Tag Archives: health_care
(I can’t believe I’m going to start this post on such a serious and somber topic with a wildly inappropriate joke, but here goes):
No, despite the fact that “Baby Joseph and the Canadian Death Panels” would be an epic band name, this is not, in fact, one of my infrequent posts on music. Instead, it’s about how we in this country – and specifically, our country’s media – deal with aspects of our health care system. Baby Joseph’s full name is Joseph Maraachli. He is fourteen months old. Baby Joseph’s family lives in Ontario, Canada. Baby Joseph has developed a rare medical condition called Leigh’s disease (or Leigh’s syndrome). It is an invariably fatal condition which strikes almost exclusively young children (between several months and two years old). Some infants who develop Leigh’s disease can live as long as early teenage years, but most die within a few years, some even more quickly. This is not a disease that can be “beat,” though, in the way that breast cancer can be. A diagnosis of Leigh’s disease is a death sentence.
…is that citizens don’t take the time to educate themselves about what is going on in it. Here are the results of a just-released poll by the Kaiser Foundation. It looks like they set out to gauge Americans’ attitudes toward the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (tagged by the GOP as “Obamacare”), as well as towards health care reform in general. And indeed, such results can be found in the survey, neatly tabulated and professionally presented. But the importance of such findings is weakened to the point of near-total irrelevance when one takes into account the very first result Kaiser discovered regarding the public’s thoughts on health care reform:
In the wake of the health reform repeal vote in the U.S. House and the ongoing legal challenges over the individual mandate, nearly half the country either believes that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been repealed and is no longer law (22 percent) or doesn’t know enough to say whether it is still law (26 percent). Roughly half of Americans (52 percent) accurately report that the ACA is still the law of the land.
Got that? Only 52% of your fellow Americans know that “Obamacare” is, in fact, the law of the land. Here, let me (or rather, let Kaiser) communicate that visually for you:
(click to enlarge -note: not actual Kaiser Family Foundation Image. They’re all genteel & mature & stuff) ;o) Continue reading
From Rick Ungar in (of all places) Forbes magazine, who actually went and did the research himself, comes the story of the founding fathers themselves (who, as Ungar observes, didn’t have to speculate much about what the intent of the founding fathers was, LOL) mandating that private sailors purchase health insurance to be used in (gasp!) government-owned/run hospitals and clinics:
In July of 1798, Congress passed – and President John Adams signed – “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.” The law authorized the creation of a government operated marine hospital service and mandated that privately employed sailors be required to purchase health care insurance…
During the early years of our union, the nation’s leaders realized that foreign trade would be essential to the young country’s ability to create a viable economy. To make it work, they relied on the nation’s private merchant ships – and the sailors that made them go – to be the instruments of this trade.
The problem was that a merchant mariner’s job was a difficult and dangerous undertaking in those days. Sailors were constantly hurting themselves, picking up weird tropical diseases, etc.
The troublesome reductions in manpower caused by back strains, twisted ankles and strange diseases often left a ship’s captain without enough sailors to get underway – a problem both bad for business and a strain on the nation’s economy.
But those were the days when members of Congress still used their collective heads to solve problems – not create them.
Realizing that a healthy maritime workforce was essential to the ability of our private merchant ships to engage in foreign trade, Congress and the President resolved to do something about it.
Enter “An Act for The Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen”.
I’d urge you to read the rest of Ungar’s article, though in truth, in his very next sentence after the above passage, Ungar himself urges his own readers to go read the legislation itself (linked above). As Ungar notes, the Act dates from a time in the young Republic when emphasis was placed on getting things done, and on serving the people and shaping the new country, rather than on currying political favor, rewarding wealthy constituents and attempting to guard against every possible legal challenge. As a result, bills of that time were (compared to today’s byzantine behemoths) short, straightforward and relatively easy to understand. Whether you read Unger’s article, the original law itself, or Greg Sargent’s follow-up piece which confirms Ungar’s findings and extrapolations with a professor of American history who is an expert in the early republic – or all three – the end result is the same: our founding fathers themselves did not object on principle to the concept of government’s role in providing – even mandating – health care.
Regular readers of this blog may start to wonder – especially after this post – whether I’m in some way obsessed with conservative moderate David Frum. As much as I’d like to be able to tell you that no, I’m not…I worry it may be true. It may seem a bit strange to you, since Frum is far from the worst ranter on the right side of the American political aisle currently. In fact, if anything, it’s just the opposite: David Frum is one of the few high-profile conservative pundits who has bucked the tide of what, for lack of a better term, I’ll call Limbaugh-ism that’s been sweeping the GOP and the ranks of conservatism for at least fifteen years. I’m referring to the seemingly endless, ever-rightward march of the political ideas of the right, coupled with the equally endless-seeming increase in the nastiness of the rhetoric they employ towards anyone they perceive as an adversary (“enemy” is probably the word most of the Limbaugh-led would use) and the inflexibility of their positions. Such increasing conservatism, inflexibility and vitriol is hardly limited to just the AM talk radio hosts, either. Would that it were. But when the Senate minority leader says candidly that his party’s main goal for the next congress that’s about to start is nothing more than to defeat the President in the upcoming election two years hence, that virus – wherever it started – has become both epidemic and systemic. Against that backdrop, David Frum tends – probably partially by his own design – to stand out like a sore thumb, precisely because he doesn’t resemble that all-too-recognizable mold of the modern Republican/conservative. He’s usually polite, thoughtful, and willing to express ideas that break with the conservative cant-du-jour.
Except when he isn’t.
Frum’s got a new column up over at The Week, in which he argues that the GOP is in a pickle on health care reform, and not just because of their recent, ridiculously gimmicky non-repeal of what they derisively term “Obamacare.” As usual, Frum is an incisive enough thinker to correctly discern the basic outline of one of the problems the GOP finds itself facing. Namely, that America is a “harsh enough society” (his words) to allow large numbers of people to go without insurance, but not a harsh enough society to let large numbers go without actual care. It’s what Frum suggests should be done about it that compelled me to respond to him, yet again, at the risk of appearing obsessed.
Made you look. ;o) — Not THOSE kind of “adult conversations.”
I’m talking about the kind of adult conversations the GOP both ran on last fall, and came into power in the House last week claiming they wanted to have. Here’s Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) using the phrase referring to Medicare “reform” last November, just before the election. Here’s newly-minted chair of the House Budget Committee and fiscal scold Paul Ryan, chiding Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz for not having an adult conversation last September, in a joint TV interview on CNN. And, of course, perhaps the reason for the start of all this repetition of the phrase “adult conversation,” here’s the guy who chose a GOP cocktail party fundraiser over accepting a seat on Air Force One to accompany the President to pay his respects publicly to the victims of last week’s shooting, John Boehner, leaking to the press last fall that he, if elected Speaker, would begin an “adult conversation” about debt and fiscal responsiblity, blah blah blah…
After the shootings last week in Arizona, a lot of people have been reassessing their priorities, as well as taking another look over the landscape of political interaction in light of this tragedy. Even if we conclude that there’s no demonstrably provable link between, say, Sarah Palin’s crosshairs or Rush Limbaugh’s bitter and frequently violent bombast and the uptick in political violence, many are concluding that a return to greater civility, indeed – as the President so eloquently pointed out Wednesday night – greater caring about each other and remembering we are all Americans, might be exactly what’s needed to turn things around, in many senses. You know, an adult conversation, with a sober assessment of the problems and a reduction or elimination of vitriol, name-calling and ad hominem attacks. Almost sounds like the GOP might have been ahead of the curve on this one, if they play their cards right.
Except, of course, not so much – as you probably already guessed. Ezra Klein points out in today’s Washington Post, that HR 2 – literally, only the second bill the new congress takes up (in the House), is STILL called “The Repealing The Job-Killing Health-Care Law Act.” Really. This, even after the CBO stated that repealing last year’s health care bill would increase the deficit dramatically, costing us more money. Ezra runs down exactly why the GOP came up with their term “job-killing,” but let’s just say you won’t be surprised to learn that it twists the truth almost beyond recognition to take what the CBO actually said about employment and end up referring to that as “job-killing.” Read Klein’s piece yourself if you want the details. But, as Klein points out in a broader context: “job-killing” health care bill? Really, GOP? What was that you were saying about “adult conversations,” GOP? Was that somehow in the grand tradition of all previous house bills with the word “killing” in the title? Hmm?
These people are not serious, folks. They never were. Not about deficit reduction, not about health care, not about jobs. It’s important to point out trivial or petty-seeming points like this (the title of a bill, after all, really doesn’t affect its contents at all), because it serves to remind people of that, in a way that dull policy debates also can, but only if one has the time, the proper background, and the stomach to sit through them. Hearing the man who is third in line for the Presidency in the event of a tragedy repeatedly refer, on cue, like one of Luntz’s Pavlov’s dogs, to the first substantive bill his coalition introduces in the new legislative year as “The Job-Killing….” is one of the best ways to remind the public of the GOP’s unseriousness and deep, deep childishness and spite.
…on the Maryland shore. Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly reads a POLITICO scoop, then exquisitely lays out everything that is wrong with newly-minted GOTea representative (MD-01) Andy Harris’s indignance that his government-run health care doesn’t start NOW, instead of in February:
It (sic) perfectly reasonable for Andy Harris, like all Americans, to want health care coverage. He’s a husband and father of five, and I’m sure he worries about his family losing their health insurance, just like everyone else.
The difference, in this case, is that Andy Harris is a newly-elected far-right congressman from Maryland. Yesterday, at an orientation session, he and his colleagues were told that their health coverage would take effect on Feb. 1, and Harris, an anesthesiologist who railed against the Affordable Care Act to get elected, suggested that’s not soon enough.
In the POLITICO piece Benen links to, Harris, according to a congressional staffer who saw the exchange, “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.” Benen speculates that the congressman-elect will likely rely upon COBRA from his previous job – yet another government-initiated (and run) program (passed under budget reconciliation, no less) which Harris, given his statements about the government’s ideal role in health care (i.e. – virtually none), would almost certainly have voted against had he been in congress when that vote occurred.
Like Benen, I also don’t blame the congressman-elect for wanting to make sure his family is covered without gaps in their health care. Harris is married and has five children; such a desire is so ordinary and understandable a thing to want for one’s family that it would hardly bear mention or be remarkable in any way, were it not for the twin facts that there are forty-four million Americans either uninsured or drastically underinsured, and that the person wanting that peace of mind will soon be, in his new capacity as an elected US representative, doing everything he can to make sure they – and the rest of us – do not enjoy the same privileges or even opportunities he and his family do…because it’s bad for business (or something). Benen sums up:
Harris wants to know “what he would do without 28 days of health care”? I don’t know, Andy, what have tens of millions of Americans, including millions of children, done without access to quality health care for years? Why are you entitled to government-subsidized health care, but they’re not? What will those families do after you repeal the Affordable Care Act? Wait for tort reform to magically cover everyone?
Exactly. Ladies & gents, I give you the modern GOTea party in a nutshell: socialism for me (and mine), but not for thee. Hey, teabaggers – do you see what’s happening here? These people you worked your asses off to elect? Within months, they’re going to be just another set of run-of-the-mill politicians, not some crusading army for zero government (except outlawing abortion). Do you really want to keep voting for people who promise they’ll reform government, but who’ll in reality merely cut all your benefits while keeping their own – and their patrons’? Serious question.
So says The Hill. I don’t know if I believe it:
Sen. Joe Lieberman has reached a private understanding with Majority Leader Harry Reid that he will not block a final vote on healthcare reform, according to two sources briefed on the matter.
…but later (same article):
Lieberman’s spokesman said Monday that nothing has changed from last week, when the senator said he would support calling up the bill but would block a final vote.
So “unnamed sources” says Reid says Lieberman is on board, but Lieberman’s spokesman says “no change.” Great.
It could be all true (that Lieberman is “on board”), or it could be Lieberman just trying to play all sides to the middle, for his own benefit (again). Or, sadly, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that this is Harry Reid projecting onto Lieberman positions he merely wishes Lieberman held. Frankly, Reid’s leadership has been so abominably bad, particularly when it comes to getting pushed around by the Blue Dogs and so-called “conservadems” within his own caucus, that it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Reid had just been engaging in some wishful thinking.
For whatever it’s worth, the story itself (in The Hill) is perilously thin on sourcing of any reliability. The Hill is a paper that focuses on goings-on on capitol hill, which of necessity means that it regularly trades in rumor and “off-the-record” sourcing. But it also makes them more-than-ordinarily susceptible to getting punked by skillful but ill-intentioned political operators. Take this one with a pillar of salt….but, as written, it IS a glimmer of hope for genuine health care reform.
Over at The Left Coaster, paradox gets upset about the seeming inevitability of the coming health care cave-in by Obama and Congressional Democrats to the industry forces and the still-deeply unpopular GOP. He describes himself, not without reason, as “politically hurt, profoundly ashamed, and fundamentally bewildered how the Democratic Party could go so stupidly wrong.” And he makes the obviously-true observation that
…doofus offensive Senators from nowhere drive the Democratic Party crown jewel accomplishment [health care] metric so they can compromise with loathed and hated Republicans.
Yup, that about sums it up. As the Summer of Hate blazes on, and wingnuts assault their representatives with pictures of Obama defaced to look like Hitler (and even sillier actual arguments), the Democratic party, holder of sixty Senate seats, the White House, and an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives, appears yet again poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, through nothing more than a simple lack of vision and spine. I was so simultaneously in-sympathy with paradox’s agony and so irritated by the recollection of the treatment I and others received for having voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 because we saw this sickness full-blown in then-candidate Gore, that I began writing a reply to paradox’s post. And, as is my wont, it turned into a bit more than I’d originally intended. Heh. Who’d-a thunk? So, considering a) I’m no longer on the Left Coast and b) this really turned into what should be its own post, I’m going to re-post it here, after the jump: