The birth of death panels in the unprincipled opposition to improving health care in America

November 16, 2009

Heckuva story.  Earl Blumenauer is the man responsible for the language in H.R. 3200 that Sarah Palin erroneously claimed created “death panels.”

He’s a Congressman from Oregon.

In Saturday’s New York Times he detailed how critics hijacked the debate with false claims.  Fascinating story.

A very odd result:  Because of the false claims, a provision to help people plan to avoid death panels was stricken from health care reform proposals.  More citizens will face death panel-like decisions as a result.

Previously I thought Orwell was convoluted.


Bathtub reading, mortuary, cemetery, restaurant and airport version

August 30, 2009

Family funerals combine bitter and sweet.  A long life well-lived, the grief over loss, getting together with family and friends from eight decades — and then it’s back to work in a jolt.

Trying to stay caught up:

Outrageous insult to Darwin and Constitution in Missouri: Were the parents concerned about the quality of the brass section in the band, or did they really object to a humorous depiction of “the evolution of brass” in 2009, the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth?

They deserve to have their brasses kicked, but the innocent kids don’t.

P. Z. Myers caught the grossest tragedy:

Band parent Sherry Melby, who is a teacher in the district, stands behind Pollitt’s decision. Melby said she associated the image on the T-shirt with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

“I was disappointed with the image on the shirt.” Melby said. “I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school.”

She doesn’t want her school associated with evolution?  How about associating the school with the Taliban of Afghanistan?  How about associating her school with Homer Simpson’s stupider brother?  How about associating her school with backwards thinking, 16th century bad science?  How about associating her school with the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and the sort of stupidity that leads religiously-based violence?

Ray Mummert probably got the call to help Sedalia out, and he’s organizing to fight the forces of smart and intelligent people.  Comments from residents of Sedalia are shocking in their lack of information, and depressing.

Kids, pay attention in science class: A proud science teacher in Minnesota, and probably some proud parents, tooTip of the old scrub brush to Pharyngula on this one.

Anybody who complains about this deserves to get their tail kicked with Tom Delay and every Republican who redistricted Texas last time around. (Sen. Ted Kennedy suggested the Massachusetts legislature should allow the governor to appoint a temporary replacement to represent the state in the U.S. Senate in the event of a vacancy, until a special election can be held.)

First Amendment wins again: Kentucky had a law that said the state could be safe from al Quaeda attack only by the grace of God.  A judge, noting that it will take a lot of work by a lot of dedicated Kentuckians who deserve credit, and that it’s illegal to make such a claim in law, overturned the law.

Private insurance failed this woman; Medicare would pay for the treatment under some circumstances, but there is no lie opponents to health care reform won’t tell in order to scare people away from the facts. They claim the woman couldn’t be treated under government care, but Medicare pays for the expensive drug in question.  Can’t they at least tell the truth?

This is getting depressing.  I’m going to go look at mountains.


Where’s a conspiracy theorist when you need one?

August 30, 2009

1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it…”

While Tom Delay dances with the starlets, and Jack Abramoff actually does time, isn’t anyone curious about who organizes all the protests against health care reform?

(Lookie here, P. Z. — Christians doing good.  Of course it’s not justification for the faith.  It’s one hopeful sign in the Sea of Hamhovind idiocy.)

You may also want to see:


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:


“Death panel” as fiction

August 22, 2009

Odd observation: Electronic searches of H.R. 3200, ‘”America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009,” find that the word “death” occurs only twice in the bill, on pages 588 and 596.

On page 588, the reference is to fines to a “skilled nursing facility” for lapses in care that result in the death of a patient. On page 596, again the reference is to a fine to a nursing facility for a lapse in care that results in the death of a patient.

In each case in which the word “death” occurs, the context is a fine for causing death.

The word “mortality” occurs once, on page 620. It occurs in a section that requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to set priorities in national health care quality improvement, and to give priority to ideas that “have the greatest potential to decrease morbidity and mortality in this country, including those that are designed to eliminate harm to patients.”

In the only case in which “mortality” occurs, the context calls for reducing mortality.

Don’t take my word for it. Go search the bill yourself.

Critics appear not to have read the bill.  When writing fiction, sometimes it’s best not to be bound by reality.  However, when one is not bound by reality, one is writing only fiction.


MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad

August 22, 2009

I get e-mail.  In all the discouraging folderol on the health care debate, it’s nice to know that a few people are carrying the torch for democracy and good republican government like these ladies.

Red caped mothers and others in Baltimore, before the U.S.S. Constellation, campaigning to dispel false rumors about health care reform, on August 19, 2009.  Image from MomsRising.com

Red caped mothers and others in Baltimore, before the U.S.S. Constellation, campaigning to dispel false rumors about health care reform, on August 19, 2009. Image from MomsRising.com

Watch for the ladies in red capes.  Barney Frank won’t ask what planet they spend their time on, I’ll wager.

Note links to more information, or to join in their merriment, in the letter.

Faster than a toddler crawling toward an uncovered electrical outlet and more powerful than a teenager’s social networking skills, moms across the country have been fanning out to dispel the unfounded rumors, misconceptions, and lies about healthcare reform.

MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad members, dressed in red capes, have been distributing powerful truth flyers across the nation to passersby to educate them about what healthcare reform will really do, and about how it will help to ensure the economic security of families across the country.

“I must admit that I don’t normally wear a cape in public, but it was oddly empowering.  We knew we were having an impact on the larger conversation about healthcare when a news camera starting following us around. I definitely recommend life as a superhero,” say Donna, a cape wearing SuperMom for Healthcare.

*Let’s give our caped myth-busting moms some “online backup” by Truth Tagging friends with healthcare reform myths & facts today–it’s a virtual distribution of the same facts that the MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad members are handing out in-person:

http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=4728

It’s going to take thousands of super heroines speaking up in order to get the healthcare debate back on track. We can’t all be out on the streets in capes, so please take a moment now to spread the word and bust some myths via email to friends and family by clicking the link above.

Why’s this so important to moms right now? Over 46 million people in our nation don’t have any healthcare coverage at all, including millions of children. Not only are families struggling with getting children the healthcare coverage they need for a healthy start, but 7 out of 10 women are either uninsured, underinsured, or are in significant debt due to healthcare costs. In fact, a leading cause of bankruptcy is healthcare costs — and over 70% of those who do go bankrupt due to healthcare costs had insurance at the start of their illness. Clearly we need to fix our broken healthcare system!

Don’t forget to help put some more truth into the mix of the national dialogue on healthcare reform right now:

http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=4728

Onward!
–Kristin, Joan, Donna, Ashley, Julia, Dionna, Katie, Anita, Sarah, Mary, and the entire MomsRising Team

P.S.  We’ve been hearing so much positive feedback about our caped crusading moms that it might be time to lead a giant march of moms on the National Capitol Mall.  Tell us what you think: http://www.momsrising.org/blog/bust-a-myth-tag-a-friend-with-the-truth-about-healthcare/

P.P.S.  Want to get more involved with the MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad members? Click here: http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/t/9251/signUp.jsp?key=4284

P.P.P.S. When you go to the Truth Squad Tag page, you can also see a video of our MomsRising Healthcare Truth Squad in action wearing capes! http://momsrising.democracyinaction.org/o/1768/tellafriend.jsp?tell_a_friend_KEY=4727

Here’s the video:


Obama on health care: With an eye and an ear to history; with heart to those who hurt

August 16, 2009

Did you catch Obama’s op-ed in the New York Times yesterday?

OUR nation is now engaged in a great debate about the future of health care in America.

Of what famous speech does that line remind you?

Obama is looking to past presidents’ efforts to push legislation, too — learning from the failures and hoping not to repeat (think Wilson and the campaign to ratify the Treaty of Versailles), learning from successes and hoping to expand (think of Lyndon Johnson and the creation of grants to college students).

Mostly, Obama’s hoping to give a boost to health care reform efforts slowed by the vicious, false rumor campaign against it.

See what Obama himself wrote, below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »


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