This Week in Health

Because if it bleeds, it leads... Sarah van Schagen rates the environmental impact of feminine hygiene products for Grist.

In all seriousness, this has been a very exciting week in healthcare news. The Bush administration is racing to take away as many reproductive rights as it can before leaving office. The Democrats in Congress are taking the lead on healthcare reform by writing up their own proposal before president Obama takes the Oath of Office.

Last week, Sen. Max Baucus unveiled a detailed proposal to provide health insurance for all Americans. Brian Cook has a roundup of reactions.

Note that the Baucus plan is by no means a call for radical change. The blueprint proposes to fix the healthcare system with the same piecemeal strategies that get trotted out every time Americans talk about healthcare reform. The stated goal is to enable more people to buy "affordable" private health insurance while expanding Medicare and Medicaid for the poor and the elderly.

Why such timidity? As Josh Marshall argues at TPM, Obama's election is a mandate for fundamental structural change in the healthcare system.

The fact is, majority of Americans support single-payer health insurance, even if they'd have to pay higher taxes. Daina Saib reports in YES! that even Republicans are getting on board. Saib introduces us to an unlikely champion of single-payer, Dr. Rocky White, conservative Christian and former Republican who started advocating for single payer when the system made his own practice unmanageable.

As we talk about the dire state of the Big Three automakers, remember that the Canadian auto industry stays competitive because the government takes care of health care, unlike in the 'States where automakers and unions are struggling to pay for it.

Ezra Klein gives us a crash course two strategic approaches to healthcare reform. He explains that there are two basic schools of thought: delivery system reform and financing reform. Delivery reformers hope to make the system work better by bringing down costs and delivering better value for money. Financing reformers focus on how we're going to pay for it all. The Baucus blueprint is financing reform. Repealing Medicare Plan D would be delivery reform.

These two approaches are complimentary. Ezra writes: "[T]he two agendas fit neatly in a comprehensive reform package. Coverage expansion isn't sustainable unless cost growth is slowed. Cost growth can't be slowed without delivery system reform." He notes that The Center for American Progress has a new, free, book on healthcare reform, available for download, here.

The Bush administration is weighing an eleventh hour rules change that could prevent women on Medicaid from receiving birth and deny rape victims emergency contraception and push the country one step closer to theocracy.

The proposed rule would prevent any entity that receives federal funds (e.g., hospitals, universities, etc.) to require employees to "assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity" financed by the Department of Health and Human Services" or participate in abortions or sterilizations if these activities offend their religious or moral convictions.

President-elect Obama has already spoken out against the proposed rules change.

Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones notes that civil rights law already protects employees from discrimination on the basis of religion. In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that enforces the federal employment discrimination law, is strenuously objecting to the new rules because they would create an absolute right to religious accommodation, as opposed to the balance between employer and employee that exists under current law.

With Sarah Palin back in Wasilla, we thought we'd heard the last about victims paying for their own rape kits. Not so fast. While the Violence Against Women Act forbids victim-pay rape kits for civilians, women in the armed services may not enjoy the same protections.

Penny Coleman, writing in AlterNet, explains: "TRICARE, the United States Department of Defense Military Health System that covers active duty members, will only pay for rape kits if the victim is seen in a military or a VA facility." However, service women are being seen in a non-VA facility in the USA, they shouldn't be paying for their rape kits, thanks to VAWA. This shouldn't be happening.

Another sobering statistic: The US military loses the equivalent of a brigade of veterans to suicide each year -- yet more evidence that mental health parity should be a priority in health care reform.

Finally, Stephanie Losee interviews Valerie Frankel, the author of Thin is the New Happy, a memoir about coming to terms with weight and body image in an appearance-obsessed society.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care. Visit for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. And for the best progressive reporting on the ECONOMY, and IMMIGRATION, check out, and

This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.


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