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MichUHCAN Newsletter for August, 2000

Ralph Nader Backs Universal Health Care ...
Should MichUHCAN Back Nader?

By Art Myatt

Ralph Nader, long-time advocate of citizen and consumer rights, is running for U. S. president with the Green Party. Nader has already campaigned in each of the 50 states, and the Greens have earned ballot status in several. Unlike George Bush and Al Gore, Nader's platform includes a call for single-payer national health insurance. Since this plank corresponds to MichUHCAN's mission, the Detroit chapter considered in July, but did not pass, an endorsement of the Nader candidacy.

Nader is running on more than health care. "I can no longer stomach the systemic political decay that has weakened our democracy," he said in a pre-nomination speech in which he described the Democratic and Republican Parties as "two apparently distinct political entities that feed at the same corporate trough."

Building a Force

Nader does not expect to win this election. He does hope to establish support in the early polls sufficient to allow him to participate in the televised debates. He also hopes to do well enough in the voting that the Green Party can automatically be on the ballot for the next election, and can qualify for federal matching funds as well. This could lead to the Green Party being a much more effective force in national politics.

Opposition to increasingly blatant and heavy-handed control of the American political system by corporations is the unifying element of the Green Party platform. Platform points include environmental protection, especially through efficient use of energy and renewable energy sources; encouraging citizen activism within and independent of government; opposition to NAFTA, WTO, and trade rules favoring multinational corporations; repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act which is so oppressive to labor organizations; as well as establishment of a single-payer national health insurance for everyone.

This last point puts Nader's candidacy uniquely in line with MichUHCAN's work. George Bush and Al Gore. disagree about how much the government should interfere with corporate "free-market" health insurance plans, but they both accept that health insurance in the next administration should be much as it is now, with only marginal changes, not fundamental ones.

At the Detroit MichUHCAN membership meeting on July 6, a motion was made that the organization should endorse Nader's candidacy. This touched off a lively discussion, after which the motion was defeated by a vote of 6 to 10. Several other people were present, but abstained from the vote.

Pros and Cons

The basic argument in favor of endorsement was that Ralph Nader is the only significant Presidential candidate who supports our position, so we should support him. In addition,some said, the present multi-tiered health system is part of the corporate agenda for America, and MichHUCAN must begin to oppose that entire corporate agenda. Otherwise, we cannot expect to become a strong and effective voice for universal health care..

Those opposed to the motion generally prefaced their remarks some expression of personal support for Nader, while opposing an organizational endorsement. For instance, one point of view was that our lobbying efforts in Lansing (for U2K) are important, and endorsement of Nader would make further progress along that line difficult. Several people expressed the idea that a vote for Nader would be a vote lost for Gore and thus would tilt toward a win for Bush. Others thought that MichUHCAN as an organization should not endorse any candidate, though individual MichUHCAN members could of course support any candidate.

[As this newsletter goes to press, the Michigan Green Party is approaching the deadline with enough petition signatures to get the party on the November ballot, and working hard to collect a "cushion" to make up for possible disqualification of some signatures. For more information contact (Green Party candidate Tom) Ness for Senate Committee, on the web at www.ness4senate.com, or Box 20076, Ferndale, MI 48220, 248-542-8090.]

E-mail update - The Green Party is on the Michigan ballot with 20,000 signatures to spare. It could still be challenged, but so far has not been. Tom Ness is the Green Party nominee for Congress challenging Sander Levin; Marilyn MacDermaid is running against U. S. Rep. Joe Knollenberg; and the Green nominee for "Spence" Abraham's U. S. Senate seat is Matt Abel.

Universal Health Care 2000 Campaign

The U2K Campaign, voicing strong support for universal health care in this election year, now has nearly 300 endorsing organizations across the country, including 26 endorsers in Michigan. Get involved! Contact Marge Mitchell (248-477-7911) or Marilyn Schmidt (248-674-3520).

Detroit Chapter Meeting

NO AUGUST MEETING - But do come to our summer picnic!

(It will be just like a meeting, but with food and drink.) Info below

Next meeting: Thursday, September 7

Meetings of Metro Detroit MichUHCAN are held at 7:30 PM on the first Thursday of each month (or the second Thursday if it is necessary to move the date) at the First United Methodist Church of Berkley, on the north side of Twelve Mile Road, third block west of Coolidge.

Statewide MichUHCAN meets the first Friday of every month at 10:00 AM, at the Livingston County Courthouse in Howell. Howell is located just north of I-96 between Lansing and Detroit, a bit closer to Lansing. For more information on these meetings, phone Marge Mitchell (248-477-7911).


Join MichUHCAN supporters and activists for some food, fun and incisive (or not) political discussion.

Saturday, August 12

4 PM - 8PM

at Pat and Doug's house: 42 W. Hilldale, Detroit (1 block W. of John R, 5 blocks S. of 7 Mile Road)

Beverages provided. Bring a dish to share.

For more information, 313-893-7435

E-mail bonus item -


Embargoed Until:
Monday, July 17, 2000


Kip Sullivan, (612) 823-1459 e-mail: Kiprs@aol.com

Steffie Woolhandler, MD (617) 665-1032

Quentin Young, MD (312) 554-0382


Lull in health inflation in mid-1990's explained by other factors.

Washington, D.C. -- While millions of Americans have been shunted into HMO's over the past decade, there's no scientific evidence that managed care saves money, according to a study in today's Health Affairs, the nation's largest health policy journal.

"HMO premiums are up nearly 20% in the past two years, but a lull in health inflation in the mid-1990's is so often attributed to HMO's as to have become 'folklore,'" noted study author Kip Sullivan, who reviewed three decades of research for the study.

"The claim that HMO's are more 'efficient' than the fee-for-service (FFS) plans they replaced is typically based on one of two research errors," said Sullivan. "Either the study didn't take into account higher HMO administrative costs, and only looked at cuts in hospital or doctor care, or it didn't take into account factors like cherry-picking healthier patients or cost-shifting to other payers as an explanation for lower premiums."

The study also notes that factors other than the spread of HMO's explain the mid-1990's lull in health inflation. These include the threat of price-controls and health reform in 1993, the well-documented insurance underwriting cycle (three years of high premiums followed by three years of low premiums), a low inflation rate in the rest of the economy, and HMO's lowering premiums (short-term) to gain market share.

"As managed care enrollment has soared so have administrative expenses," said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard. "The percentage of workers in the health system dealing with paperwork has increased from 18% to nearly 30%, belying the myth of HMO efficiency."

"The verdict is in on corporate control of health care. It has failed," said Dr. Quentin Young, National Coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program. "The US spends more on health care than any other country in the world yet leaves 45 million uninsured and ranks 37th in performance according to a recent study by the World Health Organization. It's time for not-for-profit (single-payer) national health insurance."


Copies of "On the 'Efficiency' of Managed Care Plans," Kip Sullivan, Health Affairs, July/August 2000, pages 139-148, are available from PNHP at (312) 554-0382.

Kip Sullivan is a health policy analyst and former research director of Minnesota COACT. His review article "Managed Care Plan Performance Since 1980" appeared in the July, 1999 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Physicians for a National Health Program was founded in 1987 and has over 9,000 members nationwide. For more information, see www.pnhp.org.