Category Archives: Health Care

Harvard’s minimum wage protests were caused by its own professors

liberal logis

Via NY Post: The social-justice warriors of Harvard are on the march again, this time in solidarity with the university’s dining-hall workers. Students and faculty have spent the past few days protesting low wages and an increase in health-care premiums for the people serving their grilled cheese, french fries and occasional lobster dinners.

On Oct. 5, about 750 workers went on strike. It was Harvard’s first such revolt in 33 years, and strikes are becoming more common at colleges across the country. In Pennsylvania, thousands of faculty went on strike at 14 colleges and universities on Wednesday alone.

Harvard was fortunately prepared, having stocked up on frozen food for students in the days leading up to the walkout. But who knows when their TV dinners will run out. Two weeks later, things seem to have reached an impasse. Harvard has closed six of its 14 dining halls, staffing its remaining ones with temporary workers and giving students money to spend at local pizza joints.

In its defense, Harvard says, the dining-hall workers make an average of almost $22 per hour, more than the $15 living wage required by the People’s Republic of Cambridge. Moreover, the university says that health-care costs are going up all over the country and dining-hall workers are going to have to bear some of the brunt of that.

The Chronicle of Higher Education sums up Harvard’s problem pretty well. “How does the richest university in the world negotiate with some of its lowest-paid workers?” the publication asks. When your endowment is over $37 billion, why don’t you pay the people who serve food more than $30,000 per year?


The argument seems to be carrying weight. Earlier this week, Harvard divinity students wore yellow flowers in their hair and sang “Lean On Me” and “We Shall Overcome” as they protested outside the Science Center. They ate bread together, which, according to divinity student Nestor J. Pimienta “symbolized that we’re sharing in the struggle.”

It’s always fun to share in the struggle when you get to skip out on class. According to an account in the Crimson, “After chants of ‘No justice, no peace!’ subsided, [professor] Timothy P. McCarthy ascended the steps of University Hall to address the crowd, which had reached hundreds of people. McCarthy announced to cheers that he had ‘cut short’ his lecture in ‘American Protest Literature from Tom Paine to Tupac’ to walk out with his students.”

Harvard’s undergraduates clearly see the plight of its dining-hall workers as the latest story of oppression in American history. But they seem not to see that Harvard professors actually support the very policies that have put the university in this bind.

In 2014, 10 Harvard scholars sent a letter to Congress insisting that an increase in the minimum wage would not negatively affect employment rates. Indeed, former Harvard Law professor and current Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has testified before Congress in favor of a $22 minimum wage.


The assumption of these liberal scholars is that the rich who run corporations (or “nonprofit” institutions in this case) are simply hoarding money. If we want the poor to get more money, employers of these workers should just pay them more. And if they don’t, we should get the government to mandate that they do.

Who cares if you’re paying more than minimum wage? If you have more money, fork it over. Why shouldn’t dining-hall workers make as much as English professors? The laws of supply and demand simply don’t enter into the thinking of pointy-headed students and faculty.

The real sticking point in negotiations with the dining-hall workers is rising health insurance premiums. The cost of health insurance has gone up somewhere around 20% nationwide because of the Affordable Care Act. Insurance companies are canceling plans left and right, and the pool of insured people are older and less healthy than forecasters projected — meaning that it’s going to get worse.

As a 2015 article in the National Interest pointed out, “the Harvard faculty is chock-a-block with ObamaCare’s biggest boosters. The new plan was approved by Harvard’s provost, the economist Alan M. Garber, who had signed on to a 2009 open letter assuring the president that a tax on high-end insurance plans “offers the most promising approach to reducing private-sector health-care costs while also giving a much needed raise to the tens of millions of Americans who receive insurance through their employers.”

The Harvard faculty screamed bloody murder last year when the administration tried to raise their health-insurance premiums. Obviously, their dining-hall workers are less able to absorb these increases. But the policies pushed in Harvard’s faculty lounges have left everyone — not just the students eating ramen noodles — much worse off.


WikiLeaks Podesta emails: Clinton Foundation works with Big Pharma to keep AIDS drug prices high

WikiLeaks is the gift that keeps on giving.

Gay men presumably are Hillary Clinton supporters. So enthused are they that when Hillary formally announced she’s running for the presidency in April 2016, a San Francisco homosexual immediately launched an “I’d Bottom for Hillary” campaign and began selling t-shirts and tank tops “that promote one’s willingness to receive anal penetration (metaphorically, of course) from the former Secretary of State who is now the top (ahem) Democratic candidate.” (See “Homosexuals join Hillary Clinton 2016 in ‘I’d bottom for Hillary!’ campaign” )

I'd Bottom For Hillary

Gay men account for most HIV/AIDS cases, so lower costs for AIDS prescription drugs are in their interest.

Well, gay men should know that a Podesta email chain on December 8, 2011, published by WikiLeaks (here), reveals that the Clinton Foundation opposed lowering the costs of AIDS drugs in the United States.

Note: “Podesta email” refers to thousands of emails of John Podesta, chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, which were hacked and made available to WikiLeaks. To read the Podesta emails that have been released by WikiLeaks, click here.

The particular email chain in question began with an email between two Clinton Foundation officials, Ira Magaziner and Amitabh Desai, with a cc to John Podesta.

Note: Ira Magaziner, 68, is a former senior advisor for policy development and chief healthcare policy advisor to President Bill Clinton who is currently the CEO and vice chairman of the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). CHAI supposedly works to save lives in low and middle income countries by helping people gain access to essential medicines and health services.

Amitabh Desai is the Director of Foreign Policy at the Clinton Foundation.


In his email to Desai, Magaziner expressed dismay that Bill Clinton had made remarks at a World AIDS Day event urging that domestic AIDS drugs prices be lowered, without first “consulting” with the Clinton Foundation. Magaziner said the Foundation opposes publicly pressuring drug companies to lower their prices on AIDS drugs because doing so would “seriously jeopardize” the Foundation’s “negotiations” to lower drug prices in poor countries (assuming the Clinton Foundation actually does that — see “The High Cost of AIDS drugs in Africa” by Julia M. Hernandez, J.D.). Magaziner said the Foundation has “always” assured drug companies that the Foundation would not pressure them to lower drug prices because that would lead to a “slippery slope” of lower drug prices in the U.S. and Europe. He then said Bill Clinton’s intemperate remarks had ruined the many years of “positive relationships” the Foundation had labored to build with pharmaceutical companies — relationships that the Foundation must now repair.

Here’s the email:

From: Ira Magaziner
To: Amitabh Desai
Cc: Bruce Lindsey; John Podesta ( <>
Sent: Thu Dec 08 03:35:29 2011
Subject: FW: Domestic AIDS Memo


This note and the attached memo are in response to your inquiry as to whether CHAI [Clinton Health Access Initiative] has any thoughts on how to proceed on the comments President [Bill] Clinton made on lowering domestic AIDS drugs prices at the World AIDS day event. Attached is a detailed memo with recommendations on how CHAI and President Clinton could be helpful in the domestic fight against AIDS. We have been working on this memo since the last CHAI board meeting when this issue first came up and had planned to send it to President Clinton and the CHAI board in December for further discussion.

We were taken by surprise by President Clinton’s comments on world AIDS day and wish that someone had consulted with us before he made these comments. As you will see when you read this memo, we think that publicly pressuring the US and European AIDS drug companies to lower prices and bringing pressure to allow generic AIDS drugs into the United States will have limited if any success and could seriously jeopardize our negotiations to continually lower prices in poor countries. We also believe that there are other more impactful ways to address the US AIDS crisis today. We have always told the drug companies that we would not pressure them and create a slippery slope where prices they negotiate with us for poor countries would inevitably lead to similar prices in rich countries. If we were going to change our view on this, we should have informed the companies before President Clinton went public with his statement and attempted to negotiate a way for them to participate in and get credit for whatever steps we could have persuaded them to take to help the crisis in the states. We might or might not have been successful in getting them to do something, but we believe the chances of success would have been higher than by trying to pressure them through a public campaign. It has taken us many years to build positive relationships with these companies while at the same time pushing them to continually lower their prices. We will now have to try to repair these relationships.

Since President Clinton’s comments were made, we have been contacted by a number of advocacy groups who are now intending to wage a public campaign to bring in generics and lower drug prices. We do not feel we can participate in this without jeopardizing our work around the world. We cannot oppose what they might do, but we also cannot be publicly supporting it either. This campaign will not get started until January, so we have some time to figure out and act upon our own strategy. If we do try to do something in this area, we suggest that we approach the innovator companies that can currently sell products in the US with the idea of making donations to help clear the ADAP lists. For a variety of reasons, the companies will likely favor a donation approach rather than one that erodes prices across the board. I would guess that they would also likely favor a solution that involved their drugs rather than an approach that allowed generic drugs from India to flood the US market at low prices or one that set a precedent of waiving patent laws on drugs. This will be complicated to work out, but it might be possible. We would have to initiate discussions with multiple state health officials as well as HHS in addition to talking with the drug companies. If President Clinton wishes for us to be proactive, we suggest that we try a cooperative approach first. We can go to war with the US drug companies if President Clinton would like to do so, but we would not suggest it.

Whatever we decide, we need to make a decision quickly and President Clinton and CHAI need to be in synch. I do not think it is a good idea for President Clinton to be taking one position and CHAI another. Once we have decided what to do on the drug question, we can then decide if we want to work with state health authorities in the ways that the memo suggests to implement programs to expand testing and treatment. CHAI management is willing to expand the mandate of CHAI to add a focus on domestic AIDS, though this will involve having to build an organization to do the work and significant time and resources. We would need to go to the CHAI board for approval as it would represent a major add on to the strategy that we presented to the board and that the board approved at its last meeting. And of course if we do this, we need to find a way to get it funded. I do not know if President Clinton has any thoughts on funding for a domestic AIDS project. Even a negotiation on how to clear the ADAP lists by getting drug companies and state officials and the federal government to work together on a deal would take a significant amount of time and resources to accomplish. We can undertake it, but unless we can get the work funded or the board gives us leave to do it as an unfunded project, we could not move forward. Perhaps we should have a discussion with President Clinton about next steps.



In a follow-up email on the same day (Dec. 8, 2011), Ira Magaziner indicated that the Clinton Foundation also has “agreements” with big pharmaceutical companies on other drugs as well:

“we [the Clinton Foundation] have done a number of agreements with big US and European pharmaceutical companies . .  . for second and third line drugs and for new drugs in the pipeline that are coming forward,” as well as “vaccines and for TB and malaria drugs.”

Isn’t there a law against price-fixing?

To see the email chain for yourself, go to WikiLeaks.

Back in April when gay men began their “I’d Bottom for Hillary” campaign, betcha they never thought they would be BOHICAed this way.

See also:


College offers young people money to have sex on camera

Haven’t kids had enough sex education by college to know the benefits of using a condom?

Dog eyeroll

Via NY Post: A school in England is making some people hot under the collar — by offering to pay young couples to have sex on camera.

Coventry University is searching for volunteers ages 18 to 25 who are willing to be filmed making whoopee in “natural settings,” including inside a car, and be paid the equivalent of $488 to do so, according to UK media.

Filmmakers for the government-funded project called “Chance2Change” said it will promote the message that using a condom “does not kill the mood,” the Daily Mail reported.

Margaret Morrissey, chairman of a group called Parents Outloud, said students who sign up to appear in the videos may be “jeopardizing” their future. “They are offending the intelligence of their students by thinking they need educational videos such as this,” Morrissey told The Telegraph.


“With the nature of the internet, these videos could stay in circulation for years. Any students taking part in them could jeopardize future employment prospects,” she said.

Project leader Dr. Katie Newby insisted the film will feature real couples in “loving, consensual relationships and be tastefully shot.”

More from Daily Mail:

Dr. Newby said: ‘The videos, which will be tastefully shot and feature genuine couples, are designed to be available to over-18s at the point at which they are requesting free STI self-testing kits from a website.

‘Other aspects of the intervention include allowing users to test out a range of different condoms to identify their preferred one, a condom ordering service, providing a free product for carrying condoms in, and other videos featuring young people talking about condom use.

‘We believe that someone who is seeking STI testing is likely to be particularly receptive to the messages around condom use, and we hope to convince them that condoms needn’t be awkward, embarrassing or an obstacle to enjoyable sex.’

Dr. Newby said that, despite the well-known risks of unprotected sex, the NHS still spends £620million per year treating sexually-transmitted illnesses. 


Rising Obamacare premiums anger those paying full price

We tried to warn you.


From CNN Money: Shela Bryan, 63, has been comparing prices for individual health insurance plans since May, and she can’t believe what she sees. “They cost a thousand, $1,200 [a month], and they have a deductible of $6,000,” she said. “I don’t know how they think anyone can afford that.”

Bryan, who lives in Hull, Georgia, a hamlet of about 200 residents near Athens, was on her husband Tony’s insurance plan for decades. When Tony died in 2013, she continued his workplace coverage through COBRA, and she had to pay almost the full price of the insurance — about $800 a month. That was high, but it was “the Cadillac of insurance,” Bryan said, with low copays, prescription drug coverage and a $500 deductible. That option will run out in a few months.

Obamacare Screw U

So she is turning to the individual insurance marketplace in what is shaping up to be the most expensive year for the 400,000 or so consumers in Georgia who buy individual policies but don’t purchase them on the Obamacare exchanges.

About 10 million Americans buy individual insurance coverage either on or off the exchanges and get no federal subsidies to help bring down the cost, according to the Congressional Budget Office. About the same number get the financial assistance for the plans they purchase on the exchanges.

“For those receiving subsidies, the subsidy protects them against the increase. If they’re not eligible, they’ll be paying a lot more. And the more premiums go up, the higher the cliff,” said William Custer, a health policy and insurance expert at Georgia State University.

In Georgia, consumers who don’t get insurance through their employers or don’t qualify for tax credits to help pay for policies they purchase are facing double-digit premium increases. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, the only insurer offering plans throughout the state, received an increase of more than 21% from the state insurance commissioner. Humana was awarded a 67.5% hike.

Numbers like those are rattling other states too. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee was granted a 62% rate hike, while state officials approved a 46% increase for Cigna. Florida authorities gave plans there an average 19% bump. And last week, Minnesota officials announced that premiums for the seven insurers on the individual market are rising 50% to 67%.

The insurers are now adjusting for some miscalculations, said Graham Thompson, executive director of the Georgia Association of Health Plans. “The prices are up this year, but our hope is that things will settle down after this year,” he said.

While consumers have faced sticker shock, the insurers have faced what might be called “sicker shock,” which has sent their prices spiraling. They are adjusting premiums after finding that the pool of clients buying plans on the individual market were sicker and more costly than expected when the health law was implemented.

Judge Judy shakes head rolls eyes

Almost two-thirds of Americans get their coverage from plans offered through their workplaces. But those who don’t can buy either on or outside the health law’s marketplaces, also called exchanges. Those with marketplace coverage who earn up to 400% of the federal poverty level — $47,520 for an individual — are entitled to a subsidy, and federal officials say most will pay less than $75 a month for insurance.

Policies sold off the marketplaces must still meet health law standards and the same prices as plans offered on the exchange, according to Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. Federal and Georgia officials note that customers can change plans each year to find a better price, but that also can result in higher deductibles and may force a change in doctors to stay in network.

Bryan, a maintenance supervisor who makes just over the $47,520 limit for a subsidy, finds herself in that market now. She could end up paying as much as $14,000 in premiums for a pared-back policy the likes of which she had never imagined, she said, with no coverage for her asthma and high blood pressure medications. The cheapest policies amount to more than a quarter of her yearly income, or double her mortgage, she noted.  That total package would increase her premiums $4,400 over what she is paying for her COBRA plan and raise her deductibles by $5,800. And that was based on 2016 premium prices.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that as many as 2.5 million nationally may be eligible for a subsidy and not know it.

Bob Laszewski

Bob Laszewski

Bob Laszewski, a health policy strategist in Washington, D.C., said the Obama administration and health care advocates need to listen to the complaints of the those who do not receive assistance.

“These people are invisible,” Laszewski said. The ACA “is working very well for lower income people, but the Obamacare supporters missed the fact that if you’re raising a family of four on $100,000, you’re not rich. This is the … guy who remodeled your house, who drives a pickup truck and he’s wearing a Trump hat.”



California State government’s largest union is edging closer to a strike

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000 president Yvonne Walker speaks at a rally for democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Sacramento City College on June 5, 2016. (Photo by Mack Ervin III)

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000 president Yvonne Walker speaks at a rally for democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Sacramento City College on June 5, 2016. (Photo by Mack Ervin III)

From Sacramento Bee: SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker has called for a strike vote of the union’s 95,000 members beginning next week, according to a statement on the union website.

The union is trying to get a bigger raise than the 2.96 percent pay hike Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration is offering. Brown’s proposal would raise SEIU salaries by 12 percent over four years, but also require its members to begin paying a contribution toward their retiree health care costs.  “We still believe the state can do better,” Walker wrote in a message to SEIU members.

SEIU represents workers in nine different bargaining units. Its contracts for nurses, administrative employees and information technology workers are among the 14 state labor agreements that expired this summer.

SEIU's best buddy...

SEIU’s best buddy…

Walker wrote to union members that SEIU has been in negotiations with the state for the past six months. In July, union leadership voted to authorize a strike vote. The next step toward a strike would be a vote by union members. A vote to strike would not necessarily lead to workers walking off the job.

Before workers strike, the union likely would have to declare an impasse in negotiations and participate in mediation with the state. That process could take months. But surveying members on their willingness to strike could strengthen SEIU’s position at the bargaining table.

Last year, the California State University sweetened a contract offer for the union that represents its faculty after professors voted to strike. As a result, professors received a 10.5 percent pay raise over three years rather than 2 percent raises the state university had been offering.

The Brown administration has been offering raises of about 3 percent a year to most unions. The state’s correctional officers accepted that agreement. Other unions representing attorneys, engineers and scientists are getting bigger raises this year.

All of the new contracts call on state workers to begin to making contributions toward retiree health care. So far, most employees with new contracts are paying about 1.3 percent of their salaries toward retiree health care, with the portion rising to greater than 3 percent over time.

Walker has led the union since 2008. Her union and several others without contracts argue that they sacrificed during the recession to help the Schwarzenegger and Brown administrations resolve budget gaps.

With a better economy, they contend, the state should reward its workforce. “Now that the state’s coffers have significantly improved, we strongly feel that state employees deserve a robust improvement from pre-recession cuts. But the situation has turned bleak and sluggish in contract negotiations,” four union leaders wrote in an Oct. 10 letter to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León. Those unions include two AFSCME bargaining units, a group that represents operating engineers and one more that represents psychiatric technicians.

SEIU conducted a series of surveys recently that showed its members are worried about the rising costs of housing and child care. The union says 39 percent of its members could not afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment in their communities.

CalHR spokesman Joe DeAnda said the Brown administration looks “forward to continued negotiations with SEIU, and hopes to secure an agreement that both reflects the contributions of our hard-working state employees and maintains the integrity of the state’s current budget stability.”


Hollyweird actress worth $40 million whines about pay inequality

Note to Swank: Many women in the real world negotiate their own salaries. Negotiating is a skill you learn. Maybe you should hire an agent who can negotiate on your behalf by playing some hardball. Or maybe add that critical talent to your repertoire.

Poor rich womyn....

Poor rich womyn….

From Daily Mail: A lot of actresses talk about how they have been affected by pay inequality in Hollywood. But Hilary Swank had some specific details to offer as she stopped by the Netflix series Chelsea.

While at a dinner party with director Ava DuVernay, actress Connie Britton and Miss USA Deshauna Barber, the 42-year-old beauty revealed she was offered $500,000 to star in a film where her male counterpart was getting a hefty $10 million.

Hilary would not name the film or the male actor, but she did let slide she already had two Oscars under her belt at the time, which means this took place after 2005.

When she asked why she was getting so much less, Swank was told it was because the actor was ‘hot.’ Hilary said: ‘The male hadn’t had any kind of critical success but he had been in a movie where he was “hot.” She added: ‘So, I said “no,” and then they went and found a newcomer who did it for $50,000. ‘So they made a savings of $450,000 to probably give the guy his bonuses.’

Talk of pay inequality for women was given a huge push when Patricia Arquette broached the subject while on stage as she received her Best Actress win at the Academy Awards this winter for her turn in Boyhood opposite Ethan Hawke.

‘To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation: We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,’ Arquette said at the time. ‘It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.’ Since then Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone have also touched on the subject.

During her Chelsea talk, Swank also talked about how she went without health insurance even after she won an Oscar for Boys Don’t Cry in 2000. She was 24-years-old at the time and was only paid $3,000 for the film. She had to have earned at least $5,000 to qualify for health insurance. ‘I had an Academy Award, no health insurance,’ Swank said.

small violin


Churches sue over Massachusetts transgender bathroom law

transgender bathroom

From MSN: A new Massachusetts law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public restrooms is “punishing” the protected religious speech of churches and pastors, a conservative Christian organization claims in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), based in Scottsdale, Arizona, said it sued on behalf of four Massachusetts churches to protect their right to operate their facilities “in a manner that doesn’t violate their core religious beliefs.” The lawsuit names Democratic state Attorney General Maura Healey and members of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination as defendants.

Attorney General Maura Healey

Attorney General Maura Healey

The law, which was signed by the governor in July and went into effect in October, bars discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations. Among other things, it allows individuals to use the bathroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender identity.


Healey has found that churches are places of public accommodation.

The ADF contends in the lawsuit that churches would be forced to open changing rooms, shower facilities and restrooms based on perceived gender identity and not on biological sex. The groups says because the law also prohibits covered entities from making statements intended to discriminate or to incite others to do so, Healey and the commission “also intend to force churches and pastors to refrain from religious expression regarding sexuality that conflicts with the government’s views.”

“Neither the commission nor the attorney general has the constitutional authority to dictate how any church uses its facility or what public statements a church can make concerning a deeply held religious belief, such as human sexuality,” said attorney Steve O’Ban, senior counsel for ADF.

A spokeswoman for Healey said her office is reviewing the lawsuit.

“We are pleased that we finally have a law in place that protects transgender people from discrimination in public places. This law is about civil rights and is critical for people who were without full protection and equality under the law for too long,” said spokeswoman Jillian Fennimore.

An assistant to the commission did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The lawsuit asks the court to suspend enforcement of the law against the churches while their lawsuit proceeds. The churches suing are Horizon Christian Fellowship, in Fitchburg: Abundant Life Church, in Swansea; House of Destiny Ministries, in Southbridge; and Faith Christian Fellowship in Haverhill.