Sunday, October 25, 2009

After reading “Weiner's Amendment Breathes 45,000 Lives into HR3200” I was not surprised it was written by some chick named Donna Smith. Women do make up for 60% of the Democratic vote, and are (stereotypically) known for being bleeding hearts, who want the world to be a wonderful place, where everyone is happy and healthy. A beautiful sentiment, of course, and something we all would want. But, to apply this to healthcare? To apply this to the government? Does she not realize the implications of all this? More importantly do Rep Weiner and Senator Sanders know the ramifications of universal or social healthcare?

Let’s pretend for a moment we were to have the public option or the single-payer system, or rather let’s look at someone who already has it: our happy neighbor, Canada, eh. They have universal or socialized healthcare. In Canadian system, everyone is insured. But, there is a problem with that. It costs the Canadian government to insure all 33,739,859 of their citizens. (According to the US Population clock, we are at about 307,781,377as of 1:20 PM, Central time on 10/25/09. Canada has 1/9th of our population.) So, with this in mind, whenever any of the 33.7 million people in Canada have a stomach ache, or a cough or get into a car accident, they all can go straight to the doctor’s and it will be on the house. Do you really think it is all that easy for them? Canadian born and raised David Gratzer held “the belief that government-run health care was truly compassionate. What I knew about American health care was unappealing: high expenses and lots of uninsured people. When HillaryCare shook Washington, I remember thinking that the Clintonistas were right.”

Then, one day Gratzer in Winnipeg “cut across the hospital emergency room to shave a few minutes off [his] frigid commute. Swinging open the door, [he] stepped into a nightmare: the ER overflowed with elderly people on stretchers, waiting for admission. Some, it turned out, had waited five days. The air stank with sweat and urine. Right then, [he] began to reconsider everything that [he] thought [he] knew about Canadian health care. [He] soon discovered that the problems went well beyond overcrowded ERs. Patients had to wait for practically any diagnostic test or procedure, such as the man with persistent pain from a hernia operation whom we referred to a pain clinic—with a three-year wait list; or the woman needing a sleep study to diagnose what seemed like sleep apnea, who faced a two-year delay; or the woman with breast cancer who needed to wait four months for radiation therapy, when the standard of care was four weeks.” The population of Winnipeg is 648,000. The population of the greater Austin, Texas area is 1,652,602. Often times Canadians diagnosed with cancer flock to the US to get treatment. Treatment the Canadian government will not provide because it claims the said treatment has not been proven, the same treatment passed by the FDA. So, lets pretend Canada did green light that treatment, the patient would still have to wait months to receive care on a very time sensitive illness.

Let us not dwell on the problems with another nation though. Let’s look here, at home. Where, private insurance companies charge high prices, and doctor visits have steep premiums. Well, doctors have to charge high premiums because of their malpractice insurance. Thanks to frivolous lawsuits, doctors have to pay thousands for their malpractice insurance, not to mention the practice/hospital has to make money so it can continue to function, and the doctor also has to make a profit himself so he can continue to function. The insurance companies have to foot a majority of the bill for doctor visits, surgeries and medication. Let us look at someone with a chronic illness (meaning it cannot be cured) that is not fatal. Multiple Sclerosis is a degenerative illness that breaks down the neurological system. Well, to be diagnosed with MS, you must go to a neurologist, and get an MRI, which run about $800. Then after the confirmed diagnosis, it costs about $8-12K a year. With MS, one must get their blood checked every few months to be sure their medication hasn’t wrought destruction on their liver, as well as an annual MRI to measure the progression of the disease. Let’s change to a one time expenditure. Let’s say someone gets shot, and their lung collapses. The surgery would cost around $50K. But, it is in fact, not a one time expenditure. You have the post-op visits and the pain medication that follows.

Another problem would be the tax increase with universal healthcare. Yes, the President Obama has said he will not raises taxes to pay for the reform, but this is not reform, but something entirely different, and let us not forget: it is not the president that decides if taxes go up or down, but Congress; the House and Senate Finance Committees to be exact. They would have to raise the taxes to pay for this, or face devaluing the dollar to equal that of the Peso as well totally overfill the deficit. But, we are in an economic low point, and cannot afford this. So, there is also that on the table.

Healthcare would not cost as much without the frivolous law suits. Simple as that. And, let us not demonize the insurance companies for turning a profit. It is a business. That is what they are there for. They would not exist if it was not to make a profit. And, yes, many doctors get in the game to help people, but they also get in it for money. They too want to make six to seven figures a year.

But, I digress. Universal healthcare for the US would in fact allow for many people to now become insured, but the quality of care and the waiting lines for care, they are better off in the current system and going to a free clinic. Yes, our system does need reform, but not complete revolution to an entirely different system. No matter how you cut it, there has to be poor for there to be the rich. There has to be the ugly for there to be the beautiful. And, there has to be day in order for there to be light. So, it is a hard truth that in our fair country, there will be the unemployed, the disenfranchised and the uninsured. It is a sad thing, but some will die and some will live. We cannot help everyone. It is not to say that they are unworthy, and deserve to die. But, we just cannot. Now, if private groups and private charities want to get in the game and help out with the uninsured that is a whole other story. All in all, Miss Donna needs to understand how the government works, as well as how the world works.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Taking the Student Loan Bill to Class

Oh, Gail Collins is such a well intended and sweet woman. Too bad she doesn’t understand all of the ramifications of the House proposed “student loan bill” she is pushing in her Op-Ed piece. Yes, it is a great idea to simplify the current student loan system by consolidating all the steps into the one, a step she described simply as: “the federal government makes the loans.” Meaning the 3 previous steps of “Federal government provides private banks with capital, federal government pays private banks a subsidy to lend that capital to students, federal government guarantees said loans so the banks don’t have any risk” are gone. And, yes that is a rather round-about system, but the new one would cause for many, many more students seeking financial aid, since they no longer have to go through the process of getting approved for the loan from a private bank. Many more students. That means more money will be given. Millions of dollars that were not spent before will be spent if the bill passes. And, as Ms Collins pointed out so well, “the central problem with financing higher education is that tuition keeps running ahead of the rate of inflation like Secretariat closing in the Belmont.” Good public schools, (good, not great or amazing) cost as much as a mediocre private school and good private schools cost an arm and a leg. And one needs not even look at the cost of great or amazing public or private schools. All they need to know is it will take at least six figures to graduate. And, since the cost of all these schools is going up every year, the federal government will be spending more, and more every year.

               That is wonderful news for the students, but where will the federal government get the money? Both, the House and Senate Finance and Appropriations committees will have to get together, and sit in a room with the door closed to discuss where in the federal budget that money will come from. Will taxes be raised? They can’t be to cover this. They will already be raised to cover health care reform, as well as whatever other reform bills that have actually managed to stay on the table. The National Endowment for the Arts has about 125 million, can it come from there? Well, if my memory serves correctly, all of Europe and Japan spend between 1.5 and 3 billion on the arts. There is a connection between progress of a society and progress in the Arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo Da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was the age of Shakespeare. We need to give the NEA more money, but that is another story, and we will live to fight another day. What about getting it from the DOD? Do they really need 400 dollar ash trays? Well, the ashtrays on the USS Greenville, a nuclear attack submarine and a likely target for torpedo attack, are made to break into 3 dull pieces. Those on the Greenville have enough problems without glass flying into the eyes of the navigator and the Officer of the Deck. They lead a slightly different life out there, and it costs a little extra. No money should be taken from the Department of Defense.
  In fact, I cannot even think of a good place to get the money. Where in the federal budget can we can about 100-500 million dollars for this? If someone can tell me, and Ms Collins, that would be amazing. But, for now she needs to not commentate on pieces of legislation she does not understand. She does not know the socioeconomic ramifications or the political nuances involved with this bill, and neither do I. No one individual does. Only the Appropriations and Finance committees