Tag Archives: health care debate

Mental Cobwebs On Health Care

Many of us watched with interest or amusement, take your choice, the so-called summit on health care issues this week.  The comments from all sides did provoke thoughts about the process of changing our laws and the substance of any change.  One could make a pretty good argument that there is really on one issue and that is costs.  You can talk about health care insurance reform all you want but that is the tail on the dog.  It is disingenuous for some to argue about the “obscene” profits of the insurance companies.  One lady talked about how they made over 12 billion dollars in profits last year as though that was a terrible thing to occur.  Would she prefer that they all lose business. 

Health insurance is not any different than all other businesses.  They can only exist or better stated thrive if they provide a good or service that the consuming public needs or wants.  If you started a buggy whip business today with the latest state of the art facilities and machine tools and the highest quality leather it is still likely your business venture would fail because the market doesn’t support any demand for that product.  One hundred years ago virtually no one had health insurance and yet people still went to the doctors and we had hospitals.  Then the companies thought about providing insurance to cover those medical expenses and an industry was born.  Does 12 billion these days really strike you as a particularly huge sum of money?  Just think of the hundreds of billions thrown out the door in Washington every month and the trillions in budget items.  Frankly, I sure want my health insurance company to make a profit.  If they go broke then want good will my policy do me in a time of need?  Goldman Sachs probably paid out more than that in bonuses last year.  Don’t even get started on the billions we wasted on Government Motors or Chrysler for what? 

The premiums charged by the insurance companies and the claims they pay are directly related to the cost YOU incur for your medical treatment.  If the cost of your care was less your premium would be less.  Because of the recent cutbacks in Medicare expenditures my Supplemental policy premium actually went down a little this year from last year.  If and MRI costs $200.00 rather than $1000.00 then that w0uld be reflected in the price you pay for your insurance.  Of course there are lots of folks involved in that chain of events that leads to your MRI and its costs.  There is the manufacturer and all its employees who certainly want the highest wage they can get and the company needs to make a profit to continue with R & D to develop even more wonders to diagnose and treat us.  Then there is the hospital and all its employees who constantly complain that they aren’t paid enough.  The technician who administers the exam sure wants to be paid big time.   Then there are the nurses and doctors who actually deliver the services and evaluation that helps us get better, if that is our fate.   If everything in that whole process were a bit cheaper here and there then your premium would also be cheaper. 

There really aren’t any villains in our health care system.  Each person or company merely wants to make a profit or good salary and there is nothing inherently wrong or evil about those desires.   We do know some things that work to reduce costs.  Improved efficiency is one for sure.   There are plenty of experts around now who offer ideas to dramatically improve our medical delivery efficiency without the need for legislation or an agency or bureaucracy and definitely without new taxes.  We also know from any logical and objective reading of history that competition will lower costs.   There are many ways to enhance competition such as the States entering compacts to allow more companies to do business in their State and granting their citizens the right to buy health insurance from many companies.  Again that requires no dramatic legislative move or additional costs. 

Most importantly we can devise medical accounts for individuals to use for the insurance and even their co-pay or insurance premiums.  Make each of us a real consumer and look for the best bargain and prices.  Give the people an economic incentive to shop and save and they will.  That won’t cost more money either.  Yes, it would reshuffle money in the tax code perhaps but it should be a net wash if designed carefully and modified after a few years experience.  Here the parts are greater than the sum of the parts.  Don’t bunch us all into one great unit controlled from Washington but let us be separate and do our own thing.  The parts will collectively and ultimately make better decisions than the grand pooh bah in Washington.  

The real dispute in the current debate remains one of power.  Some believe that Washington  can and will do the right thing and be more efficient than the market or individuals.  They are true believers that Nanny knows best for y0u.  I suppose some of sincere in that belief.  But sincerity for one is fine unless their sincerity becomes a mandate for me.   Let them do their thing and let me have the freedom to make my own choices and bear the consequences of those choices.  No scarier words exist than “trust me”.  Those folks who want to trust Government, Inc. with their health care worry me because what they are really saying is that you and me should trust them to make the right and most efficacious decisions for us.  I don’t trust them.  Not with my life or my money.

“Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil men”.  Proverbs.  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Forget for the moment the merits economically or socially of the current proposals for the health care reform bill(s) wending its way through Congress, lets talk only about the administration of the new program and the agencies created by the proposed bill.  It is not for nothing that the Washington executive branch and administrative departments have been referred to often as the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.  Whenever there is any criticism of federal or government employees I notice how the Chris Mathews types also start talking about policemen and firemen and teachers and how valuable they are to our society and that we sure wouldn’t call them lazy or inefficient bureaucrats.  Wow, such a revelation.  Nope the criticism of the typical government employee has much more to do with the Post Office, the IRS, FDA, USDA, the Depts. of Commerce, Interior, Education, Labor, Social Security, Fannie, Freddie, and all those other countless agencies, boards, commissions, Congressional staffs that are the creatures of Congressional programs.  It literally would take more than these article to simply list all of them.  Think of that a moment, merely to list them.

I do hope you have noticed that the current plan is for the IRS to administer the new health care program.  It boggles the mind to think how many new employees will be added to the Federal payroll for that service.  The IRS can’t even keep up with its mail and documents that you send them.  If you have ever had any dealings with them at all you are aware of this.  They ask for something, you send it and then they ask you two months later for the same thing.  They are so incompetent that they won’t even accept responsibility for the advice given to you by their own employees.  Did you know that?  Really, if you have a question about your tax situation and go directly to the IRS for help filing out your return and follow the advice given to you by one of their agents and you get audited a year later regarding the same question the IRS is not bound by the advice given you.  They can and will take a contrary view.  If they don’t have enough confidence in their people to stick by their recommendation then why should we have any confidence in them?

If you get frustrated now trying to navigate you way through a phone menu when you “call” the IRS then just wait until you have to make a call to them regarding a medical procedure you want and are having to get their clearance so it will be paid for under your new Federally mandated health insurance policy.  How long will it take to talk to a live human being?  When you get them they no doubt will ask for more paperwork that you have already furnished and will tell you to go to the local IRS-Health  Care office to see a case officer.  Notice how they always come up with those titles rather than simply calling them what they are which would be clerks.   “Press One for English, Press Two for Portuguese, Three for Spanish…and Interpreter will be provided.”   I wonder what they are going to interpret, languages or the Health Care bill. 

This is the same outfit that can’t get the swine flu vaccine delivered on time and now they will be in charge of your emergency appendectomy.  One wonders how the phone menu works for those emergencies.   In future you will have to work things out with your insurance carrier, your doctor and the hospital and then Government, Inc.  The same folks who brought you the Katrina rescue efforts will be in charge of this program.  The people who thought it was a great idea to try KSM in Manhattan will be coming up will all the new medically approved procedures and deciding which ones to eliminate.  I already find it very frustrating trying to read and understand my health policy as it is with my private carrier.  Do you think the process will be more explicit and easier to comprehend when the language of every policy is drafted by our new Health Commissioner?  It will be a one size fits all program.  From looking at the news at night when I see any kind of street scene I do notice that we Americans sure do come in a variety of sizes.  It is going to be like the Army, everyone wears size ten shoes, if not,  then you can wait until the size 9’s arrive and good luck with that. 

A Federal bureaucrat has never met a form he didn’t love and one that he couldn’t figure out how to add a few more lines to “for clarity”.  I challenge you to order a Medicare brochure that allegedly explains how it works when you are ready to sign up and your options.  It is more like trying to read Shakespeare in ancient Greek.  The guys who manage the TARP slush fund (that is what it will be if Government, Inc. gets its way) will be running your local hospital.   The men who dreamed up the PIPP program will be managing the hundreds of billions of dollars annually that will flow through the Federal coffers.  Those folks who turn a blind eye to the fraudulent accounting for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will be handling all the nation’s health expenses and expenditures. 

Maybe they will operate it like we are doing with GM.  Since we own it and are propping it up for the unions and their votes and even paying with tax credits for people to buy their cars, maybe we can steal a page from that playbook.  Who knows, maybe someday soon they will pay you to get sick with a tax credit so long as you  will use their program; of course, that assumes they believe you really should have a job and some income.  It would be so much easier on them if we all would just cooperate and work where we are told for what they believe is “reasonable compensation”  and hand it all over to them.  They will spend it wisely no doubt for our benefit.  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

Today health care, tomorrow the entire economy.

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Health Care And Too Big To Fail

Since last fall we have had a great deal of discussion and debate concerning the phrase of too big to fail (TBTF) which was a newly coined term created seemingly just for this current economic mess.  That concept led to the TARP; it also produced the TALF program, remember that?  Likewise, a substantial portion of the Stimulus bill was indirectly to support the same idea that some companies were TBTF.   Additionally, we must recall the Federal Reserve has gone to extraordinary lengths to prop up those institutions with their 1.5 trillion dollar purchase of mortgage-backed securities, treasury bills and the simple act of printing more money and keeping the funds rate a virtually zero.  Yes, some of those actions and some of that money was for the general economy allegedly but huge bundles went directly to those TBTF concerns.

First it was Fannie and Freddie, they were followed by AIG and after Lehman collapsed they blinked again even worse and the major banks were brought into the fold along with GM and Chrysler.   The worst of the panic is over.   The economy is still hurting badly and will continue to do so for years to come especially if the current proposals for cap and tax and health care and the other tax increases all take effect.  The theory was that these TBTF’s went down or any one of them it would destroy the economy.  Well, I am not an economist but I have dealt with bad times and struggling companies during my 43 year career and have seen over pretty severe down turns.  The ’70’s were no picnic.  That entire decade was a downer for those of you too young to know about it.  Here is not the place to examine in detail the likely results if we had let those institutions go under or some of them.  If Fannie and Freddie went down there would still be a demand for housing and house loans and a profit to be made there.  The S and L’s made money for decades doing just that.   Lots of big investment houses, many foreign might have lost lots of money on an AIG failure but all those policies would have been honored which is much more important to my mind.  The decision to bailout GM and Chrysler and have them become Government, Inc. entities was clearly a political decision not an economic one.  New smaller companies would have emerged from a Chapter 11 and no one would have been left without a car if they wanted to buy one. 

We made a mess of things by allowing ourselves to be duped with that concept of TBTF.  Yes, things would have been difficult if they had gone down.  But I can argue just like the White House that but for those actions things would have been better by now, not worse.    They say everything would have been much worse if we hadn’t taken all those actions.  An argument can be made to the contrary very cogently.  Remember that only 350 billion of the TARP  money had been spent by inaugural day.  Everything else came after that date.  The GM/Chrysler bailout, the extra money to the institutions, Stimulus, TALF and all the buying by the Fed at the urging of the WH.   Whether you agree or not is not important, but I bet most of you would agree that it hasn’t been handled well.  It could have been done better.  I favor letting any failing company to fail, others would promote more government regulation and takeovers.  Guess a lot depends on your trust level in the free market system vis a vis Government.  Take your pick.  I will trust a businessman any day over a politician.

However we now will soon face another serious problem of the same ilk.  All the current proposals for health care reform will raise taxes greatly and will severely cut back on expenditures to hospitals, insurance companies and doctors.  There will be special taxes assessed against the medical device makers and pharmaceutical companies.  Hospitals do go broke in spite of what you may think about them making way too much money. I have represented three hospitals over the years in Chapter 11.  Yes, the insurance companies will get more customers but they will also have to add many new ones that carry much higher risks and thus larger claim payouts.  Doctors facing cutbacks will make choices.  Many will decide to move locations, probably to the larger urban areas.  Not many will quit practicing altogether but those moves will further deplete the need for medical care in the rural and outlying regions.  Many of the health insurance companies are affiliates or subsidiaries of life insurance companies.  If some of them go under because they can’t make sufficient profits then that will impact the life company they are affiliated with.  Those life policies will be endangered and those annuities that many people bought.

We need to think long and hard now on the front end how we are going to deal with those hospitals, insurance companies and drug makers that are TBTF.  Will we even acknowledge that concept for any of them?  What about the drug company that has promising research for a specific cancer cure but then goes under due to the weight of the new taxes imposed on it and the reduction in the tax breaks for research.  Trust me there will some of these entities that do go under as the Government, Inc. health program develops over the next decade.   They are proposing a 21 % cut just for the doctors.  Would you like a 21% cut in your pay today?  How would that effect you?  For some such a cut would produce bankruptcy.  If you live in an outer suburb and have only two hospitals and one goes under then you might have to drive 50 miles for medical treatment or wait inordinate amounts of time at the survivor hospital.    Are we going to simply bailout these failing hospitals, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies like we did GM?  Where is that money allocated in the CBO report.   www.olcranky.wordpress.com

“The lust of government is the greatest lust.”   James Harrington

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2 Cents For These?

The following are worth what you paid for them but the asking price is still 2 cents per each as they say on the loading docks.

When you have spent an hour on the tarmac with no word from the cockpit about take off or pulling up the the gate, you wonder if those pilots were “distracted” with their computers and heated discussions about company policy.  Like the policy for keeping passengers informed.

The current health care proposal to have a public option but with a provision to allow States to opt out of the program has one glaring fault.  The folks in Kansas might not want to have anything to do with a Federally run and mandated health care program and decide not to participate.  But, but, but, the new Federal taxes of all stripes being implemented to pay for the program will still be in place so those good folks in Kansas will still pay the taxes and the people in Michigan will get the benefit of the program with a subsidy from Kansas.  That’s a real Hobson’s choice opt out if I ever saw one.

One wonders sometimes if the US will survive the length of the Roman Empire.  The myth of Remus seeing the 12 buzzards flying over Rome supposedly meant that the empire was to last for 12 centuries and that turned out to be pretty close to the facts.  Will the US enjoy ascendency for 12 score of years?

You watch the news and see our troops and allies training Afghan soldiers with modern weapons and how to use proper infantry techniques.  Then sometimes they are firing larger weapons like machine guns.  It is usually some scruffy looking fellow who looked like he just came in from the fields.  Am I the only one that has a concern that all we may be doing is supplying and training our future adversary on the field of battle?

Now our good friends at GMAC are back asking for more money.  This time it appears to be about 3 or 4 billion more in addition to the 12 billion it has already received to make loans for Government, Inc.’s autormobile industry.  Hmm, let’s see if GMAC went out of business then folks would have to get their car loans from a local or regional bank or even a credit union.  Wouldn’t that be a good deal for everyone.  I thought we were all worried about those too big to fail banks.   Why don’t we let the local banks have that business and stir the local economies.  Government, Inc. is subsidizing GM and Chrysler and they are subsidizing GMAC and there is no end in sight.  You really think the UAW will ever agree to meaningful changes to their contracts to make our auto industry truly competitive as long as Government, Inc. will be there to pick up their tab with taxpayer money from throughout the nation?

Interesting to see that someone finally is reading our Constitution.  Note the recent letter from some members of Congress to the guy in the White House that he can’t accept the Noble prize without approval of Congress.  They are right.  Hate to rain on anyone’s parade but one would hope that occasionally the current gang in Washington would follow the law and the press would hold them to it.  The provision is not comlicated.  Art. 1, section 9….”No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no person holding any Office or Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the consent of Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or Foreign State.”  It is not a big deal if followed but it is our law and either it should be followed or not.  Maybe we will ignore it jsut as we do our own immigration laws and pretend they don’t exist.

Speaking of Art. 1, section 9, it requires that there be a “regular Statement and Account of the Receipt and Expenditures of all public money”….. Do you think the off books accounting used for Medicare, Social Security and soon the other like comports with that Constitutional requirement?  Don’t we have the right to demand under that section as legitimate an accounting as is required by other public companies regulated by the SEC?  Government, Inc. official would be prosecuted for fraud if that were held to the accounting standards of the private market.   They make “material misrepresentations” with every alleged budget and accounting they submit. 

Rather than give money to big banks and GM why not use that money to fund big increases in the NASA programs.  It would create thousands of new and well paying jobs.  It would continue the true nature and purpose of Man to venture out and test the new and explore.  It would have side benefits not yet imagined.  We could send a manned crew to Mars.  The scientific knowledge alone would pay for it down the road.  What are we getting for our money in GM or Citigroup?

When you go to the hospital and they make you put on one of those darn gowns with your rear end exposed wouldn’t you prefer to be dressed as you like and tell them you will be glad to undress for their exams or check ups everytime they need one?  I mean those gowns are not a medically necessity it is for the convenience of the staff which I appreciate but gee whiz.  They are so demeaning.  I would rather dress and undress 8 times a day but be able to look normal between times.  It would sure elevate my mental state, don’t know about you.   Then you probably have a cuter rear end than I do.

How is it that the Holidays seem so far away at Easter and then you get hot and before you can blink they are only 7 weeks away?

“The Democratic Party has a vested interest in depression at home and war abroad.  Its leaders are always troubadours of trouble; crooners of catastrophe.  Public confusion on vital issues is Democratic weather.  A Democratic President is doomed to proceed to his goals like a squid, squirting darkness all about him”….  Hard to believe but that is from the New York Times, February 1959.   It could apply to their headline for tomorrow.    http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com



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Health Care Reform and the Constitution

It is amazing to hear so many politicians making proposals in both the House and the Senate regarding health care reform without even a passing nod to the Constitutional authority of Congress to enact such legislation.  I know the idea of Federalism and the Constitution must seem quaint and old fashioned to many of them when they are doing the “right” thing and being modern and progressive (liberal) with the ambitious plans proffered.   I suppose they feel that you can’t a little thing like the law stand in the way of an expansion of government power and taking care of the little people.

We do the dangerous act of looking at the Constitution.  I would like someone to point to the section of the Constitution that grants Congress the power to regulate any kind of insurance.  If you are referring to the “general welfare” phrase of section 8, Article One I would postulate that that is the refuge of all who have no arugment.  The Federalist papers make it clear that such words to not empower the Congress to pass anything it wants.  There are enumerated powers and powers left to the States.  Many areas of law have been left to the States under the Constitution.  Real estate law is controlled by the States.  There is no federal law regarding real estate.  The various States have different appproaches to mortgages and deed of trust for example.  Marriage and family law has been left to the States.  The requirement for marriage and divorce have been different in the States from our inception.  Likewise all insurance law has been governed by State law.  Your home insurance, car insurance, umbrella liability policy and the like are all creatures of and regulated by your home  State.   These are only some of the more common examples of areas left exclusively to State law. 

Those matters are left to State law because of the 9th and 10th amendments.   Please read your copy of the Constitution.  If you don’t have one shame on you.  You can get one easily enough.  The Tenth Amendment in particular makes it plain that any powers not specifically granted to the Congress are reserved to the States.  Those specific powers are set out in Article One.  The States have controlled the insurance industry from our inception as a nation.  Now Congress is proposing to completely ignore the Tenth Amendment and write Federal law that will supercede State laws and regulations.  The States have always had the right to enter into compacts with each other.  They could do that now if they wish to regarding health insurance.  The proposals on tap will establish a national system of health insurance and importantly health insurance contract law.    Your health insurance policy in Vermont does not affect interstate commerce in the slightest anymore than the health treatment you seek to obtain.  The interstate commerce clause should not be held to  include health insurance or health reform.  The Supreme Court a couple of years ago finally pushed back on the ever expanding interstate commerce clause as a justification for any law passed.   They did that in the case involving the guns on school yards.  A legitimate concern but one left to the wisdom of each State.  My having a hand gun on a school yard could not concievably affect interstate commerce but  Congress said it did–if you push a ridiculous argument too far its inanity becomes apparent even to the intellectually challenged.

Next we come to the real puzzeler about the mandate that everyone must buy health insurance on pain of penalty by taxation and criminal proceedings.  You may recall that was one of the matters that people revolted against with Hillary-Care 15 years ago.  They criminal provisions in that one also.  Here they will be requiring you to buy insurance whether you want it or not.  The penalty the guy in the White House refuses to acknowledge is a tax will be paid through the IRS and failure to pay will be enforced with fines up to $25,000.00 and prison up to one year.  That is a tax and it is a crime if you don’t adhere to Government, Inc.’s mandate.   First, where in the Constitution does Congress get the authority to require that you buy ANY product or service?  I am waiting for an answer to that one.   Will Congress also have the power to require that you make all future loans for a house through Fannie or Freddie so their financial positions will be shored up?  Will Congress require you hire a CPA to prepare your tax return?  How about buying a car.  Can Congress mandate that we buy GMs or if not then how about a demand that all auto financing goes through GMAC  since the government owns that now after its arbitrary takeover last spring.   Just imagine Congress thinks it has the power to require you to buy something, it doesn’t matter what the product or service is.  Really think about that.  It would be the greatest usurpation of power by any Congress since our founding and will open the floodgates to rule of the mob rather than a rule of law.

There are other Constitutional challenges that can be made and I sure hope will be made to the health care reform.  If most of us really want it, it can happen through the States and with respect for our Federal system of government.  Whatever we do should be done according to law.   Our Federal system is flexible and the States know the needs of their people.  They can form any compact they want to improve our health care system and health insurance delivery.  Let’s not become some third world entity that rules by dictat, decree and fiat from the elites in ivory towers.  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

“There is no nonsense so arrant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action.”  Bertrand Russel

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Left Lies About Health Care

The air is thick these days with cross currents of accusations that one side or the other is telling lies about the pending HR 3200 health care reform bill.  Again you are all urged to read at least some portion of it for yourself.  You can google it.   The phrase “death panels” is tossed about by both sides.  Frankly, I think it is a fair paraphase and debating point for those who oppose the health bill.  When you read it the intent of the section is quiet clear.  You don’t need to be an Oxford don to discern that the message is to encourage people to forgo treatment and accept death.   That is the whole point.  It darn sure isn’t there to promote attempts to be really aggressive in prolonging your life.  Those sessions and the message they send were important enough to the drafters of the bill that they put it in there.  They could have assumed that most doctors, patients and their families would discuss those issues when they all felt the time was right.  The bill prods them to discuss impending death.  So it is a bit dramatic but a fair analogy.  They sure aren’t “life panels”.  The left starting using the argument that some where between 50% and 62% of all bankruptcies are caused by medical costs.  I have heard and seen numbers between those two bandied about and one just last night by an MSNBC commentator.

Over the years I have learned that there is so much to learn.  The amount of information and knowledge that I have not attained is stunning.  That is one of my biggest regrets with aging, I will not be able to learn all that I would have wanted.  There is lots about a lot that I don’t know.  But there are a few things that I do know about in great detail.   The first time I heard such a number my ears pricked up because I immediately realized how absurd that figure was.   I have been doing bankruptcy work for over 40 years.  I specialize in Chapter 11 and workouts.  I and my partner were active in helping draft and discuss the creation of the Bankruptcy Code during the ’70’s.  He even went to testify on several occasions.  My name was on the first check to found the American Bankrutpcy Institute which these days is constantly being quoted by AP and others regarding bankruptcy matters.  I have handled hundreds if not a few thousand bankruptcy matters during my career.   

First, I would  like to know how they gathered this alleged information that medical costs were the cause of individual bankruptcies.  The data gathering I submit was skewed and the seeker found just what they were looking for in the first place.  When a bankruptcy is filed the debtor has to file lots of paper work.  They must list their assets, liabilities and a great deal of other information.  They have to disclose their bank accounts, payments made in the last year, trusts in their name, and special payments they made.  They are very detailed.  But they do NOT ask  why they filed bankruptcy.  A creditor at the first meeting can ask the question but that is only asked in business cases normally, not individual cases.  Secondly it is not asked in personal cases because it doesn’t matter anymore.  They are were they are.   The debtor must list in detail their creditors by name, address, amount owed and what for and if they challenge the debt among other things.  If all they did was track schedules filed in bankruptcy cases to see if there were any debt listed to a doctor or hospital then that would  not be an  accurate reflection of  the cause of bankruptcy.  That would be merely one debt among others. 

If the data was gathered by making some kind of survey in writing or by phone then the data would be even more misleading.  People lie about money, duh.  People rarely like to own up to their own mistakes especially when they don’t have to and there is another convenient excuse.  I bet you have noticed this human characteristic yourself.  If a debtor filed for bankruptcy and  owed anything to a doctor or hospital I can well imagine that they would say that was why I had to file.  He will conveniently omit the fact that he gambled away and lost $17,000.0o the prior year in Vegas.  He will not blame an extravagant life style for his financial demise.  That fancy flat screen TV and gear that cost $4000.00 and all those nice expensive trips he took with his girlfriend or wife will not be mentioned as the cause of his bankruptcy.   The fact he charged it all on his credit card and was living well beyond his means will not be singled out as the reason he filed.  I handled hundreds of straight Ch. 7 bankruptcies over the years.  In only a handful of cases was outstanding medical bills due the cause of a bankruptcy.  The fact is almost anywhere across the country those debts will not put people into bankrupty unless they have a really bad lawyer.  Doctors and hosptitals don’t file suit for those debts even if they are due.  That is a fact.  Check your local abstract of judgment records.   Even if you owe money to a hospital and get sick again, they will still treat you when you show up.  It would be a rare case where someone filed bankruptcy due to medical bills. 

So often we have to accept some contention without serious challenge because we don’t really know enough about the subject to rebut or challenge it.  I know something about this.  That is a complete fabrication and I would be glad to be proved wrong if someone can do it.  Lord only knows what think tank they used to come up with those numbers.  I guarantee you they did not get that % from a bankruptcy practioner with experience.  It would be very rare for me to advise in good faith that someone take bankruptcy because of medical debts alone.  There w0uld need to be other reasons.

Our dollar and T bills are holding up better than I expected in the markets.  Unfortunately though it is like being the tallest midget in the room.  It is only because of the weakness of our economic competitors that they remain relatively strong.  As new taxes, regulations, and inflation take their toll those numbers will change.   www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Health Care Reform and Shakespeare

The Bible and Shakespeare are the best reference tools for any debater or proponet or opponent of any cause.  The Bard had something to say that fits almost every occasion and circumstance.  As the nation debates the health care package propounded in HR 3200 we might wish to take heed to his words and their portent.

You have read or heard by now that the administration is now taking a new tack in trying to sell its health care takeover by Government, Inc.  They are pushing now the moral and religious imperative as they see it that requires all good Christians to support health care because that is the Christian or moral thing to do.  I for one don’t like to preached too by anyone except from the pulpit and even then I think I am repsonsible for my own theology.  It is too easy to have it spoon fed by others.  The priesthood of the believer is my doctrine.  It is my job, not someone else’s, to determine as best I can God’s revealed will.  The Bard had a warning about those who invoke the divine for political purposes–  “The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose”.  I don’t know if the new guy in the White House is the devil but his preaching doesn’t jibe with my beliefs.  Charity I support, social engineering and wealth redistribution with a bayonet at my back I do not support.

Naturally, it pulls at the heart strings to hear of those in need due to health problems.  It should.  But those emotions don’t justify a greater evil by surrenduring our freedoms in exchange for alleged help from the government.  That false appeal belies the true agenda which is another huge expansion of government into every aspect of our lives from cradle to grave.  “O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath”.

As soon as the Town Hall meetings started there was a great hue and cry from the Dems that evil mongers and organized “special interests” were behind all the protest.  They expressed great suspicion at the legitimacy and genuiness of the people expressing their opposition.  You are aware as much as me of the vilification of those people; the suspicions the Dems tried to plant in the minds of everyone.  Well, the Bard would remind that–“Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind”.

The proponents are asking us to trust them and believe that their incredibly complex proposal with its arcane provisions is a great improvement over our current health system.  All acknowledge that the current system sure could use an upgrade.  But the proposals go well beyond fixing the known problems and allow the government to dictate the terms of all decisions down the road.  Even though we have current problems you should remember “Tis better to bear the ills we have than fly to others that we know not of”.    I would caution us all to heed that advice and fix the known ills rather than open the floodgates to government regulation.

Please read the Bill.  I am working my way through it still.  Don’t take my word for a thing.  I trust the people more than the Dems.  See if you can understand it.  The parts you do should cause you great concern if you don’t want bureaucrats running a very important part of your life.   That Commissioner that is set up will have powers to literally write your insurance policy, collect “data” on your, your doctor, your hospital and whatever else he thinks he needs.  Read it.  What if he decides he needs your financial data so he can better adjust the premium rates?  Be informed.  As the Bard said, “There is no darkness but ignorance”.

I know you remember well the very protest in the streets and in committee rooms, halls of Congress and anywhere there were TV cameras by the Left to protest all measure of things.  They have opposed wars, social policy, envoirnmental issues and voting and tax matters with great vigor and very loud voices.   They did so with the intent always to drown out any debate and intimidate and stop any opposition to their views.  These protests at these town hall meetings have been tame, very tame by comparison to any protests lead by Greenpeace, the Black Panthers, ACORN and a whole hosts of leftists.  They are so mad to see the Silent Majority finally rise up and raise their voices in protests.  It rankles them clearly, their ripostes have been shrill and vitriolic. They never objected to even more disturbing violence by their own kind.  Well, all I have to reply to them is the words of the Bard–“The wheel is come full circle”.  So they better get used to it.  The rise of the average Joe, as in Plumber, as only started.

I do trust the people, their common sense and inherent sense of decency. We flounder on occasion but I have great faith in our nation.  We are the children and grand children of the Greatest Generation and I believe we will not abandon or tarnish that legacy. On that note I would quote the Bard once again,

“The golden age is before us, not behind us”.  www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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The Medicare Analogy to Socialized Medicine

During many of the debates and conversations regarding our health care issues I have heard more than one pundit opine, with a smug sneer, that some people complain about a government takeover of health care but they don’t want the government to mess with Medicare.  They then deliver what they assume is some sort of debate coup de grace by observing that Medicare is a government program.  Viola, those opposed don’t know what they are talking about or can’t think logically and the government is very good at whatever mission it undertakes.   They assume that is a slam dunk argument that has no riposte.   Well, if I were at one of those town hall meetings and that comment was made again I would have some things to say about it in reply.

First of all, the notion that Medicare is run very well is a complete joke.  If you have had to be involved with it at all then you know what I am talking about.  If you take your mother or grandmother to the doctor’s and she needs hospitalization then the fun just begins.  The red tape and bureaucracy to comply with Medicare requirements are staggering and confusing and often non sensical.   Lord forbid if there are tests or evaluations that have to be done.  If you think the insurance companies by themselves make it complicated to receive your medical treatment, I assure you it  isn’t improved when you add the Medicare bureaucracy on top of it.  What is covered, what is not covered, who will do the procedure, where can you get it done, if you’re  merely sick  there is no long term assisted living care but if you have a hearing problem it might be; the list of conflicting and confusing issues is increased, not decreased with the government involvement.   I would also take out one of the government publications explaining the Medicare prescription drug program.  Just read that at a town hall meeting.  It is not a question of being intelligent, but they are written as though it came from a Japenese mental hospital and was translated by Whirling Dervishes hopped up on absinthe.   Really, if you have never read one of those get it from a relative, read the damn thing.  That is the best illustration of how efficient the government is at doing anything.  That should be enough to rest your case.

Of course there is the little matter of money and how Medicare is paid for by all of us.  The smart set liberals deride those opposed by saying we gladly accept the socialized medicine provided by Medicare.  Well, I would say that you darn right I do.  After all the government stole my money from me in the first place for 40 years now to pay for medicare.   In my case I have paid in over $63,000.00 in Medicare taxes over the years.  Add yours up, you’ll be surprised at the amount.  I am taking my medicare benefits, I have paid for them.  Of course you must remember that I was denied the use of my money all these years.  I could have invested that money.  Even if it was only at a 3% rate of return that number would have grown to well over $100,000.00 over 40 years.  Don’t forget that Medicare is like any other insurance–it is a gamble on risk/reward.  If I die in a few years then the system will have profitted handsomely off of me.  Even if I live to a ripe old age but I have no health issues and simply drop dead some day they will likewise have made out like the bandits they are.   It was my money, not theirs.  If they had forced me to save that money and given me interest at 3% or even 2% over all the years I would be happy for them to give it back to me at age 65 and I will take care of my own health insurance needs, thank you very much.  That would have bought lots of insurance coverage.  I have paid in no telling how much for medical coverage over the years with my private policy.  I have been blessed with good health and they have made a nice profit on me.  But that it is ok and because it was voluntary on both sides of the equation.  I didn’t have to take out the policy or get the coverage.  The big difference of course is that the insurance company didn’t have the right to come take my money against my will.  They made a profit, it was not thief.  I have nothing against any company making profits otherwise my claim for coverage would be worthless.

That same argument is true with Social Security.  I have paid in well in excess of $100,000.00 over 50 years.  If I had been able to keep my own money or at least control its investment and kept it in treasury bills or CD’s and got a very low 3% return it would have been over $200,000.00 by now.  Of course I take my social security check each month and with no thank you’s to anyone–its my money in the first place that was consfiscated by the government to meet someone else’s social agenda, not mine.  I would be glad to have that $200,000.00 plus in cash now and provide for my own retirement needs without any help or interference by the government.  Of course it is also a gamble, if I die soon then the government will have made lots of money off of me.  My heirs don’t even get the excess.  My surviving spouse will receive payments but again that is merely getting back part of what we put in.  It is her money.   There is the added insult with Social Security that they steal your money in the first place, do not pay you any interest on the money whatsoever and then when you take it out, they tax you on your own damn money.  I mean you paid taxes on your income when you got that money in the first place and then they tax you again when they graciously give you back some portion of your money.  They expect me to smile and say “thank you”, that would be like saying thanks to the burglar or thief who returned your stolen goods.  You’ll be glad to have them back but not grateful to the thief.

“Liberty means responsibility.  That is why most men dread it.”  George Bernard Shaw   www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Quo Vadis? USA

The hyperbole is running rampant these days from the lips of the pundits and commentators regarding the national debate on health care.   Those opposed to the House plan are often characterized as bent on some sort of revolution or over throw of the government.  They speak of the opposition to a government health care take over as being composed of people who favor a nazi -like regime or using extreme language comparing those in power to nazis.  They can’t seem to make up their mind about whether the opposition is comprised of nazis or they are making unfair comparisons of the current administration’s headlong flight to expand government as a nazi-like grab  for power.   However they are interpreted there has been a barely below the radar expression of concern about some sort of revolution in the country that would be fostered by extremists and right wing hate groups.  Well, I don’t think we need fear that kind of revolution any time soon.  There was much play in the press about some town hall protesters against the health care House bill carrying signs with the Jefferson quote about the tree of liberty needing replenishment with the blood of tyrants ever so often.  There has even been severe criticism of burning some congressman in effigy.  We have a long history of that in the US.  It was a common practice during the Revolutionary War and was done extensively during the War Between the States by many of those opposed to Lincoln.  During the draft riots in 1863 or 1864 in New York city it was done many times.   I am not one to want to participate in that kind of activity but it is an expression of free speech.  I don’t condone it or approve it but recognize it as a right.  It is not un-American as ms. Pelosi might contend.

The history of the world is replete with revolutions and civil wars.  When such a movement gains true traction the first major concern is always what will the military do when faced with two opposing camps claiming authority over it.   The history of Rome is ripe with such examples.  The Roman Empire went through literally dozens of civil wars and revolutions over its history.  Julius Caesar was a revolutionary when he crossed the Rubic0n because he was defying the civil authority by bringing his army within the confines of the heart of the Roman world which was forbidden.  Thus we have that expression to this day, crossing the Rubicon,  about taking a step where there is no turning back once taken.  He was going to emerge the new leader or end up dead or at best in exhile as a result of his action.   A bit later it was Augustus and Marc Antony that engaged in a civil war.  They both commanded Roman Armies but each was loyal to opposing sides.  The Roman Empire managed to endure in spite of these turmoils and uprisings for four more centuries. 

The moment of truth in any civil war is when the troops are called upon to take military action against their fellow countrymen.  Will they do it?  That is always the critical step.  The better trained and disciplined the troops the more likely they will  follow the orders of their immediate superior right up the chain of command until you reach the “political” level of authority.  There is where the rubber meets the road.   You might have seen the recent very so so movie, Valkyrie, about the plot to assassinate Hitler.  The outcome of that coup was very much dependent upon who the military would obey when faced with conflicting instructions.  At the beginning of our civil war we had no clashes during the early stages at all.  The Federal authorities withdrew voluntarily from all federal facilities across the south including military posts.  It was only when Lincoln decided to make an issue of it by reinforcing Ft. Sumter that the first shots were fired.  That was done as a PR ploy to make sure it was the south that fired the first shots.  It succeeded.  

Napoleon when he left Elba and returned to France and was on the march again to regain power faced his major challenge outside Lyon.  He had gathered a fairly small force that was marching with him north toward Paris.   The King had dispatched an army lead by one of Napoleon’s former commanders (of course they all were in  that category) to stop him and arrest him.   The big concern was what would happen when those two armies met.  Napoleon would have been defeated as his force was small compared to the opposing army.  When they came face to face Napoleon when out personally to address the opposing troops.  He reminded them of their past glory and what he had done for France and the revolution.  He told them that if they opposed him they could shoot him on the spot.  They gave a hurrah and no harm came to Napoleon that day.  The “civil” war in Fance was won by him without firing a shot.   He lead a united France to Waterloo and his ultimate defeat. 

If the tempers ever reach the boiling point in the US it is a hard call to make whether the troops would fire on their fellow citizens.  It probably would depend on who was in the opposing crowd.  If  it was a lot of blue hairs and grannies I don’t think they would. If it is long hairs burning the American flag then they might.   Would they take aim through the cross hairs at their neighbors or turn the weapon on their own commanders?   Will we face a day where we turn to the bullets rather than the ballots through frustration and anger?   I truly don’t know.   We are divided badly now but we have faced divisions before and survived and even thrived through it all.  Have our opposing fundamental views of government reached such a demarche between the sides that we are headed for the abyss?  The historians of another age will have the answers and will offer ponderous explanations whatever the outcome.

When you look at yourself in the mirror the image you see is reversed as we all know.  Your right hand appears as a “left” hand in the mirror.  The mirror reverses the image.  Since  that is true then why aren’t up and down also reversed? www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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A Little Can Affect A Lot

I am always amused at the way some arguments are presented in political debates when one side is trying to sell their program.  The current controversy over health care costs is only the most recent example of this propensity.  One of the major arguments of those favoring a government takeover of health care insurance and health care delivery is that the costs will continue to escalate and do so exponentially until the entire economy is overwhelmed with nothing but health costs.  By definition liberals are all for change.  Change is their mantra and has been my entire life.  They have never met a situation or circumstance that they didn’t want to change.   The moss back conservatives like to take their time with change and not tinker too much and make changes in an incremental way slowly testing the waters.  The liberals like to leap right in without knowing the depth of the water but assuring everyone they know what is best because they are the elites and know better than the rest of us.  When it comes to medical costs the liberals argue that the costs will continue to increase without drastic changes and that the increases will always outpace inflation and earnings.  

Of course that argument is severely flawed.  The old adage about diminishing returns comes into play at some point and likewise the economy functions on the supply and demand concept but demand is calibrated by costs.  If someone built the most magnificient and fuel efficient car in the world and it had ever feature known to man and everyone wanted to have one it would not sell if the price was $100,000.   That price would control the demand.   If the price was projected to increase with each passing year that would not induce additional sales.  People will only pay so much for any product or service.  Forget the super rich and the totally impoverished because they won’t and never have set the bar for pricing of products and services.  It is that great sweep of the middle that drives the economic bus.   Right now I pay about $7000 a year for medical insurance for the wife and me.  I gulp with every payment but I can eke it out and I pay and frankly would pay even more if that were required for coverage.  But there is a limit.  If my  medical insurance was $17,000 a year, I wouldn’t pay.   Sure I would worry about a health issue but the bottom line is I wouldn’t pay, period.  The same analogy is true for the nation as a whole.  “We” are willing to pay only so much for health coverage.   Our betters might try to persuade us that it is in our best interest to pay more through premiums or taxes but there is a limit.  

That is probably the biggest flaw with the current proposals coming out of the House and those being discussed in the Senate–costs.  The politicians misjudge our willingness to pay.  They believe they can set the costs and then we will all fall in line like lemmings.   I trust the collective wisdom of the people.  They know that it doesn’t matter if the cost is called a tax, fee or premium, a cost is a cost.  Those costs will come out of our pockets one way or the other.  The hospitals and doctors aren’t going to close their doors if none of us had coverage.  In fact that might be the best way to go.  No insurance and start all over.  The  hospitals and doctors have to make a living.  Even though that heart surgery might normally costs $50,000 dollars under today’s insurance coverage scheme, if there were no insurance company to pay for it and you offered them $15,000 for the surgery and everyone else was in the same boat, I think you would find that many of them might accept your offer.   I offer this as a point of departure for discussion.  The costs of insurance and health care will not overwhelm the economy because we won’t pay for it at some level.  There is a limit to what each of you would pay whatever that limit is.   The costs will come to a level the people are willing to pay or else all the health care professionals will be out of work.

We can work on the little things that make such a big difference when multiplied by over 300 million people.  Mostly we need economic incentives for consumers and providers to improve care and costs.  People will respond to that much more willingly and efficiently than  they will to the lash of higher taxes.   Slight improvements can have big consequences.

During the Amercian Revolution one of the biggest problems facing the American army under Washington was something as mundane as gunpowder.  Both the quantity and quality were lacking.  A Frenchman, named Lavoisier was a famed chemist of the age and was put in charge of the munitions of France by the King in the mid 1770’s.   He had learned a lot about the subject from James Priestly (a close friend of Ben Franklin).  Lavoisier within a couple of years had greatly improved the quality of the French gunpowder.  Franklin arranged to purchase this improved gunpowder for the American war.  France was our arms dealer and sold and shipped over a 1000 tons of it to the  Colonies.  Washington was elated.  Our cannons had not been able to compete with the British, they simply couldn’t shoot as far as their cannons and the same was true with our musket, we were out-ranged.  The gunpowder made a difference, our fighting forces were more effective.  Likewise later the rifled barrel of the cannon made an enormous difference in cannons and thus battles.  During the War Between the States the Yankees had the Parrot cannon which was a much better weapon than the smooth bore cannons in the South.  Their artillery could hit a target from farther away and not be hit with counter battery fire.  Small changes, big effects.  We can and should make the necessary small changes to our medical care to have big effects down the road.   The current proposals are much more about ideology than economics or health care.  The left wants Government, Inc. to run health care so they can have one more goodie to distribute to the little people in exchange for votes and perpetual power.

The crossbow was an innovation that finally ended the era of the armored knight.  For several centuries the armored knight ruled the battle fields of Europe, but the metal tipped bolt from the crossbow could penetrate even that armor.  The knight became a target rather than a weapon on the battle field and the knights became  historical pagentary rather than an actual fighting weapon.  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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