Why Republicans are going the way of the Whigs

August 23, 2009

It’s not that they’re losing the war of politics.  It’s that they’re losing a war with reality they should not be waging.

A new national survey from Public Policy Polling (D) illustrates the profound levels of ignorance that currently interfere with the debate over health care.

One question asked: “Do you think the government should stay out of Medicare?” Keep in mind that this is a logical impossibility, as Medicare is a government program, which was signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson, to provide guaranteed health care to the elderly.

As it turns out, 39% of voters think government should stay out of Medicare, compared to 46% who disagree.

Millard Fillmore was the last Whig president; the party nominated a candidate in 1856, but was dead completely by 1860.  Bust of Vice President Millard Fillmore, by Robert Cushing, U.S. Senate Chamber -

Millard Fillmore was the last Whig president; the party nominated a candidate in 1856, but was dead completely by 1860. Bust of Vice President Millard Fillmore, by Robert Cushing, U.S. Senate Chamber -

Among Republicans, 62% say the government should stay out of Medicare, compared to only 24% of Democrats and 31% of independents who agree.

Government should get out of Medicare?  Yeah, and the Supreme Court should take the Constitution and get out of law.  Farmers should get out of agriculture.  And God should get out of religion.

If you believe that, I have an island in the Hudson River to sell you, complete with bridges.  No wonder Republicans are so prone to voodoo history.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.


Does your washing machine serenade you?

August 23, 2009

From the years in consulting, I well recall the myriad articles about superior customer service in Japan, and then Korea.  “Delight the customer” philosophies bring people back to repeat purchase, goes the mantra.

So, the old Maytag started to sputter.  It may have been repairable, but it was an old machine when we bought it used about a dozen years ago.  Repair wouldn’t be cheap.  Money for repair might go a long way to purchase of a new machine.

Samsung VRT washer

Samsung VRT washer

Kathryn shopped hard.  Get a money-saver, an electricity-saver, a water saver.  We settled on a Samsung front-loader with “vibration reducing technology.”  It still cost more than my first two cars put together.

It uses a lot less water.  The cycles are longer, but gentler.  Clothes come out spun considerably drier than the upright, old Maytag, which means much less time in the dryer.  We’re saving electricity and water all the way around.

Remember customer delight?

The first load ended with three gentle bells to tell us — and then, as Kathryn immediately recognized, the opening notes of the theme from the 4th movement of Schubert’s “The Trout Quintet.”  The joys of modern technology.  Who was it came up with the idea to play Schubert?

We smile with every load.


End the hoaxes, part 4: When India’s health care beats the U.S., it’s time to change

August 23, 2009

Can’t see any reason to reform health care in the U.S.?  Read this letter to the editor of the Stockton (California) Record:

August 22, 2009

I recently returned from India with my partner (a Lodi resident, born and raised in Stockton), who had hip surgery there because he has inadequate health insurance and could not afford to have the surgery done here. He, by the way, had excellent care there at a fraction of the cost here, including travel.

It is difficult to understand the paranoia of citizens who are blind to the obvious manipulation by politicians and insurance executives. Insurance companies, through their politician spokespeople, continue to succeed in duping Americans into believing they cannot trust the government, while they make decisions based primarily, if not solely, on huge profits. Certain politicians are willing to sell Americans down the river in the hopes of regaining some political ground.

Though the government may not be great at controlling costs, it does not make decisions based only on maximizing profits into private pockets, and it answers to us at election time. Is our faith in our system at so low an ebb that we alone among industrial nations cannot manage this? Insurance companies act only for themselves.

Me? I trust the government over insurance companies any day. Common sense tells us we need reform, we need it now, and it must address the inequalities of a system that is inherently untrustworthy due to greed and selfish motivation. A real, functional public option is key to meaningful reform.

Susan Amato
Lodi

Need health care?  Insurance company won’t authorize your treatment?  Just fly to India.

It’s the “India Option Plan” from Sen. Chuck Grassley. Claims that health care in the U.S. is the “best in the world” need to be qualified:  Best in the world for those fortunate enough to have insurance that will cover treatment, and which won’t drop them when the bills start coming in; for others, second-world and third-world coverage is reality.


End the hoaxes, part 3a: Government plans pay for cancer treatment, private insurance no better

August 23, 2009

Sad story out of Oregon, but a familiar story to anyone who has followed health care issues during any part of the past 40 years:  A woman gets cancer, her physician recommends a pharmaceutical or surgical procedure, but the insurance company denies coverage.

In this case, the story is being pushed by opponents to health care reform as a scare tactic.  ‘Health care reform means cancer-fighting drugs won’t be covered.’  The tenuous link to reality this argument has is this:  The woman is insured by Oregon’s public insurance alternative, a one-state effort to do what private insurance failed to do.  So, the critics reason, if she can’t get coverage under Oregon’s public plan, no one will get coverage under any government plan.

The pharmaceutical is a recently-developed cancer fighter, Tarceva.

It’s a crude bluff.  Reality is different.

  1. Medicare may pay for coverage of the drug in question, Tarceva. The Oregon public program has a rather high standard for coverage — 5% chance of survival for 5 months or more, established in clinical trials — but Medicare supplemental insurance plans, a federal program, will pay for Tarceva for non-small cell lung cancer treatments.  Oregon’s program may not be equivalent to the federal program proposed.
  2. Private insurance companies often deny coverage for cancer treatments. The story from Oregon shows the disparities in care, and it demonstrates well that rationing of health care is a key feature of the current system, a key reason to work for reform.  But denial of coverage occurs across the nation, and, I think statistics would show, more often from private insurance companies, often for less judicious reasons.  In Kansas, Mary Casey got the rejection from her private insurance company:  “But when Casey went to fill her Tarceva prescription at the pharmacy, her insurer, Coventry Health Care of Kansas, denied her coverage for the drug, saying it considered Tarceva experimental in her case, even though Tarceva is FDA approved for other lung and pancreatic cancers.”  There is no significant difference between private coverage and the Oregon public plan.
  3. Private insurance failed:  This woman is on the Oregon plan because private insurance didn’t provide any coverage for her.

Barabara Wagner’s story troubles anyone with a heart.  It’s not an argument against reforming health care and health care insurance, however, because Wagner wouldn’t be alive to this point without a government plan in Oregon, analogous to the public option proposed in the House bill; because private insurance does not differ significantly in its coverage of cancer victims; and because this woman is on a public program in the first place because private insurance simply failed to cover her at all.  Under private insurance, this woman would have been dead months ago, if not longer.

Other notes:


Happy birthday, Toni Novello

August 23, 2009

She looks stuffy in the photographs, but Toni Novello is one of the most genuine people and funniest women I’ve ever worked with — sometimes without intention.  When veterans of the old Senate Labor Committee chairman’s staff get together, we still laugh over Toni’s return from a weekend health care seminar raving about “Cahoon cooking.”

We were puzzled until somebody remembered the seminar she spoke at was in New Orleans.  In her Puerto Rican view, Cajun was just pronounced a little differently.

Brilliance packaged in a human exterior.

Today in Science History tells us Toni was born on August 23, 19√∞.  “Physician and public official, the first woman and the first Hispanic to serve as surgeon general of the United States.”


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