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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

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Proper Use of the Military – Killing Pirates

April 24, 2009 1 comment
Pirates Abay!

Pirates Abay!

I may have written about this before, but I find myself struck dumb with this whole pirate situation. In discussions with an elder very close to me, I came to realize that we are just simply misusing our military to the Nth degree.

The United States spends like 700 billion U.S. dollars on defense. Most nations on this planet don’t have budgets that large. Yet, we spend that much on defense. We have fleets of nuclear submarines with stealth technology. We have planes that fly at break neck speeds, and can’t be picked up by the most sophisticated radar systems. We have the best special forces troops in the world. We have intelligence agents scattered in places that one couldn’t imagine. One could say there is no where anyone can hide from the U.S. military force. Yet, unsophisticated pirates with pansy-archaic weaponry (by comparison) can hijack supertankers and in no time receive 25 million U.S. dollars in ransom money for the safe return of crew, and maybe cargo. What’s wrong with this picture?

Is it possible to direct some that 700 billion towards eradicating piracy? Instead of using unmanned CIA drones to bomb Afghan villages during weddings, how about using them to bomb the hell out of the pirate enclaves in Somalia.

I’m no military genius, or defense budget guru, but when I hear/read Katie Couric questioning Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about how the Chinese may have “acquired” sensitive information regarding the F-35 joint strike fighter jet, I ask myself, “Are the Chinese hijacking boats in the Indian Ocean….Why are we building F-35s when we should be killing pirates?” I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned by the Chinese hacking U.S. military computers, but we should be killing pirates!

So to sum up: Good uses of military might – killing pirates. Bad use of military might – building useless, and very very very expensive, F-35 strike fighters.

F35 Joint Strike Fighter by Lockheed Martin

F35 Joint Strike Fighter by Lockheed Martin

Peace

A Challenge to the Court

It had always been a dream of mine to become a Supreme Court Justice. I wanted to be the next Thurgood Marshall. Imagine being the highest law in the land? It WAS a dream of mine. I don’t long to be one any longer (not that I wouldn’t accept the position if offered).

I read something from Clarence Thomas via the New York Times Online where he was speaking to group of high school essay contest winners about his role on the Court, and his private life. They also asked him questions, and he gave answers. Pretty cool, if you are the high school students. Sweatin’ bullets if you are Justice Thomas.

Anyway, Justice Thomas commented that people like law professors believed that his job was easy. Justice Thomas disagreed with that sentiment, of course. This brings me to the next article, which is an op-ed written by a law professor critiquing the job of judges.

Quite interesting how one reflects on the other.

The main point of the second article is that justices – Supreme Court or any other – are able to hold their positions for life, which could do more harm than good. The only way for appointed judges to “step down” is to be impeached, and no one wants to go through impeachment hearings.

The article was very interesting in that although the argument was against absolute life time tenure, it proposed real alternatives to the current system. I hate it when people just bash and trash. This article gave some real ideas that are very doable.

I wonder if the Justices of the Supreme Court are humble enough to check out this article? I hope so.

Peace

A Busy Busy Obama

April 1, 2009 1 comment

So, in his first couple of months and what has he done…? Well, how about leading an effort to spend trillions (check out my article on big numbers, if you can’t count this high – I know I had some trouble) of dollars of tax payer money to help boost the U.S. economy, lay out plans to tackle the housing market, propose a budget outline of historic proportions, re-organize a broken financial sector, and oh, all but nationalize an American icon. Guess what, he’s not done yet. President Barack Obama is now on an international trip that will see him visit the G-20 Summit in order to bolster international support for solutions to the ailing global economy; he’ll meet with leaders who at one point or another had it in for the United States, as well as those who love and support us; and he might even give us a great speech as he ends his visit in Turkey (that is just my speculation). Is this guy for real? I think after his first 100 days, he will have laid the groundwork for a historic presidency, and a change to U.S. political and societal culture that will take us into the next generation. (If you couldn’t guess I support him.)

I just want to say that people need to get their acts together because this brotha ain’t showin’ up on colored peoples time. Presidents and CEOs beware, he will do what it takes to get the economy going. That said, if you honestly work with him, he will work with you. Remember, he is one of the rich guys as well. Case in point of this proactive attitude, he “nudged” out the president of GM. Some may say this is a dangerous precedent. I say, if you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen. The auto industry, more than any other, fuels the U.S. economy and job market. From car makers to part suppliers it touches everything. It can’t fail, and Obama knows that. He needs to worry about this. Whether bank CEOs get bonuses or not is small peanuts compared to if GM lives or dies. Bernacke and Geithner will see to the banks. And with all the authority they’ve been granted to oversee the financial system – no worries mate. The auto industry is entirely different. No czars there, so Obama has to be the czar.

At first I was a bit skeptical and wondering if he was going too far, but I realize his vision of what government can do is different, and sorely needed. He sees government as being an engine of creation that when used wisely, responsibly, and proactively can cause good things to happen. The big thing, which I hope happens, is people have to believe and not be afraid. We have to shed the old paradigms and muster the will to believe. If people do that, everything will be okay. Maybe we are seeing what smarter government can look like, at least coming from the Executive Branch. Now only if Congress can follow suit.

Read up on Obama’s deals, and politics in general via the New York Times politics section. This is just where I start. Please follow-up if you have the time. And most of all, ask questions, and demand answers.

Peace

Equal Pay for Equal Play

February 15, 2009 Leave a comment

If anyone out there wants to get into a “lively discussion” here’s one – equal pay for women tennis players, and female athletes in general. Check out this article on CNN.com

I come down on the side of the argument that if Venus and Serena and Billie Jean and whomever want equal cash they should play 3 out 5 sets. Why they don’t is a puzzle to me. If Rafa can play almost 9 hours of tennis in a 36 hour span to win a hunk of metal and some money, why can’t Serena do the same? Dare I say, “She just isn’t fit enough, and womens’ tennis just isn’t good enough.” I hate to think that, but I’m left with very little else.

Danica Patrick drives an Indy Car with a bunch of guys, but she doesn’t ask to drive less because she’s a woman. Say whatever you want about her, and there’s a lot to say, but she drives the same distance as the men, and when she wins she collects the same amount of money. Simple – equal pay for equal work.

A few years back Annika Sorenstam played with her male counterparts, and was emotionally, physically and mentally spent afterwards. At the time she was the best in the world. Through experience she saw the difference between the mens’ game and the womens’ game.

A slap-in-the-face-point to me is that the women aren’t making peanuts. Serena and Venus are financially wealthy and set for life. They would have to be irresponsible and reckless to become poor (it could happen, but I doubt it). What are they complaining about? To my ears this is what I’m hearing, “We’re treated unfairly because we are women. I know we don’t play as much, but that isn’t the point. We play the game. Who cares how much or how well we play. We play, we win, and we put people in the seats. We should get paid for that.” I think they have a group of Wall Street financial “wizards” for PR managers. They’re being told they can get more for less, or even nothing (Probably those same financiers that caused this global recession).

What happened to the saying, “Equal pay for equal work?” Female tennis players need to remember that, and stop being so selfish.

Peace

Letters to Leaders – Obama

January 6, 2009 Leave a comment

In reviewing some headlines I figured on writing to the incoming president. Of course that prompted me to put the letter on my blog, so I figured why not just make a page out of it and continue to update it. Here’s the first. Some will be hard criticism, but hopefully many will be more cheerful praise. We’ll see. Anyway, check out the first one.

Peace

From The Mind Of “K”

If I ever had an alter ego this would be it. This is the voice of a deep consciousness within. You could say this is my ‘Dark Angel’ riding on my shoulder keeping my senses sharp.

Quite regularly I converse with “K” about issues pertaining to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Here is an excerpt from a conversation we were having during the past Memorial Day weekend (Memorial Day is a U.S. holiday where we pay tribute to our war dead, and the families and friends they left behind).

This Memorial day makes me think about all the dead and injured in Iraq and what they sacrificed. I’m really not sure what these lives changed. It’s bad enough now that its on-going, but what will the future be for these individuals and their families when they return home. This war is something that the country is uncomfortable about, so it will not be a victorious welcome home for people who risked their lives, and that’s a shame. I think the U.S. could have applied itself better when you examine recent concerns regarding the natural disasters in Myanmar and China. It would be great to extend our impact on the world when we provide assistance with acquiring materials for immediate relief efforts, helping and supporting displaced and distressed children, rebuilding damaged schools and animal reserves. I think that makes a bigger impact then all the bullets wasted in Iraq. What is up with the government presenting challenges of getting emergency relief aid into Myanmar? I think that their military is benefiting from the international support and that is why they deny direct support to the country. And don’t get me wrong a response to terrorism is warranted but more aptly in Afghanistan. It seems that we have really let that situation and Bin Laden slip away.

Just a thought from “K.”

We always talk about the war dead with great admiration, and rightly so. They gave the greatest sacrifice – life. We should stand up and salute them. After that, we should turn to those political leaders who put them in harms and ask the questions – “Why did you do this? And, what has it done for our country? ” And we shouldn’t stop pressing for answers until satisfactory ones come. World War II was necessary. Hitler had to be stopped. Albeit we got into the whole thing too late, but we did what we had to do once we were there. Iraq, is a much different story. A personal vendetta that has left over 4,000 people dead (many many more injured), a nation’s economy ravaged, and the reputation of a great country in the toilet. I ask, “President Bush, why did you do this? And, what has it done for our country?” I’m still waiting for those satisfactory answers.

Peace

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