Video Diary: Fighting to Save Public Hospitals, Clinics

Are we witnessing a hostile corporate takeover of the United States of America? The Bush Administration has been quietly and incrementally liquidating our public health safety net in a manner reminiscent of the hostile takeovers so prevalent among corporations in the 1980s and 1990s.

A proposed set of arcane regulation changes unilaterally imposed by the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) will go into effect between now and May 25, if not stopped by Congress. CMS estimates that the new rules will result in a "cost savings" of $15 billion dollars over five years. But who will benefit from these "savings"?

The rules changes will cause widespread cutbacks and closures of the emergency rooms, hospitals, and outpatient and school-based clinics currently serving most Americans. The cash raised by liquidating America's public health safety net is, according to the Washington Post, equivqalent to five weeks of war in Iraq. It represents just 3% of the $500 billion dollar bail-out the president has promised to financiers. It is money and effort taken from the American people and redistributed to wealthy corporate interests.

Concerned, Rhonda Burrows, a health official in Lincoln County New Mexico (home of Billy the Kid), decided to rally her colleagues around the issue. "There are political battles and there are ethical and moral battles," says Burrows, who happens to be a Republican. "This is an everyday issue that effects everyday people, every day." She pauses. "When you go to the ER, they don't ask you if you are Republican or Democrat. They just ask you if you have insurance."

Burrows, who is the Chair of the New Mexico Association of Counties' Health Care Affiliate, decided to rally her troops. Soon New Mexico counties were calling on their legislators and passing resolutions to stop the proposed rules. When Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), and 22 co-sponsors introduced S 2460, they were unable to muster the support needed for passage of their bill. Burrows and her friends decided to do something about it.

In early March, a small horde of New Mexico county health officials descended on Washington to enlist the help of colleagues from other states. Burrows convinced me, ePluribus Media's FatLady, to do something, too. We thought that national media attention might raise awareness and hence, support. Marty Sonnenberg, a video producer for Sun Mountain Media, met me in DC and created this video for YouTube to prove to the networks that Medicaid Rules Changes are exciting.

So here I am, throwing my weight around at Fox News Headquarters:

I have some amateur camcorder footage of me arguing with a Fox News Camera crew as well, along with very, VERY amateur camcorder footage of Senator Bingaman discussing the Medicaid Rules changes, but these discussions are topics for a different diary. The joint effort of the nobodies from New Mexico brought results. Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) introduced H.R. 5613, the “Protecting the Medicaid Safety Net Act of 2008" in the United States Congress. If it passes, H.R. 5613 will impose a one-year moratorium on the seven Medicaid regulations recently issued by CMS. Hey Nobody! You can help! Here's what you can do:

  1. Call your representative and ask him or her to support HR 5613, the Protecting the Medicaid Safety Net Act.
  2. Call your senators and ask them to support a one year blanket moratorium on all new Medicaid Rules Changes. (It is rumored that Senator John Rockefeller [D-WV] will be introducing one shortly).
  3. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper.

All the information that you need to act can be found on the website of the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems . I have also previously diaried the Medicaid Rules changes here. You may remember from the Odyssey, that it was "Nobody" who blinded the Cyclops. Today, in America, a bunch of "Nobodies" acting in concert can save our public health infrastructure, too. Thank you for supporting our effort.

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You are so so so in command of your information. Thank you!

You certainly captured my attention thru the video. The part about N.O. really got to me. Thank goodness for the caregivers that care for the public. None of us know when we will be in a position of need.

We can do better.