Thursday, June 28, 2007

Democrats' health care plan would help red states most

Sorry I haven't updated you on the Democrats plans to fix health care, but we've been busy moving mom into the nursing home this week. My husband and I live more than an hour away from her and the rest of my family, so we spend quite a bit of time on the freeway traveling back and forth. I'm happy to report that the transition went smoother than we anticipated and mom seems to be adjusting well in her new environment. We're immensely relieved, as you might imagine.

Anyway, as soon as I get a decent block of time, I'll put together my information and post it. In the meantime, I wanted to share this article from Mother Jones that illustrates perfectly how people continue to vote against their own self-interests when they vote for Republicans.

Democrats' Plans for Universal Health Care Helps Red States Most
Let's say a Democrat wins the 2008 election and institutes universal health care. Who benefits the most? Republicans.

That's right -- a new study shows that the red states (mostly in the South) consistently rate at the bottom of the country in terms of health care for residents. The Commonwealth Fund report ranked states according to 32 indicators of health care access, quality, outcomes, and hospital use. Consider the political leanings of the top ten and the bottom ten.

States 1-10: Hawaii, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, South Dakota.

States 50-41: Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Nevada, Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Florida, Georgia.

This shouldn't be a surprise. States led by Republicans are more likely to have laissez faire attitudes towards health care and be less sympathetic to the plights of those who cannot afford it. It doesn't help that these states are often the most hostile towards workers' rights, thus driving down wages, and often have the highest number of single mothers, due to the nation's highest rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births. Get all the details and schadenfreude at PERRspectives Blog.
Click the PERRspectives link to read more, but the bottom line in their post says it all:
By almost any measure of societal breakdown that so-called Republican "values voters" decry, it is Red State America where moral failure is greatest.
And part of that moral failure includes 44 million uninsured women, men and children.

Monday, June 25, 2007

2008 Republican candidates on health care

It appears that Michael Moore touched a nerve with voters unhappy about health care if this is any indication:
“Michael Moore’s latest film, ‘Sicko,’ was a smash hit over the weekend. The documentary about the health care industry was sold out at all its ’sneak’ screenings in 43 locations around the country including Cleveland, Boston, Atlanta, and Detroit.”
Polls continue to show that voters feel this is our number one domestic issue, but what about our 2008 presidential candidates? I'll cover the Republicans first and get to the Democrats later this week.

McCain, Giuliani, Hunter and Paul don't even mention health care on their campaign websites. Ouch! Are they out of touch with voters or what? I did find some statements they made though. From
The Arizona lawmaker told ABC’s “This Week” that he and his staff are developing a health plan “that every American can take advantage of and afford.” The timing of an announcement is unclear, but he said its elements would include tax incentives for low-income people so they buy health coverage, community health centers, expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, putting health care online, medical malpractice reform, and making health savings accounts more available.
Color me unimpressed. McCain will have to do better than that. Tax incentives so poor people can buy health coverage? Does he even know how much health insurance costs? If poor people had the money to buy insurance, they'd have it already.

Giuliani sounds a lot like McCain:

Among Republicans, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is working on a package of incentives to get more people to buy their own coverage in the individual insurance market and to make that coverage affordable. Health insurance should be more like car insurance, he says, where people pay out of pocket for minor repairs and maintenance.
At least Giuliani actually says he wants to make insurance more affordable, but his statement about car insurance shows how out of touch he is with the real world. I don't know of a single car insurance policy that covers maintenance, and the same goes for minor repairs.

Moving along to Tommy Thompson, former US Secretary of Health and Human Services, here's his plan to fix health care from his
campaign website:
Governor Thompson believes we must build a system that is affordable and accessible for everyone. And we can do this without a government-run health care program that includes the worst aspects of socialized medicine.
Thompson is talking about Medicare when he talks about socialized medicine. From personal experience, I can say that Medicare has always provided good medical treatment for my loved ones from hip replacements to physical therapy to preventative measures like pneumonia shots, and overall they've all been happy with it. I suspect Thompson would like to see the government taken out of the program for personal reasons.
Thompson is the President of Logistics Health, Inc. He is also senior partner at Akin Gump, a Washington, D.C., law firm, and is additionally a senior advisor at the consulting firm Deloitte and is the chairman of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.
The WaPo picked up on this too and reported the following last summer:
Tommy G. Thompson, the former secretary of health and human services, proposed overhauling Medicaid in ways that he says would be good for the country. Critics contend that some of Thompson's recommendations also could be good for companies that he works for.
It might benefit Tommy Thompson's bottom line, but it won't help taxpayers. The Congressional Budget Office determined that, on average, the federal government is paying private plans 12 percent more than it costs to treat comparable beneficiaries through traditional Medicare.

How about the candidate that Republicans prefer to ignore - Ron Paul? He thinks Congress should pass the following
series of bills to reduce health care costs and leave more money in the pockets of families:
HR 3075 provides truly comprehensive health care reform by allowing families to claim a tax credit for the rising cost of health insurance premiums. [...]

HR 3076 is specifically designed to address the medical malpractice crisis that threatens to drive thousands of American doctors - especially obstetricians - out of business. The bill provides a dollar-for-dollar tax credit that permits consumers to purchase "negative outcomes" insurance prior to undergoing surgery or other serious medical treatments. [...]

HR 3077 makes it more affordable for parents to provide health care for their children. It creates a $500 per child tax credit for medical expenses and prescription drugs that are not reimbursed by insurance. It also creates a $3,000 tax credit for dependent children with terminal illnesses, cancer, or disabilities. [...]

HR 3078 is commonsense, compassionate legislation for those suffering from cancer or other terminal illnesses. The sad reality is that many patients battling serious illnesses will never collect Social Security benefits-- yet they continue to pay into the Social Security system. When facing a medical crisis, those patients need every extra dollar to pay for medical care, travel, and family matters. HR 3078 waives the employee portion of Social Security payroll taxes (or self-employment taxes) for individuals with documented serious illnesses or cancer. It also suspends Social Security taxes for primary caregivers with a sick spouse or child. [...]
These bills won't help people. What good are tax credits if people don't have the money to pay their monthly premiums or purchase the medicine they need today? And what about that medical malpractice crisis mentioned? From the NY Times:
Lawsuits against doctors are just one of several factors that have driven up the cost of malpractice insurance, specialists say. Lately, the more important factors appear to be the declining investment earnings of insurance companies and the changing nature of competition in the industry.

The recent spike in premiums - which is now showing signs of steadying - says more about the insurance business than it does about the judicial system.
And I just bet the insurance industry would love to see negative outcome insurance gain acceptance, they'd make a lot of money from the millions of policies they'd sell, not to mention the money they'd save on lawyer fees. Finally, exempting social security taxes for terminal illnesses is a nice gesture, but it's just a drop in the bucket for a family facing crushing medical bills.

That brings me to Mitch Romney.
Here's what he says about health care on his campaign website:
The health of our nation can be improved by extending health insurance to all Americans, not through a government program or new taxes, but through market reforms.
This statement somewhat contradicts the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Plan he helped initiate to cover the uninsured. The plan expands Medicaid eligibility and offers subsidies for the purchase of private coverage to low-income individuals and families, all funded by the government.

Massachusetts was motivated to come up with this plan in part because the federal government
threatened to eliminate $385 million in federal Medicaid money unless the state reduced the number of uninsured people, and the state was already spending more than $500 million in federal and state money annually to compensate hospitals for treating the uninsured. They simply redirected that money to insurance coverage. Besides those government funds, Romney also earmarked an anticipated revenue surplus (tax dollars) for expanded coverage. All that funding sounds like a government program to me.

I'll leave it up to you to decide whether his plan was political grandstanding or not. I give Romney credit for doing something, although it still relies too heavily on the private sector for my tastes, and it fails to deliver good care at an affordable price. Physicians for a National Health Program aren't
sold either:
Americans need more than affordable insurance; they need affordable health care. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to copy the Massachusetts reform in shrinking the numbers of uninsured people by forcing them to buy stripped down, bare-bones policies. With premiums for family coverage now averaging $10,000 a year, the only way that states can make premiums affordable is to strip down the plans, which then forces policyholders to pay out of pocket when they get sick. High deductibles, co-payments and benefit reductions are destroying the financial protection that insurance should provide. [...]

The big winners in the Schwarzenegger and Massachusetts health plans are private health insurance firms. The new insurance mandates will hand them billions in wasteful administrative fees that do not occur in government insurance programs such as Medicare.
I still prefer 100% universal health insurance over Romney's plan which leaves some people out.
"Getting to 98 or 99 percent insured is about the best that anyone is going to be able to do," said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based foundation that sponsors research to improve healthcare.
Getting 98 or 99 percent of the people insured isn't good enough for me. I'll withhold my vote for the candidate with a better idea, but at this point in time I can definitely say it won't be a Republican.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Voters unhappy with health care nightmare

Some more polling data on health care to go along with yesterday's post:

WebMD Medical News
June 21, 2007 -- A new poll shows health care is the leading domestic issue on voters' minds, second only to Iraq as the most important issue in the nation.

Twenty-one percent of voters in the poll call health care the issue they'd most like to hear candidates talk about in the 2008 presidential election. The issue edges out immigration, the economy, and gas prices as voter's top domestic concerns. [...]

"We may be on the edge of our next great national debate on health reform," says Drew Altman, president of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducted the survey.[...]

Nearly four in 10 of those surveyed said they want to hear candidates talk about coverage shortages and the uninsured. Close to three in 10 said health costs were their No. 1 concern.
Not surprisingly, voters feel the insurance industry is the problem:
Lack of insurance is not the problem - it's the insurance industry itself. A Zogby/UPI poll in February found that 42 percent of Americans said their insurer had refused to pay a medical bill. A USA Today/ABC poll in March found one in four Americans had trouble paying for medical care in 2006. Two thirds of those were insured.
That helps to explain this sentiment:
CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. 5/4-06/07

"Do you think the government should provide a national health insurance program for all Americans, even if this would require higher taxes?" Yes 64%, No 35%, Unsure 2%

"Do you think the government should provide a national health insurance program for all children under the age of 18, even if this would require higher taxes?" Yes 73%, No 25%, Unsure 2% [emphasis added]
Our 2008 presidential candidates should take note of these polls. Voters aren't interested in expanding the market driven, private insurance-based system that perpetuates our present health care nightmare. National health insurance is the cure they want.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Poll reveals health care is top issue

Here are some interesting statistics from a recent Catholic Health Association poll [pdf]:

Providing quality and affordable health care tops concerns of likely voters
  • 29% of likely voters believe “providing affordable quality health care” should receive the “greatest attention from the government at the present time.”
  • 22% said “ensuring homeland security in the United States”
  • 19% said “reducing government spending and taxes”
  • 13% said “improving public education
39% of likely voters ranked “making health care more affordable” as the “most important goal for the country and should receive the greatest attention in reforming our health care system.”
82% of likely voters believe “there are moral and ethical reasons for making sure everyone in the U.S. has health care. Access to health care is a matter of human dignity.”

71% of likely voters believe “the federal government should take financial responsibility to cover uninsured children,” and 51% “would be willing to pay more in taxes to help pay for health insurance for children.”
It appears health care is very much a "values" issue with voters.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

If you want my vote, fix the health care problem

Pollster John Zogby thinks the Iraq war will be the top issue in the 2008 presidential campaign and he's probably right, but my vote will go to the candidate with the best plan to fix health care. Next to the war, it is also the one issue I find my baby boomer friends and I discussing when we get together. We're caught in the middle between our adult children and parents. We worry about our children who don't have employee provided health insurance and the ones who have it and struggle to pay increasingly expensive deductibles and co-pays, not to mention our children who simply don't have insurance at all.

On the other side, we have our elderly parents who find it difficult to pay for prescriptions, home health care or - God forbid - long-term care. One serious medical emergency can wipe out a lifetime of savings and leave our parents destitute. The fortunate ones will have children they can turn to for help. The others will be at the mercy of the overburdened and underfunded Medicaid system they'll be forced to turn to when they become penniless.

I'm speaking from experience here. Several months ago,
I told you about my mother who was then in a skilled-care nursing home covered by Medicare and her supplemental insurance plan. She regained her health and was discharged to go back home to live with my sister and brother-in-law. Mom is almost 90-years-old and has had Alzheimer's for nearly a decade, but she moved in with my sister years ago simply because she outlived her money and couldn't afford to live on her own. Her only source of income is social security, and mom was too proud to live in a rent subsidized senior apartment.

Moving in with my sister turned out to be a godsend. We noticed the early symptoms of Alzheimer's sooner than we might have and got mom the help she needed, which included the extremely expensive medication Aricept (one month's supply was more than $350). Over time, however, the disease progressed and it became clear that mom needed someone with her 24 hours a day, so my brother-in-law retired a few years earlier than planned and stayed home to care for my mom.

Out of respect for my mother's modesty, we hired an aide to come in to help her bathe, wash her hair, etc., and that worked out well until my mother became totally incontinent and we needed the aide 5 days a week. My sister and I were splitting the cost of the aide and mom's medications and the expenses were becoming a burden. We eventually turned to Medicaid for help and mom was instantly approved. She is now considered dual-enrolled since she has Medicare and Medicaid, in addition to the prescription program.

How does all of this relate to what I said at the top about voting for the candidate with the best plan to fix health care? Simple, I think Medicare and Medicaid have provided my mother with a level of care that all people should have access to - regardless of age.

That being said, Medicare and Medicaid don't do enough to help families caring for loved ones in their homes. Medicare only covers a home health aide for a short period of time after hospitalization or transition from a rehab facility. Medicaid provides home care assistance, but there's a long waiting list in our area (my mom's been on the list for 18 months). Respite care isn't available either, unless the person is terminal and a doctor certifies the patient has less than 6 months to live.

The government is penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to helping loved ones care for family at home, as we found out firsthand. Overwhelmed by the level of care my mother has needed for years, and the out-of-pocket expense of having to hire aides to deal with her daily hygiene, my sister and I decided last week it was time to put mom in a long-term care facility. It was the hardest thing we ever had to do. We cried and we prayed. We wanted to honor mom's wishes to die at home someday, but we just don't have the strength or the financial means to do so anymore. Instead, mom will soon be going to live in a nursing home that accepts Medicaid.

This is where the government is being foolish. They limit the funds available to provide home health care support, but they'll spend thousands of dollars a year to keep someone in a nursing home. In my mother's case, my sister saved the government thousands of dollars over the years by caring for my mother at home, and we waited for years after my mom exhausted all her resources to apply for that just wasn't enough and didn't come in time. How many other people can't manage to hold on as long as we did?

So, my vote, my sister's vote, my husband's vote, and I'm sure the votes of millions of others will go to the candidate that has a plan to insure all Americans and expand the level of home care available to families taking care of loved ones.

Iraq may be the top issue, but among my friends there's a lot of anger about health care in this country. Our thinking goes something like this: If there are tax dollars available to keep an American presence in Iraq for up to 50 years, then there darn well better be tax dollars to take care of people here at home.

(I've started researching where the candidates stand on this issue and I'll be posting something on it real soon. In the meantime, here's a link that gives more information on
Michigan's Medicaid Program.)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Suck it up, Scooter, and take your medicine like a woman man

Scooter Libby could learn a thing or two from Martha Stewart. A federal judge ordered him to report to prison within weeks to begin serving a 30-month sentence after jurors found him guilty on two counts of perjury, one count of obstructing justice in a grand jury investigation, and one of making false statements to federal investigators.

The AP reports that Libby’s lawyers
“will seek an emergency order delaying the sentence.”

Oh, for pity sakes. Martha Stewart was convicted in 2004 on four counts of lying to investigators and obstruction of justice and she
started serving a five month prison term while her appeal was still pending.

Are there any real "men" in the Bush administration or just a bunch of Mommy's boys? Geesh.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

DeVos speaks, MIGOP listens

Why are state Republicans still listening to DeVos?
Republicans who control the state Senate got a pep talk Tuesday from GOP businessman and 2006 gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos.

DeVos, who lost to Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm in the November election and is rumored to be eyeing another bid, spoke for 20 to 30 minutes during a Senate GOP caucus meeting at the start of session. [...]

DeVos said Republicans outside Lansing support the GOP's stance that significant structural changes in government must be made before there is any consideration of a tax increase.
I guess the party feels obligated because the man spent millions of dollars of his own money trying to unseat Gov. Granholm, but the fact that he was trounced should be a clue that the public finds him as irrelevant as George Bush.

Seriously. DeVos based his election on somewhat dubious, if not downright untruthful claims. He ran around crowing that, "49 other states are doing great. 49 other states are moving forward. 49 other states are adding jobs. And yet, Michigan is the only one lagging behind," and he placed the blame squarely on Gov. Granholm.

That's not how several papers saw it. As the Ludington News Daily said, "The near collapse of the Big Three is not the fault of the Legislature nor the governor. It’s in part the fault of the Big Three for failing to adapt to a global economy, work together with their unions to comply with that increased competition and changing consumer desires."

It wasn't how the voters saw it either. CNN reported that the economy nearly tied Iraq as the reason voters across the country came out to vote last November.

DeVos also ran a series of ads about our depressed housing market and the glut of homes on the market. The implication was that housing was doing great in 49 other states. Yeah, right. Foreclosures rates have been growing across the country since last spring, right about the time DeVos started running his first campaign ads.

From ABC News:
New data released this afternoon indicates that one in every 656 homes in the United States went into foreclosure during May. [...]

"The principal source of the slowdown in economic growth that began last spring has been the substantial correction in the housing market," said Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke in a speech in late March. [emphasis added]
Michigan currently ranks eighth among states, with one in every 448 homes in foreclosure, but we're certainly not alone in our misery like DeVos wanted us to believe.

Aside from the misleading and disingenuous twisting of facts, why are state Republicans listening to DeVos on taxes? He supports the GOP's stance that structural changes in government must be made before there is any consideration of a tax increase, yet he and his family are willing to let taxpayers help build a new stadium for their basketball team in Orlando. If they don't see this as a double standard, shame on them.

And what about the millions of taxpayer dollars that benefit his brother-in-law, Eric Prince, owner of Blackwater Security? I've never heard DeVos raise objections about that money, not even when it came to light that Rep. Henry Waxman wrote Sec. Donald Rumsfeld requesting answers as to why taxpayers paid exorbitant prices for Blackwater's services. Waxman is still waiting for those answers (and so is the public).

And why are state Republicans listening to DeVos when they should be questioning him and his family about Blackwater's lack of transparency and accountability: Blackwater Heavies Sue Families of Slain [Fallujah] Employees for $10 Million in Brutal Attempt to Suppress Their Story.

If taxpayer money provides funding for Blackwater Security, then taxpayers deserve to know if the company cut corners in order to maximize profit - and in the process jeopardized those mens' lives. Surely, Michigan's GOP believes in accountability and transparency, right?

Whatever their reason for listening to DeVos, there's an old adage they might want to consider: When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. They need to ask themselves if that's a risk they're willing to take. It hasn't worked out so well for many Bush loyalists and it just might not work out so well for them either.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The GOP is trying to privatize Medicare

It appears Congressman Dave Camp is rubber stamping the Bush administration by calling for the private sector to take a greater role in health care. From the AFL-CIO Blog:
Two years after the American people rejected the Bush administration’s plan to privatize Social Security, the White House now is trying quietly to privatize Medicare.

Here’s how: The Republican Congress gave big insurance companies that provide Medicare insurance what amounts to a huge subsidy under the so-called “Medicare Advantage” program. These private insurers were supposed to introduce competition into the Medicare system and reduce costs.

But after the private insurers got their hands into the cookie jar, they began taking more than their share. Instead of reducing costs, the new plan means the federal government, on average, is paying private plans 12 percent more than it costs to treat people on traditional Medicare, according to the Congressional Budget Office and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

This year alone, according to the Alliance for Retired Americans, the federal government will overpay the insurance industry $7.5 billion this year and an estimated $160 billion over the next 10 years. [...] [emphasis mine]

As Edward Coyle, executive director of the Alliance, which represents 3 million retirees and seniors, told a Capitol Hill press conference:

Medicare Advantage threatens the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund. As the Bush administration continues to sound alarms bells about the Trust Fund, they ought to start by ending these egregious subsidies to the insurance industry.

The outrageous waste and abuse in the Medicare Advantage program is part of our larger, misguided privatization of Medicare. We’ve turned too much of Medicare over to Wall Street at the expense of the people who need help on Main Street.
Coyle goes on to point out how that $160 billion overpayment could go a long way toward eliminating the donut hole. Further, by reining in those payments, the federal government could improve benefits for lower-income families and provide coverage to millions of uninsured low-income children.

The Bush administration and Congressman Dave Camp should be concerned about our senior citizens and millions of uninsured instead of the private sector. As Coyle says:
Something is very wrong with our Medicare program—the big drug and insurance companies keep getting more, and retirees keep getting less. It is time to change this. It is time to end the corporate welfare subsidies in the Medicare Advantage program.
It's also time for the Republican Party to back up their "values" claim with action. In case they need their memories refreshed about the definition of values, Michael Moore explains in the DetNews how his Catholic boyhood helped shape the core values that are on display in "Sicko" [emphasis mine]:
"This film comes from a spiritual place," Moore says, "so I wanted to go to the headquarters of the sisters who taught me in my early years. They had a profound impact on me."

The idea that it's about "the we, not the me," came from the nuns. "Instead of calling it 'socialized medicine,' it should be called 'Christianized medicine.'"

"This was one of the ground rules that was laid down by Jesus. He said, 'I'm going to ask you a bunch of questions when you get to the pearly gates. When I was hungry did you feed me? When I was homeless, did you give me shelter? When I was sick, did you take care of me? And if you didn't do these things, and you didn't do these for the least of my people, then I'm going to have to say that you can't come in the big house.'"

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Law & Order for the Rich

State Republicans are concerned that releasing prisoners early is a risk to the public. I wonder if they'll have anything to say about this news from the WaPo:
Paris Hilton was released from a Los Angeles County jail early Thursday because of an unspecified medical problem and will fulfill the remainder of her sentence in home confinement, a sheriff's spokesman said.
Due to confidentiality laws, Hilton's medical condition couldn't be divulged (how convenient), but unless she's terminal, I don't see why that should have prevented her from serving the entire 23 day sentence. Sick people go to jail all the time.

In fact, did you catch Larry King's
interview of Jack Kevorkian the other night? Dr. Death described what conditions were like in prison for someone like him who suffers from diabetes, heart disease and hepatitis C.
KING: [..] We're in suburban Detroit, Michigan with Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who has been out of prison now for about 72 hours.

What was that like?


KING: Yes.

KEVORKIAN: Well, where I was -- the last one I was at didn't seem like a prison. It seemed more like a geriatric ward. There were sick, crippled people all over. There were wheelchairs and canes everywhere. And there were no bars and the doors were freely open and accessible to anybody.
I sense a double-standard. If an old, poor man assists someone in committing suicide, the system says he must do the time regardless of his health. However, if a pretty, young heiress gets charged with reckless driving and operating a vehicle without a license, the system says she can get out of jail because of her health.

By the way, Kervorkian served 8 of his 10-25 year sentence. Compare that to this WaPo description of Hilton's time served:
According to the sheriff's department's generous math, Hilton has served five days in jail (checking in late Sunday and out early Thursday), and will now have to remain in home confinement for another 40 days.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Dave Camp on universal health care: Woof-woof

It looks like the 72 percent of Americans who want universal health coverage - and the 63 percent who support universal health coverage even if it requires tax increases - will be ignored again (just like they were about Iraq) if Michigan Congressman Dave Camp (R) is any indication.

According to a link at
MI Liberal, Camp believes the solutions to our health care problems lie in the private sector and not in more government programs. From The Hill:
I firmly believe we can and should solve America’s healthcare crisis in an American way. History is a great teacher, and if we choose to go down the path that Western Europe or Canada has, it will be no surprise when we come to the same destination — a universal healthcare system that leaves your family dog with better coverage and care than you get. As the Canadian Supreme Court once opined, “access to a waiting list is not access to care.” [emphasis added]
Really? Then how does Camp explain this recent study:
Health outcomes for patients in Canada are as good as or better than in the United States, even though per capita spending is higher south of the border, suggest Canadian and U.S. researchers who crunched data from 38 studies. [...] [emphasis added]

"In looking at patients in Canada with a specific diagnosis compared to Americans with the same diagnosis, in Canada patients had at least as good an outcome as their American counterparts – and in many situations, a better health outcome," said one of the 17 authors, Dr. P.J. Devereaux, a cardiologist and clinical epidemiologist at McMaster University in Hamilton.

"And that is important because in the United States, they're currently spending a little over $7,100 per individual on health care annually, whereas in Canada we're spending a little over $2,900 per individual annually," he said in a telephone interview from Brantford, Ont.[...]

Researchers began by asking the question: Are there differences in health outcomes (mortality or morbidity) in patients suffering from similar medical conditions treated in Canada versus those treated in the United States?

"Overall, Canada did better, and in fact we found a statistically significant five per cent mortality advantage to people with diagnoses in Canada compared to their counterparts in the United States," Devereaux said.
Or how about these statistics from the Fort Wayne News Sentinel?
France, Germany, Japan and Switzerland have less centralized systems, which provide much better results. They combine universal coverage with easy access to medical care. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, none of these countries have waiting-list problems. Access to medical care tends to be easier in those countries than it is in the United States. [...] [emphasis added]

It is inaccurate to assume that we have the best high-tech care. Japan, which has universal care, has more CT scanners and MRIs per person than the United States. Germany and Switzerland are on a par with us. [...]

Victor Rodwin of New York University finds that on a per-capita basis, the French get more physician office visits and more drugs than their counterparts here.
Heck, even Cuba (gasp!) delivers good health care according to AlterNet:
They [Cubans] live longer than almost anyone in Latin America. Far fewer babies die. Almost everyone has been vaccinated, and such scourges of the poor as parasites, TB, malaria, even HIV/AIDS are rare or non-existent. Anyone can see a doctor, at low cost, right in the neighborhood.

The Cuban health care system is producing a population that is as healthy as those of the world's wealthiest countries at a fraction of the cost. And now Cuba has begun exporting its system to under-served communities around the world -- including the United States. [...]

Many elements of the health care system Cuba is exporting around the world are common-sense practices. Everyone has access to doctors, nurses, specialists, and medications. There is a doctor and nurse team in every neighborhood... If someone doesn't like their neighborhood doctor, they can choose another one.

House calls are routine, in part because it's the responsibility of the doctor and nurse team to understand you and your health issues in the context of your family, home, and neighborhood. This is key to the system. By catching diseases and health hazards before they get big, the Cuban medical system can spend a little on prevention rather than a lot later on to cure diseases, stop outbreaks, or cope with long-term disabilities. [...]

For health issues beyond the capacity of the neighborhood doctor, polyclinics provide specialists, outpatient operations, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and labs. Those who need inpatient treatment can go to hospitals; at the end of their stay, their neighborhood medical team helps make the transition home.[...]
I don't know how dogs fare in Cuba, but the article did say Castro provided scholarships to 90 poor Americans with the understanding that they have to agree to go back and serve their poor communities after graduation. Why the big investment in health?
Even more revolutionary than the right to health care for all is the idea that an investment in health -- or in clean water, adequate food or housing -- could be more powerful, more effective at building security than bombers and aircraft carriers.
That concept is lost on lawmakers like Camp who continue to support the war and their corporate buddies. Building bombs and aircraft carriers is a lucrative business for private contractors in Washington. According to Jim Hightower, government contracting has grown 86% under Bush's Republican administration and now totals nearly $400 BILLION dollars a year. It's no wonder Camp believes the private sector should play a role in health care reform (and get a piece of the pie):
"Too much government-provided healthcare limits private sector opportunities. We should be expanding access in the private sector, not crowding it out."
Never mind the fact that the public gets screwed (think donut holes, Katrina, Walter Reed): Medicare Is Defrauding Seniors
In 2005 alone, taxpayers lost $2.7 billion in overpayments [while i]nsurance companies that sell Medicare Advantage plans are substantially overpaid to market their plans...
And never mind the fact that corporate America is leaning in the same direction as most Americans:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., AT&T Inc., Intel Corp. and Kelly Services Inc. joined forces with two labor unions in calling for an overhaul of the U.S. health-care system that would guarantee universal coverage by 2012.
I suspect Wal-Mart understands the economics behind universal health care because their business approach is similar. By pooling all Americans (vendors) together in the same pool, the government (Wal-Mart) can use its massive market share to bargain down prices and advocate for their interests.

On the other hand, I suspect Congressman Camp only advocates for the interests of the insurance industries and lobbyists who stand to benefit from expanding private health care.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bush loves rich kids

What do the rich do with all that money they've pocketed from Bush's tax cuts? Some of them send their kids to summer camp on private jets.
The charter company Revolution Air has assigned more than 20 private jets to fly children to summer camp at the end of June, at a cost of about $8,000 a flight. [...]

Property developer and mother of three Robin O'Hara is sending her 8-year-old, Danielle, on a 30-minute flight to Lake Bryn Mawr Camp in Honesdale, Pa.

"The bus takes 31/2 hours. It is crowded, and it's always a very dramatic scene," said O'Hara, of Great Neck, L.I.

"This year, she is not going with her [older] sisters, so we want to make it a special, unique experience for her.

"It's a trend. A lot of my friends do it," O'Hara said. "They play videos, they serve kids' food, sometimes, we'll have a manicurist on board." [emphasis mine]
Private jets with manicurists? Bush sure looked after his "base." Too bad the same can't be said for the millions of parents who will struggle to feed their children and put gas in their cars this summer.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

MIGOP: Tax cuts come before people

Michigan's Flint Journal gets the prize for best Sunday editorial:
Michigan lawmakers give lip service to all kinds of programs and causes, but what they spend the public's money on tells their true priorities. And based on the latest budget finagling, the state's public colleges and universities don't rate very high with them. [emphasis mine]

By cutting or delaying about $180 million to these institutions as part of a recent budget-balancing maneuver, Lansing puts the lie to its sermons about education being Michigan's salvation.

Instead, they've likely made college more expensive for students - continuing a trend over many years - and undermined these schools' abilities to pursue the research and innovation a knowledge economy requires.
Lansing cut funding to higher education a total of $275 million between 2002-2006. Combine that funding cut with escalating health insurance expenses, and our colleges and universities are in even deeper water. And while it's true that tuition has been rising across the country for all students, so has state support for universities. According to the FJ, there's been "a 14 percent increase in state support for universities nationally over the past two years."

The FJ also points out how hypocritical it is for lawmakers to talk up a futuristic agenda that requires the "best and brightest" workforce, yet they turn around and cut funding to higher education. That's some message they're sending. They want highly educated workers, but they don't want to pay for them. Of course, they claim there's a reason for that.
Naturally, lawmakers would argue that declining revenues made cuts to colleges unavoidable. Yet they never stopped tax rollbacks that would have supplied more funding.

Whether it's a household or the statehouse,
people usually find money for what they deem important. Therefore, Michigan's stinting on higher ed over the years leaves little else to be said. [emphasis mine]
The scales should be falling from voters eyes: The Flint Journal earlier reported that Republicans were most responsible for these cuts.

It appears the "family values party" isn't very family friendly.