Archive for the ‘health insurance’ Category

11/09/09 UPDATE: Harmon Park is safe. According to members of the Save Harmon Park group the Pipestone city council met in closed session again tonight (11/09/09) and when they came out they announced that they had taken a vote and had declined Coborn’s offer for Harmon Park.

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead


If you happen to be a Facebook user then you will know that you often get all kinds of unsolicited invitations to become a fan of someone or something or to join a cause. It is easy to do with a couple of clicks and you can then beat your chest and say, “I support the ____ CAUSE.”  Recently I received a suggestion from a FB friend that I have known for a long time. She suggested that I join the Save Harmon Park cause. My curiosity got to me so I signed up and discovered that the city of Pipestone was considering selling part of their premier city park so that it could be developed  into a Coborn’s Superstore which would include a car wash and a gas station/convenience store. Coborn’s, Inc. is a Minnesota grown corporation founded in 1921 based in St Cloud with locations in the midwest, primarily Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa.

The Pipestone County Star carried the first story, Coborn’s Superstore on the drawing board, about this development on October 7, 2009 and it was soon after that the opposition formed their group.

The Save Harmon Park group has been busy. They now have 276 members in the FB group and are using this social media tool for discussion, communication and organizing. They have contacted news organizations to get their story out, organized a petition drive which garnered 400 signatures to present to the city council, generated numerous letters to the editor and had over 100 people at a recent city council meeting to speak against the sale.

The city of Pipestione has had a rough year. Bayliner shut down its operations and Suzlon announced significant layoffs. The stagnant economy and unallotment by the Governor have also contributed to the tough situations faced by the city council. While the influx of cash from the sale of the park and future property tax collections may seem attractive now the Save Harmon Park group believes that it is short-sighted and I sympathise with them. I think it is a bit arrogant for Coborn’s to believe that the citizens of Pipestone would give up their park without question. I wonder what they were thinking when they were picking their ideal spot for a new store.

Did the conversation go like this?

 “Here is a great location” !

 “But wait, isn’t there a city park there”?

 “So what, our green will trump their green”.

For me, another reason to dislike this idea is Coborn’s political stance on health care reform and the Employee Free Choice Act. They have opposed both and urged their employees to do the same in an internal memo. In a Minnesota Public Radio report, Coborn’s director of communications, Steve Gottwalt says, ” the company frequently shares information with its employees about factors affecting its business”. Steve Gottwalt also happens to have another job as a  Minnesota state representative in district 15A and  is a member of the Republican caucus.

Visit the Pipestone County Star website to keep abreast of the situation and to read the letters to the editor. Here is just one example. If you are on Facebook search Save Harmon Park.

I can’t help but think of this song.

Peace & solidarity,



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An email from David Wellstone alerts us to the possibility of a compromise and final vote on H.R. 1424,  the ”Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2008”. From the Wellstone Action website is this description of the bill:

The Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act is legislation that would end the practice of insurance companies discriminating against people suffering from mental illness. Sponsored by Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Wellstone’s friend Representative Jim Ramstad (R-MN), the bill would compel insurance companies to treat mental illness the same as physical illness, given the overwhelming scientific evidence that mental illness is a disease every bit as real and serious as physical illness. This practice is often referred to as “mental health parity.”

David Wellstone had this to say:

…the final touches are being put on a compromise between the House and Senate, and we believe that a bill could go to the President’s desk next week.  But, if it doesn’t happen then, it’s likely we’d have to start all over again with the new Congress next year.

The Senate and House have passed different versions of the legislation and have been working on settling their differences since the House passed its version in March of this year. 1st District Congressman Tim Walz was a co-sponsor and supporter of this legislation. Representatives John Kline (R-MN2) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN6) were both in the NAY column, continuing their tradition of voting against the best interests of their constituents.

A favorable editorial in the July 5th Minneapolis StarTribune praises the Wellstone family and Congressman Jim Ramstad for their efforts on the bill and concludes their remarks with this:

Many business groups have long opposed coverage parity, saying costs could drive up premiums substantially. But one estimate by the Congressional Budget Office concluded the impact would be relatively small: a 0.4 percent premium increase for group health insurance. In addition, the federal employees’ health plan has had a parity policy since 2001; one study found no significant cost increase as a result. Part of the explanation likely lies in the value of treating mental conditions early and avoiding expensive complications and hospitalization later.

Many states already have laws in place that provide some protection for patients struggling with mental illness or addiction. Minnesota has one of the strongest. A federal law would not preempt those laws. What it would do is make sure no one falls through the cracks. Mental disorders are one of the most devastating diagnoses families can face. Their health insurers should work with them –not against them — at this difficult time.

A final call-in day to members of congress will is scheduled for Wednesday, July 9. Stay tuned for details on the call-in!

David Wellstone testifies before Congress in March of this year:





Peace & solidarity,


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I just caught this on KELO TV. Reporter Jon Wilson has a story about a Vietnam veteran who came close to dying on April 20th, 38 years ago. Gene Murphy now calls that day his Come Alive Day. Paralyzed from his injuries, Murphy has been advocating for better health care for veterans ever since that day. He has a few criticisms of the current health care system for veterans.

After serving a tour in Vietnam, Murphy has a new enemy these days…the American Health Care System, especially when it comes to long-term care for disabled American veterans.

Murphy says, “I guess I didn’t think we would have to fight this hard for adequate budgets…especially for health care in the 38 years since I returned.” 

From heads of state to politicians, even Presidents both present and former, Murphy has been a strong voice in Washington on behalf of disabled vets and says the toughest fight of all seems to be securing benefits that were promised to them by their government. 

Murphy says, “And I’ve heard different administrators say I don’t know if we can afford it right now. And I said wait a minute, you had all kinds of money when we sent these young sons and daughters to wars, so we should have all kinds of money now.” 

Amen to that Mr Murphy!

Read the entire transcript here or watch the video here.

Peace & solidarity,


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Health care has been one of the major issues of this current presidential campaign. Minnesota Central, a frequent visitor to Corner House comments, has left a comment about one of my previous posts which mentioned this issue and H. R. 676. Introduced by Representative John Conyers (D), of Michigan, HR 676 would institute a single payer health care system in the U.S. by expanding a greatly improved Medicare system to every resident.

A recent email from Unions for a Single Payer described H. R. 676 as this:
HR 676 would cover every person in the U. S. for all necessary medical
care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient
services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental
health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for
substance abuse), vision care, chiropractic and long term care.  HR 676
ends deductibles and co-payments.  HR 676 would save billions annually by
eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance
industry and HMOs.

HR 676 currently has 88 co-sponsors in addition to Conyers. Currently, the only member of the Minnesota congressional delegation that I am aware of to sign on as a co-sponsor is Rep. Keith Ellison, (DFL) from the 5th CD.

HR 676 has been endorsed by 367 union organizations in 48 states including
95 Central Labor Councils and Area Labor Federations and 32 state
MN, ME, AR, MD-DC, TX, IA, AZ, TN, OR, GA, OK, KS, CO, IN, AL & CA). The Minnesota AFL-CIO is one of the state federations that has passed a resolution of support.

UPDATE: 02/10/2008: additional endorsers of HR676 in Minnesota include: Duluth Central Labor Body/AFL-CIO, Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), Southern Dakota County Labor Council/ AFL-CIO, Apple Valley, MN, Minnesota State Council of Machinists, IAMAW, Vandais Heights, MN, Council 5, AFSCME, St. Paul, MN,  and United Steelworkers (USW) Region 10 (which includes Minnesota).

Jason over at IDHA takes a look at the issue and the recent recommendations from the Minnesota’s task force appointed by Governor Tim Pawlenty.

It is always good to have thoughtful dialogue about the issues but I think we have about maxed out on dialogue, task forces, and commissions. The health care system is not a crisis, it is a disaster! Conyers’s H. R. 676 is ready to act on whenever our political leaders decide to stop talking and start passing legislation.

Contact your representatives and tell them to support H. R. 676, the United States National Health Insurance Act.

Peace & solidarity,


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Thanks to Eric Lee over at LabourStart  for bringing to our attention this video from Australia:

Manic Times asks ‘What Have The Unions Ever Done For Us?’


Peace and solidarity


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Transit workers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota face an uncertain future as the deadline of their contract with Laidlaw Transit Services, Inc. is set to expire. Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1356 have been working under an extension of their old contract since March of 2006 and recently voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. It comes as no surprise to me that the major item of contention is over health insurance. Laidlaw’s last, best offer would make employees pay a share of their insurance premium. In the previous contract the company paid the entire premium. Workers would see a net loss in their paychecks because the meager pay increases would not cover the premium hike. Read the Argus Leader story here.

Laidlaw claims that insurance premiums have increased 32 percent in the last year and I have no evidence to dispute that figure. Rising health care costs is a national crisis and yet many of our elected officials drag their feet on finding a solution. More and more people are forced to go without insurance or see smaller paychecks. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) has introduced H.R. 676, The United States National Health Insurance Act. It would establish a publicly financed, privately delivered single payer health care system based on expanding and improving Medicare.

Time will tell how this labor dispute will play out but it is almost certain it will happen again and again all over the country until ‘we the people’ demand an end to inaction and adoption of a single payer system. Take action here.

Peace & solidarity,


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