Archive for the ‘Health Care’ Category

>Health Care – False Assumptions and more

January 31, 2011

>Friday’s blog post hit a nerve with some folks, and I went back and forth with people I don’t know on Facebook about Health Care Reform.

At issue: “Real” Christians and affordability of health care reform.

First, the Christian issue. There is not a consensus on what constitutes a real Christian in the technical sense. Some say you must accept Christ as your personal, born again type of savior. Others think believing in Christ is enough, or being baptized is necessary, or daily prayer, or targeted hatred (Baptist preacher Fred Phelps believes this), or treating others a certain way, or a combination of these things with God keeping a scorecard. Rack up enough points and you’re in.

I wasn’t getting into that argument. I put the word “real” in quotes to indicate I meant something else. I meant real Christians as in those who follow the things that Jesus did, like being concerned about the poor and then doing something about it. His concern about the poor, and the sick, would lead me to believe that he would love assuring that everyone had affordable, quality health care. To me, the real Christians would follow. The fake Christians would not.

The other issue is affordability of health care reform. Specifically, of adding everyone to the “insured” category. I said (in a comment on Facebook) I have a problem with people saying we can’t “afford” health care reform. So, those who are left off, their lives, and health, are worth less than the rest of us. Health care should be a right, everyone should have the same access and the same choices.”

The conversation took off from there, but it led to a discussion in my home that brought up some frequently false assumptions regarding health care in this country.

One is that people don’t want to be forced to pay for other people’s health care.

In fact, however, that is what we are doing now. If an uninsured goes to the hospital, he or she will get treated, and sent home. They can’t pay, the hospital uses their indigent patient care portion of their budget (and they feel good about this) to take care of the bill. The hospital then passes the costs of those treatments to other patients, and this results in higher insurance premiums for everybody. So we are being “forced” to pay for the treatment of others.

That uninsured patient goes home, but does not have the money to pick up the prescribed medicines that will keep him there. So within a few days, or a few weeks, depending on the condition, he or she returns to the emergency room, where you and I will cover their expenses once again. This results in higher insurance premiums for us again.

This leads to another false assumption: that everyone gets health care whether they are insured or not. They “get to go” to the emergency room, federal law gives them that right.

That is not health care. That is being treated for something that needs treatment.

Health care includes preventive care, annual physicals, vaccinations, mental health care, nutritional counseling, vitamins, fitness evaluations – all those things and more are parts of an individual’s health care.

Of course, Health Care Reform does not include all of these things, that would only happen in a more perfect world. But for most of the indigent uninsured people who go to the emergency room for a “condition,” if they had insurance and better health care, they would have had some preventive measures or counseling, (which is much much cheaper than a trip to the emergency room) and not only would dollars be saved (thus resulting in lower insurance premiums for the rest of us) but the patient would not have suffered for weeks or months until they had to seek treatment.

So, Health Care Reform not only saves us money, it is also more compassionate, resulting in less suffering for the poor.

Now I’m tempted to bring Jesus back into the picture, because he would just love this. But even without him, I would hope most Americans would want those who are less fortunate to suffer less.

So that’s just a little information for the Health Care Reform detractors to chew on.

Here is “Missed the Boat” by Modest Mouse.

>A new day in Health Care

September 23, 2010

>Today is a new day as far as the health of America goes.

As of today:

More children are covered, as they cannot be denied health care due to pre-existing conditions.

And young people can now stay on their parent’s insurance plan until age 26.

People with serious disease no longer have to worry about losing benefits because of lifetime limits. In other words, some one’s cancer treatment won’t stop just because of some limit imposed by the insurance executive. (It’s not the government controlling health care, it’s the insurance companies). Annual limits on coverage are being phased out on most plans.

You can’t be dropped from your insurance after a diagnosis or accident.

Screenings like cholesterol checks and blood pressure and preventive measures like mammograms and colonoscopies are now covered at no cost to the individual. All new health plans will pay for preventive services for pregnant women, so the health of babies being born will improve. And screenings and immunizations for babies and children are now provided with no co-pay and no deductible.

All new health plans allow you to choose your OB/GYN, pediatrician or primary doctor.

Four million seniors are getting $250 checks to help close the donut hole in prescription drug coverage. Next year they will get a 50% discount on their name brand prescriptions.

More rights, more choice, more benefits, and more peace of mind.

Now, let’s get real.

Republicans are running on the promise of repealing these benefits. They want the donut hole to remain for seniors. They want children who now have insurance to lose that coverage.

They are offering a plan to “repeal and replace the government takeover of health care.” Empty words, empty promises, because there is no plan. And they cannot repeal the act. But rest assured, if given the opportunity, they will work to preserve the insurance industries control of health care. Insurance executives will be determining your benefits and coverage.

Here are the benefits to my congressional district, currently represented by Artur Davis, who voted against Health Care Reform for his constituents, but soon to be represented by Terri Sewell, who will stand by the president and the people she represents.

Benefits for AL-07

In the other District that represents portions of our area, represented by Spencer Bachus, here are the benefits.

Benefits for AL-06

And here are the benefits for every congressional district in the country. Find yours.

Benefits by district

Shame on the GOP and the Tea Party for wanting to take us back to a time when children with pre-existing illness could be denied coverage.

Health care reform will benefit all of us.

Here are people who are benefiting from health care reform with very good reasons.

>MLK Day, the most shocking injustice

January 18, 2010

>It is difficult to stay focused on the positive when so many lies are being spread, and so much truth being bent. Maybe I can put some of that together in the next few days, I really sense a danger to our country from the new KKK, the Teabaggers.

But today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I was fortunate enough to attend the Unity Breakfast in Birmingham. The theme of the breakfast was “Health Care: A Personal Responsibility and a Human Right.”

My first observation was about the diversity there. Color, sexual orientation, religion, even political party – not!

I did not see one person that I could identify or suspect was a republican. That is not surprising, as they seek to divide, rather than unite. But I digress – that goes more with my future topic.

I could write much about the event, but I want to focus on the 2nd place Essay winner, Trenton Z. Hearns, a senior at Jess Lanier High School in Bessemer. Twenty-two essays were submitted, and the top three received recognition along with a monetary award. Congratulations to Trenton. Here is his essay.

Health Care: A Personal Responsibility and a Human Right

The year is 2009, and The House of Representatives recently passed the most inclusive health care bill in our nation’s history. Yet, it took the nation, whose Declaration of Independence suggests life as a divine right to every human, two hundred forty-five years to pass a bill that would enhance the quality of any of its citizen’s lives. An even more astounding reality, finance is a component of the reason many of these soon-to-be health care newcomers have been denied this lifeline for so long. So health care, once an intangible amenity to minorities, has become scarcely available to Americans despite ethnicity. Also, in a millennium where the economy of the world’s wealthiest nation is gasping for breath, some citizens are left without jobs. In most cases, employers supplement the individual’s health care costs. Now, what is to come of the unemployed aside from a new burden, which was once a beneficial service?

The United States of America’s Declaration of Independence clearly lists life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as man’s unalienable rights from God. One’s right to optimal physical and mental health affects the quality and longevity of this right to live, especially when accessibility is the limiting factor. While in Chicago at the 1966 National Convention of the Medical committee of Human Rights, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Furthermore, any factors negatively affecting the God-given right of life can, by common knowledge of good and evil, be deemed wicked by all men. This nation under God has gone nearly three centuries depriving many citizens of health care, a necessity. This deprivation has made health care so limited that it has been considered a luxury by many of those who could not afford it and an amenity to those who could afford it.

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death,” is what Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. told other concerned religious leaders in a meeting at Riverside Church in New York City in his speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” (April 4, 1967). Fortunately, this health care plan is a newly implemented program of upward mobility. Unfortunately, this country waited forty-two years after hearing this statement to take action. Finance should not be one of the reasons forty million adult citizens did not receive health care in 2005, while the government splurged on an eighty-five billion dollar shopping spree in Iraq that same year. Since when has the preservation of life in America become a stepchild to the government? Evidently, this nation under God was indeed facing Dr. King’s predicted spiritual demise.

As well as those in poverty, the rest of the country recently found itself in a deficit that persists today. In 2008, the United States suffered its worst economic decline since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. As the economy declined in the United States, the number of unemployed citizens soared. In that same year, one hundred fifty-eight million non-elderly Americans were covered by employer-sponsored insurance and two million, six hundred thousand Americans were unemployed. The newly unemployed citizens, who relied on their employers to supplement health care costs, were now either totally uninsured because of unemployment and prior inability to afford health care, or struggling to keep the services they had become accustomed to. Thus making health care, a right, their personal responsibility. Who values working Americans more, employers who provide health benefits or a government that has not matched those benefits?

Thankfully, those Americans along with many more will not be missing these essential services any longer. The new health care legislation will cover ninety-six percent of Americans. Injustice-free, this grants health care to Americans despite health condition or income. Finally, this nation under god has extended an offer to its citizens that will prolong the quality of their life, liberty and pursuits of happiness.

I have written about health care being a right in several Western Tribune columns, here a re a couple of recent ones.

Here, from Sept. 30, 2009, and here, Sept. 23, 2009. Also, here is last year’s MLK post about King’s support of health care.

We can only hope that similar sentiments are being expressed across the country today, but nowhere is the urgency greater than in Massachusetts, where Republican candidate Scott Brown has announced his intention to deny health care to the uninsured in Alabama and across the country, and to allow health care costs to continue to skyrocket, (those were not his words, but that is what he will do) should he win. Let’s hope the fair minded people of that state come out in support of Martha Coakley and elect her to the U. S. Senate.

And while we are talking progress, let’s hope Birmingham voters can look beyond the outright lies by the Bell campaign about Patrick Cooper and elect Cooper as the new mayor of Birmingham

>Guns and Town Hall meetings don’t mix

August 12, 2009

>My Western Tribune column from today’s paper, which follows this, is also about the Town Hall meetings and misinformation that Republicans are falling for.

There is an ugly pattern emerging. At Portsmouth yesterday there were protesters lined up along the street, Pro-Obama on one side and Anti-Obama on the other. Listen to what this guy says:

“Why are we bankrupting this country for 21 million illegals who should be sent on the first bus one way back from wherever they come from. We don’t need illegals. Send them home once. Send them home with a bullet in their head the second time. Read what Jefferson said about the Tree of Liberty — it’s coming baby.”

Two things. First, 21 million bullets in the head is not the way to solve the problems of immigration. (neither is causing them suffering and death by denying them health care but that is for a different day).

But more concerning is his reference to Jefferson. Here are Jefferson’s words:

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

This man says “It’s coming, baby.”

When read in the context of what they are saying about the president, this is a call for violence.

Then, this guy shows up at the President’s Town Hall.

He was legally carrying a firearm at a public event about health care. He was interviewed by Chris Matthews, and besides believing he is living in 1777, the guy is another whacko.

His sign also referenced the tree of liberty quote.

So here is a guy with a gun, advocating spilling the blood of leaders he disagrees with.

Thank God for the secret service.

>Western Tribune Column 8-12-09 Town Halls

August 12, 2009

>“Sometimes I get a little frustrated.” Those were President Obama’s words in response to a health care question at an AARP sponsored event, before the staged disruptions at such events began to take over the headlines.

I’m with the president, but I get more than “a little frustrated.” I mean, I have a personal stake in the matter, as do almost all other Americans who have private or employee funded health insurance, or no insurance at all.

We have seen our premiums rise and medical costs rise and have also seen rankings which place American health care at number 37, behind such countries as Dominica and Costa Rica.

So when I see staged disruptions at Town Hall events where representatives are trying to discuss the issues, I get frustrated. When I consider that these protesters are fighting to keep us at number 37 in the world, and to keep our premiums rising while insurance company bureaucrats make medical decisions that help their bottom lines, I get more frustrated. But when I see these same protesters holding signs equating our president to Hitler or the Joker (from the Batman series) or holding up the Bible, well then I get angry.

I don’t support mixing religion and government and I think that using the Bible in the fight against universal health care is laughable. What would Jesus do? I hardly think he would sit in an office and direct health care providers to deny coverage for certain people to increase company profits, which is what your insurance company does now.

The protesters argue that the president is promoting a single payer system. This just shows their ignorance, because he is not, but if he did, would it not be similar to the system in place that provides health coverage for our seniors? We should demand that these protesters opt out of Medicare when they turn 65, if they are so opposed to government run healthcare. Or perhaps they should look at the Veterans Administration which provides for our service members when they return, often for life. Do these same people advocate doing away with the VA, which is pretty much socialized medicine?

Look at some of the countries ranked above us in health care. No one, including citizens of those countries or Americans living there, wants to trade what they have for American style health care.

So debate the issues, yes, but use facts, not lies.

>End of life issues

August 11, 2009

>We all get these crazy emails forwarded by our Republican friends who accept what they say on blind faith without checking things out and forward them to everyone they know. One such email I got said this.

“ON PAGE 425 OF OBAMA’S HEALTH CARE BILL, the Federal Government will require EVERYONE who is on Social Security to undergo a counseling session every 5 years with the objective being that they will explain to them just how to end their own life earlier. Yes…They are going to push SUICIDE to cut medicare spending!”

So I looked at it. In the health care bill (which is not in its final form) are these words on page 425:

Advance Care Planning Consultation

Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), the term ‘advance care planning consultation’ means a consultation between the individual and a practitioner described in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning, if, subject to paragraph (3), the individual involved has not had such a consultation within the last 5 years.

it goes on to explain:

‘‘(A) An explanation by the practitioner of advance care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to.

‘‘(B) An explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses.

‘‘(C) An explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy.

‘‘(D) The provision by the practitioner of a list of national and State-specific resources to assist consumers and their families with advance care planning, including the national toll-free hotline, the advance care planning clearinghouses, and State legal service organizations (including those funded through the Older Americans Act of 1965).

‘‘(E) An explanation by the practitioner of the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice, and benefits for such services and supports that are available under this title.

Two things need to be said.

First of all, if your doctor is doing what he or she should be doing, they are already discussing these things with you.

Advance directives, living wills and health care proxies are good things, and they make life (and death) much simpler when the end of life comes. If certain things are decided in advance, the wishes that were determined by the person in question can be carried out without the emotions and rivalries of the survivors coming into play.

If you have not taken this step, you need to. Information about advance directives in Alabama (state specific resources, as described in the bill) can be found here. An advance directive for our state that you can download, print and use can be found here.

Second, if you think that the government is turning your life into a math equation trying to figure out who’s going to die when and putting a dollar mark on your life, this is already being done by the insurance companies.

Insurance companies want to make money, and price their products so that they do. To do this, and to ensure solvency, they develop projections of future insured events such as death, sickness and disability. They develop mathematical models of the causes of death or particular illnesses and the timing of the events.

They produce life tables (or mortality tables) with rates of surviving or death and morbidity tables with rates or a disease. From these tables they can predict the probability of you dying at a certain age, or how many more years you should live, etc. Here is a sample life table. These can be developed for the entire country or for any group or cohort of people.

Then they add other risk factors such as smoking, age, etc., and using math and statistics they predict when you will die. Then they can figure how much to charge for their product based on how much will need to be paid out when.

This is easiest to understand when applied to life insurance and end of life. But the same type of statistics are used in determining health insurance rates (that generate huge profits).

So, while insurance companies are very interested in when you die and whether they should pay for certain treatments for particular individuals, there is nothing in this bill that indicates the government would be a proponent of ending your life earlier. However, the government is interested in making the end of your life easier for both you and your love ones to endure.

So, there is no forced euthanasia or suicide of the elderly in this bill.

Again, spreading such misinformation is not only malicious, it shows the ignorance of those doing so.

>A call for violence?

August 10, 2009

>Are these looney people who are disrupting the town hall meetings unknowingly (or knowingly) calling for violence?

Sarah Palin is right in there with them, with her completely made up “death panels” comments.

Here, Frank Schaeffer, son of evangelist Francis Schaeffer, says there is a coded message, “leaving a loaded gun on the table, the first person who wants to come along and use this, be our guest…”

And when it happens, as he says, it will be too late.

A sign at one Town Hall meeting said this: (h/t to Left in Alabama )

African American President
Latina Supreme Court Justice
Get Over It!
One thing I realized over the last few days is that there are rednecks all over the country. These particular rednecks are angry because their white world has been rocked. They have always been about violence to get their way, remember the KKK, so why would we not think they are advocating violence now?
However, we just have to wait and see how this plays out. In the meantime, the foolish racist republicans are making a laughing stock of themselves. A little therapy or medication could help to control some this immature acting out we are seeing. And their party continues to shrink…I mean, would you want to join a group that has no self control, and is angry all the time?

>Health Care Poll

June 22, 2009

>In this morning’s New York Times are the results of a CBS/NYT poll about Health Care.

Would you favor or oppose the government’s offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans?

Favor – 72%, Oppose – 20%.

I favor. Health care is a right not a privilege.

Would you be willing or not willing to pay higher taxes so that all Americans have health insurance that they can’t lose no matter what?

Willing – 57%, Not willing – 37%.

I am willing to help those less fortunate than I by paying a bit more in taxes.

Which is a more serious problem right now: keeping health care costs down or providing health insurance for Americans who do not have any?

Keeping costs down – 26%, Providing for uninsured – 65%.
Among Republicans: Keeping costs down 52%, Providing for uninsured – 44%.
Among Democrats: Keeping costs down 15%, Providing for uninsured – 78%.

I believe providing for the uninsured is more serious. It looks like Republicans are more concerned with keeping a buck or two in their pocket than in helping those less fortunate. Predictable. Shameful.

>Healthcare, Poverty, Homelessness…and Matt

January 30, 2009

>Thank you all for the suggestions about getting My Book published. Maybe it will be in print by the time the anniversaries of the historic events portrayed occur. That means about 6 weeks.

Do you remember your third grade crush? Well, Matt does…later in this post.

U. S. News and World Report focuses on Health and Wellness in their February 2009 issue that came the other day. It will take a while to read all the “good stuff,” but a couple of things already stand out.

There is a listing of the nation’s “Least Fit Metro Areas.” This is based on per cent of residents who follow expert’s advice and exercise 150 minutes per week. Birmingham is number 6 least fit(39.5%). Chattanooga was the # 1 least fit (37.3), and Mobile and Tuscaloosa followed B’ham at number 7 and 8. The most fit Metro area is Boulder, Co (67.1). No southern cities are in the “most fit” top 10. All 10 “least fit” are in southern states.

The magazine also offers “12 Most Effective Prevention Measures,” things like smoking cessation, colorectal screening, pneumococcal immunization…and others. Since I score the maximum on all of these (two had to do with women’s health and do not apply) shouldn’t my health insurance cost be lower than average? A lot lower? Well, it’s not.

Tomorrow, New Baptist Covenant is holding their regional meeting in Birmingham at the Civil Rights Institute and historic 16th Street Baptist and Church and St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. The theme for the day will be Good News for the Poor. Bobby and I are registered to attend and look forward to hearing Dr. Wayne Flynt speak on “The History of Poverty in Alabama,” a documentary “Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism,” and a worship service with President Jimmy Carter. There are lots of other sessions to choose from, but we can’t attend them all.

Today, remember the free BeatLads concert on the roof of Church of the Reconciler. Don’t forget to bring a blanket or a coat to benefit the homeless .

Oh, people are apparently missing the music videos, so here is one. This guy, Matt Alber (already claimed by Homer as his new internet crush) has a wonderful voice. Listen to “Monarch” the first song that plays on the Matt Alber link (or watch the video below). He’s got a little Rufus Wainwright sound to him.

Then watch this. He performed the alto soloist in Handel’s “Messiah.”

Here’s how he describes it. “I performed Handel’s “The Messiah” as the alto soloist with the world renown baroque orchestra Musica Angelica in Los Angeles, directed by Chunguk Lee.Singing with these players was one of the most exciting musical experiences of my life. This is a challenging aria, but these players provide the true fire with which to fly upon. Thank you, Chung, for an experience of a lifetime.”

At the Matt Alber link you can listen to several of his songs…including song #3, Field Trip Buddy, about his same-sex third grade crush. Hmm…I remember mine… (Big sigh)

Here’s his video for Monarch:

>Health Care Discussion…Mental Illness

December 29, 2008

>The Obama-Biden Transition Team has asked individuals from across the country to host Community Health Care Discussions during the last two weeks of the year as a way to hear what everyday Americans are saying about Health Care in our country.

I hosted such a meeting last night, to which were invited several Bessemer neighbors as well as health professionals including a nurse manager in mental health, the Dean of the School of Public Health at UAB and a faculty member from the School of Health Professions at UAB. I purposely kept the number of people low to insure that everyone would have a chance to take part in the discussion.

I will be sending a report to the Transition Team which can be used in crafting policy for the new administration.

But here are a couple of things we learned. It’s not news that the “system” is broken, but the degree to which it is broken and the ways in which this affects patient care was surprising.

One problem had to do with insurance coding and billing and how this affects a doctor’s scheduling.

It boils down to: you make an appointment to see a doctor about problem A, and before your scheduled appointment time you develop problem B. When you arrive for your appointment the doctor refuses to address problem B and requires that you schedule another appointment, which may be two weeks or more down the road. What this does to the health of America is it keeps this person (or lots of people, assuming this is happening all over) sick or in pain for an additional two weeks. Or, of course, their condition could worsen.

In other words, the “Health system” is contributing to a “sick nation.” It is contributing to people being off from work. It is costing Americans more.

And that is just one of the problems.

The other issue we discussed was mental illness and how stigma affects the treatment people receive. The stigma associated with mental illness can result in people ignoring symptoms or pretending they don’t exist, and avoiding treatment.

Mental illness stigma exists for several reasons. One is that mental illness is thought by some to be the result of a choice or action of the individual and is perceived to be on a different level than physical illness. In reality, mental illnesses are complex and are due to physical changes in the brain, with or without a genetic component.

Mental illness should be treated with the same degree of recognition and respect as physical illnesses. The American Public should be educated about mental illnesses, and not from commercials on TV about drugs used to treat them. Doctors as well, should be educated and should focus on the mental health of their patients as well as their physical health.

Depression, for example, affects people’s ability to work in a huge way, yet often physicians ignore or don’t take the time to question patients in order to pick up signs that there may be a problem.

Then there is this: 1 in 5 young Americans have a personality disorder, according to a recent study. But less than 25% get treatment.

These disorders include obsessive or compulsive tendencies (different from OCD) and anti-social disorders (which can lead to violence) and paranoid behaviors, all of which can interfere with day to day functioning. That’s 1 in 5 of our future leaders.

Mental health parity is the first step in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.

Parity would require insurance plans to treat mental health patients on par with those who have physical ailments. No more higher copays or deductibles for the mental health treatments. No more limits on visits to the doctor that differ from the caps for other patients.

A mental health parity bill was tacked on to the big bailout passed in October, but that bill is not complete and parity involves more than just payments, it also involves doctor’s attitudes and education. But…it’s a start.