This & That ~ Apr 8. 2012

Remembering Dr. Stephen Keister, who passed away April 6, 2012. There will be a memorial service on Apr 13, 1pm at Burton Funeral Home, 10th & Cherry. Scroll down for Richard McVay’s mailing on Dr. Keister.



Apr 2012 – Peace on Earth Month ( Buffalo )

Apr 2012 PBS Earth Day Programming

Apr 10 – “Sustaining Our Communities: Is There a Role for Creativity?” Community activist and author Tom Borrup gives free public presentation, 7:30 PM Schultz Banqut Hall Allegheny College.

Apr 10 – Frontline Nuclear Aftershocks WQLN 10PM. Also available on-demand.Frontline travels over three continents to explore the question, “How safe is nuclear power?”

Apr 10 Movies With Meaning. 7:00 – 8:30 PM, free. “Join us for a lively discussion about movies and what they mean to us. We meet at Community United Church , 1011 W 38th Street . Please watch the movie on your own, then join the discussion.” April's title is "An Inconvenient Truth," which follows former Vice President Al Gore's campaign to raise the issue of climate change. Info 864-4429..

Apr 12 : Video of author Morris Berman on "Why America Failed." U of Pitt - Titusville series...7pm in room G-4 of the Broadhurst Science Center; all are free and open to the public; there is time for discussion afterwards. Info: Mary Ann Caton [email protected] 814-827-4444

Apr 12 - Split Estate: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You, documentary film about mineral rights on private property, showing in Corry. be sure to call or email in advance to reserve a seat, 814-664-2598 [email protected], or 814-664-4050 [email protected] to reserve a place. Seating is limited.

Apr 13 – Demo to Stop the Wars- W 8th & Bayfront Pkwy (Frontier Park), 4:30-5pm. Called by Erie Peace Initiative. Focusing on ending the war in Afghanistan and stopping a war on Iran.

Apr 13-15; SpiritQuest Festival Edinboro University Pogue Center, Edinboro University. Independent films from around the world, with special screening events, appearances by visiting filmmakers and panel discussions. Info: 873-2483, Schedule here

Apr 14 – Rain Garden Workshop 10 a.m.-noon. Erie County Conservation District, Headwaters Park, 1927 Wager Road. Guest speaker, Pat Lupo, OSB of Environment Erie's Earth Action program. Free, registration required. Info: 825-6403.

Apr 14 – Chris Hedges: Calling All Rebels Link TV at 10pm

Apr 15, Holocaust Remembrance Program 11AM Temple Anshe Hesed, 930 Liberty StFree. Info: 455-4474 or [email protected].

Apr 17 – Deep Water Horizon 6 p.m. Mercyhurst Old Main, room 207, graduate student Patrick Zapolski discusses the BP oil and gas disaster. Free. 824-3829.

Apr. 18: “Bag It,” SUNY Fredonia 10 p.m. in Jewett, tells the story of Jeb Berrier and his elimination of plastics completely. He then goes out to explore this global issue of plastic consumption and how it affects us. free and open to the general public Info: Sherri Mason at [email protected] or 716.673-3292

Apr 18 – Meeting to address local event for We Are Woman March On Washington 1505 State Street , 2nd floor; Wednesday, April 18th at 5:30 Organized by Occupy Erie info 460-3568

Apr 18 – “Inside Job” Occupy Erie presents this film at 1505 State Street , 2nd floor, Erie. 7PM.

Apr 19 – Democratic State Senate (49th District) Candidates Debate 8PM on WQLN TV (repeats on WQLN-FM 4/21 at 7am & 4/22 3pm) Moderated by Kim Young.

Apr 20- Day of Silence - Student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.

Apr 20 – “How to Achieve Sustainability in Housing” Learn about the basics of Sustainability, LEED certification for your home or business, view a working residential wind turbine, find out about grant opportunities, and more. . Cost: $10, registration preferred. Phone: 814-451-7021 Blasco Library Hirt Auditorium. For more info visit

Apr 21 CARE: Earth Day at Dockside The Dockside, located within Conneaut Lake Park next to the Beach Club. Live music, food and drink specials, raffles and games, activities for kids and more! To benefit Geneva Marsh Legal Defense Fund, Crawford Area Residents for the Environment (CARE), and Erie Peace and Justice Center in their efforts to stop the tire-burning plant..Click here to download the flyer.

Apr 21 Erie Reading Council Celebrates Earth Day Hands on nature activities and science experiments Chinese Auction. Free. Phone: 814-899-5248. 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM. TREC 301 Peninsula Drive .

Apr 21-22 - Stop Drone War Crimes weekend in Syracuse , New York . Hospitality available. Please call WNY Peace Center (716) 332-3904 for more info, carpooling from Buffalo , etc. website

Apr 22 – Wild & Scenic Film Festival Bradford PA for a family day of hikes, food, raffle (see prizes below), and 9 great films (see screening schedule below)! Free to the public, however donations will be gratefully accepted at the door to cover event costs! Bromeley Family Theater, U of Pitt Bradford. Hike 9AM, Doors open for films 12:30PM. Info Allegheny Defense Project

Apr 23 “From Silent Spring to Empowered Citizens: The Legacies of Love Canal.” Lecture with Lois Gibbs Mercyhurst University in Taylor Little Theatre at 7 p.m. Gibbs is best known for having led the fight in the late 1970s for environmental justice in the toxic-laden community of Love Canal, N.Y. Her lecture, which is free and open to the public, is called The university's Green Team and Evelyn Lincoln Institute for Ethics & Society are sponsors. Info: 824-3829.

Apr 24 – Frontline: Money, Power and Wall Street WQLN Time not listed. “4 hours, over two nights, beginning April 24 on Frontline.”

Apr 24 Children exposed to violence is subject of Mercyhurst panel Mercyhurst University 3 to 4:30 p.m. in Mercy Heritage Room, Sullivan Hall.

Apr 25 Film: “Living Downstream@ 2:15 pm and 7:15PM Mary D'Angelo Performing Arts Center. Based on the acclaimed book by ecologist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., Living Downstream is an eloquent and cinematic documentary film. This poetic film follows Sandra as she travels across North America , working to break the silence about cancer and its environmental links. $6 adults, $5 seniors/students, free for ‘Hurst students. Tickets can be purchased by calling 824-3000 or by visiting

Apr 28 - We Are Woman March On Washington : There will be a local event in Erie.!/UniteWomen Click on the main page to find a link to your home state if you can't make it to DC.

Apr 28 – Occupy the Heart Street Festival Occupy Cleveland. Family fun with the community

Apr 28 – WQLN Gears for Beers Bicycle Tour 10 am. All proceeds benefit WQLN. Please visit WQLN's web site for more information and to sign up.

May 1 – May Day, stay tuned

May 1 - May Day CommUNITY Celebration 3 to 8 p.m. at College Park (100 Acre Woods) behind Jamestown Community College, Jamestown NY. A family-friendly celebration of our local community. Live music, food, games for the kids, information, and conversation. Free and open to all in the community who want a better, more resilient, and sustainable Jamestown, because this is our home. Let's make it happen. Sponsored by Occupy Jamestown.







Remembering Dr. Stephen Keister, from Richard McVay:


Erie's Dr. Stephen Keister passed away Friday, April 6, 2012.

He was my intellectual mentor on health care issues, a gentleman, humanist, and my friend. His work is not finished - we will continue!

A Video Message From Erie's Dr Stephen Keister addressing the "Erie Health Care Coalition" rally in front of the Erie Blue Cross office:

Dr. Keister's last article posted on the Rag Blog:

I cry for my country: The state of health care in America

"Laissez-faire, supply-and-demand, -- one begins to be weary of all of that. Leave all to egotism, to ravenous greed of money, of pleasure, of applause; -- it is the gospel of despair." -- Thomas Carlyle, 1843.

By Dr. Stephen R. Keister / The Rag Blog / November 4, 2011

[Happy Birthday Steve Keister!!!

Our dear friend, Dr. Stephen R. Keister, turned 90 on Sunday, October 9. For the last three years Steve has written -- with a unique and singular voice -- dozens of columns about the sad state of our health care system. And in that time he has become the heart and soul of The Rag Blog. He claims this is his last column, but we promise not to hold him to that commitment! We hope he will continue to share his wisdom with us for many months to come.

In the meantime, look for Sarito Carol Neiman's Rag Blog feature article on the life and times of Dr. Stephen R. Keister. Coming soon to a Rag Blog near you!

-- Thorne Dreyer, for everyone at The Rag Blog.]

Having passed the age of 90 I wish that my final days could be days of happiness and good wishes for those about me; however, it appears that fate has ordained otherwise. It would be a great course of satisfaction to see an enlightened, progressive United States as a homeland for my grandchildren. Instead we find a nation that is descending into quasi-feudalism and subservience of the many to the few.

With that in mind, I approach my final column for The Rag Blog with a few observations about medical care in the United States.

Rarely do I watch television as I find it stultifying, by and large, save for a few generally open and informative presentations on MSNBC. I did, however, watch on ABC news report about a day of free medical care at the Los Angeles Coliseum where hundreds of the poor, underprivileged, uninsured stood in line -- many of them all night -- to gain admission to a day of free care provided by volunteers from the L.A. area.

This is my country! This is the nation that spends twice what any other civilized nation spends per capita on health care! This is what the corporate leaders and their political prostitutes have to offer for the coming years! This is what the Republican presidential candidates condone and would promote for the future health care of our country, and for which the current administration has crafted, for political purposes, a faux health care bill, dictated by the insurance consortium and the pharmaceutical industry.

We, in the United States, have the ultimate in health care rationing -- and it's rationing based on one's ability to pay.

Nation of Change featured an article by Noam Levey titled, "U.S. Health Care Falls Further behind Peers, Report Finds." The article, notes that "The U.S. health care system is lagging further and further behind other industrialized countries on major measures of quality, efficiency, and access to care, according to a new report from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund, a leading health policy foundation." The report in full is available here.

In its fall newsletter, Physicians for a National Health Policy (PNHP) reveals many more facts that surprised me and may surprise you. For instance:

  • 60.3 million Americans (19.8%) were uninsured for at least part of 2010, up from 58.5 million people in 2009, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. 48.6 million Americans (16 %) were uninsured at the time of the interview for the 2010 survey, up from 46.3 million people in 2009, with the majority, 35.7 million Americans (11.7% of all Americans), uninsured for more than one year, up from 32.8 million people the previous year, according to an analysis of data from the National Health Interview Survey.
  • Nine million working-age Americans -- 57% of people who had health insurance through a job that was lost -- became uninsured between 2008 and 2010, according to a survey by the Commonwealth Fund.
  • Health care premiums will rise 8.5% in 2010, according to a PricewatterhouseCoopers survey of 1,700 firms. Employers are offering workers more meager plans in response to rising costs; 17 % of employers surveyed most commonly offered high-deductible health plans to their workers this year, up from 13% in 2010 (Merrill Goozner, The Fiscal Times, 5/18/11).
  • The total cost of a health care plan for a family of four covered by a VA Preferred Provider Plan (PPO) in 2011 is estimated to be $19, 393, up 7.3% from 2010, according to Milliman Medical Index. Employer contributions account for 59%, $11,385, of the total, while employees pay 41% of the cost, $8,008. Employees will pay an average of $3,280 in out of pocket costs. (The Milliman Medical Index ).
  • U.S.Physicians spend nearly four times more on billing and related overhead each year ($82,975 vs $22,205) per physician than their Canadian counterparts, with U.S. medical practice staff spending over 20.6 hours per week on bureaucratic tasks, compared to just 2.5 hours per physician week under Canada/s single-payer program (Morra et al., "U.S.physicians practices vs Canadians," Health Affairs, 8/11.)
  • The nation's five largest for-profit health insurers netted $11.7 billion in profits for 2010, up 51% from 2008, because medical costs grew more slowly than forecast, as insured patients skimped on medical care to avoid costly co-pays and deductables during the severe recession. UnitedHealthcare was the leader in profitability, taking in over $4.6 billion in profits, followed by WellPoint ($2.9 billion) and Aetna ($1.8 billion).
  • CEOs at the nation's five largest for-profit insurance companies garnered $55.4 million in compensation in 2010. The top paid was Cigna's David Cordani ($15.2 million), followed by WellPoint's Angela Braly ($13.5 million), United Healthcare's Stephen Hemsley ($10.8 million), Aetna's Mark Bertolini ($8.8 million), and Humana's Michael McAllister ($6.1 million). (Executive Pay-Watch, AFL-CIO, 2011).
  • The pharmaceutical industry spent $6.1 billion in 2010 to influence American doctors, and another $4 billion on direct to consumer advertising, according to IMS Health.

And then there's hospice care:

  • For-profit hospices are expanding rapidly and may be cherry-picking the most profitable patients, according to a recent study. The number of for-profit hospices increased from 725 in 2000 to 1,600 in 2007, while the number of nonprofit hospices remained stable at 1,205 in 2007. Overall, 52% of facilities are for profit, 35% are non-profit, and 13% are government owned.
  • Hospice care is funded by Medicare on a per-diem basis, with a fixed rate ($143 in 2010) paid to providers for each day a patient is in a facility. Because the first and last days of care are more expensive, to provide, longer care generates higher profit. The study found that patients in for-profit facilities averaged a 20-day stay, compared to 16 days in nonprofit centers. (Your author has a question. In view of the fact that hospice care is designed to provide compassionate, painless death with dignity, what is the method of four days longer survival in the for-profit hospice?)
  • Hospice care costs for nursing home patients jumped nearly 70% between 2005 and 2009, from $2.5 billion to $4.3 billion, while the number of hospice patients increased by only 40%, according to the Office of the Inspector General. Hospices with a large share of patients in nursing homes were typically for profit and appeared to seek out patients with certain characteristics associated with life expectancy and lower demand for care. The Medicare program paid for-profit hospices more for patients than it paid non-profit and government owned hospices in 2009. For profit hospices received about $12, 600 per patient while nonprofit and government entities received between $8,200 and $9,800 per beneficiary.

One bit of light is the California Medical Association's resolution to legalize marijuana. A tiny bit of encouragement, but a very long way to go.

This old geezer can find nothing to relieve my depression regarding the future of health care in our fair country. The moral decay, the worship of wealth, and the lack of Christian charity appear to create a situation that worsens by the day.

I find no hope within either political party as both are whores to the corporate interests that dominate our society. The sole voices of hope that appear to reach the public in general come from the "99%" movement and Dylan Ratigan's campaign for a constitutional amendment to do away with money in politics.

Unlike in Europe, where the populace has a basic understanding of the existing domestic situation, the average American appears to be entirely moved by nothing but the sloganeering of the political Right.

I cry for my country, and while asleep I hear in my dreams the mass gatherings of my youth singing, "Arise ye prisoners of starvation, arise thee wretched of the earth, for justice thunders condemnation, a better world's in birth."

[Dr. Stephen R. Keister lives in Erie, Pennsylvania. He is a retired physician who is active in health care reform and is a regular contributor to The Rag Blog. Read more articles by Dr. Stephen R. Keister on The Rag Blog]

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