When I testified before Congress last year, I told lawmakers that if they passed a health care reform bill with an individual mandate but no public option, they might as well call their bill the "Health Insurance Profit Protection and Enhancement Act." Well, of course, that is exactly what Congress did, but they didn't change the name of the new law as I suggested. I was as upset as anyone that the public option was stripped out, but I nevertheless later said that Congress should still pass the bill because of the protections it contained against common predatory practices by insurers, like canceling breast cancer patients' insurance in the midst of treatment and refusing to sell coverage at any price to people with pre-existing conditions. The bill also expands Medicaid to encompass several million Americans who cannot afford to buy overpriced and often inadequate health insurance.
We hear it everywhere this election season. Candidates, ads and TV pundits say we have "too much big government!" Virtually any attempt to regulate or tax any industry is a government intrusion into our lives. Candidates say they want less government. What's up with this ubiquitous, anti-government theme?
The "Government intrusion" argument is a powerful propaganda theme that has been around for a long time, and one that big businesses often use to manipulate public opinion. As with so many other corporate-derived propaganda tools, the anti-government theme originated largely with the tobacco industry, which has relied on it for decades to get its way in public policy.
Earlier this week I asked you to send thank-you notes to one of America's biggest health insurers for helping to shed light on an important policy matter. If you did, thank you, but please don't put your good stationery away just yet. You need to write yet another note of gratitude -- this time to our state insurance commissioners. This morning they did the right thing for consumers when they refused to cave in to intense pressure from the profit-obsessed insurance industry to gut an important provision of the health care reform law.
Thank you, UnitedHealth Group. Your jaw-dropping profit announcement may be just what the doctor ordered.
Recently, we expressed concern about the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) testing iris-scanning technology on immigrants detained at the border. Since posting that entry, the Center for Media and Democracy has obtained a copy of the DHS “Privacy Impact Assessment” for the technology’s test run, and we are now even more concerned that DHS has not adequately considered this technology's serious implications for privacy and civil liberties.
One hundred church pastors across the U.S. participated in the Alliance Defense Fund's third annual "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," an overt campaign in which pastors deliberately break the law by endorsing candidates for public office from the pulpit. Federal tax law prohibits tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, including churches, from endorsing candidates for political office.
Last week, USA Today reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was to begin testing new iris-scanning technology that stores digital images of people's eyes in a database. The two-week test of the new technology is to be conducted on immigrants that officers from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency encounter at the border. Iris-scanning technology conjures fears of Big Brother totalitarianism, brings to mind science-fiction films like Minority Report, and has drawn the ire of civil liberties groups. American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Christopher Calabrese tells USA Today that many fear that the iris-scanning cameras could be used covertly. "If you can identify any individual at a distance and without their knowledge, you literally allow the physical tracking of a person anywhere there's a camera and access to the Internet."
The reported drawdown in American troops from Iraq has been portrayed as a "withdrawal of the U.S." from Iraq, but it is really just a pretend end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The removal of combat forces still leaves 50,000 so-called "military trainers" in the country, a huge number of American troops compared to eight years ago, when there weren't any in Iraq at all.