The 11 Federal Judges Attending the 2011 Defending and Managing ERISA Litigation Conference.

The American Conference Institute assembles a yearly “defending against ERISA claims” conference usually held in New York City. This year’s conference is at the New York Marriott Downtown.

If you have Multiple Sclerosis or any other disease that forced you to fight for your benefits because companies like CIGNA denied (lied about) your illness, then you know all about ERISA or the Employment and Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. Unfortunately, ERISA has had negative consequences. A full explanation, written by an ERISA expert, can be found here.

But you may not know that the very same federal judges who may hear your case attend these conferences where they help coach insurance companies, plan providers and other attorneys on how to defend against ERISA claims. In other words, how to make sure a company like CIGNA doesn’t have to fulfill their contractual obligations and pay your claim. From the conference brochure:

An ERISA Moot Court: Featuring top defense attorneys arguing some of the hottest andmost common issues facing ERISA practitioners today, panels of renowned ERISA juristswill critique arguments, question our litigators and help all attendees understand how tosuccessfully convey their positions to the court.

The federal judges are going to going to participate in a moot court? That’s rich. And our favorite here at the MS Activism Foundation:

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: A Focus on Severance Plan Litigation including Triggering Events,COBRA Hang-Ups, and the Other Litigation Issues that Arise in Separation Situations.

CIGNA had a big loss this year in CIGNA v. Amara, even though they are spinning it otherwise, so of course, CIGNA’s senior counsel, Christina McNally will be in attendance at the conference.

Fidelity Investments, my husband’s former employer, is listed on the last page as being in attendance as well. I could not find a name though. Last year it was their very own senior counsel, (and Paul’s fellow Boston College alum) Laura Tholen.

Here are the names and districts of all the federal judges who are attending this year’s conference. And here is a link to the PDF of the 2011 conference. If you are fighting for your claim, and see your judge, send them a letter. Tell them that you know what they’re doing and that it certainly does not appear impartial.

Here are the Codes of Conduct for United States Judges and be sure to ask about CANON 3: A JUDGE SHOULD PERFORM THE DUTIES OF THE OFFICE FAIRLY,IMPARTIALLY AND DILIGENTLY.

 

Hon. Daniel E. Knowles, III U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. La.

Hon. Morton Denlow U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Ill.

Hon. Matthew Kennelly U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Ill.

Hon. William S. Duffey, Jr. U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Ga.

Hon. Viktor Pohorelsky U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D.N.Y.

Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr. U.S. Dist. Ct., W.D. Mo.

Hon. Timothy C. Batten, Sr.U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Ga.

Hon. Robert Jonker U.S. Dist. Ct., W.D. Mo. (I think the American Conference Institute meant MI not MO.)

Hon. Richard G. Stearns U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Mass.

Hon. John Coughenour U.S. Dist. Ct., W.D. Wash.

Hon. Robert B. Collings U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Mass.

Associated Press Reporting Lemtrada (campath) Missing a Goal in Trials.

Associated Press, 07.11.11, 11:29 AM EDT 

NEW YORK — French drugmaker Sanofi said Monday that its multiple sclerosis drug candidate Lemtrada did not achieve one of its goals in a late-stage clinical trial.

Sanofi said Lemtrada worked better than an older drug, Rebif, in preventing relapses, as patients treated with Lemtrada were 55 percent less likely to experience a relapse in symptoms. However, the drug did not prevent their multiple sclerosis from becoming disabling, as it had in previous studies.

Sanofi also listed the side-effects as headache, rash, fever, nausea, flushing, hives, and chills, leaving out the deaths reported in the clinical trials.

I also was very wary when I read the study and they were touting the drug as being able to prevent disability outright. It was even reported that it may reverse brain damage from MS. Nothing short of a miracle, right? Or a selling point worthy of $20.1 billion?

The Shame in Ryan’s Plan or How the GOP Wants to Stick it to Seniors.

Regarding the Ryan/GOP plan to privatize Medicare, from Talking Points Memo today:

Under the House Republican plan, the government holds fixed the amount of money it’s willing to pay per patient per year, and leaves the residual costs for seniors to sort out with private insurers. Because private insurers are smaller, profit-driven, and less efficient than Medicare, those out-of-pocket costs will be significantly higher than they are now. And they’d grow much, much faster. Over the course of the program’s 75 year planning period, the difference would amount to $34 trillion.

And while they are trying to take away the Medicare you paid for all your working lives, the GOP is still trying to repeal or defund the Affordable Care Act, where the new health care laws were put into place to stop the health insurance industry from some of its more pernicious acts against sick people.

The GOP wants to get rid of the new health care law with its consumer protections; high risk pool for those with pre-existing conditions, relief for seniors who hit the donut hole, allowing your children to remain on your policy until they are 26 years old, eliminating yearly and lifetime caps on your benefits, to name but a few of its many benefits.

See how your Congressional rep voted on the Ryan Plan here with an interactive map from the New York Times.

Want to know Paul Ryan’s net worth–and all members of Congress as well? Go to Open Secrets and find out. You can search by individual and even download the list of all members of Congress–the ones you pay to represent you. From Open Secrets:

About 1 percent of all Americans are millionaires. In Congress, that number regularly hovers between 40 percent and 50 percent, meaning elected leaders generally need not worry about the economic pressures many Americans face – from securing gainful employment to grappling with keeping a family financially afloat. Decide for yourself if these congressional millionaires are adequately representing your financial interests.

Vermont now leads the way in our nation on health care!

Vermont is now leading the way in our nation towards a civilized, rational and cost-effective form of health care. The state has passed a bill establishing a Single Payer system.

That’s right, everyone in the state of Vermont will have the right of health insurance coverage, a Medicare for Everyone type of health care.

Imagine, if you will, the security of never fearing you are just one pink slip away from a health care related financial disaster or knowing that you will not have to declare bankruptcy if you lose your job and have a pre-existing condition like Multiple Sclerosis.

You will always be able to pay into a Single Payer system and be covered. And the more people in the pool, the more costs are contained.

Here’s Vermont for Single Payer dot org’s Top 10 Reasons for the Single Payer system.

Think Progress has been reporting on this and here is a link to the article. However, there still are some hurdles to a civil society:

A bigger hurdle Vermont faces is obtaining a waiver from the federal health care reform act and finding a way around federal ERISA laws — which “pre-empt states from enacting legislation if it is ‘related to’ employee benefit plans” –- that insurers could use to sue the state. The health reform law currently offers a waiver to states who meet certain standards by 2017. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) has introduced an amendment that would move the waiver date up to 2014 — an idea that President Obama has endorsed.

For those of  you unfamiliar with ERISA laws, be glad you are. The federal ERISA (Employee Retirement Incoms Security Act) laws were in enacted in 1974 and meant to protect employees from having their pension funds ravaged by crooked CEOs. It also covers health plans and there’s the problem. More on ERISA herehere and here. Please read these links, they explain everything in detail.

The health insurance companies like ERISA laws since it helps them NOT pay out claims or holds them liable for any wrong-doing. It’s why Nataline Sarkisyan’s parents could not sue CIGNA when they denied their 17 year old daughter a liver transplant and she died. Nataline had leukemia.

“The most important federal insurance regulation of the past generation is ERISA,” says Tom Baker, deputy dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philadelphia. “If ever a law backfired for the public, ERISA is the perfect example.”

During the debate over the Affordable Care Act two specifics were brought to the table to help the consumer. The first was get rid of ERISA for health plans. Guess what? The insurance lobby (AHIP) won on that one and we still have it.

And the second was get rid of the McCarran Ferguson Act of 1945, the one where the insurance industry is immune to Federal Anti-Trust Laws (like Major League Baseball). You guessed it, the insurance lobby won out again over the consumer.

If you are a believer in states’ rights then I urge you to write your members of Congress and tell them to do away with these two federal laws and put the rights back in the hands of your state. You’ll be healthier! And Single Payer or Medicare for Everyone.

If the deficit really matters, then it’s time for Medicare for Everyone.

From Ezra Klein’s article in the Washington Post today:

Back during the health-care reform fight, the Congressional Budget Office looked at the likely effect of adding a public option that paid Medicare rates. “In total, a public plan based on Medicare rates would save $110 billion over 10 years,” the agency concluded. Importantly, the savings would come because premiums would be lower. The basic mechanism here is not complicated: Just as you get better deals by shopping at a mega-retailer like Wal-Mart, you get better deals by working with a mega-insurer like Medicare. Size matters.

As for Ryan’s plan, CBO’s take was just the opposite. “Under the proposal,” they said, “most elderly people would pay more for their health care than they would pay under the current Medicare system.” That is to say, health-care costs go up.

Your Congressional Representatives who voted to Abolish Medicare aka The Ryan Plan

Erratum: In the original posting below, I stated that under the Ryan plan, seniors would receive $6,000 voucher to help with purchasing insurance. This is incorrect. The correct figure is $8,000 for the year or roughly $666 per month to pay your premiums, co-pays and pharmacy charges.

Link to full map of all Congressional reps who voted on the Ryan plan below. List of California reps who voted to abolish Medicare at bottom of posting.

As this Foundation has noted before, Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan calls for abolishing Medicare to all those under the age of 55 and handing your taxpayer money over to private corporations. What happens to all the money you have been paying into Medicare for the past 30+ years of your working lives? Answer is you get nothing in return.

This Foundation began in part because of the way my husband, who has Progressive-Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis, was treated by his insurance carrier, CIGNA, a private, for-profit corporation with a long and terrible history of denying claims to their sick, premium paying customers–one such denial resulted in the death of 17 year old Nataline Sarkisyan.

Rep. Ryan and all his GOP friends want to hand you a voucher for $6,000 and tell you to go and find a company, like CIGNA, who will insure you at the age of 65, for that amount of money–while at the same time they, the GOP, are trying to undo the Affordable Care Act that will prevent insurance companies from denying your claims. Doesn’t make one bit of sense, does it?

If you have Multiple Sclerosis or any other life-altering disease, you know how far $6,000 will get you. If you have MS, that’s the cost of your disease modifying drugs for just one month!

Call your representative if they voted to abolish Medicare. Tell them forget trying to get re-elected since they don’t seem to be serving the American public but their corporate paymasters instead. Contact information is embedded in each link and the full map of how Congress voted can be found at the New York Times. It’s time this country went to a single payer system. Medicare for Everyone, cradle to grave.

Call and be heard. It’s your money that pays for Medicare and pays for Congressional salaries. Remember, they work for us.

Your California Congressional Representatives who voted to abolish Medicare and hand your money over to private corporations:

1.  Rep. Herger, Walter [R-CA2] voted to abolish Medicare.

2.  Rep. Lungren, Daniel [R-CA3] voted to abolish Medicare.

3.  Rep. McClintock, Tom [R-CA4] voted to abolish Medicare.

4.  Rep. Denham, Jeff [R-CA19] voted to abolish Medicare.

5.  Rep. Nunes, Devin [R-CA21] voted to abolish Medicare.

6.  Rep. McCarthy, Kevin [R-CA22] voted to abolish Medicare.

7.  Rep. Gallegly, Elton [R-CA24] voted to abolish Medicare.

8.  Rep. McKeon, Howard [R-CA25] voted to abolish Medicare.

9.  Rep. Dreier, David [R-CA26] voted to abolish Medicare.

10. Rep. Royce, Edward [R-CA40] voted to abolish Medicare.

11. Rep. Lewis, Jerry [R-CA41] voted to abolish Medicare.

12. Rep. Miller, Gary [R-CA42] voted to abolish Medicare.

13. Rep. Calvert, Ken [R-CA44] voted to abolish Medicare.

14. Rep. Bono Mack, Mary [R-CA45] voted to abolish Medicare.

15. Rep. Rohrabacher, Dana [R-CA46] voted to abolish Medicare.

16. Rep. Campbell, John [R-CA48] voted to abolish Medicare.

17. Rep. Issa, Darrell [R-CA49] voted to abolish Medicare.

18. Rep. Bilbray, Brian [R-CA50] voted to abolish Medicare.

19. Rep. Hunter, Duncan [R-CA52] voted to abolish Medicare.