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Shocking Discovery: Spine Found in Democratic Lawmaker

Posted by ajspage on August 19, 2009

Drawing of normal backbone, absent in Democratic Lawmakers

Drawing of normal backbone, absent in Democratic Lawmakers

Shocking Discovery of Spine in Democratic Lawmaker
Researcher Denies Finding True Spine
8.18.09

A scientist in Miami made headlines today after announcing the shocking discovery of a spine in a deceased Democratic lawmaker who had donated his body to science. “We didn’t find a spine exactly,” said forensic researcher Gertrude Poll, “it was more what we would call a proto-spine.”

The discovery promises to end a long debate among researchers as to whether Democrats can, in rare instances, develop spines. Evidence to date has relied largely on anecdotes from historical reports. Until this recent discovery, a mechanism for this spinal development was unknown and based primarily on wishful thinking among voters.

Not all researchers are convinced.  “This is an interesting anomaly,” said researcher Martin Law at the University of Bonny Doone, “but the fact is that significant efforts to promote spinal growth in Democrats, in Democratic lawmakers in particular, have all failed.”

Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich

Congressman Kucinich: Balls or Spine?

For Poll’s colleague Allison Wright, the discovery is sweet vindication.  Just last December she was laughed out of a scientific session for presenting new theories on mechanisms for Democratic backbone growth.  “We have indirect evidence of spinal development in a few Democratic lawmakers — we have years of documented empirical data indicating a strong spine in Congressman Dennis Kucinich, for example – but this is the first direct proof.”

“Nonsense,” counters Law, “the proto-spine is a Revolutionary remnant, it has no potential to develop into a real backbone.”  He points to majority analyses of the Kucinich data, which suggest that the Congressman is in an entirely separate class of political animal, or that testicular rather spinal fortitude is the underlying cause.

Yet a third species of political animal, Homo G.O.P. Rushensis, exhibits strong, rigid spines and overdeveloped testes, or “balls”, that grow so unchecked, they can crowd out brain matter.

“In some cases,” commented a scientist who insisted on remaining anonymous, “the rectal regions become so invasive, Homo G.O.P. Rushensis develops into a complete and total a%#hole.”  To date, no one has discovered how this transformation occurs, but evidence points to proximity to electromagnetic radiation from broadcasting equipment.

*Warning:  Satire above, not actual news article*

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Healthcare Reform: Single-payer vs. Public Option Redux

Posted by ajspage on July 26, 2009

You’re being eaten alive by wolves, and you spy your escape over a high wall.

Do you,
1) give it all you’ve got and get over the wall to save your life, or
2) plan to climb only part way up the wall, figuring you’ll eventually get the rest of the way there. Never mind the wolves. Or gravity.

Analogy choice #1 is single payer.
Analogy choice #2 is the public option.

Guess who the wolves are.

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Obama Orders Insurance Companies to Stop Humanitarian Work

Posted by ajspage on July 2, 2009

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President Obama holds for an insurance representative

Obama Orders Insurance Companies to Stop Humanitarian Work
Savings to Pay for Reforms
07.01.09

HARTFORD – In a move that shocked Republicans and threatened to alienate hopelessly timid Progressives, President Obama announced today that under pressure from his administration, insurance companies have agreed to end all humanitarian work and concentrate on their core mission of delivering insurance coverage to sick policyholders.

“We’ve heard of too many cases of insurance claims adjusters putting customers on hold for long periods of time while they distribute mosquito netting to destitute AIDS orphans,” said a White House Spokesperson. “Lost claims, incorrect denials, lengthy appeals — those will be a thing of the past as adjusters give the business of health insurance their undivided attention again.”

“We can’t have health insurance employees trying to answer customer calls while protecting refugee children from rebel sniper fire in Sudan,” said Obama. “One customer was put on hold for over 45 minutes.” In another case, an adjuster helping Iraqi land mine victims fell onto his computer after a roadside bomb attack and wiped out 30 claims with a single keystroke. “Those people had to resubmit all of their paperwork,” said the President. “No wonder our system is so expensive.”

A spokeswoman for the insurance companies acknowledged the historic agreement but denied that the industry’s commitment to humanitarian work compromises customer service. “We can do both,” said Kelly Iguana, “Our employees get into this business to help sick people. We can’t tell them to ignore their consciences when they have the power to do the right thing. That wouldn’t just be wrong, it would be evil.”

Quoting I.F. Stone, Ms. Iguana added, “The essence of tragedy is not the doing of evil by evil men but the doing of evil by good men, out of weakness, indecision, sloth, inability to act in accordance with what they know to be right.”

The mood in the halls of one insurance giant ranged from sadness to rage. “I think this is wrong,” said grievance coordinator Margot Hill. “Who is going to offer this kind of humanitarian aid now? The government? Non-profits?” She didn’t think her frequent trips to Central Africa to pull 3-foot-long worms from the blisters of Guinea worm disease victims took anything away from sick Americans. “We’re all better off when terrible diseases are brought under control,” she said.

Lawmakers have known for years that administrative expenses because of private insurers cost upwards of $450 billion a year, most of it unnecessary. These changes are slated to save at least $1 trillion every three years, in addition to the money saved by not treating insurance company employees for diseases they contract on humanitarian missions. Opponents argue that savings will be offset as doctors get sick more often from seeing patients instead of doing insurance paperwork.

*Warning: Satire above (not actual news article)*:

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WHAT’S HE SMOKING? Healthcare Reform Hinges on Obama Thinking Like a Non-Smoker

Posted by ajspage on June 25, 2009

President Obama demonstrates the neat little box around him that keeps this baby safe from third-hand smoke

President Obama demonstrates the imaginary box around him that smokers believe keeps this baby safe from third-hand smoke

I watched the televised White House infomercial on healthcare reform last night, and it occurred to me that the President is thinking like a smoker. Whether he’s quit the habit or not, we won’t get real reform until he starts thinking like a non-smoker.

You see, he wants reform that provides high quality care for all Americans, saves money and saves … money. But … BUTT… only if he doesn’t have to change anything for people who are happy with their current employer-provided insurance, i.e., mostly people who have never truly needed their coverage. (And people who work for Google. But let’s face it, we can’t all work for Google.)

This whole situation is reminiscent of restrictions on smoking, in the beginning. Smokers had a RIGHT, goddammit. So the rulemakers said, “If you like what you’re doing, no one is going to make you change, you go right on smoking where you are. We’ll just make these special non-smoking sections for everyone else so they can breathe.” Which of course didn’t work very well because only smokers think the smoke stays in a nice little box around them and doesn’t end up in everyone else’s hair, clothing and lungs.

Smoking rates (first-hand and second-hand) — and attendant cancer rates — didn’t really drop off until rulemakers finally got tough and made rules that guaranteed clean air in public spaces for everyone. Smokers can always take it somewhere else, but everyone else — especially workers, children, and people trying to kick the habit — everyone else suffers the consequences if they don’t.

Herein lies a core problem with the President’s healthcare reform proposal. Predicating reform on the requirement that those who don’t want anything to change must be allowed keep their employeer-sponsored insurance plans just as they are means we can’t clear the air, so to speak (or shovel out the barn, for a more apt analogy).

Because if we keep the existing insurance companies, we keep the $350 billion in wasted healthcare administration costs, and the billions more in profits they extract with that “wasted” paperwork. EVERYONE’S healthcare is that much more expensive. If a patient decides to spend his own money and have nothing to do with insurance companies, the extraordinary costs they foist on the system will still end up in that patient’s medical bills (and the crazymaking medical billing paperwork will still end up flooding his home and dominating his time when he is sick).

That patient can’t really opt for an insurance-free zone, where he doesn’t have to pay the odious insurance-waste-tax, because that waste will remain so long as private insurers remain.

In the forum tonight, President Obama talked about involving all the players: doctors, patients, insurance companies… But doctors and patients are necessary parts of the healthcare system, insurance companies are not, and they should not be afforded the same voice in reform because of their role in bringing our system to its knees.

People have to ask themselves: if your loved one needs expensive, life-saving medical care, and you are given a choice, would you, a) choose to err on the side of giving it to them, even if no one is 100% sure it will be worth it in the end, or b) choose to instead give the money to an insurance company to hire a bunch of paper pushers to screw a whole lot of people just like you for their profits?

Let me say it again: At least $350 billion wasted every year because of private insurance bureaucracy. What part of saving AT LEAST a trillion dollars in three years without spending a cent less on care don’t we understand?

Single-payer is working all over the world. In democracies. In democracies that have far better healthcare access and outcomes than we have. Even though, in most cases, they smoke more. Imagine that.

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Sorry, I just CAN’T (Support a Public Option for Healthcare Reform)

Posted by ajspage on June 23, 2009

I’ve been getting pleas from MoveOn.org to support healthcare reform in the form of a public option that competes with private insurance.  Today, Senators Schumer, Leahy and Durbin blogged about it on the Huffington Post, asking people to sign an online petition to support a public option.

Here’s why I can’t.  (In addition to my latest post on this blog.)

I can’t sign on to a public option, because fighting for a reform that is doomed to failure is worse than doing nothing.

I heard today that proponents of the public option are dismissing a counter proposal by Conservatives to use local insurance co-ops instead.  This is an option that has actually been shown to work in places like Grand Junction, Colorado, where they provided universal coverage, saved money, and got better results (as featured on June 19th Science Friday, NPR radio).  An important aspect of Grand Junction’s reform was to insure everyone with a single, non-profit insurance “co-op” — they never used the word “single-payer”, but that’s essentially what they enacted.  The physician guest from Grand Junction made the point that if government requires everyone to purchase insurance, the insurance must be not-for-profit.

Look, I have no illusions that Republicans proposed regional single-payers-by-another-name.  But if they’re proposing co-ops, that’s what has been shown to work, and that’s what we need to counter with. We should be making the hard black-and-white fiscal arguments.  Ultimately, saving huge amounts of money for our country and freeing our businesses from the extraordinary burden that insurance companies foist on the system, our businesses, and our workers will convince real Conservatives — and there’s no convincing the rest, there just isn’t.  We’ve tried it their way, now let’s fight for what we know will work.

If the compromise is allowing regional single-payer co-ops instead of implementing a monolithic federal single-payer — that could work, too.  But it would still have to be a single-payer framework to save real money.  A public option is not single payer and will not save nearly as much money.

According to a Public Citizen study, we spend less than half of our $2.4 trillion ANNUAL health care economy on ACTUAL CARE, the rest goes to non-care expenses, largely because of private insurers.  We no longer have the luxury of clinging to tired old ideological arguments.  We have to make the case for single-payer within a private delivery system — and compromise on the specific implementation of “single-payer” if it will mean consensus — but if we can’t get that, we must fight for what we know will work.

Without the overwhelming and corrupting influence of private insurers, we will be far more free to improve on whatever system we have in the future.  The public option leaves the insurers in place to work the system to their favor again and thwart meaningful reform.  I’m not going to support squandering our big opportunity at reform.  Our country, our economy, our future, the lives of our loves ones are at stake.

Ask me — and the majority of the public who are for single-payer — to support the right reform.  Stop asking us to support watered-down reforms that won’t work.

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Healthcare Reform: Single-Payer vs. Public Option

Posted by ajspage on June 12, 2009

For the record, I have in the past touted a competing public plan, including writing to Eshoo about it.  I no longer believe it will work.
The reasons a competing public insurance plan won’t work are legion, but the most significant are:
1)  Having a competing plan will do nothing to eliminate the huge bureaucratic structure that burdens our health system to the tune of $450 billion a year, largely because of private insurers.  Doctors and hospitals will by necessity continue to maintain largely the same levels of paperwork structures to deal with private insurers that remain.
2)  This is such a monumental fight because of private insurance interests.  Leaving them at the table will mean they will not only eat our lunch again — they have already figured out how and have implemented some of those measures in the event of the most likely reforms.  They are not sitting around waiting for new rules to fight back, they are an adaptive, negative force in the system.  Their incentives do not and cannot coincide with the public interest.  If we want to be able to make incremental improvements in the future that are in the interest of the public and our nation, we need to fight this battle now, while we can, to WIN it.
3)  If insurers are forced to compete with a public option, they will find easy ways to sue the government (i.e., the US taxpayer) for anticompetitive practices.  And wearing opponents down with the legal system is insurance companies’ stock-in-trade.
4)  Philosophical opponents of reform (such as ideological right-wing) do not differentiate between any of the proposed reforms, they oppose them all.  We should be pushing the only one that has a chance of really WORKING, not setting ourselves up for failure after all this work.
I now believe a government run single-payer coverage within a private health delivery system is the only reform that can save significant costs and allow us to improve quality.
Some of the best arguments FOR single-payer can be found on http://www.pnhp.org Physicians for a National Health Plan.  Read the articles and testimonies by Dr. David Himmelstein, the Harvard doctor and professor whose group did the work that found that now over 60% of personal bankruptcies in this country are from healthcare costs and that the majority of those people had health insurance.  They have also looked at the different reform proposals to see where the cost savings are, and concluded that only single-payer coverage (within a private healthcare delivery system) will result in dramatically decreased costs while allowing universal care and improved quality.
I think the biggest fear people have in moving to single-payer (even though the care delivery system would be the same), is the fear of losing choice in their care.  Right now, choice is really the only power patients have to control quality.  You can tell them all you want that they won’t lose that, but they’ll continue to fear it unless the proposed reform demonstrates it in an obvious way.
I think we should move to single-payer with a three-tier cost/coverage structure:  the first tier that covers everyone and provides for all reasonable healthcare coverage that anyone could envision in a plan, a second tier that covers “extras” and allows more latitude to patients in choosing the avenues of their care, and a third tier that is far more expensive, but allows people even more discretion with their care choices.
In the proper implementation of the single-payer system, the first tier should actually cover everyone so well, that the other tiers eventually become unnecessary.  But some people will cling to them anyway.  And if the system isn’t implemented properly (if we get cheap and start rationing), the people who have the most fear of rationing will be able to avoid it, and still we will get the enormous savings and universal coverage overall.
I think this kind of structuring would appease much of the fear around a single-payer plan, because some people know they can always pay for “more” — and at least we will get the savings of single-payer.  And if we run up against problems, all of us in the public and medical profession can as a whole identify and demand improvements, instead of lone, sick patients and overburdened doctors fighting numerous well-armed profiteers.
A.J.

President Obama, who had the courage to stand up with a small minority of lawmakers and oppose the war in Iraq — knowing that his patriotism would be savagely attacked at a time when he had Presidential ambitions — this fearless and principled leader is for political expediency touting a watered down version of healthcare reform.  I hope he will reconsider and stand up for what is right, instead of forging a Frankensteinian-mashup that has no hope of ever running well:  tacking a public option onto the existing system.

For the record, I have in the past touted a competing public plan, including proposing the idea to my Congressional Representatives about it.  I no longer believe it will work.

We need to move to healthcare on the model of fire and police departments — any sector of the economy where citizens are uniquely vulnerable (such as when they are sick or in a life-threatening emergency) should not be subject to profiteering, because it’s just too easy to shake them down.

The reasons a competing public insurance plan won’t work are legion, but the most significant are:

1)  Having a competing plan will do nothing to eliminate the huge bureaucratic structure that burdens our health system to the tune of $450 billion a year, largely because of private insurers.  Doctors and hospitals will by necessity continue to maintain almost the same levels of paperwork structures to deal with private insurers that remain.

2)  This is such a monumental fight because of private insurance interests.  Leaving them at the table will mean they will not only eat our lunch again — they have already figured out how and have implemented some of those measures in the event of the most likely reforms.  They are not sitting around waiting for new rules to fight back, they are an adaptive, negative force in the system.  Their incentives do not and cannot coincide with the public interest.  If we want to be able to make incremental improvements in the future that are in the interest of the public and our nation, we need to fight this battle now, while we can, to WIN it.

3)  If insurers are forced to compete with a public option, they will find easy ways to sue the government (i.e., the US taxpayer) for anticompetitive practices.  And wearing opponents down with the legal system is insurance companies’ stock-in-trade.

4)  Philosophical opponents of reform (such as ideological right-wing) do not differentiate between any of the proposed reforms, they oppose them all.  We should be pushing the only one that has a chance of really WORKING, not setting ourselves up for failure after all this work.

I now believe a government run single-payer coverage within a private health delivery system is the only reform that can save significant costs and allow us to improve quality.

Some of the best arguments FOR single-payer can be found on http://www.pnhp.org Physicians for a National Health Plan.  Read the articles and testimonies by Dr. David Himmelstein, the Harvard doctor and professor whose group did the work that found that now over 60% of personal bankruptcies in this country are from healthcare costs and that the majority of those people had health insurance.  They have also looked at the different reform proposals to see where the cost savings are, and concluded that only single-payer coverage (within a private healthcare delivery system) will result in dramatically decreased costs while allowing universal care and improved quality.

I think the biggest fear people have in moving to single-payer (even though the care delivery system would be the same), is the fear of losing choice in their care.  Right now, choice is really the only power patients have to control quality.  You can tell them all you want that they won’t lose that, but they’ll continue to fear it unless the proposed reform demonstrates it in an obvious way.

I think we should move to single-payer with a three-tier cost/coverage structure:  the first tier that covers everyone and provides for all reasonable healthcare coverage that anyone could envision in a plan, a second tier that covers “extras” and allows more latitude to patients in choosing the avenues of their care, and a third tier that is far more expensive, but allows people even more discretion with their care choices.

In the proper implementation of the single-payer system, the first tier should actually cover everyone so well, that the other tiers eventually become unnecessary.  But some people will cling to them anyway.  And if the system isn’t implemented properly (if we get cheap and start rationing), the people who have the most fear of rationing will be able to avoid it, and still we will get the enormous savings and universal coverage overall.

I think this kind of structuring would appease much of the fear around a single-payer plan, because some people know they can always pay for “more” — and at least we will get the savings of single-payer.  And if we run up against problems, all of us in the public and medical profession can as a whole identify and demand improvements, instead of lone, sick patients and overburdened doctors fighting numerous well-armed profiteers.

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Yes We Can! Try

Posted by ajspage on April 13, 2009

My childhood rolls through my memories in great splashes of color, camp, and change: The first footprints of man in the dust of the moon, the power of flowers and smileys and beautiful blackness, impotent fallout shelters, inexorable smallpox and polio eradications, Newlyweds and Tijuana Brass, a voting rights act with a Capitol “V”, seven overly-prepared castaways on a three-hour tour, balled up Wonderbread, naked Barbies, Goldie Hawn’s bikini. All against a backdrop of grinding death — but not “war” — in Vietnam.

Mr. Spock and warp drive introduced the first glimmers of cool to geekdom, while a big green muppet living in a trashcan ushered in the social acceptability of uncivil discourse and compulsive hoarding.

It was all innocence and goading The Man, except for one great, irritating influence: the story of The Little Engine That Could. Or as it is known in the medical vernacular, It’s All In Your Head, and popularly, It’s All Your Fault.

You see, I grew up in a household where my foreign-born parents encouraged me to eat my vegetables through stories of poor, starving children in China — like my dad, and my aunts and uncles, surviving by the skin of their teeth (and some occasional tree bark) in war-ravaged Shanghai.

My parents had just survived monumental upheavals of history in which tens of millions of people died of starvation and violence through events they had no hand in and no control over.

By the worldview of this authoritative childhood allegory, these millions of extinguished voices merely lacked an appropriate psychologically-uplifting phrase to repeat in their hour of need.

Welcome to the world of infinite possibilities and crippling psychological barriers, where all things are possible if we merely try hard enough. If we merely believe.

This theme suffused nearly every film of my upbringing and beyond (I mean the films that came after the ones where the leading animal always died at the end). No matter how dangerous the obstacles, determined the enemy, or ill-prepared you The Hero are — if you try, you will win. If you believe, your team will prevail. If you build it, the ghosts of dead baseball heroes will befriend you and attract stop-and-go traffic to your cornfields.

Is this representative of reality? That all you have to do is TRY to change the world? That all you need is a little determination and you can create an industry of health”care” insurers to do nothing constructive but shake down the American public for billions in profits every year, and get them to pay hundreds of billions more for the paperwork you use to do it?**

Oh. Wait.

I get it now. Maybe sometimes we aren’t solving problems because everyone says we can’t. (That is, everyone except the leaders and majority of the public in every other industrialized nation in the world where they are getting, in most cases, better, universal healthcare on average, and in every case, for less money.) Maybe sometimes we aren’t solving problems because everyone we come across (locally) has a good reason that we can’t.

Because the tired old engines (sick people) are too, well, tired to do it. Because the big, strong, freight engines (lawmakers and businesspeople) are too busy and important. Because the shiny new engines (the wealthy) have no idea that insurance companies’ flying monkeys are going to dismantle them and scatter their parts to every corner of Oz the minute they really need their coverage.

That maybe, when a problem seems too big and complicated, sometimes our biggest barrier is overcoming the doubters and the naysayers around us. Not that it’s going to be easy to climb the mountain on a little engine. Or go to the moon in a tin can. Or rescue our Democracy by electing the first African-American President in the history of this great nation. But the journey of a thousand steps begins with, “Yes We Can!”

And we did. Let’s do it again.

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** According to a Public Citizen study, every year we spend less than half of our $2.4 trillion healthcare economy on actual care, the rest is non-care related, such as $450 billion for bureaucracy, largely due to private health insurance.

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