Posts Tagged ‘health care’

What kind of person are you?


Do you think of labor in a factory to be a resource, or an asset?  Do you believe that it should be ‘every man for himself!’ or do you believe in community being worth investing in?  A pure capitalist would view labor as a resource, to be exploited to the utmost.  A civic minded person believes that the community is valuable, and well worth investing in.  Pure capitalism is self-destructive, as we have witnessed, because all of the wealth ends up in the hands of a few, and the economy comes to a halt, because no one can buy anything.

Part of the reason that the government has grown so large is because the community has had to band together to deal with the consequences of our capitalist society, which aims to use people up and throw them away.  If employers took care of their employees as if they were an asset, an investment in training, experience, and knowledge accumulated over time on the job, than government would not be needed to redistribute the wealth through taxation.  Health care, retirement, housing, all would be affordable, and available to all.

Every one wants a bigger slice of the pie.  Even though the pie is not getting larger, and there are more people wanting a slice.  Taking some from somebody else to have more for yourself is called greed.  Greed has betrayed capitalism in the United States, pushed rational thinking aside, and driven us right over the edge.  Instead of investing in the future, to assure that the future is the one that we desire, we have been enticed to spend everything, and more, right now.  In return, our jobs have been outsourced overseas, our taxes are buying less and less services, and everything is horribly expensive.

Only huge, economy-wide growth, on a scale never seen before, can pull us out of an economic implosion.  Asset deflation is likely to set in, as prices drop, values decrease, and people have no money to spend.  Deflation scares the wealthy more than anything else, because it steals away their wealth even through locked vault doors.   To avoid another Great Depression, a new set of rules are needed.

Investment has got to be with the intent of value increasing over the long term, not in order to pay today’s bills.  Cash dividends to stock holders is the single most damaging policy of all modern business practices.  It robs the future to allow luxury for a time, and corrupts the process of management.  Stock should increase in value, and be split, to reward its owners, as the company becomes more and more valuable.  But that can’t happen when the profits are being funneled into cash to pay to stockholders.



A new economic model


Right now, we don’t have time for dealing with health care costs, new legislation regarding the financial industry, or immigration reform.  We have a great need to re-invent our economy, immediately, before we slip further into recession.  Our old economy depended too much on manipulating money to make money, on huge profits on inefficient automobiles, and credit.  Consumer spending was the engine of the economy, accounting for 70 percent of all economic activity.

Those days are long gone, and they are not coming back soon.  But our economic model has not changed, and millions of people are sliding into permanent unemployment.  Somehow, we have to find a way to create things that other people, people outside the United States are going to want.  They do not want our automobiles, they do not want our computers, they do not want our clothes.  What does America do better than anybody else?  Besides screw, start wars, and piss people off in general, I mean.

We are the world’s leader in advanced aerospace technology right now.  We are currently operating the only reusable spacecraft in the world.  We have learned tremendous amounts about getting into space and getting back.  By applying that knowledge to the development of a new generation of spaceplane, spacecraft designed solely to climb a short distance out of the atmosphere, and then return, we could lay the groundwork for another industrial revolution, one which would create more new wealth than has been made in all of Earth’s history.

The most difficult part of space travel is the getting into space.  We have to accelerate ourselves to a velocity of 5 miles per second, 17,500 miles per hour, to be able to stay in orbit.  There are several different rockets that can put freight into space, but only a few which can carry people.  The space shuttle is one of them, and it is set to be retired this year.  After that, the United States will not have a way to reach space, and will have to buy seats from the Russians to send our astronauts to the International Space Station.  NASA had been developing an old-fashioned rocket to carry a small number of people into space, but it duplicates the capabilities of several existing American rockets in most ways.  And none of the current or projected rockets will be able to carry more than a few people at a time.

This coming industrial revolution is going require people, lots of people, people who will be living and working in space.  Getting them there is the only thing holding up this new revolution.  Once that bottleneck is broken, investment in space stations; laboratories and orbital factories, is going to start.  The United States has a head start in building the type of spacecraft that will be the backbone of space travel in the future, which will look a lot like the space shuttle.  But, unlike the space shuttle, this spacecraft will only carry people, at least at first.  The parts for the space stations can be sent up on freight rockets that already exist.

But having people use a rocket means that it has to be ‘man-rated’, which means that the chance that a malfunction will result in the death of the crew is minimized.  These requirements add so much weight to existing rockets that they cannot be used.  That is because they all take off straight up, which means that failure will have the crew right in the middle of a whole bunch of explosive materials.

But there is another way of reach space, besides going straight up in a rocket.  By carrying the spacecraft to about 50,000 feet of altitude, the spacecraft can be launched where the air is thin enough that the spacecraft can fly horizontally and still go fast enough that it will reach space.  Lower down in the atmosphere, the air is too dense to be able to do that, which is why rockets launch straight up, then curve toward the horizon.

The United States, under the guidance of NASA, could build the immense carrier wing needed to carry the spacecraft to launch altitude, and the spacecraft that will then fly to orbit, and return, to land where it took off, where it will be prepared to fly again.  This kind of launch system can operate in bad weather, which rockets generally avoid, and does not require huge numbers of people to monitor every aspect of the spacecraft, the launch site, and the surrounding area.  Because a malfunction will simply result in the spacecraft flying back to the landing sight, and not blowing itself apart, with the crew section floating to earth by parachute, it is not necessary to be aware of every detail.

Space flight which does not have to wait for perfect conditions, perfect performance, is the prerequisite of this industrial revolution.  It must be low-cost, safe, and reliable.  We have the ability to make it happen, and doing so in a short time would require the work of many people.  It would also result in many people being paid enough that they could afford to hire housekeepers, gardeners, and music teachers.  Coupled with a national program to improve the energy efficiency of the United States, employment for all could be achieved in a matter of months.

What was spent on the fiscal stimulus program would have paid for the complete development of this new spacecraft, the carrier wing, and the launch and recovery facilities, as well as the ground support needed to operate it, several times.  No other investment we can make offers the potential for larger returns, for new wealth to be created.  Other nations are anxious to take part in this revolution, and some are planning to start it themselves.

But this revolution will need people on the spot, people who can perform experiments, people who can figure out how to make things work, people to keep things working.  Lots and lots of people.  People who will ride to work on spacecraft that take off and land like airplanes.  Spacecraft that we can, and need, to build.

Legalize medical hemp!


Legalize medical hemp!  That is right, hemp.  Let’s quit beating around the bush and come clean with each other.  Marijuana is hemp, (well, okay, marijuana is the archaic Hispanic slang word for the flowers of the hemp plant.  But it is still hemp!)  Hemp has been cultivated by humans for thousands years because it is so beneficial.  For nearly that long, people have used it for its medicinal qualities.  Because smoking hemp alleviates a very large number of ailments, from pain to menstrual cramps.

In this day of high drug prices, many people can find help for their problems without having to spend large amounts of money, if they have access to medical hemp.  It may seem strange to think of smoking grass to ease a medical condition, but it works, and far better than any man-made drug, in many cases.  The biggest result of legalizing medical hemp will be the reduction in profits of the big drug companies, because hemp will replace many over-the-counter remedies as well as some prescription drugs.

The federal government, in the guise of the Attorney General, has announced that is no longer going to persecute growers and users of medical marijuana if they are complying with state laws.  This is a clear call for the states to establish enlightened laws regarding the use of hemp for medicinal purposes.   Hemp and all of its products were legal less than 100 years ago, and would still be legal except for the greed of a small number of powerful people many years ago.  Those people managed to win a propaganda war that turned the country against something which it had never heard of, marijuana, allowing the passage of legislation which made growing marijuana illegal.  Marijuana is hemp, and hemp was a major commodity at the time.  But, through legal maneuvering, continuing propaganda, and various other strategies, these people kept hemp off of the market, which is what their goal was.

The entire concept of marijuana causing extreme behavior was cooked up by this group, as a means of confusing the public.  If they had come out and openly called for a ban on the production of hemp, they never would have gotten anywhere.  So, our current beliefs and attitudes about marijuana are the result of propaganda.  We need to ignore the propaganda, and restore a wonderful drug to our medicine chests, one that will not cost us our retirement to use.

Not more money, more CARE!


The saddest thing to me about the current health insurance debate is the drive to throw more money at the problem.  The problem is that we are spending too much money on health insurance.  For what we pay, we should have universal coverage, full dental, vision, and mental as well.  Our health care costs are the highest in the world, even though only a small part of the population enjoys the very best health care.

Instead of reigning in the profits that the insurance companies reap off of health plans, the Congress seems intent on finding more money to give them, to compensate for the supposed losses that they will face if everyone has insurance.  But our current bill for health insurance is far beyond what we should be paying if everyone did have insurance.  Because the larger the pool, the lower the risk that the insurer faces of a big number of substantial claims.  Most people don’t need expensive health care in their lives.  And even fewer would require such expenditures if proper preventative medicine and dentistry were the standard form of health care that most people consumed.

Congress is trying to preserve the health insurance industry as a profitable business, irregardless of where that profit comes from.  If we are going to spend even more money on health insurance, we should buy out the share holders, over a span of several years, so that they can realize their profits from their investments while still allowing the government to eliminate the profits, reducing the costs of the care that we receive.

Every patient who sees a doctor is receiving a service, which should be rewarded.  Doctors should be able to set their fees within a market value, and be paid in a reasonable period of time.  This is not what has made health care so expensive.  It is the fee that the insurance company adds to every transaction between the doctor and patient, and fees which do not involve doctors services at all, but the services of the insurance company instead, which has helped drive the costs of the care that we receive beyond sustainable levels.

Is health care socialism?


Many people are upset because they think of national health care as socialism.  They can’t understand why everyone should be able to receive care when they need it, from a regular provider, instead of the Emergency Room.  To them, capitalism means treating the workers as a resource, to be exploited as much as possible.  The fact that the workers make it possible to create wealth seems irrelevant, not part of the equation.

These same people can understand spending money to keep plant and equipment in operating condition, investing in repairing something so that it will keep working.  When the line breaks down, getting it fixed as soon as possible is worth whatever it costs, because until it is fixed, no one can work.  But if the workers are sick, or injured so that they cannot work, taking care of them is different somehow.  It used to be that people who were injured on the job and could no longer work were fired, without any benefits or pay, to fend for themselves.  There were always more workers to replace them.

But today, most workers must be trained, sometimes for months, as well as being educated by the school system.  So there is an investment needed to bring new workers into the production system.  Keeping the workers who have been trained healthy is a worthwhile investment, which makes sense in terms of the capitalist viewpoint.  This is one of the reasons that health care packages were included as benefits of employment with many companies.

But the cost of providing those health care packages is rising rapidly, and health care benefits are one of the biggest cuts that employers seek when bargaining with unions, and new hires are often receiving less health care benefits than those of senior workers.  But companies in the United States are competing with companies in countries that provide national health insurance, so they have costs that those foreign companies do not.

Until we can view the population of the US as part and parcel to the production of wealth, we are likely to be less and less competitive, as health care costs hobble the profitability of American corporations.  We have to view taking care of the workers as keeping the methods of wealth production in good order, not as giving away wealth.  What we are doing right now is tantamount to letting our production lines crumble, our warehouses fall down.

You lie, I hope!


When something does not fit our preconceptions, we discount it, try to ignore it, pretend that it is wrong.  When a white Southerner shouts, “You lie!”, he is trying to convince himself and others that what he sees ain’t so.  Many people want to believe that the system isn’t broken, that average people are not being smashed flat by the wealthy, that a sick little girl can go to the doctor.  But what is the truth is the opposite of those wishes, an ugly, twisted truth that decent people don’t want to believe can happen here.

The crisis in health care is indeed a crisis, because it is destroying our trust in our system, in our belief of equality.  This crisis threatens the financial stability of state governments, the future of large companies with retirement plans, the very health of our children.  People are literally dying because they do not believe that they can afford the health care that they need, or because they fear the financial burden that befall them if they seek that care.

State governments across the country are seeing the health care benefits that they extend to their employees bankrupting the public coffers.  General Motors collapsed because of the cost of health care for its retirees, not because its cars were not as popular as another automakers.  A rapidly increasing number of Americans have no health care provider beyond the local Emergency Room or fire department paramedic.

And all of this for what?  To make sure that the wealthy continue to get wealthier.  The health insurance industry will always be profitable, right up until the time that the health care system collapses, because the companies involved will always consider their shareholders first, last, and always.  No matter how many people it takes to process claims, handle the accounting, or wash the windows, the insurance companies will charge enough to show a profit.  Nor do they have any incentive to keep their operations as slim and efficient as possible, because people who want assured access to health care will have to pay those companies the premiums the companies set.

These are hard truths, that strike at the very core of our beliefs about equality and justice.  Discounting them, calling them lies, makes it easier to pretend that they are not truths.  But it does not change the fact that there are children all over the country who cannot go to the doctor.

Health care, or wealth care? (Part two)


Let us say that the unthinkable happens, and the United States adopts nationalized health insurance.  What will this mean?  For one thing, everyone will have to see a doctor at least once a year, and probably more often.  Regular check ups are the single best way of reducing health care costs, by catching problems early.  If a person is injured in an accident, at work, at home, commuting, or out partying, all of their expenses will be covered, including physical therapy.  Bankruptcies as a result of medical costs will cease, and case loads in Emergency Rooms will likely decline significantly.

Who needs the most health care?  The elderly.  As the emphasis in medicine shifts to preventative care from catastrophe care, the elderly will receive more care in terms of check-ups, tests, and evaluations.  Exercise and diet, along with social activities, will become medically directed, instead of individually initiated.  Health care will be about health instead of care.  The elderly are likely to gain in importance to the rest of us, because so many activities will be oriented around the them, because it is much easier to keep an elderly person healthy than it is to get them to recover after being seriously ill.

Extreme procedures, which can prolong life for a short time in an elderly person, or for many years in a younger person, will become rare, because few young people need extreme procedures, and we simply cannot afford to provide them to large numbers of people.  Quality of life will become more important than simply keeping a person alive a little longer, when they are unlikely to ever leave the hospital.  The elderly will be less likely to suffer from cross drug reactions, when a doctor monitors all of their care, instead of people being seen only be specialists.  Tests will become less common, as doctors opinions are not contradicted because of costs to an insurance company which threaten its profits.

Because the emphasis will be on preventing catastrophic illness, specialists will be in less demand.  Instead of expending huge amounts of resources to repair damage caused by lifestyle, huge amounts of resources will be spent changing lifestyles.  Most people have accepted that it is cheaper to wear a bicycle helmet than it is to hire a brain surgeon to repair the effects of a head injury.  Regular exercise is much cheaper than open heart surgery.  Preventing diabetes is much cheaper than treating it.

That isn’t the way things are right now because it is more profitable to deal with catastrophe than it is to prevent one.  Great strides are being made in the treatment of various disorders, but little progress has been made in learning how to get people to change their behavior to prevent the disorders in the first place.  If diabetes is becoming a national epidemic, shouldn’t we be focused on changing behaviors rather than accepting  higher disease rates?

Health care, or wealth care?


As the debate intensifies regarding health care reform, keep in mind a few things.  Such as; a reasonable profit on the part of health care providers is to be expected.  Hospitals, clinics, and doctors have to be able to cover their expenses, and make a little profit.  Also, insurance companies have absolutely no part in providing health care.  And, insurance companies are involved in health care strictly to make a profit.  It is the insurance company profits which are at the bottom of the health care crisis, because the insurance companies make more profit the higher the costs of care go.  They operate on a percentage basis, charging a certain percentage of total costs.  The higher the costs, the higher their profit margin.  (Ten percent of 100 is 10,  ten percent of 1,000 is 100)

These profits are what many people are trying to protect, irregardless of the costs of care.  Nationalizing health care would eliminate the insurance industry’s involvement in the health care system, meaning no more profits for shareholders.  This is what the wealthy want to avoid at any cost.  They are not concerned with the availability of health care, its affordability, or its quality, because they can always afford whatever health care that they desire.  Their only concern is maintaining their dividend checks, the cash payment they receive from companies that they own stock in.

Health care providers have watched their profits shrink even as the costs of health care have skyrocketed.  How can this be so?  Because the insurance companies have been driving the increase in costs, not the providers.  Every insurance company employees its own claims adjusters, its own billing department, its own management staff.  Each and every one of these insurance companies must cover all of these costs, as well as making a profit.

There is going to be a lot of mumbo-jumbo, a lot of smoke and mirrors, a lot of misdirection in this debate.  Patients are not trying to change the way that they receive their health care, and health care providers are not trying to change the methods that said care is provided, but everyone is trying to cut health care costs.  Who is going to be on the defensive?  The insurance companies.