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Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-r-shaffer/
Daily Kos: http://www.dailykos.com/user/ershaffer
Ellen Shaffer’s Blog: http://ellenshaffer.blogspot.com/



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Silicon Valley Wrestles With Reform Implications

by Pat McConahay, California Healthline Regional Correspondent

SANTA CLARA – This county of more than a million people is one of relative affluence and high education levels — which, according to the county public health department, allows residents, as a whole, to enjoy better health than most of California and the U.S. But that’s only part of the picture. The Silicon Valley also has one of the most diverse populations in the state, with a rising number of uninsured. A recent UCLA study put the number at about 314,000 —  or almost one of every three residents.

“Our board of supervisors has emphasized this issue for some time. Since we have such a diverse population to reach out to, it only intensifies our need to look at how reform impacts our county,” said Santa Clara Supervisor Liz Kniss, who moderated a special forum last month on the subject at Santa Clara University. The session was sponsored by the Health Trust, the California Public Health Association-North  and the EQUAL Health Network. The panelists covered such issues as how the health reform law affects public health, children, seniors and the health care work force.

“We need to move forward with reform because people are suffering. There are 47,000 deaths a year in this country due to a lack of insurance,” said Ellen Shaffer, co-director of the EQUAL Health Network, which sponsors online advocacy for health care reform. “The more people we cover the better we can control costs,” she said.
Read more: http://www.californiahealthline.org/features/2010/silicon-valley-wrestles-with-reform-implications.aspx#ixzz12XrWCG1T

CA Health Line report Oct. 12, 2010


Do men have sex? Obama administration isn’t sure — Open Forum by  Ellen Shafer

Today is the deadline for comments on interim federal regulations on what constitutes a preventive health care service. This is relevant because under the new health care reform law, preventive health care services are to be provided without co-payments and deductibles. Which somehow raises the apparently puzzling question as to whether contraception (defined as methods to prevent pregnancy) is preventive.

Or related to health.

The Obama administration isn’t sure about this, and so has asked the Institute of Medicine to study it. This isn’t really the question.

The question is: Do men have sex?

Based on substantial empirical evidence, though no new primary research, I assert: They do.

I further assert (and this is recent news as of the last few thousand years)that there are statistically zero pregnancies that occur without the involvement of sperm. This is most commonly supplied by a man known to the prospective mother, but could be supplied through artificial insemination.There were about 75 million births in 2009.

I appreciate that it is women who become pregnant. I appreciate and am an active participant in the women’s health movement. There are health conditions that actually occur only in women (cervical cancer) or mostly in women (breast cancer), and gender-related factors that determine female well-being, life chances and longevity.

But I submit that contraception, conception and pregnancy are biological events that involve both males and females; and usually, not to be coy about it, sex.

Now here is how the new regulations will work: Every other on-its-face preventive service will be provided without extra cost-sharing. Starting on Sept. 23.

The Department of Health and Human Services was so eager to get this done that it is issuing interim regulations, meaning we can still submit comments on proposed regulations but meanwhile the interim regs will go into effect. But the Institute of Medicine is going to have to determine whether contraception really is preventive, and related to health, and a service. That will take till August 2011. Then, assuming that they do so affirmatively determine, it will be about another year before you get your IUD, birth control pills — or vasectomy — without an additional copay.

We in the women’s health movement are going about this all wrong. Contraception is not about protecting women, at least not alone. Contraception is about the rights of men to have sex. In fact, contraception should be the corollary of every prescription for Viagra. In fact, that was the argument Jackie Speier used successfully, when she was a state senator, to get contraception covered by MediCal.

Men, whatever else you think about health care reform, I think most of you know and like your female partners. (And LGBT adoptive and assisted technology parents generally feel the same.) You share, at least, the financial and emotional expenses of child-rearing, to say nothing of pregnancy; and if you don’t, well, we have laws about that, too. So drop a note by clicking here to the EQUAL Health Network, and we’ll let HHS know you know where babies come from. They need your help. You’re so big and strong.

Ellen R. Shaffer is the co-director of the Center for Policy Analysis/EQUAL/CPATH in San Francisco.

Posted By: Lois Kazakoff (Email, Twitter) | September 16 2010 at 05:07 PM


Radio host extraordinaire Kris Welch and EQUAL Co-Director
Ellen Shaffer Co-Produce a weekly update on health reform.

The series runs on KPFA, 94.1 FM in the San Francisco Bay Area,
and is reproduced here.

Ralph Silber, Executive Director, Alameda Health Consortium  July 9, 2010

Kris Welch and Ellen Shaffer interview Ralph Silber, Exec. Director, Alameda Health Consortium, about CA governor’s proposed $6 Billion health care cuts, who would be hurt, and how to stop it.  Link to the show (at 27 minutes) by clicking below:

Play the interview with Ralph Silber in your media player

or go to:   http://kpfa.org/archive/id/62448

October 3, 2009. Kris Welch and Ellen Shaffer discuss the Senate Finance Committee bill. Click here for Oct. 3, 2009, interview

October 30, 2009:  Kris Welch and Ellen Shaffer talk with Michael Lighty,
Policy Director, California Nurses Association;  Darcy Burner, Executive Director
of the American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation; Adam Green. Progressive Change Campaign Committee:

The Affordable Health Care for Americans Act HR 3962 is introduced. Progress or not? What happened to the Kucinich
ERISA waiver for single payer states?

Click here for Oct. 30 interviews

Nov. 5, 2009: Kris Welch and Ellen Shaffer interview Professor Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, about
health reform legislation, and why the politics of winning a vote in Congress involves voters as well as policy-makers in
key states.

Click here for Nov. 5 interview with Robert Reich

Nov. 13, 2009:  Kris Welch and Ellen Shaffer interview Susan Wood, Associate Professor and Director
of the Jacobs Institute on Women’s Health at George Washington Univ., and Darcy Burner, Executive Director of the American
Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation, comment on the House’s passage of HR 3962, including the limit on abortion rights.

Click here for Nov. 13 interviews

Click here for Ellen Shaffer on Shannon’s Corner

Click here for KPFA Living Room March 12

March 12, 2010: Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Cathy Hurwit, Stephanie Taylor, Joan McCarter, with Ellen Shaffer and Kris Welch

Click here for KPFA Living Room March 19, 2010
March 19: Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Rep. Alan Grayson, PNHP Co-Founder Dr. Quentin Young, Darcy Burner, with Ellen Shaffer and Kris Welch

The public is right about the public option

Ellen R. Shaffer

Wednesday, January 6, 2010   This article appeared on page A – 8 of the San Francisco Chronicle

The insurance industry hates it because it would ding its profits. Democratic leaders fear it could kill passage of health care reform. But reports of the death of the public option have been greatly exaggerated.

Poll after poll shows that Americans want to be able to choose a public insurance plan, and for good reason. It would be tragic to lose this pillar of health care reform to cynical inside-the-Beltway political horse trading. Here’s why we need the public option:

It can really deliver on the benefits. The proposed bills would outlaw common and perverse industry loopholes such as pre-existing condition exclusions, which exclude sick people from buying insurance as individuals, and rescissions, which let companies deny treatment retroactively for people they already insure. While outlawing these rules will help, private insurance plans have demonstrated that they are willing to challenge patients’ rights to the grave and beyond in the interest of clinging to the premium dollar.

We’ve witnessed a heartbreaking parade of insured patients trooping to corporate headquarters to plead for lifesaving treatments that were denied, even though the benefits are covered in writing. In contrast, no one at the government-run Medicare program gets a bonus for turning away sick people. We need to be able to choose a plan in which the financial incentives to provide needed care line up with the proposed new laws, and that can only happen in the public sector.

It will drive down costs. Health care reform will cover millions more Americans – a great achievement. But we need to use the increased buying power of this newly covered population to control costs, a job at which private insurance companies consistently fail. Some companies can’t reduce premiums because they’re too small to hold leverage in negotiations with private hospital chains and big drug companies. Or if they do save a buck, they put it back in their own pockets in the form of profits and executive bonuses.

In Massachusetts, large nonprofit insurers recently testified that they had negotiated sweetheart deals that benefited certain employers and hospitals – and confidentiality agreements that kept the details secret. When the Veterans Administration negotiates lower drug prices, the savings buy more drugs for veterans, and the transactions are all transparent. We’d like to be sure that the change we voted for turns into change we save on reduced premiums, which is possible only in a public plan.

It will allow us to re-engineer how we deliver and pay for care. How? By coordinating with Medicare initiatives that will bolster quality while lowering costs, like financial incentives that promote primary care and better coordination of medications. The public plan will be most effective if it starts right away and is available to everyone – policies we can continue to fight for. But the projection that the public option would offer savings too small for too few, or would be too expensive, is off the mark.

It’s democratic. Most Americans know this in our bones. The majority of the House voted for it, including many in our powerhouse delegation from California. The majority of senators expressed support for it – including committee chairs Max Baucus and Tom Harkin. We’re tired of arcane rules that let minorities of one hijack the public’s interest.

There will be efforts to leverage the public option for other benefits. One benefit of that debate would be if the antitrust exemption for health insurance companies were revoked so they can be regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. But we need a real institutional alternative to the present system. Americans want – and need – a public option. Don’t let your representatives trade it away.

Ellen R. Shaffer is co-director of the Center for Policy Analysis.


Click here to download Op Ed on public option

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