Category Archives: Ballot initiative

I’m Back

To quote Michael Corleone, in the Godfather, Part III, “just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.” To blogging again, that is; not joining the Mob.

There is so much to catch up on in my absence, that I decided to apprise you, my loyal readers, of a subject I discussed earlier this year, the proposed Amendment 69 in the state of Colorado.

To refresh your memories, Amendment 69 (couldn’t they come up with another number?), also called “ColoradoCare”, was an attempt to create a single-payer system in the Rockies.

My previous three posts, “Colorado Gets Real on Workers’ Comp and Health Care”, “Colorado “Single Payer” in Health Care Industry’s Sights”, and “A Little Disruption is a Good Thing” outlined the plan for single-payer, the opposition to single-payer from the health care industry, and how it would be a good thing to have some disruption, especially in workers’ comp.

My writing on the subject also got the notice of a fellow writer, Katie Kuehner-Hebert, of Workers Comp Forum, a sister publication of Risk & Insurance magazine. Her article discussed whether the proposed amendment would be helpful or harmful for workers’ comp payers.

Last month, the voters in Colorado defeated the measure by a wide margin. On election night, at 8:30 p.m., with nearly 1.8 million votes counted across the state, the amendment was trailing 79.6% to 20.4%. Vote totals at 7 a.m., the next morning, with 86 percent of the vote counted, the measure continued trailing at roughly the same percentage or 1,833,879 to 467,424.

As reported in the Denver Post by John Ingold, throughout the campaign, the measure had polled better with Democrats than Republicans, and even in left-leaning Denver, the amendment lost by 2-to-1.

What does the defeat of the single-payer measure mean for the future of health care and possibly workers’ comp?

It means that until there is a nation-wide push for single-payer, state-specific measures such as Amendment 69 will either go down to defeat, or be scraped altogether, as happened in Bernie Sanders’ home state of Vermont. Amendment 69 was an attempt to get there, but as I followed up some weeks later, it was targeted by the health care industry, and never had a chance.

That brings me to my next topic. The recent political campaign that witnessed a misogynistic, egomaniacal, sexist, racist, Corporatist/Fascist bully and demagogue elected president, and a Congress of like-minded semi-demagogues.

Now this capitalist clown is appointing men to his cabinet who stand in opposition to many things the American people believe in, and one man, Representative Tom Price, R-GA , an ardent opponent of the ACA, is to be Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the department which oversees the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), who makes the rules for the health care law and the other medical insurance programs of the government.

Folks, that’s like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Sooner or later, the chickens are going to be devoured, except it won’t be dead chickens lying around, but millions of Americans who will lose their health care newly won, and who may die because of it.

We still don’t know what will happen to the ACA after January 20th, because that man refuses to release his tax returns, refuses to commit to anything and goes off on tirades on Twitter to anyone who gets in his way. But I believe that this idiot and Congress will take away not only health care for millions, but eliminate Medicare and Medicaid, which is what Speaker Paul Ryan wants to do, but may be forced to back down once opposition gets wind of it.

Either way, health care in this country will get worse, not better.

That moron soon to occupy the White House has even nominated the CEO of a fast food chain to be Secretary of Labor. This guy, Andy Pudzer (or is it Putzer?, or just plain Putz?) wants to replace fast food workers with robots. Methinks he is one.

True, by 2025, it is predicted that 50% of all occupations will be replaced by automation, but the reason Pudzer wants to replace fast food workers with robots is so that the companies won’t have to pay living wages of $15 an hour to their workers.

I guess this putz would like to see workers thrown out into the street, especially younger minority workers who generally take these jobs to give themselves some work experience, and older workers left out of the changing economy.

You know what 50% less workers mean for workers’ comp? 50% less claims adjusters, physical therapists, durable medical equipment companies, pharmacy benefit management personnel, etc.

It also means that there will be more unease, anger, and maybe even violence. The kind of violence that has been avoided for decades, and that was predicted more than one hundred and fifty years ago by a certain German writer. And what if that 50% goes to 75%? What then?

One idea is to give these permanently unemployed a universal basic income (UBI), but with this Congress, that too will not happen.

There is an old Chinese curse that is appropriate now: “May you live in interesting times.” Interesting, possibly; dangerous, most definitely.

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Colorado “Single Payer” in Health Care Industry’s Sights

Earlier this month, I wrote that Colorado was introducing a ballot initiative for single payer.

As reported today by Don McCanne of Physicians for a National Health Plan, and published on Friday in The Intercept, business interests in Colorado and many of the largest lobbying groups around the country and in the state are raising funds to defeat Amendment 69, the single-payer ballot question going before voters this November.

One organization leading the move to defeat this amendment is the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, a national trade group.

As quoted in the article by the author, Lee Fang, “The council urges Coloradans to protect employer-provided insurance and oppose Proposition 69.

The group has dispatched Steptoe & Johnson, a lobbying firm to analyze the bill.

Other lobbying groups that represent major for-profit health care interests in Colorado, including hospitals and insurance brokers, Fang writes, are similarly mobilizing against Amendment 69.

The Colorado Association of Commerce & Industry, a trade group led in part by HCA HealthOne, a subsidiary of HCA, one of the largest private hospital chains in the country is soliciting funds to defeat single payer. The business coalition to defeat the measure also includes the state’s largest association of health insurance brokers, Fang reported.

Dr. McCanne wrote in response to the Fang article that, “In the meantime, the opponents know that their task does not involve educating the public on the facts. They do not have to engage the other side in a information battle over the truth. They merely have to appeal to the passion of the voters. Simple rhetorical soundbites are usually enough to convince the voters that they do not have to waste their time studying some complicated government scheme in order to know how to vote on it. Just look at some of the rhetoric of the opposition group, Coloradans for Coloradans: “doubling the state budget,” “diminishing accessibility and quality,” and “creating an unaccountable, massive bureaucracy.” Who would support that? No need to try to find out the truth.”

What does this really mean?

It means this: that until the whole US health care system collapses of its own weight, inefficiencies, complexities, absurdities, bureaucracy, and stupidity, that no matter who runs for president promising free health care for all, it won’t happen.

Talking in generalities, wishing and hoping that a mass movement (or political revolution) will change things, is only magical thinking and pixie dust. Given the political polarization of the US electorate, and the lack of thinking on the part of those who are supporting the GOP candidates for president and for Congress, single payer nationwide or statewide will not happen until every single American cannot get any health care coverage.

How did the UK get single payer? Thank the Luftwaffe for destroying the British health care system before WWII. Don’t believe me? Just read what Winston Churchill said (Conservative Party – like our Republicans, only smarter):

Our policy is to create a national health service in order to ensure that everybody in the country irrespective of means, age, sex or occupation shall have equal opportunities to benefit from the best and most up-to-date medical and allied services available.”

How did Germany get a kind of single payer system? Otto von Bismarck. And sixty years later, when the most conservative government Germany ever had came to power, not even a paperhanging, SOB with a Charlie Chaplin moustache could undo it.

Why can’t we have single payer? Read Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Any mention of health care or health insurance? No, because they were more concerned with “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” however they defined that in the eighteenth century.

Freedom was another thing they were concerned with, such as the freedom to have what is yours remain yours, so that the government can’t take it to spend on such extravagant luxuries as health care and education for all.

But as I wrote back in 2013, the founders did create a tax-based health plan for merchant sailors because it was affecting our national economy and trade. But it was only for a select population group, as was Medicare and Medicaid and SHIP, and Tricare last century.

But the health plan for sailors was never challenged in the courts, nor was it ever a part of any political campaign for the Presidency to be repealed; however, that is not stopping the GOP and their allies from doing the same thing to the ACA, or to any proposal for single payer.

The US is, as that paperhanging SOB is quoted as saying before he took cyanide and shot himself, “the ultra-capitalists”, and therefore, the free market and the profit motive wins out.

You want single payer, Bernie? Start learning the words to “The Internationale”.

 

Courts Striking Down Work Comp Laws

Coming back around to the constitutionality of aspects of the various state workers’ comp laws, an article by David De Paolo last week, suggested that rather than corporate America dismantling workers’ comp, it is the courts who are actually doing so.

David says that state supreme courts will be the ones doing the dismantling this year, piece by piece.

A week and a half ago, I wrote that the Oklahoma WC statute relating to the permanent partial disability deferral provisions of the state’s workers compensation statutes of 2013, was struck down in a 7-2 decision.

This decision was first reported in The Oklahoman.

And David also reported in the same article, that the 1st District Court of Appeals in Florida said that the state’s statutory limits on the payment of attorneys for injured workers was unconstitutional.

So while ProPublica and others rightly or wrongly accuse corporate America, the Koch Brothers, ALEC, ARAWC, the Illuminati, Martians, and anyone else we left out, it is the men and women who wear black robes who are striking down the workers’ comp laws in their states.

Is this a coincidence? Is this a vast conspiracy of right-wing jurists and those who put them on the bench? That is hard to say because we don’t know these people at all, who appointed them, and what their individual political motives are.

But if these decisions are any indication, the courts are ruling more in favor of injured workers, than their employers.

If you read De Paolo’s article and the cases linked to them, as well as the OK case, you will see that the courts are generally siding with workers.

What does this mean?

Well, it is too early to tell, but if these trends continue this year, 2016 may be the year the injured worker gets a little break. But we still have laws, regs, and rules in place that are holding back workers from getting the best health care available, at lower cost, no matter where that happens to be, even if it is not within the borders of their state or the country.

And that is something courts in the future will have to decide.

Colorado Gets Real on Workers’ Comp and Health Care

A shout out today to David DePaolo of Workers’ Comp Central for publishing an article today about a subject I discussed about a year ago, the combining of the silos of workers’ comp and general health care.

Voters in Colorado, the first state to legalize pot (talk about a real ‘Rocky Mountain High’) will decide in November on a ballot initiative that would create ColoradoCare,  a state-run program that will would pay for medical treatment provided to all residents of the state, including those who are hurt on the job.

According to the initiative, “ColoradoCare shall assume responsibility for payment of all reasonable and necessary medical expenses incurred by workers who suffer injuries or illnesses arising out of and in the course of their employment after the date ColoradoCare assumes responsibility for health care payments,”

The law, David writes, will levy (must be Jewish?)  a 3.33% payroll tax on workers and a 6.67% payroll tax on employers, as well as a 10% health care premium tax on non-payroll income to raise $25 billion to pay for medical care.

A 21-person board of trustees would be created to oversee the program. And, employers would still have to carry workers’ comp insurance to cover indemnity benefits (lost wages).

This would be something left up to legislators to figure out, says DePaolo, because the law is only intended to consolidate health care and eliminate the myriad of silos that create delay, confusion and ultimately heath care consumer angst.

It is David’s opinion that the measure will pass, but that is up to the voters of Colorado to decide (are you listening, Maria?).

So what this will mean is this: should the measure pass in November, it is possible that injuries sustained on the job that requires surgery could be achieved through medical travel, since what is possible now under health care would also be possible in workers’ comp (see my post, “Medical Tourism and Workers’ Comp: What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander“).

When it passes, the following warning should be issued to all potheads in Colorado:

Before going abroad for surgery under the provisions of ColoradoCare, should they allow you to do so, please leave all of your “medicine”, in whatever form you take it in, and the paraphernalia that goes with it home, or else you will end up like Billy Hayes in a Turkishmaninacanstan prison.

But the hospitals in Turkishmaninacanstan are much better, and that is one reason why you are going there in the first place. For world-class health care at a lower cost.