SOLUTION: Real Health-Care Reform, But in Steps

December 23, 2009

  Merry Christmas everyone.  I hope you are having and will have a great holiday season up to and including New Year.  With that said, the pages, assistants, secretaries, and other helpers of Senators have been putting in ridiculous hours this past month – they don’t get a Christmas this year.   They are doing tis because the Senate wants to pass  its version of the health-care reform bill before Christmas and the holiday break.

Well, despite all the terrible and amazing shortfalls and bad policy, Senate Democrats and two independents are going to get their wish.  The passage of their bill is all but guaranteed.  Its just a matter of voting on it late in the day on Christmas Eve, and they have the votes. 

I could lament about how the cost estimates are grossly undervalued and the savings are overvalued. 

 I could rail about how the for profit companies involved have not been reigned in to stop them from raising your health-care costs. 

 I could even go as far as to go into detail about how the new bill will stop companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, but it doesn’t stop them from making treatment of pre-existing conditions be  4 times higher than what that treatment would be compared to the charge for a previously healthy person who did not have the pre-existing condition.

I won’t.  I’m just wasting my breath.

What I do want to do is give you a solution, not lament on the problems.  Below is how I would reform health-care.  Let me qualify this by saying that I believe this is a good idea, but most likely wouldn’t get passed eve though it is a temporary experiment.

My solution is to make an elective health-care trial for citizens of a certain state footprint.  Pick six states in the Mid-West or all of New England or something like that and have the program last somewhere between three and five years.  Where and the exact length isn’t as important as the trial being large and long enough to create enough participation and enable collection of good data.

What I propose is to create an independent yet temporary health-care system for families and individuals that want to participate in the footprint.  Similar to how China created special economic zones (SEZs) for business.  I am taking that idea, but making it temporary and for health-care instead.  It would be a whole new system that incorporates employers, hospitals, insurance companies, and drug manufactuers/importers. 

The first thing I would do is throw out EVERYTHING you know about health-care.  Cut out all the government red tape, rules, and all but the most basic protective regulation to minimize the impact and cost of government involvement.  Create incentives for entrepreneurs and small health-care related businesses to be formed or participate in the process.  They will be the market for consumers to participate in.  Big companies can explicitly NOT participate.  The only exception is that big hospitals obviously can participate, but to garner the incentives, they have to use separate billing and accounting independent of the normal business.  They would have to set up corporations inside their current structure so that the books are separate and transparency can be maintained.  Big pharma can participate too, but only when their drug is the cheapest.   In theory, this would only happen when their cutting edge drug is still patent protected and has no competition.  Otherwise, FDA approved imported drugs from Canada and other countries would most likely beat out the over-charged prices big pharma charges today.

The idea is to return to capitalist ideals when it comes to your health-care.  Let the free market decide.  If a company CEO wants to rake you over the coals for the product they give you so he can drive his stock price up a quarter point, you have the option to go somewhere else where the prices are cheaper.  If he doesn’t change his pricing structure, he goes out of business because he loses all of his customers.  It is self-correcting.  That is the free market.

 Government is not there to make the process more expensive or prop businesses up with protectionist laws.  Laws should be there to protect citizens, not corporations, and only then at a bare minimum.  Caveat emptor.  Let the buyer beware.  It is your responsibility to do your homework.  You spend 15 minutes and shop around for car insurance – why can’t you do the equivalent for your insurance, prescriptions, doctor’s fees, etc?   Also, take your place of work being the sponsor out.  They still pay the bill, but this program would be cheaper  for them.  That would make them more profitable, be able to give you a raise, expand, hire more workers and grow the economy, whatever.  I think you understand my vision.

IBottom-line, you would get better care for less cost and less profiteering.  Companies would have to charge fair prices, be lean, and focus on continuous improvement to successfully compete. 

Doesn’t that sound like a good way to reduce your health-care costs? 

Almost any other industry does this already.  It is what makes Wal-Mart so successful.  They still make money hand over fist and they give the customer what they want. 

What if you don’t like the Wal-Mart of health-care?  Well, you can have the equivalent of Target.  Or Macy’s.  Or Sax Fifth Avenue.  The point is, you have a choice when you shop for anything else, why can’t you have the same for health-care? 

You can.  You simply need to get rid of the back-room, sweetheart deals that come from the collusion of government and lobbyists that represent big business in the health-care industry…and that is why my idea is unrealistic in the current set-up in DC…but it WOULD work.

In the second phase,  I then believe that this program could expand.  It would be inexpensive enough to apply for Medicare and Medicaid.  It would actually be so efficient and cheap that we could once again start adding to the coffers instead of taking from them while at the same time providing better and easier care for our seniors and needy.  Under this provision, THEN you could offer subsidized expansion to the uninsured as long as they are working to get off of welfare.  If you don’t contribute, you get cut and have to go back to the old, alternate system that still exists.  There is no free-ride in this system because there are no government protections or loop-holes for the litigious or disengenous to exploit.

In theory, it would be so successful, that the experiment would become permanent in the footprint because everyone would be so happy with it.  Demand for ‘Gadsden’s Plan’ would swell and it would expand across the country.  Eventually the ‘big’ health-care players would either have to come clean or perish. 

And what if I’m wrong and my program backfires?  It was temporary and limited in scale for a reason.  No matter what, we could learn a lot from it.  Is it better to spend some public money creating new business opportunities that create jobs and promise to be so much more and solve the crisis once and for all?  OR do we keep funneling money to the same broken programs and continue to bemoan how we are not really changing anything?

The Gadsden Plan is real health-care reform.  Its backbone is capitalism and democracy by dollars.  The final product we will be getting in January is neither.  The same players, the same back-room deals, and the same special interests do not represent reform.  Why would they change a system that works so well for them?  An apathetic populace pays the tab because it is too burdened and ignorant of the issues to hold these big health-care companies or their ‘representatives’ in government accountable.

Think about it, give me feedback, and help me fill in the weak spots of my plan.  I know it is not perfect, but I think you get the gist of where I am going with this.  My plan is far from perfect, but even with its flaws, be you on the left or the right, it does sound a lot better, doesn’t it?

– G.S.


Even Liberals Know This Isn’t Health-Care Reform

December 17, 2009

Today I present two articles to you.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/16/AR2009121601906.html

   The first is from a writer at the WP and it details a specific amdendment to the health-care ‘reform’ bill that was aimed at allowing foreign-made drugs to come into the US  which could provide the exact same drug to the prescribed, but it could be up to 10 times cheaper.  Sounds good right?  We want health-care to be cheaper; both for ourselves and our nation.  Controlling costs is an expressed purpose of this reform and I completely agree it is needed.  Its the methodology that I disagree with.  

  Since you’re reading this article and my outrage is predictable, you won’t be surprised that the Senate voted the amendment down by a large margin.  How did this happen?  Again, no surprise here.  Lobbyist influence, pure and simple.

 So lets look at what’s going on.   The President has already cut a $80 billion back-room deals with these guys,  and then goes back on his campaign promises and gives them a pass here.  Why?  He needs big pharma’s support or the whole legislative effort would tank if they started opposing it.

Who cares if big pharma doesn’t like it.  They’re part of the problem.  Screw them!  Well, not if you’re in their pocket.  And once you’re in their pocket…

  Mr. Obama can only get his bill passed if the Congressmen who are funded by big pharma vote for it.  So, if these pharmacy companies (not the tax-payers) tell these Congressmen to kill the bill, they will – and that is what the President fears.

   Its so painfully obvious, its insulting that we let this happen.  If any of these jokers had your best interests at heart and wanted to save us money, they’d obviously allow competition and add the amendment in.  Instead they cite FDA safety concerns of drug safety when in reality a large portion of the chemicals that go into the drugs come from outside the US to begin with.  Adding competition would be an easy and obvious way at reducing your medical bills – especially the elderly on a fixed income.  Just think about all the perscriptions some take…and the portion that Medicare picks up. Don’t forget you are partially paying for that part too.

   Instead, these ‘representatives’ of ours want to stay in office and enjoy the perks of their cozy job.  They do that largely through the campaign contributions from lobbyists – big pharma being one of the most generous.  It is obviously more important to get re-elected and cater to special interest than for them to actually represent their constituents and do what is best by them.  Obviously it would be bad for big pharma’s profits if the President or those bought-and-sold in Congress allow competition to come in.

   It makes me sick, absolutely sick.  This is the most bald-faced example of how this government is  largely no longer ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’

   Then, it gets even better.   Howard Dean wrote this piece today.  Again, I know I am getting into the habit of citing people who may surprise you, but it should only add credibility when people of opposite ideological leanings are coming to the same conclusion that I have been harping about.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/16/AR2009121601906.html

  Bottom line, Mr. Dean and I agree that this isn’t real reform.  His solution may be different than mine, but we both smell a rat.  

– G.S.


Tyler Durden Is Rolling In His Grave

December 10, 2009

If you haven’t, you HAVE to read this article in the WSJ.  Just humor me and do it.  The comments are even better. 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126040517376983621.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_MIDDLTopStories

This represents so many things that are wrong…where do I begin?  you know where I’m going with this, right?

I applaud the author for his neutralilty and making the economic case of how renting is now so affordable in Palmdale.  However, I’ll state what he didn’t because I must be part of the 18% of the 4 out of 5 survey in the article who think that defaulting when you can pay is morally wrong AND won’t do it.

 These people are fire-fighters and teachers.   

 A pool? A putting green?

 “Oh lookat my NEW $1800 dining set and all the photos on it of the trips we took.”

 “Oh lookat my black 6-Series with its $700 a month payment.”

 I know this is California where income is higher, but these people are not doctors and lawyers.  Could they really afford the lifestyle they want, over-inflated payments or not?  What do you think their credit cards look like?  Have they really learned anything about the unnecessary excess or rampant consumerism that obviously runs their lives?

  They are not saving the money that they are not putting towards owning a home anymore, they are spending it on things they don’t need.  I didn’t see anything about those girls’ college savings or the firefighter’s Roth IRA, but I sure heard about…prom and rock concerts?  Due to the rules within CA, they are legally able to stick their creditor with the tab despite having the means to pay on a contract they promised they would keep.  These fine citizens get to skip on their merry way and now have a BIGGER house and fill it with more stuff that they don’t need.  What about the people in town who are paying for a house that isn’t worth what it used to be?  For doing the ‘right’ thing, they are rewarded by these people driving property values down further.

 We as a society are rewarding bad behavior AND getting stuck with the tab by letting these people take advantage of protection laws and encouraging them to do it again.  I assume CA did not have this in mind when they passed the law to protect its citizens.  Shana Richey most likely will default on her rental properties because it is what best benefits her selfish interests.

 What about her obligations to her children whom she is saddling with a life-time of bad habits from her terrible example?  What about the country they will one day inherit?  It is already swimming in debt – the trickle up (?) effect of her actions and others like her is what got us here and created the ‘solution’ of so much big government with its debt and waste.

 You’re more than your $!@#ing khakis.

-G.S.


What Is That Snake? – I’ve Seen It Before

December 7, 2009

A couple of times now, I have been asked what exactly does the Gadsden Flag mean (the yellow flag with the Diamond-back Rattlesnake and the words ‘Dont Tread On me’ on it).  You notice that part of the flag is the banner to my page.  I will try to explain in my own words what this flag stands for and then debunk a couple of myths/misnomers just before I give you the link to the Wikipedia site.

This flag says it all for my bed-rock belief of small government and its limited role or use in my life.  Benjamin Franklin first used the Rattlesnake in some political cartoons and then as a metaphor for the United States.   He basically said America is like this snake – unique in its environment; it is fiercely independent yet peaceful by nature.  However, it is no pushover and has the means to defend itself and will warn before it strikes.  Once you do bother it though, this snake like the country it is found in will strike with a vengeance and not let up.   For me, the ‘don’t tread on me’ is the rattle put into words and clarifys the meaning of the flag.

Many libertarian and conservative leaning individuals or groups use this flag.  While I believe that the threat of violence is evoked when you use a rattlesnake, it is implied and seen as a method of last resort.  Going back to our founders, they thought that revolution (violence) was a natural part of maintaining freedom and deomocracy, but only saw it as a last resort when all other methods had been curtailed.  It is my opinion that when violent, militant, or separatist groups use this flag as their symbol, they are only getting half the picture and its the less important part.  They have disengaged from a still legitimate democratic process (its IS imperfect though) that was put in place by the US Constitution and still has merits.  They would like to think that we have gone over the brink and that violence in unavoidable.  I contend that is short-sighted, wrong, and utterly premature.  For example, the events of the 1860s and 1960s were much more trying times for democracy and this great nation; and we came out a better nation both times.  This flag standing for freedom from tyranny and being ever-vigilant of it is far more important and it is those ideals that helped get us through some of those lean years. 

Here is the link to the Wikipedia page. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadsden_flag

As always, any questions, comments, or anything else, please shoot me a response!

-G.S.


This Will Probably Surprise You

December 1, 2009

    As you have probably figured out by now, I certainly take a conservative angle on just about everything.  I actually like to believe it is not so much a function of being conservative, but in my bed-rock belief that I want as little government oversight and involvement in my life as possible.  The government has very few responsibilities which I believe are completely encompassed in the first line of the Constitution:

– Establish Justice

– Insure Domestic Tranquility

– Provide for the Common Defense

– Promote the General Welfare

– Secure the Blessing of Liberty to Ourselves and our Posterity

   I could easily expound on each one and the government certainly does each one of these…but the tendency has been to increasingly do more, spend more, and overstep the bounds which these five principles outline. 

  Now while this may surprise you, Richard Cohen, an opinion columnist at the WP wrote this article today.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/30/AR2009113003158.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

   Yes, you read it right, I’m forwarding a gay-rights article…but go back to my first assertion, my conservativeness comes from my belief in government having as small a role as possible.  Just like the article said, the government now has no right to intervene against the marriage of a racial couple, how then by the same logic can a government discriminate on gender preference?

   Is this discrimination based on a religious opinion?  Okay, but what about the separation of church and state?

  Is it based on the Christian foundation of this country?  Fine, I can support that too, but not every Christian has a problem with someone being gay.  Remember the gay Episcopalian female priests that were in the news?  Were they bad people doing bad things?  No, they probably do more for the community than most of us.  They were simply controversial.  Why then do some people care what others do behind closed doors?  Does it really affect their life?  Are they a burden on you or society.  No?  Then what gives anyone the right to interfere in a deeply private and personal matter and essentially make a subset of Americans a second-class citizen which does not have the right to a civil union like the rest of us?

   Is this country founded on hating someone because they have a different opinion than you or hating them because they are different than you?  Or is this country founded as a free nation where we are a melting pot and we can come together despite our difference, making our culture that much stronger?

I know there are a lot of rhetorical questions here, but I am trying to make you think and identify some bias.

  Like Cohen, I want to keep my government out of my bedroom, gay or straight.  Citizens of this great nation are going to be gay.  Nature or nurture, that is the way they are.  How is it fair to deny them the same legal and financial benefits?  Especially when that above list for the five roles of government all can be impinged by gays being denied their rights.  I don’t want my rights to a civil union be denied, how is it okay then for me to discriminate and say ‘but those people are gay, they don’t count’.   Sounds hypocritical to me.

I propose a compromise.  Being religious myself, I do believe that the word ‘marriage’ is a technical religious term that is solely a union between a man and a woman.  Thus, I do not like the term ‘gay marriage’.  It confuses the legal with the spiritual.  Make gay UNIONS legal – giving them the same rights as a marriage, but have the various gay rights groups work together to make a new term.  I don’t care if it’s a conference or a contest, but give gay couples their own term that removes the religious connotation. 

I think that is more than fair, and that is what my argument boils down to.  Supporting ‘gay marriage’ is not an attack on the religious right or conservative values.  It is what promotes personal freedom and keeps the government out of my life.  That is the foundation for my argument – my libertarian ideals.  If I preach about it when it comes to my guns or my taxes, it is only fair  and makes sense that my belief extends to other issues that I do not have a stake in but are just as valid an argument for liberty.

-G.S.