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And no one sings me lullabyes
And no one makes me close my eyes
So I throw the windows wide
And call to you across the sky.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tired of retaking the hills

Well, here we are, about a month and a half down the road of Healthcare Reform. And let's look at some of the more common complaints.

1) It's over a thousand pages long and nobody can read it in that time and it's not available for public review.
Okay, it's been running through committees (where the work actually gets done) for over a month and a half (started before July 4th), here is the House Bill (thanks to Jim Wright for the link). You will have had over a month to read it before the Senate takes it back up. Also, this is why representatives and senators have staff. It's what's called management and delegation. It would be like asking the President to read every piece of mail and email his office receives, or even that smaller percentage that gets a response (last numbers I saw was something like 8 people reading the mail, that's their full-time jobs).

My Congressman, Steven LaTourette sent me a nice email response and talked up his own bill, H.R. 956. I've not been able to find it on Thomas, so I've asked him for a link.

2) They're rushing into this.
See earlier comment of being at the month and a half stage and we've got at least another month to go. Two and a half months, while fast, is not unreasonable (considering we've been discussing this for a decade, or for those of you that haven't, the public has been engaged in this debate since it was brought up on the campaign trail over a year ago).

3) We're all going to be socialists.
Sorry, you don't understand the meaning of that word. Even if the "Public Option" ends up as last-man standing for personal insurance we are still very far from socialism. Under this new loose definition, we already are socialists and have been since the turn of the past century.

Now, if we're going to have a bill wherein all the doctors, nurses, etc are going to be government workers (as in Civil Employees where their paychecks are issued by the government) then we're talking socialism. Or if you want to argue that having everybody being insured will bring about equal access to resources for all individuals regardless of class, that is only a part of actual socialism and is more of a defining principle. Plus, then make the argument openly that you don't want people to have equal access to healthcare. Say it openly that some people shouldn't have access to medical care.

4) the "Death Panels"
If I have to dispute this idiocy once more, I think I'll institute my own eugenics program and eliminate people from the gene pool one at a time as they volunteer.

5) Rationing! and Cost!
These are actually related. One, there's nothing in these bills that I see as "rationing." This is one of those "OMG this could happen just after they start selling us Soylent Green." See this is also related to "OMG this is going to cost so much." Well, yes it will. The current numbers from the CBO peg it at about $1 Trillion over 10 years. Healthcare spending is currently $2.4 Trillion (or so) per year (here's a Kaiser Family Foundation primer, and it's expected to continue to rise and be over $3 trillion by 2012). So the government with this program, will cost a little less than 5% of the total healthcare costs (not really, because there's also Medicare and Medicaid to consider). However, we can save money on having many fewer uninsured (and underinsured) people in the system who leave hospitals and medical providers in such debt that 1) the government makes stipend payments to cover their cost (your tax dollars) on top of Medicaid payments and 2) why aspirin costs $15+ at the ER (which then costs you more in insurance premiums and in copays). So you're already paying this cost anyway.

6) We want our country back (and this is a commonly heard phrase these days)
This really isn't a complaint about the healthcare reform act, but a general feeling that people have lost something. I've been parsing this statement for the past week and have been unable to come to a conclusion about what the people are really saying here. I'm going to be generous and go with "they're upset that America wasn't as conservative as they thought it was." That's because when people answer, "Yes, I'm conservative" what they're saying (when you look at polls that actually, you know, ask more interesting questions) is that they are fiscally conservative. I would hazard a guess those wanting their country back are the social conservatives who are seeing the reigns of power slip from their hands. Again, that's the most polite interpretation. The second most polite interpretation is that their idiots who never understood civics and how their country was actually run. The others are less generous.

6 comments:

Stewart Sternberg said...

You know what always bothers me about people using the word socialist? They seldom understand the concept. Socialist isn't code word for big government. If just once, ONCE, someone actually used phrases like "it's about people who produce getting a larger say and benefit in how it is produced and what the rewards of that production."
Also, I get tired of people looking at government as though its an entity divorced from reality...government is, if I am not mistaken, a body created by the people to serve the interests of the people. When people talk about hating government, it always sounds like a form of self-loathing.

Anonymous said...

ARG - it ate my response! Once again, with feeling -

I pay them to read the bills. Their job is to create, modify and enact law - they don't get to delegate this part of their job. If they can't read the damn thing, either they need to change the bill or they need to get out of Congress.

It is not the same thing as Obama reading his mail at all. Obama isn't paid to read mail: his job is to execute the laws of this country.

What's the job of the Congress? To make the laws. If the congressmen are delegating reading and writing to their staff (or worse, lobbyists) then they aren't doing the work I pay them for. Boot them.

I've written to both Brown and Voinovich about health care issues and asked them two questions: Have you read the bill? How will you pay for it?

Voinovich doesn't even have anything specific on his site about health care (come on, George. Get the website up to date.) Brown's site said that he doesn't intend to have any town hall meetings during this recess. But reading DailyKos yesterday I see that he is having a meeting - this morning at 10 in Columbus. Where do I get the details? Undergrounddemocrats.com had posted the only announcement I could find last night asking for HCAN, SEIU and other pro-reformers to pack the room. I don't know if Brown is a lying liar or caved to pressure but arranged it to be filled with people from only one side.

I seriously thought about going to Columbus this morning, but I don't want my daughters exposed to this kind of debacle, nor do I want them anywhere near any SEIU thugs.

I'm already paying for this? I don't think so. The CBO estimates that only part of this bill will cost $1 TRILLION dollars. Where are they going to get that money? How much will the rest cost?

Cassie, who copied this before hitting "publish" this time, but Blogger ate it, again. Evil machine

Steve Buchheit said...

Cassie, sorry about the blogger thing. Yeah, I've taken to always copying my comments before I hit publish.

And I don't think you pay them to read the bill, you pay them to legislate and represent their constituents (which sometimes means going against their wishes for the better good). Representatives act as executives within their offices. If the representative had to read all the bills in their entirety nothing (other than maybe the spending bills) would ever get done (and that includes meeting with constituents). That may not be a bad thing. Now, they are responsible for all their decisions, even if it was made on bad advice of their staff, it's their charge.

Okay, how about this. Obama, good as he is, delegates much of the responsibility for policy to the cabinet. The cabinet bring things to him for his direction or if it needs his approval. If he has questions he goes to those who have studied the relevant documents and can brief him. He may read reports in depth, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't read the whole budget before sending it off to Congress. It's just effective management. It's what I do with the Village. If something needs my direct attention I get advice from those directly involved. I may not understand the complexity of three-phase electrical wiring, but I know who to ask where it is, and who to hire to wire up the tornado siren.

Yeah, Voinovich is the only one who hasn't responded to my email. I have other things against the guy, including not even sending a representative for soldiers' homecomings (Brown has attended many of them, or sent a staffer to be present).

As for the whole SEIU thuggery, I suggest you watch the tape, notice who is on the ground to start with at the beginning of the tape and what exactly happens. And it maybe that Brown isn't having a town hall but this event is sponsored by HCAN and SEIU and they invited him to speak, which then they opened the event to the public (as they have done in other districts). Those aren't town halls.

And their nefarious plans are summed up in their call for action "Whether you are inside or outside the event, we need YOU to hold a sign in support of healthcare reform, be positive, and smile for the cameras!"

(also, it's the Democratic Underground, http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=172x25812)

I'll also remind you that I am a Teamster.

Reread the section about "you're already paying for it." If you're paying taxes your money is already paying for the uninsured and underinsured. If you pay (or your boss pays) into a health insurance plan, part of your premium is based on the health care providers covering their losses on those who aren't insured (which many do pay their bills, but there's enough that don't).

This is like how the retail merchants are trying to get our attention drawn to the fees credit card companies charge them. Why? Because you pay for it indirectly through the costs of the products your buying. Just like you pay for the costs of theft.

If we can get more people insured, those costs go away.

And IIRC, that $1 Trillion is the total cost of the adjustments the bill would make. And here's the thing, the CBO didn't add into their projection the revenue from premiums for those that can buy into the Public Option (not everybody will be fully subsidized, especially if the opposition is correct in saying that many people will be forced into the plan).

Anonymous said...

The descriptions in DemocraticUndergroud.com (mea culpa) and TheTreeofLiberty.com both describe it as a townhall, although the morning edition of the Columbus Dispatch does say it's a panel with limited public seating. Again, not sure what game Brown is playing. I found several blog comments regarding Brown's staff refusing to answer specific questions regarding the meeting, telling callers to "check the website" instead of just answering the questions. (Granted, you and I both have internet access, but there's a big assumption that any caller would have it, or have the ability to get to a library to a computer. Not well done of the staff, imo.) There’s nothing on the website about the meeting. Disingenuous? I think so.

"Nefarious" is your interpretation of what I said. It's hardly evil to pack a meeting, it's just a sign of politics as usual. Had the situation been reversed, it would be equally inappropriate for a townhall meeting. I find the withholding of information by Brown and his staff to be dishonest.

I'm not sure why you bring in the Teamster point, unless you're identifying SEIU thugs with Teamster thugs. I by no means think that all union members are thugs. I grew up in Akron - I have a range of opinions about unions, having witnessed the rubber strikes in the 60s that includes thugs and good men working for the common good.

I doubt you're a thug, Steve. Unless you really do know what happened to Hoffa... ;)

You say we're merely shifting funds from A to B with the $1 trillion cost? Do you really believe that? How much money do the insurance companies are currently making that will be put into government pockets? (That's an honest question, not an incredulous statement, btw. If you have an answer, I'd like to know it.)

I'm trying to find facts in a volatile situation where facts are in short availability. When confronted with the facts from the bills, most of the senators (not just ours) are apparently lying about what the bills say, or ducking the questions. Obama himself isn't answering the "how are we paying for this" question. He's all-head-stuck-in-the-ground saying he's going to make sure it's revenue-neutral when the CBO openly contradicts him.

I'm reading The Black Swan right now. At this point, the one thing I'm getting from the book is "unintended consequences." In the case of healthcare reform, I'm sure that rationing cannot be avoided, no matter what they say. It’s how the healthcare program appears to work in Canada. That’s why it takes nearly months to get a cancer diagnosis and treatment in Canada; it’s not overt rationing, it’s limits placed by a function of time and insufficient funds for enough equipment/staff so that timely care can’t be arranged. That’s a form of rationing and an ugly one at that. I don’t want that kind of healthcare for me or anyone else. That’s an inevitable consequence of this type of program.

I fear what further consequences may be in store for us. That's where the “death panel”* fears get put into play. Yes, I know, you've already conclusively disproved them in your post, but we've already seen the culture's response to Trig Palin's disability - how long will it take until disabled people are discriminated against for health care because of their so-called quality of life? I have an adult Down Syndrome sister: will someone one day decide it's not cost-effective to continue her treatments/medications? It's not unreasonable for people to look down the road and see potential problems with the healthcare proposals.

*No, I’m not volunteering for your eugenics program.

Re: Voinovich. I've gotten more and better answers from him in the past than I got from Brown. At least the answers were related to the questions I asked rather than Brown's irrelevant blather.

Cassie

Steve Buchheit said...

Cassie, my wife has Graves disease. It took us four years to get a correct diagnosis, and it ended up way past the time it was treatable and we ended up having to destroy her thyroid with a radioactive iodine shake. Four years. And we went to people in Akron, specialists at the Cleveland Clinic, Specialists at Rice University (in Texas), and finally when she had a goiter the size of several grapefruits, a specialist at the University of Cincinnati diagnosed it correctly. We didn't have insurance then and paid out of pocket.

My mother has a problem with her spine. It took her four months to get an initial exam by a specialist. It took another six months for the surgery (which fused her spine, again because the disease progressed too far for other therapies). And last year when she started having pain again, it took three months to see her physician again.

Our system doesn't do much better. Canada has the option of plowing more money into the system (which I believe they did some five years ago) to correct for those problems.

I brought up the Teamsters connection because many of the comments on "SEIU Thuggery" is about union busting. Like I said, I've looked at the videos of the so called thuggery.

And it's not so much the insurance companies forwarding on their new found profits, it's that they no longer have an excuse for charging so much and that should reduce our rates (yes, I don't give it much hope either). That reduction in rates would offset higher taxes, fees, or premiums for the Public Option.

And the money saved to the economy from the other reforms going on (including some of the stimulus, like to modernize healthcare records) in the bill will both save Medicare and provide billions (almost the cost of the entire bill, or about half depending on whom you believe) in money already being spent by the government. IIRC just processing the bills under the reform will save nearly $100 billion a year in the health care system.

And I am glad you're looking for the facts in the situation. That's why I've been trying to provide links to sources that will help people make decisions based on knowing who is saying what and why. And I try to find reputable sources and not link to places like HCN or other sites.

Steve Buchheit said...

Also, as someone who has first hand experience with Down syndrome, I'm sure you know that they are currently being discriminated against, denied health care insurance or have higher premiums.

There is nothing in the current bills, or that has been discussed (other than in FUD attacks) about "quality of life" being a determining factor on who gets care and what care they get.

A coworker has a child with MS. We all know our insurance premium increases had a lot to do with her insurance coverage. This past year my coworker's wife gained insurance through her employer and they switched to her coverage. And we talked about it openly that this should mean that our rates shouldn't increase so much next year.

I've read on sites where the average increase in insurance for the past three years was 5%. I have never seen such a low increase in my entire career (including my coverage from E&Y which was when I was in the largest pool of employees). The lowest I've ever seen was 8% when my copays doubled.