Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category

By J. Thomas

This month, Dr. Gerald Friedman, Chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, released a new study on the potential cost savings if New York state implemented a single-payer, universal health care system. In a single-payer system, every American would be guaranteed a basic level of health care, much like Medicare guarantees health coverage to American seniors.

Among the findings from Friedman’s estimates: 98 percent of New Yorkers would save money; 2 percent of New Yorkers – those making more than $436,000 annually – would pay more via increased taxes; New Yorkers would save an average of $2,200 each year; and business savings would spur the creation of 200,000 jobs. Moreover, Friedman says, “New York’s overall economic savings from a single-payer model reduces health care spending by $45 billion.”

“This detailed economic study gives us clear proof that a universal health care plan is the right move for New York,” said Assembly Health Committee chair and lead sponsor Richard Gottfried.

It’s more urgent than ever for New Yorkers to learn about the benefits of universal health care. In December, Public Citizen Health Care Advocate Vijay Das spoke before New York legislators as part of a series of historic meetings in support of the New York Health Bill, which would extend health coverage to every New Yorker.

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The Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution states, “In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved …”

Even though we are all granted the right to a trial by jury in the U.S. Constitution, Big Banks and corporations regularly use fine print in contracts to trick consumers out of their right to a day in court. Forced arbitration means that if consumers are ripped off or otherwise harmed, they must use private arbitration proceedings to air their grievances.

If you’re already angry about forced arbitration and you want to do something to get these predatory terms out of financial products, skip to the end of this post for ways to get involved.

There’s plenty to be mad about. These expensive arbitration “tribunals” have no judge or jury. They are overseen by paid arbitration providers who are selected by the companies. Arbitration firms have a very good reason to guarantee repeat business for themselves by finding in favor of the corporations over the consumers. The findings of arbitration decisions are not public and the appeals process is very limited. Most likely, you will also be required to go to arbitration in another state!

If consumers were interested in choosing arbitration, they would enter into the decision after some harm has come to them. It would need to be an informed decision where they did so with a full understanding of the consequences of their choice to not go to court.

But that’s not how we’re all roped into signing (or even clicking) away our rights. It has been proven that consumers rarely understand that their contracts contain arbitration clauses and have little idea of the repercussions of having their complaints heard in a non-court venue.

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With help from our friends at The Other 98% (and an activist marching band), we made the petition delivery to Citigroup’s Wall Street headquarters into a spectacle the banksters won’t soon forget.

And a special thanks to our friends at Americans for Financial Reform, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the American Association for Justice, Consumer Action and the National Consumer Law Center for joining us to gather signatures for this campaign.

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Good news emerged this week in the fight for health care justice in the United States. A new poll shows that the majority of Americans support single-payer health care. In a single-payer system, every American would be guaranteed a basic level of health care, much like Medicare guarantees health coverage to all American seniors.

Among the poll’s other findings: 80 percent of self-identified Democrats support single-payer, in addition to one-quarter of Republicans. President Obama himself backed single-payer as a state senator. As for a “public option,” where Americans would be given the choice to buy into Medicare before they turn 65, only 13 percent of the public was opposed.

In many ways, this poll is remarkable. More and more Americans understand and embrace a universal Medicare-for-all health plan. Stay tuned for Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) re-introductions of their versions of single-payer, Medicare-for-All bills this year.

Vijay Das is a health care advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.

by J. Thomas

In December, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (D) shockingly announced a delay in implementation of one of his most public, long-term political promises: guaranteeing health insurance for all Vermonters under a universal, publicly funded system. Governor Shumlin ran on this platform for many years, including during his reelection in November so it was extremely disappointing to see this policy turnaround.

Four years ago, the legislature passed a historic bill calling on the governor to develop a financing mechanism for universal health care for Vermont.

The governor’s preliminary plan contained an 11.5 percent across-the-board payroll tax in addition to a graduated 9.5 percent income tax, with the highest rates beginning at 400 percent of the poverty line and capped at $27,500 per year. Another 4 percent payroll tax and a 50 percent graduated income tax increase would be required for transition costs over the first few years of the program, for a total of $2.6 billion in new revenue.

Effectively, Vermonters’ taxes would have been doubled. Furthermore, funding for the system would have to be front-loaded and offsets would be delayed because it takes years to see the cost benefits of better health.

Vermont is a part of a national movement to establish commonsense health care. America spends more money on health care as a percentage of its gross domestic product (GDP) than any other country in the world – rich or poor. A Harvard study estimated that 45,000 Americans die every year because they don’t have health insurance. A publicly-funded universal health care system in Vermont is estimated to save 25 percent of total health care costs over the course of the first decade. The financial estimates for the first five years are detailed in an article from the New England Journal of Medicine.

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