Friday, September 4, 2009

YouCare: It's Like ObamaCare, But it Might Just Work.

Sometimes I think the only reason the ongoing American health care crisis hasn't degenerated into full scale civil war is because both sides know the system couldn't sustain the sheer number of casualties. Not yet anyway.

Fortunately, should everyone come together and agree that my health care reform proposal is, in fact, the most viable (and palatable) option, both crisis and war could be averted. No thanks necessary.

However, I think many of us have ideas about solving the health care crisis that fall outside of what has become the false dilemma of our times: socialism or status quo.

This is America, damn it. We have alternatives. But these alternatives must be brought to light. Exercise your freedom to speak and think and go outside the confines of party affiliation and offer your own health care reform proposal in the comments of this post. And exercise your freedom to respectfully tear each other's proposals to shreds.

Here is my own.

Under cries of socialism, those on the right seem to prefer weeping and gnashing of teeth over surrendering any more of the health care system to the government (while ignoring the fact that a significant portion already falls under their direct influence and/or control). Meanwhile, basking in the glow of a greater sense of humanity and compassion, those left-of-center talk about universal health care as though it should be a given, the ends so thoroughly justifying the means that the means, whatever they are, should be a mere afterthought.

I keep hearing people refer to health care as a right. But this cannot be so. Rights by definition cannot be administered by the government, only protected. Yet, even in my personal life, I am keenly aware of hardworking people who face economic ruin because of either chronic or catastrophic health crises. These are not people looking to suck the federal teet, nor are they among the uninsured.

Then I look at current federal spending.

Right now, there are more than 1,800 federal subsidy programs. Collectively, these programs amount to billions upon billions of dollars, spent on everything from speciality crops and healthy marriage promotion to tattoo removal, pre-school anger management courses and turkey hunting.

Wild federal subsidies have reaped two widespread negative consequences. First, they have turned state governments and non-profit organizations into federal agencies and contractors, respectively. Second, they have turned our tax revenue into a monstrous cookie jar for the unprofitable to cram their mitts and grab what they can.

Point being, the government has been redistributing our wealth for decades. Federal assistance programs have been growing exponentially since the 1960s, and the economic stimulus added rocket fuel to the blaze.

I propose a simple compromise: stop giving money away to failing industries, wild schemes and short-sighted bleeding hearts and put that money into health care reform.

Effective health care reform should focus on two fundamental principles. One, restructuring the market of health coverage for Americans who can afford it. Two, providing a viable public option for those who cannot.

I've already written on restructuring the private insurance industry, breaking free from the employer model, empowering individuals with an open, competitive and tax-incentivized insurance market.

For those who cannot work, or those who work and cannot afford coverage to provide them the care they need (those with chronic or catastrophic illnesses or injuries) a quality public option should exist.

But this public option should by managed state by state, with federal funding doled out according to each state's unique needs. As former Senator (and mechanical engineer) John Sununu (R) so eloquently argued, efficiency requires a 'short control loop'. "Your shower faucets are a short control loop. You turn on the cold faucet, the shower is cold. You turn on the hot faucet, the shower is hot. You fiddle with both faucets, and you take a shower. Now imagine your second-story bathroom has its shower faucets in the basement. That's a long control loop. You turn the water on, climb the steps and get in the shower. It's too cold. You wrap yourself in a towel, go down two flights of stairs dripping water all over the house, go back upstairs. It's too hot. You go back downstairs, etc."

Sununu's extended shower metaphor firmly applies to federal oversight. Washington should merely empower states to manager their own public health care options. The first step in doing so would be to streamline (i.e. do away with) Medicare and Medicaid as they currently exist. This frees up an incredible amount of funding right from the start.

Next, every state, after thoroughly examining their specific health care needs and petition Washington for the necessary funding. Once funds are dispersed, states are solely responsible for managing them, subject to petitions for subsequent increases. That is, instead of senators withdrawing a quarter million federal dollars for pre-school anger management, they might withdraw the same amount to provide an underserved region of their state with two qualified primary care physicians.

Which brings me to my next point. Qualified physicians.

In 2008, the average medical student graduated with more than $150 thousand in debt. The real cost of practicing medicine, including the outrageous expense of liability insurance, is steering an increasing number of brilliant students away from the medical profession. Those who remain are less likely to pursue fields which promise lower income (primary care) or greater liability (surgical specialties). And a nation cannot survive on dermatology alone.

Thus federal funding (in cooperation with tax-incentivized contributions from the private sector) would make public medical education free for those students smart enough and hardworking enough to make the cut. Students accepted into elite private institutions would also have the ability to petition for financial assistance. This assistance would be conditional upon things like practicing in underserved populations for a certain period, or achieving board certification in a given specialty.

Upon graduating debt free, these students will then have a decision to make. Public or private sector.

Freeing up the health insurance market for individuals will maintain the private sector of medicine. Physicians will have the ability to open a private practice, much like they do now, seeing a greater number of patients than current insurance networks permit.

I won't tackle tort reform here, but suffice it to say whatever measures need to be taken to make liability insurance as affordable for physicians as health insurance should be affordable for working Americans must be taken, period.

As for the public sector of medicine, here are the basics. Think of it as the public sector of law, a better-funded, better-managed Public Defender of Health. Physicians can opt to serve in either state-run or state-contracted medical offices and hospitals. The pay scale would be similar to those found in the military or among elected officials. These physicians would earn less than their private sector colleagues, but their income would not be taxable. Those working in state-run facilities would receive liability coverage, while those under contract would receive assistance to purchase their own.

Further, private sector specialists can be offered incentives to take on 'pro bono' cases, in the event that they are "the" physician to take on a rare or particularly troublesome ailment. These incentives would also be available in the event that private physicians simply want to help take the burden off of the public facilities.

Of course these state medical facilities would be given to the same headaches as any other state-run office, and the free health care would cause long wait periods and other administrative headaches. But the quality of care and overall access would be far superior to what is available now, while preserving the rights of financially stable/successful Americans to pursue the best care their money can buy.

First and foremost, this would require Americans to reach some kind of agreement. Perhaps if we can't agree that health care is a right (I, for one, think that it isn't) we can agree that providing for the health and general wellbeing of American citizens is a compelling state interest, far more worthy of our tax dollars than the majority of things they are currently wasted on.
As George W. Bush once said, you are either with me or against me.
Bring it on.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

American Health Care Crisis: SOLVED

Tomorrow, I will unveil my proposal that will solve all that ails America's health care system, thus bringing light unto the world and, of course, making everyone quite cheery.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Obama to Have a Talk With Your Kids.

As Obama's approval rating continues to dwindle, and the health care debate further shreds his proposed Health Care Reform, it seems the President is looking for a clean start. Widespread dissention has shown that a majority of the American people are not interested in quietly surrendering health care to the Feds. Whatever your opinion of the Tea Party crowd is (I, for one, cannot stand them) they have made it abundantly clear to Obama and other Democrats that they will not be reasoned with.

In this case, it's a good thing.

And could explain why Obama will address every K-6 public school student across America next Tuesday. This document, provided by the United States Department of Education, suggests that the speech will focus on one thing: obedience.

During Obama's speech, teachers are encouraged to ask their students to ponder things, like, "What is the President trying to tell me? What specific job is he asking me to do?"

"Why is it important that we listen to the President and other elected officials?"

I suppose the answers to these questions could make for far quieter Town Hall meetings in the future. Or render them obsolete. If the American people learn how to listen and obey, there won't be any need for discussion.
Not that there is any real discussion going on currently.
This is a page right out of Saul Alinsky's playbook, utilizing education to shape young minds toward political ends. Of course this has been going on in public education for quite some time (see: social studies, history, biology, etc.) but never with direct involvement from the President of the United States. And never with such a blatant call to civil obedience.
It will be interesting to see how frequent these addresses to American children become, and which direction they take. More interesting will be how parents react or, more to the point, whether or not they are even aware it is happening.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Congressman Boldly Defies Pleas of Constituents

A video released by the Washington Times shows Representative Eric Massa, a New York Democrat in a predominantly Conservative district, saying to a riled Town Hall gathering, "I will adamantly vote against the interests of my district if I actually think what I'm doing is going to be helpful."

Repeatedly, concerned citizens in the crowd challenged Rep. Massa on his determination to pursue a single player system despite his district's majority opposition. Time and time again, even facing an 80/20 hypothetical majority against single payer, Rep. Massa rejected their pleas and stood firm. He will vote according to his own desires.

Not only does Massa appear to have no regard for the Constitution, his plain willingness to make the will of his constituents subordinate to his own bears more than a slight resemblence to socialist leadership.

I won't name names.

However, this is just the sort of thing that continues to drive HR 3200 into the ground and further divide the DNC.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Knee-Jerk Boycott of Whole Foods over Op-Ed.

I wondered if this would happen. Within days of John Mackey's thoughtful editorial in the Wall Street Journal, explaining his opposition to Obama's health care reform plan while offering a detailed free market alternative, customers are enraged and planning to boycott. An ABC News report provides some eye-opening quotes from former-Whole Foods customers.

One comment left on the Whole Foods online forum called the editorial a "slap in the face," and suggested that Mackey "...remember who butters your hearth-baked bread. Last time I checked it wasn't the insurance industry conservatives who made you a millionare a hundred times over."

I can only guess whether or not these angry former customers actually read the piece, at least further than the point where it expressed Mackey's problems with the Obama plan (or Obama, in general.)

One former patron said, ""While Mackey is worried about health care and stimulus spending, he doesn't seem too worried about expensive wars and tax breaks for the wealthy and big businesses such as his own that contribute to the deficit."

The ignorance runs thick among the growing mob, who seem unaware of Mackey's remarkable social conscience. In 2007, Mackey reduced his annual income to $1.00, began donating his company stock portfolio to charity and even created a $100,000 emergency fund for staff members who fall on hard times.

Another former Whole Foods customer said, "I think a CEO should take care that if he speaks about politics, that his beliefs reflect at least the majority of his clients."

Funny. Considering the great measures Whole Foods has taken to improve animal welfare through the Animal Compassion Foundation (which helps producers raise their animals naturally and humanely) and become more environmentally-friendly (The EPA confirmed Whole Foods is the second highest purchaser of green energy in the country), the millions of dollars donated to community charities every year (at least 5% of annual profits), the Whole Planet Foundation (which combats poverty in rural communities) one would think Mackey's beliefs certainly reflected those of his clients.

Additionally, Whole Foods pays 100% of health insurance premiums for all employees who work more than 30 hours a week.

John Mackey respects his patrons and all Americans enough to encourage the federal government to empower them, to establish and protect an affordable, competitive health care market that offers choice and inspires innovation. The kind of choice and innovation that built the remarkably socially-conscious Whole Foods Market.

Slap in the face, indeed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Give War A Chance

With so many pressing issues at the forefront of American politics it is easy to forget some of the less immediate things, some of which should never be forgotten. While citizens grapple over health care reform and economic recovery, young men and women are on the other side of the world fighting to protect our right to do so.

My guess is the average American couldn't pick out Afghanistan on the map. I admit it would take a little poking around to do so myself. Yet nearly a decade ago, the Afghani Taliban regime, through their protection and support of Al Qaeda, declared war on the United States. We responded, and in cooperation with NATO dismantled the Taliban in short order. But, as the War on Terror has revealed over and over again, like shattered glass, a broken terrorist organization only scatters, their resolve ever sharpened. Thus the war rages on.

This year alone, 261 soldiers have died. Last year brought the deaths of 293, up from 232 in 2007. More soldiers died in Afghanistan in 2008 than in the first four years of the conflict combined.

If the average American can't pick out Afghanistan on the map, they likely also can't explain our current objectives there, or name the operation itself (Operation Enduring Freedom). How can it be that an ongoing war, started by the most horrific attack on US soil in the nation's history, be of such little consequence to the American people?

This lack of attention is nothing new. The prelude to the American invasion of Iraq quickly overshadowed our efforts in Afghanistan, which were reaping immediate and decisive results. As the case for war in Iraq became more contentious, further dividing an already fractured American people, the military efforts in Afghanistan continued unnoticed. And American soldiers continued to fall.

But Iraq is a whole other story.

On September 11, 2001, for the first time in more than half a century, since stories of Nazi atrocities found their way into our homes, since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor without mercy or cause, the American people were forced to look hard at themselves and their country and take stock of their blessings. To remember where they come from. For many young men and women the call of duty rang out loud and clear. And so they answered.

As much as these brave individuals deserve our utmost respect and gratitude, to an even greater extent they deserve our attention.

The most popular Post-9/11 slogan was, simply, Never Forget. But how much have we already forgotten? How much do we fail every day to ever know at all?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Republican Senator Murkowski Calls Out Sarah Palin


Though, given the relationship between these two, it is hard to assume Sen. Murkowski's motive was purely ideological. Either way, glad to see the GOP stand up against one of its own. Doesn't happen too often.