Archive for the ‘Health Issues’ Category

Which Plan?

November 8th, 2009 Comments off

According to the non-partisan CBO, the Democratic plan insures tens of millions more Americans than the Republican “plan”; it saves tens of billions more dollars, and makes it illegal for insurers to deny people for pre-existing conditions, whereas the Republicans would allow insurers to keep on discriminating.

Is this even really a choice? What are the Republicans running on? Are they saying, “Our bill will cost more, insure a lot fewer people, and keeps the worst insurance policies alive! Vote for us!”

More likely, they’re simply doing what they do best: lying, and making people vote against their own best interests by scaring them.

Categories: Health Issues, Republican Stupidity Tags:

The Meaning of Bipartisanship

October 27th, 2009 Comments off

I’m not the only one feeling confused by Obama and the Democrats’ eagerness to get the single Senate vote of Olympia Snowe. Sure, she might have pulled one or two other moderate Republicans (although, how many are left now?) along with her, but frankly, I doubt it–Republicans are far too partisan on this issue. Even Snowe’s vote was not assured, for crying out loud.

Now that Reid had come to his senses and has put his money on the Opt-out Plan, Snowe is deeply disappointed:

Snowe issued a statement Monday, saying she was “deeply disappointed” with Reid’s decision on the public option. She argued that a decision in favor of a trigger “could have been the road toward achieving a broader bipartisan consensus in the Senate.”

Oh, please. Your single vote is not “bipartisan.” Nor would even a few more. More than a dozen Republicans voting for it, maybe.

But you know what? The bill is already bipartisan. Remember that in the days of GOP control, there would be none of this “bipartisan” talk at all. Nothing. The GOP would write the bill as they liked and shove it through Congress, screaming bloody murder if the Dems even hinted at a filibuster.

What we have today is far different: despite the Dems holding a 60-seat supermajority, a Republican filibuster is assumed, and instead of rants and tirades and threats of the “nuclear option,” the Dems have been bending over backwards to try to get Republicans on board. Instead of pushing it through quickly like the GOP would have done, they allowed for delay while knowing full well it was for no other reason than to allow Republicans to take their best shot at savagely attacking the bill.

Already a host of compromises have changed the legislation, and that’s why it’s a bipartisan bill even if every Republican votes against it. Partly because the Democratic Party already includes a number of conservatives, but mostly because Republicans have had their say and have helped shape the bill. Were is truly a “partisan” bill, it would be single-payer Medicare-for-Everyone. Just because the Dems started from a position that was already bipartisan does not mean that that bipartisanship doesn’t count.

The GOP can wail and rant and kick and cry, they can hold their collective breath till their collective face turns blue (or, more appropriately, red), they can vote as a solid block against the bill with not a single “yea” vote–but the bill is bipartisan already.

Bipartisanship means giving voice to the other party; Republicans never gave this to Democrats, but Democrats have given full voice to Republicans. Bipartisanship means allowing compromise and coming to a point well away from what you want in order to appease the other side and address their concerns; Republicans never gave Democrats an inch, but Democrats have given Republicans a mile.

Just about everything the Democrats have done so far smacks of bipartisanship; just about everything the GOP has done so far smacks of strident partisanship.

Suck on it, GOP: you played dirty as hell while the Dems tried to placate you, but you lost. Now go cry in your milk before you start your attempts to smear and sabotage the health care reform that will pass.


October 27th, 2009 1 comment

The Public Option is now in. Senate and House both have the “Opt-out” plan, which strikes me as a win-win for Dems, as it mollifies the “Moderates” (read: somewhat-less-radical conservatives) while not really giving away anything. Unless the states themselves will be setting up Public Option plans and/or paying for them, I see no reason why anyone would want to opt-out–and the Republicans who do can be vulnerable for denying their constituents cheap, effective health care. Is my read on that right?

Now, Republicans in Congress have a tough choice: when it becomes inevitable that the health care reform bill will pass, how will they vote? If they stick with opposition and the plan proves popular–as is probable–it’ll look bad for them. Right now they’re not opposing the bill because they really believe it’ll lead to Socialism or Death Panels–they’re opposing it because they want to make Obama fail and to follow industry lobbyist direction. When the bill’s passage becomes inevitable and they risk looking like partisan industry shills who opposed what is most likely to be a very popular law, how many will switch?

Of course, the GOP is not only extremely partisan right now, its members are very strictly controlled, almost the opposite of the Democrats. Likely they will stick to their opposition, and simply try their hardest to paint the law as destructive in the 2010 midterms, before it will have had enough time to prove that it works. After that, they’ll just try to take credit for it.

What Health Insurance Is About

October 23rd, 2009 Comments off

More warm and fuzzy news about the kind, sweet people at health insurance companies, this time about how they are abusing rape victims. The short version: a woman who was raped took anti-HIV medication as a precaution. Result: she is now uninsurable, as the insurance companies don’t want to risk taking on someone who might have AIDS. The message: if you get raped, don’t try to prevent HIV or else you’ll be uninsurable.

I thought that the whole idea of insurance was to spread out the cost of health care by having healthy and unhealthy people covered. The healthy people cover the excess costs of the unhealthy people, on the chance that they might someday join the ranks of the unhealthy. What an idiot I am–it’s not about something stupid like that. Rather, it’s about insuring only healthy people and taking the excess as profits. What was my addled Socialist brain thinking?

Categories: Health Issues Tags:

Health Care and the Public Option: When Local Should Be National

September 27th, 2009 4 comments

This story seems to be covered only locally, but should be a national story:

OXFORD — Friends say the Miami University graduate who died this week after reportedly suffering from swine flu delayed getting medical treatment because she did not have health insurance.

News of Kimberly Young’s death Wednesday, Sept. 23, came as a shock to those who knew the vibrant 22-year-old who was working at least two jobs in Oxford after graduating with a double major in December 2008.

Young became ill about two weeks ago, but didn’t seek care initially because she didn’t have health insurance and was worried about the cost, according to Brent Mowery, her friend and former roommate.

Mowery said Young eventually went to an urgent care facility in Hamilton where she was given pain medication and then sent home.

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, Young’s condition suddenly worsened and her roommate drove her to McCullough Hyde Memorial Hospital in Oxford, where she was flown in critical condition to University Hospital in Cincinnati.

“That’s the most tragic part about it. If she had insurance, she would have gone to the doctor,” Mowery said.

The story is nationally relevant for two reasons: first, that lack of health insurance was the primary reason she died. Second, her representative in Congress is John Boehner, a Republican leader and opponent of health care reform.

In better news, the public option is making a comeback, especially since a CBO report made it clear that the public option would save a lot of money, making the Blue-dog Democrats back down, and not helping the Republican cause a whole lot. If Obama and the Democrats can simply catch a hold of this swing and deliver the bill for a vote while the conditions are right, we might actually see a health care reform law which actually does good.

Categories: Health Issues Tags:

Obama Calls Out the Lies

September 10th, 2009 Comments off

Great to see Obama calling out the Death Panels, Illegal Alien insurance, and government-funded abortions as lies. Not just “misrepresentations” or “distortions,” but flat-out lies.

Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.

There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false – the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally. And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up – under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.

It badly needed to be said at exactly so prominent a venue.

And I love the “prominent politicians” reference. Bite it, Palin. If only the media would have half the guts to hold her and anyone else who spreads this lie to the facts, not giving them any slack until they admitted that it was false.

Good Points, Paul

September 8th, 2009 Comments off

Paul Cox has a very good, easy-to-read post on the Public Option and why it’s a great idea.

The Public Option:

  • saves money by not advertising like private insurers do;
  • saves money by not having as high administrative costs as private insurers do;
  • saves money by not taking profits like private insurers do;
  • passes these savings directly on to you, the consumer;
  • and finally, the obvious: it’s an option, you can ignore it if you like.

And this is really what shows up the non-thinkers who oppose socialized medicine: they recoil from such plans solely because of fears that are not only false but are laughably so, fears of socialized medicine leading to a socialist government (which is kind of like fearing that community centers will lead to communism) and because they have this deluded idea pounded into their heads by the right wing that the government screws up everything it touches. Because Social Security, Medicare, the Interstate Highway System, the Space Program, and all those other government programs were such huge failures. The major failures in government come primarily when the right-wingers get their hands on an organization, pilfer its resources, riddle it with corruption, and appoint agency leaders who are proactively opposed to the agencies’ principles.

What amazes me is that all of these people who oppose the Public Option seem so afraid that a dollar will be added to their taxes that they’re willing to shell out five dollars to private industry instead. By eliminating the Public Option, they are essentially saying that they want to pay for advertising for insurers, they would rather pay extra for less-efficient private administrative costs, that they think it’s somehow cheaper for them to add large sums of money to their premiums that will pay for nothing except profits to shareholders or bonuses to executives.

The best thing about the Public Option–one of the main ideas behind it–is that it stands to slash health care costs so much that private insurers will be forced to streamline their administrative systems to become more efficient, cut their profit margins to reasonable levels, and fight to find ways to save money for their customers. How evil!

And then there’s the “fear” that the Public Option will be so cheap that private insurers won’t be able to compete, and they’ll fail. Then all we’ll have left is that evil Public Option!

One can only hope.

Categories: Health Issues Tags:

Good Discussion

September 6th, 2009 Comments off

Somehow I don’t see Norm Coleman doing things this well. Just explaining the facts. Granted, the Tea Party people there are listening respectfully while disagreeing–a refreshing sight after seeing so many examples of people shouting down any opposing voice.

Categories: Health Issues Tags:

Obama’s Address on Health Care

September 5th, 2009 3 comments

ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and MSNBC will all carry Obama’s address to Congress on health care. Guess which network will not carry it? Not hard to figure that one out, is it? While the Republican Party’s propaganda machine will refuse to carry the speech, Republican leaders nevertheless are demanding that they be given network time as well.

At this point in time, it is looking more and more like Obama will wuss out and pass on the public option. One wants to hold out hope that Obama will discover his spine and use the address to pull an American President: tell the nation that the opposition is no longer credible, that there have been too many bald-faced lies, too much opposition for partisan political purposes, that he tried everything he could within reason and got nothing in return–no return of good faith, not even a gesture–just more attacks, smears, and lies. So he’s putting back in everything he thinks is right, what the nation needs–and if the Republicans want to block the bill, they do so at their peril, with the responsibility for failed health care reform on their heads.

He won’t, of course. He’ll take the whipping the right wing has been giving him with forced praise for their in-fact-non-existent “bipartisan efforts,” remove even more major stuff the right wing has been objecting to, and call for a weakened, watered-down bill that will be reform in name only. And the Republicans will not thank him for it–they will take it for the sign of weakness it is, and only ramp up their lies and attacks. They will use Obama’s concessions as a rallying point, taking everything and giving nothing, and then start attacking even more of what little remains of the bill, only heightening their cries against anything Obama puts forward.

Let’s face it: Obama doesn’t have the guts to abandon the whole bipartisan angle even after the right wing has made it painfully clear that they will object to anything for the sake of winning midterms next year.

And let’s face another fact: Obama blew it. He let the health care bill wander into Congress slowly, and let it linger for so long that Republicans were able to beat it to a bloody pulp. He should have worked out most of it behind the scenes, quietly working out major details with Democratic leaders, and then presented it up-front as a vital, lives-are-at-stake issue which has to pass within just 2-3 weeks. And every time the Republicans objected, all he’d have to do is pull two or three names from the large pool of people who died because they didn’t have insurance, have their families stand behind him, and remind the nation that every day the Republicans delay, they are killing more and more Americans.

He should have known full well that he’d never get Republicans to go along, and could have used their back-stabbing on the stimulus bill to (a) point out that bipartisanship would not work because the GOP had precluded it, and (b) he was right on the Stimulus, it worked without Republicans, and if he has to pass health care reform without them too, that was their choice–he would do what he knew was right. Even if there was a huge outcry, Obama still could have gotten away with it, with midterms being so far away.

Instead, Obama fumbled, bumbled, tried to appear bipartisan long after that dog died, and continued to let the right wing flog him while he smiled and took it. And nobody, no one on the left, right, or center will respect him or give him any credit for it. What the hell is he thinking?

I still hold out that faint hope for him to grow a pair and take a leadership role this coming Wednesday. But I fully expect for those hopes to be dashed.

I Don’t Think So

September 4th, 2009 Comments off

Holy crap.

Sometimes, even in the best of health care systems, you get horrible doctors. I originally had an expert eye doctor to help me with a problem I was experiencing, but he was pretty far away from home. So he recommended me to another expert at a local hospital who was pretty good.

However, I was unable to catch this doctor one time (she was on vacation) and got stuck with another doctor who I found less talented, but acceptable. As he was treating a new condition, I agreed to a second appointment with him. That was today.

The wait for the doctor was unusually long–one of those situations where they slip people ahead of you. You know, you’re fifth in line to see the doctor, and then after five people are called in, you are third in line. People came in well after I had settled to wait and went in ahead of me. That’s annoying enough, and I wound up having a wait time of 90 minutes for what was supposed to be a pre-set appointment time.

But what was really bad about today was the doctor. Instead of the substitute doctor, I was assigned to a third doctor whom I had never heard of before. When I finally got to see her, she was very abrupt, almost to the point of being rude. She took a quick glance at my record, not even close to long enough to understand what I was in for, asked no questions, and simply went ahead with an exam–during which she damn near tore my eyelids off.

Now, as I have explained, I have seen three other doctors before this and was examined for a variety of reasons, and never before have I ever experienced anything like what this doctor subjected me to. She did not even warn me; she took my upper right eyelid (the problem with with the lower left), grabbed the flesh of it, pulled it out, and then twisted it. It was so severe that out of reflex I yanked my head backwards. I figured that she slipped or something, but no, she intended to do that. When I had taken the relatively inoffensive, standard puff-of-air-on-the-eyeball test with the assistant an hour earlier, she warned me about the puff of air despite it being a test they give you every time. This doctor nearly yanked my eyelid off my face without so much as an “excuse me.” It hurt like hell–and then the doctor acted all put off and offended at my reaction, saying, “Well then, I just won’t check your eyes, is that OK?”

After she finished, she just half-shouted “ALLERGY!” at me like I was an illiterate moron–despite the fact that I had come in for something completely different. I tried to explain my previous problem–as she seemed to think it unnecessary to study my file to find out herself–but she persisted in focusing on the “allergy” problem, despite the fact that I told her that (a) my eyes did not itch and felt OK (at least they did before she abused them), and (b) the problem I needed help with was specific to one eye and not related to allergies. She then insisted that I had allergies, probably because I was “reading too much”–is that even possible?

I asked what happened to the doctor I had been scheduled to meet; she simply said that he quit. I then asked why I could not see the original doctor I had been assigned to, and she told me it was a scheduling problem–which, when I pressed her on, she admitted it was not, apparently having made up that excuse.

So I just made an appointment to see my original doctor and ignore everything this one did and said. But sheesh, I do not recall ever meeting a worse doctor, except possibly for the dentist who destroyed one of my teeth and then blamed me for it.

Let me just say that this was a very atypical experience. Usually the waits are much less than an hour, the doctors are competent, the service good. I just happened to get shuffled to a terrible new intern or something.

At least this visit only cost me eight bucks. But after an hour, my eyelids still hurt.

Categories: Health Issues Tags:

NYT Article Exemplifies What’s Wrong with the Media

September 3rd, 2009 1 comment

This NYT article lead-in is horribly written:

Conservatives See Need for Serious Health Debate

Published: September 2, 2009

WASHINGTON — The roiling debate over health care this summer has included a host of accusations from opponents of the plan that have been so specious that many in the mainstream news media have flatly labeled them false.

First of all, the headline: “Conservatives See Need for Serious Health Debate”? Are you freaking kidding me? That’s the last thing that most conservatives “see” or want. It’s what high-level conservatives claim, which would be a more honest way of expressing it, but it’s is most decidedly not even close to what they actually want. More to the point, the article is not actually talking about conservatives in general, but instead a small minority of health care experts on the right–which shows up the headline as starkly misleading.

The next problem: the first paragraph, shown above. It seems reasonable until you catch on to the fact that it is a subtle understatement as to how reluctant the media is to speak the truth about conservative dishonesty. It plainly implies that the media will not report that Republicans are lying unless the lies are so egregious that they cannot help but call them for what they are. And even then, stark lies are, at worst, sometimes timidly referred to as “false,” as if they are too fearful of pointing out any of the blazingly obvious intent to deceive.

While the article in general leads into a serious discussion on health care reform, the thesis that conservatives are somehow the responsible party when it comes to talking about health care is so outrageously misrepresented that it isn’t even funny. Sure, I don’t doubt for a moment that there are some prominent conservative health care experts who would prefer to have an honest debate. But that’s not what the article’s introduction suggests, nor does it obviate the fact that you have to go pretty damn far down the conservative line before you get to these relative voices of reason.

BBC: American Right-Wingers Are Lying about British Health Care

August 15th, 2009 Comments off

This BBC story shows how the American right-wingers are using a lone extremist British politician and duping British citizens to support the completely false impression that British health care is (a) ineffective and (b) reviled in Britain, when in fact it provides complete coverage to all Brits at half the relative cost (as % of GDP) Americans pay and is widely loved despite its flaws.

Categories: Health Issues, Right-Wing Lies Tags:

Make Up Your Minds–Oh, Wait, You Have to Possess One First

August 11th, 2009 2 comments

My belief is that no private-sector entity can survive over a long period of time competing against the government. The public option will be written by politicians. It will be generous. Nobody in my business worries about the bottom line.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

So, conservatives hate socialized medicine because it will cover everything and private industry will not be able to compete.

No, wait a minute–I thought they were against it because with socialized medicine there couldn’t possibly be enough money to go around, meaning we’d get rationing and “Death Panels”:

People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.

Talk about playing both ends of the field. Of course, both are wrong. We’ve had Medicare for more than 40 years and it hasn’t gone the way Graham is saying such plans would; as for “rationing,” Graham is more correct in that government plans would be more generous than private insurance–but wrong in his contention that this would break the bank. By removing the profit margin for private corporations, you can give more care and save money. Instead of paying huge amounts to private insurers, you simply pay a lot to the government. More for less, and it works. Ask the Rest of the Planet.

And Stephen Hawking, by the way, is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. That’s Cambridge, England, not Massachusetts. Hawking, as Josh Marshall points out and anyone who knows anything about this esteemed man knows well, has lived in England all his life. Somehow he avoided the Death Squads regularly sent out by the Socialized Death Care Ministry to kill of anyone with a disease. Pretty nimble for a guy in a wheelchair.

Oh, wait! Obama is set to present Hawking with the Presidential Medal of Freedom tomorrow! It must be a secret plot to euthanize him! Someone warn him!

When, by the way, will the media stop pretending that these people are not lying imbeciles?

Giving In to the Republicans

August 10th, 2009 3 comments

This is exactly the kind of post I wish I had thought of. Brilliant. Stroszek at DailyKos says we should make the following concessions in the health care bill:

  1. We will not euthanize your grandmother.
  2. Rahm Emanuel’s brother will not kill Sarah Palin’s baby.
  3. The government will not nationalize hospitals and other health service providers.
  4. We will make the health care reform bill available for all Americans to read as soon as possible.
  5. We will not subsidize abortions with your hard-earned tax dollars.
  6. We will not allow the government to have direct access to your bank account.
  7. We will not provide illegal immigrants with unlimited free health care.
  8. Private health insurance will not be eliminated.
  9. You will not be issued a “National Health Insurance ID.”
  10. There will be no super-secret-awesome health care program for ACORN employees.

Stroszek outlines each in detail in his post. I would add that Barack Obama must cease the creation of his enemies list, and Democrats add a provision promising that the Constitution will not be amended to turn the country into a Communist dictatorship. I know that these are not directly related to health care reform, but a lot of the same Americans seem to be worried about these things, so might as well be on the safe side.

This whole concessions idea is so absurdly ironic that I honestly think that Democrats should, in all seriousness, propose such amendments to the actual bill. Since so many right-wingers out there actually seem to believe that these things are true, they might actually be satisfied to see them “taken out” of the bill. And of course, the whole point of the irony is that Democrats would not be giving up a single thing. Republicans, on the other hand, would be not only be put in the ludicrous position of voting on a measure that calls attention to their own insanely paranoid-schizophrenic lies, they would also be robbed of all their favorite talking points, and would have to work hard to come up with all new ones.

This would also probably garner a lot of attention in the press, highlighting the absurd lies which the media currently presents as “one side of the story,” as if they were actually possibly true. Such provisions actually entered into legislation would attract a lot of attention and would be a pretty funny story–something the press would recognize more as “news” than, oh, say, saving the lives of millions of Americans with affordable health care.

Seriously, I think this is brilliant and Democrats in Congress should make it official. I’m not kidding.

Categories: Health Issues, Republican Stupidity Tags:

Will Obama Come After Grandma with a Pickax?

August 7th, 2009 4 comments

That is the question that right-wingers and health-care opponents are forwarding; you have probably heard the claim that Obama’s health care package would lead to the euthanization of seniors.

So, where does this claim come from? One front stems from the fact that Ezekiel Emanuel, noted bioethicist and Chair of the Department of Bioethics at The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health (and, least importantly, Rahm Emanuel’s brother) has been tapped as an advisor for the health care reform project. While right-wingers call him “top advisor to Obama,” he is in fact “Special Advisor to Peter R. Orszag, Director of the Office of Budget and Management (OMB),” which means that he’s on a panel of people who are providing input which will shape health care policy.

Why is this even an issue? Well, Dr. Emanuel, as a bioethicist, has naturally written papers on bioethics. When social health resources are limited, triage must be performed–for example, when there are ten candidates for a liver transplant but only one liver is available, who gets it? This is always a controversial subject, and I doubt it is possible to write anything specific which cannot in some way be easily twisted to suggest that the writer is a cold-hearted villain for denying a life-saving procedure to nine people. The fact is, we must choose–the very real application of the question “if you see ten people drowning and must save only one, how do you choose?” You have probably been asked that question at some point in your life and have had to think about how we prioritize life, but for you it was almost certainly a purely academic question. Not so for bioethicists.

The right wing is getting its ammo from a couple of papers written by Emanuel, in which he advocates a triage system which favors younger patients. In a paper titled “Where Civic Republicanism and Deliberative Democracy Meet” (PDF, hosted on a right-wing site) written 13 years ago, Emanuel wrote [emphasis on words highlighted by critics]:

This civic republican or deliberative democratic conception of the good provides both procedural and substantive insights for developing a just allocation of health care resources. Procedurally, it suggests the need for public forums to deliberate about which health services should be considered basic and should be socially guaranteed. Substantively, it suggests services that promote the continuation of the polity-those that ensure healthy future generations, ensure development of practical reasoning skills, and ensure full and active participation by citizens in public deliberations-are to be socially guaranteed as basic. Conversely, services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia. A less obvious example is guaranteeing neuropsychological services to ensure children with learning disabilities can read and learn to reason.

This has been taken to mean that Emanuel is suggesting that all health services should be taken away from the elderly and they be allowed to die. A bit of a stretch, of course; while Emanuel’s words “not guaranteeing health services” seem to suggest the removal of all health services, a read of the entire article suggests that he is talking about public-funded health care services which treat the specific irreversible illness–not euthanizing those with illnesses like dementia. Nor is it proffered as an absolute, but rather as a triage device when one must choose between providing government-subsidized care for one person or another in the context of preventing public health care from encompassing every single medical service available and thus breaking the bank (something that conservatives would demand).

A key point here is that the charge is one-sided, and completely ignores that there is a choice being made. The accusation that Emanuel is suggesting we do not provide public medical care for people at the end of their lives suffering from irreversible illnesses could be turned around, and the accusers could be characterized as wanting to deny treatment which could save the life of a child in favor of providing care to someone who is incurably ill and is going to die anyway. They’re baby-killers! Those bastards!!

This is why bioethics is sticky, and is easy fodder for politics: it deals with heart-wrenching decisions that we cannot avoid, and can easily taken out of context and used to wrongly accuse someone of being a cold-hearted killer.

Then consider that this is not being forwarded as the official policy of Obama’s health care plan, but rather is an opinion forwarded by one of many advisors to someone writing the plan in a paper written thirteen years ago. Emanuel is not fully in charge of the plan, is not dictating terms, and there is zero proof that what critics are blasting him for is being adopted in the plan currently before Congress.

A source of more hysterical right-wing frenzy on this is a provision in the health care bill which would add funding for extra optional counseling of people facing end-of-life circumstances:

… such consultation shall include the following: An explanation by the practitioner of advance care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to; an explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses; an explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy.

In essence, the section provides funding for seniors, if they so choose, to meet with health care providers about how to plan for their twilight years, to prepare for death and its consequences. The idea is to give people near the end of their lives all the information necessary to face their situation–not to give up fighting, not to surrender health care. In fact, quite the opposite–this would be an expansion of services for people nearing the end of their lives.

Right-wingers have twisted this into a “mandatory” counseling with government bureaucrats who will tell seniors “how to end their life sooner.”

Not exactly the same thing.

So, as it turns out, the criticisms are completely bogus. Obama is not out to hack grandma to pieces to save a few bucks.


Why the Republicans Want to Kill Health Care Reform

July 25th, 2009 4 comments

Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly, as always, has a good handle on the issue. The essence: if the bill passes, then as many as 100,000 people per congressional district who now are not covered would get coverage–and if Obama and the Democrats get credit, there will be a lot of grateful people out there.

This puts the Republicans in a risky position: if they defeat the bill, then they gain a victory similar to the one they realized in 1993. But if the bill passes, then not only do Obama and the Dems get credit, but there is the added dimension that the Republicans tried their hardest to kill it–and worse, they were too weak to stop it despite putting their full weight into it.

So the Republicans have a lot on the line, but in the end, the sad thing is that they have pitted themselves against the best interests of the American people. Not a great position to be in, but in some respects, seeing as how for them the greatest issue is power, they didn’t have too much of a choice. Their only hope to avoid disaster here is to sell the American people on the idea that Obama’s health care reform bill is dangerous–which, of course, is their current message. That sales pitch will get harder to make if the bill passes and millions of Americans find they are fully covered where they were not before, and millions of others find themselves with more choices and, if it works, lower costs overall.

The state of health care in the U.S. is so abysmal that it would be hard to believe that almost any well-intentioned plan, even a bad one, would not look good in comparison. The hitch: Republicans have shown that they are fully willing to label any Democratic success a “disaster” and work 24/7 to sabotage it. Note how they have been straining like mad to block stimulus money from getting through.

So Republicans, in addition to fighting Obama’s plan, may also have to work to destroy any chance of it working if it passes. And they’re good at that–destroying effective government agencies and then saying, “See?! Government can’t do anything right!”

Fortunately for them, they have a powerful media machine in place to sell the fictions that serve them–at least 30% of the nation will drink the Kool-aid regardless, and those people will make lots of noise, just like the Birthers now do.

The GOP is no longer just the “Party of No”; they are now the Party of “Destroy America First in Order to Save Our Political Asses.” Sad, sad; you can grant them with being strong-willed and unafraid to fight, but you cannot grant them any measure of love of country. Love of party, absolutely; but their definition of country is their party and nothing else; their definition of patriotism is to gut the country if anyone else is in charge.

The Public Option

June 24th, 2009 4 comments

At his press conference today:

OBAMA: … As one of those options, for us to be able to say, here’s a public option that’s not profit-driven, that can keep down administrative costs, and that provides you good, quality care for a reasonable price as one of the options for you to choose, I think that makes sense.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t that drive private insurance out of business?

OBAMA: Why would it drive private insurance out of business? If — if private — if private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care; if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can’t run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical.

As people have said before, in answer to the criticism that a low-cost government plan will drive the private insurers out of business, one should say, “Good!” In this case, the anti-socialized-medicine crowd can’t win; they’ve painted themselves into a corner. If it’s an option to take the public insurance route, then if people don’t want it, they won’t take it. If government can’t run health care efficiently, then private health insurance should drive the public insurance out of business. And if the government can do health insurance better than private industry, then why shouldn’t it?

The right-wing criticism is that the government can’t run anything efficiently, but we’ve seen that proven false lots of times–until the Republicans get their hands on it and intentionally drive it into the ground, and then declare, “See!?”

Opponents of public health care ask snidely if people want politicians making your medical decisions for you. A stupid question, as politicians would meddle with your coverage far less than the insurance companies currently do; under a public plan, your doctor would have more control than now. And right now, lawyers working for the insurance companies are making your medical decisions based upon how much it profits them; how’s that working out?

The bottom line is this: health care should not be a lucrative, for-profit industry. We’ve seen close-up what happens when it is, when corporations can charge whatever the market can bear to save your life, and lie, cheat, and steal when it comes to living up to their end of the bargain. The whole reason there’s even a debate about this is because the private businesses have done such a horrific job. The insurance companies are running scared because they know that they can’t compete with a public health insurance option, not without cutting their profits to a reasonable margin, covering people the way they’re supposed to, and not denying them coverage at every possible excuse. They don’t want to lose all that.

You’re Not Homeless If You Sleep Under a Bridge

August 29th, 2008 Comments off

Wouldn’t that be a cool way of seeing poverty? If you sleep under a bridge, then count that bridge as a home. Same with cardboard boxes, doorways, etc. They are all shelters, therefore homes. Voila! No more homeless people!

We could do the same with joblessness. So what if you got fired and can’t get re-employed? You’re always doing some work, right? You gotta find food–that’s gotta be hard work without a job. And hey, panhandling ain’t easy. So in reality, nobody is really unemployed. So just count it that way. Voila! No more unemployment!

Now, no one has suggested either of the above in earnestness (that I know of). But an advisor to John McCain and author of a health care provision McCain subscribes to has just made an equivalent claim: anyone without insurance can still go to an emergency room, which is in itself insurance. So just count it that way, and Voila! No more uninsured! Think I’m exaggerating? Then read the original:

But the numbers are misleading, said John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a right-leaning Dallas-based think tank. Mr. Goodman, who helped craft Sen. John McCain’s health care policy, said anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance, albeit the government acts as the payer of last resort. (Hospital emergency rooms by law cannot turn away a patient in need of immediate care.)

“So I have a solution. And it will cost not one thin dime,” Mr. Goodman said. “The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American – even illegal aliens – as uninsured. Instead, the bureau should categorize people according to the likely source of payment should they need care.

”So, there you have it. Voila! Problem solved.“

By the way, that’s not John Goodman the actor, just in case you were in doubt. Though you might at first wonder if it was and that this was from an SNL skit on an episode he was hosting.

Even if you don’t find the emergency care part of it asinine for many reasons, it of course completely ignores every variety of non-emergency care. Plainly put, it’s not just asinine, it’s stunningly stupid. Aside from being incredibly unkind, and blind to the realities of being poor or even middle-class, it’s an expensive, wasteful, and harmful idea. This is the quality we see from the authors of McCain’s policy.

Naturally, the McCain campaign is scrambling to disavow any connection with this guy. But he was an advisor, and though they can make whatever retroactive claims of disassociation they want to, the most important fact is that the McCain campaign’s health care plan does contain policies authored by this guy. So whatever they claim now, their health care policies bear Goodman’s imprint, and just as significant–perhaps more–is that this shows the quality of advisor that John McCain seeks out, listens to, and follows the advice of.

While John McCain might not be overtly suggesting that millions of Americans should be happy with the emergency room serving as their primary health insurance coverage, the facts remain that (a) the policy advisor he sought out does think so, (b) that will be the effective result of McCain’s health care plan, and (c) the philosophy meshes nicely with other McCain health care proposals:

Remember, the McCain campaign would offer tax incentives that favor bare-bones coverage; it would also gut state regulations that mandate all insurers cover certain benefits. Most important, perhaps, it’s likely that the McCain health plan would lead many people with employer-sponsored insurance to give up or lose that coverage. While many people would also get new coverage on their own, through the individual market, the benefits would be skimpier–and they would be available only to relatively healthy people, since insurers screen for pre-existing medical conditions when they sell policies individually.

So, is the media covering this?

No. The LA Times has an article, and a few CBS blogs have covered it, but that’s just about it.

Would the media be covering it if it were an Obama advisor?

Hell, yes.

Someone remind me: when was the last time a political figure actually suggested we solve a problem by failing to count it? I know it has been done in practice a lot–the Bush administration avoids heat for killing Iraqi civilians by having there be no official body counts, for example, and in a longer trend, we stop counting the chronically unemployed. But politicians only do these things, they don’t talk about them. I do seem to recall someone making a stir by suggesting something similar to Goodman, but I may be confusing this with fictional situations, like a ”Ministry of Truth“ official on Babylon 5 announcing that homelessness was solved by simply not recognizing the homeless. Someone help out–is Goodman a ground-breaker, or a tradition-follower?


October 22nd, 2007 1 comment

So, when I was helping out my boss with setting up the college’s desk at the American College Fair yesterday, I seem to have strained something. I got a backache on the way back, but unlike most such aches, there was a sharp pain in the side of my leg as well.

As luck would have it, I had an appointment this morning to see a doctor about possible arteriosclerosis, a side investigation resulting from the whole scotoma thing. I mentioned the back and leg, and he felt it more of an immediate worry, and so sent me to the orthopedic specialist. There, they x-rayed me, and the doc came up with a probable diagnosis of a herniated disc. He scheduled me for an MRI next Saturday (first opening we could schedule) and set me up with pain and anti-infammatory drugs in the meantime. He said it could take anywhere between 2 weeks and 3 months to clear up.

Total medical costs for today: about $30.

The pain is not extreme, but it’s enough to keep me off my feet. The doc said I could heat my back, so I’ve had my electric blanket in my computer chair, and it helps with the pain. Sitting up straight also helps; it hurts more when I slump.

As it is, I’m full up with doctor appointments recently, 2 or 3 a week (5 between last Saturday and this Saturday, by chance). It just happens that I’m in one of those everything-goes-wrong modes, so it seems.

Let’s hope that, at least, I don’t fall prey to the usual disaster-strikes-at-Christmas things that hit me for two years running (severe nosebleed, broken foot) before giving me a year off last year…

Categories: Health Issues Tags:

Standing in Line

July 23rd, 2007 1 comment


Think Progress had this on their site, noting that it was an ad that ran atop The Drudge Report. The thing that caught my eye was the “standing in line” part. Maybe I am mistaken, but is there somehow the belief that Americans don’t “stand in line” to see doctors in the U.S.? As I recall, that’s pretty much the biggest part of seeing a doctor–anywhere, including the good ol’, non-government-run health care system of the U.S. of A. Maybe for elective surgery, with an appointment in advance, you might get to see the doctor without waiting, maybe. Or if you just have gobs of cash.

The whole “standing in line” bugaboo has been used to frighten Americans away from nationalized health care for quite some time, but it simply isn’t a valid criticism. Not because people in other countries don’t wait for medical care, but because people in America do. In fact, wait times in the U.S. are just as long as they are in countries with nationalized health care, and are sometimes longer. This BusinessWeek article lays out some of the basics, and they’re not exactly as left-wing bastion.

As a side note, you gotta love the claims made by these organizations. “Health Care America” claims, on its front page, to be a “nonpartisan advocacy organization,” despite the fact that they advertise on Drudge, and one of their main links on their Resources page is Michelle Malkin. Yeah, that’s really nonpartisan!

They also make a deal out of how people-oriented they are, how they want to stick up for the little guy–when really this is little more than a front for HMOs and Big Pharma so they can stick it to the little guy. But the site eventually has to (by law, I believe) admit to who is funding it:

Health Care America is supported by a broad spectrum of consumer choice advocates, including employers, individuals, hospitals, pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers, health care professionals and others.

Of course, I’m sure that most of the money comes from the “individuals” and from serious, professional doctors with stethoscopes and everything.

Categories: Health Issues Tags: