Archive for the 'Health Care' Category

The logic of outrage.

Sep 20, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Health Care, Politics

Jewish man reacts the obvious way to teabaggers using Hitler/The Holocaust in vain:

A week after his arrest, Gasparian was still emotional. He said he recalled his miserable childhood in Armenia, where, because of the war, some days he had no more to eat than a small piece of sugar or bread.

His father, drafted by the Soviets to fight the Nazis when Gasparian was just 1 year old, returned home six years later, unrecognizable, injured both physically and mentally.

Historical accounts say that a half-million Armenians fought for the Soviets against the Germans. Half were killed, including Gasparian’s two uncles.

“I saw Hitler’s soldiers. I saw swastikas every day. To call Obama stupid, even criminal — OK, that’s politics. But Hitler? It’s hurting to anyone no matter who is president,” he said.

I could see somebody having the same reaction to the occasional extreme comparisons of Bush to Hitler…if they hadn’t actually seen warning signs. I think what provoked this man’s outrage was partially enhanced by the substance of the issue. Obama is trying to get everybody health care. Hitler was probably in favor of public health care for Germans, sure…but he was also in favor of schools, and movies, therefore watching, “Tuck Everlasting” in the 9th grade is akin to the Gestapo showing people Leni Riefenstahl films (fit for conflageration, as seen in Quentin Tarantino’s brilliant Inglorious Basterds).

These are people wondering about Obama’s Muslim indoctrination as a youngster, ignoring Prescott Bush, Dubya’s Nazi-financing grand-daddy. These are people worrying about the government giving them money to get health insurance, who sat still while Bush waved away every constitutional right in the name of national security. These are the people who laugh and say, “Waterboard me any day!” while Bush crafted a rebirth for verschaerfte Vernehmung.

I noticed the article could only bring itself to admit to LaDouche supporters waving Nazi signs, but we’ve seen the Hitler stuff come in exactly the same doses from the teapartiers. They have put the Devil’s horns on Obama, metaphorically speaking, and now dance about at the discovery of the Anti-christ: The smooth-talking practical politician who sweeps up everybody’s hearts and, you know, like, four years from now we’ll just have robots hunting Republicans for food. Really.

Oh, wait, the Anti-christ is supposed to lead the UN. Well, some proposed it for Bill Clinton, so maybe that’s what Obama will do after the presidency. Darn.

The Hitler imagery is nothing more than devil horns. It really has nothing to do with the Holocaust, or any of Hitler’s crimes, or his subjugation of a democratic republic. It’s cheapening the Holocaust to the level where you just say it about any president you don’t like. Policy shmolicy!

If we get any Republican trolls commenting on this post, they will go for the quick and easy “ITS JUST THE SAME YOU DID IT TO BUSH BUT NOW IT REALLY IS THE HOLOCAUST BECAUSE I PAID ENOUGH TAXES ALREADY!!” routine, which I don’t expect to survive long in the comments thread before we utterly dismantle it and rape the author of his/her ambitions. It’s just noise, not reason. Reason is a Jewish person revolted by teabaggers screaming at how bad they’re gonna have it under Obama. May more Holocaust survivors speak out, while they’re still here to take a stand. And let’s hear especially from those who have lived under European socialized health care since then. Or the Holocaust survivors in poverty with poor health care in America.

-jb

Market fail for pharms.

Sep 19, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Health Care

A Sullivan reader points out how short free market rhetoric falls when it comes to prescription drugs:

Sick people will consume only the quantity they need to stay alive/healthy, but will pay any price for that. If pricing was left up to the market, supply and demand for patented, life-saving drugs would reach equilibrium at about 100% of the consumer’s assets, plus five years of indentured servitude.

The reader also notes that the drug he needs, for narcolepsy, is only available because of government intervention.

“Keep the gubmint out of my Medicare!” sums up the fundamental contradiction of the right: protesting against government involvement, utterly dependent on government involvement.

-jb

Cronkite turns against the war.

Sep 17, 2009 in Health Care

Bill O’Reilly comes out in favor of the public option, seeing it exactly for what it is:

Stunning. This opens up a huge fissure on the right. Bill O’Reilly actually chooses to calm down for five seconds and see that the public option would provide much needed care to everybody.

In related news, this week’s Newsweek opens up a one-two-buckle-my-shoe, noting that simple end of life counseling lowers Medicare costs by a third where it is practiced. People are simply offered the dignity of self-determination, the power to decide for themselves when it’s time to leave this world. Topping that off, they examine the moral choice we make about health care and the system it results in. America has arrived at the same crossroads other nations reached long ago: stay with a system that rations care according to individual wealth, or realize that when it comes to health care, we are all truly equal.

That doesn’t mean eliminating roads to deluxe care for those who can afford it. It means deciding there’s a basic level of care that everybody is not only entitled to, but obligated to as a citizen. Why would anybody not pay into a system that covered everybody? Unless you’re talking about insuring a secret race of immortals (see Highlander), mortality is the thread that binds us all.

If you can’t agree on that fundamental statement on the value of human life, then what is the basis of your moral system?

Hats off to Bill O’Reilly. Every once in awhile he manages to take a step back and cool off Michelle Malkin’s engines. Few people are wrong constantly, even the new reigning village idiots of Iowa at the Coralville Courier.

-jb

Ben Nelson follows the money again.

Sep 16, 2009 in Disappointing Dems, Health Care

Hey, Nebraska, thanks for this guy:

Many Senate Democrats, noticeably lacking in anything approaching party unity, have proudly stepped up with promises to scuttle several elements of President Obama’s budget, including some that would cut federal spending by billions of dollars.

“The most emblematic objection has come from Nelson, who is balking at Obama’s plan to save money on college loans. You might suppose that a fiscal conservative like Nelson would agree with Obama’s plan to save $4 billion on a social program,” Chait wrote. “But he does not, for reasons that provide a useful window into the rot afflicting the congressional Democratic Party.”

He referred to Nelson’s opposition to a plan that would eliminate billions of dollars in federal support for private companies, such as NelNet in Lincoln, which make student loans. Several studies have shown the government’s program of direct loans and grants is more efficient, could provide more dollars for students and would save billions of taxpayer dollars.

NelNet has consistently been among the largest contributors to Nelson’s political campaigns. The depth of that support was reported by the New America Foundation in July of 2007.

Politico.com noted Tuesday that Nelson has objected to the plan because NelNet employs 1,000 people and could go out of business if the Obama plan were enacted.

“I think it would be the wrong direction for people to outsource jobs from Lincoln, Nebraska to Washington, D.C.,” Nelson said. “It’d be pretty hard for me to vote for it he way it is.”

Chait was merciless in his assessment.

“Obama thus proposes to save the taxpayers more than $4 billion per year by ending the guaranteed loans. This is as straightforward a case as you can find of a fight between special interests and the public good. Nelson opposes it because one of the lenders that benefit from federal overpayments is based in Lincoln …”

We can’t save $4 billion dollars because of 1000 people employed in Nebraska. That’s $4 million per person.

Quite a lot of bang for the 48,000 bucks they donated to his campaign, eh?

Ah, but this guy waffles on health care reform because he’s concerned about “costs.” Not the insurance, pharma and other health care industries that put a million bucks in his coffers.

Nebraskans, please send a simple message to Ben Nelson: You’re an incumbent, virtually guaranteed re-election anyway. Get off the fatcat gravy train, let the grassroots raise your money for you, vote on principle, and you’ll be safely re-elected.

The old ways cannot sustain us.

-jb

The irrefutable argument is the ultimate weapon.

Sep 10, 2009 in Barack Obama, Health Care, Politics

Democrats have perpetually failed by being afraid to use their best arguments forcefully, so as to club their enemies about the head, neck and chest area and turn those ideas into real, valuable, pragmatic policies.

President Barack Obama is, so far, the master of political rope-a-dope. Time and time again he has let his opponents unleash their full fury on him. He has stumbled, looked weak, spoken with frustration, and perpetually exasperated his supporters. He keeps this going until people start to throw up their hands and say, “Damn, I think he got licked this time.”

Before tonight’s speech, we were undoubtedly reliving this experience. “Hope-less,” reads the Newsweek cartoon. Joe Klein declared the public option dead. Iowa Liberal seethed at his weakness.

And yet, he has done it again. No, we’re not done yet, but he has in a single masterstroke gained the upper hand.

With tonight’s speech, Obama wrapped the moral argument for health care reform around the pragmatic argument, utterly destroying and erasing every scrap of noise Republicans have made about reform. He sealed the case that he approached the GOP in good faith, leaving it doubtless that such was not returned. He reaffirmed the public option as a compromise, an option already standing in the center between the left and right, yet one that can be incredibly effective. He soothed people’s real fears about health care, revealing the cartoonish buffoonery of the GOP scare campaign. Already out of gas, the “death panel” panic was itself put to death. “Health care for illegals!” was also snuffed out, strangled with the moronic cry of Rep. Joe Wilson, who has already apologized for yelling, “You lie.” Besides being incredibly rude and uncouth, he himself was lying. Obama was right. And so they flail.

Health care reform is now within our reach. There is more work to do, but Obama just filled the left’s tank with rocket fuel. Once again, people can believe he’ll fight on this issue, and rally behind him with less fear of being left out in the open. He has afforded his followers the right to be known as champions of what is right and good.

To those liberals still critical of Obama (*nudging Thomas Tallis*), keep in mind that this post is about health care. It’s not every issue, it’s one issue. Yet it is a momentous issue, one of the most important issues of the past sixty years. President after president has tried to make headway on this, at best winning incremental steps like Medicare and Medicaid. Yet all the time, the system kept warping into something dangerous to Americans, draining their wealth and leaving them for dead. The success of health care reform will signal a monument in our nation’s history, one that will forever have Obama’s name attached to it.

Best of all, its completion in his first year gives us three (well, everybody knows it’s seven) more years to ride his back about the other things we must do in order to truly point the country in a new direction. Ending our Middle East wars, restoring Constitutional rights, returning regulation to Wall Street, charting a path out of deficit, and creating a green economy will fill up the rest of Obama’s time easily, not to mention the inevitable future contingencies.

Make no mistake, however, this time right now must be focused, and nobody who calls themselves Democrat, left, liberal, progressive, or simply a concerned American citizen focused on doing what is right for our country can be idle or distracted with those other issues. Health care owns this time, and it will not be over until it is done. Now is the time to get out of the car and push, ’cause ain’t nobody giving us a free ride.

-jb

Al Franken neutralizes teabaggers.

Sep 04, 2009 in Health Care

[youtube SCNs7Zpqo98]

They tried to ambush him and ended up in a sane policy discussion. Beautiful.

Lead the way, Al. Republicans will continue to seek instant gratification by stoking the Beck/Limbaugh nutbase, but it can’t endure if Democrats keep doing this. Keep things sane, keep things rational, and let reality point the way. It’s our current system that is unsustainable and immoral. We must have a better one, and babbling about Nazis is deceitful and obstructive in such a way as to be destructive.

-jb

Congrats, Republicans.

Aug 20, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Disappointing Dems, Health Care

You’ve done a good job at getting people to believe things that are demonstrably untrue.

That being what you guys have spent all your energy on, this is a great success for you.

Now let’s see if further examples of journalism persist, wherein journalists continue to describe lies as untrue, or whether you guys can keep playing the “He said/She said” model of corporate non-journalism to your advantage.

Whenever Republicans merely need plant a seed of doubt, they do well because they are terribly expert and proficient at being incredibly frightened.

For the rest of us, who learned that the dark isn’t full of monsters and that stepping on a crack will indeed not break your mother’s back, or that fibbing is bad, the struggle to have a debate that at least centers on facts shall continue.

For the GOP, the persistent effort to tackle all of America’s serious issues like bawling children shall likewise continue.

Who shall win?

-jb

UPDATE: Good news here…when asked if people support the choice of a public option, 77% said yes. Eliminate the word “choice” and the numbers go much lower, but there will be a choice. What surprised me is that the numbers when “choice” is included haven’t changed much. The support has always been there.

I might be wrong on this one.

Aug 19, 2009 in Health Care

This line is getting some fiscal conservatives going a-flutter:

This typical person paid around $64,971 in Medicare payroll taxes over his lifetime. Likewise, after netting out Medicare premiums, he’ll receive around $173,886 in lifetime Medicare benefits. The net? He can expect to receive around $108,915 more in benefits than he paid in taxes over his lifetime.

Please, somebody tell me I’m crazy…did this guy just forget about inflation? That first dollar he paid was worth much more than the first dollar he received. There will probably still be a disparity, but I’d like to see what the numbers are after each year’s contributions are adjusted for inflation.

Regardless, somebody needs to remember that Medicare and the concept of a public option exist because some people simply aren’t profitable to keep healthy. That’s why private insurers won’t cover them.

-jb

People got the power.

Aug 18, 2009 in Health Care, Politics

Gauging today’s news, I’d say the Obama White House and some in Congress have heard the left’s outrage on the public option.

Some of you don’t quite understand a certain idea, and I say this to those people: The system is designed to beat Barack Obama. Dude thought he could change? Other guys thought that shit too. The system has seen it all before.

Barack Obama can be beaten by a gang of Fox News viewers their celebrities, comprised of a rogue’s gallery of despised or laughed at figures. They can lie, and they know they don’t have to be thought of as “factual” in order to have an effect. If nobody on the left fights back, the corporate media gives deference to the rightwinger disciples it has cultivated as free market drones willing to recite top-down propaganda verbatim. And then when things fail, they will turn to Obama and decry his massive health care failure for an easy narrative.

Obama said during the campaign that people would have to make him do some things. His premise was based a continuation of the grassroots movement that put him in office. It was a movement that was able to beat the rightwing noise machine at full steam. If the same people Obama beat in November come back with more of the same, only stupider, how can we grant them a victory?

IF we can keep kicking like mules, Obama can arm himself against the media and outmaneuver the rather clumsy machinations on the right. If we keep on top of our congressmen, who we happen to have significantly more of, we can overpower them (which is how they wanna play it, so they deserve it). And since we have dramatically sounder arguments, the more we are heard over the din the better.

-jb

Brits wondering WTF Republicans are talking about.

Aug 17, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Health Care

A lot of rightwing rhetoric about health care depends on people in countries with socialized medicine to not be listening or able to have their defense heard over here in the states. Mostly content to sit and stare at America’s insanity with bemusement, some Brits are finally starting to hit back at misinformation campaigns.

Every Briton is registered with his or her own family doctor, whom they can see when they need — without paying a fee. These doctors are independent contractors to the health service and are recognized and rewarded for quality in their compensation — so they can focus on what works, not just what pays. Expanding on the facilities that are already in place, by next year every community in England will have a physician’s office open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day of the year, and you can simply walk in and see a doctor, for free, regardless of whether you are registered.

In the unfortunate instance that a patient is diagnosed with a dire disease, such as cancer, it often takes only a week or two for a patient to be seen by all the right specialists, complete all the required diagnostic tests and be ready for surgery or other interventions. This rivals the best care in the United States or anywhere else in the world.

Under our NHS constitution, patients have a legal right to choice of provider. That means any provider — public, private or not-for-profit.

Furthermore:

Standing in defense of Britain’s health service does not mean that we believe it is the right prescription for the United States. It is not for us to propose the solution for America, but we hope that correcting the record on some of the facts about our NHS will help Americans evaluate the real strengths and challenges of our system, instead of focusing on the misinformation spread by fear-mongers. Indeed, none of the proposals for reform — from President Obama or anyone else — would create a system that resembles that in Britain.

If people want to debate, then we must ask precisely that of them: Real debate, where facts are checked and bullshit is laid out in the open. A real debate, where you get caught lying and you have to stop (good example here). A real debate, where the truth will determine what happens next.

-jb

Health care reform is most vehemently opposed among people who think Bush was a pussy for not taking it to Iran and Syria.

Aug 17, 2009 in Barack Obama, Clueless Conservatives, Health Care

If only Obama had proposed a new war instead. The media could salivate over the prospects like they did before Iraq, when Wolf Blitzer excitedly unveiled our new weapons of war.

-jb

Reality vs. fantasy

Aug 16, 2009 in Health Care

People’s lives are absolutely at stake.

My father´s obesity related illnesses and time spent on disability have cost taxpayers an incredible amount of money. All of this could have been avoided if my father´s insurer 10 years ago would have been required to provide him the care he needed. But private insurers realize that the average patient only stays with them for 2-3 years, so they aren´t interested in reducing long-term healthcare costs because it´s the next company that sees the benefits. Hopefully, we can pass real healthcare reform that puts reducing healthcare costs above maximizing insurance company profits.

It’s important to remember that these real people matter more and deserve more than this horrendous “debate.” They deserve better than “death panels!” and “socialism is bad cuz i said so!” Or Reaganites telling us, “How could you possibly expect private markets to compete with a public option!?!?”

-jb

Barack Obama signaling weakness at the worst time.

Aug 16, 2009 in Barack Obama, Health Care

The good thing about Democratic politicians is their timing. They wait until the perfect moment, where the opposition is in the wrong and public opinion is leaving several wide open advantages, to give up.

Kathleen Sebelius hopefully made a misstatement when she said the public option isn’t essential.

Whatever the political calculations of the cowardly Democrats who are trembling BECAUSE THERE ARE DEATH PANELLS AND THEY WILL KILL YOUR GRANDMA, AND THEN YOUR BABY BECAUSE ITS A CONSERVATIVE “BIRTH DEFECT!!!”-

-I’m sorry. Whatever the political math, when it comes to actually solving the problem, public care as an option is essential. It is the only way we will get quality care to every American.

Who on earth truly believes that every American can be insured fully by private companies? Most people who are insured now have monstrous deductibles. They’re only protected from a smattering of catastrophic injuries. They aren’t healthy. They aren’t getting better. Their premium is still rising…

It’s going to take a lot more than nationwide competition (which will lead to a few giants who undercut everybody else) to get every American into a doctor’s office. That’s merely one step. You let the private market compete with the public just like with postal service, or like…our current healthcare system.

Obama is just now starting to get traction with his arguments. People are just now getting to have debates without being shouted down. People are starting to listen. They’re realizing the plan is already extremely compromised to preserve most private interests. That it will help small businesses. That it will help people move between jobs. And that private companies will have to expand their coverage in order to compete. The system will streamline.

Perhaps private insurers will one day again offer the best work for the best price. If that happens, then indeed, a public option would be used less. You’d get health care insurance with Geico that’s cheaper than the public plan.

The downside is?

Republicans calling us Nazis?

-jb

Cornered Republican.

Aug 16, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Health Care

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Here in the comments thread at Iowa Liberal, we see this stuff all the time. Hell, this guy is exactly who Brian Pickrell wants to be when he grows up.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter if you get them dead to rights. The guy only screams because O’Donnell has him caught red-handed. But the GOP diehards just don’t stop. They keep blathering until time runs out, then they skedaddle so they can talk big to their friends. This guy whines about being interrupted when he gives long-winded spin instead of answering questions. He couldn’t challenge O’Donnell on the fact that we already employ socialized health care in America. He couldn’t say he’d vote against Social Security or Medicare. None of them can do so and expect to ever hold the mainstream. But it also means none of their fear-mongering about “teh socialization” is honest.

The truth is we’re talking about an incremental evolution of the government health care we already have for the sickest. The promise is for the rest of us: you will be able to rest assured that an ambulance trip won’t put you in debt for years. You’ll be able to see a doctor, instead of staying at home. You’ll have affordable meds. You’ll get that operation. You’ll be able to quit your job and start a business.

This is all about more coverage, not less.

This is another bill that no politician will dare speak out against twenty years from now. Private insurance companies will still round out health care packages and provide coverage for the premium care. The thought of going back to the system we have now, where we deliberately choose to cut off the poor and send people into bankruptcy, will sound like insanity.

-jb

Decency.

Aug 16, 2009 in Barack Obama, Clueless Conservatives, Health Care

Supposedly, Barack Hussein Obama had a grandma.

At a town hall meeting in Colorado yesterday, Obama recalled his grandmother’s death as he struck back at allegations that his proposals would create “death panels” to withdraw life-saving treatments from elderly patients.

“We can have an honest disagreement,” Obama said in Grand Junction, Colorado. “What you can’t do — or you can, but you shouldn’t do — is start saying things like, we want to set up death panels to pull the plug on grandma.”

Obama’s maternal grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who helped raise him, died last November on the eve of her grandson’s election victory.

“I know what it’s like to watch somebody you love, who is aging, deteriorate and have to struggle with that,” Obama said. “We’ve got enough stuff to deal with without having these kinds of arguments.”

All the “Kill grandma!” talk is that classic blend of ignorant/crazy/dishonest, for which we really need a new word besides “Republican” to describe. There simply is nothing in the bill that can be construed that way. It is convenient paranoia at best, but for Senators to pass it off as a reasonable bone of contention with the health care bill is pure old-fashioned lying.

-jb

If your argument is too successful…

Aug 15, 2009 in Barack Obama, Clueless Conservatives, Health Care

…it shouldn’t be a reason to hold you to fault.

The rational assumption to make from this article is that President Obama is actually quite eager to deal with serious criticism of his health care plan. This should be seen as a strength for him, and the burden of proof should be on those who can make a coherent point at these town meetings without yelling about Hitler. Huffington Post declaring this a “problem” for Obama seems particularly sensationalistic. Hasn’t the liberal movement simply asked for more grounded, intelligent journalism? Yet this marks the second time recently that HuffPo has tried to craft some Democrat Drama where none exists.

Obama is putting the ball back in the public’s hands. The serious dialogue has begun. Will Republicans and conflicted Democrats please provide the counter-arguments?

-jb

Palin, Limbaugh, Newt: Big proponents of DEATH PANELS

Aug 14, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Health Care

Or, rather, living wills, i.e. advance directives on end-of-life treatment.

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Of course. People like these never actually believe what they’re talking about. They’re political hacks. “HAVE YOU READ THE BILL!?!?! No? Good, then we will make shit up continuously.”

-jb

And the polite Republicans try doing their part.

Aug 13, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Health Care

Kathleen Parker tries to ginny up a nightmare scenario that might lend the “death panel” crowd some legitimacy.

While there are undoubtedly some kernels of truth in criticisms of the massive and complex bill, speaking in a calm voice doesn’t guarantee plausibility:

But we can also imagine a scenario when, feeble and ill, we might be subtly urged to forgo further life-sustaining treatment out of consideration for others. Given that “actionable medical orders” can be formulated from advance care consultations, the danger is that life-sustaining care would be precluded based on a check-mark on a document you signed five years earlier.

Please. People are already subtly hinting that my death would make things easier on their pocketbook. Love you, Honey!

That nightmare scenario aside (which already takes place in our current system), Parker suggests a fateful day where you’ve created a living will in order to keep yourself from rotting as a vegetable in a nursing home with your brain turned to mush, you will be cognizant and loving life when they inform you, “Sorry, Mr. Johnson, but five years ago you said you didn’t want this liver transplant (after, of course, you were subtly urged to decline it). We cannot go forward with this procedure!”

This is, of course, fantasy. Remember what we’re talking about here: coverage of voluntary end of life counseling sessions, and the creation of living wills.

Living wills?

Yes, folks, that’s it. Living wills. Got one? If you’re married, you should have one (as soon as you can afford the lawyer).

Yes, Kathleen, “actionable medical orders” can be formulated from advance care consultations. This is called the practice of medicine. You describe how you want to be treated. As long as you have your senses, you can alter your living will. You will not be murdered by your past self, ala some freaky time-bending thriller (starring Nicolas Cage).

But Parker kinda admits overall that she’s got nothin’. Sarah Palin’s Terrordrome prophecies simply aren’t true. We are looking at nothing more than allowing all people into hospitals for regular, quality care. It’s true there won’t be money for everything, but that’s already the case. This is exactly how the system works. And no private insurer is lining up to cover the utterly unprofitable elderly. The government has already been taking care of the old in good fashion, and will continue to do so. We all know where our ailing elderly are: in nursing homes, the tax dollars flowing as they are looked after every day, consuming expensive medicines. Families will make decisions for them, but they will be given the opportunity to decide for themselves regardless of their condition.

This power, of you declaring that you do not want to be kept artificially alive, indefinitely, long after your mind has descended into dementia or catatonia…this is your fundamental right as a human being, the author of your own life.

It’s time for Democrats and every lefty to stop and drop the shame. You’ve won the argument. You’ve got the power. There is really nothing to be afraid of. Keep pushing forward. And if it gets pushed a little later, keep rolling with it. The forces against reform were never going to be an easy fight. They’ve hit us their hardest, and it was like a crazy wet noodle. It’s time for America to start looking after its own health, and by god some day it might mean a tax on your paycheck. I don’t know about some people, but that’s the easiest bill I’ve ever paid. It’s gone before I know it. Most jobs deduct a chunk from your paycheck for health care anyway. I don’t see why I can’t have that money converted into a tax, with the promise that I’ll get the kind of guaranteed treatment people in all other Western civilizations enjoy.

There is not much to fear, and many fears that would dissipate upon passage of this bill. Right now our “death panels” are those insurance companies who decided you’re not going to have a treatment covered because you didn’t tell them about your acne. The elderly are rejected outright. The poor are told “Get a good job!” Got heart disease? “Come back when you can afford the deductible.”

Such things are evil, just like Sarah Palin says. And that’s why the Democrats are trying to pass this bill. While rightwingers babble about imaginary dead babies and grandmas, we can point to real dead babies and grandmas who private insurers left behind. We own the moral high ground.

-jb

The angry right.

Aug 11, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Health Care

Make sure you watch through to the retrospective on how rightwingers talked about lefty war protesters:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Healther Skelter
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Political Humor Spinal Tap Performance

The invocation of the First Amendment is, of course, pure chicanery. Nobody is trying to infringe upon or impugn the right of free speech that every citizen enjoys.

Well, except for those people who show up at town meetings and shout down what other people are saying.

The stupidity of their bovine cries of irrational, Limbaugh/Hannity-stoked fear is a secondary point. It’s the reason they have to shout and drown out the opposition, because their views dissipate at the slightest application of scrutiny, like cobwebs versus a flamethrower. It’s reason enough for us to laugh at them, and deride their shitty arguments. But health care proponents are the ones being drowned out. Fox News is merely serving back-up, venting further insane whining about “free speech.”

When you argue with the crazy, they just keep throwing more crazy at you until somebody has to leave or get arrested.

-jb

Sarah Palin: Stupidest politician ever?

Aug 10, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Health Care

That’s a mighty bold claim.

…Palin is sort of right on one point — there are people who weigh whether children like Trig are worthy of insurance. They’re called insurance companies, and they have decided that these children are not in fact worthy of coverage. That’s because Down Syndrome is a “pre-existing condition.”

She’s a contendah!

UPDATE: Competition is fierce (Although this isn’t from a politician, it is very stupid…)! The health care debate has propelled Republican insanity beyond instrument detection. On the rumor that Stephen Hawking would be targeted for euthenasia by the NHS-

…alas, it seems as though the writer is unaware that Professor Hawking is, um, British. Now it’s possible that Hawking has private medical insurance, but as recently as April this year he was admitted to Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge. Which is, I believe, an NHS hospital. And last time I checked, Hawking hasn’t been bumped off by some heartless NHS bureaucrat. At least, not yet.

You see, in other countries there are people who tell you there’s not enough money for a particular operation, or for a speedy one. They just leave you to die if your treatment can’t be afforded. And they incur unbearable costs on people and small businesses.

You might know one of these countries: the U.S. Here we just euthenize the poor though.

-jb

I know what I don’t like!

Aug 08, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Health Care

The rightwinger crusade against healthcare reform doesn’t get much deeper. We are mostly dealing with people who can’t seem to understand that they lost an election (two, counting 2006) and that their model of perfect leadership, George W. Bush, soured America on the GOP for some time to come.

Oh, I know, on January 20th we were suddenly welcomed by a new Republican party of fiscal conservatives, people who were suddenly very, very, very at odds with Dick “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter” Cheney. Now, even when continuing Bush spending policies, Obama is the avatar of Death, the harbinger of inescapable debt (while Republicans steadfastly oppose any means of paying via taxes).

Now the face the GOP has chosen to present us with this vision is that of goons waving signs of Obama as Hitler, screaming the Pledge of Allegiance, blubbering with fear that gubmint death squads will come for grandma and retarded babies. Because of that, Obama is likely to succeed, as most Americans experience more than two minutes of lucidity a day, thus placing them leagues ahead of these gibbering idiots and the depraved ringmasters goading them.

However, the “intelligentsia” of the Republican Party is trying to provide some structure that the mouth-breathers can adhere to. Unfortunately, Peggy Noonan tries, and the result is that it doesn’t matter: when you start from intellectual incoherence, you cannot reach a suitable end. Andrew Sullivan deconstructs her:

Where is there an entitlement? There is an effort to subsidize private insurance for the working poor who now increase healthcare costs with emergency room care. The cost of all this is around $1 trillion over ten years and the struggle is finding ways to pay for it. The reason for the price-tag and its future is that healthcare costs keep sky-rocketing – something that is killing US companies as well who have to compete with international rivals who have to pay for no healthcare for their employees. Noonan makes no reference to this, as if the most pressing issue of future fiscal sanity is something we should put off … because of fiscal conservatism. Excuse me? Now recall the Republicans’ last major initiative on healthcare – the prescription drug benefit. That cost $32 trillion over the long run, and there was not even a gesture toward actually financing it. Much of the right was silent – as they were over all the other fiscally reckless policies of the past eight years.

But only now is Peggy “terrified”.

She is not terrified by massively escalating healthcare costs, which are bankrupting the government and the private sector. She doesn’t mention these once in her know-nothing column. She just channels the “feelings” of others and wants that to guide public policy. She does not mention the crises on many people’s lives because of our current healthcare system. In fact, there is not a scintilla of a constructive proposal in the column – just an amorphous sense that anything that costs money shouldn’t happen now…

And so it goes. People are terrified that the government will tell them an operation can’t be paid for, and terrified that the government might increase taxes to pay for that operation. But if they go bankrupt paying for one operation, and then a bean-counter at Kaiser Permanente tells them they can’t have the second and they die anyway, that’s the glory of the private market, which is just perfectly fine and dandy.

And if their small business goes out of business or just stops providing health care for its employees, and a Republican voter is left with nothing but the emergency room (and the crushing bills they send to your home) for health care, this is the wisdom of the invisible hand.

The more I watch this “debate,” the more I see this pattern hold. Obama is essentially proposing a centrist, relatively modest plan that makes (far too many) concessions to Republicans out of the gates, and they simply have no idea what to do except oppose it. The intellectuals are incoherent to begin with, and the (tiny) masses can only offer a very weird rage that has almost nothing to do with the actual bill (I’m thinking that “Have you read the bill?!!?!?” slogan is already starting to fail as people realize the protesters haven’t read the bill).

We have one party committed to approaching our health care seriously, but why does our country as a whole have such trouble being serious?

-jb

Terrible betrayal.

Aug 02, 2009 in Health Care

Jonathan Alter joins up with Republicans and says health care is just dandy the way it is.

The day I realized how awesome private health care was came when my ex-girlfriend got turned down for health insurance because she had an irregular pap smear once, and some UTIs.

It’s curious that the Republican response is, “They’re gonna kill grandma!” You would start to think that the public would be a little gun-shy by now about believing anything coming from the right, but people are strange. Of course, one might also wonder when Republicans will develop this thing called, “shame,” but they are ever a lost cause.

-jb

Canadians continue to wonder WTF Republicans are talking about.

Jul 22, 2009 in Health Care

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

While Republican horror stories about public health care tend to focus exclusively on Canadian and British versions, and completely ignore:

a) French health care
b) German health care
c) US health care

– there exists zero possibility of Canadians wanting to trade their system for ours. The thought of going into bankruptcy upon facing a health care emergency is too horrific to tolerate. Yet Republicans expect Americans to continue doing so, and won’t even pay the issue lip service.

Oh, but they’re very concerned about you, not their HMO election contributors!

-jb

Follow the money.

Jul 21, 2009 in Disappointing Dems, Health Care

Some Democrat Senators still do things the old way:

At the table on May 26 were about 20 donors willing to fork over $10,000 or more to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, including executives of major insurance companies, hospitals and other health-care firms.

“Most people there had an agenda; they wanted the ear of a senator, and they got it,” said Aaron Roland, a San Francisco health-care activist who paid half price to attend the gathering. “Money gets you in the door. The only thing the other side can do is march around and protest outside.”

As his committee has taken center stage in the battle over health-care reform, Chairman Baucus (D-Mont.) has emerged as a leading recipient of Senate campaign contributions from the hospitals, insurers and other medical interest groups hoping to shape the legislation to their advantage. Health-related companies and their employees gave Baucus’s political committees nearly $1.5 million in 2007 and 2008, when he began holding hearings and making preparations for this year’s reform debate.

Top health executives and lobbyists have continued to flock to the senator’s often extravagant fundraising events in recent months. During a Senate break in late June, for example, Baucus held his 10th annual fly-fishing and golfing weekend in Big Sky, Mont., for a minimum donation of $2,500. Later this month comes “Camp Baucus,” a “trip for the whole family” that adds horseback riding and hiking to the list of activities.

To avoid any appearance of favoritism, his aides say, Baucus quietly began refusing contributions from health-care political action committees after June 1. But the policy does not apply to lobbyists or corporate executives, who continued to make donations, disclosure records show.

Dear Max Baucus: You don’t have to do business this way anymore, taking corporate checks and offering polished turd answers while pretending you can still serve the interests of the public.

Max Baucus is not presenting us with worthy counter-arguments, or public outrage, or better ideas. He’s playing the old politician’s game. You can’t get too mad at him…that’s how he was raised.

For Democrats to expect their Senators to hold remotely Democratic sensibilities, among which “health care for all” cannot be discarded, they have to help them get money in new ways.

Harry Reid can bark at Max, but what would be smartest is for grassroots organizations to promise him fundraising support if he agrees to listen to all the people, not just the ones who can pony up $10K.

-jb

You liked the centrists but now you hate them!

Jul 18, 2009 in Disappointing Dems, Health Care

No, but I don’t have to accept poor arguments from anybody on this planet.

What’s especially galling is the hypocrisy of their claimed reason for delaying progress — concern about the fiscal burden. After all, in the past most of them have shown no concern at all for the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook.

Case in point: the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which denied Medicare the right to bargain for lower drug prices, locked in overpayments to private insurance companies, and did nothing, nothing at all, to pay for its proposed outlays. How many of these six self-proclaimed defenders of solvency voted no on the crucial procedural vote? One. (Joe Lieberman, to my surprise.)

And let’s not forget that Ben Nelson, who appears to be the ringleader, has fought tooth and nail against competition from a public option — which would almost certainly save a significant amount of money, as well as providing much-needed competition.

The MSM is fully prepared to treat these six as martyrs of reason, independence, and non-partisan thinking. This holds a certain allure for all parties involved, but when you put the test of reason to their claims, all you have is the typical Democrat cowardice, hinged on the fear that Republicans will say mean things about them. Ever is there the absolute fear of employing reason, facts, and techniques of persuasion to stand up, wield a pair, and trust in the power of a principled stand.

This world will confound you with competing claims. Reason separates the wheat from the chaff. Knowing that it will not follow that truth earns surrender, you are left trusting the multiplicative force of persistence. If those who persist in the pursuit of junk claims can sway, all the more powerful is the implacable will of those emboldened with truth.

The reality is that Democrats are on the right side of this issue at the right time, and if some are going to revolt, they better-

a) have rock solid arguments on their side and
b) not entertain for a second allowing a Republican filibuster. Vote how you will, but let us have the vote!

-jb

The House Health Care Reform Bill.

Jul 16, 2009 in Health Care

Ezra Klein breaks it down. It isn’t single payer, but it seems pretty attractive, as Ezra says.

In the first year, it accepts those without health insurance, those who are buying health insurance on their own, and small businesses with fewer than 10 people. In the second year, it accepts small businesses with fewer than 20 people. After that, “larger employers as permitted by the Commissioner.”

If I were a small business employer being forced to provide my employees health insurance, I wouldn’t be able to wait to offload them to the public system. The tiny tax increase would be well worth the savings.

If I were a small business employee, I wouldn’t be able to wait to get on a public plan so that I could have some job mobility instead of being stuck at my job for fear of losing coverage.

Why do Republicans insist on weighing down the free market with health care? Put health in the public realm, where it belongs, and let business be business.

-jb

UPDATE: Holy smokes…looks like Big Pharma is working the Senate well:

The missing items include two planks of Mr. Obama’s campaign platform: allowing cheaper drugs to be imported from Canada and giving the federal government the right to negotiate Medicare drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies.

Things that get left out of arguments.

Jul 15, 2009 in Health Care

You’re supposed to assume public health care would impact research.

Where is the supposed threat to America’s medical R&D establishment? It’s not like insurance companies and family practice groups are funding or performing the basic research that keeps us in our current leadership position. Medical research is dominated by government agencies, non-profit NGOs, universities, and multi-national pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies, none of which stand to suffer based on any of the proposals I’ve read.

But it’s so darn fun for Republicans to say it!

Kevin Drum:

This is actually the only objection to national healthcare that I find sort of interesting. But here’s the problem: the reason it’s hard to find a convincing rebuttal is because the argument itself is purely speculative in the first place. Sure, it’s possible that the only thing keeping medical innovation alive is the (approximately) one-fourth of global healthcare spending accounted for by the quasi-private portion of the American market. But that’s all it is: possible. There’s no real empirical argument at work here, and given the current state of the global healthcare market, there probably can’t be. That makes it pretty hard to construct an empirical rebuttal.

So I guess I’d reframe this. Instead of simply suggesting that innovation will die if America adopts national healthcare, how about breaking that down into three or four very specific arguments about what kind of innovations we’re talking about and why they’d be destroyed if the feds funded 80% of American healthcare instead of the current 45%? Let’s hear some details and some proposed mechanisms. Then maybe we can take a crack at having a discussion about it.

Yet this speculation is regarded as a truism in mainstream debates.

-jb

News flash: Harry Reid shows early signs of growing a pair.

Jul 07, 2009 in Barack Obama, Clueless Conservatives, Disappointing Dems, Health Care

Tells Democrats to “stop chasing Republican votes,” says no public option will lose 15 Dem Senators.

Perhaps the magic 60 number is enough to get some Democrats to stop quaking in their boots that Karl Rove will eat their lunch. Max Baucus, who was trying to butter up Charles Grassley, got the hint quickly.

On the executive front, there is still some flak going on over mixed signals (blame Rahm Emanuel, congratulate Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders for fighting back) from the White House on the public option…which is a failure of message control. But, behind the scenes, Obama is using the grassroots machine he built during the election to whip voters towards the finish line.

JB —

As we speak, key committees in Congress are weighing options and making final decisions about how to tackle health care reform. This could be one of the last opportunities to shape the legislation before it’s written.

The behind-the-scenes committee negotiations aren’t front-page news, but the lobbyists trying to block reform are following every detail, and they won’t miss a day. If the final plan is to uphold President Obama’s principles of reduced costs, guaranteed choice — including the choice of a robust public insurance option — and quality care for all, your voice must be heard.

Please write a short letter to the editor of your local paper expressing your support for President Obama’s three principles for real health care reform, and asking your Congressional representatives to do the same. You can write and submit your letter in just a few minutes using our simple online tool.

Write a letter to help pass health care

These letters are an easy but powerful way to make a difference. The letters section is one of the most-read parts of the newspaper, and decision-makers in Congress and the media watch it closely to gauge where the public stands.

Good letters are usually just two or three short paragraphs. You can just explain that you’re a local resident who knows we need real health care reform following the President’s three principles, and we need it now. If you have a personal experience with the health care system that motivates you, that will make the letter even more powerful.

The opponents of real reform have deep pockets and insider access, and they’re holding nothing back in their drive to derail progress before the plans go public.

Your letter, submitted at this time, can help remind your representatives that the American people are counting on them to stand up to special interests and deliver the comprehensive reform we so desperately need.

http://my.barackobama.com/healthcareletter

Thanks for all that you do,

Mitch Stewart
Director
Organizing for America

Meanwhile, Moveon.org is flanking, getting their base riled up for public health care and smacking Emanuel around some more. Let’s hope President Obama reinforces the message to Emanuel personally.

As soon as people realize that the public option is already a compromise, the fear and the furor will die down. Republicans obviously won’t back down because that’s how cults behave. Every Democrat and an overwhelming majority of the middle, however, will be able to move the country forward and finally get something real done about health care. It won’t be single-payer, which would be the ideal solution. It’s a compromise. Those who believe in the free market as the solution to all ills cannot subsist on the case that it won’t be “fair” for the government to handle health care more affordably. They have already surrendered, they’re just stalling while we sit around trying to figure out that we won already.

-jb

Dare we consider rationing health care?

Jun 26, 2009 in Health Care

As if HMOs don’t already ration health care. All those people who don’t have coverage, or who have it but are denied treatments because they are too expensive? That’s rationing.

So what the hell is Michael Kinsley talking about?

Near the end, he finds the real point:

It may seem absurd to worry about whether wealthy or well-insured people get every last test and exotic or speculative treatment when millions of Americans have no health insurance and millions more have gaping holes in their coverage. But the well-insured happen to include virtually all the people making the key decisions about health-care reform — members of Congress and their staffs, the White House staff, Washington journalists, and so on. These people’s fears that they would lose the right to “choose my own doctor” (code for getting treatment with all the bells and whistles) helped kill Hillary Clinton’s attempt to reform health care in the early 1990s. Fear of rationing could kill Obamacare for the same reason.

Fear of rationing by politicians and the wealthy…who in practice will have nothing to worry about. If you’re wealthy, you’ll be able to buy more health care, period. You’ll be living in your same wonderful world. It’s just that the rest of us might be able to live in a tolerable one, instead of staying sick or going into inescapable medical debt.

-jb

Nate Silver, genius.

Jun 24, 2009 in Health Care

Nate Silver breaks down the complete bankruptcy of the Republican critique of public options, and, by extension, the idiocy of Democrats caving to them:

What (George) Will’s position reflects instead is ideology: who cares that the federal government could build a better mousetrap? They’re the government and that’s bad.

This spells out why the “free market” isn’t working for health care:

Now, what’s supposed to happen in the free market is that another company will come in and offer Frederick a better deal: they’ll offer him the same coverage for $350 a month, accepting a smaller profit, and Frederick will happily take the deal. There are at least a couple of reasons, however, why this may not be happening in the insurance industry. The first is that Frederick might not realize he’s paying $400 every month for insurance. That’s because if he’s like the majority of Americans, he’s getting his insurance through his work, and except when the HR lady gave him a shiny brochure on his first day at the office, he’s probably never thought very much about what this insurance is costing him in terms of foregone salary. This is particularly so because health insurance benefits, unlike other types of income, aren’t taxed, and so Fredrick is less cognizant of them if show up on his paycheck at all. Not only, then, is the free market maxim of perfect information violated, but it’s violated in such a way that creates artificial profits for the insurance industry: the government is effectively subsidizing every dollar that Frederick’s company is willing to spend on his insurance benefit.

The profits the insurance industry is making, of course — profits artificially boosted by an enormous backdoor tax subsidy — don’t seem to be buying the customer much of anything in terms of improved service or cost savings. On the contrary, health care costs are rising by as much as 9-10 percent per year, without any concomitant increase in the level of service. If JetBlue were raising the cost of its fares by 10 percent per year, they’d be out of business.

The reason the insurers are staying in business, though, is because barriers to entry in the health insurance industry are in practice quite high. Insurers benefit from pooling risk. The larger the pool, the better in terms of the insurer’s ability to hedge its risk and build negotiating leverage with its providers. That makes it very difficult for a Five Guys or a JetBlue type of start-up to compete: they’ll have trouble getting together enough customers to pool their risk adequately, and even if they do, they won’t have as much negotiating leverage as the big guys. Health care providers may demand a better deal or refuse to accept them. As such, they’ll never get off the ground.

Now, if you aren’t some addled fool who thinks everything the government funds puts us one step closer to being Soviet Russia, you’ll understand the position that the free market works really well for some things, but that the government can do some things better. Not everything. Some things. One of those things is health care, and we can see other systems at work in the world that do better than ours for less money. Also, they do it without bankrupting people who get sick, or denying them health care altogether.

We have won the argument. The public is ready. Our opponent’s argument is that public health care may work…TOO WELL!!! Ah, teh horror!

Democrats in the House…you may be our only hope. We need you to be our representatives right now, because we’re lacking them in the Senate and, the one in the White House is going to err on the side of fear if you aren’t speaking up and leading on the issue.

You will reap the rewards. Fight.

-jb

Fail Fail Fail!

Jun 24, 2009 in Disappointing Dems, Health Care

Obama signaling he’s open to dropping the public option?

WRONG GODDAMN MOVE, Mr. Chess Player!

I have been patient with Obama’s sense of strategy, which at its best sees him rope-a-doping his opponents and then decimating them. But this goes beyond confidence games. Right now what we need to do is get those “centrist” Democrats who act like fucking Republicans to actually act like Democrats and support an idea that is already popular with the public. THERE IS NO REAL OPPOSITION. You have lobbyists, and you have the defunct Republican Party which is lost, depraved, and at its weakest state in modern history.

This is the time for the push, for the charge, for the knockout blow. What, are we waiting for Al Franken to extricate himself from Norm Coleman’s string of senseless lawsuits (remember when that was a Republican issue)? Are we waiting for 2010 when we have 60+ Senators? Is Obama so sure he can still achieve a bill that will actually be describable as reform? Is he so sure he can recover his blessed reputation after fucking up one of the pillars of his campaign?

I have been very hesitant to join the ranks of those who started bitching the first month that Obama hadn’t saved the world yet. But this time is ripe. He has momentum. He has popularity. He has useless opponents with no ideas. He has some chickenshit Democrats who can be corralled and cowed like any gang of cowards can.

By Jove, Obama, you better be the craftiest bastard on the planet, because now you’ve even got me wondering. You say your style is to organize the public and get them ahead of you on the issues, but we’re seeing repeatedly that the public is ahead of you on certain issues, and you’re still lagging. The Republicans do not matter. All they will sense is weakness and attack. When you clobber them, they sputter and spurt and say stupid things continuously, driving up your popularity. When you concede territory to them, they do not care! They will keep hating you no matter what you do, so listen to America for once, dad-blame-it!

That said, let me give Obama a chance here:

“We have not drawn lines in the sand other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don’t have health insurance or are underinsured,” Mr. Obama said. “Those are the broad parameters that we’ve discussed.”

FACT: Private insurers will never be able to do this. Public plans can. Obama may be setting a standard by which he can eventually reject any private plan. MAY be. Sounds like chickenshit. MAY be otherwise, but President Obama is messing with my emotions too much today.

-jb

*gasp* Is single payer actually entering the conversation?

Jun 09, 2009 in Health Care, Journamalism

It is hard to underestimate the strength of the forces working against single payer health care even being mentioned in the health care reform plan, both from lobbyists and the corporate media. Yet when people speak out

Meanwhile, the drones in Congress and the media are moving to try killing public health care even as an option, because it’s just not fair that it would be cheaper than private health care. Without a doubt, the debate is thoroughly skewed. After all, if there isn’t a public option, what the hell is being reformed? Americans are growing convinced that the entire system is broken, and want a new one. Incrementalism will kill us.

While the voices of people like Noam Chomsky, who outlined the propaganda model and how it works in the corporate media, are the ones the public needs to hear to help combat the assault against their needs being carried out, we are given silence. On the other hand, every stupid bleating from discredited hacks like Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh or Newt Gingrich gets covered.

And while Democrats are busy shooting themselves in the foot, an outlet like the Huffington Post jumps in covering these idiots too instead of delivering the reporting needed to jumpstart indentured reporters and force them to cover what their bosses don’t like being covered. Somebody let me know when the liberal media arrives.

-jb

More myth-busting about government health-care

Mar 30, 2009 in Health Care

A sublime article in The New Republic makes the case that government health care could stifle innovation- and then demolishes it:

The great breakthroughs in the history of medicine, from the development of the polio vaccine to the identification of cancer-killing agents, did not take place because a for-profit company saw an opportunity and invested heavily in research. They happened because of scientists toiling in academic settings. “The nice thing about people like me in universities is that the great majority are not motivated by profit,” says Cynthia Kenyon, a renowned cancer researcher at the University of California at San Francisco. “If we were, we wouldn’t be here.” And, while the United States may be the world leader in this sort of research, that’s probably not–as critics of universal coverage frequently claim–because of our private insurance system. If anything, it’s because of the federal government.

The irony is staggering:

The single biggest source of medical research funding, not just in the United States but in the entire world, is the National Institutes of Health (NIH): Last year, it spent more than $28 billion on research, accounting for about one-third of the total dollars spent on medical research and development in this country (and half the money spent at universities). The majority of that money pays for the kind of basic research that might someday unlock cures for killer diseases like Alzheimer’s, aids, and cancer. No other country has an institution that matches the NIH in scale. And that is probably the primary explanation for why so many of the intellectual breakthroughs in medical science happen here.

There’s no reason why this has to change under universal health insurance. NIH has its own independent funding stream. And, during the late 1990s, thanks to bipartisan agreement between President Clinton and the Republican Congress, its funding actually increased substantially–giving a tremendous boost to research. With or without universal coverage, subsequent presidents and Congress could ramp up funding again–although, if they did so, they would be breaking with the present course. It so happens that, starting in 2003, President Bush and his congressional allies let NIH funding stagnate, even though the cost of medical research (like the cost of medicine overall) was increasing faster than inflation. The reason? They needed room in the budget for other priorities, like tax cuts for the wealthy. In this sense, the greatest threat to future medical breakthroughs may not be universal health care but the people who are trying so hard to fight it.

Yeah, that last part…not so surprising. Conservativism might mean something if it hadn’t been hijacked by corporate greed. Rightwingers are consistently useless:

Of course, the idea of involving the government in these decisions is anathema to many conservatives–since, they argue, the private sector is bound to make better decisions than a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington. But, while that’s frequently true in economics, health care may be an exception. One feature of the U.S. insurance system is its relentless focus on short-term good. Private insurers have little incentive to pay for interventions that don’t yield immediate benefits, because they are gaining and losing members all the time. As a result, money invested on patient health may very well help a competitor’s bottom line. What’s more, the for-profit insurance industry–like the pharmaceutical and device industries–responds to Wall Street, which cares more about quarterly filings than long-term financial health. So there’s relatively little incentive to spend money on the kinds of innovations that yield long-term, diffuse benefits–such as the creation of a better information infrastructure that would help both doctors and consumers judge what treatments are necessary when.

Let this truth reside in you:

You don’t have to choose between universal access and innovation. It’s possible to have both–as long as you do it right.

Sounds like all we have to do is keep conservatives out of the government so they can’t screw up health care too. One-party Republican rule taught us that you can’t run government programs effectively when you hate them.

-jb

We wouldn’t want the government rationing care!

Mar 30, 2009 in Health Care

As always, the fleeting nature of health insurance simply denies people care outright. And it’s getting worse:

(Health care) issues are moving to the forefront as the Obama administration and Congress gear up for discussions about how to reform the healthcare system so that Americans won’t be rejected for insurance.

It’s especially timely because growing numbers are looking for individual health insurance after losing their jobs. On top of that, small businesses, which make up the bulk of South Florida’s economy, are frequently finding health policies too expensive and are dropping coverage, sending even more people shopping for insurance.

Even worse, you may be able to afford insurance, or willing to bite the bullet and pay for it even though you can’t afford it, but you won’t be allowed it anyway:

Trying to buy health insurance on your own and have gallstones? You’ll automatically be denied coverage. Rheumatoid arthritis? Automatic denial. Severe acne? Probably denied.

What’s more, you can discover that if you lie to an insurer about your medical history and drug use, you will be rejected because data-mining companies sell information to insurers about your health, including detailed usage of prescription drugs.

It’s their job to game you.

The problem is, material available on the Web shows that people who have specific illnesses or use certain drugs can’t buy coverage.

”This is absolutely the standard way of doing business,” said Santiago Leon, a health insurance broker in Miami. Being denied for preexisting conditions is well known, but when a person sees the usually confidential list of automatic denials for himself, “that’s a eureka moment. That shows you how harsh the system is.”

Health care reform can give us a system where nobody is denied coverage. You may not get a bionic heart, but when you lose your job you’ll still be able to go to the doctor.

Secondly, real health care reform would mean that you don’t go into debt over your medical care.

People are losing their jobs, losing their medical insurance, going into debt trying to stay healthy, and all the while private insurance companies are figuring out ways to eliminate their risks so their CEOs can get ungodly bonuses. Gotta pay for that private plane!

The only forces slowing us down and preventing reform are Republicans who swear to us that if we do something about it, we might as well replace the stars and stripes with a sickle and hammer.

As always, they are fundamentally unserious when it comes to running this country. Fever-dream ideologies spun by Rush Limbaugh and corporate think-tanks will not so much save us from communism as return us to a feudal state.

-jb

ADHD as society’s disease.

Jun 16, 2008 in Culture, Drugs, Health Care, Science

Common sense suggests, for many, that ADHD as a “disease” is a crock of shit. Rather, it’s a set of personality characteristics developed for sensible reasons in our long, long history that becomes suddenly inconvenient and exacerbated when their bearers are planted in our high-speed information-plastered minute-managed era. William Saletan, an occasional wanker, had his curiosity piqued by a Northwestern University study that revealed nomadic tribes benefited from the genes typically associated with ADHD, moreso than settled ones:

Increased impulsivity, ADHD-like traits, novelty-seeking like traits, aggression, violence and/or activity levels may help nomads obtain food resources, or exhibit a degree of behavioral unpredictability that is protective against interpersonal violence or robberies. … It might be that the attention spans conferred by the DRD4/7R+ genotype allow nomadic children to more readily learn effectively in a dynamic environment (without schools), while the same attention span interferes with classroom learning in Songa, the settled community. 7R+ boys might develop into warriors (the life-stage of an Ariaal male that lies between childhood and manhood) and men who can more effectively defend against livestock raiders, perhaps through a reputation of unpredictable behavior that inspires fear. Among 7R+ men in the settled community of Songa, such tendencies might be less well suited to practicing agriculture and selling goods at market. It might also be that higher activity levels in 7R+ nomads are translated into increased food production, while such activity levels in settled men are a less efficient use of calories in food production.

As a friend of mine was told by a psychiatrist recently, paraphrased, “You’d be fine running around with a spear or sword in your hand.”

I don’t know whether the speculated reasons for the gene’s benefits will pan out. But the benefits do seem real. And that finding suggests two things. First, we should be careful about designating diseases and disease genes. Traits that are harmful in one setting can be helpful in another. Advantages or “defects” that we think of as natural may actually be products of our cultural decisions. As Eisenberg puts it, we might “begin to view ADHD as not just a disease but something with adaptive components.”

Second, our society may be the wrong place to assess a gene’s evolutionary harm or benefit. As the authors note, “[N]on-industrialized or subsistence environments … may be more similar to the environments where much of human genetic evolution took place.”

My experience is that our society is capable of inducing ADHD-like characteristics in anybody, and that while its qualities aren’t very helpful in the classroom (in fact, let me say they are a goddamned pain in the ass) kids pick up on the fact that surviving and succeeding in the adult world nearly requires it. As we facilitate the means of communication to “save time,” free time becomes, ironically, less excusable.

Research may provide new revelations in time, but I think it be a safe presumption that kids are better served being put in environments where their predispositions are more useful instead of being subjected to constant chemical infusion.

-jb

UPDATE: A cure exists!

[youtube RkzytidhP1M]

Oh, no, not the mandates!

Dec 13, 2007 in Barack Obama, Clintonitis, Health Care, Politics

Am I the only one who isn’t panicking that Barack Obama’s healthcare plan doesn’t have mandates…YET? Krugman has mandated mandates, Robert Reich amiably defended Obama, Gene Sperling (Bill Clinton’s National Economic Adviser and Director of the National Economic Council) tackled Reich, and I’m wondering, is this really worth eating our own over?

Hey, I’d love to see a healthy debate here. But does anybody think Barack Obama would veto a bill handed to him because it had mandates? No. So let’s remember it’s just a debate, and that Obama is still the most outstanding candidate by far. A compromise will be reached, and health care will be there for everybody soon. The problem of people who try to avoid paying while healthy is something that can and will be addressed.

I find Barack Obama to be the most inspiring candidate, to put it simply. And the qualities in him that inspire inform me that he’s a reasonable, pragmatic progressive. People largely don’t have health insurance because they can’t afford it, not because nobody’s telling them to get it. If the government can help the costs, the people will come running for health insurance and the question of mandates will be moot. Even those who are young know deep down they are not invincible.

-jb

Giuliani’s health care statistics still a joke.

Nov 08, 2007 in Health Care, Politics

Dan Finkelstein tries to support Rudy’s statistics junk regarding Britain’s NHS (which, one shouldn’t have to say, isn’t the world’s best socialized medical system) and prostate cancer survival rates. Turns out, just like our press pleads for people to look past some of our negative health care statistics, the numbers for prostate cancer survival in Britain have been chosen very selectively without a broader look. A commenter, Nick Strong, takes Finkelstein down.

The hypothesis that patients are dying in the UK of undiagnosed prostate cancer is ridiculous. Patients do not die of prostate cancer unrecognised. If the disease has advanced sufficiently to cause death the signs are obvious and would be cited as the cause of death. So there is not an epidemic of undiagnosed prostate cancer deaths in the UK. It remains the case that the statistics show that prostate cancer death rates are approximately equal in the two countries.

So why might a larger proportion of patients diagnosed with prostate cancer die of it in the UK that in the US? To understand this one has to understand the nature of the disease and the different approaches of the health systems of the two countries.

Prostate cancer is very common among older men. At post mortem examination of patients dying of other causes an incidental finding of symptomless prostate cancer occurs frequently – as many as 80% of men over 80 . Hence the saying about prostate cancer that goes “you are much more likely to die with it than of it”. In the UK most patients with prostate cancer do not have the condition diagnosed prior to dying, and the cancer has no bearing on the cause of death.

On the other hand in the US there is a vast industry of early cancer diagnosis, hence your chance of being diagnosed with early symptomless prostate cancer before you die – of something else – is much higher in the US that in the UK. So as a result it is true to say that a smaller proportion of all patients known to have a diagnosis of prostate cancer during life will die of it in the US than in the UK. But it is not true to say that if you have prostate cancer – either diagnosed or unknown – that your chance of dying of it differs between the two countries. In fact the similar death rates per head of population strongly suggest that there is little difference.

The likelihood of developing prostate cancer is the same in the US as in the UK. The rate of diagnosis is higher in the US but the death rate is the same. So the only conclusion that can be drawn from these facts is that the US health system spends a lot more money than the UK in the diagnosis of early prostate cancer without any demonstrable benefit.

Where’s the beef?

-jb

Old Glory Robot Insurance

Oct 19, 2007 in Health Care

Missing from almost all of the current discourse regarding universal health care is the issue of coverage against the very real threat of robot attack against the elderly in our society.   What isn’t absent, however, is the concern and dedication of Old Glory Insurance, an insurance company committed to protecting our aged loved ones from the commonly overlooked yet steady onslaught of steely limbed, medication hungry, mindless automatons.

[youtube xVnkd7ot_pw]

-mg

Broder as an indicator of health care’s future.

Oct 14, 2007 in Health Care

If David Broder, a mainstream apparatchik wind-tester of the Beltway if there ever was one, is heralding the approach of universal health care and the frustration of the business establishment with shouldering everybody’s insurance costs, you know change is coming. This is simply how things work.

Five years ago, the CED laid out a strategy for business to curb rising health-care costs while continuing to subsidize workers’ policies and helping cover the costs of the uninsured. Now, it acknowledges that strategy has not worked.

“The U.S. employer-based health insurance system is failing,” the report says. “Fewer American workers have insurance now than did seven years ago and fewer American firms are offering insurance now than did then. . . . The competitiveness of American firms is threatened by the cost of health insurance. Public budgets at every level are eroded by the costs of health care, including costs that previously were paid by employers. . . . We believe that our health-insurance system is in crisis, and needs immediate attention to stop steady erosion that may become sharp, quantum deterioration.”

Naturally, the tool Broder sides with the plan laid out by the CED, a “high-powered business group,” which dismisses single-payer health care as a solution but at the same time envisions taxes for universal coverage. Honestly, the differences between this approach and the one pushed by Hillary, Barack, and Edwards will have to be sorted out by others more wonkish than I. It seems largely academic, and Broder’s claim that their plans won’t alleviate the pressure on employers seems dubious. But that’s beside the point. Just a few years ago, Broder would have diligently informed us all that the current system was chock-full of untold possibilities and that the peasants would have to eat their cake.

If he’s moving, then D.C. is finally shifting its lumbering carcass towards a solution. As Glenn Greenwald noted, Broder has no vision of his own, but he is a reliable indicator of where the Beltway stands. His column provides reason for optimism, folks.

-jb

How can you possibly convince America to despise the Frosts?

Oct 12, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Health Care, Politics

The Graeme Frost ordeal possesses a certain degree of beauty, beneath all the ugliness created by rightwingers desperate to prove they’ve still got George W. Bush’s back.

A more perfect paradigm for how the right functions could scarcely be found. You have the incentive for political assassination, typically to take down anybody who effectively gets in Bush II’s way. Bush vetoed an incredibly popular bill for simply unbelievable reasons (sudden objections in the name of fiscal responsibility that only arise when it’s a Democrat bill?) that makes him look like a complete idiot/asshole (nothing unusual there, of course), and Graeme Frost became the face of the children he wants to leave high and dry. Could the right simply tolerate this good simple kid from a family of modest income being out there, a living threat of others out there like him? Could they tolerate a face being put on a health care need?

Remember Michael J. Fox? Enough said. Throw in somebody saying, “I have a health care need, and the government can help,” and you inevitably set off another explosive set of priorities. Now the righties have to defend George W. AND fight off the possibility of the public seeing the government handling health care successfully enough to make socialized medicine not seem evil. Get out the troops!

Sure enough, within a few hours we were treated to the sad spectacle of a rightwinger attempting “research.” This guy likely thought he had an easy job, because fact-checking standards simply don’t exist in the right-o-sphere. “DID YOU KNOW GRAEME FROST GOES TO A PRIVATE SCHOOL!?” sufficed. “DID YOU KNOW THAT A HOUSE NEXT TO THEIRS SOLD FOR $400,000?!?!” beckoned like Al Capone’s vault to Geraldo. Soon, a profile was assembled for the Frosts that suggested people living the gilded life, failing to purchase health care because…well, because they could scam the government into doing it for them, naturally! A chance was had to dig into YOUR WALLET to pay for their BAD CHOICES. Rightwingers looked it over and nodded, “This is wonderful…we’ve taken down the Frosts! They’re actually a perfect argument against S-CHIP!”

Ah, what a glorious few minutes they had there, before the facts started rolling in. Besides the fact that the kids attended the private school on scholarships, the fact that the home was originally purchased for $55,000 and taking out a mortgage on it would have its own problems, the family had, completely unsurprisingly for average Americans trying to purchase their own insurance, been denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions. The failure of our broken health care system stood up and announced itself: even if these people wanted coverage, they didn’t appear profitable enough for private companies to cover them for less than a fortune.

Reality. What an inconvenience for those who reject the reality-based community for make-believe rightwinger land.

Talking with Mike G. on the phone, I said, “Surely our rightwinger friends are all over this kid. Dana Pico quite likely, but Sharon surely is on this kid and his family like white on the Republican Party. You know she dived in with both feet!” Within seconds, Mike confirmed it: she had her pitchfork and torch in hand, and was waving them in front of the Frosts’ home (not literally, that would be Michele Malkin), demanding their gubmint-grubbin’ freeloader asses be held accountable. She wasn’t just in disagreement with them…she was livid. And, naturally, it revealed just how bankrupt liberals were.

Having your children hurt in an accident is a tragedy. Exploiting that tragedy for political gain is despicable.

(more…)

Tony Snow’s cancer.

Aug 21, 2007 in Health Care, Politics, tony snow

Two of our regular commenters, amiably wrong but beloved Dana Pico and the crank troll LL, went rushing to Tony Snow’s defense after I lambasted his excuse for leaving that $168,000 a year wasn’t enough for him to “make it financially.” Tony has cancer, you see, so according to Dana, he’s going to go earn a bunch of money to leave behind. According to LL, I’m “picking on Tony Snow,” which would make me “small and petty.” Allow me to make a post out of my comment response:

Look…if Tony was making excuses to avoid saying, “I’m dying,” I can understand and sympathize. And if he actually said he just wanted to stack up some more money to leave his family after he’s gone, that would be another thing. But there’s a problem, fellas. Both you, LL, and Dana, have supposed these possibilities without any support whatsoever. I’m basing my opinion off what actually came out of Snow’s mouth.

So saying that he just can’t make it financially off $168K is an insult to the 95% of Americans who don’t make that much. That’s just a plain fact, and he’s still responsible for the content of his public statements. And if he’s going off to talk radio or Faux News again, he’s likely going to continue his career of spinning and criticizing others. If criticizing his comments is “picking on” him, then he should get out of the arena entirely.

It’s funny, Republicans say things like, “The 9/11 widows are having a ball exploiting their dead husbands!” and then whine at the backlash, saying, “What, can’t we argue with them?” I’m just asking why Tony Snow didn’t behave throughout his life like we’re told all good Republicans behave- and what are other Americans supposed to feel about the economy if he thinks he can’t make it on that much money? Tony’s sick? So are millions of Americans. Are his health care costs driving him under? Same for millions of Americans. What are they supposed to do when treating their cancer bankrupts them? How few have the option to go grab a new job that pays ten times as much?

If Tony Snow had cancer, but was pulling in $35K with no health insurance, he’d be irresponsible, or even worse, invisible, to Dana and LL. Such folks always are, until they’re somebody you know. As it is, Tony’s going to go rake in a pile of cash to cover his expenses, and part of his million-dollar job description will be to keep telling Americans they’d better guard their wallets from national health care and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. If you’re stuck in the top 5% of earners, you gotta get in that 1%, bro! That’s the beauty of the American economy.

-jb

Staggering medical debt beats paying some extra taxes?

Jul 30, 2007 in Health Care

The genius of the American medical system, testified to in the House:

She told what it was like to have health insurance and still be crushed by medical bills. She explained how she put off medical visits because her husband was seriously ill. She told about how, when they finally had nothing, a hospital agreed to write off the copay after her husband’s surgery, but told her that if he wanted to come back for follow up treatments, that she would have to show up with cash in hand. She told how her husband was fired while he was in the hospital because he couldn’t do his job. She explained to the Judiciary Committee that she sold nearly everything they had to try to pay their bills. She went back to work six days after abdominal surgery because she needed the paycheck. She explained about the humiliation of filing for bankruptcy and how hard it was to get a job later on. In short, she told about how the American health care system tore apart her life and how bankruptcy was her last hope to try to put a few of the pieces back together.

This anecdotal, but representative of the widespread medical debt and the bankruptcies that follow.

Five million families since 2000 alone. For every one of them, sixteen others that could benefit from bankruptcy but won’t file out of pride or other reasons. They worked hard, played by the rules, and then a medical problem arose. They were healed, and then a pound of flesh was asked for. That’s a little inconsistent for my tastes.

-jb

They got me flabberknackered.

Jul 25, 2007 in Health Care, Uncategorized

This really shouldn’t be happening. This isn’t how things are supposed to work. Newsweek isn’t supposed to feature Jane Bryant Quinn dispelling most of the negative myths about universal health care!

But the public knows the American health-care system is breaking up, no matter how much its backers cheer. For starters, there’s the 46 million uninsured (projected to rise to 56 million in five years). There’s the shock of the underinsured when they learn that their policies exclude a costly procedure they need—forcing them to run up an unpayable bill, beg for charity care or go without. And think of the millions who plan their lives around health insurance—where to work, whether to start a business, when to retire, even whom to marry (there are “benefits” marriages, just as there are “green card” marriages). It shocks the conscience that those who profit from this mess tell us to suck it up.

Shock? What’s shocking about it? It’s exactly how you would expect corporate interests to behave. If they didn’t, they’d answer to their stockholders. Anyway, as I was saying, go Jane!

Universal coverage costs too much. No—what costs too much is the system we have now. In 2005, the United States spent 15.3 percent of gross domestic product on health care for only some of us. France spent 10.7 percent and covered everyone. The French comparison is good because its system works very much like Medicare-for-all. The other European countries, all with universal coverage, spent less than France.

Why are U.S. costs off the charts? Partly because we don’t bargain with providers for a universal price. Partly because of the money that health insurers spend on marketing and screening people in or out. Medicare’s overhead is just 1.5 percent, compared with 13 to 16 percent in the private sector. John Sheils of the Lewin Group, a health-care consultant, says that the health insurers’ overhead came to $120 billion last year, of which $40 billion was profit. By comparison, it would cost $54 billion to cover all the uninsured.

Eeeek, your taxes would go up! Maybe not, if Sheils is right. Both the Congressional Budget Office and the General Accounting Office have testified that the United States could insure everyone for the money we’re spending now. But even if taxes did rise, you might still come out ahead. That’s because your Medicare plan would probably cost less than the medical bills and premiums you’re paying now.

We get world-class care; don’t tamper with it. On average, we don’t. International surveys put France in first place. On almost all measures of health care and mortality, we lag behind Canada and Europe. Many individuals do indeed get superior care, but so do people in single-payer countries, and at lower cost.

They have long waiting times. No advanced country has waiting periods for emergency surgery or procedures that are urgently needed. The United States has shorter waits than Canada and England for elective surgery. Still, queues are developing here, at the doctor’s door. In a study of five developed countries, the Commonwealth Fund looked at how many sick adults had to wait six days or more for an appointment. By this measure, only Canada’s record was worse than ours. But waits depend on how well a system is funded, not with the fact that it’s single-payer. Many countries that cover everyone, including France, Belgium, Germany and Japan, report no issue with waits at all.

There’s no problem; people get care even if they’re uninsured. They don’t. They get emergency treatment but little else. As a group, the uninsured are sicker, suffer more from chronic disease and rarely get rehabilitation after an injury or surgery. They also die sooner—knowing that, with insurance, they might have lived.

This is a momentous occasion. Has Sicko broken the ice? Are the Democrats prepared to sign in blood that a Democratic White House and Congress will make it happen? If the business class is discussing single payer health care positively then the winds have unmistakably shifted. Kaiser Permanente may not want you to hurt their billion dollar profits, but your boss is tired of paying for health insurance. And somewhere further down the line the costs of 45 million uninsured people gets factored in.

-jb

CNN just wants to be helpful.

Jul 18, 2007 in Health Care, Media, Politics

Moore and CNN continue the back and forth. Again, it’s interesting to note that CNN is the adversary here. They attempt to portray themselves as just doin’ some honest reporting, but they end up making more goofs than Moore.

CNN pulled out a statistic about elective procedures. Of the six countries surveyed in that study — United States, Canada, New Zealand, UK, Germany, Australia — only Canada had longer waiting times than America for sick adults waiting to schedule a doctor’s appointment for a medical problem. Eighty-one percent of patients in New Zealand got a same or next-day appointment for a non-routine visit, 71 percent in Britain, 69 percent in Germany, 66 percent in Australia, 47 percent in the U.S. and 36 percent in Canada (“The Doc’s In, but It’ll Be a While,” Catherine Arnst, Business Week, June 22, 2007).

“Gerard Anderson, a Johns Hopkins health policy professor who has spent his career examining the world’s health care, said there are delays, but not as many as conservatives state. In Canada, the United Kingdom and France, ‘3 percent of hospital discharges had delays in treatment,’ Anderson told The Miami Herald. ‘That’s a relatively small number, and they’re all elective surgeries, such as hip and knee replacement.’ “…

…One way America is able to achieve decent waiting times is that it leaves 47 million people out of the health care system entirely, unlike any other Western country. When you remove 47 million people from the line, your wait should be shorter. So why is the U.S. second to last in wait times?

And there are even more Americans who keep themselves out of the system because of cost – in the United States, 24 percent of the population did not get medical care due to cost. That number is 5 percent in Canada and 3 percent in the UK…

CNN RESPONSE:

We believe our example of so-called “elective” procedures such as hip replacement and cataract surgery is accurate and is helpful information.

Ah, they were just being helpful. That’s why they only chose to offer the waiting times for elective procedures, a stat that private health-care defenders immediately reach for.

A commenter says it all:

I wish CNN would put as much energy into fact checking White House press releases as they do Michael Moore’s movie.

Moore’s Sicko is a vitally important film for Americans to see for themselves. It’s not perfect or completely comprehensive, but the energy put into dismissing Moore’s movies and hammering him over minor quibbles in an equally sloppy manner is unsurprising.

This is how the status quo is maintained.

-jb

The dutifully obedient corporate media defends corporate medicine.

Jul 12, 2007 in Chomsky, Health Care, Media

Question…why does CNN believe its job is to take up an adversarial position against single-payer health care and defend America’s current system?

Those who’ve read or seen Manufacturing Consent or some of Noam Chomsky’s other works know the answer: they are a corporate entity designed to sell advertising and protect corporate interests first, loosely draped in the form of a news organization.

Those who attempt to reform America and push for changes that threaten to weaken corporate power will run into a brick wall in the corporate media. This isn’t hard to understand; in fact, it would be rather hard to understand how it could happen any other way. If the corporate media wasn’t looking to protect their corporate health care friends, you’d have to ask yourself what went wrong.

Our health care system has turned into a corporate profit-care system, designed to look after the bottom line first and ensure healthy multi-million dollar megasalaries for the CEOs. Like the corporate media, the supposed function, health care, is simply a tool by which to reach that goal. If your kidney operation hurts Kaiser Permanente’s CEO’s plans to buy a new yacht, you’re just going to have to sacrifice.

Some may choose to disagree, but obviously single-payer systems around the world are working, providing all of their citizens care, and making enough people satisfied to stand up for that kind of system. Michael Moore has asked Americans to consider the issue. Others would love to disagree with him, but by what grounds does CNN believe a “fact-check” on Moore containing its own errors is all the issue deserves?

Perhaps this is an issue America needs to look at and debate, instead of being told by CNN, “There’s nothing to see here, go home!”

-jb

UPDATE: Sullivan gets bimbotastic on Moore.

Sicko fact checks quite well.

Jul 01, 2007 in Culture, Health Care, Politics

From CNN:

Our team investigated some of the claims put forth in his film. We found that his numbers were mostly right, but his arguments could use a little more context. As we dug deep to uncover the numbers, we found surprisingly few inaccuracies in the film. In fact, most pundits or health-care experts we spoke to spent more time on errors of omission rather than disputing the actual claims in the film.

Here’s an “error of omission”:

Americans do have shorter wait times than everyone but Germans when it comes to nonemergency elective surgery such as hip replacements, cataract removal or knee repair.

So the Germans, with their socialized health care, still have us beat. And I wonder how long the wait for nonemergency elective surgery is for Americans that don’t have health insurance?

Gee, what are Rush, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and the rest of the moron liar propagandist brigade going to tell their listeners to prevent them from going to see Sicko? Make no mistake, they will do so, telling their listeners to trust them, trust them to watch this movie for them and decide what to make of it. Dittoheads can’t be trusted to be exposed to Moore’s treasonous films. Just imagine a Rush Limbaugh listener, sitting in his seat at the end of the movie, mouth hung slightly open, spittle rolling down his chin as he utters weakly, “Megadittoes, Michael.” It simply cannot be allowed to happen!

-jb

Rush told me so.

Jun 26, 2007 in Culture, Health Care

From an AICN contributor review of Michael Moore’s Sicko, which I am really anxious to see:

Michael Moore travels to Canada, the UK, and France to do a comparative study of how socialized health care is possible in these countries, and what the drawbacks are. Socialism has long been a dirty word in America, and scare tactics have been used to convince Americans that socialized medicine would be a slippery slope and the downfall of democracy. Yet, its all unfounded. Many socialized services are provided by the government such as free service from the police, firemen, libraries, etc., but why not free health care? As these questions are explored in Europe, the answeres are not drawn out or forced, because it simply makes sense. Is anyone going to argue that they would rather pay out of their pocket than have the government pay health care?

The answer I always hear in response to those questions is that taxes are really high in those countries. Taxes are higher, but you know what, they live pretty well in those countries, Canada included. This is something that some people who have never travelled outside of the U.S. don’t understand, and Moore does a good job of illustrating this with his travels. Most people are not living in squalor in Canada, France, and the UK. Its a health care system based on humanity, instead of trying to shaft people for as much money as you can, even when they’re sick. And they are still able to afford all the luxuries they want in life, and to live quite happily. It seems that those who fear higher taxes seem to think that socialized medicine will prevent them from achieving their dream of a big pimpin’ lifestyle with a mansion and numerous sports cars, when the reality is that these people are usually slaves to jobs they don’t like and are often afraid of leaving them for fear of losing their health benefits.

Having studied abroad in Austria for a year in college, I understand this perfectly. Growing up in Iowa, hearing about the world out there, even watching “European Vacation,” I wasn’t completely prepared for the prosperity and good health I saw. Fear of nationalized health care because you don’t want to live like those miserable people in France? A costly delusion that will continue to exact a steep price on our nation.

Michael Moore serves an important purpose. He isn’t an intellectual, he’s a feeler, and that’s how his films connect to the public. He nails the emotional perspective of the kinds of Americans who don’t often get covered in the media. And he does it best by simply pointing the camera and finding the real stories out there. Of course, Newsweek will run a fact-check article and find fewer quibbles than one would watching 90 minutes of Fox News, but there’s an important reason GOP propagandists need to keep people out of those seats.

-jb

Andrew Sullivan on a bad day.

May 31, 2007 in Health Care

“How do you “eliminate” the right of insurance companies to offer policies to people who want private healthcare? A good question. (Michael) Moore’s model is Castro’s Cuba.”

Castro’s system is not unlike France’s system, but Andrew felt it necessary to invoke all the negatives of Castro and ignore the fact that Cubans are some pretty healthy people.

Michael Moore is a far more emotional person than rational, and while his general underlying themes are very spot on, he can be wholly imprecise in a way that opens him up to barrages. Elimination of private health insurance isn’t wise, but nor is it necessary. Universal health care will reduce the demand for most of what private insurance offers, but will allow them to specialize in providing that extra mile of health care for those who can afford it. Not having to provide for most stuff, private supplementary health insurance can offer a lot for less.

Andrew could have seen what Moore wants, but he’s simply opposed to public health care, so we get, “You don’t want America to be like CUBA do you?”

Tsk.

-jb

UPDATE: Sicko has repeatedly been referred to as Moore’s best film yet, even by Faux News’ reviewer. I’m itchin’ to see it.

Efficacy versus trying to look like a tough guy.

Feb 20, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Drugs, Health Care

No, I’m not talking about Bush II’s moron approach to foreign policy, although certainly that applies.  In fact, it applies to all sorts of issues, but today let us look at drug policy.  Here’s a story of people who actually do things that will reduce drug usage:

In the shadows of Frankfurt’s gleaming glass towers an undistinguished six-storey building serves as a safe injection area for heroin addicts.

Along with the heroin room, there is a medical station, a counselling centre, a crack-smoking room and on the top two floors, a 24-hour shelter, complete with a cafe run by the addicts.

The results?

The introduction of heroin-injecting centres in Switzerland has reportedly led to an 82 percent decrease in its use since 1990.

Of course, who would want there to be fewer drug users if it meant less cause for grandstanding?  Why treat them when you can have a steady supply of people to throw in jail?  We’re not so big on solving problems, more on talking about solving them.

Like I said, this covers a wide range of subjects that tend to divide liberals and conservatives.  Here’s Iowa’s village idiot, Brian Pickrell, drooling on his keyboard:

Once again, liberals trying to show that “they care” (by distributing free condoms) rather than do what’s right. If they really cared about preventing HIV or AIDs, or the spread of STDs, or stopping unwanted pregnancies, they’d be promoting abstinence, instead.

See!  If liberals really cared about these things, they would stop using an effective approach and use one proven to be ineffective, but allows pathetic and most likely hypocritical moralizing!

Folks who like to solve problems will sometimes take approaches that don’t leave lots of room for personal aggrandizement, except through success.  The folks in Frankfurt can say, “We have dramatically reduced heroin use!” and can enjoy the social benefits.  But they had to do the hard work.

People like the world’s dumbest man, Brian Pickrell, would much rather go for the quick fix of looking tough before actually achieving anything.   Failure is a problem, of course, but that’s easy:  get tougher!

Sex, drugs, Iraq n’Roll, it’s all the same to them.  Talk lots of junk to cover up constant failure.  I choose differently.
-jb

Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme.

Jan 13, 2007 in Health Care, Politics

Ponzi schemes don’t rely on death to trim the number of people who benefit. Ponzi schemes usually consist of selling ridiculous shit and trying to convince other people to join you, and then rely on how many idiots can be strung along while a few in the center profit.

Social Security only requires that people continue being born and eventually work. With Social Security, we have the situation of people who eventually can’t work anymore, then eventually can’t wipe their ass anymore, and far too frequently can’t remember their own children anymore. Its costs can’t be avoided, except by death and can only be paid for by those children.

One thing privatization folks have failed to demonstrate in their arguments over the years is that they aren’t pushing their own scheme. Sooner or later you still have people who made $20,000 a year sucking up $55,000 a year for the basics in a nursing home.

What a privatizer wants to do is have every dollar he pays right now for Social Security to go into a personal account so he can have a heftier return some day. Maybe he scores an extra $30,000 dollars because of a private account. Or maybe he’ll find a smart stock and make $100,000 extra dollars. That way, when he’s retired, he’ll be able to almost pay for that first bypass surgery before he comes knocking on the public teat. We’ll just trust the average person to do better.

The problem is, if you’re so damn poor that you’re bitching about taking a couple hundred bucks of your own money to invest in stocks each month, on your own initiative, then you sure as hell haven’t made much money doing it and shouldn’t be advising anybody.

-jb