Category: Health

A personal perspective on Obamacare

| March 24, 2014 | 6 Replies

My family just signed up for an extremely expensive “Bronze” policy with Obamacare. It is shameful that there are only two companies “competing” for our dollars in St. Louis (it’s worse than shopping for a phone company). It’s shameful that none of the policies in the bronze or silver range include Barnes Hospital (St. Louis’ premium teaching hospital) in their network. It shameful that even though we are paying $1,000/month for a family of four, that the annual deductible is in the range of $4,300 for indiv and $8,600 for family, with annual out-of-pocket deductible for our family being $12,700. There is no real competition here, and I have yet to see the any reason to believe that the ACA will pressure providers to lower their costs. In America, we pay many times the amount for basic services (e.g., MRI scan) than people in other countries. Our economic side of our hospitals, including “non-profit” hospitals, are a joke, with their executives getting exorbitant salaries while they are on a shopping spree to buy up the local medical practices so that there is no meaningful competition, even your local doctors. I recognize that the ACA forces insurance companies to provide certain minimum coverages and that they can no longer cherry-pick patients based on pre-existing conditions, which was rampant and immoral. The ACA is certainly better than nothing.

The most shameful thing of all, however, is that even with the faults of Obamacare, the Republicans want to destroy the modest protection it offers many of us, and the substantial protection it offers low-income families. They propose to replace it with nothing at all. The Republican proposals I have seen would send all of us back to ravages of the dog-eat-dog for-profit health market where cherry-picked customers pay unregulated prices, where premiums have been skyrocketing for decades, where many folks are offered paltry coverage that they have no way of paying for, and where many people are deemed “uninsurable.” If politicians can only convince us to keep watching lots of sports events and movies, maybe we will never force them to enact meaningful reform.

We need single-payor coverage, like most other civilized countries. For more on the dreadful situation we currently have, check out Stephen Brill’s excellent article.

I’ll end with this somber reality from Brill’s article:

The health care industry seems to have the will and means to keep it that way. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the pharmaceutical and healthcare product industries, combined with the organizations representing doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, health services and HMO’s, have spent $5.36 billion since 1998 on lobbying in Washington. That dwarfs the $1.53 billion spent by the defense and aerospace industries and the $1.3 billion spent by oil and gas interests over the same period. That’s right: the health-care-industrial complex spends more than three times what the military-industrial complex spends in Washington.

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“All Natural”: A comment on the false advertising industry

| February 13, 2014 | Reply

What does it mean when you see “100% Natural” on a food label? Nothing at all!

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What to say to anti-vaccination advocates

| January 29, 2014 | Reply

Penn and Teller offer a response that takes less than 2 minutes. Not that any of this makes it any easier to see your baby subjected to multiple jabs of concoctions created by Big Pharma. That said, the statistics beg for us to make sure we vaccinate our children. And see here.

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Riding A Hobby Horse

| January 28, 2014 | 1 Reply
Riding A Hobby Horse

Hobby Lobby is suing to be exempted from certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case . . . The question at the heart of this is, should a company be forced to pay for things with which it has a moral objection? [More . . . ]

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Problems with Orifices

| January 18, 2014 | 2 Replies

What kinds of things do people stick into their orifices? It’s limited only by their imagination, it seems. This article summarizes hospital reports and it’s an eye-opener—wait, I shouldn’t have said that, because some of you might now try to stick something in your eye. The data comes from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

Here’s a sample of things people stuck into their ears:

Ear:
SEED
PAINTBRUSH
“SOME BALLS”
SLAG
MAKEUP BRUSH
PATIENT TOLD PARENTS THAT THE CATS STUCK SOMETHING IN HER EAR
GASOLINE
BUTTERFLY
HERSHEY KISS
“CLASSMATE PUT A ROCK IN EAR, HAS PIECE OF PAPER IN OTHER EAR”

Check out the article for lots more.

But now I must mention that I once attended a deposition of a doctor in Atlanta. On his bookshelf, he had a big jar of screws, nails, coins, nuts and bolts and other metal things. It all weighed more than a pound. The doctor related that a man came to the ER complaining that he didn’t feel good. An x-ray revealed all of this crap in his stomach. The medical staff did surgery to take it all out. Shortly thereafter, “the man died of something else.” Go figure.

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How to make things

| January 15, 2014 | Reply

I really enjoyed these mesmerizing videos demonstrating how many types of things are manufactured. Fascinating. Life would be so very different without our factories. Some would say for the better, but I don’t agree at all. I don’t want to spend the time to make my own food from scratch or create clothes. That would take immense amounts of time away from things I prefer to do.

This topic reminds me of Jared Diamond’s Germs, Guns and Steel, in which he describes a culture that spends most of every live long day harvesting, mashing and cooking their basic food substance. They can never get to libraries or any sort of technology because every day is a battle to gather enough food. Here’s a description from Wikipedia:

The first step towards civilization is the move from nomadic hunter-gatherer to rooted agrarian. Several conditions are necessary for this transition to occur: 1) access to high protein vegetation that endures storage; 2) a climate dry enough to allow storage; 3) access to animals docile enough for domestication and versatile enough to survive captivity. Control of crops and livestock leads to food surpluses. Surplus frees people up to specialize in activities other than sustenance and supports population growth. The combination of specialization and population growth leads to the accumulation of social and technologic innovations which build on each other. Large societies develop ruling classes and supporting bureaucracies, which in turn lead to the organization of nation states and empires.

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Excellent stop-smoking ad

| January 5, 2014 | Reply

I found this video of a stop-smoking ad on Facebook and wanted to share it here too:

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Physicians’ gag order regarding fracking to be re-evaluated

| December 22, 2013 | Reply

Amazing that such a law could be passed in the first place. From Alternet.

Challenges by Pennsylvania citizens and townships on provisions in the law that prohibit doctors from telling patients about health impacts related to fracking chemicals were sent back to Commonwealth Court for reevaluation. The “physician gag order” (or “ frack gag“) was recently challenged by a doctor who claimed it infringed on his First Amendment rights and his duties as a doctor, but his challenge was thrown out by a Pennsylvania court in October. The Supreme Court’s decision to send the Commonwealth Court’s decision back down for re-evaluation spells trouble for the gag order. Doctors have expressed concern over this rule in Pennsylvania and what it means for their patients — a report from Pennsylvania documented a range of health problems affecting residents living near natural gas operations, including skin rashes, headaches and chronic pain.

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On the failures of Obamacare

| October 30, 2013 | 2 Replies

I’m reading a lot about the recent problems with Obamacare. For everyone complaining about this new program, however, I would ask “You say Obamacare is bad, but compared to what?”

I’m on COBRA, having left a job a few months ago. I shopped around on the open market PRE-Obamacare. The prices were already high, even for high-deductible coverage. My wife, who walks briskly every day and who is in very good health was deemed uninsurable because of four separate reasons, all of which were total bullshit (one was that she broke her ankle last year, and it had substantially healed by the time we applied for coverage). The for-profit insurance companies have been out there cherry-picking and leaving families in desperate straights. I know of one family that has been paying almost $40,000/ year because two children are fighting depression and the husband has some physical injuries (though he is working). This is all PRE-Obamacare. For all of those people who want to blame Obamacare I would like to remind them that things were terrible before Obamacare. Coverage was shrinking and prices sky-rocketing BEFORE Obamacare.

Not that I’m a big fan of Obamacare–we need Medicare for all–some reasonable level of care for all Americans, combined with many of the strategies offered by “Bitter Pill,” the blockbuster Time Magazine article published a few months ago. We were lucky to get anything at all accomplished in Congress given the abject corruption. There are many aspects of the so-called health care system that need immense rehab, and Congress is not up to the task. Half of Congress wants to destroy Obamacare and replace it with “Fend for yourself, and good luck not getting fleeced by huge profit-driven companies, including all of those huge “non-profit” hospitals who are gobbling up your favorite doctor’s medical practices.”

I fear for many people out there. Too bad ordinary folks can’t afford lobbyists. If they did, we could bring some sanity to the prices charged by many providers and Big Pharma. Finally, as Dylan Ratigan has written, we also need to reconceptualize health care as “Help me, my family and friends live long and prosper” instead of “Don’t let me or anyone I know die.” We need to have courage to face our deaths with dignity in order to reset our priorities in a meaningful way, but there is no sign that this is likely.

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