Opponents of national health insurance assert that it'll lead to long waits for care, but that is ALREADY happening with our patchwork non-system. Acute shortages of doctors and nurses are resulting in long waits for health care -- about seven weeks for routine appointments -- and neglect once in the hospital. The Wall Street Journal focused on the problem in Massachusetts, while USA Today offered a national overview of the doctor shortage problem, and ABC News reported on the nurse shortage and resulting allegations of patient neglect. The dilemma illustrates the flaw in thinking that the "free market" and the laws of supply and demand can fix such problems. Because of the high cost of medical training, the supply of medical professionals is determined in large part by how much federal money is available for training and residencies. As the USA Today article pointed out:
The marketplace doesn't determine how many doctors the nation has, as it does for engineers, pilots and other professions. The number of doctors is a political decision, heavily influenced by doctors themselves. Congress controls the supply of physicians by how much federal funding it provides for medical residencies — the graduate training required of all doctors.
After disturbing discussions with Americans claiming, ignorantly, that "there are no moderate Muslims," it' s enlightening to listen to Eboo Patel, author of Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, on NPR's Talk of the Nation. He asserts that the rise of fundamentalist Islam is like the rise of gangs -- kids looking for a sense of belonging and identity, and the way to combat it is to create organizations like the Interfaith Youth Corps in Chicago. IFYC seeks to build a movement to bring together young people of faith to recognize differences but to work together on shared values to serve others.
The next debate over health care reform will probably be won by the leaders who articulate the best frames for the debate, along with the most sensible policies. People currently feel they are paying MORE for LESS, with premiums rising and services getting cut back. People want guaranteed coverage that gives them peace of mind; a standard package that's affordable.
Let us not be manipulated by the overly simplistic false choice between "government-run health care" and "letting the free market fix the health care crisis." The fact is that 45% of U.S. health care is ALREADY public, funded by government, when you take into account Medicare, Medicaid, state and federal health plans, and local governments. In addition, private insurance companies receive HUGE SUBSIDIES from the government to participate in Medicare. And, as Adam Searing wrote in a News and Observer op-ed: "The idea of citizens coming together and using taxes to pay for services for everyone is hardly controversial in many other areas. Whether it's police and fire services, city buses, the library, universal K-12 education, roads or even health care for everyone over 65, most Americans happily endorse taxpayer funding. So why the exception for health care for anyone under 65?"
Let's also not be manipulated by the false claims that Americans get medical attention at far shorter notice than people in countries with national health care systems. According to a survey by the Commonwealth Fund, reports economist Paul Krugman, "America ranks near the bottom among advanced countries in terms of getting medical attention on short notice...and that America is the worst place in the advanced world if you need care after hours or on weekends."
Very sad news from Longmont, Colorado: My college roommate, Larry Gang, was hiking from Mt. Evans to Mt. Bierstadt on Friday, July 6, apparently encountered severe weather -- thunder, lightning, hail, snow and high winds -- and fell a thousand feet. A search for him began on Saturday afternoon; his body was located on Sunday, and helicoptered out on Monday. He was only 53 years old. My heart goes out to his wife and two teenage boys. I know how proud he was of them, and how determined he was to share his passions for life with them.
Larry died following his passion for the outdoors. Years ago, he and I had great adventures canoeing the Lumbee River from the Sandhills of North Carolina to the Atlantic Ocean (the trip took nearly a week); and hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I still regale friends with tales from both expeditions. (The picture on the left was taken in the White Mountains.) His enthusiasm was contagious. I remember how thrilled he was a few years ago to be moving from St. Louis to Colorado, to be living and working so close to the Continental Divide. I communicated with him in June, less than a month ago, suggesting he move back to North Carolina, but he had fallen in love with the Rocky Mountains and was determined to stay there. Seeing the stunning pictures, one can understand why.
Larry grew up in Huntington, W.VA., attended Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Pennsylvania law school. Over the course of his career, he worked in Cleveland, Baltimore, St. Louis, and Vail, Colorado. He had recently joined Linkedin, where his profile illuminates what a skilled corporate attorney he was.
But for the Internet, his friends and family around the country would be unaware of so many details, or of the online community, 14ers.com, that he was a part of -- the multi-page thread about his life and death (beginning here, and continuing here) or the posts specifically about what a neat guy he was. As my wife Lucia wrote in that forum, we laughed so heartily with Larry. He had a very dry wit, and some of his humorous phrases will stick with me for the rest of my days.
The family has established a trust fund for the benefit of the children's education. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to such trust fund in the following manner: "Adam and Christopher Gang Education Trust," c/o Fidelity Investments, P.O. Box 5000, Cincinnati, OH 45273-8007.
"In Economics Departments, a Growing Will to Debate Fundamental Assumptions," NYTimes: "For many economists, questioning free-market orthodoxy is akin to expressing a belief in intelligent design at a Darwin convention: Those who doubt the naturally beneficial workings of the market are considered either deluded or crazy....In economic schools of thought, most economists are still devoted to what is known as the neoclassical model...(created in part by Milton Friedman and championed by Ronald Reagan)...But "as issues like income inequality, free trade and protectionism have become part of the presidential candidates’ stump speeches, more thinkers have joined the debate." Eminent economists like Alan Binder at Princeton, Lawrence Summers (former Treasury Secretary and former Harvard President), and George A. Akerlof of Berkeley "have pointed out what they see as the failings of laissez-faire economics." Growing income inequality and dislocation caused by global markets and the revolution in communications have helped create far more skepticism among economists about free-market theories.
Blinder, David Card at Berkeley and Dani Rodrik at Harvard might be considered mere heretics, the Times reports. But an emerging group of economists called “heterodox” almost completely reject the assumptions of neoclassical economics. They publish a newsletter called Heterodox Economics. And Eric Nilsson publishes a Heterodox Economics Blog.
Nearly 50 million Americans -- 16 percent of the population -- lack health insurance. The number of uninsured will grow to 56 million in 2013, compared to 37 million when the Clintons first confronted the issue in the early 1990s.
U.S. spends nearly $7,000 per person, much more per capita on health care than any other country, but ranks 37th in performance, according to the World Health Organization.
Premiums for family coverage have risen by 87 percent since 2000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Americans are more dissatisfied than citizens of other nations with their basic health care, according to a five-nation survey by the Commonwealth Fund. "People in the U.S. face longer wait times to see doctors and have more trouble getting care on evenings or weekends than do people in other industrialized countries...One-third of Americans told pollsters that the U.S. health care system should be completely rebuilt, far more than residents of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the U.K. Just 16 percent of Americans said that the U.S. health care system needs only minor changes, the lowest number expressing approval among the countries surveyed."
Eighteen thousand Americans die each year because they are uninsured. Canadians in general live three years longer than U.S. citizens. French citizens also live longer. Even the poorest Brit can expect to live longer than the richest American.
It's surprising that The Washington Post placed this piece, "Calling in Pros to Refine Your Google Image," on its front page, given that the techniques cited to improve one's online reputation are not so complex and the requests for "online reputation management" are not particularly new. I or most any tech-savvy communications professional could use these techniques.