Hear a Canadian doctor tell what his country’s health care system is REALLY like
Dr. Stewart Kennedy, a family physician and also hospital executive at the Thunder Bay hospital, spoke on Sept. 26 at a Citizens Federation event in Duluth. He dispelled myths about the Canadian system, and showed how their system compares very favorably against the U.S. system.
You can look at Dr. Kennedy’s power point slides by clicking here: Canada US Health Care Facts and Myths – Sept 26-13.
The video of his talk is in two parts. Part 1 is 54 min., and Part 2 is 14 min. To view them on YouTube, click on these links:
State Legislative News:
September, 2013: The rates for the new insurance policies to be sold on Minnesota’s health insurance exchange (called MNsure) have been revealed, and they are the lowest so far announced anywhere in the country. These rates might be artificially under-priced, because it appears that the HMOs are planning to help fund these policies with some of their huge financial reserves, which were built up with fraudulently obtained profits from Medicaid and similar programs. The Citizens Fed’s work has played a big role in drawing attention to those huge bank accounts. The fact that we’ve made those riches “too hot to handle” is a reason why the HMOs would decide they’d better spend some of it on their policies in the new insurance exchange.
June, 2013: The HMOs succeeded in getting kicked out of Conference Committee the provision, which had been passed in the Minnesota House, to re-impose an upper limit on HMO financial reserves, which would have resulted in the return of many tens of millions of overpaid dollars. However, a study was authorized to study this question in the coming months, and give a recommendation for the 2014 legislative session. The Citizens Fed intends to be very involved in that study.
April, 2013: The House bill has provision to get many tens of millons of dollars back from the past overpayments to the HMOs! We’re finally succeeding in getting legislators to go after the wasted, fraudulently obtained tax dollars – IF this provision stays in the bill during Conference Committee.
March 27, 2013: Citizens Federation and GMHCC hold a press conference at the State Capitol, releasing a new report on the HMO accountabilty issue, and how the official Segal report confirms what we have been saying for years. Read our new GMHCC March 2013 Review of Minnesota’s HMO Accountability Reports, and our one page Summary of Segal Report.
The Citizens Federation’s goal is Health Care and Economic Justice for All.
We achieve this with: Organized strength to win consumer victories; Information you need on key issues; and Programs to afford your health care now.
The Minnesota Citizens Federation – Northeast is dedicated to changing society so that it works for the well being of all of us. to secure our future and yours, with grassroots citizen power. We have a 36-year record of effectiveness, based on solid research, smart strategy, passion and persistence. We strive to make fairness triumph over greed, especially: Affordable Health Care for All. YOU can be part of our efforts, too!
Our purpose is to:
Create a democratic grassroots organization that believes in the common sense of its members, and builds leadership from them. We aim to achieve economic justice, influence policy, and benefit people of all ages.
See or download our 2012 Program and Information Book here: 2012 Book
Aug. 23, 2012
Our report on Minnesota’s overpayment of the HMOs for low income programs
Dowload it here: GMHCC Report August 2012
Perspective from the Baby Boom Generation
May 2013 – Spring at last
Little darlin’, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. But finally, we’re getting the change of seasons we’ve been counting on. It’s been a while since we had such an early-starting and late-finishing winter, along with seemingly unending mounds of snow to shovel, as well as a brief blizzard to boot.
All of this causes some reflection not just on the cycle of the seasons but the overall passing of time as well, and of course our own looming mortality. We’re reminded when we realize that shoveling the snow isn’t getting easier as we get older. We also have to more carefully budget the time we want spend on warm weather activities.
For that matter, it’s dawning on us that all of our time is precious, since the amount of it we have left on this earth is starting to shrink (even though that started the moment we were born). You might or might not have your own “bucket list,” but all of us Boomers are probably doing some thinking about what we’ve done with our lives, and what more we still want to do. Hopefully, you can look back and feel fairly good about how things have turned out, notwithstanding the bad judgments, failures and missed opportunities that we all have in our resumes. When (and if!!) you can retire, you’ll have more time on your hands to spend on what your deepest priorities are. And even before retiring, you might have some spare time that you could spend on something more important than your present use of it. It’s worthwhile for all of us to do a reality check and think about it.
Jan 2013 – New Year’s resolutions
It’s that time again for that national pastime — making New Year’s resolutions. Have you made yours? Eating healthier, exercising more, spending more quality time with your loved ones, taking classes to improve yourself in some way?
These are the kinds of resolutions that most of us make. They are small but meaningful changes that we know we have the power to make happen, if our determination holds out. If we stick to it, our quality of life will get a little better. Some of us even accomplish some of these resolutions.
But, are we setting the bar too low? What about the phrase that millions said to each other in just the few weeks prior to New Year’s, namely: “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Everyone”? We signed our names to lots of cards with those phrases, didn’t we? Many of us attended our grandchildren’s Christmas Concerts, hearing them sing lyrics with similar sentiments.
So, how come we don’t make any New Year’s resolutions to do something about “peace on earth” and “goodwill to everyone?” The answer is pretty obvious: Because, we believe we have no power to actually fulfill those kind of resolutions. Another reason is: We wouldn’t know where to begin. That’s a minor point, because if we felt we really had the power to make an impact, we’d be motivated to learn how. We’re right — in a way — to feel that we wouldn’t be able to achieve anything along these lines, because no one can wield much power acting alone.
However, that is a cop out. We all know that if enough people act in concert, then big changes can occur, unjust policies can be reversed, and huge institutions can be held in check. It doesn’t happen very often, but that’s because people don’t try very often, in terms of linking up with enough others to create a “critical mass.”
Some people do commit themselves to spread some goodwill to others, but it’s most always on a small scale, individual basis of doing charity works to help out a limited number of individuals. That eases the suffering a little bit of the ones lucky enough to get that help. However, it doesn’t change the forces and institutions that are causing the suffering in the first place, such as big corporations who insist on profiting off of people’s inability to afford health care, housing, and other basic human needs.
If we really want to promote “goodwill to ALL people,” then we need to spend some attention on how to create justice for all, not just charity for a few. It actually can be done. How? By getting involved with social change organizations like the Citizens Federation (or even start a new one!). There are skills, strategies, concepts and lessons to learn for those who really want to make a big difference. Contact the Citizens Federation if you want to know more about this.
Dec 2012 – What are you thankful for?
Now that Thanksgiving is over, as leftovers and bellies recede, did you actually take time to think about what you are thankful for? If not, you might as well do so now. We Boomers , or at least the majority of us, have much more to be thankful for than many others. We were born and grew up in times of relative prosperity, with much new housing and many new schools. We were too young to be aware of the Korean War, and were able to be excited by the space race. Most of us got college educations, and good paying jobs, many with union wages and benefits hard-won by the people who came before us. Even with Vietnam, we largely escaped being drafted, and even succeeded (belatedly) in ending a needless, wasteful war.
But, it’s hard to realize that historically speaking, we were the exception, not the rule. The American middle class rose in the 1940s, and started getting beaten down around 1980. Prior to this, the rich had the vast majority of wealth in the country. The rise of the middle class in the 1940s changed all that, thanks to the labor movement. But starting in 1980, unions came under constant attack, wages stagnated and declined, the richest Americans paid a smaller and smaller share of taxes, and they regained the lion’s share of the country’s entire income and wealth. The children and grandchildren of Boomers cannot, as a whole, be anywhere near as well off as we were, the way things are going. So the question is: What are we going to do so that they might have as much to be thankful for as we do?
Nov 2012 – Everyone vote, and then keep after ‘em
Have you told everyone you know, including your own kids and grandkids of age, to make sure to vote on Nov. 6? You shouldn’t assume that they will, since a great many people don’t vote. Also, don’t assume that they have figured out whom to vote for, other perhaps than for president and maybe Senator or US Representative. The other races are important too, especially state legislator as well as county commissioner seats. It actually takes a bit of work and time to do your civic duty and learn something about the candidates for these “down ticket” races. Voting was never intended to be as simple as choosing between Coke and Pepsi.
The state senator and representative candidates are most all running for one of the two major parties, and that can make the choice easy for people with a party allegiance. Independent voters have to think it through. The county commissioner candidates, in contrast, are not connected to political parties (as well as city councilor and school board races in the odd years, and judges), and so you really do have to pay some attention.
And then we’re done, right?
Wrong. After the voting has finished, the work of each of us has just begun. It is us to us to keep involved and keep after the politicians, or else they will listen to the ones who are for sure talking to them: the special interests. The person you voted into office is not your savior. He or she is your employee, awaiting your on-going instructions.
Oct 2012 – Who needs Voter ID?
Maybe most Boomers have a photo ID with their current address on it, most likely your driver’s license. So, maybe you haven’t paid much attention to the Voter ID constitutional amendment that’s going to be on the Minnesota ballot this Nov. 6. But, if you haven’t been paying attention, that is a BIG MISTAKE.
For starters, do you have any kids in college? If so, they’re probably not living at home. So, the address on their driver’s license is probably not where they are currently living and where they would vote. Result? Most likely they won’t get to vote, unless they go through a big rigmarole to get a special new ID from the state.
Next, think about your elderly parents, if they are still alive. Hopefully, they have voted all their lives and wouldn’t want to stop doing so now. They most likely don’t have a driver’s license anymore, so they likely don’t have any photo ID with current address. Oh sure, they could get a new state ID as well, but would you appreciate all the time and hassle you would end up doing to get it for them? And, what if you have an elderly mother who is divorced, and would need to obtain legal documents from another state proving her maiden name or birth certificate, just in order to get a voter ID? In addition, many elderly vote early with a mail absentee ballot, so as to not have to stand in line at a polling place. All of them would need to get the photo ID too, just in order to get their mail ballot. Do you have any kids or friends who serve in the military oversees? They would have the same problem. We want them to defend our country, but we’re fine with them not being able to vote??
And finally, if you don’t have any low income friends, you should still be concerned that many of them will find it very difficult if not impossible to get the proper voter ID if they don’t have a driver’s license with current address. Low income and middle income people are precisely the ones who cannot afford to lose any of their votes in what we still call our democracy.
Sept 2012 - Generational warfare, trickery, or both?
A prominent part of the current Presidential and Congressional elections is the debate about the future of Medicare. It is filled with fascinating contradictions. For example, proponents of the Ryan voucher plan for Medicare (including, of course Ryan himself and his running mate) are saying, in so many words, something like:
(1) Medicare is bleeding the country dry at an alarming rate, and we must reduce its expenditures or else the federal budget will collapse; but, (2) It’s not bleeding so bad that we can’t wait until 2022 before we start to use the voucher system to reduce the federal expense; and, (3) People now above age 55 won’t be affected at all by the changes to occur in 2022; yet, (4) Those who are still alive at that time will start to see the value of original Medicare go down and their cost go up, as the effect of the privatizing for most people kicks in; and (5) Although we apparently need to change Medicare for the sake of those reaching 65 in 2020 — or else it will disappear completely due to unsustainable cost, we shouldn’t rush to do anything now, so that we can reassure our seniors that they don’t have to worry — which implies that if the vouchers started now, they would have good cause to worry. [Note: Some Democratic politicians have been happy to encourage seniors to think that the Ryan plan will directly affect their Medicare right now, which is not true.] (6) Item #5 above implies that if you are currently on Medicare, you should feel entitled to a good deal, and not worry that your kids and grandkids will get less out of Medicare than you do.
Are you confused yet? If not, try out a few more for size: (1) The Ryan plan asserts that changing to a voucher system will bring down the overall cost of health care for seniors, even though: (2) Medicare will lose its current buying power leverage that enables it to get 11% lower medical prices than insurance companies; and (3) Medicare has overhead of 2% to 3%, while insurance companies’ overhead is 20% to 25% or more. As Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane once sang, “When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead, and the White Knight is talking backward…..”
Aug 2012 - Bob, Paul and Mick
That is: Dylan, McCartney, and Jagger, of course. These three music legends were all born a little before the Baby Boomer generation, but they are huge heroes to most Boomers. Bob Dylan is 71, Paul McCartney is 70, and Mick Jagger is the young pup at 69. And, all three are still rocking away with recordings and very energetic concerts.
What can Boomers learn from their examples? They have enormous talent, self confidence, and very good luck as well. Perhaps they are all testaments to a few other things, too: An obvious one is keeping themselves pretty fit physically, which includes not just eating well and exercising, but refraining from other kinds of intakes, including the ones that did in many of their contemporary rock stars. That kind of restraint implies a big dose of common sense and maturity. Another one that’s apparent is that they found a profession that they truly love doing. It’s a way of living out their values, and being able to give their messages to the world loud and clear. They love it so much, that they’re working hard long after “normal” retirement age and certainly without need for any extra income. You could probably add to this list a knack for forming and keeping relationships that are very sustaining and fulfilling, which boost the enjoyment and meaning of living, and help keep up morale during the difficult moments.
What shape will we Boomers be in at age 69, 70, 71? Will we be heavily slowed down? Will we be kind to our bodies? Will we be doing what we love to do? Let our heroes inspire us!
July 2012 - Precious health
We Boomers like to think of ourselves as perpetually young, as if we are all Peter Pans, or all drank from the Fountain of Youth. However, we’re also savvy and educated enough to know that this isn’t true, and it’s only a matter of time for each of us before longevity and gravity start taking their toll. This sounds like a classic case of “cognitive dissonance,” where we think two things are true but we know they both can’t be.
We all know that our medical number will likely be “up” someday and we’ll get hit with the Big Medical Problem (unless we bypass that step and go directly to the Big Check-Out). So, how are we behaving? Is it basically a case of: “I’m going to keep pretending that I’ll be fine and healthy for a long, long, time, and so I won’t think about it. But, if something major does happen to me, then I plan to immediately sober up and deal with it as best I can.” At our current ages, we are probably seeing examples of similarly-aged friends, neighbors or co-workers who are not among the lucky ones. Reality is knocking on the door, and knocking on our thick skulls. Some people get a “wake-up call” such as a heart attack or other calamity that they survive, and then decide to improve how they live.
What does all this mean? What if anything should we do about it? Good questions.
Maybe some of the answers include:
* Start taking better care of your health than you ever did before (better eating, exercise, quit bad habits)
* Figure out, sooner rather than later, what changes you will need to make to your home in order for you or your spouse to cope with greatly reduced mobility.
* Learn what Medicare will and won’t do for your medical bills, and figure out how you’ll cope with the out-of-pocket expenses.
* Don’t pass up opportunities to enjoy your health while you still have it.
* Don’t pass up opportunities to spend quality time with the people you care about.
June 2012 - Moms & Dads
This is the time of year for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, so maybe it’s a good time for us Boomers to reflect on our own roles as Moms and Dads (and by extension, Grandmas and Grandpas). To those of you who are parents: How did you think you’ve done? Every parent’s first impulse is to make sure that their kids were well provided for, safe, and happy (we hope). “Provided for” usually means not just basic material comforts and decent food, but also a good education, and plenty of opportunities to play with friends, develop talents, interests, hobbies, and athletic abilities. Along with academic and vocational success, we all hope that our kids will have good personalities and positive relationships with others, and find love with that special someone.
On top of that, we typically aspire for our kids to make good moral choices and show compassion to others, especially anyone less fortunate or anyone seen negatively as “the other” by society. This aspect of morality and ethics is often closely tied to spiritual values, either transmitted via religious training and/or by us as parents. It might be direct teaching of values, or it might be by osmosis — our kids seeing the examples we set for them.
When you talk about, in combination, ethical values and compassion for others in society, you’re actually – often without realizing it – delving into the world of politics and the role of each of us as a citizen. How often have you tried to nurture your kids as involved citizens in our society? Do you even encourage them to vote? It’s easy for us all to cast a cynical eye on partisan politics and hypocritical politicians, but we make a big mistake if we think that is what “politics” in the large sense is really all about.
If we let politics rest in the hands of the politicians, instead of banding together and insisting that we as voters, taxpayers and citizens be truly listened to, then we are giving up the game and enabling the professional politicians to use the system for their personal advancement while they service the big interests they’re carrying water for. Let’s take seriously our role as Moms and Dads to teach and help our kids and grandkids to be assertive, involved citizens. They’ll thank you for it, and so will our democracy.
May 2012 - Looking out for number one, and two, and three
Are you thinking about what kinds of services you might need in your “golden years” ahead — or whatever metal they turn out to be? If your answer is “probably not,” you’re in plenty of company, but that doesn’t make it a wise attitude. There’s plenty of denial about the ailments, infirmities, and extra help of all kinds that we can count on needing, the longer we live. And we are living longer, in general. The ironic thing is, the better we are at trying to stay healthy, the more likely we’ll start having various body parts and systems just plain wear out from high mileage — and unlike a knee or hip, many parts are not replaceable! We’re not just talking about loss of getting around by yourself, but even the need for constant professional care and very major restrictions in quality of life.
Dealing with those sorts of things can get incredibly expensive very quickly, and exhaust whatever savings you have. This means that a great many of us will have to do depend on publicly-funded services to get the care we need. On top of that, we’ve got to keep remembering that there’s a huge pile of us Boomers – almost 80 million. When most of us need this kind of expensive care a couple of decades from now, the price tag can be astronomical. Which brings up the point: In case you haven’t noticed lately, the US economy is in deep doo-doo, and the pile keeps getting bigger. Our national debt is getting near the breaking point, and other countries are overtaking us in many ways. There will be intense public policy debates coming up about public services of the kind that we Boomers are going to need in the not very distant future.
So, the question is, are we going to stick up for ourselves to get those policy debates to come out in a favorable way? If we don’t band together and stick up for ourselves, who’s going to do it for us? There’s nothing like having our butts on the line (financially and health-wise) to concentrate our minds, and we’ll be much better off if we start concentrating sooner rather than later. Now does that sound a little too self-centered and “self-interested?” Perhaps so, but that’s actually not a bad thing; it’s just reality. (And, aren’t we Boomers supposed to be past masters at being self centered?) Just remember that, in truth, by fighting for ourselves on these issues we are also fighting for our kids and grandkids, and everyone who comes after us. It’s a question of connecting to and living out our values, that everyone deserves to be treated humanely and fairly. That priorities should serve people, not huge profits for a few. That we want a “we” society, not a “me” society. Yes, let’s be self centered on insisting on those values.
April 2012 - Heroes and Villains
GenXers and Millennials (i.e., the younger folk) sometimes look upon us Boomers as stuck in a hard-edged good guys/bad guys, “us versus them” mind set. Some observers even say this is a key reason for the intensely polarized politics we live with today.
Well, let’s take a broader look. The “Greatest Generation” who lived through World War II certainly felt a clear and personal sense of fighting the evil embodied by the Axis Powers, and the Nazis especially. The Silent Generation which came after them, growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, had a very different experience. They didn’t engage in the Cold War in a very personal way. Instead, they relied on government and other authority figures to tell them who the good and bad guys were. They had no need or business to figure out people’s motivations and morals on their own, since the establishment did that for them. Then came us Boomers, growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, with the turmoil of the cultural revolution plus the civil rights, women’s, and anti-war movements, and Watergate. We were all about mistrusting authority, and figuring out on our own who the heroes and villains were. Many of those were pretty obvious in the conflicts back then.
Today, how do people figure out people’s morals and motivations? How can we tell the heroes from the villains? It’s hard, because the facts on most everything are often distorted, hidden, or manufactured. Perhaps a more appropriate question is: How can people with opposing values or philosophies learn to not talk past each other, and instead hammer out true compromises that reflect reality? Perhaps what we need is a balance between pragmatic working with our opponents and being true to our beliefs. That means that each side gets some of what they want, but not all of it. The outcome always depends on the relative power of each side, and clarity on exactly what the differences between “us” and “them” are.
Mindless shouting past each other neither advances nor prevents anything. It usually signifies a feeling of powerlessness and a desire to merely vent. Productive dialogue that ends up with something actually useful for everyone requires understanding power: How much you have, how much the other side has, and how you can go about linking with others to increase your power and improve the outcome more to your liking. That’s our best hope of seeing our values and morals realized in the world, no matter who the “bad guys” — those with the opposing values — are.
Feb 2012 - Groovy grandparents
The article in this VOICE issue (pg. 4), from the Minnesota Attorney General, about the new scam on grandparents brings to mind a number of things. It’s heartbreaking to see people victimized in this way, with perpetrators tugging at their heart strings by pretending their grandchild is in danger or trouble. The emotional attachment to your grandkids is extremely powerful, even if you don’t get to see them very often. And, the attachment is often reciprocated in a strong and genuine way. There’s no denying the natural draw that skips a generation within a family. In some cases, the kids get as much or more true nurturing, apart from physical needs, from the grandparents as they do from their mom and dad.
And, if they’re children of divorce like so many more, then grandma and grandpa can play an even more critical role. There might be some mixed blessings in regard to whether your grandkids are nearby or far away. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” the old saying goes. However, there can be a lot of logistics to contend with if you are making a long trip to visit your grandkids. If the grandkids are nearby, that can generate a lot of joy from frequent interaction, which usually leads to a closer bond than if you don’t see them very much. But, there can be a downside in getting tempted to inject your micro-management advice as to how they should be raised. Is that partly an attempt to give yourself a “second chance” now that you know better than when you raised your own kids? And at times you could feel put upon by being asked to do more baby-sitting than you really wanted to. Whatever your situation is, it can be useful to be think of these issues, so that you can make the best of it for the benefit of your grandkids and for y our own enjoyment and satisfaction, too.
Jan 2012 - What should we call ourselves?
We who belong to what is commonly known as the Baby Boomer Generation seem to be OK with being referred to simply as “Boomers” for short, especially since it was quite long ago that we once were babies. Yet many of us adamantly refuse to be stuck with any label at all. Now that we are in middle age and only getting older, one label that we seem to ferociously reject is the moniker “senior,” or “senior citizen.” (One exception: The almost-anonymous guilty pleasure of asking for your “senior discount” at Perkins.)
The “senior” label was and is worn proudly by the “Greatest Generation,” and is at least passively accepted by the “Silent Generation” which followed them. Now we Boomers are next in line. We could choose to embrace the “senior” term, but that seems to be out of the question, as well as any phrase with the dreaded word “old” in it. Our only other option, then, is to come up with something on our own. But what, oh what, should that be? We pride ourselves on being creative, breaking the molds, and resisting old-line authority. So, it’s time to get creative. Any ideas?
“Chronologically gifted” is a little too cute, and cumbersome as well. “Advanced agers” sounds abstract and statistical. What about the old standby of “elders?” It has the benefit of elegant simplicity. But, there might be a worry that it sounds like a borrowed phrase. It might connote “church elders” to some; or Native American elders to others. “Elders” subtly implies, without boasting, a sense of wisdom — or at least some benefit of having been around the block. Or, perhaps there will be no one label, and instead a variety. After all, there are 80 million of us, and we’re sort of independent-minded. So, start thinking: What do you want to call yourself? There’s no point being in denial that the clock is ticking…..