06/07/2006 09:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Walking Tour of America's Broken Health Care System

June 7th 2006 is a national day of action for HR 676, Rep. John Conyers' landmark bill to create Medicare for All. To mark this day, California's nurses are taking a walking tour of the country's broken healthcare system. Won't you join us?

Everything you need to know about can be found in just one block of America, a quiet business-park block in a San Fernando Valley town named Woodland Hills. Here we find such the headquarters of such titans of the healthcare world as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Wellpoint, Health Net, and Meridian Healthcare Management.

In just this handful of companies, we find the three values that mark today's system of big-business healthcare: denial of care, cash register politics, and huge profits amidst a growing crisis.

Our tour guide Sue Cannon, RN, starts at Blue Cross, to talk about the corporate need to save money by denying care--hardly the way a health CARE system is supposed to work. We're at Blue Cross because they've just been sued by numerous patients who've for"retroactive denial of coverage." Here's how that works: you get sick and Blue Cross approves a certain medical procedure. Then they go over your original application to see if they can find any inconsistencies; if so, they boot you out of the system, and leave you with the bills they just approved.


Nurse Cannon moves on to Health Net to talk about cash register politics and how it hurts patients. Between 1998 and 2004, healthcare corporations spent $1.2 billion on federal lobbying, winning favors such as George Bush's Medicare Part D Prescription Drug benefit that forces seniors to enroll in a private health plan to qualify for the benefit and blocks the federal government from negotiating drug price discounts. Health Net symbolizes this excess. In California alone, for example, Health Net spent $580,615 lobbying in the 2005-2006 legislative session (to date).


Our final stop is WellPoint, to discuss the disparity between huge healthcare industry profits and the growing crisis of the uninsured. WellPoint used to be a for-profit division of non-profit Blue Cross. Subsequently, it bought Blue Cross of California, turning the whole organization for-profit. Why? In the words of one stock analyst, to "liberate them from their social responsibilities." This liberation led to $2.5 billion in profits in 2005, and $157 million in direct compensation to their top five executives over the past three years. Yet HMOs have led the fight against a universal healthcare system based on a single standard of care for all, despite the fact that some 50 million Americans and over 6 million Californians have no health insurance,.

Denial of care, cash register politics, and record profits from a health care crisis. That's the health care system we enjoy in America today. Thousands of people die unnecessarily each year because of this, and every year we fall further behind countries like Canada and England that haven't handed their health care off to big corporations like these in Woodland Hills.

John Conyers' has a plan to fix this, with Medicare for All, building on the most popular and effective federal program (George Bush's efforts notwithstanding).

California nurses are taking up the fight to help Conyers revive our broken healthcare system. Here's one way you can help: click here and send a message to your members of Congress, telling them it's to extend Medicare to every single American.