If you have "no place to go," come here!

Festivus healthcare house party round-up

Our Festivus healthcare discussion rollicked along at a good pace.

Before jumping in, thanks to all for participating. And may everyone find the joy of the season.

And join us

Friday, Dec. 26, 8pm EST for more ideas and agitating

Please add as you see fit.

In response to the question, “Why is healthcare an issue for you?”, the answers ranged from rage (that would be me, lambert, and gqmartinez), not being a bully (vastleft), personal experience with the system as patient or provider (DCBlogger, hipparchia, and oceansandmountains) creating equitable healthcare system as a foundation on which to build a more just society (lambert), the basic need for healthcare, and so on.

No surprises and definitely some overlap. I asked the question because I find it easy to get involved in the intellectual side of this issue, developing the theoretical, and I didn’t want to let go of the personal and emotional part of it. There was a reason for this, as I wrote to Valhalla: We are dealing with a problem of marketing, not a problem with the facts---the heavy lifting has been done and the facts are being shared by DCBlogger and hipparchia. Marketing involves the personal and emotional. And here is where we can work to our strengths collectively and individually to make this happen.

For me, it came down to this: “When Baucus said single payer was off the table, I assumed we were going to flip over the table. That's the plan, isn't it?”

Table flipping is not an art form heavy on theory. It is, in fact, the action of groundlings without the manners to know their place in the grand scheme of things. I myself am too ignorant to know my place in the grand scheme. I heard from somebody that healthcare is a right and I am not couth enough to not expect my rights to be respected. And if someone has decided to ignore my rights, well, I have just enough manners to warn you to take your cocktail glass off the table because it is taking a tumble.

So, this table flipping thing---how do we do it? Lots of people have their elbows on the table, so it’s going to take a lot of us working together to get it flipped. To make that happen, we can focus on two activities: asking embarrassing questions and spreading the message.

Asking Embarrassing Questions

Our now 25 questions (see below) began as substitute discussion-starters people could use to ask during real life house parties. While Team Obama wants us all to STFU after December 31, I suggest we continue developing the questions and asking them at awkward moments. (When our betters shake their heads at our social ineptitude, remember that you are a groundling and you don’t know any better. See? The privilege of being a groundling is you don’t have enough sense to shut up or lie about things. Poor little groundling.)

I tried grouping them, but my attempt is lame. If anyone has a better grouping and revision for better flow, please share.

Vastleft asked about changing response to questions to a Yes/No/Somewhat or Maybe format. I think this was in response to the online survey format. Is this possible or necessary right now? Should we expand the online survey? Lambert, can we do this or is the whole thing getting cumbersome?

Spreading the Message

Lots of discussions about ways to spread the message about single payer. We're starting, but not ending with these.


groundlings, go die
Underneath: a uniquely American solution

Image: pie chart or a picture of a dollar, sliced into 62 cent and 38 cent sections.
On the 62 cent side: Rx
On the 38 cent side: BS
Underneath: Your healthcare dollar at work.

Lambert’s ideas from sleep blogging:

Online tools:

Corrente contact list that made Baby Jesus cry

Video and audio uploads

Idea: Call the series “Embarrassing Questions About Our Healthcare System” or “Simple Questions about Getting Healthcare” or something

Tagline: It's simple. Health care is a right.

Question: How much money do insurance companies waste arguing with doctors over patient care?
Answer: Show a physician on the phone talking with an insurance rep about a patient’s treatment. (Patient identity completely hidden.) Tape the entire conversation and then cut it down to a 30- or even 15-second spot, editing from bit to bit that doesn't mention the patient's name or gender, or even condition. Superimpose a dollar counter showing the pennies adding up to show how much time doctors doing everything but doctoring.
Need: A physician willing to be videotaped and apatient willing to let use record the proceeding. We'll hide the patient's identity in the final, but it's only right to ask before proceeding.

Video or animation
Question: How much of every healthcare dollar goes to administration?
Answer while flailing arms: How much? Nobody knows! At least, not anybody who thinks transparency is a good idea. Doctors have to decide if they're going to track this stuff or treat patients, patients have to decide on concentrating on getting better or arguing with insurance companies, insurance commissioners are fighting to stop the very worst of abuses. One of the business reasons we need single payer is because we can demand an accounting of costs---and get it!

Question: What would it take to get our medical records in electronic form and easily accessible?
Answer: Two guys in suits standing at an ATM talking about how difficult it would be to have shared records and patient tracking, cut to them at lunch as one pays with a credit card, cut to them going in a building with an I.D., cut to them in a swanky office and someone calls to one of the guys, "Sir, those documents arrived via email from Tokyo and Minsk." Sir says thanks, and then ends with, "No matter what, we have to make sure our way wins."

(hipparchia raised a good point---this is issue is a lot harder to solve than it initially appears, but if the stumbling block isn’t technical, but political or financial, let’s make fun of it.)

Further documentation:

Documenting healthcare stories in video, audio, still images, and so on. We can super a logo or something over the material so it can’t be swiped and used by our betters and contrary to our interests. Stories, places, people.

The Jar Project: I pitched this on another thread. We all take pictures of the coin collection jars on store counters. The coins are collected for people who need money to pay for lifesaving medical treatment. I suggest we take pictures and document city and state, how long the jar has been there, how much money the people have raised, how the person who is ill is doing, and so on. We do not have to share the person’s name and other personal info unless given permission to do so. If we start this, there’s a chance this could gather momentum and others will pick it up.

Revised questions now with grouping!

For everyone
1. Have you or anyone in your family ever failed to seek medical attention because you couldn’t afford it? (h/t a little night…)

2. Have you or anyone in your family ever failed to seek medical attention because you couldn’t afford treatment though you had health insurance? (h/t a little night…)

3. Have you ever lost your health insurance? If so, why?

4. Have you ever been refused health insurance? If so, why?

5. Have you ever avoided getting a diagnosis because you lacked health insurance, or didn't want to risk going on record with a pre-existing condition?

6. Have you ever had to change doctors, delay treatment, or pay higher deductibles because of a pre-existing condition or long-term illness? Are you delaying treatment now? (h/t a little night…)

7. Do you have health insurance now? If not, why not? If so, how do you pay for it?

8. Have you ever stayed in a marriage or relationship because you had health insurance coverage you would otherwise not be able to get?

9. Have you ever gone without necessary medication because you can't afford it or it is not covered by your health insurance? (h/t Iphie)

10. Have you ever skipped out on activities (skiing, running a marathon, etc.) because you might not be able to afford an injury? (h/t GQ)

11. Has anyone you know ever contemplated either suicide or refusing to get treatment for a life threatening and/or chronic condition because he or she didn't want to bankrupt his or her loved ones? Have you known anyone that died because of such a choice? (h/t tnjen)

The economics of getting sick
12. Have you, or someone you know filed for bankruptcy because of medical costs?

13. Have you ever asked your parents or children to help you financially because of overwhelming medical bills? Have they ever asked you for financial help?

14. Have you ever given up a job or assets to qualify for health insurance programs designed to help people living in poverty?

15. Have you ever decided to accept or turn down a job because of health insurance benefits? (h/t VL)

16. Have you ever lost your job because of a medical condition you put off seeking treatment for until it became so serious, you had to miss work a lot? (h/t Susie Madrak)

Battling insurance companies
17. Have you ever foregone treatment because of the paperwork required by insurance companies?

18. Does what you've heard about or your experience of insurance companies stop or delay you from seeking medical help when you need it?

19. Has your insurance company ever refused to pay for your prescriptions, and instead substituted their option over the judgment of your doctor? (h/t Iphie)

20. Have you ever had to change doctors or otherwise have to go to a doctor you wouldn't have chosen because your preferred doctor wasn't listed by your health insurance provider? (h/t VL)

Paying your own way
*21. If you pay for your own health insurance, have your premiums increased significantly? If so, how much and over what period? (h/t VL)

*22. Have co-pays increased significantly in recent years? (h/t VL)

Business owners and administrators
23. Revision from VL: As a business owner, has the cost of providing healthcare benefits forced you to cut benefits or layoff employees?

24. Have you chosen not to hire someone because of the cost of healthcare benefits?

25. Have you chosen to bring someone on as a sub-contractor instead of hiring him or her as an employee because you couldn’t afford the healthcare benefits?

* VL, these feel like quantity questions and not perception questions. The only perception is that based on how someone defines “significant” and “recent years,” and I wonder if that is what we’re trying to get at. I mean, a lot of people are just going to say, “Yes, my premiums have gone up significantly,” but that could mean 45 cents a month, which may be significant to some but not significant to others. See what I mean? I get what you’re trying to ask---does paying for premiums force you to choose between paying for health insurance and paying a utility bill?---kind of question. I am stumped as to how to re-word this. Sorry, brain tiredness.

No votes yet


Submitted by lambert on

... and capturing data. Note that the survey is categorized as it is (grouped questions) because that's the only way to handle followups like "If so, why?"). So, is this the final version? Say yes, so we can start publicizing.

Also, you rephrased it perfectly:

Does paying for premiums force you to choose between paying for health insurance and paying a your bills?

Des paying for co-pays force you to choose between paying for health insurance and paying a your bills?

Submitted by ohio on

Time to start spreading the joy?


gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

A title of a book on my shelf worth reading and pondering vigorously.

Another thing to take a look at is the history of the United Farm Workers (for example, here). Maybe this paragraph will convince you to give my train of thought a little consideration:

All of these early attempts to organize in the fields relied on organizing techniques that had been developed to reach people like factory workers or skilled craftsmen. They didn’t take into account the seasonal nature of farm labor, the fact that many who worked in the fields had to move constantly in order to survive, and the huge labor surpluses and braceros that would allow employers to quickly replace anyone who went on strike.

Health care poses similar problems when it comes to reform. People are segregated and people with different health insurance probably have different concerns that need to be addressed. It is important to recognize that.

Not to harsh the mellow of the discussion, I've seen a lot of strategies discussed and some good ideas but nearly zero discussion on strategic organizing and coalition building. Some of the ideas that may sound A-OK with Correntians may not fly with non C-list bloggers. While we should continue with the current momentum, we should put some serious thought into our current and future coalition and how to build our numbers in a strategic manner.

A question worth addressing, IMO, is: Why have all previous efforts failed and what needs to be done differently? Not all efforts failed for the same reason, which is a lesson in itself. I'll stop before I digress too much.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

isn't that working tho?

instead of getting bogged down in the millions of things people hate and are harmed by regarding healthcare in the US, there's only one solution that answers all, no?

refusing to play "let's 'reform'. how should we 'reform'? tell us what you hate? etc " and refusing to focus on the incremental things proposed that are really distractions from our needs as a whole.

Submitted by hipparchia on

why previous efforts failed. the reasons are myriad, but mostly it seems to come down to the corporatocracy doesn't want it and will play any and very card they can. it pays to be prepared to counteract each one as it comes up, but it's a hard slog.

i'm with amberglow, throw our energies into talking up all the good points about single payer. i find that it helps to listen to skeptics and address how hr 676 addresses their particular concerns, without drowning them in everything single thing that i know about single payer.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

Here's something I've noticed: No one I meet in the "real world" are sitting around talking about HR676 or even single payer health care. I asked who the audience was on a previous thread and while you provided a list of audiences, there was no discussion about how to communicate effectively with each of the mentioned audiences. That's what I'm asking about: how to communicate to the various groups, and how one group (e.g. people in need of health care) can influence other groups (e.g. legislators). The people seem to be going further and further to the left on health care while the legislators seem to be going to the right (Kennedy, Obama, etc.).

Not to be rude, but saying previous efforts failed because the "corportacracy" wanted them to fail is a lazy answer. That's obvious. What I'm asking is what sort of tactics and groups did the corportocracy use in the various attempts to prevent reform? How does that relate to the nature of the opposition that the latest effort will face? I pointed to the United Farm Workers specifically because numerous attempts to organize those workers were unsuccessful. And the disparate nature of the farm workers posed difficulties previously unseen in other efforts. I think this relates directly to some of the issues facing current health care reformers. And one specific example

No one here needs to take my advice, I'm just offering up my opinion which is that failing to look at successful and unsuccessful efforts in the past could be invaluable to the current effort. If you have a product that most people want, why the hell is it so hard to sale the product?

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

-- there's no official support (or support from powerful officials), or even any media coverage of single-payer as one of the "reform" options--so it's not even currently part of the conversation, nationwide -- it's effectively erased (like anti-Iraq people were, for just one comparison).

-- people no longer trust govt. to actually work for them instead of for the wealthy and connected -- and everyday seems to prove them right, tragically (see the rush and immediate success of the wall st. 'bailout', and the failure to help autoworkers, for just 2 recent examples)

-- all the lies -- from Obama and Congress especially, and from fake "grassroots" orgs, and from the media and the right too, etc -- they're presenting all the currently presented and tepid "reforms" as themselves radical and as themselves automatically things not even likely to happen -- the overton window, i guess.


Submitted by ohio on

If you think it's important, then do it. You don't need anyone's permission.

Just as I don't need yours to develop t-shirts, bumperstickers, and totes so when the cashier at the store sees me loading my groceries in my my tote bag, maybe she'll ask me, "Single payer? What's that?"

Submitted by lambert on

... that's what the mail I just sent you was about, Ohio.