Top Of My Head

Thoughts on everything from Politics to Video Games

Category: Health Care

Medical Marijuana

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has announced that he has changed his mind regarding medical marijuana.  After years of being against medical marijuana, he is now for it.  However; some people do not like this idea.  According to a USA Today article, “Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse,” isn’t thrilled about this.  She believes that legalizing another drug would be harmful to society, because “If you look at the data, the costs associated with drugs in our country, which are gigantic, are driven mostly by legal drugs because they’re so accessible.”

I think she’s a little off base.  The costs of drugs in this country are “gigantic” to use her word, but it isn’t because “they’re so accessible”.  Now, I don’t know Nora Volkow, but totally based on her statement, I’m thinking she didn’t pay attention in economic classes.  More accessibility means less cost, not more.  Drug costs are up because of the drug manufacturers, not because of their accessibility.

Manufacturing and development of new drugs and patent protection laws are two of the major factors that influence drug spending. Drug manufacturers increase drugs costs to try to recoup the often significant outlays in research and development costs for drugs that make it to the market as well as those that do not enter the marketplace.

Kaiser Family Foundation
Prescription Drug Costs

With no offense to Dr. Volkow, she is coming at this idea from the side of drug addiction. She’s worried about the next person who becomes addicted. I understand that, but the idea of medical marijuana isn’t to cure an addiction. There are serious medical conditions that can be helped by medical marijuana and I believe that this outweighs any harmful affect there might be in society.

Fact Check and Insurance Rebates

I’m going to start this by saying that I trust FactCheck.org.  It is at the top of my list of places to check when I receive emails where I’m not believing or I doubt what I’m seeing.  What I like about Fact Check is that I don’t always agree with them.  I am human and I don’t like it when facts mean I have to reconfigure my beliefs.  You can make this statement about a lot of humans – you know who you are.  People do not like to be proven wrong and they especially don’t like being proven wrong with numbers and facts.  Anyway, if they agreed with me 100% of the time, I would think they are biased and if they disagreed with me 100% of the time, I would believe that they were biased.

Anyway, Fact Check recently wrote an article about President Obama’s July 18th speech touting the savings of the Affordable Care Act (which is more commonly known as Obamacare).  Fact Check called the article “Obama Overhypes Health Savings“.  I’m not going to disagree with Fact Check that President Obama made the health savings sound wonderful, he did.  Unfortunately, his hype is needed to overshadow the hype on the other side, which claims no savings and total financial ruin for all if we continue on the Affordable Care Act path.  I just think Fact Check is overhyping the overhyping.

Case in point the following quote from President Obama

Last year, millions of Americans opened letters from their insurance companies — but instead of the usual dread that comes from getting a bill — (laughter) — they were pleasantly surprised with a check. In 2012, 13 million rebates went out, in all 50 states. Another 8.5 [million] rebates are being sent out this summer, averaging around 100 bucks each.

Fact Check takes issue with this because ” The average rebate is about $100 per family — not per person. It’s not 8.5 million rebates “averaging around 100 bucks each,” as the president said. Instead, it’s 8.5 million consumers who will benefit, with an average rebate of $100 per family.”

I’m not really sure what the issue is here.  Fact Check admits that the rebates average $100 each.  When millions of Americans open the letters, I’m sure that the letter opener most likely be either the male or female head of a family.  I’m sure that the rebates for single people will be less than the rebates for families.  No, President Obama didn’t say millions of American families opened letters, but I don’t think what he did say was too much hype.  — This is a matter of opinion, not an actual fact.

The fact is that millions of rebates will be sent out this summer and that the average of these rebates is around $100.

But wait…there’s more!

Fact Check, also, takes issue with the fact that President Obama didn’t mention that a lot of these rebates are going to businesses.  In fact they say just that:  “But the more glaring omission is an acknowledgment that a lot of this money goes to businesses, not individuals.”  I don’t see the problem in this, either.  Even if the employer gets the rebate, it has to be used to benefit the employee.  In fact, Fact Check even quotes the  Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as saying such, ” if you bought your insurance through your employer, your employer must use the rebate for your benefit.”  I don’t really understand their problem with the hype in this case.

I think the main point in all of this is that the Affordable Care Act is to some extent causing people and businesses to save money on their health care insurance premiums.  Second to this is that it didn’t cause premiums to go up, as the opposition claimed it would.

 

Obamacare and unAmerican Companies

Here’s a quick, yet truthful thought.  Every large company that is announcing cutting employees’ hours to avoid paying healthcare for them isn’t a company that should be held up in esteem.  It is a company who should be avoided as much as possible and derided for being unAmerican.

It is time the profit hogging corporate types and Wall Street bozos start taking care of business and the American Worker.  You break your back for forty years, do you get a pension?  Hell no, you probably don’t even get a watch.  You get a 401K that isn’t worth shit if the banks and Wall Street screw with the economoy, like they did in the run up to the crash of 2008.

Our health care system needs  a lot of changes.  We spend more than nearly every other developed country and, yet, we’re sicker than ever.  Part of this is that we don’t take care of ourselves and part of it is that companies don’t take care of employees.

I have healthcare.  I happen to have a skill set that will remain in demand probably until the day I die and beyond.  I am blessed because of this.  Many people – in fact, the majority of people – are not blest as I am.  I will not have to worry about health care, because I’ll never have to work for a company that doesn’t offer it.  Even when I worked as a contractor, because of my earning power and salary, I was offered health care paid for by the company – that doesn’t happen often in contracting jobs.

Don’t blame President Obama for forcing companies to do what they should’ve been doing all along.  The CEO has health care.  The President of the company has health care.  So should the workers on the floor who actually perform the duties that keep the company going.

The Republicans don’t understand this.

Fox News doesn’t understand this.

The people in the red states don’t understand this.

We do the work, we should reap the benefits.  The guy on top – he didn’t dig that ditch, put that car together, bake that pizza – the guy on top is receiving the big salary made possible by YOUR hard work.

Don’t forget that.

U.S. Constitution and the Individual Mandate…

Oh, come on, the Republicans are getting a bit ridiculous!

I’m reading this story on Huffington Post about the upcoming Supreme Court decision on the Individual Mandate in the Health care law.  The article supports the notion that there are a lot of things the government mandates that everyone must do.  The example used is Medicare.  If you work, you pay into Medicare – you have no choice.

But, here’s what really got to me:  Mark Hayes – “former chief health counsel for the Republican staff of the Senate Finance Committee” states:

“Congress used more clearly defined constitutional powers when it created Medicare. “The power to tax and the power to spend…” “‘Here, with the individual mandate, it’s a different question – regulating interstate commerce. This is a novel question from a legal standpoint.'”

How is that novel?  Article I Section 8 Clause 3 states:

“To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;”

Novel question? Um, I don’t think so. The word Novel, when used as an adjective and not as a noun means:

  1. new and not resembling something formerly known or used
  2. original or striking especially in conception or style

Um, if the Commerce Clause has existed in the Constitution since the beginning, how is Congress being able to use it now a “Novel” question?

I’m just wondering.

Health Insurance and Big Brother

Let’s discuss Health Insurance.  Health insurance companies are not in business to take care of you.  They are not in business to make sure that you receive all of the health care you need.  They are in business to make money.  Publicly traded health insurance companies need to make money for their stockholders, too.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you really have much of a say in your health care, either.  It’s a myth.  Oh, sure, you can pick your doctor, but he or she will pretty much only provide medical care covered by your health insurance.  If they want to do an expensive test, pretty much they need a health insurance company’s permission to run it.  Want that new expensive drug?  Either pay for it out of your own pocket or hope that your health insurance prescription plan will cover it.

Arguments against Obama’s Health care plan were mostly either: I don’t want the government controlling my health care or I don’t want mandatory insurance.  I believe I’ve previously discussed the latter of the two.  Basically, I support mandatory insurance.  It helps all of us.  If everyone is covered, then none of us have to pay for someone who received care without payment. In addition, without mandatory insurance, you can’t have a law that prevents insurance companies from rejecting people for pre-existing conditions without making health insurance mandatory.

I understand the idea that government control over something is scary.  Oh, big brother is watching you.  The government is watching you.

It’s a joke.

We don’t want the government to put up intersection cameras, but we shop in stores where – with few exceptions – we’re videotaped.

We don’t want the government to negotiate the price for health insurance, but we turn over our choices to our employers.  If you’re employed and you have insurance, you did not make the choice regarding anything about the insurance.  If your employer is self-insured, as many are today, you’re really not making any choices at all.

Yes, most employers have two tiers of plans, so you make a choice there.  Yes, you’re making to take your employer’s coverage, but that’s pretty much it.

What’s covered, what’s not, in network doctors – none of that is your choice.

To honestly believe that you have a serious choice in your health care and it is all between you and your doctor – if this is the reason you’re against Obamacare – you’re just fooling yourself.  The treatment you receive is all about the deal between your doctor and your insurance company.

Florida Court Health Care Ruling

Once again, Florida has managed to screw the entire country.  A Federal judge in Florida has ruled that the Health Care Law is unconstitutional, particularly the part about the mandatory coverage.  I don’t recall anything in the Constitution that states our Federal government cannot make Health Care a mandatory item.  In fact, our Constitution gives Congress the right to regulate commerce over state lines and internationally.  Insurance companies certainly work across state lines and now with globalization, I feel safe in saying that they work across international lines as well.

It is probably a safe bet that when the US Supreme Court eventually hears this case (after all of the appeals), they will most likely rule the way of Florida.  After all, these are the same people who ruled that Corporations are people and should have the same rights and privileges as we do.

I don’t believe that the Health Care law is unconstitutional.  I don’t believe that making insurance mandatory is anything more than common sense – something we’ve been lacking in this country for years.  By making it mandatory, you do two things: 1) You lower the price of everyone’s premiums.  The more people on an insurance plan, the less money paid per premium.  2) You protect the insurance companies.  Yes, I said protect the insurance companies.  I know plenty of people who wouldn’t buy insurance and then, when their seriously ill, run right out and purchase an insurance plan knowing that the insurance companies cannot turn them down because of a pre-existing condition.  Of course, with this ruling, that flies out the window.

I hope the small-minded and short-sighted states that brought this challenge into the Florida courts are satisfied.  They’ve, most likely, effectively killed Health Care in this country for a very long time.  There’s 45 million people who will not be able to have health care.  There’s millions of college kids who will not be able to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.  And, now, my pre-existing condition won’t be covered.

Thanks for nothing.

Health Care Myth – Forced Euthanasia

Did you ever notice how the sides of any issue can stretch the truth and come out with blatant lies? Then, those lies are put into emails and every small minded person passes them on until they suddenly become “truth”. People will actually believe the lies without checking them. Part of this, I think, is just laziness on the part of small minded people. They don’t feel like doing the research and the email all ready states what they want to believe anyway, so they send it off. Part of this is stupidity, well, it has an important sounding name or whatever, so it must be true, because you can’t send anything that isn’t true, right?
It is annoying if these untruths only appeared in email, but because you know who your intellectually light friends and relatives are, you can ignore those emails, it isn’t so bad. But, then some of these lie spreaders are just your cousin Todd from Buffalo, some of them are allowed to spread their lies on radio shows and TV shows. And, then it is nearly impossible to stop the spread.
Well, today, I’m going to try to stop one of these lies from going any farther.
Former lieutenant governor of New York Betsy McCaughey is going around claiming that the health care bill – H.R. 3200 (this is the bill that is in the House) – is “a vicious assault on elderly people” that will “cut your life short.”1 Between her and Palin’s lie spreading, it is a wonder that the truth ever gets told.
There is a provision in H.R. 3200 for end of life counseling that would be paid for by medicare.

H.R. 3200, page 425: 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. Such consultation shall include the following:

(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 … .

(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.

(F)(i) Subject to clause (ii), an explanation of orders regarding life sustaining treatment or similar orders2

I do not read anything in there that states someone is going to put you down because you are no longer deemed worthy to live, as McCaughey and Palin have been claiming.

I can tell you from personal experience that the end of life decision made for a loved one is the most difficult decision ever made. I hope throughout the rest of my life that I never have to make that decision again. It is heartbreaking and one of those moments on which you look back upon and wonder – Did I do the right thing?

Having said that, I feel strongly that every one should have an end of life directive – if your wish is to be kept alive on machines – it should be followed. If your wish is no heroics, that should be followed as well.

The making / writing / drawing up of these directives should not be taken lightly. I support the health care plan to pay for counseling sessions. In fact, I think if you attend one of these sessions, you should bring along your loved ones. Your wishes should be well known in advance.

When you come to the end of your journey in this life and you sent to the afterlife to, hopefully, be in God’s presence, you really have the easy part. Those of us left waiting behind to live another day, to carry out your wishes – whatever they may be – have the hard part. It is easier to lie in the bed and be sick, than to stand beside it and watch a loved one suffer.

That is why end of life counseling is so important. You need to make your wishes known, whatever they may be. You need to assist your family to know what kinds of decisions you want made. It is the least thing any one of us can do for our family members. Cheryl and I have had these conversations of what one of us would want many times. I don’t want to make the decision for her anymore than she would want to make the decision for me, but the two of us know what the other one wants.

Allow me to go just slightly off course for a moment. I remember when I was a kid that Republicans didn’t want any government interference with anything. Individual rights were king and that was all right by me, but now, the right wing has taken it upon themselves to turn their back on these ideals. It is NOT the business of the government to decide if you live or if you die. It is YOUR choice, but the right wing wants you only to make the decision to live. They want to take away your CHOICE. But, they are claiming to be on YOUR side. It would be a joke, if it wasn’t so serious.

Let’s stop the craziness. Let us only pass on truth to each other. And, let us get the entire nation covered in health care.

God Bless

1http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2009/08/13/2009-08-13_former_lt_gov_mccaughey_leads_death_panel_charge_writing_up_talking_points_on_he.html#ixzz0PldQYmhD
2 FactCheck.org – Accessed 8/31/2009

Another Word on Ted Kennedy

This morning, as I am looking out at the rainy day before me, I paused to read an article about Ted Kennedy and his work for gay rights. He took the stance of equality for gays when it might have been political suicide to do so. Senator Kennedy seemed to know our struggles and our pain.
And, that lead me to remember what he said at Bobby Kennedy’s funeral, “a good and decent man who saw wrong and tried to right it; who saw suffering and tried to heal it; who saw war and tried to stop it.” And, I think those words, those words that whenever I’ve heard them again, have brought tears to my eyes, would be best served to describe Ted Kennedy. And, I don’t write this to take away anything from Bobby Kennedy’s work, but Ted was the survivor who got to put his words into action.
I worry about the health care in this nation now. Because the one man who could work with Republicans is gone. All ready, with Kennedy ill and out of action, the health care debate has dissolved into a yelling match. I wonder, who is going to lead us now?
God Bless us, everyone. We are going to need the Lord’s help in all of this.
PS. Think about that, Van Hollen, you’re decision NOT to defend Wisconsin state law is a wrong one and for that, I ask that God has mercy on your soul.

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