The Case for Postal-Style Healthcare

Here is a nifty little article suggesting that public healthcare should be run like the Post Office. The idea is that the Post Office serves as a stimulus to private industry to do a better and more efficient job. Hence, the success of United Parcel Service.


You’ve heard the refrain: If the government ran healthcare, it would be just like the U.S. Postal Service. And nobody wants that.



Or do we? The USPS, an independent government agency, is the convenient butt of jokes regarding poor service, rude employees, and occasional government mangling of personal property. It routinely borrows from the government to cover operating losses and endures disruptive political meddling in basic management decisions.

Despite the disparaging clichés, however, the Postal Service has some attributes that might make it a strong model for healthcare. It provides a basic service that’s not available from the private sector. To people without health coverage, postal-style healthcare might be a lot better than none at all. If service in a government healthcare plan turned out to be surly, that might even be a good thing: It would ensure a healthy market for better-run private plans, reducing fears of a government takeover. Oh, yeah, there’s one other thing: In
customer satisfaction surveys, the Postal Service already scores higher than health insurers.

Postal put-downs imply that private-sector businesses are more prompt, courteous, and efficient than anything run by the government. But that’s not always true. Some companies prioritize quality and service, but others have a habit of cutting corners to reduce costs and increase profits. That’s why shoppers struggle at the self-checkout line in grocery and home-improvement stores, and it takes forever to get a live human on the customer-support hotline. Microsoft is one of the most profitable companies in the world, but when was the last time a friendly employee came on the line to help you solve a problem with Windows or Excel? Instead, Microsoft shunts you off to its help and support Web site to hunt around for solutions. (Maybe that’s one reason it’s so profitable.)

Firms like FedEx and UPS compete with some of the services the Postal Service offers. That’s because they’ve targeted parts of the delivery business that can be profitable if run efficiently. But they want nothing to do with universal mail delivery, which would be a guaranteed money-loser. Gee, that sounds a lot like insurance companies that want to cherry-pick the profitable parts of the healthcare business, offering care to healthy people with employers who can help pay the premiums while steering clear of people with costly problems or less money to spend.

In the mail business, the Postal Service is the deliverer of last resort, required by law to provide a “fundamental service” to the American people “at fair and reasonable rates.” But our healthcare system doesn’t have a last-resort provider offering basic service at reasonable rates. As a nation, we support universal mail delivery but not universal healthcare.


Let’s just assume that if there ever is a federal healthcare option, it will be as inefficient as we consider the post office to be. So what? If service were poor, plan participants would have an incentive to look elsewhere for care, the way most businesses requiring quick package delivery choose FedEx or UPS over the Postal Service. Since private plans would presumably be more efficient, they’d have a built-in competitive advantage and would still appeal to employers and individuals who can afford their own coverage. The postal-style plan, meanwhile, would provide basic service to a lot of people who couldn’t get it anywhere else–while providing fresh fodder, valid or not, for the late-night comedians.
Rick Newman

Better Dead Than Fire Engine Red

            Arguing that when you let the fire department put out your flaming house you put your property in the hands of Big Government Fire, the group Million Strong Against our Socialist Fire Departments says there should be no public option for fire care. 

           They also suggest privatizing other public services – police, post office, water, sewer, roads, sewers, busses, subways, parks, libraries, the military – with trusted companies like Halliburton, Wal-Mart and Burger King taking them on, preferably with goody bags with purchase. Abby Zimet, Common Dreams

UPS and Healthcare Reform

Here is an interesting argument taken from The Examiner comparing the current healthcare dilemma to competition between UPS and the US Post Office. It’s worth a read:


“Among other things, these protesters claim that a public option will drive their beloved insurance companies out of business. Before you fall for this argument, consider what happened with mail delivery, but in reverse. It used to be there was only one mail carrier, the U.S. Postal Service. When competition was introduced, companies like Federal Express and United Parcel Service stepped in to offer additional features and benefits, but usually at a higher price.”


“What happened?  Well, we now have choices.  If you want a “Cadillac system” (i.e. overnight delivery) you can choose Fed-Ex.  If you want reliable 2-day delivery, choose UPS. The U.S. Postal Service is arguably more efficient than before, and most of our regular mail is still delivered on time.  Recently, the U.S. Postal Service has even been advertising for fixed price parcel shipments of multiple weights and sizes, anywhere in America.”


“The key thing to remember is if you don’t want to use the proposed public (government) option then you won’t be required to, any more than you are required to use the Post Office for package delivery.  Isn’t this what private enterprise is all about? Personally, I don’t think it will be difficult for private insurance companies to compete with a new public option, especially after they cut the fat salaries of unnecessary middle men, streamline bureaucratic procedures, and implement much needed electronic medical record keeping, privacy scares aside.”

Meanwhile, UPS remains publicly silent on the issue of healthcare reform. The Atlantic-Journal Constitution has this to say on UPS and the currrent battle before Congress:

Atlanta’s biggest businesses have some very big concerns about the proposed reform of health care.

Marquee companies like Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola, United Parcel Service and Home Depot aren’t endorsing any of the current plans. Some won’t even discuss the issue publicly.

Most support the general idea of reforming the current system in an effort to stem the soaring cost of providing health care to employees, which by some measures has more than doubled during this decade.

Norman Black, a spokesman for UPS, headquartered in Sandy Springs, said that “as a general rule” the shipping giant supports health care reform. The company has 345,000 U.S. employees and spent $3 billion on health care premiums last year. It provides health care to all employees, even part-timers, many of whom are covered under union contracts.

Ralph J. Neas, CEO of National Coalition on Health Care, said that over the last decade health care costs shot up 120 percent while wages increased only 34 percent.

“We can’t face these kinds of increasing costs forever,” UPS’ Black said. “Eventually it impacts our competitiveness in the global marketplace.”


However, UPS has not taken a position on proposals floating around Congress. And Black said the company is adamant about what should not be in the bill: No new mandates or taxes that would increase costs for employers.


“That’s a non-starter for us,” he said. “ We don’t think any additional costs should be placed on an employer who is already providing comprehensive care.”

Common Sense 2009

The American government — which we once called our government — has been taken over by Wall Street, the mega-corporations and the super-rich. They are the ones who decide our fate. It is this group of powerful elites, the people President Franklin D. Roosevelt called “economic royalists,” who choose our elected officials — indeed, our very form of government. Both Democrats and Republicans dance to the tune of their corporate masters. In America, corporations do not control the government. In America, corporations are the government.

This was never more obvious than with the Wall Street bailout, whereby the very corporations that caused the collapse of our economy were rewarded with taxpayer dollars. So arrogant, so smug were they that, without a moment’s hesitation, they took our money — yours and mine — to pay their executives multimillion-dollar bonuses, something they continue doing to this very day. They have no shame. They don’t care what you and I think about them. Henry Kissinger refers to us as “useless eaters.”


The reason Wall Street was able to game the system the way it did — knowing that they would become rich at the expense of the American people (oh, yes, they most certainly knew that) — was because the financial elite had bribed our legislators to roll back the protections enacted after the Stock Market Crash of 1929.


Congress gutted the Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial lending banks from investment banks, and passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which allowed for self-regulation with no oversight. The Securities and Exchange Commission subsequently revised its rules to allow for even less oversight — and we’ve all seen how well that worked out. To date, no serious legislation has been offered by the Obama administration to correct these problems.


I’m calling for a national strike, one designed to close the country down for a day. The intent? Real campaign-finance reform and strong restrictions on lobbying. Because nothing will change until we take corporate money out of politics. Nothing will improve until our politicians are once again answerable to their constituents, not the rich and powerful.


Let’s set a date. No one goes to work. No one buys anything. And if that isn’t effective — if the politicians ignore us — we do it again. And again. And again.


The real war is not between the left and the right. It is between the average American and the ruling class. If we come together on this single issue, everything else will resolve itself. It’s time we took back our government from those who would make us their slaves.
Larry Flynt

The Company is Willing to Risk Tier 3 Accidents

What will this do to my stops per hour?A number of interesting developments have taken place with the implementation of Telematics. Drivers have started to slow down, driving the speed limit, closing the bulkhead doors, parking legally, generally working safely. Along with Telematics has been the new “production push”. Suddenly every managers head is on the chopping block, and their ass in the wringer to improve production by first 10%, then 25%, then 40%. Meanwhile they have been terminating their hot dogger types for records falsification, and many of the usual delivery tricks that improve production. With all of the scrutiny from the Lord and Master using Telematics, the only way left for production to be improved is to promote driving faster than the legal speed limit. I have had a manager literally tell me that “I have permission to drive five to ten miles an hour over the speed limit”, in order to improve production. The managers know that the Lord and Master’s I.E. people are not looking at speeding using Telematics. They only look if there’s some kind of issue. They will look if a driver crashes to see if he or she was exceeding the speed limit. You can bet they look very close in a tier 3 accident situation. So what are they telling me? They are telling me to risk my job and safety to improve their production. They claim Telematics was put in to improve safety. The fact is they don’t care about safety. The system was put in for harassment and nothing else. It is the ultimate in controlling all of the thieves that work for them. Since most managers sold their souls to be where they are, they think the rest of us should do the same. No matter what you do for them, to make them successful, they will be on your ass like a rabid dog if anything happens. The system is designed to weed out the higher paid senior driver that slips up for any reason. Why pay the benefits, and the wage, when you can get some freaked out youngster. who is happy to have a job at 13 bucks an hour, to throw their stuff away. If he or she gets to out of hand, they can just throw them away and start over again. God forbid the youngster should want to make a career out of this job. The days of this company being about it’s people are over. Nowadays it’s all about the bottom line, and everyone of you is expendable in the pursuit of profit. Their attitude is “haul ass, just don’t crash”.

The Tactics of a Rebel

Making my beliefs bigger than I am!The current debate at the different town hall meetings over health care has brought back some fond memories. Back in ’95 my friend George and I set out with a simple plan. Take over our Teamsters local. Rather daunting trying to gain control of a multi-million dollar operation. We enlisted the help of an old guy that went back to the early days of the union. He taught us how to raise hell with the powers that be. One of the tactics he taught us was how to behave at the monthly meetings. He taught us to spread out to give the impression of numbers. Put a guy in the back, put a guy to the far left, put a guy right up front on top of the officers. He taught us to raise an issue with every issue that came up. Don’t let the officers run a smooth meeting. Take control of the meeting, and in the process express your dissatisfaction with what is going on. The idea was to spread your hate and dissent, and hopefully influence the other members around you. Any of you in our local know the history, but my point here is to show what has been happening with the Health care debate. What the republicans lack in numbers, they are trying to make up for in the Tactics of a Rebel. It makes their voice seem louder, and their numbers seem bigger. Hopefully many of you have witnessed their tactics and see them for what they are. They are designed to keep you from getting a decent health care system with the current health care reform debate. Please take the time to contact your Senators, and Representatives to let them know how you truly feel in this debate.
                                 Don’t let the Rebels take  control of your life!

Contact the President!
Contact your Senator!
Contact your Representative!

UPS Sued for $100M in OT Pay

            It looks like UPS is getting sued again for forcing employees to work on their own time. UPS has paid out millions of dollars over the years to drivers who work through their lunch hours and then retire or quit and sue for lost wages. Now a fed up account rep has filed suit and is seeking class action status. UPS pushes its people very hard and sometimes they push back. I’m not surprised, are you?


A California woman has sued United Parcel Service Inc., claiming the Atlanta-based shipping giant has withheld some $100 million in overtime wages from account managers it employs across the country.


The suit, filed in federal court in San Diego by Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP on behalf of UPS account manager Laura Meza, seeks class action.


The law firm said UPS account managers go door-to-door to businesses throughout the country to promote UPS’ portfolio of delivery services. UPS requires these employees to work up to 60 hours a week but claims that these workers do not deserve to get overtime pay.


The suit alleges UPS (NYSE: UPS) does not pay its account managers overtime wages for work in excess of 40 hours a week and eight hours a day; fails to provide these workers with mandatory meal periods and rest breaks; and fails to keep accurate records of the hours these employees work.


“My day starts at 6 a.m., when I have to go to the office to get my daily manifest lists and respond to calls and e-mails from customers and supervisors,” Meza said in a news release. “From 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., I’m out in the field pitching UPS products to customers. When I finally come home, I have to keep responding to work e-mails. And even on weekends, vacations and sick days, I’m routinely expected to do paperwork, calls and e-mails for work. That’s the grinding routine that UPS requires of all of us account managers.”


The suit asks that UPS be forced to pay Meza and other account managers $100 million in total unpaid wages, including all damages permitted by California and federal wage and hour laws.
Triangle Business Journal

Will We Get What We Deserve?

     All Americans deserve affordable healthcare. There should not be children in this country whose parents cannot afford to take them to the doctor. Some families have insurance and still can’t afford to go the doctor. The healthcare industry should be ashamed that there are families that have insurance with a $5000 deductible and $600/mo. premiums, while insurance industry CEO’s make millions of dollars a year. Ron Williams of Aetna, had a total compensation in 2008 of $24,300,112. Does anyone really deserve 24 milliion dollars while children go without healthcare? I don’t think so.
      Now I’m a single-payer guy, I think Medicare for everyone is the way to go. It works for our parents and our grandparents and I don’t hear any complaints that it’s a government program and should be dismantled. I think my parents deserved low cost healthcare in their old age and I’m glad they got it. I don’t hear anyone at the townhall meetings this summer saying we should abandon Medicare because it smells like socialism. 
      In 2008 we voted in the Democrats because we wanted change. But corporate America is going to resist change. When the Congress began to debate a public option that would create competition for the healthcare industry and cost savings for Americans, corporations pushed back. They went into action and mobilized the right wing with money and rhetoric and we sat back while they took control of the debate and killed any effective change. We let them do it. I don’t think we are going to get the change we voted for. Instead I think we a going to get what we deserve. 
      For 20 years as a union steward I fought the apathy of the general membership that believed that once they joined the union, they no longer needed to participate and could go to sleep because the union would fix things. A good example of this is how the union has attempted to use the Internet to strenghten its collective voice. How many of you have joined the IBT email activist list? How many of you send an email to your Congressman when the IBT or your Local asks you too. When our Local tried to set up an email activist list, they got less than 100 participants out of 5000 members. People are lazy and they want someone else to do the work.
      On the healthcare reform issue, the corporations are going to do the work and we are going to pay the bill. We are too lazy to get involved. We won’t stand up and shout out that we want change. We expect our elected President to do it. But his voice is only so loud and when big money shouts him down and we remain silent, then we are going to get what we deserve. I’ve never seen a for-profit corporation that was set up and run for the good of the people. They are in business for profit. Profit before people. 
      If we let corporations run our government, then we are going to get what we deserve and we are going to  get it good and hard.

Op Ed




Published: August 17, 2009


It’s never a contest when the interests of big business are pitted against the public interest. So if we manage to get health care “reform” this time around it will be the kind of reform that benefits the very people who have given us a failed system, and thus made reform so necessary.






Bob Herbert



Forget about a crackdown on price-gouging drug companies and predatory insurance firms. That’s not happening. With the public pretty well confused about what is going on, we’re headed — at best — toward changes that will result in a lot more people getting covered, but that will not control exploding health care costs and will leave industry leaders feeling like they’ve hit the jackpot.

The hope of a government-run insurance option is all but gone. So there will be no effective alternative for consumers in the market for health coverage, which means no competitive pressure for private insurers to rein in premiums and other charges. (Forget about the nonprofit cooperatives. That’s like sending peewee footballers up against the Super Bowl champs.)


Insurance companies are delighted with the way “reform” is unfolding. Think of it: The government is planning to require most uninsured Americans to buy health coverage. Millions of young and healthy individuals will be herded into the industry’s welcoming arms. This is the population the insurers drool over.


This additional business — a gold mine — will more than offset the cost of important new regulations that, among other things, will prevent insurers from denying coverage to applicants with pre-existing conditions or imposing lifetime limits on benefits. Poor people will either be funneled into Medicaid, which will have its eligibility ceiling raised, or will receive a government subsidy to help with the purchase of private insurance.


If the oldest and sickest are on Medicare, and the poorest are on Medicaid, and the young and the healthy are required to purchase private insurance without the option of a competing government-run plan — well, that’s reform the insurance companies can believe in.


And then there are the drug companies. A couple of months ago the Obama administration made a secret and extremely troubling deal with the drug industry’s lobbying arm, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. The lobby agreed to contribute $80 billion in savings over 10 years and to sponsor a multimillion-dollar ad campaign in support of health care reform.


The White House, for its part, agreed not to seek additional savings from the drug companies over those 10 years. This resulted in big grins and high fives at the drug lobby. The White House was rolled. The deal meant that the government’s ability to use its enormous purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices was off the table.


The $80 billion in savings (in the form of discounts) would apply only to a certain category of Medicare recipients — those who fall into a gap in their drug coverage known as the doughnut hole — and only to brand-name drugs. (Drug industry lobbyists probably chuckled, knowing that some patients would switch from generic drugs to the more expensive brand names in order to get the industry-sponsored discounts.)


To get a sense of how sweet a deal this is for the drug industry, compare its offer of $8 billion in savings a year over 10 years with its annual profits of $300 billion a year. Robert Reich, who served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, wrote that the deal struck by the Obama White House was very similar to the “deal George W. Bush struck in getting the Medicare drug benefit, and it’s proven a bonanza for the drug industry.”


The bonanza to come would be even larger, he said, “given all the Boomers who will be enrolling in Medicare over the next decade.”


While it is undoubtedly important to bring as many people as possible under the umbrella of health coverage, the way it is being done now does not address what President Obama and so many other advocates have said is a crucial component of reform — bringing the ever-spiraling costs of health care under control. Those costs, we’re told, are hamstringing the U.S. economy, making us less competitive globally and driving up the budget deficit.


Giving consumers the choice of an efficient, nonprofit, government-run insurance plan would have moved us toward real cost control, but that option has gone a-glimmering. The public deserves better. The drug companies, the insurance industry and the rest of the corporate high-rollers have their tentacles all over this so-called reform effort, squeezing it for all it’s worth.


Meanwhile, the public — struggling with the worst economic downturn since the 1930s — is looking on with great anxiety and confusion. If the drug companies and the insurance industry are smiling, it can only mean that the public interest is being left behind.

The Truth About the Public Option

New Poll Shows Tremendous Support for Public Health Care Option




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Eighty-three percent of Americans favor and only 14 percent oppose “creating a new public health insurance plan that anyone can purchase” according to EBRI, a conservative business research organization. This flatly contradicts conservatives’ loudest attack against President Obama’s plan to provide quality, affordable health care for all.


The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) calls itself “the most authoritative and objective source of information” on the issues of employee retirement and health benefits. Founded in 1978, EBRI says it “is the gold standard for private analysts and decision makers, government policymakers, the media, and the public.” And EBRI is funded by many of the largest corporations in America.


EBRI’s biggest donors include: AT&T, Bank of America, Boeing, General Dynamics, General Mills, IBM, JBMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Northop Grumman, Schering-Plough, Schwab, T.Rowe Price, UBS Financial, and Wal-Mart. EBRI also receives large contributions from the insurance industry, including: Blue Cross Blue Shield, CIGNA, Hartford, Kaiser Permanente, Massachusetts Mutual, Metropolitan Life, Union Labor Life, and UnitedHealth.


Here’s who paid for the poll, as stated by EBRI:



This survey was made possible with support from AARP, American Express, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Buck Consultants, Chevron, Deere & Company, IBM, Mercer, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Principal Financial Group, Schering-Plough Corp., Shell Oil Company, The Commonwealth Fund, and Towers Perrin.


So clearly, no one can accuse this organization of being “liberal” on health care issues.


These findings are from EBRI’s 2009 Health Confidence Survey, their 12th annual poll:



Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose the following:


Creating a new public health insurance plan that anyone can purchase:
• Strongly support—53 percent
• Somewhat support—30 percent
• Somewhat oppose—5 percent
• Strongly oppose—9 percent


Having national rules requiring insurance companies to cover all people, regardless of their health problems:
• Strongly support—55 percent
• Somewhat support—25 percent
• Somewhat oppose—9 percent
• Strongly oppose—9 percent


Expanding government programs, such as Medicare or Medicaid:
• Strongly support—45 percent
• Somewhat support—30 percent
• Somewhat oppose—9 percent
• Strongly oppose—12 percent


Requiring all employers to pay toward subsidized health insurance for employees:
• Strongly support—42 percent
• Somewhat support—33 percent
• Somewhat oppose—10 percent
• Strongly oppose—12 percent


Requiring everyone to participate in some kind of health insurance plan:
• Strongly support—38 percent
• Somewhat support—30 percent
• Somewhat oppose—13 percent
• Strongly oppose—16 percent


Despite clear public support for these provisions—all of which are likely to be in the Democrats’ health care reform legislation—conservatives won’t go along. The biggest battle right now is over the public plan option. As commentator Al Hunt points out:



Although almost half of Americans are already covered by a public health plan, inclusion of a government option is a deal-killer for most Republicans and [some] Democrats…


The Congressional Progressive Caucus says it is a deal-killer if the public option is left out of the health care reform legislation. Get ready for a titanic tug of war.


There was another new health care poll in the news today, this one by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg. Although the specifics aren’t yet released, he talks about his polling in the New Republic. I point it out because it echoes two important points I made last week in a somewhat controversial post called “Why Not Single-Payer?”


I said “About 3/4ths of insured Americans are satisfied with their health insurance.” Greenberg says: “Yet three-quarters are satisfied with their own health insurance.”


I said “When Americans hear about a health care proposal, they immediately think “how is it going to affect me and my family.” That’s their overarching, overwhelming concern.” Greenberg says when Clinton proposed his plan, “people responded personally, working to figure out what it all meant for them—the impact on their family, access to their doctors, dollars and cents, and on everything they’d done to become satisfied with their health care.”


Some readers commented that they simply didn’t believe the polling I cited in “Why Not Single-Payer?” It is natural for all of us—myself included—to seek out polls that support our side and disregard contrary polling results. But please understand that President Obama and progressive health care advocates have access to so much polling on this issue; they are not picking-and-choosing the polls they like. They are making clear-headed decisions in an effort to get the very best health care plan that can possibly be enacted by Congress this year.










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