Tag Archives: health care

The Pre-Obamacare Trainwreck

20 Nov

Obamacare-symbolSome of my friends are conservatives. Shocking, I know. They occasionally post things to social media that are critical of people whom I support, and policies with which I agree. Occasionally, I will argue or even troll, but once in a blue moon, I will try to present a reasonable counterargument that is factual and not particularly argumentative. Rare, but it happens. 

On Tuesday, I saw a post linking to this article. My Facebook friend annotated his post by declaring that “progressives…really do all suck”.  I read the article, which detailed the travails of a single mom trying to buy insurance on the Washington State exchange, and having problems with bad advice and equally bad results. I feel horrible for her and anyone else similarly situated. The new insurance mandate, and the fact that the policies have to maintain a minimum standard of coverage means that some people are paying more, and the subsidy schemes are complicated. 

But it’s the “Affordable” Care Act. Not “inexpensive”, not “cheaper”, not “free” – affordable. But once you argue the semantics, you’ve lost. People’s perception is that everyone’s cost would go down, and whenever this proves not to be the case, it gets blown up into a scandal. 

So, let’s take a step back for a second. The Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – is not what I think is best or perfect for this country, but it’s 1,000x better than the utter trainwreck that preceded it. Here’s what I posted as a comment to my friend’s Facebook indictment of “progressives” in general and Obamacare in particular: 

At some point between 1990 – 2009, the Republican Party decided that universal health care coverage was no longer a societal goal, regardless of how it was to be implemented. When “HillaryCare” was proposed, conservatives pushed as an alternative the model now known as RomneyCare and ObamaCare – a regulated and partially subsidized marketplace of private insurance policies that you are (a) mandated to participate in if you have no employer-based coverage; and (b) meets some minimum standard of what qualifies as “insurance”. 

Now that we have Obamacare, which is a regulated individual marketplace of policies, different in each state, conservatives have not just refused to go along with it, but have actively and passively worked to sabotage it. 

Big laws that do big things aren’t going to be perfect in an imperfect world. Under normal circumstances, we would at least have consensus on “everyone should be insured” as a societal goal. We don’t even have that starting point, so everything else must fail. But even if, hypothetically, Republicans did agree that we should all have decent health coverage, under normal circumstances and in a responsive representative democracy, they would work to help fix problems that arise. This, too, we don’t have. That’s why things that have come up as problematic now have to be amended through regulation and executive rulemaking. 

If the right wanted to present an alternative to Obamacare – which is itself the alternative to HillaryCare – then they should have done so. They never, ever did. All they’ve done is try to block it, then sabotage it when they weren’t done repealing it. Oh, sure they bleat on about “tort reform” and the anti-federalist notion that policies should be one-size-fits-all across the country to enhance “competition”, just like the Telecom act of 1996 enhanced cable TV “competition” and the breakup of Ma Bell enhanced telephone “competition”. Just like the merger of Exxon and Mobil or United and Continental enhanced “competition”. 

In the end, government exists, in part, to fill in the holes that private industry can’t – or won’t – fill. Our private health insurance system in this country is unique in its user-dissatisfaction, physician time-sucking, inefficiency, and waste. It has proven to be almost completely unworkable in contemporary society, and its problems are underscored by the fact that no other country in the world sees fit to implement anything resembling it. 

By the same token, the German, Swiss, French, British, and Canadian models are also imperfect. They do, however, produce better results for far less money – and they do it in a way that satisfies the health care consumer. 

ObamaCare’s lack of situational perfection doesn’t take away from the fact that you no longer face lifetime policy maximums; you can no longer be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition; insurers can no longer arbitrarily drop you when you get sick and use your coverage; preventive care and immunizations will be free of charge with no co-pay or deductibles; females are treated equally now; myriad consumer protections are put in place to help people appeal adverse insurance decisions. All of these changes are significant – so much so that it’s disgusting that these sorts of things were not implemented before. 

But, you know, glitchy website. 

Yes, I’m disappointed that ObamaCare isn’t perfect. But that disappointment is tempered by my disgust with the pre-ObamaCare status quo. I would much prefer a hybrid NHS single payer system that had public care with private sur-care policies. This will not happen in this country in my lifetime unless it’s proposed by a nominal conservative. In the meantime, have fun pointing out the problems that 1/300,000,000th of the population has with an individual policy under a state-run scheme and not only indict the federal program, but anyone who supports it, as horrible.

American Health Care: Higher Cost, Worse Outcomes

8 Oct

I usually don’t click on videos that people post to Facebook, but in this case I thought that it was an interesting topic – why is health care so expensive in the US and what can we do about it?  This isn’t a paean to Obamacare. On the contrary, one could argue that it sets out the argument in favor of a single payer system, rather than an expansion and maintenance of our horribly inefficient and redundant private insurance scheme. In any event, it’s worth a look. 

Erie County Health Commissioner on Breast & Prostate Cancer

3 Jul

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein saw what the previous County Executive had to say about how people no longer die from breast and prostate cancer and “some of the other things”, and today issued the following press release: 

BURSTEIN CALLS ATTENTION TO CANCER RATES IN ERIE COUNTY

Prostate, Breast Cancer Mortality Rates Indicate that Residents Still Suffer

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein today issued a statement regarding the incidence and mortality rates of prostate and breast cancer in Erie County, underlining their serious nature and the fact that people still suffer from these diseases. Former-Erie County Executive Chris Collins recently stated in an interview, “People now don’t die from prostate cancer, breast cancer and some of the other things.”[1]

“All types of cancer, including prostate and breast cancer, have significant mortality rates associated with them.  During 2005-2009, Erie County saw an annual average of 826 cases of female breast cancer, with an average of 176 deaths per year. For prostate cancer in the same period, the annual average was 930 cases, with an average of 103 deaths per year.”

“These numbers represent the sad reality that, despite advances in cancer treatments, people still die from these types of cancers.  It is imperative that people not only be aware of the potential risks from all types of cancers but get appropriately screened and checked as recommended by your doctor for breast and prostate cancer.”

For more information on Erie County cancer statistics, visit: http://www.health.ny.gov/statistics/cancer/registry/vol1/v1cerie.htm

For more information on the Erie County Health Department, visit:  http://www2.erie.gov/health/

(Image courtesy Tom Dolina)

Federal Clinic

27 Mar

HT Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Obamacare. Saving Lives.

7 Dec

A forty-nine year old mother finds out she has stage III breast cancer. She has no health insurance (for a variety of reasons), and discovers that a provision of “Obamacare” that is already active may quite literally save her life.

Fortunately for me, I’ve been saved by the federal government’s Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, something I had never heard of before needing it. It’s part of President Obama’s healthcare plan, one of the things that has already kicked in, and it guarantees access to insurance for U.S. citizens with preexisting conditions who have been uninsured for at least six months. The application was short, the premiums are affordable, and I have found the people who work in the administration office to be quite compassionate (nothing like the people I have dealt with over the years at other insurance companies.) It’s not perfect, of course, and it still leaves many people in need out in the cold. But it’s a start, and for me it’s been a lifesaver — perhaps literally.

Which brings me to my apology. I was pretty mad at Obama before I learned about this new insurance plan. I had changed my registration from Democrat to Independent, and I had blacked out the top of the “h” on my Obama bumper sticker, so that it read, “Got nope” instead of “got hope.” I felt like he had let down the struggling middle class. My son and I had campaigned for him, but since he took office, we felt he had let us down.

It continues to astonish that this country can’t get it together to ensure that every citizen has access to top-quality medical care, without regard to one’s ability to pay. That we have a system where, if you lose your job, you can keep your health insurance, but only if you pay an outrageous, often unaffordable rate. Ours is the last first world nation to not guarantee universal access to health care. This was unacceptable after WWII, was unacceptable during the creation of Medicaid in the mid-60s, and remains unacceptable now.

Your health should not be dependent on the money in your wallet or your bank account. Yes, ours is a free country, and we should be free from medical bankruptcies.

Buffalo News’ Glibertorial Can F Off

20 Nov
Presidential Arrival
Image by WNYMedia via Flickr

The Buffalo News’ weekly Saturday editorial glibfest:

IT’S THE PRODUCT: Perhaps the most ludicrous argument being advanced by the president and Democrats is that the country’s rejection of policies like Obamacare is due to his failure to properly describe the programs and their benefits. Well . . . no.

If ever there was a failed concept to try to sell to the American people, this was it. Obama is as skilled a communicator as any president we’ve had. His presentations, in content and delivery, are unsurpassed. The truth is that the policies themselves have backfired. It isn’t how he said it; it’s what he did.

First of all, if it is the product, that must explain the ongoing, precipitous decline of the daily broadsheet in a one-paper town.

Secondly, what policies have “backfired”, precisely? “Policies like Obamacare” is what’s cited, but there’s no specificity here. Are we suggesting that the stimulus didn’t work? Perhaps it wasn’t as effective as sold, but there’s no doubt that governmental pump-priming of the economy helped bring about the last several quarters’ worth of economic growth, thus de jure ending the recession, if not in spirit.

The stimulus which, among other things, subsidized COBRA so that the unemployed could at least make an attempt at affording to keep their health care coverage? The extension of unemployment benefits so that people looking for work can continue to feed, clothe, and house themselves and their families in a jobless recovery? And what of this jobless recovery, eh? By Republican arguments, it ought not exist, since the rich have their much-beloved Bush tax cuts. And as we all know, a reduction in the highest marginal tax rate from 39% to 35% is the difference between socialism and capitalism; it is the difference between Stalin and Reagan; it is the very mechanism by which all jobs are created by the superwealthy. Odd that this hasn’t materialized.

And “Obamacare” – perhaps the Buffalo News is so flush with cash that the medical insurance-middleman status quo was working alright for them, but the system is unnecessarily expensive, comparatively inefficient, produces poor statistical results, and involves the enrichment of completely unnecessary middlemen who add nothing to the health care equation whatsoever. So, what President Obama implemented didn’t go as far as Hillarycare would have in the 90s, instead opting for what is, in essence, a Republican plan initiated in Massachusetts under then-Governor Mitt Romney.

But because it was Obama pushing it, the Republicans derided everything as a communard takeover of the entire healthcare industry by the federal government – a damned and contemptible lie. They blocked it every step of the way in keeping with their “we hope Obama fails, and our singular purpose is to make it so” obstructionism.

In the meantime, rescission is illegal, lifetime maximums are abolished, copays for well visits will be nil, and mechanisms will be put in place to make health insurance more affordable.

Unfortunately for everyone, the United States remains alone in the industrialized world by not guaranteeing health care as a right for all its citizens. Every other country had this civic discussion, and formulated a wide variety of solutions to make sure that health care is provided well and affordably. They all do it better and more effectively than we. The product? The product is that we picked a half-assed semi-solution to the health care issue, avoiding bringing about real change. This is thanks to the reactionary right wing of the Republican Party, which more or less opted out of governmental participating altogether over the past couple of years and is quite satisfied with the status quo.

To me, national Republicans are embodied in, and reflected by, incoming Congressman Andy Harris from Maryland – a physician who ran on a “repeal Obamacare” platform.

He stood up and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care,” said a congressional staffer who saw the exchange. The benefits session, held behind closed doors, drew about 250 freshman members, staffers and family members to the Capitol Visitors Center auditorium late Monday morning,”.

“Harris then asked if he could purchase insurance from the government to cover the gap,” added the aide, who was struck by the similarity to Harris’s request and the public option he denounced as a gateway to socialized medicine.

Harris, a Maryland state senator who works at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and several hospitals on the Eastern Shore, also told the audience, “This is the only employer I’ve ever worked for where you don’t get coverage the first day you are employed,” his spokeswoman Anna Nix told POLITICO.

Exactly. Have a great weekend.

Chris Lee & the Zadroga 9/11 Health Care Bill

29 Sep

Today, the House passed the Zadroga 9/11 Health Care Bill 268 – 160. Named for a New York City police officer who responded on 9/11 and died in 2006 from a respiratory illness that’s been causally linked to exposure to chemicals in the air on that day, the bill provides a $7.4 billion fund for the medical expenses and other compensation to those whose health is similarly affected.

To pay for it, Congress closed a loophole exploited by many nominally American, and multinational corporations whose headquarters are removed to foreign tax havens in an effort to avoid or minimize exposure to US corporate income taxes. The Zadroga bill closes that loophole and requires those companies to pay taxes on income earned from business in the US.

The sole member of the New York State congressional delegation to vote against guaranteeing health care and monitoring for the heroes of 9/11 was Chris Lee from NY-26. Lee’s objection? He can’t STAND the government having the job-killing audacity to expect companies making a profit in the United States to actually pay income taxes on those profits. Only the little people pay taxes.

So, there you have it.

When given a choice to stand with the heroes of 9/11, or to stand with tax-avoiding multinational corporations, Chris Lee stands with big business.

Clearing it Up

29 Apr

When health care reform is enacted to help insure almost all Americans, and initiate dramatically needed consumer protection into the health insurance industry, there was an outcry against it from the right, blathering about unconstitutionality.

When GM and Chrysler got massive loans from the government collateralized by stock, the right whinged about socialism, as if that somehow represented workers’ control of production.

When the banks got too clever for their own good and found themselves almost insolvent, when the entire economy collapsed and was on the brink of a once-in-a-century downward spiral, the right bitched and moaned that bailouts – many of which have since been repaid, with interest – were the worst thing since Hitler murdered 6,000,000 innocents and Stalin collectivized farms.

When Arizona passes a law that has the effect of requiring natural born United States citizens of Latino origin to carry citizenship papers with them at all times for wholly domestic travel, the right shrugs and tells the brown people, tough shit.

Just wanted to clear up what they do and don’t consider an unconstitutional outrage.  Social programs = bad, unconstitutional police-state-junior = dandy.

Maybe we need to institute the same policy in Florida and direct it at illegal Cuban immigrants. Let’s see how that goes over.  How about it, Mr. Rubio?

Carl Paladino Addresses the Tea Partiers in Buffalo

27 Mar

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I’m listening to it as I type this. He pledges to cut the state payroll, and to eliminate unnamed regulations. That’s about it.

His delivery? That of a sarcastic, heavily sedated tween.

But while he rightly criticizes the fact that there are no residency requirements for receiving some welfare in New York State, he segues weirdly into an anti-Obama / anti health care reform rant. It’s fun to watch a millionaire rail against something that will overwhelmingly help the middle class and cost him an extra .9% in income taxes.

I’m also struck by one joker repeating “give him an enema” when Paladino mentions Higgins. “If Scott Brown can do it, you can do it, Carl!” one woman yells. Except Scott Brown ran as an everyman populist. When a Carl Paladino pledges $10 million of his own money to run for Governor, you can’t really run as an everyman populist. Really.

Paladino then attacks the “liberal elites” and “liberal media” over his crystal clear comparison of 9/11 to the day health care was passed.

He then repeats, twice, the “mad as hell” quote from Network.

And then reads a letter he wrote to “Prince” Andrew Cuomo asking the AG to sue to block the health insurance reform bill, mostly over the mandate.

In any event, Paladino’s channeling of Howard Beale is, by itself, hardly a winning gubernatorial platform. The fact that they’re holding an anti-government tea party in a public park on the public waterfront in the middle of a massive public works project is, naturally, ironic beyond belief. Paladino’s riser rests on a wooden boardwalk paid for by New York tax dollars.

What people tend to forget is that Howard Beale is a suicidal madman in that movie.

Slaughter Today

25 Mar

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