Tuesday, July 21, 2009


While the people of this country clamor for the Change that We Need (and were promised in the last election), Congress is busy making deals with the very people whose greed and contempt for the American citizenry caused the problems in our current health care system. The healthcare, pharmaceutical and insurance industries are paying up big time to bend ears and rules their way.

This is completely unacceptable and we all have to do something about it. Who cares if they pass any healthcare bill at all? Whatever they pass will not be the right answer to our problems, it will be the right compromise to continue the current unacceptable system.

The people of this country are aware that the system is broken.

We are aware that changes must be made.

We are being bombarded with propaganda from the healthcare and insurance industries about what change will work and what change won’t. And yet, consistently, polls show that the American public supports a government-run system of healthcare over the current proposals in Congress, which focus more on changing insurance regulations.

We know we are about to get screwed when we read articles like the one published in today’s Washington Post, “Industry Cash Flowed To Drafters of Reform.” (The title of this post is a link to the article-just click)

The voice of the people has been excluded from the debate and the new law is being written by private interests with only a profit motive. Unacceptable.

“Health-related companies and their employees gave Baucus's political committees nearly $1.5 million in 2007 and 2008, when he began holding hearings and making preparations for this year's reform debate." Unacceptable.

“During a Senate break in late June, for example, Baucus held his 10th annual fly-fishing and golfing weekend in Big Sky, Mont., for a minimum donation of $2,500. Later this month comes "Camp Baucus," a "trip for the whole family" that adds horseback riding and hiking to the list of activities." Unacceptable.

“…Friends of Max Baucus, and his political-action committee, Glacier PAC…collected $3 million from the health and insurance sectors from 2003 to 2008, about 20 percent of the total, data show. Less than 10 percent of the money came from Montana." Unacceptable.

“Many former Baucus staff members, including two chiefs of staff, lobby on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry and other health-care players and have been closely involved in negotiations on the legislation.” Unacceptable.

“Baucus and his aides strongly dispute any assertion that campaign contributions have an impact on the senator's policy views and proposals…During an interview earlier this year with the Missoulian newspaper, Baucus said that "no one gets special treatment." He added: "Your word is your bond back there." Unacceptable.

Just know this: The American People are not stupid. Members of Congress can SAY whatever they want and conveniently choose to BELIEVE anything they want, but the American people aren’t buying a word of it—not from ANY of these clowns.

And, President Obama, you said that it was the hard work, determination and small donations of people like me that helped you to get elected. If that is true, then here is some advice from someone who worked on your campaign: DANCE WITH THE ONE THAT BROUGHT YOU. You better figure out a way to pull this healthcare bill out of the crapper. Anything less than real change is Unacceptable. (Can you say “one-termer?”)


And a little sidenote to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee: Guess what? Blocked your emails. Until you can control your members and start choosing the best interests of the nation over party, you can kiss my small donations good-bye. Oh, I know; you can make up my measley funds with money from your corporate friends, but you risk losing it all again in the next election, don’t you?? YOUR ACTIONS ARE UNACCEPTABLE.

This graft and corruption is not happening behind closed doors, in back rooms or alleys, it is happening RIGHT in front of our eyes and for the television cameras. The news media is reporting it and anyone that is paying attention should be aware that Congress and Senate are FOR SALE. If the current sham of a health care plan gets passed, the people of this country will share some of the blame.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Moyers and Winship Lay it On the Line

Bill Moyers and Micheal Winship have “Some Choice Words for the ‘Select Few.’” And they lay it out brilliantly. Has anyone read this article? It’s a must-read for anyone that is having trouble grasping the reason for everything that is wrong in this country.*

Blame the illegals, blame the poor, blame the unemployed, blame the liberals, blame the conservatives, blame the religious zealots, blame the godless, blame the blacks, blame the Asians, blame the Hispanics, blame the welfare recipients, blame the younger generations, blame the environmentalists, blame the scientists, blame the feminists, blame Hollywood…have I missed anyone?
All of the above is a con man’s trick to get you to look the wrong way while the real culprits rip you off and make their getaway. BLAME THE SYSTEM.

And so, what is the answer? As with any other very large problem, there are many answers, many actions for us to take on many fronts to constructively confront the problem. But I did find one answer among the comments following this article:

Sun, 07/12/2009 - 18:05 — Damon Neal (not verified)
This problem will not go away until Congress enacts a law that repeals the 1868 Supreme Court ruling that granted "personhood" to corporations. Failing that, a group; perhaps the ACLU or MoveOn.org; could search for a case to reintroduce the issue to the Federal Court system. In 1864, former corporate lawyer Abraham Lincoln wrote, "Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed." Remember this was 4 years before the actual decision was handed down. And if you read the history of this decision, there is evidence that a clerk inserted the language and that the Supreme Court itself never actually made the specific ruling. Perhaps a there was some skullduggery at work. However it happened; it's time to de-person the corporations.

If Corporations did not share the same status in the eyes of the law as any other citizen, then the Supreme Court would not be able to find that paid lobbyists for the corporations have free speech rights to flood campaigns with money. It is not even a hidden pay-for-play scheme; it is an open bribery, as the Moyers/Winship article points out. Corporations are not people and they should not have the same rights as people do. This one change in the law could go a long way to fixing our current crisis of government corruption.

A total overhaul of the campaign system could follow on the heels of such a change. Imagine a system where every candidate starts out with the same chance and has access to the same media, etc. We might actually get some decent people with better ideas and the best interest of the country to run for office. And they might actually be able to work the will of the people once inside rather than being forced to play the corrupt system that currently exists.

On a similar note, I recently became aware of the following website. NPR decided to turn the “tables” (or the cameras) on the healthcare industry by taking pictures of the lobbyists and requesting that people identify them. Check it out here:

As many people are aware, Senator Max Baucus is at the center of crafting the supposedly “reformed” health care system. It appears as though very little, if anything, is actually going to change under Mr. Baucus’ leadership. It becomes crystal clear why that is when you take a look at the following chart, created by the Sunlight Foundation and found at the following url: http://blog.sunlightfoundation.com/2009/06/22/the-max-baucus-health-care-lobbyist-complex/

What I have pasted here is a cropped image of the actual web of bribery and corruption. Please click on the link above to see the full image (and join the Sunlight Foundation if you are so inclined).

Now, for a nice, bone-jarring overview, check out this website that lists the monies paid out by the 250 largest lobbying firms:

Who can now deny that our federal government is a corrupt organization? Everyone talks about the corruption, journalists, bloggers, interest groups and others have provided the evidence of this corruption. What are the people waiting for?

Who believes that the government will cleanse itself? If you do, please post comment below.

*I am strongly considering cancelling my online subscription to WaPo considering the obvious collusion and perversion of journalistic integrity that is going on there. I don’t pay anything for it so I am not sure that it would send any message meaningful to those in charge at the once-respected news outlet.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Can the US Senate screw up health care any more than it already is? You betcha!

I read a few articles last week in the NY Times and am finally making the time to respond. This health care debate is really the most important issue that we are facing under this new administration. If we let them get it wrong, we can potentially make things far worse than they already are.

“Senators struggled Wednesday with the possibility that in offering subsidized health insurance to millions of individuals and families, they could inadvertently speed the erosion of employer-provided coverage, which they want to preserve.”

This opening paragraph is puzzling to me. As everyone here knows, one of the PROBLEMS with our health care system is that insurance is offered through our employers. It's a problem because all employers are not mandated to offer it and it is not portable when you leave a job. Employer-sponsored health insurance is also creating a HUGE overhead expense, making it difficult for American companies to compete in an ever-growing global economy. Corporations from most other nations have no health care or insurance overhead costs.

So one would think that the best thing we could do in reforming the health care system in this country would be to move it away from being the responsibility of the employer. Instead, what the Senators have in mind is to FORCE employers to provide insurance for their employees by implementing penalties for those that don’t.

“Higher penalties are more effective in preventing the erosion of employer-sponsored coverage, the bedrock of insurance for more than 150 million Americans, the Congressional Budget Office told lawmakers.”

Won’t this effectively run some of the smaller businesses out of business entirely? Apparently, that is not a problem for our wise Senate.

Small business employs a large percentage of workers in this country and is generally a better employer to those workers than the large corporations that can afford to offer insurance. So why is it that the Senate is not concerned about the effect that this will have on small business?

And just who is the Senate trying to protect with laws like this? Not small business. Not employers in general. Not the citizenry, since employer-sponsored insurance is not portable and takes all control away from the end user and hands it to the employer. No, it is apparent that they are protecting the insurance industry at the expense of all else.

"Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas, said preserving employer-sponsored insurance ‘needs to be a huge objective.’”

But no reason is given for that. Over and over in this article it is repeated like a mantra, but no good reason is EVER given for protecting the employer-sponsored system. And if we maintain that framework, what are we really changing?

“Mr. Baucus said he and other senators wanted to minimize the chance that employees ‘may be enticed to leave their firms in order to get health insurance in the exchange.’”

This is a most cosmetic change that they seem to be fabricating instead of the real reform that we were promised and that we NEED. This kind of change will probably make things worse instead of better, ironically proving the conservative argument that government interference makes things worse. Conservative government interference DOES make things worse because it tends to interfere in the interest of some industry instead of in the best interest of the country or its citizens.

And make no mistake; even if the Congress and Senate are majority Democrats at this time, the changes as currently being discussed for our health care system are CONSERVATIVE ones in that they are based upon retaining the status quo over addressing problems with real progressive change. This article proves it.

“The budget office said: ‘The availability of subsidized coverage in the new insurance exchange would be an attractive option for many lower-income workers. As a result, some employers would decide not to offer their employees health insurance coverage, opting instead to provide other forms of compensation…In a letter to Congress three weeks ago, President Obama said small businesses “should be exempted” from any employer mandate…‘We will give assistance to small business through tax credits,’ Mr. Baucus said Wednesday…(However)…When asked about an exemption for small businesses, Mr. Baucus said: ‘We talked about it. But how much sense does that really make?’”

This is absolute insanity at a time of such high unemployment in this country. It is unbelievable that Congress would dismiss the importance of retaining jobs and small business in this country. It is NONSENSICAL.

“The United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small employers, said the proposed requirement amounted to a new tax and would frustrate the creation of jobs.”

That’s a no-brainer. Why would Congress even be considering this plan? It will not improve our health care system. It will not provide relief to businesses that are hanging on for dear life in this terrible economy. It will not save or create jobs. It will not increase the capability of American companies to compete in the global marketplace. SO WHO BENEFITS FROM THIS PLAN???

In an Op-ed piece titled, The Only Public Health Plan We Need appearing in the same edition of the NY Times, authors David Riemer and Alain Enthoven state:

“Everyone assumes that a public plan means a government-sponsored insurer that makes payments to doctors and hospitals, whether in the form of Medicare or — the latest idea — state-sponsored cooperatives. But Medicare has a dismal record of controlling costs and improving quality, and we lack evidence that co-ops could do any better.”

They go on to give no evidence to support that statement and to advocate “a mechanism” that they claim would use “free market forces” to motivate the insurance industry to provide better policies. Even if you believe in the mythical “free market,” their claims are shaky at best. They claim that a large enough pool would force the industry to increase quality and decrease cost, however that claim is in direct contrast to the one they made earlier in the article that Medicare, which insures a huge pool of people, has a lousy record of controlling prices or improving quality.

“An exchange is a key feature of the public plan we’d like to see, but it’s only one element. Two other features are needed to give an exchange the power to pressure insurers … to hold down prices and improve care.
First, the exchange would need to act on behalf of a critical mass of people — at least 20 percent of the insured population that does not already receive Medicaid or Medicare. Only a pool of this size could attract serious bids from insurers. To amass such a large purchasing pool, Congress might need to require that all government employees, or all employers with fewer than 100 employees, join the pool.
Second, the exchange would need to ensure that no subsidies for health insurance, whether provided by employers or the government (through the tax system), exceed the price submitted by the lowest-bidding qualified insurer and benefit package. All individuals in the pool would be free to join any insurer that submits a bid. But enrollees would have to pay out of pocket — and preferably with after-tax dollars — any amount above the price of the lowest-bidding plan. “

What they are describing is a system that protects the private insurance industry at every turn. They are basing their ideas on the philosophy that there is currently not enough profit being made to enable the insurance industry to cut costs, which we all know is a load of garbage. They also claim that this would in turn force hospitals and doctors to improve the quality of care and lower costs.

"How would insurers lower prices and raise quality? By passing their incentive along to doctors and hospitals. To maximize their revenue from insurance companies, doctors and hospitals would need to provide better care at a lower price — something they can accomplish only by squeezing out error, waste and inefficiency.”

Yes, error, waste and inefficiency are a problem, but some of that error, waste and inefficiency is caused by the much larger problem of corporate greed. Corporations are not people, although they are run by people. However, people who run corporations tend to make decisions based SOLELY upon what is best for the corporation and its shareholders, i.e., the bottom line is profit. If you are looking for ways to improve quality and efficiency in our health care system, you would do well to be working with people who have the same goals in mind. And private insurance companies will NOT be on that page with you because their ultimate goal will always be profit.

The error with Riemer and Enthoven’s foundational philosophy is that they believe that competition will motivate the insurance industry to look for ways to improve quality and efficiency. It won’t. Insurance companies will always have a bottom line, a handful of excuses, fingers to point and absolutely, positively no guilt or shame about what they have to do to achieve their goals. Actually past history of “free market’ in this country shows that companies from the same industries will collude with each other to set prices at a level that will enable them to obtain a substantial profit for their shareholders. So there really is no motivation for them to improve the quality of the product they are selling.

And, finally, there is another subject that pops up regularly when discussing the health care issue: curbing health care-related litigation. Nicholas Kristoff, of whom I am a big fan, while advocating a single-payer system in his column in the same issue of the NY Times, made this statement:

“I don’t mind the A.M.A. lobbying on behalf of doctors in the many areas where physicians and patients have common interests. The association is dead right, for example, in calling for curbs on lawsuits, which raise medical costs for everyone. An excellent study published in 2006 in The New England Journal of Medicine found that for every dollar paid in compensation as a result of lawsuits against doctors, 54 cents goes to legal and administrative costs…Moreover, aggressive law leads to defensive medicine, in the form of extra medical tests that waste everybody’s money. Tort reform should be a part of health reform.”

Accepting the statistic quoted in the New England Journal of Medicine at face value as a valid statistical fact, that fact alone is not enough information upon which to base the conclusion that Mr. Kristoff leaps to, which is that we need to restrict the constitutional right of redress that comes to us from as far back as English Common Law. Mr. Kristoff might be unaware of a few other facts that play into that statistic.

The insurance industry, which we have established as being motivated purely by profit, has set up a system that does not allow doctors to admit medical mistakes, denies all claims of medical error, and is so adamant about NOT paying for ANY error that it is willing to pay lawyers hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to limit any eventual award to a mere few thousand dollars. Because they REFUSE to admit any liability in even the most egregious cases of medical error or negligence, the malpractice industry, NOT MALPRACTICE VICTIMS, are driving up the cost of medicine for everyone.

If insurance companies were willing to admit to and pay for the mistakes that are made, the system would be in better shape. Instead, they protect the doctors and hospitals that make mistakes, freeing them from the consequences of their errors and allowing them to go on and commit more errors. Eventually insurers will drop a doctor if he has enough lawsuits filed against him, but not before many lives are ruined and hundreds of thousands of dollars or more are paid in legal fees to fight the victims.

Doctors are people and hospitals are not perfect and everyone makes mistakes. But most mistakes that you and I make do not result in catastrophic medical bills for someone or in them losing the use of part of their body or brain function. When these mistakes happen, it is only fair that the victim be awarded some financial help in dealing with the consequences of those mistakes. But the current system does not allow doctors to admit mistakes, face their patients and say they are sorry. It does not provide for proper restitution where restitution is necessary. It is an adversarial system that leaves doctors and other treaters feeling guilty or defensive and patients feeling betrayed and angry while insurance companies keep raking in the profits.

If reform is needed in regards to health care litigation, it is malpractice insurance reform, not tort reform. We should mandate that a truly independent review of claims be made and that doctors and hospitals must or be allowed to admit when they have made an error and be given the opportunity to offer restitution in those cases. It should mandate that State Medical Boards take swift and proportional action in cases where doctors are not performing properly, have lost their faculties, etc.

We should not allow the malpractice insurance industry to keep driving health insurance litigation, playing both ends against each other while their profits increase exponentially each year. Don’t take the right to sue away from the victim, take the self-interested profiteer out of the middle of the conflict.

P.S. Check out this article about the healthcare lobbyist that may be bending the reform to the benefit of the insurance industry:


Karen Ignagni

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