Health care bureaucracy accounts for about a third of total US health care spending, dwarfing the amount spent on paperwork in Canada's national health program. Researchers say cutting out the bureaucracy with a national health program in the US could come up with enough savings to cover more than 41 million uninsured in this country. A study published Aug. 21 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that US health bureaucracy cost $294.3 billion in 1999, or $1,059 per capita. That was more than three times the $307 per capita in paperwork costs under Canada's national health insurance system. Cutting US health bureaucracy costs to the Canadian level would have saved $209 billion in 1999.
Another report co-authored with Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, found that health bureaucracy now consumes at least $399.4 billion annually and that national health insurance could save about $286 billion in administrative costs. This is equivalent to $6,940 for each of the 41.2 million people uninsured in 2001 (the most recent figure available for the uninsured). In addition to providing health coverage for the uninsured, these savings could provide drug coverage for the nation's seniors.
Researchers found wide variation among states in the potential administrative savings available per uninsured resident. Texas, with 4.96 million uninsured (nearly one in four Texans), could free $3,925 per uninsured resident if a national health plan were implemented. Massachusetts, which has very high per capita health administrative spending and a relatively low rate of uninsured, could make available $16,453 per uninsured person.
"Hundreds of billions are squandered each year on health care bureaucracy, more than enough to cover all of the uninsured, pay for full drug coverage for seniors, and upgrade coverage for the tens of millions who are under-insured," said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program and lead author of the studies. "Americans spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as Canadians, who have universal coverage and live two years longer. The administrative savings of national health insurance make universal coverage affordable." See the Health Research Group at www.citizen.org/hrg/ or Physicians for a National Health Program at www.pnhp.org.
BETTER A WHITE FELON THAN AN HONEST BLACK. While affirmative action programs are under fire, research shows that a white convicted felon is more likely to get a callback for a job than a black man without a criminal record. Devah Pager of Northwestern University set out to find out how a criminal record effects a person's ability to get a job last year when she sent out black and white college students to apply for entry-level job openings advertised in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel where the only differences were whether the candidate was black or white and a former felon or not. Not surprising was that black applicants got fewer interviews than white applicants but Prager also found that "black non-offenders fall behind even whites with prior felony convictions." She found that 34% of the white applicants with no criminal record got callbacks, compared with 17% of whites with criminal records, 14% of blacks with a clean record and 5% of blacks with a criminal record. Prager won this year's Dissertation Award from the American Sociological Association. As Nathan Newman, commented at www.nathannewman.org/log in noting the study, "It almost boggles the mind that there are people who maintain that racism is no longer prevalent in our society."
SAY NO TO WTO. A worldwide day of action against Corporate Globalization and War will take place Sept. 13 during the World Trade Organization Ministerial meeting, which runs Sept. 10-14 in Cancun, Mexico, according to Global Exchange (globalexchange.org). Pushed by multinational corporations, the US, European Union and other developed countries are seeking to launch a new round of "free trade" negotiations and expand corporate globalization, further eroding human rights, workers' rights, environmental protections, and democracy, in the interest of corporate control. Organizers suggest resistance to the WTO and the failed model of corporate globalization, militarism and "free trade" through a variety of creative means: teach-ins, vigils, protests, direct action, street theater, festivals of resistance, cultural events, meetings with elected officials, public forums, and so on. For more info, see www.cancuncommittee.org.
VETS FURIOUS AT GOP BETRAYAL. Veterans' groups condemned House Republicans' failure to deliver a promised $3.2 billion boost for the Veterans Affairs Department that would have shrunk the agency's waiting list for medical care, Dennis Camire of Gannett News Service wrote Aug. 20. "A shameless betrayal" is how AMVETS sums it up. "A moral outrage," the American Legion said. "Abominable" was the word from the Non Commissioned Officers Association. "Veterans have been pushed to the limits," said Joe Violante, national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans. "They're being lied to, and they're not tolerating it." Vets say they'll remember next year.
BUSH THREATENS POOR KIDS' INSURANCE. Expansion of Medicaid eligibility and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) more than offset a shrinkage in private health insurance coverage for children between 1999 and 2002, the Urban Institute reported. However, the Bush administration's budget for 2004 threatens to reduce funding for children's health insurance in the long term, the Economic Policy Institute noted. In 1999, employers covered 39% of children in low-income families, Medicaid and SCHIP covered 35% and 23% (about seven million children) had no health insurance coverage. By 2002, employers had cut back their coverage, to 32%, while Medicaid and SCHIP increased coverage, to 47% and 17% were uninsured. The Bush administration proposes to reduce SCHIP outlays in 2004 by 44%. Between 2004 and 2013, the overall change for Medicaid and SCHIP recommended by the Bush administration is a cut of $2.4 billion. (See Economic Snapshot for Aug. 20 at www.epinet.org.)
TEACH FOR AMERICA AXED DESPITE W 'SUPPORT'. In the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush expressed support for Teach for America (TFA), the national-service program of AmeriCorps that sends college graduates to teach for two years in the poorest urban and rural school districts. TFA founder Wendy Kopp was invited to sit in the First Lady's box at Bush's first budget message to Congress in February 2001. In 2002, Dubya in his State of the Union address called for increased national service and then visited a Teach for America school in Atlanta. But on July 11 TFA was notified it would no longer get funding. AmeriCorps itself faces a reduction from approximately 55,000 to 35,000 members. Time magazine's Joe Klein noted that just before the summer recess, the Senate passed a $100 million appropriation to restore these cuts, but House Majority Leader Tom DeLay -- who has made no secret of his desire to kill AmeriCorps -- blocked the money.
JUDGE DUMPS FOX SUIT. Salon.com columnist Joe Conason suggests a new slogan for Fox News Channel, drawn from the wording of US District Judge Denny Chin's rejection of the network's lawsuit to stop Al Franken and his publisher from distributing Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. "Instead of 'Fair and Balanced,' why not 'Wholly Without Merit'"?
US TOPS IN PRISONERS. More than 5.6 million Americans are in prison or have served time there, according to the Justice Department. By the end of year 2001, some 1,319,000 adults were confined in state or federal prisons. An estimated 4,299,000 former prisoners are still alive, the new report concludes. The Christian Science Monitor noted that's 1 in 37 adults living in the US, the highest incarceration level in the world. If trends continue, a black male in the US would have about a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison during his lifetime. For a Hispanic male, it's 1 in 6; for a white male, 1 in 17. The prison population has quadrupled since 1980, with much of that surge the result of public policy, such as the war on drugs and mandatory minimum sentencing. Nearly 1 in 4 of inmates in federal and state prisons are in on drug-related offenses, most of them nonviolent. More than 4 million prisoners or former prisoners are denied a right to vote. In 12 states, that ban is for life. In Florida in 2000 an estimated 600,000 former felons had completed their sentence but because of Florida's restrictive laws were unable to vote. John Conyers, D-Mich., has introduced HR 259 to ensure the right to vote in federal elections to all but those in prison for felony convictions.[Thousand more in Florida had no criminal records but were improperly purged from voter lists because their names were similar to former felons.] By 2010, the number of American residents in prison or with prison experience is expected to jump to 7.7 million, or 3.4% of all adults, according to the new report.
TEXAS DEMOCRATS NEED HELP. Texas Senate Democrats called for help Aug. 18 as they approach the end of a month in exile in New Mexico to prevent Texas Republicans from gerrymandering the state's congressional districts. The Texas 11 are breaking the Senate quorum needed to pass a redistricting bill, and Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston sent an appeal on the group's behalf to moveon.org, which in less than a week raised nearly $1 million to pay for ads to tell Texans about the GOP power grab. US House Majority Leader Tom Delay, upset that rural Republican districts keep electing Democratic congressmen, has been leading the effort to get the GOP-dominated Legislature to redraw the congressional districts to split up rural districts and attach them to more reliable suburban areas, in hopes of picking up five more Republican seats. Senate Republicans have ordered fines for the missing Democrats for each day they stay away, although the legality of such fines are questionable. They also took parking spaces and other perks away from the Democrats' staff. To assist in the cost of hotels, meeting rooms, staff support and public relations efforts send contributions to the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus Fund c/o Texas Democratic Party, 701 Rio Grande, Austin TX 78701.
TORT DEFORM IN TEXAS. Texans will vote on 22 state constitutional amendments Sept. 13, including one that would radically alter the state's right to a trial by jury as part of a business-sponsored "tort reform" project. Proposition 12, the worst of the bunch, would authorize the Legislature to limit damages in civil lawsuits. Critics say the arbitrary limits would shield HMOs, insurance companies, hospitals, polluters and drug companies from responsibility for their actions and let the Legislature limit penalties for the worst corporate wrongdoers, regardless of the harm they cause. Laws taking effect Sept. 1 will severely limit plaintiffs in medical malpractice, pollution and other civil lawsuits, regardless of the fate of the constitutional proposition. See TexansagainstProp12.com.