Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Number of Uninsured Swells 2.2 Million to 47 Million

Here's the latest bad news about health care in America from Physicians for a National Health Program:

15,000 Doctors: "Single Payer National Health Insurance is the Only Solution"

Download state by state figures HERE

Census Bureau Data HERE

The U.S. Census Bureau released data today showing that the number of uninsured Americans jumped by 2.2 million in 2006 to 47.0 million people, with nearly all the increase (2.03 million) concentrated among middle-class Americans earning over $50,000 per year, according to an analysis by Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). Strikingly, 1.4 million of the newly uninsured were in families making over $75,000 per year. An additional 600,000 were in families earning $50,000 to $75,000 per year. (The median household income in 2006 was $48,200).

"Middle income Americans are now experiencing the human suffering that comes with being uninsured. It makes any illness a potential economic and social catastrophe," said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Physicians for a National Health Program also noted the following:

The 2.18 million rise in the number of uninsured is the biggest jump reported by the Census Bureau since 1992.

There are now more uninsured in the U.S. (47.0 million) than at any time since passage of Medicare/Medicaid in the mid-1960's.

93% of the increase is among middle and high income families:

Of the 2.18 million increase:

1.398 million (64% of the increase) was in >$75k family income

An additional 633,000 (29% of the increase) was among $50-$75k group

Among full time workers, the number of uninsured increased by 1.230 million (56.4% of the increase).

In Massachusetts, often cited as a model for health reform, the number of uninsured increased from 583,000 in 2005 (9.2 percent) to 657,000 in 2006 (10.4 percent of the population).

The divergence between poverty and uninsurance is relatively new and striking. Until recently, as poverty went down uninsurance fell. That has changed.

The number of uninsured children has fallen only 17 percent since SCHIP was enacted in 1997 from 10.74 million (adjusted to be comparable to current figures) to 8.66 million. The number of uninsured children rose by 611,000 between 2005 and 2006.

The doctors' group said that the only solution to the rising number of uninsured and underinsured is a single-payer national health insurance program, publicly financed but delivered by private doctors and hospitals. Such a program could save more than $400 billion annually in administrative waste, enough to provide high-quality coverage to all and halt the erosion of the current private system.

"We can no longer afford the waste and inefficiency, the high overhead and outrageous executive salaries of the private insurance industry" said Dr. Don McCanne, senior health policy fellow for PNHP. "Only reforms that end our reliance on defective private coverage and assure guaranteed coverage for all will work."

"The experience of other industrialized nations teaches us that high-quality, comprehensive care can be provided to all our citizens," said Dr. Quentin Young, National Coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program. "A single-payer national health insurance system has emerged as the only solution to the nation's health system debacle."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Petty Frustration in the Music Biz

There was no just cause for me to be short-tempered with the parking ticket attendant on my way out of Navy Pier this evening. But I gave him a hard time in classic "kick the dog" mode. I was venting my pent up anger from the four hour gig I had just suffered through plus the four hour gig the previous night.


1) a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems.

2) The condition that results when an impulse or an action is thwarted by an external or an internal force.

I was ready to tear what's left of my hair out because a certain musician who had turned up on both of these gigs drives me insane with his playing. It is difficult to describe to civilians, but you musicians will know what I mean when I tell you what this man does to frustrate me: he plays way too loud, doesn't listen and, worst of all, rushes like a mo'fo' constantly.

There is nothing I can do to make the music feel good because this guy is always phrasing way out in front of the beat. There were excellent drummers on both these gigs but there's only so much commiseration we can share via stolen looks and musical telepathy. We basically have to tune this guy out. Oh, by the way, he's a rhythm section player (I don't want to get too specific here).

As a consequence, I have to try to NOT listen to this musician, which is antithetical to the nature of playing music, especially in a small group. Adding to the maddening level of non-musicality is the unfortunate fact that I happen to like this man very much personally. If I didn't like him so much it would somehow be easier to loathe trying to create a groove on the same bandstand with him.

The final straw for me is the feeling of pettiness that goes along with the frustration. What right do I have to complain or to feel anything other than grateful to be doing this work? I'm not digging ditches or, worse, slogging away in some anonymous cubicle. I'm playing music, fer crissake! And being very well paid for my time and effort. And yet...with the knowledge of how good it can feel to be in that groovy zone with players who are all on the same wavelength, it IS difficult and weird and unfulfilling to be in this situation. I DO feel like my intentions are being thwarted; that I'm being prevented from functioning at the highest level I'm capable of.

I would have liked to explain the whole thing to that nebbish parking dude, but I just didn't have it in me. I did manage a lame apology. With any luck my blood pressure will return to normal before tomorrow morning.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Stormy Memories

Thunk! What the hell was that??

It sounded like the roof had just blown off the sun porch where I've been tapping away at my iMac for the past couple of hours. Heart thumping, I leaped over to the side window, which seemed closest to the the origin of the rude noise. There was a piece of two-by-four (which I recognized as part of the rear dormer of my attic) on the ground between my house and the neighbor's, and a chunk of one of my downspouts leaning against the other house.

In that moment I looked up and to the right and saw that it had begun to storm like crazy. I don't know how long it had been raining and blowing like this but I just noticed it for the first time. I've never seen sheets of heavy rain blow sideways as it was now doing. Thunder, lightning, treacherous sounding wind... it was really coming down!

Which is all rather odd, because earlier this morning I was recounting the story of the only hurricane I've ever witnessed to a friend in an email. It has been very rainy here in Chicago the last several days. Hot, muggy and rainy - yech. You know what they say: it's not the heat, it's the stupidity. Anyway, all this rain had got me thinking about the hurricane from my youth:

We were on a family vacation in Miami in August, 1964. We were staying in a beach front hotel right on the ocean. That night we heard that a hurricane (I just looked it up - it was Hurricane Cleo), was going to blow through.

I remember my father putting mattresses up against the window. I don't recall where we slept but I do remember the sounds, the darkness and the aftermath the following morning. The storm was surprisingly LOUD; I had been in thunderstorms before - who hasn't, unless you live in the desert. But this hurricane made wind and rain that was truly scary; I wasn't sure that our little room wasn't going to be whisked away, Wizard of Oz style.

The following morning was quite spooky. The sky was a unique shade of dark gray and the air smelled funny, as if things had been stirred up from the bottom of some cosmic pot. The beach was overrun with downed coconuts, a few of which my sister and I collected. I remember having a tough time opening those things, as we didn't know how to do it and I doubt we had the proper tools (whatever they may be - I still have no idea how to crack open a coconut).

The lobby of the hotel we were staying at was in a separate building and the roof had been partially blown off. I think I remember that a large chandelier had been downed by the wind but I may have made that up, memory being such a creative thing. But I do recall seeing a few empty soda bottles up in the rafters of the lobby roof. They must have been left there by the construction crew.

As long as I'm safely indoors I find the sound of a thunderstorm comforting. Even if it gets a little violent I feel a sense of security in the whirling wind and the rain pelting the roof . My bedroom is in the attic of my house so I really get to experience all the elements in close proximity. An occasional outburst of thunder will bring a quickening of the pulse but, for the most part, I love the rhythms tapped out on my roof when it pours.

Right now there's an overcast lull, but I'm hoping the storm will roar again later tonight.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

First Take on the Blog as Art

I admit that I've come late to this blogging party. But now that I've had a little bit of a chance to hang out in Ye Olde Blogosphere as a reader I have this obvious insight into the obvious: There's a lot of crap out there that is NOT worth reading. Brilliant deduction, eh? I don't know what I was expecting... maybe only people who really have something to say write weblogs; maybe the chaff falls away at some point; perhaps dullards get tired of trying to think of something interesting to tap out on their keyboards eventually.... Or maybe I intuited all along that I would be as disappointed as I feel and was just delaying the inevitable. It really is just like non-virtual life: one has to wade through a whole lot of junk to find anything remotely valuable or insightful.

This seems particularly true in the tiny jazz music niche of the blogging world. I have found precious little writing on this subject that holds my interest for more than a few seconds. I haven't given up yet; I know there are jazz oriented blogs extant that I've not discovered or perused. But damn little of what I HAVE come across is worth its weight in pixels.

I have read some interesting political blogs. There's some great stuff on non-theism and various social causes that interest me. I realize that jazz is a marginalized art form in our culture, unfortunately, but I was really hoping to find some artistic comradeship in that area.

I will do some more digging and report back here if and when I find something of note.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Health Care for All of Us

I know that I am not smart enough to pen a cogent argument for a national single-payer health care system. But after having seen Michael Moore's most recent (and least politically polarizing) film Sicko I am galvanized to support the concept even more than I have in the past.

Right now there is a bill pending in the House (H.R. 676) that would create approximately the same kind of national health care system found in Canada, France and the U.K. As one Newsweek commentator puts it, you can think of it like "Medicare for all". This bill, by the way, is co-sponsored by Dennis Kucinich, the only Democratic presidential candidate who explicitly supports a single payer system. As a Chicagoan I know it's never a good idea to "back no losers" so I sent the Obama campaign a letter questioning the candidate's stance on health care. I got this pretty good response back:

Promoting affordable and accessible health care is a priority of mine in the U.S. Senate. Health care should be a right for everyone, not a privilege for a few. The U.S. is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, yet more than 45 million Americans are uninsured. This is unacceptable. Addressing this problem should be a top priority for our Federal government. I am constantly disappointed by the lack of positive discussion and action on health care issues in Washington. Too many Americans are working hard but cannot afford their health care bills. Too many employers are finding it difficult to offer the coverage their employees need. Day to day, this is an enormous problem, let alone when a personal crisis hits.

I am certainly supportive of the goal of universal health care in the U.S. As you may know, I have called for universal health care by 2012. This call for coverage does not translate into a call for a single-payer system. Although I personally see great merit in a single-payer health care system, given the current political climate I believe that building upon and strengthening our employer-based system will provide a better chance of creating consensus and achieving the goal of universal health care. Regardless, I view federal subsidies to expand coverage for uninsured individuals, controlling the costs of premiums and copays for those with coverage, increased focus on preventive health programs and quality improvement, and health IT implementation as a few of the key tenets of any successful health care reform plan.

It'd be nice if Obama had a more principled and less "practical" stance on this issue, but there's no arguing with the relative popularity of Barack vs. Dennis. So, there you have it.

It seems to me that this change is going to come from Congress, cajoled by the huddled, under-insured masses. Please urge your representatives to support and co-sponsor H.R. 676 if they are not doing so already.

For more info on an American single payer health care system, please visit:

Physicians for a National Health Care System