Reformer: We Have A Stake In D.C. Health Debate

Melinda Tuhus PhotoWhile a reform bill flounders in Washington D.C., a leading Connecticut health reformer said activists at home have a stake in reviving it.

The reformer, Frances Padilla, warned Thursday night that federal failure could spell trouble for Sustinet, the public state health care plan.

Padilla (pictured getting her mic adjusted for a 21st Century Conversations taping at North Haven TV) is acting president of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. The group organized support over several years for a public state health care plan called SustiNet, which was passed by the General Assembly and withstood a gubernatorial veto in 2009. Read about the legislation here.

“We’re closer than we’ve ever been to national health care reform, and we have to urge Congress to finish the job they started,” Padilla said before the show. “We need federal reform to bring SustiNet into reality, and when we have SustiNet in Connecticut as well, we will have comprehensive, well-thought through improvements to the health care system – coverage, cost relief and quality of care.”

The slogan of Thursday night’s TV show on federal health care reform could have been “It’s not too late!”

The guest panelists on N’Zinga Shani’s One World show, entitled “Affordable Health Care—A Human Right.”, all touched on that theme. They insisted that meaningful federal health care reform can and must be accomplished this year.

In addition to Padilla, panelists (left to right) included the Rev. Sara Lamar-Sterling, pastor of First & Summerfield United Methodist Church, Teresa Younger, executive director of the state’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, and Brad Plebani, deputy director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., based in Willimantic.

Sustinet was designed to dovetail with federal action, and will not work as well without it, Padilla said.

“Remember when SustiNet was first designed,” she said, “there was really no federal reform on the horizon, but there was a role for the federal government. SustiNet assumes that in order to be able to cover people between three and four times poverty, there’ll be a need for subsidies and we’ll need the federal government to give Connecticut some waivers and make it possible. And in addition, because [the federal House and Senate versions] have so many of the delivery system reforms – the medical home, health information technology and quality improvements that are also part of the SustiNet design, we’ll be looking for fed funding for pilot projects to be able to implement those. We’ve got an implementation framework. We’ve got a board that’s putting together all of the pieces so we can do it. But we do need the federal government as a partner, so we need Congress to act.”

SustiNet doesn’t cost the state anything over the next 18 months as its board of directors develops the framework for a state health care system, which includes a type of public option. It considers costs and quality as well as access.

Padilla concluded, “Federal reform would make it possible for everyone in Connecticut to have affordable coverage that is independent of whether they have pre-existing conditions; reforms in the House and Senate bills would provide improvements to the system within the first couple years; make premiums more affordable; make out of pocket costs more affordable; they would make it possible to get preventive diagnostic and screening to services to people, especially to women.”

Women Could Benefit

Another theme that emerged from Thursday’s program was that women in particular will benefit from health care reform.

Younger noted that more women than men serve as caregivers, and are disproportionately the ones who quit their jobs to care for loved ones, often sacrificing their own health insurance. Lamar-Sterling said her church is advocating for full reproductive health care for women in any final legislation, “including abortion” (which is not the case now).

And since older women outnumber older men, women would especially benefit from improvements in Medicare, which Plebani said are included in the federal bills.

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posted by: Walt on February 12, 2010  3:07pm

What specifically benefits older folk as claimed??

Elimination of the gap re prescriptions looks like a plus.  but to finance claimed improvements,  the plan is to take a half trillion $$$$$$$$$$$$  from Medicare which is already in a precarious financing predicament.

Old folks like me may lose their whole   Medicare   coverage if this enormously complicated,  mostly secret bill is revived or is passed after more bribes are offered to Dem Senators and others..

posted by: lance on February 12, 2010  7:23pm

nobody should be FORCED to pay for stuff for a stranger, and that includes health care.

posted by: Nobody should be forced. . . on February 14, 2010  10:19am

I like that logic. OK how’s this, if you get to choose not to support health care then I’ll choose to not pay for the two official wars, the drone bombing campaigns, the staged military coups and proxy wars, and any other upcoming conflicts I want no part of. I’ll move all that money into healthcare and guess what? We wont need you.
By the way, whether you know it or not you’re already paying for other peoples healthcare. The system is so inefficient as is that we all wind up footing the bill when ppl don’t qualify for private health care, can’t afford it, or get denied coverage by greedy inefficient insurance companies. The smart move would be to take that money we’re already spending and create a less costly and more effective system. For all the money we spend we’re incredibly unhealthy resources toward prevention like sustinet does can go a long way towards correcting that.
Also, to Frances and the Universal Health Care Foundation, I support your intentions, but I find it hard, as I think do many healthcare supporters, to get behind reviving a health bill that currently amounts to more public resources being funneled over to private insurance companies. I love sustinet and am so proud of our state for passing it, but what it the plan to make sure a federal bill is working for people rather than profits?

posted by: Walt on February 14, 2010  1:13pm

Dear Nobody

You are not paying now for the items you cited above

Both the Bush and Obama administrations hid those expenses in never-never land.

Never tax, never pay.  Trick the public to think that these wars cost nothing by not showing in the Budget.

posted by: Rev. Sara Lamar-Sterling on February 15, 2010  5:04pm

Comprehensive health care is a human rights issue. Just as we all need clean water to drink and a safe place to live, we need access to comprehensive health care no matter who we are or what our income level. Ensuring equitable and affordable access to comprehensive health care is good for our families, our communities, and our country.

posted by: JP on February 17, 2010  2:21am

N’Zinga Shani,21st Century Conversations, has produced another cutting edge program. Health care reform is the major issue of our time. It is crucial for the public to hear the favorable opinions, as expressed by the panel, and that are based on facts. The program also provided actionable information and challenged the viewers to do something.
There has been so much misinformation presented as “news”, it is refreshing and empowering to hear real people who support health care reform. President Obama has shown leadership by putting health care on the national agenda. This program has provided the information and resources that challenges everyone to demand that the President and the Congress finish the job by passing an effective health care bill in 2010.

posted by: N'Zinga S. Shani on February 17, 2010  3:16am

It is NOT TOO Late to get Comprehensive Health Care Reform in America. We NEED to Mobilize!

In 2007, the CEOs at the top seven for-profit, private insurance companies pocketed an average of $14.2 million each in total compensation (

In an article written by Jason Shafrin, Ph.D., economist in the Healthcare Economist magazine we learn that William W. McGuire, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, received compensation of $124.8 million in 2005.  Managed Care Magazine also says that the average executive compensation (excluding unexercised stock options) for an executive of a ‘top 10 for profit health plan’ was $11.7 million and that was back in 2000.  The compensation for this one executive could pay the health care premium for 34,000 Americans.  Yet, most of these wealthy people pay no health care premiums at all.

This week Anthem Blue Cross in California announced a 39 percent increase in health premiums on many customers; the increase is effective March 1; two weeks’ notice!

What justifies this increase?  GREED and POWER. They do it because they can.  What accounts for the extreme opposition to health care reform by the wealthy and powerful, and by the Republicans? It has nothing to do with these people caring about the average American; far from it. It has nothing to do with anyone losing coverage, or govt. being in our pockets; neither is it due to concern that the govt. is coming between patients and their doctors.  None of that is true. 

These private insurance companies and for-profit health care groups simply want to maintain their enormous profit margins.  The Republicans simply want the President to fail. These people could care less about the average American.  UnitedHealth Group’s Profit Rises 30%. UnitedHealth Group’s 4th-quarter profit climbs; commercial enrollment continues to stumble By TOM MURPHY AP Business Writer, INDIANAPOLIS January 21, 2010 (AP)

There are many groups—across the country—that are fighting for health care reform. Sadly, the mainstream media is not telling us about them; we hear a great deal about the Tea-Partiers and those who oppose health care.  We at OneWorld strongly encourage people to get involved and network with others who want reform; it is our only hope.  Visit our web site the Health Literacy Section and get in touch with a community, state, or national group.  Write an email or a letter to your congressional representative;  make phone calls. Encourage family members and friends and church affiliates to participate. 

This is the civil rights issue of the 21st Century. Americans should not have to decide whether to have health care or food, or a roof over their heads. This is what is happening to many. A large percentage of women who file bankruptcy do so due to health care bills.

Health Care Reform is critically important; we can get this done; do not be discouraged. Be involved.  America is a democracy; and democracy is hard work.  When Social Security was being proposed there were many who fought against it.  Luckily, those days politicians were Americans first, and many were still governed by personal ethics. Most importantly, the American people were actively involved.

Let us think about what is best for MOST Americans.  A comprehensive health reform program with a public option is the best for us as a country. It is not only inhumane to oppose reform that will benefit most Americans; it is immoral; it is unethical. 

There are people in CT who are working 54 hours per week in three part-time jobs but have no health insurance coverage.

Get the facts about what health care reform really means; become involved; be an American first. Health Care Reform is good for America.

The United Methodist Church issued A Call for Political Courage, Vision, Leadership, and Faith.  Let us answer that call and let our elected representatives hear from us who elected them. They hear from the powerful lobbyists who represent the insurance companies everyday. Let them hear from you.

posted by: Irish Tenor Fan on February 17, 2010  2:46pm

Stop the worries! The people locally and nationally who are working toward real health care reform will not leave anyone out. If you like what you have - you can keep it. If you don’t have coverage - you can get it. As for felling like you are “forced” to pay for others - - guess what? You are already paying for it with your high coporate greed premiums. SustiNet can help level the field - and will give people peace of mind.

posted by: Andrew Grant-Thomas on February 17, 2010  3:49pm

I’d like to commend Ms. Shani for hosting the show on this critical topic, to commend the guests for emphasizing its importance, and to ask all readers of this publication to do what they can to tell Congress to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity.

Rightly, much has been made of this literally unprecedented opportunity to pass universal health care and of the 30-45 million+ Americans who stand to immediately benefit, depending on exactly what bill (hypothetically) is signed into law. I just want to note that the stakes are even more serious than those numbers suggest.

By this summer or next most of the newly or recently people will have run thru their unemployment benefits. Even those fortunate enough to get new jobs, 9 times out of ten, will not get work of the kind they enjoyed before. The days of $35/hr auto plant jobs are over and there seems little reason to believe there’re ever coming back. As things stand now, more and more of the new jobs being created won’t include health benefits at all, or will include benefits w/prohibitive premiums and/or minimal coverage. Sadly, we haven’t seen the worst of it, people. And without universal health care legislation at the federal level, the situation will get far worse than it is now. And yet, without it, it will STILL be the case that those in relatively good circumstances will pay for the uninsured—unless you want even more emergency rooms to refuse treatment to the desperately ill, including children. The do-nothing course we’re on right now is at once both the most costly and the deadliest.

Please don’t let those seeking to thwart ANY kind of health care legislation for political purposes win the day. This is just too important for all of us.

posted by: Brad Plebani on February 18, 2010  1:15pm

Health care reform meausres have very specific proposals that will benefit medicare beneficiaries. Let’s look at the facts. Health care reform, as currently constituted in the House and Senate bills already passed, would:

•Immediately begin to close the Medicare prescription drug donut hole, and will completely close it by 2019.
•Lower drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries by allowing the government to negotiate for lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies;
•Improve Medicare’s payment to doctors and thus ensure that Medicare beneficiaries can continue, as they do now, to see the doctor of their choice or find a doctor if they need one;
•Require Medicare, as well as private insurance, to provide preventive benefits without application of cost-sharing;
•Promote care coordination in Medicare – especially for those with multiple chronic conditions – through various pilot projects;
•Improve access to Medicare-covered services for low-income beneficiaries by strengthening the programs that serve these individuals;
•Provide benefits to help older people and people with disabilities live in their own homes and communities by establishing the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program.

The so-called Medicare “cuts” are designed to even the playing field between the traditional Medicare program and private, for profit Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare Advantage plans cost the Medicare program on average 14% more per beneficiary than the Traditional Medicare. (From 2005 through 2008, the average Medicare Advantage insurer spent over 15% of premium revenue on profits, marketing, and other corporate expenses.) And ALL Medicare beneficiaries (whether enrolled in a medicare Advantage plan or not) pay increased premiums in order to keep these excess payments to Medicare Advantage plans in place. To continue to keep Medicare financially solvent, eliminating these unfair and unecessary subsidies to Medicare Advantage plans are essential. And eliminating these unwarranted subsidies would add 8 years additional solvency to the Medicare program.

In sum, health care reform will benefit Medicare beneficiaries. There has been a deliberate attempt to scare seniors about Medicare and health care reform, and these scare tactics are based on something other than the facts.

posted by: Becky on February 18, 2010  5:02pm

Many people who oppose Health-care reform are quick to cite the problems it can cause.  However, we need to remember that this proposal is not a “be-all end-all” answer.  Just as with education proposals that aim to improve student achievement, a Health-care proposal should be put into action, monitored, and modified when necessary.  The new plan may cause and upheaval and face many bumps in the road, but as Rev. Lamar-Sterling noted, Health-care is a human rights issue.  In order to help our country and our people run smoothly, it is going to take a little compassion and understanding (and maybe some money) to improve Health-care.

posted by: E. Duncan on February 20, 2010  3:07pm

We NEED Affordable and Accessible Health Care Reform in 2010.  It is estimated that extending health insurance coverage to all Americans will cost at least $1 trillion over the next ten years and contribute more than a billion to the deficit.  However, no one is telling us how much we will save in educating the public about life-style changes and in prevention of illness.  Most important, they are not calculating the savings from education.  That will be substantial.  One of the leading ideas for raising revenues to cover these costs includes increasing taxes on tobacco, alcohol and sugary soft drinks. The money raised from these additional taxes will help to provide public health education programs.  This is one thing we need to do to prevent disease and illness.  By preventing disease we will save a lot of money, the savings will reduce some of the expenses.  We need to implement reform now.  I call on my congressional representatives to have the courage to do the right thing. The Democrats in Congress need to show more commitment and fight for this; the President alone cannot do it. Thanks to OneWorld Progressive Institute for this important program, and thanks to all the participants.

posted by: LAR on February 20, 2010  3:57pm

Healthcare reform is imperative and will benefit young and old; employed and unemployed; male and female; however, to create effective legislation, all stakeholders must be invited to the discussion table to ensure that quality and cost-effective medical care and treatments are accessible to all.  The stakeholders that must be included at the discussion table are: Consumers, Insurers,
Medical care providers (i.e., doctors/hospitals/nurse practitioners); Pharmaceutical and Medical device companies; and State & Federal government representatives.  I commend Ms. M. Tuhus for her vigilant and timely reporting and Ms. N’Zinga Shani for keeping current health-care-related topics available to the community TV audience.

posted by: Chavonn Duncan on February 20, 2010  11:04pm

Every day I hear that America is the number one country in the world.  We go into other countries to ensure human rights for their citizens.  I believe having access to affordable health care is a human rights issue.  Americans should not have to suffer because they cannot afford to go to the doctor; that is not right.  People who work hard every day should not lose their houses because they cannot pay their health care bills.  Congress should pass health care reform that helps all Americans.  As a senior in high school, I worry a lot about what will happen to me as an adult if Congress misses out on this opportunity to pass a good health reform bill.

posted by: Zarina on February 21, 2010  1:15pm

Dear Ms. Shani:

It is good to see that you have not given up informing people about the need for Access to Affordable Health Care.  I commend you.  As a nursing student it saddens me to see how uninformed so many people are, and also how they are being influenced by all of the totally false information they hear through the regular media.  It is easier for people to believe the false and scary information they read or hear in the sound bites, or in the rantings from the right-wing than for them to take time to get reliable information.  It must be frustrating for you and others who are trying to provide useful and factual information.  Please do not give up.  It is also cool to see the caliber people on your recent panel.  That is a very good thing.  More people need to get involved; this is a very important issue.

At my school we have debates about the benefits of everyone having health care under a national plan, or things continuing as they are.  We are assigned to research various aspects.  In the end even those who started out opposing a comprehensive plan realize that economically a comprehensive plan is better for all the people.  The private health insurance companies are opposing it because it will reduce their really BIG PROFITS. That is the only reason there is so much opposition. 

The Republicans are the party of business organizations.  The lobbyists for these businesses are trying to scare older people about losing their Medicare benefits.  What those older people don’t know is that they are simply being used by the right-wingers for their own purpose.  As Mr. Plebani said, Medicare will be more efficient under the President’s planned reform program and the benefits will go farther.  I just wish more people will wake up to the truth.  Please know that 21st Century Conversations is a beneficial tool; do not give up trying to provide this type of good information. I hope that people are watching and learning.  Thank you.

posted by: J. Figueroa on February 25, 2010  3:59pm

Dear OneWorld Progressive:
Thank you for being progressive and working hard to help bring attention to the need for health-care reform. There are no words to accurately express my family’s frustration on this issue.  Recently a clinic we have been going to for years now told us that they will have to raise family rates because if reform does not happen by June 30 they might lose a significant part of their funding.  At least we do have access, but it is so costly. I hope that CT will not re-elect senator Lieberman.  He is more Republican than some moderate Republicans.  I am encouraging people to speak out for reform and thank you for the work that you are doing.
J. Figueroa

posted by: Lavonne Beckford on February 26, 2010  7:36am

Thanks to OneWorld Progressive Institute, we have another thought-provoking, critical thinking public access TV program.  The comments posted by Lance and Walt demonstrate how easy it is for ignorance to take hold and fester rather than the facts.  Some people just do not want to be bothered by the facts because it will mean that they have to think and make responsible decisions.  It is so much easier to follow blindly behind those spouting ignorance; that takes no work at all. There is no truth to Walt’s claims.

As Ms. Shani said in her comments, democracy is hard work.  There are thousands of doctors and medical professionals across the country who ardently support comprehensive health care reform.  We do not hear about them.  There are religious groups and all types of community groups, but we only hear about the conservatives.  We should all be frightened by that, and when we see the results (such as these false and frightening claims by these men) we recognize the damage being done. This is exactly what the righ-wingers want.  They are countin g on people remaining ignorant and uninformed.  With all the media we have we still are only getting the same type of information from ALL of them. We need more programs like 21st Century Conversations, more courageous producers like N’Zinga Shani, and a lot more media like the New Haven Independent to provide accurate information.

posted by: Rosemarie on March 1, 2010  12:11pm

I give credit to all of these people who are still trying to get the community involved in this very important issue of health care reform. Mr. Plebani from the Medicare Advocacy Center, Ms. Younger from the Permanent Commission on Women, and Rev. Lamar-Sterling for her courage to have a different voice from the very conservative religious voices we have been hearing.  Ms. Padilla and her Universal Health Foundation have been in the trenches.  It would be good if more organizations had their courage.  The conservatives certainly have no problem letting their voices be heard.  The rest of us need to be more courageous and do the same.  Let us recognize the valuable work being done by OneWorld Progressive Institue with its 21st Century Conversations.  We need affordable health care today. I agree with OneWorld, we cannot give up ever. The right wing is not giving up.  Please we need to let our voices be heard; Americans are dying from a lack of access to affordable health care.  This needs to end in 2010.

posted by: Nancy Williams on March 3, 2010  12:38am

Hello Ms. N’Zinga

We have had difficulty trying to comment.  This health reform issue is so important.  We do not understand why people are not protesting what is happening in the Congress.  Last week when President Obama said he would accept many of the things the Republicans offered, the same Republicans who offered it then refused to vote for it.  That shows they really do not want any resolution to this problem; they want only to tie up the President’s time and get nothing done.  The summit held last week clearly showed that the President and the Democrats need to stop playing games with the Republicans and past reform without them.  Thanks to all of you for what you are doing to keep us informed about health care and education issues.
Nancy Williams

posted by: Randall Horton on March 7, 2010  3:27pm

I still find it hard to believe that we live in 2010 with the issue of health care being an issue. This should be a basic right. I mean, it should be synonymous with breathing. This needs to get done.

posted by: Debbie on March 9, 2010  12:49pm

Health Care Reform is critically important to millions of Americans. It is inhumane to deny access to affordable health care to people who go to work everyday and try to care for the families.  in america no one should have to chose between paying rent or mortgage and having health insurance.  Without comprehensive reform this is exactly what will continue to happen.  Congress, and particularly the Democrats, should have the courage to say no to the lobbyists and the private insurance companies and say YES to the American people.

posted by: Cynthia Cunningham on March 10, 2010  1:13am

What is taking Americans so long to realize that more people are dying for lack of health care than all the wars put together. How selfish can we get, as long as it is not taking from us ( the ones that have health care) we really do not care. It is not enough to help when their is a crisis , we need to prevent the crisis from happening and that is the reason health care reform has to take priority in this country. Thanks to 21st Century conversation for their support.

posted by: Verne Davis on March 11, 2010  1:03pm

Health Care Reform Is Important!
When we listen to some of the statements being made by some of these politicians it is hard to believe that we are living in the United States of America.  It is also hard to believe that those of us who vote actually know who we are voting for.  How can senator Bart Stupak live with himself when he wants to turn the clock back on a woman’s right to make decisions that affect her body and her life?

I am asking the Democrats to have the courage to stand up to the super rich and powerful insurance companies.  Give us comprehensive health care reform in 2010.  Give us the Public Medicare Option. Give the American people freedom to choose.  Get the private insurance companies out of our pockets and off our backs.  Thank you OneWorld, 21st Century Conversations, and all those who are working to bring about these positive changes.  Thanks Mr. Plebani for the information you give. I believe if more people have access to this type of information they would take to the street.  Why are the networks not giving us this type of information? We all need to learn more about the Medicare Public Option.

posted by: Sylvia Ffrench on March 11, 2010  11:53pm

I am so glad that the president has put healthcare reform on the front burner because we need it.  Too many people are suffering and not going to the doctor because they have no healthcare.  Please Congress put in the medicare healthcare type public option.  When an American citizen leaves Connecticut and goes to Georgia, that person should be able to take his or her healthcare coverage with them.  Do not allow the wealthy private insurance industry to dictate what happens to the average American’s health and well being. The insurance companies are too GREEDY. Thanks to OneWorld and 21st Century Conversations for providing use with programs such as this.

posted by: Michele on March 12, 2010  12:19am

Programs like this are just what we need to get people talking about healthcare reform.  It’s sad that having no health coverage is a death sentence for many Americans.  I fully agree that women would benefit from healthcare reform.  Women should be able to care for themselves and their health as well as their familes.  Please keep having programs like this to keep people informed and involved.  Thanks One World.

posted by: Byllye Avery on March 12, 2010  4:23pm

Access to Health Care is a right that must be had by all people. There is nothing in the world more important than health and it is one of the few things that all humans hold in common. It is imperative that we be able to guarantee all citizens of the world health care. It is unacceptable for us in the US not to care about the health of people around us. We are each other’s keepers. We can find the money for care just as we find the money for war.
Why is it all other nations are able to take care of their people and not us? Health care is not a commodity it is a right that we all deserve. Let’s strive to make the US health care system the best in the world. We CAN and MUST do better.