‘Sick Around the World’ with T.R.Reid

“He was an orthopedic surgeon. They want to orth surg.” That was the funniest line in an NPR interview with journalist T. R. Reid, who took his old, non life-threatening shoulder injury around the globe to compare five of the most developed health care systems.

His report fills in the facts and history, and explains how other nations manage to give more for less. For instance, did you know that we’re subsidizing the Swiss?

It was interesting to learn in the report that some of Switzerland’s drug companies make one-third of their profits in the U.S. market. Are we subsidizing these other nations’ prescription drugs, and what would happen if America clamps down on prices?

Yes, we subsidize the whole world. Americans pay more for pills than people in any other country. Sometimes, the same tablet made in the same factory costs $1 in the U.S. and 20 cents in Britain. If we could negotiate lower prices in the U.S., the drug companies would then try to raise prices overseas to make up for the lost revenues.

The pharmaceutical industry spends billions on research. Drug companies say they would have to reduce R&D if Americans paid less for their drugs, but the companies spend more on marketing than they do on research. In Switzerland, when the government started negotiating lower prices for drugs, the companies cut their marketing budgets and maintained the level of R&D.

Marketing. Let me elaborate on that. When your TV show is interrupted and the volume goes up for a commercial about some stranger’s hemorrhoids–‘ask your doctor’, Grandma is paying for it. Oh yes she is. Ask her how much her pills cost, and your hair might just fall out. Rogaine is over the counter now.

And folks, if they had a pill that cured cancer better than what we have now, do you think they would have to advertise it on TV? You think people wouldn’t be beating down the pharmacy door to get it?

Our system doesn’t reward letting things get better on their own, or old-fashioned, low tech cures. It rewards intervention. Reid got similar advice on his shoulder from doctors in five countries (I find that very reassuring) with the majority saying he didn’t need surgery. In the US a good surgeon will tell you that, but they lose a chance to make bucks every time they do.

The need to make a profit competes with the mandate to serve the patient. How often does profit win? Ask your doctor. I know that mine is unhappy with the general state of things.

We can argue about how to set the sails on the ship of state. But there are holes in the hull. It’s nice and dry on the top decks, but if we don’t all agree to get down where it’s dirty and start bailing, work together, and make some sacrifices–it won’t matter what color we paint the mast–we’re going down.

The Colonel Hearts Rhode Island

Dear God in Heaven, they’ve finally done it–eliminated bread from the sandwich. The Orlando Sentinel gives us an early warning…

Two slices of bacon. Two slices of cheese (pepperjack and swiss). A dollop of the Colonel’s Special Sauce. And two Original Recipe chicken fillets around them as the bun…

Omaha, Nebraska (where the Foodgeekery.com reviewer is from), and an area in Rhode Island are test markets for the Double Down Chicken Sandwich…

Some suggestions for bloggers and readers–

1. Invent a conspiracy theory around whichever ‘area in Rhode Island’ KFC chooses to market this Godzilla of fast food.
2. Send the opposite wing coupons for 10 free Double Down Chicken Sandwiches and suggest they enjoy them while blogging.
3. Speculate on the effect on future elections if this sandwich sells big in the red states.
4. Invent a conspiracy theory that combines the health care crisis, euthanasia and addictive food additives.
5. Such a sandwich should not be sold to children–pro or con this statement?

Why Omaha? No one lives there anyway, are they trying to clear it out completely and build another Area 51? Why Rhode Island? Maybe they wanted to test the effect on a tough population. We eat clamcakes, after all– a ball of fried dough with scraps of bottom-feeding mollusks and grains of sand.

That’s my conspiracy theory–what’s yours?

How to Play God

Fascinating post on Daily Kos today, about real doctors who played god and decided who was to have a chance at staying alive.

It was the 1960’s, kidney dialysis was just being developed, and there were not enough machines to go around. Who would they treat, and how did they choose?

In nursing school we had an exercise where we had to discuss a case of 3 patients and 1 heart. Who would get the transplant? There was no right answer, the exercise was intended to get us to define the questions.

Do not doubt that Americans are dying every day, needlessly, because insurance lobbies and politicians have decided to ration care. Kidney dialysis is common today because the government stepped in to make this lifesaving treatment available to ordinary Americans.

We could reduce the number of Americans who need dialysis if we made the choice to ensure that everyone has access to primary and preventive care.

The Tough Practicality of Dr. Martin Luther King

The heat, the humidity, the hate, the stupidity… It’s hard to think straight. To my Republican friends, I apologize. The Larouchites defy categorization, and Larouche likes to run in Democratic primaries. He did pretty well at times in the South.

Of course, in the South they have a saying. ‘Just ’cause the cat has kittens in the oven don’t make them biscuits.’ The Democratic Party doesn’t want anything to do with him, but they can’t legally keep him from claiming any label he wants.

Larouche accuses President Obama of failing to adopt the single-payer plan he is advocating–

There is no rational argument that can be made against LaRouche’s proposals. They provide health care and funding sources—whereas the Obama plan provides neither. What Obama’s does, instead, is to provide a British-Nazi-style apparatus to kill people, as part of a British imperial drive to utterly destroy the only threat to their world domination, the republic of the United States. And that must be stopped.

I don’t know how long Larouche has had any interest in health care, but he has a history of attacking politicians from both the left and the right flank. I don’t stay up at night worrying that the Redcoats are coming, but some do. The British, of course, have a single-payer system that insures all their citizens.

Insuring all our citizens is not an agreed goal. I talked to a lot of people at the Town Hall meetings, and often the same ones who were carrying signs about the evils of rationing explained to me that some Americans were just going to have to die of preventable diseases.

Reasons offered–
We don’t have enough doctors.
We don’t have enough money.
They made bad choices and chose not to buy insurance–tough luck.
Women have too many babies they can’t afford. (This from a man who said he was a pro-lifer)
The Constitution doesn’t mention health insurance.
They can go to the Emergency Room.
Most of them are illegal aliens anyway.

I am not an economist or a Constitutional scholar. All I can offer is my own witness to the waste, stupidity, heartlessness and mis-allocation of resources that I see every day in our current ‘system’. I think that some of the anger being turned against efforts to fix this mess comes from a sense of the insecurity most of us face with our job-linked insurance. We need reform and we need it now.

I recognized the Larouche disciples because I had encountered them in New Hampshire, in 1977, when I was part of the Clamshell Alliance organization against nuclear power. The Clam was an education in all that can go wrong and right with a political organization. I remember hearing rumors that provocateurs had infiltrated, and finding the thought laughable. We were quite capable of fouling things up on our own without outside help. But years later Freedom of Information Act records showed that there were indeed spies and provocateurs.

Which leads me to the tough practicality of Martin Luther King. Nonviolence and civility are morally powerful tools for persuading opponents and winning allies. They are also powerful safeguards against infiltrators who try to undermine your cause by provoking violence in word or deed.

When I went to the Town Hall, I did not name-call, my sign was pro-reform, not anti anyone. I talked to people and tried to use persuasion. I clapped for Rep. Langevin, to let him know he had supporters, but I didn’t boo anyone.

To my Republican friends, I would ask you to strongly disown the Nazi and ‘death panel’ rhetoric, and all who use them. If the Larouchites show up with their sign tell them that they do not represent your views. Stop accepting their magazines with the vile picture on the back cover. To my Democratic friends, I would remind you that non-violence and civility are the tools of the strong. There were a good number of people in West Warwick who were not from there. There will be no shortage of provocation. Counter lies with truth- the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.

Why Are We Adding Troops in Afghanistan?

As more Rhode Islanders are called being called to active duty for the purpose of going to Afghanistan (people we all know and love), the question of why we are there and whether we have realistic goals deserves further investigation. To that end, I offer the following video:

A friend in the Air National Guard told me that if he is called up to go, he will be involved in a mission to teach the people of Afghanistan how to farm crops other than poppy. It sounds like we are getting very heavily involved in nation-building.

Real Nazis

This writer from Mudflats had conversations with her father, who knew what he was talking about when he used the word, ‘Nazi’.

My father spent his 21st birthday in a prisoner of war camp. Deaf in one ear, and completely flat-footed, he could have easily been a “4-F” and escaped service for medical reasons. He was a peaceful man but he, like so many of his generation, felt the need to serve his country, and to fight againgst the fascism that was threatening to engulf the democratic nations of Western Europe, and had even attacked the United States.

When he was 20 years old, he’d been taken prisoner by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge, was marched for miles, imprisoned, and starved. Like many men of his generation, veterans of World War II, he didn’t talk about it much. He held his memories close to his chest. If he talked to anyone about them, I didn’t know. It was only many years after his service and just before his death that he shared some of those memories with me.

Read the rest of the story here.