Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why doesn't the Times write about this?

This comment on the Times website uncovers another reason for the high cost of health insurance and details how to deal with it:

Why is the root cause of high cost not being addressed? Insurance companies just get a discount from whatever the hospitals charge. A hospital Charge Master List is 4, 5 sometimes 6 times cost, and these inflated charges are what the uninsured and underinsured have to pay. The gold standard for pricing is what Medicare pays the hospital, doctor etc., for a particular procedure as defined by the CPT code. Insurance companies pay about 124% of that, still providing a handsome profit for the providers, who are mainly non-profit, don't pay Federal Income Tax and don't have to produce books to prove what charity work they provide, what donations they receive or what they pay their officers (a lot!).When you think abou it, your premiums to insurance companies just provide you with membership in a group that has negotiated lower prices than the inflated charges on the hospital Charge Master list, typically a 65 to 70% discount. That still leaves the hospitals and doctors (usually supplied by a Management company, except for Kaiser and a few others) whopping profits.When my daughter spent a month in hospital and incurred a $265,000 bill, the first billing person I spoke to offered a 50% discount, later increased to 55%. Since the hospital cost was proven to be only around $60,000, they could easily offer huge disounts and still make 100 to 200% profit. After I unearthed $50,000 of completely fraudulent billing, the hospital finally settled for less than $20,000. Another hospital in the same chain had been fined $6.5 Million that same year for Medicare fraud but only after a whistle blower took action.It's no good just going after the Insurance companies (although their act does need cleaning up). The clean-up has to start with the organizations who charge ridiculous and unwarranted prices in the first place, and whose prices unfailingly rise every fiscal year by about 7% regardless of inflation. Publlic options, reining in Insurance companies - it's all hot air until the basic cause of high and increasing initial costs is fully addressed. Hospitals are abusing their non-profit status, and defrauding the tax payers of USA.Incidentally 2 courts in USA have approved uninsured patients paying only what insurance companies would pay, as the normal fee that hospital habitually accept. If you want to analyze your hospital bill, get a detailed bill with CPT codes and contact and fight, fight, fight! I got the doctors' bill reduced from $18,000 to $8,000 in this way also, as well as outside lab bills reduced from $7000 to $3000. (from Mike Walter of San Diego)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Times stories about recommendations for less cancer screening

I think these new medical guidelines would be easier to accept if the various panels and study groups came up with numbers for false positives and went into more detail about the damage that too much testing does to people's lives. That's the missing piece here. The only number we have is the ONE--that's the one person out of almost 2,000 whose breast cancer might not be discovered in time if women between 40 and 50 don't have mammograms. What we need to know is at least some approximation of how many people have their lives disrupted for no good reason when over-testing is the rule. How many people have unnecessary surgery, por ejemplo. And in the case of cervical cancer, how many young women have had trouble in childbirth, maybe, as a result of unneeded pap smears.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Today's letter to The New York Times

Has there ever been a more blatant giveaway of taxpayer money than these latest "health reform" or "patient protection" bills? All these new taxes and higher premiums are being created to shore up the insurance companies' bottom lines. Why do we, as a nation, have that obligation? I thought capitalism was a system in which you take your chances--you can make it big or you can fall by the wayside. Yet somehow (hmm, wonder why?) insurance companies have been enshrined in our system as untouchable, much better protected than the people's health and seemingly more deserving of protection. Their stockholders and their executives are being paid millions on the backs of the American people. There has to be a way to stop this. Is there not one patriot in our government who will do it?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Nice going, New York Times

Can't stop at the post below, now that I notice that the Times has not only managed to create a "fierce battle between the generations" within AARP but has also managed to win the story a place in the top-ten emailed category. And it's swill! Never a mention of how everyone in every other industrialized country has health care without any age group having to give up any part of their care. And every other country spends at the very most (Switzerland) 61 percent of what we spend per person. Why is that? BECAUSE THE INSURANCE COMPANIES ARE ALLOWED TO STEAL MONEY FROM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. Simple? Yes. So why can't the Times tell us this? Why can't it include the information on how other countries manage to provide health care at such a low cost in every health care news story? This, as Bob Somerby says, is the way it is in North Korea. People aren't allowed to know what is happening in the rest of the world. Does the Times think they publish in North Korea? Or is there something else going on? You tell me.

How utterly wrong this is!

How completely infuriating! The New York Times says the old are being asked to sacrifice health care for the middle-agers and so are the young, who don't really need insurance but will have to get it. This is total hogwash. Or at least it should be. It's the insurance companies, who have run wild with profits on sickness and denying care, who should be sacrificing here AND the doctors who are, for example, prescribing drugs and tests and then profiting by them. How dare the government let these two groups go on amassing their ill-gotten gains while the rest of us pay? Down with capitalism!! Let's try democracy, as Michael Moore puts it, or some kind of democratic socialism as a financial system anyway.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

No one fought the madness

It's important to remember that Democrats and centrists and even "reasonable people" (especially if they're in the press) bear at least half of the responsibility for this hideous political climate we are mired in. The Repugs attack; the Dems fall back instead of fighting back. It's come to this: A poster with Obama in full witch-doctor gear, touting Obamacare. Racist, yes. But would they have been gentler with Hillary if she'd won? No, they would have attacked just as viciously (they certainly have in the past) but in other terms--harridan, dyke, murderess, whatever.... These people have been getting away with this monstrous behavior at least since Bill Clinton's presidency. It's become not just a part of who they are, it is all that they are. And yet they're still treated as a functioning political party and ideology in the press, on TV, in the halls of Congress, even in the White House. It's gotten so bad it's hard to even read the news, let alone react. I admire those who go on fighting, but I'm finding it hard to be at all involved. I thought when Obama was elected we'd be safe from this depravity. But it just gets worse and worse.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

terms of endearment

When the New York Times says,..."a number of prominent conservatives say critics have been smeared" by being called racists in their attacks on Obama, and then quotes Rush Limbaugh, I just, frankly, don't know what to think. Do they consider Rush Limbaugh a "prominent conservative"? As far as I can tell, he's a prominent lunatic, and very obviously, just according to things he's actually said on his actual radio program a prominent racist. So what do they mean by quoting him as if he's a perfectly reasonable opposition figure? This is a step that's very far down the slipperly slope to total, fascistic chaos, and an editor at the Times either let it go by or inserted it him/herself.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

from The Pen (

"What Obama did more than anything else last Wednesday night was throw
down the gauntlet to US, standing in the way of real single payer
reform. He said as bluntly as possible, for those with ears to hear,
that if you want single payer you will have to fight HIM, to go
through HIM. For his real constituents in this are NOT YOU, they are
the medical industry special interests, in that way just like George
Bush served only the upper class, and we might as well face up to it
now. Because for him to even suggest that a silly new insurance
"market" would give you as a medical care consumer any negotiating
leverage comparable to single payer, with each of us out there still
forced to bargain all alone by ourselves, is absurdity on steroids."

Face it, people, you've been scammed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

on the eighth anniversary of 9/11

From the talking dog (.com)"...but as a psychic matter, realize that we are hardly passive victims... we are still members of the most powerful society that has ever existed, and can, if nothing else, publicly express our outrage at what has been done in our names. Well, some of us can, anyway.

We can, for example, express our outrage that purported Constitutional Law teacher Barack Obama proposes to be the first President to introduce a bill providing for "preventive detention" to Congress (the arch-reactionaries Coburn and Graham love it). OK: I expressed mine."

And now I've expressed mine. It might not help but it behooves us to do so.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

O NY Times you do make me mad!

"Bioethicist Becomes a Lightning Rod for Criticism
Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, President Obama's special health
care adviser, has come to personify the most intense
attacks on the president's plan."

No he does NOT personify the attacks; he personifies the complaints. If he personified the attacks, he would be an attacker.

And how about today's story about "the respectful questioners
like Bob Collier -- those expressing discomfiting fears and
legitimate concerns -- may have the most impact" on the health care debate. This is a man who fears his wife might have to wait in line for care if everyone had health care. This is a legitimate concern? Please. He thinks only his wife deserves care, no one else (apparently). The whole issue is so revolting. Where is Obama? On the Vineyard, cavorting with the stars, all of whom presumably have no health care problems.

Monday, August 17, 2009

At Last!

An oped piece by Richard Dooling, author of the novel Critical Care, reminds us of all the money spent on "people who will never leave the hospital." People, in other words, who are very old and mostly unconscious, who nevertheless receive intensive, incredibly expensive care--one more procedure, one more surgery, one more "life-saving" device. And if that were eliminated (or at least curbed) there would be more than enough money to pay for children's health care (about 8 million children don't have it). Can we ever agree to some kind of health-care "rationing" for old people? I hope so, but I think what this guy leaves out is the need to change attitudes. A whole different way of looking at old age is necessary--an end to this desperate attempt to hold on to "life" at any cost, even if it's a "you call this living?" kind of life.

People I know pay at least lip service to the idea that they don't want to live forever at any cost, that they don't want their doctors to "strive officiously to keep [them] alive." But they do seem awfully involved with health services. I think I've heard of one other person who refused Lipitor, for instance, as I did. Oh how I loved the quote in Dooling's piece from "Sir William Osler, widely revered as the father of modern medicine." who said, “One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicine.” Probably I'm being unfair because I've been so lucky and so healthy. We'll see sometime, I'm sure, whether I actually refuse medicine, etc. that I think is excessive when I'm sick.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Protests Flare in Tehran as Opposition Disputes Vote

That's the headline on the lead story in The Times today. Oddly,it seems to me this is how a free people react to a stolen election. Will they settle down and "get over it"? Probably they'll be forced to by the authorities, but at least they'll remember that their votes were taken from them. In the past, we've felt superior to voting riots in places like Iran. Anymore,not so much. Americans simply laid down and let the vote stealers have the White House. And look what happened. Really I'm not sure which way is better, as long as the Army follows the powers that be and not the people. And I'm not sure an Army that thinks for itself is the best solution. Especially with all the arms our population has.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

How can this be?

I see that Obama has appointed some woman to HHS' Office of Faith-based Initiatives who is not only anti-choice but anti-birth control. I'm at a loss to even respond to this, which supposedly is to help us all achieve some absurd notion of Common Ground. As far as I'm concerned, the choice position is common ground. Women get to CHOOSE what they want to do with their bodies--they want a child, fine; they want an abortion, fine. Who else's business is it? I never feel this is put clearly enough: Pregnancy is a unique condition calling for unique response. A living thing grows inside another living thing; it can't live w/o that container but that container is just as alive and much more independent than the foetus, so obviously the "mother" has first priority. I know these anti-choice people do understand the point; they just prefer to ignore it so they can have control over women. I would expect all of us to lose our marbles one of these days over these outrageous anti-choice people and just fall to the ground kicking and screaming, frothing at the mouth and screaming What the F do they want? But Obama, appointing such a woman... I'm speechless and frothing at the mouth simultaneously.

The Health Industry

Why in god's name we the people of the United States should be forced to continue supporting the health insurance companies and their stockholders, I do not understand. How can they expect that? Capitalism, fine (I guess), but this monumental greed is not supportable. Life and death issues should not be subject to the profit motive. But another story in the Times inspires me to wonder, why can't people just kill themselves when they get very old and sick? Their aging children absolutely ruin their own lives taking care of their parents, whose lives are not exactly fun either. Maybe there should be some public option for people like this but I'm betting a lot of them wouldn't go to a nursing home of any kind anyway. I do understand this death option would have to be a bit sub rosa, but couldn't it be made a little bit easier? I know no one wants to talk about it publicly, but we all talk about it privately all the time, it seems to me, after we reach un certain age, no?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It's a sickness

Why is it that we haven't heard (in the mainstream press anyway) the word sadism in connection with our torturing leaders? To my mind, it's the only word that explains their behavior. All the evidence (not to mention the law) weighs (and weighed) against their use of torture. When those memos were first written, when the government first started treating human beings like dirt, everyone already knew the facts. These "techniques" were illegal throughout the world, they didn't work, they put our own troops in jeopardy, they were viewed by civilized people as anathema--on and on it goes--plus they'd been getting good information by other means. Cherchez la raison, oui? Sadism is all I can think of. They got their rocks off, I think is the technical term, by knowing people were forced to submit to such "techniques" by their order. Isn't that what we assume went on, often at least, with the Nazis? These people either lived through the Second World War or had read about it, surely. Whether they knew it was torture or not is not an open question. It's hideously sick and they need treatment, although it's probably way too late for them to change.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Oh Please

Who cares if the torture worked or not? It doesn't matter. The law, the Geneva Conventions and our own law, doesn't talk about practicality--does it work or doesn't it? Torture is forbidden period. If we're a nation of laws, we must obey them, even at the risk of annihilation. Because basically a civilization is destroyed as much by acts of torture as by acts of terror. And so, here's another question, where is the ABA in this? Why aren't they starting disbarment proceedings for their members, like Gonsalez and Bybee, who not only condoned but excused this behavior.

Monday, April 20, 2009

On teabag protests from Hullabaloo

Nevermind that the entire teabag protest was less than 10% of the number of Americans who protested the Bush/Iraq war in February of '03. Nevermind that Stephanopolous, if not others, covered the international protests in '03 but deliberately ignored the huge domestic rallies. Nevermind that there was no followup from the mainstream media of any kind on these protests except to systematically minimize the number of attendees until they shrank to what Bush described as a few guys from Berkeley. While the lunatic, hapless, teabaggers are significant, the far larger segment of the American people who opposed Bushism when it mattered (and whose opposition was intelligent and prescient) were invisible. And still are, for the most part, when it comes to the mainstream media.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Read It and Weep

The Times on Mexico's Drug War (today's piece). If stories like this don't make it clear that the current approach to stopping drug cartel crime cannot work, what will? How can Obama go on joking about the legalization of marijuana when, clearly, that's the only thing that has a prayer of stopping the violence. As long as there's money in it, a lot of money, the cartels will go right on fighting. The War isn't working. The only alternative is legalization. But I hope everyone who's smokes a joint from time to time gets it--you're fueling the violence. Even the Times doesn't quite come out and say that, but it's clearly true.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

e.e. cummings I love you (an excerpt)

Humanity i love you
because you would rather black the boots of
success than enquire whose soul dangles from his
watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both
parties and because you
unflinchingly applaud all
songs containing the words country home and
mother when sung at the old howard

and the beat goes on...

Who would have thought there'd still be so much to be outraged about (even after Bush has finally left the White House)? Well, what about Obama's intelligence appointment being stopped because of his "anti-Israeli" position (that means the guy doesn't follow the AIPAC line)? What about the idea of sending troops to the border to control a drug war that is totally equipped by American gun dealers? (Not to mention fueled by huge American demand.) And when Obama has the temerity to say he'll think about it, commenters on the story online make fun of that idea. I guess the US is so used to having non-thinking leaders that they don't know what to make of such a comment. Will we ever recover from this idiot dialogue that's in place in the atmosphere? No sooner does someone in the administration admit to nuance and subtlety than he or she is attacked for... what? Wimpiness, socialist tendencies, preferring other countries' citizens to our own... whatever.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Say this for the Repugs

When they are elected, they try to carry out the wishes of those who elected them. Not so the Dems. Harry Reid is apparently just as spineless now as when Dems were in the minority; can't even seem to get the stimulus bill brought to a vote. And what about all the confirmations? Who cares what the Repugs say about them--a pro-choice stance should be a disqualifier indeed. How about just getting Obama the staff he's chosing without anymore posturing? This is getting to be a total scandal.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Isn't that what they all say?

Charles Fried in the New York Times today on why Bush et al should not be prosecuted, "...our leaders were defending their country and people — albeit with an insufficient sense of moral restraint — against a terrifying threat by ruthless attackers with no sense of moral restraint at all." That's why our leaders differ from Hitler and Stalin and Mao, he says. But hey, didn't they say the same thing, more or less? Weren't they also defending... etc.? That's why we have the rule of law because otherwise it just depends on where you're standing as to what is legal and what isn't. Charles Fried, you should know better.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Out of Lewis Carroll

This is truly Through the Looking Glass--the whole untenable position taken by apologists for Israel--It's the Palestinians' fault; it's Hamas's fault; it's [fill-in-the-blank with anyone but Israeli policy]. So are the dead babies at fault here? Are the dead mothers and fathers and children at fault? I don't think so. Look at it: the death and destruction going on in Gaza is caused by the Israeli military. No one else. Don't look away. Is this what you like supporting? The Jews are killing innocent people by the hundreds. How to stop it? Just stop. Hamas is not killing babies. It's totally within the power of the Israeli government to Just Stop It. No more dead innocents--except those who die because they live in Gaza--but Israel can stop that too by allowing more supplies in. I am overcome with the horror of it all.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

point of contention

They keep saying that America was "kept safe" by the still-current administration since 2001, so therefore whatever tactics they used worked, so we mustn't even dream of prosecuting them for such details as rendition, torture, wiretapping etc. However they forget that more than 4,000 Americans did die during this period, in the wars they started, many more than were killed on 9/11. So how does all that compute? Arrest, indict, prosecute and send to jail--all these hideous co-conspirators such as Cheney, Bush, Feith and so on--is my advice.

The Horrors of Gaza

There's no way to say anything bad enough about Israel's War on Gaza. Four little children lying near their mothers' dead bodies, too weak to get up? And Israel's response to the civilian carnage is to say that Hamas is using civilians as human shields? But if they know that, then how can they attack? Are they totally mad, at long last? These people do not act as Jews are supposed to act, to put it mildly. They don't act as humans are supposed to act. They've turned into monsters. And to what end? Do they really think all this killing will make Israel safer? If so, they're stupid as well. When have tactics like this ever worked? Never in history. It simply makes more of the civilian population side with Hamas, when they're attacked by Israelis. Somehow (I suppose because they want to believe it) the Israels expect complicated, sophisticated judgment and behavior from a Palestinian populace that is being brutalized by Israeli forces. It's never worked before; it won't work now. They're crazy, hideously cruel and grotesque, in their actions and their thinking.