Monthly Archives: June, 2009

The Plot Thickens

It’s getting pretty thick. Don’t step in it. The woman involved in the affair with Sen. John Ensign is asking why he felt the need to confess. She wasn’t ready to go public.
Cindy Hampton and her husband and her kid all have their names in the papers and they are not happy.

“It is unfortunate the senator chose to air this very personal matter, especially after the Hamptons did everything possible to keep this matter private,” Las Vegas lawyer Daniel Albregts said in the statement. “It is equally unfortunate that he did so without concern for the effect such an announcement would have on the Hampton family.”

The wronged husband, Doug Hampton, was making over $13,000 a month working for Ensign as an ‘administrative assistant’. All you administrative assistants out there–I never knew the job was so lucrative.

It’s going to be more about lucre than lust when the full story comes out. I’m tired of seeing people outed for private behavior–even hypocrites who brag about their valuable families. But if Ensign used public money for private misbehavior he’s got nowhere to hide.

Laugh Out Loud

Making fun of Promise Keepers who couldn’t keep a promise is too much like shooting fish in a barrel. So I’ll just link to this--

Don’t click on it at work, you might spray coffee out your nose.

The Truth About Healthcare: More is Not Always Better

For those who are concerned about health care, health care costs, and health care reform, I highly recommend Atul Gawande’s report from McAllen, Texas, where Medicare spending is twice the national average.  From The New Yorker: 

It is spring in McAllen, Texas. The morning sun is warm. The streets are lined with palm trees and pickup trucks. McAllen is in Hidalgo County, which has the lowest household income in the country, but it’s a border town, and a thriving foreign-trade zone has kept the unemployment rate below ten per cent. McAllen calls itself the Square Dance Capital of the World. “Lonesome Dove” was set around here.

McAllen has another distinction, too: it is one of the most expensive health-care markets in the country. Only Miami—which has much higher labor and living costs—spends more per person on health care. In 2006, Medicare spent fifteen thousand dollars per enrollee here, almost twice the national average. The income per capita is twelve thousand dollars. In other words, Medicare spends three thousand dollars more per person here than the average person earns.

The explosive trend in American medical costs seems to have occurred here in an especially intense form. Our country’s health care is by far the most expensive in the world. In Washington, the aim of health-care reform is not just to extend medical coverage to everybody but also to bring costs under control. Spending on doctors, hospitals, drugs, and the like now consumes more than one of every six dollars we earn. The financial burden has damaged the global competitiveness of American businesses and bankrupted millions of families, even those with insurance. It’s also devouring our government. “The greatest threat to America’s fiscal health is not Social Security,” President Barack Obama said in a March speech at the White House. “It’s not the investments that we’ve made to rescue our economy during this crisis. By a wide margin, the biggest threat to our nation’s balance sheet is the skyrocketing cost of health care. It’s not even close.”  [full text]

Rationing Health Care

I’d love to just steal David Leonhardt’s excellent analysis in the New York Times today, ‘Limits in a System That’s Sick’ and paste the whole thing here. It’s hard to pick and choose when the whole essay is full of new perspectives.

Leonhardt points out the obvious–we are already rationing health care, and not in a fair or sensible way. Everyone who has to deal with the system, as a worker or a patient, knows that some people are getting meds and tests that they don’t even need, for profit and liability reasons– and others are suffering for lack of basic, effective, preventive health care that is proven to work.

But not all the costs are seen in the hospital—

There are three main ways that the health care system already imposes rationing on us. The first is the most counterintuitive, because it doesn’t involve denying medical care. It involves denying just about everything else.

The rapid rise in medical costs has put many employers in a tough spot. They have had to pay much higher insurance premiums, which have increased their labor costs. To make up for these increases, many have given meager pay raises.

Anyone who works for a small business knows how true this is. Leonhardt compares the US with other countries and explains why Americans pay more for less. A chart in the article shows survival rates in several countries. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer, stay here. If you need a kidney transplant, better go to Canada. I think I know why.

We are good at catastrophic care–doing the surgery. We are not good at the basic preventive care that your transplant patient will need for all the years of his life. If we could put the money where it will do the most good, we could have the best of high tech, and keep the need for it to a minimum.

Ribbon-Cutting for New Legal Services Non-Profit, RICLAPP

LAW_NYU

On Monday, June 15, 2009, the Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy (riclapp.org) officially opened its doors. Pictured above is the Chairman of the Board, Dr. Herbert Brennan, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, RICLAPP President Geoff Schoos, and Community Outreach Director Jeannine Schoos. The picture was taken by the Warwick Beacon, which has a news article on the opening here.

As a Board member for RICLAPP, I am very proud of the organization’s developing capabilities. Lawyers tend to be something only the rich have at their disposal in this country. RICLAPP seeks to do something about that disparity, helping middle and lower income folks fight back when they are wronged.  Something as simple as not being paid for work you have done as a contractor, RICLAPP can help you resolve. People of all ages can also benefit from the services at RICLAPP to have a will drawn up, or to get help with the legal aspects of starting a new business. These are just a few of the ways RICLAPP is making a difference for Rhode Islanders in need of legal help.

You can learn more about RICLAPP by visiting their website at www.riclapp.org. We are planning a fundraiser for August 1st. Anyone who wants to be invited, please let me know.

For Democracy

Millions of courageous people march for democracy in Iran. The arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. Read Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Persepolis’ or see the movie for a quick take on the past thirty years there.

Prayer Against Stupidity

Quick post before I face our health care ‘system’ once again, thank goodness as a worker in it, not a person lost in the Bardo of insurance battles.

While driving to see patients, I heard some of President Obama’s speech to doctors on WRNI. Doctors used the word ‘stupid’ more than once describing the things they have to do to navigate insurance and liability and paperwork that can only multiply, because that’s what happens when you hire people to multiply the paperwork. But now we’ve got computers so we can multiply time spent on data entry–save a tree, buy stronger glasses and wrist braces.

Today I offer this prayer from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, for all those who have died of stupidity—

When, through intense stupidity one is wandering in samsara,
Along the bright light path of the wisdom of reality,
May the Bhagavan Vairochana lead us
May the Mother of Great Space be our protector
May we be liberated from the fearful narrow passage of the Bardo, May we be placed in the state of perfect enlightenment.

Also, I’ve pulled out an oldie but goodie, a post called Her Skull Was in the Freezer. True story–a medical miracle and the insurance stupidity that almost undid the patient.

Save the Vultures

I have a lot of respect for vegetarianism. Factory farming is bad for humans as well as animals. Cruelty to animals is wrong and should be punished. But I never cared for PETA. This is just one reason…

CHICAGO (AFP) – An animal rights group said Thursday it wants to transform a Kansas abortion clinic that was shuttered after its owner was murdered into an animal cruelty education center.

“We want to take a building that has been a flashpoint for conflict on one moral issue and turn it into a place of dialogue on another one,” said Bruce Friedrich, vice president for policy at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA has a bad pattern of misogyny and exploitative publicity seeking. Good cause — bad organization.

Stealing the Fire

Today’s ProJo says that the mayor of Cuyahoga Falls wants to take Waterfire home with him.

I wonder if Barnaby Evans and Sandor Bodo took some of their inspiration from the Cuyahoga, which once got so polluted that it caught fire and inspired Randy Newman’s lyrics– ‘Cleveland city of light, city of magic.’

Congratulations to Cuyahoga Falls for a successful river cleanup, and you guys can go right ahead and party around some braziers out there as far as I’m concerned. Though you’ll have to talk to Barney, I think.

2012 on Deck

I’m sitting here surfing the news when I should be doing dishes and the phone rings. It’s a robocall.

I know it’s prejudice of me, but the recorded voice sounds like a Young Republican. Would I give a moment of my time to a survey? Would I, a blogger, have an opinion? Is the Pope Catholic?

Do you have a positive or negative opinion of Newt Gingrich? If yes, press 1, if no press 2.

The same with Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney.

If the 2012 election was Barack Obama running against Newt Gingrich would you vote for Newt Gingrich? If yes, press 1, if no press 2.

I think robovoice pulled a kind of ‘Simon Sez’ around Mitt Romney, so maybe that’s the sponsor of the survey.

Then there’s a bunch of questions about demographics, which I answer as I please. Just so you know, I’m a Republican. A male Republican. There’s a bunch of questions about how satisfied I am as a worker.

Workers of the world–Mitt Romney’s buds are worried about how satisfied you are. What’s up with that? Actually, I’m quite satisfied. If I wasn’t I’d quit. But if Mitt is looking for a huge majority of satisfied workers, he’d better realize that many Americans are worried that their jobs have been outsourced or eliminated. Those Americans just might decide to vote in 2012.

I had no access to a human, which might have been enlightening. But what I took away from this is– the 2012 lineup is Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney. I’m way more afraid of the Democrats talent for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. But more than that, the state of the world. We have to elect good leaders, but that is only step 1. We have to be active citizens. If the people lead, the leaders will eventually follow.

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