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What Does Health Care Mean in the United States of America?

March 17, 2010 2 comments

The debate in the U.S. is coming to a head, and the Obama/Pelosi/Reid train seem to be making the final stop, and calling all aboard. Those who are left at the station will…well, they might make one more stop if there are too many people left at the station. That is the state of Democracy in the United States, at this very moment.

There was a point I was pretty sure what the current fight for health care was about. I actually read some of the various bills…well, skimmed and scanned really, but that is more than most laypeople do. I looked for the provisions of discussion, and searched for the nasty deals. I even looked at the Republican offering, and was actually surprised how common-sense it really was. In the early versions of the House bill, constructed by the Democrats, I saw the huge expanse of government the Republicans were fearful of. The bill had commissions for everything, and the Secretary of Health had enormous power. And yes, there was a “public option.” Many of the new commissions were to govern that public-option and make sure it jelled with the private system currently in place. There were also all kinds of professional development programs, and provisions for technology upgrades. The bill was chalked full of things that really amassed to a totally new system. I can see why people might be scared. All these new things, but put into a global context, they were things other countries equally advanced as the U.S. already had in place. Comparatively speaking, the U.S. was playing catch up.

But while this was out there, I didn’t see much Republican opposition except for crap general statements. I followed site after site and didn’t get anything meaningful. Now though, at zero hour, the Republicans seem to have some piece of real identifiable legislation that is running counter to what the Democrats have. You can get all the text, and more at www.gop.gov. Like I said, the bill is fairly commonsense and basically rehashes all the traditional Republican talking points of tort reform, buying insurance across state lines, tax credits, and other incentive based provisions to encourage people to buy insurance. Personally, I don’t see how it controls cost, or lowers premiums, or does anything close to reducing deficit and debt projections. And Republicans definitely do not touch entitlement programs, Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. So, the Republicans do have a plan, just a little too late, and fairly thin.

The thing this whole debate has brought about though is a discussion about what exactly does health care mean for the United States of America? We hear that it is 1/6 of the economy. We hear that more people go bankrupt because of costs related to health care than anything else. We hear that insurance companies make huge amounts of money from health care. We hear that the U.S. system is the best in the world. We hear that our doctors and the actually care is the best in the world. On and on and on and on. We hear so many things. So what does it all mean?

Well, part of my answer is anecdotal. My father went to the hospital after fainting and cracking a rib. His bill was littered with tests and checks and all sorts of things. He was billed for doctors who didn’t even see him. His bill totaled US$55,000. That is a lot of money. I saw it with my own eyes, and I have fairly good eyesight. I was fully awake and not daydreaming (my father has a pretty loud voice so I was pretty alert). Thankfully, he was covered by Medicare, his own private insurance, and my mothers private insurance. At the end of the day, his total charge – US$0. Thank you GOVERNMENT RUN INSURANCE! Medicare picked up the whole shibang. Still though US$55,000 is a lot of money. You’d think he was in the hospital for a month or so, but no, he was in for a few days (over a holiday weekend so the costs were a little higher than normal week days). The ironic thing is the doctors couldn’t find out why my father fainted. The tests were inconclusive. They thought he was just a little too tired. 55 Grand, lots of test, no real answer, but at least his rib was fixed up nice and right.

In the United States, it seems that health care is about cost. Hospital costs, doctor costs, medicine costs, room costs (US$8,000 for one night), malpractice costs, insurance costs, all sorts of costs. It seems, that if government could figure out a way to actually control the cost structure maybe the system would function better…maybe? To that the only real answer to actually impose cost, create a really competitive market by implementing a single-payer tax based system, and make the insurance companies go elsewhere for business. Abolish checklist health care. Get rid of ridiculous lawsuits. Let doctors practice medicine and healing instead of fighting for paychecks. I’m sure the doctors who took care of my father were very comfortable because the minute they saw Medicare plus 2 other major private insurers they stopped worrying about whether the patient could pay for the care, and for them. I would hate to think what the case would be if my father didn’t have that kind of coverage.

In the United States, health care also means jobs. If my father, and mother, didn’t have good jobs they wouldn’t have had the insurance plans to back up whatever Medicare might not had covered. They are retired, but because of the pension plans from their jobs they have excellent health insurance. 30 plus years of hard labor paid off. But that kind of peace of mind came with A JOB! Make no mistake, this health care debate is as much about jobs than any stimulus, or jobs bill, or unemployment number. If health care is the driving force of family bankruptcy then having a job that provides adequate health care is a necessity. If the costs of health care are too high then companies will choose not to hire people. Health care = jobs. I think this message was lost, or was never clearly made.

At the end of the day, health care in the U.S. isn’t about reconciliation debates, or fights to maintain political power. The citizens of the U.S. don’t care who is in a seat. What they want is for their premiums to stop rising. They want treatment when necessary. They don’t want to have to worry about being kicked off a plan, or not being able to join one.

And to push it further, I think the citizens of the U.S. would love a real public plan that covers all people. I think the citizens of the U.S. would love Medicare for everyone. But what they do not have is the leadership to get it done because to the leaders, health care means politics and power plays. For politicians, issues that citizens worry about are about poll numbers and election cycles. It’s about ego. When ego and self-fullfilment is removed then maybe we can get down to the reality of hard choices. But that takes enormous will, modesty, and humbleness that current politicians simply do not have.

So, the choice is a 2700 page bill to who-knows-where…and the cost of doing business in the United States of America – 2010 mid-term elections.

Peace

Obama’s Consistent Message and Media Muddle

Usually, I love to watch NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Probably some of the best straight ahead news telling on network TV. That said, I am a bit at odds at how they are covering the U.S. health care situation. Actually, I am a bit miffed at how network media in total have been covering the health care debate.

1) Republicans have done something by doing nothing, and instead of calling it like it is, mainstream media really looks past this.
2) Instead of continuing to repeat the same old poll numbers, why not try helping people “make sense of it all” by discussing the actual contents of the bill. Spend some time, energy and money, and break down what the bill is actually saying. Help people understand.

Last and most important point.

3) Why do pundits and reporters continue to say that President Obama has entered this race too late, and that he should have been more engaged all throughout the process? What the hell was holding a joint session of Congress to discuss health care for? He sounded pretty impassioned at that time. Or how about President Obama going on the road and holding town hall meetings to specifically address healthcare? I saw some of those and he was speaking up and telling people what was going to happen. Oh, and there was that trip out west when he was sitting with Max Baucus, point-senator on the Senate version of health care, sitting to his right as President Obama layed out what was in the Baucus Bill. Again, he sounded pretty impassioned to me.

Now it is crunch time, and people are looking for a real decision to be made. Obama did what the Clintons could not, he played the system right. I wish the White House had not retreated and conceded a certain kind of defeat when it said that the message might have gotten lost over the summer. Obama and his crew let Congress write the necessary bills. Congress has to approve and pass law. Obama let them do their jobs. Then after it was all said and done, the President took the best of both worlds and produced a single piece of legislation that should be voted on. The Republicans had plenty of opportunity to be in the mix. If John Boehner could not get a meeting with House Democrats, then that says more about his ability to lead than Democrats shutting out the Republicans. If McConnell wanted to talk with Reid I’m sure he could have.

When this behemoth of a bill gets passed I just hope the President is fully engaged in the implementation process because that will be the true test of successful legislation.

Peace

Randy Pausch Update

Here is an update to The Randy Pausch Motivational. Click here to get the latest news about Randy. It seems it has been a mix of good and bad times. I hope as time moves forward he has more good times than bad. Here’s to you Randy – Happy Father’s Day!

Peace

Randy Pausch

May 21, 2008 4 comments

If you don’t know who Randy Pausch is check out his Carnegie Mellon University homepage for more information. As part of my motivation series I put up 2 videos of his “Last Lecture.” One is a ten minute video from the Oprah Winfrey Show, and the second is the full-76 minute speech from the halls of Carnegie Mellon University. Check out my Motivational page for the videos. He is pretty powerful, and a true inspiration. Enjoy.

Peace

U.S. Healthcare – The Choice Should Be Ours

February 23, 2008 4 comments

Barack and Hillary during CNN debate in Austin, Texas

Let’s get right to the point – what will this presidential nomination mean for the future of healthcare in the United States? The answer is very much up for debate because nobody really knows. Everyone talks about “universal healthcare,” but what does that really mean? The only real way for healthcare to attain true universality is for the central government of the United States of America to fully and truly socialize healthcare. Imagine that, the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the Earth with socialized healthcare where every man, woman and child would never have to worry about going to the doctor. Imagine, using our insurmountable wealth to support the most advanced medical techniques and technology in the world. Imagine…. Okay, back to reality. According to The New York Times Online edition of February 23rd, 2008 it seems “universal healthcare” means, a battle between affordable healthcare mixed with free choice, and healthcare coverage being the law.

Barack and Hillary speak about covering everyone, but they seem to have different methods. Basically, Obama wants to lower the price tag for insurance, while Hillary wants to demand everyone have health coverage. They both agree that children should be fully covered, no questions asked, which is more than I can say for a certain lame-duck President. Oh, and the Republicans (there are some Republicans out there running for president) are a bit silent on the issue from what I gather (I’ll let that be commentary on how the media are covering Republican based issues). So for now, back to Barack and Hillary.

I’ve check both health plans via the postings each Democrat have placed on their websites, and am impressed with them both. But as The New York Times Online article author, Kevin Sack, highlights, Obama’s plan seems to give a bit more choice in that healthcare isn’t a mandate. Hillary seems to want to make it law for everyone to have healthcare.

Hillary Demands You For U.S. Healthcare System

Now, while I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to have healthcare, I can’t argue with a persons right to choose for themselves what they want. The one thing I say is, if you walk into a hospital and need care you’d better have the money to pay for it. If you want to roll the dice and invest your money in your classic cars fetish instead of stockpiling that cash for a possible hospital visit, then so be it. Just be prepared for the hidden costs of that hobby. In the end though, if this country is truly a nation built on the idea of democracy and the freedom to make your own decisions, then why would you mandate that everyone have healthcare? Give people the option to do what they want. Make it affordable so they can’t resist. If they continue to resist because they don’t want to give up another luxury, then place the burden of care on them.

Barack For The Peoples’ Choice

This is why I support Barack over Hillary. People need and want healthcare, but I don’t think people want that healthcare shoved down their throats. It could cause them to go to the hospital, which they wouldn’t have the coverage for.

From Stem Cells to Clones to Your Terminator

January 18, 2008 Leave a comment

So many of the technologies we use today were discovered in a pursuit to help humanity. The car, the airplane, the telephone, the television, the light bulb, the list goes on. Still, we can also say that many discoveries ended up manipulated into things that ultimately re-shaped history on genocidal proportions. The gun, atomic energy, viral manipulation, DNA mapping, the list goes on. Would there have been a Cold War if we didn’t drop two atomic bombs on Japan? Would we be talking about biological and chemical warfare if we hadn’t discovered

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams ran a story that talked about the latest advancements in stem cell research. Basically, scientists have the ability to make a highly probably fully functional embryo, that could grow into a human. Although the researchers in the piece said they do not want to make a clone of themselves, and want to use the technology to cure “incurable” diseases, I’m always suspect about these kinds of ‘discoveries.’

Remember that scene in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines where the General presses the button to bring Skynet online…I remember him saying something like, “…I opened Pandora’s Box…” Don’t we ever learn from our mistakes? Maybe not. Just visit the Atomic Dome in Hiroshima, Japan and then take a walk through the Atomic Bomb Museum and see the mistakes of us humans. The deployment of that bomb gave justification for the modern day arms race, and set human history on its proverbial ear.

I’m sure when Einstein and his contemporaries discovered atomic energy, and postulated the benefits to human civilization they didn’t imagine it would actually be used to kill other humans, willfully. What is it about humans where feel that we can push everything to the extreme, and feel justified to inflict immeasurable damage to get our way? The more I think about stem cell research and embryonic cloning I can’t help but shiver at the what might happen when taken to the extremes of human imagination.

The battlefield is perfumed by the stench of human carcass. One would think no military force could be this great, but since the governments of the world discovered cloning it became easy to mass produce armies thus fueling battles for decades, even centuries. The cracking skulls beneath your feet are not from your brother or sister, or your neighbor down the street, but carbon copies of them all. No ‘real’ connections. No ‘real’ attachments. Grown for the mega battles. Constructed to feel no pain. Honed to be the perfect fighting machine. To live and die for one reason – war.

This may sound like the script for the movie The Terminator, but every time I watch the news I feel that movie isn’t far from reality. The latest research with stem cells only makes me more apprehensive towards optimistic feelings that humans will actually correct the errors of their past and move past the want for power. I have all the confidence that the technology will be used to cure disease, but I also know it will be manipulated into a weapon for war…Or maybe this is the time I am happily wrong.

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