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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Weekend Madman

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Media Madman and Health Care

Could it be? An article about the growing health care crisis is actually going to be written and the problem reported in the "paper of record, The Sunday New York Times?

Ha! Ha! Fooled you, didn't I?

Here's the Headline:
Market Forces Pushing Doctors to Be More Available

When I read this headline, I thought:
-"Is the New York Times actually going to report that the market was beginning to take care of our nation's growing health care crisis?"
-"Was I going to find that all of my conclusions and theories were wrong?"
-"Was I going to find out what many on the Right have insisted that, 'The market will take care of the health care crisis,'?"
-"And just how will Batman and Robin get out of this fine mess?"

Never mind that last one.

No... They really were talking about "the market". They were talking about walk-in clinics that are starting to prop up at CVS Pharmacies and (of all places) Wal-Mart, where for $52 to $60 you could see a doctor and not have to wait insufferable hours in crowded waiting rooms or weeks for an appointment at your participating primary care physician's office.

This has nothing to do with our nation's health care crisis' main problem of not being able to afford to see a doctor when you're actually sick.

However, I'm imagining a fresh-out-of-med-school doctor waiting at the entrance of Wal-Mart, next to the greeter, asking you "Have you seen a doctor this year yet? How about a little "look-ee-lou" while your kids are eying at the New Brittany Spears CD (or is that Featherline - I guess I'm not watching Fox News or MSNBC enough)?

What the NY Times meant was that, because of competition, doctors are starting to set aside time during their day to see "last minute" patients who don't have an appointment. The Market, in this case, is truly making doctors more available, in the most literal sense of the word.

I wonder if Wal-Mart offers an employee discount for their "in-house" doctor? Maybe they could set up a little "surgi-center" or "mini-hospital". Why, they could even call it "Sam's Sick Place". How cute is that?

"Those doctors know that as walk-in medical offices and retail-store clinics pose new competition, and as shrinking insurance benefits mean patients are paying more of their own bills, family care medicine is more than ever a consumer-service business. And it pays to keep the customer satisfied."
-The New York Times

Shrinking benefits! So instead of fixing a broken, and still breaking health care system, let's just offer a more expensive alternative with less qualified people. Get a fishing rod and an eye exam.

Much of our nation's physicians' time has been swallowed up by their participation in multiple health care plans, and their money tied up in manpower hours of unique forms (medical insurance company forms, that is), bill collectors and appeals to those same medical insurance companies. Wouldn't it be wonderful if these doctors could use their time seeing patients rather than filling out forms?

It's is true that computers make life easier for doctors. And maybe the market is the reason that more and more doctors can do their scheduling and prescription renewal on line rather than waste time and resources either in office or on the phone. But this is just an obvious advantage of the internet, not an answer for an industry that is constantly being squeezed by health insurers and drug companies alike.

"The patients who use it, love it. They can see what is available and do it any time." Although we don't offer same-day scheduling, our patients "can often come right in, if they see that someone has canceled."
-Dr. Ellen Blye, an internist with a busy practice on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, said about one in 10 of her patients used the online scheduling system she leased from NexSched, a start-up in Marcellus, N.Y., near Syracuse (from The New York Times)

I know this is true, and I know how convenient this is. Dr. Blye shares a practice with her husband, Dr. Elliot Arons, my internist. I never wait more than a half hour for an appointment I made on line and I have all of my prescriptions renewed immediately. But even if all doctors used this feature, it still wouldn't cure our health care mess.

The bottom line is all of our modern technology won't help a person see a doctor when they're sick unless they can afford it. All of the $52 to $60 dollar clinics in the world won't heal a broken leg, or make available a top surgeon in a time of medical need.

Doctors and hospitals need to be available to all patients, regardless of ability to pay. "Dr. Wal-Mart" is not the answer.

-Noah Greenberg

Killing Americans Isn't "OK"

Wait for the poll. That's right... the administration of "G"lobal "W"arming Bush will have nothing to say until the poll numbers come out so don't even bother asking them. They're nowhere to be found, unless you include the same old rhetoric.

For those of you who fell asleep for a few days, let me fill you in. New Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is presenting a plan to the new Iraqi congress which would grant amnesty for those insurgents who did not participate in terrorist acts. The definition of "terrorist acts" seems to be any act not performed on the Iraqi people.

The question remains, "Are American troops fair game"  under this act?

The Bushies are remaining uncommitted about the whole thing, of course.

"Reconciliation must be an Iraqi process, led by Iraqis. We, of course, stand by, ready to assist in this effort — if the Iraqis request our help. But it's important to note that this is the first step, and it's a process that will take time to fully develop."
-White House spokesman Ken Lisaius

Of all the things to say "NO" to, this should be the one. The spineless and gutless Bushies have to stand up and say, "No... It is NOT alright to kill any American for any reason in Iraq." We should not stand idly by and allow this new Iraqi government the ability to set aside the deaths of thousands of American Children. This is not a good first step.

"I want the Iraqi people to take this decision unto themselves and make it correctly, and I hope it comes out ... no amnesty for anyone who committed an act of violence, of war crimes."
"The launch of this national reconciliation initiative should not be read as a reward for the killers and criminals or acceptance of their actions,"
-Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Warner (R-VA)

Why, how very non-committal of you, Sen.. Warner. I hope that heavy metal fence-post you're sitting on doesn't leave a mark on your ass.

There is only one way to look at this, and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) said all that needs to be said about it:
"For heaven's sake, we liberated that country. We got rid of a horrific dictator. We've paid a tremendous price. More than 2,500 Americans have given up their lives. The idea that they should even consider talking about amnesty for people who have killed people who liberated their country is unconscionable."
-Sen. Levin, on Fox News Sunday

The Bushies are always using the "Bush League" argument that in order for the past American deaths to mean something, we need to "stay the course" and "finish the job" in Iraq. What does this amnesty program say to the families of those dead soldiers now? What does it say about the soldiers who will die "waiting" for the Iraqi congress to begin their debate? What does it say to the American troops on the ground right now who must be shaking their heads in total disbelief?

If you want to talk about letting the insurgents win, GW, this is their head start toward the finish line.

-Noah Greenberg

A Medicare Part "D" Horror Story
or "Benefit? What Benefit?"

To all who are on Medicare Part D--here's my latest horror story. If you (or your parents, grandparents, or persons you are counseling) are (1) on Medicare Part D, and (2) have not yet had a premium deducted from your Social Security check, you should read this. You may know about it already--but just in case. . .

Way back last year (November '05) I sent in my Part D application. I requested that my premiums to Senior Partners be deducted from my monthly Social Security. Shoulda been easy--lots of lead time--right? WRONG! On mine and millions of other Part D accounts, this routine setup has not yet been accomplished by Medicare.

As some of you know, I became worried about making up back-dated premiums some time last month, but my Medicare HMO, Senior Partners, said they were trying to get information, and still weren't sure if I'd end up double-billed if I mailed them a premium payment. I waited until this month's Soc Sec payment showed up in my bank--it arrived last Monday--and still there was nothing deducted! So I've been on the phone with Medicare, Social Security, and Senior Partners ever since, trying to get some idea of what the hell's happening.

The government people were helpless. Some of them passed the buck to a higher-up, some said, "I know nawthing," and all of them told me "it's not my fault". Well, I knew that. So, if you talk to the Medicare/Soc Sec people, be polite.

I told all of them, in soft, even tones, "I understand how hideous it must be to work for such an incompetent president as George W. Bush. Everyone knows it's not YOUR fault, personally. It's his--and the rich incompetent political cronies he gives cushy jobs to." Those phone conversations are probably recorded but MOST of the people I spoke to responded with "You can say that again!" Or, "Boy, don't I know it!" I even asked a couple of them, "Are you getting a lot of cussing and screaming?" "Yes," she said, "from just about everybody." And she thanked me for not doing it. They're frazzled. And it's deliberate. Bush is making all agencies so swamped, ill-managed and incompetent that people will forget how helpful well-staffed agencies can be, and will think that lack of knowledge, errors, buck-passing, and red tape are standard for federal agencies.

They are--in the Third World.

Still, I was tempted to scream, especially at the buck passers. Remember the Good Old Days? My Soc Sec began in 1996, and as recently as early 2001, before Bush's rotten-egg-pelted inaugural, I was getting all kinds of expert info from the Social Security office. I'm sure many of you remember how helpful these places were after Clinton beefed up the work force in numbers and training. I got quick service, great advice and guidance both on the 800-number phone and in the local office. This past week, the only thing I learned from the government was that anyone whose billing hasn't yet been plugged in will ALL OF A SUDDEN have several months' worth of premiums deducted from ONE SOCIAL SECURITY PAYMENT. I pay $25 a month premium. Even that is a lot for me--but some people pay much higher premiums. I worry.

The staff at Senior Partners were smart enough to realize the incompetence of the Bush administration, so a few weeks ago they demanded a list from Medicare of the names & Medicare numbers of their clients who hadn't been processed--and told them to stop all the processing of deducted premiums that hadn't yet been done. After they received written confirmation and the list of names, Senior Partners notified us by letter that we should start sending each month's premium to them, and that they'd start formally billing us sometime this coming month. Since we now owe FOUR MONTHS backlog, they'll help us make long-term budgeted payments. Of course I now have to pay for postage, which I'd hoped to avoid, and Senior Partners does, too, an extra expense for them. For me 37 cents times X months is a helluva lot cheaper than losing a sizeable chunk of my Soc Sec money all at one fell swoop! Senior Partners may be out so much postage they will be required to raise the premium, and won't that be cute?

I didn't get the Senior Partners letter till yesterday. It was dated last Tuesday. My own pathetic whimpers may possibly have speeded up the letter, but I doubt it. They told me I wasn't the only one who's been bugging them about this situation. At least now some of us know what's going on. In summary, the government's Medicare Part D team is so far behind and so clueless--it's a crime! It stinketh. Like everything else this administration does.

Add "further evidence of total incompetence" to the growing list of REASONS TO IMPEACH BUSH! And how about a raucous session of tarring a feathering, too?

-Jenny Hanniver

The Cost of Health Care

The people speak: Health care cost doesn’t equal results

Is the United States the richest country in the world?
Most Americans would agree that we are.

Do we have the best health care in the world?
Let’s look at some facts that don’t rate sound bites on the evening news:

Our infant mortality rate is higher than 42 countries, including Cuba, Andorra and, get this, Slovenia.
The World Health Organization’s latest survey ranks the quality of U.S. health care 37th in the world.
Americans spend 16 percent of our economy on health care. In 2004 that amounted to $6,280 per person. Switzerland provides universal health care and spends half as much. Canada spends only 10 percent of its economy for health care and covers each and every person. Forty-six million Americans have no health insurance coverage.
Our government does not appear concerned with any of the above facts. Witness their latest action, which is the prescription drug plan, Plan D, widely perceived as a very expensive disaster, except for the insurance and drug companies, which are making out like bandits.

Did I say “bandits?”

Would a single-payer system make a difference?

Under an SPS, patients could still go to their chosen doctor, hospital or other health care provider. The difference would be a government-run payment system.

Some would say that we can’t afford this. Can we afford to be 37th in the world in health care quality?

Today about a third of the premiums we pay to health insurance companies go not to our health care but to their profits, marketing campaigns, CEO pay packages, posh headquarters, lobbying firms and massive bureaucracies to administer the programs.

Years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Is it a good thing for the richest country in the world to spend 16 percent of its economy on health care and have a quality ranking of 37th in the world?

-A letter by Mary Ankrom, as forwarded by Robert Scardapane

I Got Your Privacy, Right Here

NYT reports:
Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials.


First they came for the phone records and now banking records. This is hardly surprising given the almost unlimited powers granted in the Patriot Act. Basically, the right to privacy is dead!

-Robert Scadapane

Terror, Terror, Terror

Well, Dumbya didn't get a significant pop in the polls because of Zarqawi. So, you just knew it was coming - terror, terror, terror.

First, Shotgun Dick slithered out from beneath whatever rock he was hiding under and does a prime time TV interview. I am glutton for punishment so I listened to his spiel. Basically, the Shotgun fired off the same old PNAC rhetoric on Islamo-Fascists, Caliphates and Iraq being the central front in the phony "global war on terror". So, I just had a feeling that a terror alert was imminent. Sure enough the MSM bobble heads were soon shouting terror, terror, terror in Miami - Jeb's country. The FBI arrested a group that was allegedly planning an attack on the Sears tower and other locations. Oh yeah, one of these alleged domestic terrorists took an oath to Al Qaeda. One news bobble head said he wouldn't be at all surprised if this bust came about because we got Zarqawi. Hey, there you go. Who needs a Bushite PR department when he has the MSM?

-Robert Scardapane

This is the "Executive Summary" of a recent White Paper issued by the EXTREMELY conservative Cato Institute

Executive Summary

In recent judicial confirmation battles, President Bush has repeatedly and correctly stressed fidelity to the Constitution as the key qualification for service as a judge. It is also the key qualification for service as the nation's chief executive. On January 20, 2005, for the second time, Mr. Bush took the presidential oath of office set out in the Constitution, swearing to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." With five years of the Bush administration behind us, we have more than enough evidence to make an assessment about the president's commitment to our fundamental legal charter

Unfortunately, far from defending the Constitution, President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the document places on federal power. In its official legal briefs and public actions, the Bush administration has advanced a view of federal power that is astonishingly broad, a view that includes

-a federal government empowered to regulate core political speech and restrict it greatly when it counts the most: in the days before a federal election;
-a president who cannot be restrained, through validly enacted statutes, from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror;
-a president who has the inherent constitutional authority to designate American citizens suspected of terrorist activity as "enemy combatants," strip them of any constitutional protection, and lock them up without charges for the duration of the war on terror--in other words, perhaps forever; and
-a federal government with the power to supervise virtually every aspect of American life, from kindergarten, to marriage, to the grave.

President Bush's constitutional vision is, in short, sharply at odds with the text, history, and structure of our Constitution, which authorizes a government of limited powers.

-Gene Healy and Timothy Lynch, from "Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush" http://www.cato.org/pubs/wtpapers/powersurge_healy_lynch.pdf

Gene Healy is senior editor and author of "Arrogance of Power Reborn: The Imperial Presidency and Foreign Policy in the Clinton Years". Timothy Lynch is director of the Project on Criminal Justice and author of "Dereliction of Duty: The Constitutional Record of President Clinton."

-Forwarded and commented by Jenny Hanniver

In response to Conservative Talk Radio &() KABC host Doug McIntyre's "An Apology from a Bush Voter", Robert Chapman writes:

This was interesting. Mr. McIntyre went through the entire litany of problems that I have with Bush and even speculated as whether or not Bush is the worst President ever.

Just as I was beginning to believe him, he added this little nugget:
"None of this, by the way, should be interpreted as an endorsement of the opposition party. The Democrats are equally bankrupt. This is the second crime of our age. "

Now isn't this always the way it is. Like the rest of humanity Democrats are fallible. We have egos, we have weaknesses and we have shortcomings.

But we are not politically bankrupt. In an America that has refused to renew the voters' rights act , we Democrats are in favor of using the government to redress racial injustice.

In an America that is running up gigantic bills for our children and grandchildren to pay, we Democrats have used government to expand the economy and to assure that the opportunities reached into the lower socio-economic categories.

In an America standing tall by killing tens of thousands of civilians in their own homes in their own countries , we Democrats used government to stop ethnic cleansing.

We Democrats stand for things, like the government paying its own way, like opportunity for the poor, racial equality and peace. We will set forth our ideas and govern effectively. When we don't we will relinquish power in fair elections.

If good government is, in Mr. McIntyre's esteemed opinion, a crime, then we Democrats are proud to plead GUILTY.

Unlike the GOP leadership we Democrats are willing to live with the consequences of our decisions.


Using the so-called apology of a Bush voter to bash Democrats shows the paramount personal quality required to be a Bush voter in the first place : total commitment to dominating all interactions.

A "Darth" Cheney Quote

"If we pull out, [the terrorists in Iraq] will follow us. It doesn't matter where we go. ... And it will continue---whether we complete the job or not in Iraq---only it'll get worse. Iraq will become a safe haven for terrorists."
-"Darth" Cheney

Let's analyze the absurdity of this statement:
1) The terrorists in Iraq will follow us ... Oh yeah, so how does Darth explain 9/11? Our troops were NOT in Iraq then.
2) Complete the job? What job! I suppose he means building the permanent bases in Iraq. As Randi Rhodes says, the mission in Iraq is to stay in Iraq indefinitely.
3) Safe haven for terrorists? As opposed to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Jordan, Syria, Saudi, and countless other nations that to an extent have looked the other way at terrorist groups.

So, if you analyze the Dark One's statement it amounts to - no matter what we do we are screwed. Swell! In that case, I vote for troops home now and stop the useless expenditure of blood and money.

-Robert Scardapane

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-Noah Greenberg