Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 24, 2007

Health care cuts

Filed under: health and fitness — louisproyect @ 7:26 pm

Yesterday, an article in my home-town newspaper described the uncertain status of the local hospital in light of announced health care cuts:

Catskill Regional Medical Center (CRMC) officials are so concerned about Governor Eliot Spitzer’s proposed budget, they called a press conference about it Wednesday.

The very life of the Harris and Callicoon hospitals might be at stake, they said.

“The Medicaid reductions proposed by the governor threaten the existence of this hospital,” Chief Financial Officer Nick Lanza told the media. “The proposal reduces revenue by $1.25 million… threatening our turnaround efforts.

“Our facility cannot withstand further cuts.”

Spitzer’s proposed reductions are in addition to cuts proposed by President George W. Bush, the combined effect of which Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther said could cost CRMC $8 million over the next four years.

If that happens, the 29-year nurse added, “we will not have healthcare in Sullivan County.”

“I think it’s very clear we’re on the edge of a precipice,” observed Priscilla Bassett, president of the Senior Legislative Action Committee (SLAC). “For us seniors, this is the only place that has its doors open to everyone.”

NY State Governor Elliot Spitzer

My mother is one of those seniors that Ms Bassett is speaking about. She has been in the Special Nursing Unit (the geriatrics ward, basically) for about three years. As a Medicaid recipient, she is affected by a $1.2 billion cut in health care recently announced by the new Governor Elliot Spitzer. Despite his liberal credentials, he has joined George W. Bush in targeting the most vulnerable members of society.

Dennis Rivera: hospital workers union leader

Since its dues-paying members would also be affected by the cuts, Local 1199 of SEIU has announced a campaign to fight the cuts. Although he will be stepping down shortly as President of 1199, Dennis Rivera continues to be the union’s public voice on this matter. The NY Times reported on February 13:

Mr. Rivera said he planned to have other union locals and employers create “education funds” through payroll deductions and to have health care workers nationwide raise $20 million a year for political contributions, mostly to federal campaigns.

“I will try to reproduce what we do in New York,” he said. “In a short period of time, it will become the largest political action committee in the United States.”

Mr. Rivera repeatedly used the phrase “the Bush-Spitzer cuts,” and said that an essential part of the campaign’s message in New York would link the governor, a Democrat, to the president, a Republican.

I am not sure how seriously one can take Rivera’s use of the Republican Party as a kind of bogeyman, since 1199 backed George Pataki for governor in the last election. When Pataki threatened health care cuts of the sort that Spitzer has just announced, 1199 launched a campaign against him. After Pataki relented, the union decided that he was not that bad after all.

This kind of maneuvering between the Democrats and the Republicans is a strategy associated with Andy Stern, the president of Local 1199’s parent union, the SEIU, which just bolted from the AFL-CIO along with the Teamsters. In 2004 the SEIU gave more than $500,000 to the Republican Governor’s Association. Rivera’s name is being bandied about as a possible successor to Stern. Considering his alliance with Pataki, this makes perfect sense.

It is very hard for me to imagine what it would be like without the Catskill Regional Hospital. There’s another nursing home in the area but we can’t be guaranteed that there will be space for my mother, nor can we be sure that the Medicaid cuts won’t affect the other place as well.

Basically, the ruling class and its two parties have decided that the costs of caring for the aged has to be covered by the children, even if it means losing one’s entire life savings, as surely would be the case if I had to pay for private care for my mom.

In 2005, I wrote a Marxist analysis of the problem of aging that was picked up by MRZine. It began as follows:

In May of 2004, my mother finally went into a nursing home after three years of mounting health problems. Many baby boomers besides me have also found themselves coping with the difficulties of looking after aging parents who can barely care for themselves, just as they near retirement age. It is analogous to the burden one assumes in raising a child, but without compensating joys. This generational drama involves intense personal and social pressures. Inevitably, questions of one’s own mortality, too, are posed for the middle-aged son or daughter of a parent struggling to remain independent. When you reach sixty, as I have, you begin to realize that you too are susceptible to failing health. You are also confronted with major economic challenges, since the costs of care for the elderly are enormous in a capitalist society racing to eradicate the last vestiges of the welfare state.

It was tough enough for me to deal with getting my mom to go into a nursing home. That won’t be one-thousandth as tough of a proposition as getting her into a new facility.

Spitzer says that he wants to cut medical costs out of deference to the middle-class voters who elected him. I strongly suspect that a lot of these middle-class people will find merit in Local 1199’s counter-offensive, especially since the question of wasted money seems more egregious elsewhere:

A House committee report on Tuesday questioned whether some of the billions of dollars in cash shipped to Iraq after the American invasion — mostly in huge, shrink-wrapped stacks of $100 bills — might have ended up with the insurgent groups now battling American troops…

Hailed by Republicans and Democrats alike when he last testified at a Congressional hearing in 2004, Mr. Bremer found himself the target of sharp criticism from Democrats on Tuesday. They questioned whether his decisions might help to explain the continuing turmoil in Iraq. He stepped down from his Iraq post in June 2004.

”I acknowledged that I made mistakes,” Mr. Bremer said. ”And with the benefit of hindsight, I would have made some decisions differently.” But he said that given the chaos he found after arriving in Iraq in May 2003, ”I think we made great progress under some of the most difficult conditions imaginable.”

Mr. Waxman, whose panel is pursuing investigations of fraud and abuse by the federal government and its contractors in Iraq, said he found it remarkable that the Bush administration had decided to send billions of dollars of American currency into Iraq so quickly after the United States occupied the country.

The committee calculated that the $12 billion in cash, most of it in the stacks of $100 bills, weighed 363 tons and had to been flown in on wooden pallets aboard giant C-130 military cargo planes. ”Who in their right mind would send 360 tons of cash into a war zone?” Mr. Waxman said. ”That’s exactly what our government did.”

NY Times, February 7, 2007


  1. It is not new to either of us, to see progressives turn a blind-eye, to Democratic Party reactionary activities.

    Comment by Renegade Eye — February 25, 2007 @ 10:55 pm


    June 02, 2007

    By Profesor Martin Danenberg
    “El Quijote del GED”

    The proposed national health plan may be doomed to failure again and not because of Hillary Clinton. I attended a labor breakfast where the principal speakers were Dennis Rivera and Marie Gottschalk. Rivera is president of the powerful 1199 and Gottschalk is associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania. They must know that the immigration movement has failed to educate the undocumented immigrants and now the Congress is requiring education of those immigrants. They must know that our schools have 700,000 dropouts each year. They must know that crime and gangs are on the rise across the United States. And they must know that people want a greater accountability for spending of tax payer’s money and reduced taxes. The money for the health plan can come from various savings that we know come from better health coverage and from the plan that I have outlined below. Dennis Rivera should know that not enough Hispanics are entering union jobs after being apprentices because half of the Hispanic adult population needs a GED and he must know that not enough Hispanics are going into civil service for the very same reason.

    The health plan concept needs broader support from the American people to overcome all of the powerful interests that want to defeat it.

    Uniting the health care issue with GED, immigration and citizenship (and voter registration), gang prevention, and tax savings would be a win-win situation for everyone. About forty million people (adults and potential voters) need the GED and about ten million of them are undocumented immigrants. Americans are very concerned about gangs and the spike in crime among our youth. Tax savings can be obtained by keeping most of the 700,000 dropouts in school or helping those youth get a GED faster.
    There may be a close correlation with the insurance needs of New York residents and the GED and this may be true nationwide. The poverty that we saw as a result of Katrina was due to centuries of neglect starting with slavery and an educational system that impacted harshly on the poor including African-Americans in that region.

    Tens of billions of dollars could be saved by turning our youth on to education and keeping them off social service rolls. Then there is the benefit to Americans who are denied tax reductions because the Congress has decided to give reductions to the rich. I have been saying for two years that we can give a trillion dollars in refunds to those who are not rich and require that the adjusted portion be placed in a retirement account where the money would be invested just the way we all invest (the rich too). These funds will help all Americans when they are ready to retire and keep the economy as strong as it would be with the investment money of the rich. In fact, the American people should demand a refund for previous years where the wealthy received these benefits.

    Rivera and Gottschalk should see the wisdom of uniting forces to provide a package that American people can buy into with their votes and support. Health insurance is a priority but by building up the entire infrastructure Americans can progress in the 21st Century and that build up cannot be done separately because of the correlation that exists among the parts among our nation’s poor.

    ISLANDIA, NY 11749

    Comment by martin n danenberg — June 3, 2007 @ 3:00 am

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