91 episodes

Benjamin Day and Stephanie Nakajima of Healthcare-NOW break down everything you need to know about the social movement to make healthcare a right in the United States. Medicare for All!

Medicare for All Benjamin Day and Stephanie Nakajima - Healthcare-NOW

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    • 4.5 • 28 Ratings

Benjamin Day and Stephanie Nakajima of Healthcare-NOW break down everything you need to know about the social movement to make healthcare a right in the United States. Medicare for All!

    Mental Health & For-Profit Insurance: A Deadly Combo

    Mental Health & For-Profit Insurance: A Deadly Combo

    The U.S. is wrestling with a massive mental health crisis - impacting young people in particular. Half of young adults and one-third of all adults report that they always feel anxious or have often felt anxiety in the past year. One-third of respondents could not get the mental health services they needed. Why? 80% say they couldn’t afford the cost and more than 60% said that shame and stigma kept them away. The shortage of mental health providers also means that care can be very hard to find, even when we try hard to find it. Usually on the Medicare for All Podcast, we focus on the stories we think you need to know about. Today we decided to scrap the show and come up with a plan to get an hour of free therapy!*

    (*Not really. None of this information is intended as medical advice.)

    Our guests today are Dr. Pamela Fullerton and Lindsay Baish. 

    Lindsay is a therapist and an Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Illinois and a certified trauma professional – and former volunteer for the podcast.

    Dr. Pamela Fullerton, Ph.D., is the founder and clinical director of Advocacy & Education Consulting, a counseling and consulting organization dedicated to ensuring social justice and advocacy through equitable access to mental health and well-being services. She is a Latina bilingual Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP), a Certified Dialectical Behavior Therapy professional (C-DBT), a Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional (CCATP), a Certified Grief Informed Professional (CGP), and a clinical supervisor and consultant specializing in working with BIPOC communities, undocumented communities, immigration and acculturation, trauma, anxiety, life transitions, and career counseling. In addition to being a professional writer and speaker, Dr. Fullerton is an adjunct instructor in the Counselor Education department at Northeastern Illinois University. She is also a volunteer contributing writer for three publications and runs a nonprofit to support Latinx youth in the Chicagoland area. Dr. Fullerton consults for two behavioral health advisory boards, Sinai Urban Health Institute (SUHI) and Illinois Unidos/Latino Policy Forum, providing advice and input to assist in promoting health equity and justice initiatives for underserved communities in Illinois.  


    Show Notes

    Pam tells us that counselling is a subset of psychiatry and psychology that started as a movement for career development for veterans returning from war. The profession started helping people through life transitions puts people and their lives and livelihoods at the center.

    Lindsay notes that a lot of the language of mental healthcare is used interchangeably, but there are distinctions: psychologists have PhDs and can provide therapists; psychiatrists have MDs and can prescribe medications. Counselors and therapists can diagnose but not prescribe.

    Congress passed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008 to prevent insurers from providing worse coverage for mental health than they do for medical or surgical treatment. However, mental health providers are not usually treated the same as medical doctors when it comes to insurance coverage and payments.

    Historically, counselors are the newest mental health clinicians on the scene and are more limited by insurers than more established clinicians like social workers or psychologists. Insurers often only reimburse for certain therapeutic models of care (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for example) leaving other kinds of counseling uncovered in the midst of a crisis in mental healthcare.

    • 58 min
    Cyberattacks, Messaging Wars, and the Capitalist Hellscape

    Cyberattacks, Messaging Wars, and the Capitalist Hellscape

    We hear it over and over again – the private sector just does it better. Whether we’re talking education or healthcare or our criminal justice system, the default Republican (and sometimes Democratic) talking point is that competition in the marketplace allows the best ideas and best people (Elon Musk, lookin at you) to rise to the top and lead us to a utopian future (sponsored by Meta).

    But then something wild happens like the cyberattack on UnitedHealthcare, which is causing massive fallout throughout our healthcare system over the past two weeks – so much so, that the company appears to have paid a 22 million dollar ransom to the hackers who breached their system and now the federal department of Health and Human Services has had to bail them out. That kind of thing really makes you question how anyone is still making the argument that the private sector has this shit handled. This episode, we’re bringing in special guest and political messaging expert Jordan Berg Powers to talk about how we talk about all of this stuff: public healthcare, private corporations, and how to message our way out of the corporate hellscape in which we currently find ourselves!

    Jordan Berg Powers is a consultant and the former director of Mass Alliance. Most importantly, he is coming up on 30 YEARS of experience in campaigning and organizing for progressive causes and candidates. Jordan is a return guest to the podcast, first appearing in our My Big Fat American Healthcare episode.


    Show Notes

    UnitedHealthcare debacle is a little bit fun for us because we get to talk about the failures of a really s****y company, but like any healthcare debacle, there are some serious consequences. What happened here, and what does the UnitedHealth scandal look like for folks on the ground?

    Starting on February 21, a group of hackers breached “Change Healthcare,” which is the largest electronic medical records and medical claims processing platform in the country. About half of all Americans’ health insurance claims pass through Change Healthcare, which was bought two years ago by UnitedHealthcare, the largest health insurer in the country.

    Following the hack, Change Healthcare shut down its entire network, leading to complete mayhem in the healthcare system, which is still ongoing:

    “Hospitals have been unable to check insurance benefits of in-patient stays, handle the prior authorizations needed for patient procedures and surgeries or process billing that pays for medical services. Pharmacies have struggled to determine how much to charge patients for prescriptions without access to their health insurance records, forcing some to pay for costly medications out of pocket with cash, with others unable to afford the costs.” (source)

    This has led to a financial crisis for many hospitals, health clinics, physicians, and pharmacies, none of whom can be reimbursed for the care they’re providing, since they can’t submit medical claims. Provider associations are losing their shit, and the federal government has had to intervene to try to bail providers out in the meantime. 

    The story keeps getting crazier and juicier: apparently UnitedHealthcare made a ransom payment of $22 million to the hackers who breached their system using BitCoin (source) - p.s. those are our healthcare premium dollars hard at work

    Russian hackers may now have access to almost half the country’s medical records. I’m sure that won’t come back to haunt anyone in the years to come!

    As much as we’d love to dwell on the UnitedHealthcare scandal that is unfo...

    • 41 min
    The Battle of the Letters: Medicare Advantage

    The Battle of the Letters: Medicare Advantage

    Occasional fistfights aside, most of our legislators make the choice to use their words when they’re angry, and a lot of those words go into public letters they write to presidents, officials, and even each other. Despite the fact that no one else in this country has written or read a letter in decades, the public comment letter is still popular with politicians, who have elevated this obscure literary genre to a competitive sport, using these letters to demonstrate their power, build alliances, and shape policy. Today we’re going to focus on one ongoing battle of letters over one of our favorite topics: the privatization of Medicare through a program known as Medicare Advantage. We’ll talk about how all the players in the debate about Medicare Advantage are engaging in that battle, and how it could impact our access to healthcare!


    Show Notes

    We've recorded a bunch of episodes about Medicare Advantage!

    Medicare Advantage was created as a private, for-profit alternative to traditional (or public) Medicare, was the promise of lower costs… which never happened. Surprise: Medicare Advantage plans are FAR more expensive to taxpayers than traditional Medicare for covering the same person, costing taxpayers $7 billion more per year than if everyone were just covered by traditional Medicare. (source)

    It’s the healthcare Joe Namath, Jimmy JJ Walker, and Big Papi are selling to seniors with big promises of coverage for vision and dental care, transportation, groceries, and more – for $0 premiums. Free shit!

    Private companies drain public money to provide generally substandard insurance. These companies are exploiting a legit problem in Medicare, where many seniors are forced to pay premiums for medigap plans to cover stuff like chewing and seeing.

    If you can’t afford the premiums for Medigap coverage, but you need to chew or see, you might be forced into an Medicare Advantage plan just because that’s what you can afford month-to-month. And that could be fine… until you need care and find out that the copays and deductibles are too high, there are super limited networks, or the insurance company refuses to pre-authorize your treatment.

    But many of these MA plans don’t come through on their wild promises, and in fact, seniors end up being pushed out of MA and back into original Medicare when they are sick and actually need care. Private insurance companies love collecting money,but they hate paying money for the service they’re supposed to provide. Go figure! 

    We put out a report about this! Taking Advantage

    Who's Who?

    AHIP: “America’s Health Insurance Providers” is the trade organization for the health insurance industry. Unsurprisingly, they are big proponents of Medicare Advantage.

    AHIP has written their own comment letters to CMS (the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) advocating for expansions to the MA program since at least 2015. Lately they also began coordinating their besties in the House and the Senate to write letters on their behalf. They claim that Medicare Advantage will expand the program to more seniors, and present some of their own research:

    MA will bring more money into the Medicare system… because MA plan holders use less care. (nothing to brag about!)

    MA is serving a diverse populatio

    “As of 2021, approximately 59% of Hispanic or Latino/a individuals and 57% of Black individuals eligible for Medicare choose Medicare Advantage plans. Overall, 54% of Medicare beneficiaries who belong to diverse populatio...

    • 42 min
    Hospital Merger Mania!

    Hospital Merger Mania!

    Here at the Medicare for All Podcast, we love calling out all the bad actors in our healthcare system – greedy insurance companies, soul-less CEOs in Big Pharma,profit-hungry “non-profit hospitals”, and all our favorite villains. Mostly, we look at the ways those predators target sick people and poor people for exploitation, but today we’re looking at what happens when they start fighting each other for a bigger piece of the pie? Specifically, we’re going to explore the world of hospital consolidation – that’s when smaller hospitals merge to form bigger corporate entities who can battle it out with insurance companies to secure more of patients’ healthcare dollars! What does hospital consolidation mean for regular people? No spoilers, but it turns out that when giant healthcare monsters go at each other, much like when Godzilla took on Mothra, it’s the rest of us tiny humans who suffer!


    Show Notes

    Like every major industry in this country, healthcare is full of big corporations that will stop at nothing to get bigger, using the time-honored capitalist techniques of mergers and acquisitions to become HUGE corporations. But, of course, we live in America, where bigger is always better – what could possibly be wrong with bigger, better healthcare companies?

    We start out this episode with a cautionary tale from Massachusetts that began in 1994, when two of Boston’s biggest hospitals merge to create a mega-corporation called “Partners Health,” which over the next two decades bought up… everything. This was a response to a national wave of insurance company mergers and consolidations, which allowed insurers to squeeze both patients and providers under “managed care.” Hospitals, not wanting to be out-squeezed, fought back with their own mergers, ostensibly so they could negotiate with insurance companies.

    Of course, what actually happened was something much more nefarious – and secretive. In fact, we only know any of this happened thanks to the Boston Globe’s illustrious Spotlight reporting team, who dug up the truth in a 2008 article.

    Basically, in 2000, Dr. Samuel O. Thier, chief executive of Partners HealthCare, and William C. Van Faasen, chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts engaged in an unwritten agreement between the two entities without putting it in writing to avoid legal implications. The agreement involved Blue Cross Blue Shield giving significant payment increases to Partners' doctors and hospitals, and in return, Partners would protect Blue Cross from allowing other insurers to pay less, effectively raising insurance prices statewide. This "market covenant" marked the beginning of a period of rapid escalation in Massachusetts insurance prices, leading to a significant annual rise in individual insurance premiums.

    Partners used its clout to negotiate rate increases, pressuring other insurers to match or exceed the payment increases given by Blue Cross, leading to cost increases for consumers. In turn, Partners' significant growth and influence in the healthcare industry compounded the impact of this backroom deal, leading to a substantial rise in medical costs in Massachusetts.

    Partners employed aggressive tactics, resulting in major payment increases benefiting a few powerful hospital companies while leaving others behind. This led to significant payment disparities, with Partners' flagship hospitals earning substantially more than other academic medical centers.

    Partners is an outstanding example of the evils of hospital consolidation, but it’s not an anomaly. This episode was originally inspired by our friends at the Minnesota N...

    Racial Equity in Healthcare

    Racial Equity in Healthcare

    Just this Monday, we celebrated Martin Luther King Day, a tribute to one of the great leaders of the movement for racial justice – but something that often gets forgotten in the flurry of MLK quotes that become memes this time of year is that equity in healthcare was a crucial part of King’s vision. Throughout his career in activism, he often stated his conviction that “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhuman.” Sadly, over 50 years after his death, racial inequity in healthcare is even more shocking and inhuman. Today, we’re joined by public health expert Walter Tsou to do a deep dive into the horrifying world of racial health injustice, how we got here, and how we make real change.


    Show Notes

    The show is joined on MLK Day by Dr. Walter Tsou - past president of the American Public Health Association and former health commissioner of Philadelphia! Gillian asks how Walter dedicated his life to health access and health equity. When Walter graduated from med school he stumbled into a job at a public health clinic in West Philadelphia that treated patients lacking private insurance or the money to afford medications, which gave him his first window into the deep economic, racial, and health divides in the U.S. This launched his career in public health advocacy.

    Walter served as the Health Commissioner of Philadelphia from 2000 - 2002, and to him the most stark racial inequity he had to deal with was the gap in infant mortality - black infants at that time were 2.5 to 3 times as likely to die before reaching age 1 than white infants. Walter looked up the most recent statistics in preparation for the podcast, and the number had barely changed. The traditional way that states are pretending to do something about infant mortality is to create an Office of Equity contained inside their Department of Health that has maybe two staff people. To make a real difference in infant mortality, Walter says, you have to tackle the largest social determinants of health - education, job opportunities, housing, transportation, and so on. Two or four people in an Equity Office aren't going to make a difference - it's window dressing.

    On top of this, Walter says, the U.S. has abandoned most of its community health work, which was widespread under LBJ's Great Society programs after WWII, when community nurses would go into communities and address social determinants of health.

    Gillian backs up to share some of the big-picture distressing findings from the Commonwealth Fund's scorecard on racial equity in U.S. healthcare:

    Provisional life expectancy report released by the CDC in 2020 shows that Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native people live fewer years on average than white people (see data here)

    Black/AIAN individuals more susceptible to chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension

    Higher rate of pregnancy related complications, higher infant mortality rate (see our episode on maternal health for more details)

    Poor healthcare outcomes are driven by higher poverty rates, higher-risk environments, less access to healthcare among communities of color

    Less likely to have health insurance, more likely to incur medical debt, more cost-related barriers to care, less preventative care

    These unequal health outcomes persist across all states in the U.S.

    Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at later stages and to die from breast cancer than white women

    • 52 min
    Mailbag Episode: Super Fans Edition!

    Mailbag Episode: Super Fans Edition!

    It’s that time again folks… time for a Mailbag Episode! We reached out to our whole audience and all our supporters to find the pressing questions on everyone’s mind. Or at least we would have if Gillian hadn’t been too busy eating turkey to email our list. So instead, Gillian reached out personally to some of our superfans (anyone in her contact list who had previously admitted to listening to the show once) to find out what they wanted to hear from us. And here we are, with questions about everything from Ronald Reagan to elder care to dinner table conversation from some of our favorite stans!  


    Show Notes

    Question from Liam Meyer in Massachusetts:

    "Maybe discuss this on your podcast: Facing Financial Ruin as Costs Soar for Elder Care - The New York Times."

    "You could also talk about elder care and how wildly f****d up it is. One especially galling bit is how Medicaid is basically built to just ignore cognitive stuff. Almost all metrics are about physical health so, like, if someone’s grandpa **could** theoretically cook and shower themselves (ie, “He can stand up and walk, he still has hands!”), Medicaid says it all good even if grandpa doesn’t know where the shower is, leaves the stove on all the time, and continually eats spoiled food."

    Answer: "elder care" is a vague term that mooshes together lots of kinds of care for seniors. But "long-term care" is better defined, and has been a major focus of ours in recent years, needed not only by older folks but anyone with a physical or mental disability that means they need help with day-to-day living. Most of us will need long term care at some point in our lives.

    What’s wrong with the U.S. long-term care system?

    We don’t have one! 

    Very few people are insured for long term care

    Medicaid covers the vast majority of long term care services - you have to be or become poor to qualify (except in California, where Medicaid asset limits will be eliminated starting January 1, 2024!) We've heard many stories of people who have had to sell homes or farms, affecting their whole family, in order to become eligible for Medicaid.

    Institutional bias: Medicaid will pay for long term care in a setting like a nursing home, but not home-based care which is cheaper and better for quality of life.

    Check our our long term care episode for much more.

    Questions from Geri Katz in Minnesota:

    "Have you listened to the 1961 Ronald Reagan Speaks Out About Socialized Medicine LP? Why has the AMA historically opposed single payer?"

    Answer: in 1961, before Medicare passed and before he was elected Governor of California, Reagan was a washed up actor talking about how "socialized medicine" would ruin our country. He sounds like a ghoul: “One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it.”

    Reagan was paid by the American Medical Association (AMA) to deliver this speech, which was printed on an LP so you could host a house party with your socialism-hating friends. The AMA has a long history of opposing healthcare reform, such as:

    In 1948 when Truman proposed a national healthcare program - which was supported by an estimated ⅔ of americans - the AMA decried it as socialism and used member dues to fund a pol...

    • 50 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
28 Ratings

28 Ratings

rpswindspirit ,

Retired registered nurse. Love your podcast! Greatly informative with a sense of humor. Thanks.

Must get involved for all Amwricans.

——————-cade ,

A great podcast

Gillian Mason is awesome. She should talk more (and BenDy less). And update the show info so it’s her name. You know, actually, it should just be her show.

GreenWarrior49 ,

We need to serve our braver angels

This may mean listening to people with divergent opinions. We need to build a bigger circle of inclusion to win health care for all. To be candid I align with Bernie. However, if we can’t tolerate a little snark what hope do we have to build the big group of us it will take to make Medicare for all happen?

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