm alarmed because there is no real conversation. The media focus on the drama, the spectacle, as if we were the Romans of ancient times. I am so disgusted with how they frame the conversation for us in such a way that reason is overwhelmed. So I watched as David B. talked with these struggling middle class Americans (I wonder who they voted for, Hmmmm...) and my heart went out to them. But the powers that be don't want to change the status quo and so far it looks like they're winning the battle. Howard Dean was right to say, it is absurd that we don't have a health care system that covers everyone. I loved what David Brooks said today, and God Bless David Brooks, on the News Hour, we need to in fact talk about end of life care, it is too large a piece of the pie and we are refusing to talk about it. Are we in fact the chldren that the media and politicians make us out to be? How are we going to deal with issues when so few are willing to talk about difficult topics in ways that lead to solutions?
Jane Nordli

Commenter: Dick Gelinas
Cobra should be available to age 65 for any senior loosing a job

Commenter: frank e. brigham
Add me to the list of those in crisis. I retired after 36 yrs. of work at age 58 and have seen my health ins. cost rise by 19% in each of the succeding years. I have to pay $1600 a month for ins. and deductable ($4000) for my family plan for me and my wife. My wife has preexisting conditions which leave us stuck on our current expensive insurance. My take home pension is $2400 a month, so we are living on $800 a month. We are both working at part time jobs just to pay the $1600 a month. I'd like to see some govt. competition with our Blue Cross Blue Shield!!!!!

Commenter: Greg Butko
I agree with people who are trying to expose the phony "town hall meeting" where people are supposed to only ask screened questions. Many Americans are tired of these propaganda efforts to convince us that we think the way our politicians want us to.

Our politicians work for us, they are not our leaders, they are our servants, and it's time they understood this. It's time they listened to us. We're tired of listening to their lies.

Commenter: George
Quote (Are disruptive town hall participants acting unpatriotically?)
It is only unpatriotic if you disagree with the national socialist party (Democrats). These people are airing their complaints just like Bush war protesters did not that long ago. The people speaking out against socialized health care are REAL Americans and are not manufactured.

Commenter: Carl Hoffman
I was watching your show and heard about your
poll about the "town hall" meetings. I was upset
by the way the meetings were being disrupted, but
also in how your poll was phrased ... why do you
choose to limit us a choice on where this is patriotic or not patriotic ... can't you break it down a little
bit more intelligently?

Commenter: jmm
I just watched the episode about the high cost of health insurance and was sad to learn the Murray family needed to discontinue coverage for their family. The film showed both children riding bikes without helmets -- bad idea at any time -- especially wrong without medical coverage.

Commenter: CC
So I suppose it's ONLY patriotic when it's the left that is getting to speak out?

Enough with the name calling and hypocrisy! This plan is NOT good. Yes, we need change, but this is not it.

TORT reform
no pre-existing condition penalty
health savings accounts

So many good ideas have been left off the table.

Commenter: michele Simpson
Do you people even know what it means to be a patriot? One who loves his country. Nothing about loving private bankers or people who want to own you and control you. People have to stand up and say we have had enough. If it was good enough for the founders.It is good enough for me. This country was founded because of oppression from a oligarchy. Voila we find ourselves in the same in the same place now. Wake up people. Fight. Do not be intimated by these no good power hungry CFR scum. NO TO THE NEW WORLD ORDER.

Commenter: lynn
Instead of us trying to get the same health care plan we pay for our politicians to have, we should cause them to join the 47 million who have none by firing them.

Commenter: David
Medical care is not a right. It is a privilege. The most unfortunate aspect of medical care is the COST. We should look into ways to reduce costs - and the medical companies should lead the way in this.

Having the government pay for healthcare will NOT be free. It will cost us, our children, and our grandchildren more than we can even imagine. I'd rather have NO health coverage and die when it's my time than mortgage the lives of future Americans with this terrible idea.

Commenter: Kate vanHorn, M. A.
Sharing views civilly is patriotic. The current horrors are, I firmly believe, an expression of bigotry. Our president is so far above these monsters and knows how to compromise. The fear mongers will probably win but the loss will be the population. The savages have no concept of civility. I abhor them.

Commenter: Greg
re: Poll town hall participants acting 'unpatriotically'...

Childish, irrational, perhaps... but unpatriotic? That's sounding more like something coming out of Iran than the US where freedom of speech is so highly esteemed.

Commenter: Joe Stoddart
I'd like to see NOW take on the Vick/Eagles controversy.

Commenter: Rishi Manchanda MD MPH
Thank you for the excellent reporting, as always. I recently blogged on Huffington Post about fearmongering, health reform, the public insurance option.

I would appreciate your thoughts and comments.

Best wishes,

Rishi Manchanda MD MPH

Commenter: John Williams
Before we rush headlong into nationalized health care we need to consider the consequences. Yes, there are problems in our health care system but nationalized health care is by no means a simple solution. Below are some facts to consider.


Medical care in the United States is derided as miserable compared to health care systems in the rest of the developed world. Economists, government officials, insurers and academics alike are beating the drum for a far larger government role in health care. Much of the public assumes their arguments are sound because the calls for change are so ubiquitous and the topic so complex. However, before turning to government as the solution, some unheralded facts about America's health care system should be considered, says Scott W. Atlas, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor at the Stanford University Medical Center.

Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers:

* Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany than in the United States, and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom.
* Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the United Kingdom and 457 percent higher in Norway.
* The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher.

Americans have better access to treatment for chronic diseases than patients in other developed countries:

* Some 56 percent of Americans who could benefit are taking statins, which reduce cholesterol and protect against heart disease.
* By comparison, of those patients who could benefit from these drugs, only 36 percent of the Dutch, 29 percent of the Swiss, 26 percent of Germans, 23 percent of Britons and 17 percent of Italians receive them.

Lower income Americans are in better health than comparable Canadians:

* Twice as many American seniors with below-median incomes self-report "excellent" health compared to Canadian seniors (11.7 percent versus 5.8 percent).
* Conversely, white Canadian young adults with below-median incomes are 20 percent more likely than lower income Americans to describe their health as "fair or poor."

Americans spend less time waiting for care than patients in Canada and the United Kingdom:

* Canadian and British patients wait about twice as long -- sometimes more than a year -- to see a specialist, to have elective surgery like hip replacements or to get radiation treatment for cancer.
* All told, 827,429 people are waiting for some type of procedure in Canada.
* In England, nearly 1.8 million people are waiting for a hospital admission or outpatient treatment.

Source: Scott W. Atlas, "10 Surprising Facts About American Health Care," National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 649, March 24, 2009.

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Commenter: Greg
I was HORRIFIED by the content of your problem ....what
a TRAGIC situation for people who need medical help in
Nevada, and the USA in general. I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and we have PUBLICALLY funded Universal medicare for EVERYONE.... but there are BIG problems coming. The Provincial Conservative government
is slowly ELIMINATING the public system, and replacing it with PRIVATE-FOR-PROFIT Insurance Companies ... and
with that WE will have the same problems as accessing
healthcare in the USA ..... I feel so sorry for those people down there, and soon for US up HERE .....
Greg - Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Commenter: Jo Wilkins
Pleaes point out that the main problem with health care seems to be the for-profit vs. previous non-profit venue health care once was held to. So now instead of going to a non-profit facility, your dr. sends you to a private for profit facility. Sorry! My health is not for sale!!!!! This needs to be reversed as does the pharmaceutical industry. How can these people think they can make a profit from people's illness. Of course the food industry (

Commenter: Ladan
Thank you for your great programs. In regards to your program on health care, I am puzzled that when 59% of American physicians agree that single payer will be a better system how much the lobbyist in Washington blocking doctors and people's voices that our new president has to be forced into inviting a couple of single payer advocates in his health care summit!!!
As a physician that receives regular reports of my activity and payments I have realized that the HMO payments are 28% of what my institute charges for my services. This means that HMO's are writing off 78% of my charges. My institute is having aroung 60% overhead which means that I am only paid for about 8% of my actual work! I would call this "deregulated socialized medicine" and I think it's about time that the Americans take a real look in what HMOs and pharmaceuticals are doing to their health and to their pocketbooks. A look, that is not distorted by partisan politics and by HMO and pharmace
utical lobbyists. The question i
s that how you could inform people of reality when most of networks are for profit and would broadcast one side of the story?

Commenter: Pamela White
Dear Mr. Brancaccio,

I just finished watching Friday's program on health care. The stories presented were heart-wrenching, and the solutions seem insurmountable. I believe President Obama and Dr. Dean are absolutely correct that the time to act is now - I fear that the economic crisis is so overwhelming that it will be hard to get Congress to act. I think highlighting the problem of health care access, as you've done many time in the past, is essential. I imagine you'll do this again, and if you do, I'd encourage you to also highlight the work of people who are reaching out to those that fall between the cracks. I work in Rochester, NY, and recently heard about an organization that provides health care to the uninsured, St. Joseph's Neighborhood Center I wonder if other communities have such organizations, and if so, would it be worth reporting on them if only to engender support? Maybe one day there will be no need for such an organization, but
until that day arrives, wouldn't
it be wonderful if all communities followed this model?

Thank you for your program.

Commenter: Frank Skipton
Please consider the following:
perhaps your stories about getting medical coverage need a little punch.
Why not compare//explain the medical coverage provided to federal government employees.
After all, the citizens you profiled on your program are the ones paying the taxes that pay for the medical coverage for all federal employees.

Commenter: Fran Decoster
After watching your program "Gambling with Health Care," my friend and I are looking into medical tourism as a way for people - like the woman with breast cancer who needs chemotherapy - to get the treatment she needs at an affordable price. We live in Thailand so we know how much less expensive it is to receive top quality care here. We are going to look into cost of cancer therapy at a couple of local hospitals; we know there are places to live for under $100 a month; there are lots of expats living here (in Chiang Mai) to help with everyday concerns. It is just outrageous that losing a job should equal a death sentence! Can we write to you when we have some facts and figures to share?

Commenter: bsbuster
The damn Repugnants and Corporate Media have made the words, 'Medicaid' and 'Welfare' ''dirty'' words [among others !], to be associated with the unthinkable ''S'' word > 'Socialism' !

If only these selfish, self-centered ''Good Christian Folks'' could think past their narrow-mindedness and show some true patriotism, by caring for the less fortunate ones, it will go a long way to fixing our current mess.

What I find absolutely outrageous is the fact that, despite last three decades of 'Corporate Welfare and Favoritism' running amok, resulting in the near collapse of our economy and this country, the proponents of 'Big Buisness' are still hollerin' for 'buisness-as-usual', by the Fed Govt. !!!!!

Gambling With Health Care

Interview: Howard Dean

Tips for the Unemployed and Uninsured

In Your State: Quality of Health Care

Robert Reich on Fighting Health Care "Fearmongers"

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