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Winter 2021 Newsletter

Coming events. Mark your calendar!
Saturday, January 15, 2022 : Power to Heal
A one-hour movie about the twin struggles for racial justice and healthcare. Narrated by Danny Glover. Followed by discussion with a panel of experts. Attendance is free but registration is required..
REGISTER HERE
 
Saturday, April 23, 2022 :  SPAN Ohio's 20th Anniversary Celebration and State Conference at Quest Center in Columbus (we hope).
 
SPAN Ohio celebrated 20 years of advocacy for health care justice last November. Originally, we had scheduled an in-person conference and celebration for the end of October, hoping high enough vaccination rates would make that possible. Then came Delta. We soon realized that we could not have an in-person meeting safely, so we rescheduled the conference for April 23, 2022.

Throughout the pandemic, Quest Conference Center has been very accommodating to us in rescheduling our events. We are thankful to them, especially for the last reschedule since there were no health orders in place from the state.

The Conference Committee members, John Ross, Kimball Stricklin, Bob Krasen, Ted Seuss, and Cris Elstro began to plan for April to make this one of the best conferences ever! And they have created a stellar program. Speakers include:
  • Dr. Sharelle Barber is a social epidemiologist whose research focuses on the intersection of "place, race, and health." Dr. Barber leverages state-of-the-art epidemiologic cohort studies to examine how neighborhood-level structural determinants of health such as concentrated economic disinvestment and racial residential segregation impact cardiometabolic risk factors and cardiovascular disease onset among Blacks in the Southern United States.
  • Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. Dr. El-Sayed is a physician, epidemiologist, educator, author, speaker, and podcast host. He is a commentator at CNN and his newsletter, The Incision, cuts into the trends shaping our moment. His three books include Healing Politics: A Doctor’s Journey into the Heart of Our Political Epidemic (Abrams Press, 2020), which diagnoses our country’s epidemic of insecurity and the empathy politics we will need to treat it; and Medicare for All: A Citizen’s Guide (Oxford University Press, 2021), co-authored with Dr. Micah Johnson, which offers a no-nonsense
          guide to the policy. He is the host of “America Dissected,” a podcast by Crooked Media,
          which goes beyond the headlines to explore what really matters for our health.
  • Dr. Claudia Fegan. Dr. Fegan was appointed Chief Medical Officer of Cook County Health in 2013. In this role, she provides executive oversight for the health system’s medical practices and helps inform health policy initiatives. Dr. Fegan was awarded the “Soul of Medicine” award by Physicians for Social Responsibility for her work inspiring medical students to commit to careers in social justice and is the 2017 recipient of the Paul Cornely Award for her work as a health care activist. She has testified before Congress and is known as an expert in health care reform in the U.S. and Canada. She is also certified in health care quality and management and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Quality Assurance and Utilization Review Physicians. Dr. Fegan is also the president of the Health & Medicine Policy Research Group and the National Coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program.
And now the dilemma….

Just as the committee was putting the final changes on the program for April, Omicron reared its ugly head. SPAN is faced with a genuine dilemma.

We do not want to cancel this conference. Our presenters are just too good to do that.

Do we go virtual?

Do we continue to plan for in-person?

Part of the dilemma is our contract with Quest. Quest has been great about rescheduling this conference contract that was originally for April 2020. But they have indicated that they will not be willing to continue to do so. We are in a penalty phase and until March 15th, we would lose 80% of anticipated revenues. This means SPAN would have to pay about $4000 to cancel the contract. If we wait past the March deadline, we will have to pay 100% of anticipated revenues.

We will continue to monitor the situation and will not hold an in-person conference unless we can do so safely. We are prepared to put people before money. Let us hope Omicron burns out quickly and that Covid is well on the wane by April 23, 2022. 

 
Regional and Committee Reports
Region 1 - NE Ohio (Cleveland area)

Region 1 of SPAN participated in a number of actions this past Fall.  On October 20, there was an event at City Hall called Utilities for All whose focus is to stop utility shutoff as well as evictions and instead look to help people who can’t afford to pay their utility bills. As utilities have a direct impact on health, SPAN Ohio Region 1 was a sponsor. We also co-sponsored a rally on October 24 to support Transit Justice, led by Sunrise Cleveland and other groups. We had a SPAN speaker talk about the necessity of a good public transportation system so that everyone could access health care.
 
On October 28th by the Free Stamp, various groups held an event called “Build Back Better” to urge Senator Portman to support the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. Even though the bill does not include universal health coverage, it did contain various improvements to health care that SPAN Ohio endorsed the action
 
Saturday, December 4th, there was a rally on Public Square sponsored by End Poverty and other groups to protest bills being considered in Columbus whose focus is to put a stop to public protesting. Even though freedom of speech was written into our country’s constitution, this isn’t stopping public representatives from trying to stop us. So SPAN participated in protesting for our right to protest!

 

Cleveland area SPAN members have been active in setting up the Jan 15 movie showing of Power to Heal. All SPAN regions are encouraged to promote and attend the virtual event. Also, a flier was produced with a short Improved and Expanded Medicare for All summary on one side, and a promotion of the movie on the other. This was done with the support of several other organizations. These activities are extensions of our work this summer on the Common Ground/Good Health conversation that several Cleveland SPAN people worked on, led by Linda Brown
 
Next Cleveland SPAN meeting -  Monday, January 24, 5:00 pm on Zoom.
Email clevelandspan@spanohio.org for the Zoom link.
Region 4 - SW Ohio (Cincinnati area)

Region 4 activist, Dr. Tim Putnam, a long-time hospital CEO, was named to the
Biden Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force. The Task Force recently completed its findings and recommendations. Most importantly the Task Force concluded that health care is a human right.
 
On December 11th, Dr. Putnam gave a presentation to the SPAN state council
on the findings and recommendations that were sent to the White House.
42% of those recommendations have been acted on by the Biden administration at this time. Link to the full report
 
The next Region 4 meeting will be on Wednesday, January 26th, 6:30-8:00 pm.

We will continue to meet by Zoom for the winter months.
Email dee49@fuse.net to receive Zoom link.
 
Region 7 - West Central Ohio (Dayton area)
Dayton MLK Memorial March - On Monday January 17th at 9:30 am starting at 1323 W. Third Street SPAN will be marching with our banner in the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial March. We will be meeting in the parking lot in front of Drew Health Center at 9am.
 
Yard signs and bumper stickers - They are still available in the region. If you would like either, please contact NJ at mattnj78@gmail.com.
 
Region 7 Organizing Meeting – Region 7 will be having an organizing zoom meeting on Sunday January the 9th at 7 pm and everyone who is interested is invited. An email will be going out soon with more details and a link to the meeting.
 
Lobby Committee Report

The Lobby Committee met on Oct. 30th, 2021. At that time, the companion bills, titled 'The Ohio Health Care Act', Ohio HB 446 had been assigned to the House Insurance Committee and Ohio SB253 had been assigned to the Senate Insurance Committee.
 
Subsequently Representative Mike Skindell gave sponsor testimony in the House Insurance Committee, chaired by Representative Tom Brinkman.
Our Lobby Committee has spoken to Representative Brinkman's legislative aide to request a schedule for proponent testimony hearings on HB 446 in the House Insurance Committee.
 
The Lobby Committee is also in communication with Senator Theresa Fedor's legislative aide, to be updated when SB253 gets joint sponsor testimony in the Senate Insurance Committee. (The joint sponsors are Theresa Fedor and Nickie Antonio.)
 
Submitted by Dee Chavez, RN, BSN, Lobby Committee Chairperson
Other Lobbying Activities
Letter to Congresswoman Joyce Beatty
 
November 14, 2021

Congresswoman Joyce Beatty
Congressional House District 3, Ohio

Dear Congresswoman Beatty,

I have pasted below a "Letter to the editor" of The Columbus Dispatch which I sent a week ago. It was not printed so far, so I presume it will not be.

My aim of the letter is not to embarrass you, but to call upon you to stand with the people of your district, the people of Ohio and the Nation, who are "being screwed" by health care costs, when it doesn't have to be this way. I know by your efforts in the "Build, Back, Better" legislation; your support of low-cost housing in Columbus; and voter rights; that you are not blind to the human needs that "We the People" have. Even though you may think that "Medicare for All won't pass anyway in this term, so my cosponsoring it won't matter..." I assure you it does matter. Unless people continue to make their voices heard for Medicare for All, the health insurers, drug companies, hospital conglomerates, and corporate media which feeds off their largess, will continue to be emboldened. They already have expanded their reach further into taking over standard Medicare, not only by Medicare Advantage plans, but now by Direct Contracting. (You need to have someone on your staff look into this expansion, a Trump initiative, of this most recent foray by health insurance interests to undermine Medicare).

You may perceive that I am an outsider, not in your district, so you need not pay attention. However, you are in "my district" in SPAN Ohio, a territory which covers Franklin County and well beyond.

While we had a ZOOM meeting in the Spring with Janay Eyo, a member of your staff, she has not responded to our request that you become a cosponsor of Medicare for All in this term, or give us an answer to "Why you are not, when you were before?"

I and others, in your District and in mine, want to meet with you by ZOOM or in person, or someone you designate, to discuss this further. Or you can just become a cosponsor of Medicare for All, HR 1976, again.

Sincerely,

Bob Krasen, SPAN Ohio Columbus Area Coordinator
brkrasen@gmail.com


November 7, 2021
Letter to the Editor
The Columbus Dispatch, November 7, 2021

Thanks to the participants of the car caravan through the streets of Columbus on Saturday, 11-6-2021, sponsored by National Nurses United and partnered with SPAN Ohio.



The purpose was to echo the ad in the Dispatch on Friday and Saturday, to ask our Congressional House Representative, Joyce Beatty, to sign on as a co-sponsor of Medicare for All, HR 1976. We were surprised early this year that her name was not on the cosponsor list, because she was an original cosponsor in 2019, and is a member of the Medicare for All caucus in the House.

Medicare for All is now mainstream, desired by a majority of people, both Democrats and Republicans. The reason is too many people have been devastated by medical bills, from hospitals and meds, out of network nonsense, and pre-authorization refusals on the part of health insurers. With administrative medical costs now at 36% of medical revenue, people are realizing we have a health care payment system that is just plain "wacko." People who are poor experience a disparity of life expectancy of 25 years; maternal death rates and infant mortality that are 3 times the rate of more affluent people.

With Medicare for All, we would join the 1st world nations which have unified and affordable health care, creating a wellness system, in which no one is bankrupted by illness.

Please, Congresswoman Beatty. Sign on as a Cosponsor of Medicare for All, HR 1976.

Bob Krasen, SPAN Ohio Columbus Area Coordinator

Letter to Ohio Legislators from the Ohio Poor People's Campaign

To All Members of the Ohio Legislature
 
November 15th, 2021

Dear Legislator,

We are urging your support for HB 446 and SB 253, the Ohio Health Plan. These bills would create a universal health care system that is based on human rights values.

You hold a position of influence and power as an elected official in creating public policy. Health care is a major issue this year and it will continue to be a major issue until we enact the legislation that creates fundamental change and embraces human rights standards. 

At the forefront of the healthcare issue is the fact that Ohioans carry $1.8 billion in medical debt, an only in America phenomenon. Medical debt is the leading cause of personal bankruptcy and one of the leading causes of home foreclosure. 
 
In addition to the medical debt issue is the issue of closing of hospitals in rural and in poor neighborhoods, eliminating access for many, as well as the uninsured and the under-insured who must limit their access to critical issues only, and therefore have a lifetime of poor health. According to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, Ohio ranks 47th out of fifty states overall in healthcare. This is a direct result of public policy in this state.

Universal Single-Payer health care is now mainstream, desired by a majority of people, both Democrats, and Republicans. The reason is too many people have been devastated by medical bills, from hospitals and meds, out-of-network nonsense, and pre-authorization refusals on the part of health insurers.

With administrative medical costs now at 36% of medical revenue, people are realizing we have a health care payment system that is just plain "wacko." People who have low and no wage experience a disparity of life expectancy of 25 years; maternal death rates and infant mortality that are three times the rate of more affluent people and rival that of third world nations.

With Universal Single Payer health care, we would join the first world nations which have unified and affordable health care, creating a wellness system in which no one is bankrupted by illness.

If public officials are listening to the Americans they represent, they will seriously address the issue of the prohibitive cost of healthcare in America. 

What American voters want is:
  • A clear, compelling plan for managing prices; we pay far more than other wealthy nations do for health care, particularly prescription drugs.
  • The elimination of out-of-pocket expenses including deductibles and copays.
  • A straightforward way to cut red tape; elected officials must have a plan to simplify and streamline administration and eliminate waste. 
  • A serious plan for how we pay for health care.
  • A comprehensive health system that covers all parts of the body.
  • A system that prioritizes value and innovation.  
Ohioans have the right to expect their elected officials and those in positions of influence to seriously consider measures that affect their health and wellbeing. There is no good procedural reason to allow the status quo to continue when it comes to healthcare, a most basic human need.

Again, we urge your support for HB 446 and SB 253. 

Thank You,

The Ohio Poor People’s Campaign
Ohio PPC: NCMR Coordinating Committee
Ohio Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
Email: ohio@poorpeoplescampaign.org  
Website: https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/committee/ohio/  
 
The following articles contain information that may have escaped your notice but which is very important for you to know and understand.
DCEs
 
Our friends at PNHP (Physicians for a National Health Program) are engaged in a campaign against DCE’s (Direct Contracting Entities). Here is an article about it from The Hill, written by Dr. Susan Rogers, president of PNHP, and Representative Pramila Jayapal. 
 
The biggest threat to Medicare you've never even heard of
 
Starting this year, millions of seniors are quietly being enrolled into a program run by third-party middlemen called Medicare Direct Contracting (DC). This is occurring without their full knowledge or consent. If left unchecked, the DC program could radically transform Medicare within a few years, without input from seniors or even a vote by Congress.
 
Developed late in the Trump administration, the Medicare DC program allows commercial insurers and other for-profit companies to “manage” care for seniors enrolled in Traditional (fee-for-service) Medicare. Instead of paying doctors and hospitals directly for seniors’ care, Medicare gives these middlemen (called Direct Contracting Entities, or DCEs) a monthly payment to cover a defined portion of each seniors’ medical expenses. DCEs are then allowed to keep what they don’t pay for in health services, a dangerous financial incentive to restrict and ration seniors’ care.

A majority of seniors choose Traditional Medicare over Medicare Advantage, the version of Medicare run by commercial insurers, because they value having free choice of providers and the power to manage their own care. But under the Medicare Direct Contracting program, older Americans who actively chose the popular Traditional Medicare program are automatically enrolled into a Direct Contracting Entity without their full knowledge or consent. 
  .  .  .
Link to rest of article.  
 

Rep. Jayapal has been circulating a letter from Congress to HHS Sec. Becerra, demanding an end to the Direct Contracting Program. Please call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and tell your representative to sign Rep. Jayapal’s letter, and to fight back against this massive threat to Medicare.
Link to the full script.

And you can sign a petition to demand an end to DCE’s.
Link to petition.
 

One-page fact sheet

Here are two articles about Medicare Advantage that tell you something about it you may not be aware of.
 
Researcher: Medicare Advantage Plans Costing Billions More Than They Should
 
(From Kaiser Health News)  Richard Kronick, a former federal health policy researcher and a professor at the University of California-San Diego, said his analysis of newly released Medicare Advantage billing data estimates that Medicare overpaid the private health plans by more than $106 billion from 2010 through 2019 because of the way the private plans charge for sicker patients.
 
.  .  .  Kronick called the growth in Medicare Advantage costs a “systemic problem across the industry,” which CMS has failed to rein in. He said some plans saw “eye-popping” revenue gains, while others had more modest increases. Giant insurer UnitedHealthcare, which in 2019 had about 6 million Medicare Advantage members, received excess payments of some $6 billion .  .  .
 
Link to rest of article.
 
It's time to end the Medicare Advantage scam
 
Nearly from its beginning, Medicare has allowed private companies to offer plans that essentially compete with it, but they were an obscure corner of the market and didn't really take off until the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress rolled out the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. This was the GOP's (and a few corporatist Democrats') big chance to finally privatize Medicare, albeit one bite at a time.
 
That law created a brand known as Medicare Advantage under the Medicare Part C provision, and a year later it phased in what are known as risk-adjusted large-batch payments to insurance companies offering Advantage plans.
 
Medicare Advantage plans are not Medicare. They're private health insurance most often offered by the big for-profit insurance companies (although some nonprofits participate, particularly the larger HMOs), and the rules they must live by are considerably looser than those for Medicare . . .
 
The higher their risk score, the larger the payment. A plan with mostly very ill people in it will get much larger reimbursements than a plan with mostly healthy people. After all, the former will be costly to keep alive and healthy, while the latter won't cost much at all.
 
Profit-seeking insurance companies, being the predators that they are, have found a number of ways to raise their risk scores without raising their expenses .  .  .  with Medicare Advantage, the big insurance companies have invented a whole new way to rip us all off while padding their bottom lines.

Link to rest of article.
 
Probe Shows Big Pharma 'Manipulated' Patent System and 'Raised Prices With Abandon'
"The result of the House Oversight Committee investigation is clear:
American families are suffering from outrageous drug prices,
while Big Pharma rakes in record profits."
 
Bolstering calls for the U.S. Senate to pass the Build Back Better bill with drug pricing reforms, a House panel .  .  . released a report detailing how Big Pharma has not only "raised prices with abandon," but also "manipulated the patent system" to suppress competition.  .  .  .
 
Specifically, as a committee statement detailed, the probe revealed:
  • Drug companies aggressively raise prices to meet revenue targets, and executive compensation structures create incentives to raise prices;
  • Drug companies target the U.S. market for higher prices and use the Medicare program to boost revenue;
  • Drug companies use strategies to suppress competition and maintain monopoly pricing;
  • Drug companies use patient assistance programs as a public relations tool to boost sales; and
  • Research and manufacturing costs do not justify price increases.
The panel investigated insulin products manufactured by Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi, and found that those companies "targeted the United States for price increases, and Medicare lost out on more than $16 billion in savings." The trio also "engaged in strategies to maintain monopoly pricing and defend against competition" from generic versions of their brand-name drugs.

Link to rest of article.
 
Health Care Justice Monitor Blog
 
You may be interested in checking out the Health Care Justice Monitor Blog at http://healthjusticemonitor.org/   The McCanne Health Justice Monitor (HJM) is a health policy blog focused on a progressive policy agenda. HJM takes as its inspiration Quote of the Day on the website of the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), the daily health policy update produced by health policy advocate and expert Don McCanne.

As an example, a recent blog (scroll down until you see one dated December 22) “Medicare Advantage for All: A Bad Idea for Single Payer” talks about some proposals that would use Medicare Advantage as a steppingstone to Single Payer, an idea which is critiqued in the blog.
 
The Last Word: An Update on the Activities of HCFAO, SPAN Ohio's Education Arm
An Uncommon Way to Build Common Ground

By Linda Brown

Health Care For All Ohioans (HCFAO), the education arm of SPAN Ohio, is reasserting its role as a leading community organization, with uncommon results. Reinvigorated by a Neighbor Up Action Grant received from The Cleveland Foundation Common Ground 2021 and Neighborhood Connections, HCFAO is bringing multiple organizations together to educate the public on health issues in new ways.
First, HCFAO sponsored a poetry project hosted at a Region 1 library on October 9, 2021, in cooperation with The Writers Group (TWG). At the TWG event, SPAN Ohio member Linda Brown invited individuals to share their perspectives on the Covid-19 pandemic, by creating an acrostic poem. Creating poems about a significant social crisis opened honest conversations about public health concerns, including access to care.
Fellow poet Keith Allison, Librarian Amy Aquino, Kent State University students and staff, were among those who composed an on-the-spot Covid sonnet. Advance promotion of “Power To Heal” also took place. About one hundred people were reached that day.
Secondly, the same grant is funding the January 15th streaming of “Power to Heal,” a documentary about the twin struggles for Medicare and civil rights. Planned for the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, more than twenty organizations have come together to co-sponsor this special event.

Thirdly, as a result of the grant, divergent thinkers concurred over descriptions of Medicare For All,
to produce accurate educational materials. More than 1,000 printed flyers, and an innumerable number of digital copies have been distributed. Flyers were distributed through neighborhood canvassing, at events, and in public venues.

Last, but not least, funds were used to obtain audio-visual equipment to improve sound quality and social distancing at events aimed at Cuyahoga, Lake, or Geauga counties. In today’s interconnected world, sometimes the benefits reach even further. For instance, any SPAN member or ally may suggest health-themed playlists or videos to consider for screening, jamming, or sharing over the newly acquired speakers or projector. Once assembled, digital programs can easily be shared. Submit suggestions to: clevelandspan@spanohio.org.

The new year offers us each new opportunities to create “common ground” with others interested in good health, for themselves and their neighbors. Think of new ways to broach difficult subjects—like health reform—with your friends, family, neighbors, and community. Combining your unique talents to a cause close to your heart can produce uncommon results too.
SPAN Ohio links

To send articles, events, letters, or comments to this newsletter, please email them to the Communications Committee (Lynne Rustad, Tim Bruce, Barb Walden, Matt Noordsij-Jones, Linda Brown, and Bob Parker [Chair])

This newsletter is posted under Resources on the SPAN Web Site.
 
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