On One Health Care "Myth"

Republicans have attacked Obama's health care plan for, amongst other things, creating "death panels." Democrats, predictably, have responded by calling this a ridiculous scare tactic, something that of course will never happen.

The problem is, however, that the fundamental concept behind this idea has merit. And unfortunately, because of Republican attacks, a good idea may not be implemented.

Here is the viewpoint on "death panels." Killing old people is a bad idea. So don't do it. Case closed.

But reality is not that simple. The plain truth is that the enormous cost associated with caring for the elderly is slowly bankrupting our nation and its health care system. The last months of a person's life incur an enormous and disproportionate amount of spending relative to his or her lifespan. And sometimes - many times - those expenses are simply not justified; unnecessary operations and surgeries simply prolong the pain and delay the inevitable. Unplugging the machine may simply be the right thing to do - both for the nation at large and the person individually.

There is most definitely a chance of abuse and terrible wrong happening with this. There usually is. This idea is not perfect; few ideas are. The point is that it should not be immediately dismissed out of hand.

Today, with the health care plan losing popularity, Democrats are quickly backtracking from end-of-life planning. They have promised to delete the text concerning "death panels."

That is unfortunate. Excessive end-of-life treatment that does not help is a major part of our skyrocketing health care bill. If we ignore the problem, as Congress seems poised to do, it will not magically get better. Sadly, ignoring the problem increasingly looks like what is going to happen.

--Inoljt, http://thepolitikalblog.wordpress.com/

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"Downright evil" health care rationing

Following up on Charles' post about Sarah Palin's recent health care ramblings.

Right-wing fantasies about "death panels" and "downright evil" health care rationing not only distort Democratic reform proposals, they ignore the fact that medical services are rationed every day under our current system.

The difference is that insurance companies and medical providers do the rationing according to people's prior medical history and ability to pay for treatment.

It is "downright evil" that uninsured trauma patients are 50 percent more likely to die than trauma patients covered by insurance.

And that uninsured people are often denied organ transplants on the grounds that they will lack the capacity to pay for anti-rejection medications.

And that insured as well as uninsured Americans delay medical treatment for chronic illnesses because they can't pay.

And that uninsured people are much more likely than insured people to be diagnosed with"advanced cancers [...] that could have been detected early through proper screening."

And that paperwork from insurance companies, rather than a doctor's recommendation, determines a patient's timetable for cancer surgery.

And that cancer patients forgo radiation or chemotherapy if they lose their insurance.

And that insurance company bureaucrats can override a doctor's recommendation on whether a suicidal mental patient needs to be hospitalized.

And that insured as well as uninsured people can face bankruptcy or crushing debts after completing cancer treatment or care for a medical emergency.

And that an insurance company will only provide four needles a day for a 13-year-old type 1 diabetic whose doctor recommends six needles a day in order to prevent complications.

Feel free to add to this list in the comments.

UPDATE: Natasha Chart and I are on the same wavelength.

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Gas Tax Follies

I am a big fan of Paul Krugman, and generally find myself in agreement with what he says, and I have not been shy in excoriating both our candidates on some issues, such as free trade.  But I have also lived through a childhood of rationed goods, where gasoline was filled up in liter or half-liter increments, and where one stood in line to purchase kerosense in milli-leter increments.  And so, I have a psychological understanding of the consumer side of shortages that economists lack.

And so, I can say that economists (such as Paul Krugman) are missing the following point:
  In an era of shortages, the first duty of the government is to maintain order.  This takes precedence over anything else, including market theories, and Econ 101.  In order to maintain order, the government must be seen as doing something, in addition to actually doing something.  Pandering to the masses is a pre-requisite, and not a dirty word under these circumstances.

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Saving Money in all the Wrong Places

Various states are trying to solve the healthcare crises at what can only be considered the local level. New York is no exception. What follows below is an Op Ed in published in various papers in Northern New York concerning an inept state solution to healthcare expenditure that is being dictated by the insurance industry. The implications are clear at the national level. I would have so much wanted to be in the new majority to participate in bringing healthcare to every single American in my bid in the last congressional election. I only hope that new majority can resist the Insurance and Pharmaceutical industries:  

The "R" word is now out in the open. Healthcare has been rationed on the ability to pay for decades. It is an immoral abomination that has been tolerated for years because it was easy for the vast majority, who had access to healthcare, to look the other way. Now that majority, who found it so easy ignore the problem, is going find out what it is to be denied access to the very healthcare that they take for granted.

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Diaries

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