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Who Else From Health Care Will Be Thrown Under the Obama Bus?

Mary Laney 20 August 2009 8 Comments
The hit list is getting longer. Former Obama fundraiser Tony Rezco convicted.  Reverend Jeremiah Wright disowned.  Bill Ayers disavowed as a close ally.  Illegal immigrant aunt estranged.  Former friends Governor Rod Blagojevich and  US Senator Roland Burris iced out.
It’s getting crowded under the Obama political bus.  And now another person is taking a big fall under it – this one, Michelle Obama’s former boss in Chicago.  In fact, this is the man who approved raising Michelle’s salary in Chicago – for “Community Outreach” — from $150,000 to $370,000 – a giant salary hike that was granted, curiously, just as Barack Obama was elected U.S. Senator from Illinois.
What makes this even more compelling is that this “toss under the bus” is directly tied to health care—and Michelle Obama’s dubious plan for it  — in Chicago.
Dr. James Madara, CEO of the University of Chicago Medical Center is not only  taking the hit for it, he’s stepping down from the top post as Chairman, and also resigning his position as Dean of the Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine.
Those are pretty heady positions to give up but the reasons for having to give them up are pretty clear.  Dr.  Madara is finding himself under the bus due to a controversial initiative, which was the work of none other than Michelle Obama and two of her friends who now have moved on to work in the White House.
It was called the University of Chicago Hospital’s “Urban Health Initiative”. First Lady Michelle Obama helped write it, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett – then the hospital board’s Chairwoman — signed off on it, President Obama’s  top political strategist, David Axlerod’s and his public relations company was paid to sell it to the community, and Obama adviser, Dr. Eric Whitaker, was hired to run it.
Sounds like this initiative and all the money put behind it must make for a pretty important health program for the inner city; but read on.
The “Initiative” was sold as a program to help ease the crowding at the University of Chicago’s emergency room and to get people quicker assistance by sending them to other hospitals and clinics on Chicago’s South side.  But critics say what it really was about was saving money for the University of Chicago Hospital by removing poor patients from the University Hospital, holding on to the wealthy patients who can pay, and sending the poor, underinsured or uninsured, elsewhere.  Put another way, it is a form of illegal patient dumping.
But, wait, aren’t the President and First Lady all about caring for the people and creating a better health plan – Obamacare – to serve all of America? Isn’t curing the health crisis and providing good health care for all a key promise of this administration?  Not if you look at the plan Michelle Obama, Valerie Jarrett and David Axlerod  hatched and promoted in Chicago.
Faculty members at the hospital accused the creators of the “Urban Health Initiative”– of putting profits ahead of patients, patient care and research and they blamed Dr. Madara.   Michelle Obama wasn’t blamed as she had moved on to become the nation’s First Lady.  In fact, her position – once considered so important that she was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do it – wasn’t even filled after she left to go on the campaign trail with her husband.  Valerie Jarrett wasn’t blamed as she is now a Special Advisor to the President in the White House.  And David Axlerod wasn’t blamed for promoting the plan as he is now the key strategist in the White House.  Some people have a way of simply putting others under the bus and moving on.
Yet Axlerod may be facing his own dilemmas soon, vis-à-vis the health industry and his personal profits from it.    It seems Axlerod’s former firm, AKPD – which is due to pay him $2 million dollars this year in fees he’s owed – is receiving huge fees from a health coalition that includes the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, PhRMA, as well as AARP, the SEIU and other major players in the health care debate.  If Axlerod is negotiating any deal to funnel money to his former firm that still owes him money, or if he is advising the President on deals with any of these groups, that will amount to a conflict of interest.  A serious conflict of interest.
Does Axlerod still have a retained interest in the firm?  Does a son still work at the firm?  Does the family still gain from the profits of the firm and its connection with health industries?
These are questions that need to be asked and answered.
If the Obama administration truly is one of transparency they will be.
It’s getting crowded under the Obama bus.

The hit list is getting longer. Former Obama fundraiser Tony Rezko convicted.  Reverend Jeremiah Wright disowned.  Bill Ayers disavowed as a close ally.  Illegal immigrant aunt estranged.  Former friends Governor Rod Blagojevich and  US Senator Roland Burris iced out.

It’s getting crowded under the Obama political bus.  And now another person is taking a big fall under it – this one, Michelle Obama’s former boss in Chicago.  In fact, this is the man who approved raising Michelle’s salary in Chicago – for “Community Outreach” — from $150,000 to $370,000 – a giant salary hike that was granted, curiously, just as Barack Obama was elected U.S. Senator from Illinois.

What makes this even more compelling is that this “toss under the bus” is directly tied to health care—and Michelle Obama’s dubious plan for it  — in Chicago.

Dr. James Madara, CEO of the University of Chicago Medical Center is not only  taking the hit for it, he’s stepping down from the top post as Chairman, and also resigning his position as Dean of the Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine.

Those are pretty heady positions to give up but the reasons for having to give them up are pretty clear.  Dr.  Madara is finding himself under the bus due to a controversial initiative, which was the work of none other than Michelle Obama and two of her friends who now have moved on to work in the White House.

It was called the University of Chicago Hospital’s “Urban Health Initiative”. First Lady Michelle Obama helped write it, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett – then the hospital board’s Chairwoman — signed off on it, President Obama’s  top political strategist, David Axlerod’s and his public relations company was paid to sell it to the community, and Obama adviser, Dr. Eric Whitaker, was hired to run it.

Sounds like this initiative and all the money put behind it must make for a pretty important health program for the inner city; but read on.

The “Initiative” was sold as a program to help ease the crowding at the University of Chicago’s emergency room and to get people quicker assistance by sending them to other hospitals and clinics on Chicago’s South side.  But critics say what it really was about was saving money for the University of Chicago Hospital by removing poor patients from the University Hospital, holding on to the wealthy patients who can pay, and sending the poor, underinsured or uninsured, elsewhere.  Put another way, it is a form of illegal patient dumping.

But, wait, aren’t the President and First Lady all about caring for the people and creating a better health plan – Obamacare – to serve all of America? Isn’t curing the health crisis and providing good health care for all a key promise of this administration?  Not if you look at the plan Michelle Obama, Valerie Jarrett and David Axlerod  hatched and promoted in Chicago.

Faculty members at the hospital accused the creators of the “Urban Health Initiative”– of putting profits ahead of patients, patient care and research and they blamed Dr. Madara.   Michelle Obama wasn’t blamed as she had moved on to become the nation’s First Lady.  In fact, her position – once considered so important that she was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do it – wasn’t even filled after she left to go on the campaign trail with her husband.  Valerie Jarrett wasn’t blamed as she is now a Special Advisor to the President in the White House.  And David Axlerod wasn’t blamed for promoting the plan as he is now the key strategist in the White House.  Some people have a way of simply putting others under the bus and moving on.

Yet Axlerod may be facing his own dilemmas soon, vis-à-vis the health industry and his personal profits from it.    It seems Axlerod’s former firm, AKPD – which is due to pay him $2 million dollars this year in fees he’s owed – is receiving huge fees from a health coalition that includes the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, PhRMA, as well as AARP, the SEIU and other major players in the health care debate.  If Axlerod is negotiating any deal to funnel money to his former firm that still owes him money, or if he is advising the President on deals with any of these groups, that will amount to a conflict of interest.  A serious conflict of interest.

Does Axlerod still have a retained interest in the firm?  Does a son still work at the firm?  Does the family still gain from the profits of the firm and its connection with health industries?

These are questions that need to be asked and answered.

If the Obama administration truly is one of transparency they will be.

It’s getting crowded under the Obama bus.

**
Mary Laney is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

Read Bloomberg on AKPD

8 Comments »

  • Kathryn said:

    This is possibly the most biased “reporting” I have ever encountered.

    Is it any wonder people don’t trust the media?

  • Pat Hickey said:

    This is possibly the most biased “reporting” I have ever encountered.

    Is it any wonder people don’t trust the media?

    This, Kathryn, is not reporting no. This is an Opinion Column and is it is quite a very good one at that.

  • Ttc said:

    What’s not to trust? The author takes a viewpoint and makes her case. You can respond in the comments or harp from the peanut gallery, that is the purpose of the comment section and a democratic press.

  • Pat Hickey said:

    Peanuts…mmmm. . .Harp! I love this site.

  • DeweyfromDetroit said:

    Wow! Kathryn, if this is truly the most biased reporting you’ve ever seen you are either a)not looking, b)not seeing, or c)not believing.

    Or you’re a liberal.

  • Captain Chucklesworth said:

    I wish more opinion pieces were like this one, to-the-point and supported with facts. It’s nice to see work from someone who recalls how to do this journalism thing.

    The more I read, the more I’m convinced that the reason this administration is so desperate to rush things through, to cram it down our throats without debating or even reading their own legislation, is that they know, sooner or later, the underbelly will be revealed — and it will be too ugly to ignore.

  • Norma said:

    Speaking of “our Presidents” Health-Care Program/s. I found an article today which was in the Wall Street Journal online, August 18, 2009. An opinion, with facts, by Jim Towery. It’s titled “The Death Book for Veterans”.
    I suggest it needs to be read by everyone to really wants to know the truth. I intended to leave the link, but would have to register at Wall Street Journal first, so I’ll attempt to copy here, IF they’ll let me use that much space…………………….
    Ex-soldiers don’t need to be told they’re a burden to society.
    By JIM TOWEY
    If President Obama wants to better understand why America’s discomfort with end-of-life discussions threatens to derail his health-care reform, he might begin with his own Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He will quickly discover how government bureaucrats are greasing the slippery slope that can start with cost containment but quickly become a systematic denial of care.

    Last year, bureaucrats at the VA’s National Center for Ethics in Health Care advocated a 52-page end-of-life planning document, “Your Life, Your Choices.” It was first published in 1997 and later promoted as the VA’s preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes. After the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA suspended its use. Unfortunately, under President Obama, the VA has now resuscitated “Your Life, Your Choices.”

    Who is the primary author of this workbook? Dr. Robert Pearlman, chief of ethics evaluation for the center, a man who in 1996 advocated for physician-assisted suicide in Vacco v. Quill before the U.S. Supreme Court and is known for his support of health-care rationing.

    “Your Life, Your Choices” presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political “push poll.” For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be “not worth living.”

    The circumstances listed include ones common among the elderly and disabled: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being able to “shake the blues.” There is a section which provocatively asks, “Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘If I’m a vegetable, pull the plug’?” There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as “I can no longer contribute to my family’s well being,” “I am a severe financial burden on my family” and that the vet’s situation “causes severe emotional burden for my family.”

    When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?

    One can only imagine a soldier surviving the war in Iraq and returning without all of his limbs only to encounter a veteran’s health-care system that seems intent on his surrender.

    I was not surprised to learn that the VA panel of experts that sought to update “Your Life, Your Choices” between 2007-2008 did not include any representatives of faith groups or disability rights advocates. And as you might guess, only one organization was listed in the new version as a resource on advance directives: the Hemlock Society (now euphemistically known as “Compassion and Choices”).

    This hurry-up-and-die message is clear and unconscionable. Worse, a July 2009 VA directive instructs its primary care physicians to raise advance care planning with all VA patients and to refer them to “Your Life, Your Choices.” Not just those of advanced age and debilitated condition—all patients. America’s 24 million veterans deserve better.

    Many years ago I created an advance care planning document called “Five Wishes” that is today the most widely used living will in America, with 13 million copies in national circulation. Unlike the VA’s document, this one does not contain the standard bias to withdraw or withhold medical care. It meets the legal requirements of at least 43 states, and it runs exactly 12 pages.

    After a decade of observing end-of-life discussions, I can attest to the great fear that many patients have, particularly those with few family members and financial resources. I lived and worked in an AIDS home in the mid-1980s and saw first-hand how the dying wanted more than health care—they wanted someone to care.

    If President Obama is sincere in stating that he is not trying to cut costs by pressuring the disabled to forgo critical care, one good way to show that commitment is to walk two blocks from the Oval Office and pull the plug on “Your Life, Your Choices.” He should make sure in the future that VA decisions are guided by values that treat the lives of our veterans as gifts, not burdens.

    Mr. Towey, president of Saint Vincent College, was director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives (2002-2006) and founder of the nonprofit Aging with Dignity.

  • Norma said:

    Regarding the Presidents HealthCare Programs—
    I found these comments today from the Wall Street Journal, Aug. 18, 2009.
    Ex-soldiers don’t need to be told they’re a burden to society.
    By JIM TOWEY
    If President Obama wants to better understand why America’s discomfort with end-of-life discussions threatens to derail his health-care reform, he might begin with his own Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He will quickly discover how government bureaucrats are greasing the slippery slope that can start with cost containment but quickly become a systematic denial of care.

    Last year, bureaucrats at the VA’s National Center for Ethics in Health Care advocated a 52-page end-of-life planning document, “Your Life, Your Choices.” It was first published in 1997 and later promoted as the VA’s preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes. After the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues, the VA suspended its use. Unfortunately, under President Obama, the VA has now resuscitated “Your Life, Your Choices.”

    Who is the primary author of this workbook? Dr. Robert Pearlman, chief of ethics evaluation for the center, a man who in 1996 advocated for physician-assisted suicide in Vacco v. Quill before the U.S. Supreme Court and is known for his support of health-care rationing.

    “Your Life, Your Choices” presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions, much like a political “push poll.” For example, a worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be “not worth living.”

    The circumstances listed include ones common among the elderly and disabled: living in a nursing home, being in a wheelchair and not being able to “shake the blues.” There is a section which provocatively asks, “Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘If I’m a vegetable, pull the plug’?” There also are guilt-inducing scenarios such as “I can no longer contribute to my family’s well being,” “I am a severe financial burden on my family” and that the vet’s situation “causes severe emotional burden for my family.”

    When the government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude for themselves that life is not worth living, who needs a death panel?

    One can only imagine a soldier surviving the war in Iraq and returning without all of his limbs only to encounter a veteran’s health-care system that seems intent on his surrender.

    I was not surprised to learn that the VA panel of experts that sought to update “Your Life, Your Choices” between 2007-2008 did not include any representatives of faith groups or disability rights advocates. And as you might guess, only one organization was listed in the new version as a resource on advance directives: the Hemlock Society (now euphemistically known as “Compassion and Choices”).

    This hurry-up-and-die message is clear and unconscionable. Worse, a July 2009 VA directive instructs its primary care physicians to raise advance care planning with all VA patients and to refer them to “Your Life, Your Choices.” Not just those of advanced age and debilitated condition—all patients. America’s 24 million veterans deserve better.

    Many years ago I created an advance care planning document called “Five Wishes” that is today the most widely used living will in America, with 13 million copies in national circulation. Unlike the VA’s document, this one does not contain the standard bias to withdraw or withhold medical care. It meets the legal requirements of at least 43 states, and it runs exactly 12 pages.

    After a decade of observing end-of-life discussions, I can attest to the great fear that many patients have, particularly those with few family members and financial resources. I lived and worked in an AIDS home in the mid-1980s and saw first-hand how the dying wanted more than health care—they wanted someone to care.

    If President Obama is sincere in stating that he is not trying to cut costs by pressuring the disabled to forgo critical care, one good way to show that commitment is to walk two blocks from the Oval Office and pull the plug on “Your Life, Your Choices.” He should make sure in the future that VA decisions are guided by values that treat the lives of our veterans as gifts, not burdens.

    Mr. Towey, president of Saint Vincent College, was director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives (2002-2006) and founder of the nonprofit Aging with Dignity.

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