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Pop-culture Campaign for Universal Health Care Targets IPOD Users & "MTV Generation"
As the nation's largest health insurers prepare to release what are expected to be near-record profit reports, the Austin Lounge Lizards have teamed up with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) to urge Americans to "sink the health insurance pirates."

The campaign for universal health care was launched today with a viral Internet-based animated music video -- Pirates of the Health Care-ibbean -- featuring a new song by the Austin Lounge Lizards, "Go Ahead & Die," and animated by Powerhouse Animation. The music video is available at: http://www.Cal-Medicare.org

"HMOs and health insurers have plundered health care and held patients ransom for far too long," said Jerry Flanagan of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. "The IPOD generation will be at the forefront of this cultural revolution for universal health care."

As part of a "Pod-Power" health care series seeking to build support for universal health care reform, FTCR released "Pirates of the Health Care-ibbean" as a video podcast. To subscribe to FTCR podcasts go to: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/podcasting/

"We think the song's pirate theme aptly describes the situation," said Hank Card, rhythm guitarist for the Austin Lounge Lizards. "I particularly like the lines, 'Because your basic coverage will cost an arm and leg/We'll happily replace them with a hook and peg.'"

A September 2005 Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 59% percent of Californians would trade the current system for "a universal health insurance program, in which everyone is covered under a program like Medicare that is run by the government and financed by taxpayers." A 2003 ABC News/Washington Post poll found similar support across the nation (62% for universal health insurance, 32% for the current system).

Skyrocketing health insurance costs threaten health and the economy:

* In 2005, medical bills were responsible for half of all bankruptcies. Of the approximately one million Americans who file for bankruptcy each year as a result of illness, most have college degrees, work full-time, and own their homes. Three-quarters already have insurance.

* According to a recent U.C. Berkeley study, by 2010, employers will provide health insurance for only half of California's working adults.

HMOs, PPOs, and other health insurers waste billions of dollars each year that could be used to provide care and keep expenses down. Insurers spend 20% of our premiums on overhead including profit and administration compared to public programs like Medicare that spend just 2%.

"The disastrous handling of the new privatized Medicare drug benefit by HMOs and health insurers is just the latest example of their indifference and greed imperiling the disabled and seniors," said Flanagan.

Last week, UnitedHealth, the nation's second largest health insurer, announced an 18% profit increase in the 4th quarter of 2005. Tomorrow, WellPoint, which recently merged with Anthem to become the nation's largest insurer, will release its profit report to be followed over the next several weeks by Aetna, Humana and Cigna. Altogether, these five insurers provide health insurance for half of the 173 million Americans with private health insurance.

Key elements of a new "California Medicare" program include provisions that all Californians would be insured and that universal coverage would be paid for by eliminating health insurance companies. The California Medicare program would take advantage of bulk purchasing and protect the ERs, hospitals, doctors, nurses, and clinics that provide care.

A recent Lewin Group study found that Californians could save $8 billion each year by switching to a universal access system that eliminates health insurers, takes advantage of bulk purchases, focuses on preventive care and pays doctors and hospitals directly.

This approach emphasizes patient choice, and puts patients and care providers in control, not insurance companies. Coverage will be more complete than private insurance plans, encourage prevention, and include prescription drugs, dental care, and mental health care. For more information visit: http://www.Cal-Medicare.org

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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is the nation's leading non-profit and non-partisan consumer advocacy group. For more information, please visit us on-line at: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org