Monday, July 17, 2017

Saved By the Clot

(*Updated below)

Despite its best intentions, a Congress stuffed with aging millionaires does provide the occasional benefit for the downtrodden rest of us.

We should probably thank Senator John McCain and the surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain for our latest reprieve from getting our crappy health insurance coverage slashed into worse than nothing. Because of McCain's illness, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was forced to delay voting on his cruel plan to punish the strapped and the ill for the benefit of the richest of the rich. 

And especially for those of us who personally rely upon, or whose family members rely upon, Medicaid coverage: we must seize upon this gift of time to spread the word about how god-awful the GOP's bill truly is. This cruel legislation would punish and doom to a even earlier death the fully one-third of all Americans who receive Medicaid when they become underpaid, unemployed, sick, hurt, disabled, or old. In putting a cap on lifetime Medicaid benefits, the Republican legislation is a true stealth weapon of mass destruction.

The Democrats and the corporate media cannot, for the most part, be bothered to spread the word too thickly. They're too busy spreading, like unhealthy dollops of clotted cream, all the latest RussiaGate gossip and innuendo. They're too busy drumming up the paranoia, too busy softening up the American public for more war and more arms sales for them to get too mushy and soft-hearted about spreading the word that a Medicare for All plan would be both humane and cost-effective. And, incidentally, virtually repeal-proof, what with 100% of the population becoming contributing beneficiaries.

While McCain, who has a history of melanoma, is expected to stay out of Washington for at least a week, medical experts say his healing could take much longer. I would recommend just making it a whole recovery summer. If his fellow senators get too bored, they can always venture out to town halls to try and explain to their constituents that cruelty is freedom.

 Besides the irony of one legislator's personal illness getting in the way of his sadistic cohort depriving tens of millions of people from receiving care is the irony that this one particular senator never need worry about where the money will come from to pay deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses. He very likely will never even have to look at a hospital bill. His gold-plated congressional insurance will see to that.

Meanwhile, yet another study reveals that even under the selective benefits of the Affordable Care Act, the United States still has the worst health care among the 11 rich nations studied. It is also the only country in the study which lacks true universal coverage.

Regardless of your income and insurance, you will get the worst care and the worst access to care if you happen to live in the exceptional Land of the Free. While nearly half of low-income Americans complain of restricted access to care, even a surprising 26% of the well-to-do report having difficulty paying their uncovered medical expenses.

You read that right: a wealthy American has more trouble getting and paying for care than even the poorest Brit or Aussie. Even the affluent misanthropes who stand to benefit off the backs of the sick and poor if this bill is passed don't have it as good as they think they do, despite all the concierge medical services their money can buy.

The Commonwealth Fund study, aptly titled Mirror, Mirror 2017, found that although the US spent $9,364 per person on health care last year, the United Kingdom and its single payer National Health Service came in first in the survey - despite an expenditure of only $4,094 per person. The runners-up are Australia and the Netherlands.

In each of the categories studied, the US ranked dead last or near last, with the exception of better outcomes for its hospitalized heart attack and stroke patients. The failing categories include equity of care, administrative efficiency and outcomes, primary care affordability, and financial protections against destitution for citizens who get sick or hurt. 

America also does relatively well in doctor-patient relationships, end of life care, and survival rates for such diseases as breast cancer. It does poorly on infant mortality rates, and it has the lowest life expectancy of the 11 countries for citizens who reach the age of 60. 

The richest country on earth still has the highest rate of preventable deaths. America is indeed exceptional, the unfairest of them all.

*Update, July 18: Two more senators have joined the Clot Caucus, and ding dong, the bill is dead! Or is it? The late great George Romero, whose undead franchise is more alive than ever, might have a thing or two to say to all the revelers out there. As might the late great Mark Twain, who quipped that "the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated" after reading his own obituary in the newspaper.

To proclaim that the GOP's bill to destroy the health care of tens of millions is dead is about as premature as the late great Edgar Allan Poe's tale of the living burial. When plutocrats want something, or more aptly, when they demand everything, they don't give up. Otherwise, they wouldn't be plutocrats.

So read the fine print. The headline in today's New York Times, for example, merely notes that the two new Senatorial defections only "signal" the end of TrumpCare.

And then there were these ominous rumblings from the mythical "other side" of the Aisle of the Dead:
The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, responded to the announcement on Monday by urging his Republican colleagues to begin anew and, this time, undertake a bipartisan effort.
“This second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable,” Mr. Schumer said. “Rather than repeating the same failed, partisan process yet again, Republicans should start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health care system.”
Whenever you hear the words "bipartisan" and "long-term stability to the markets" uttered by a politician, you should brace yourself for the fortified oligarchic shock troops assembling for yet another awesome surge. They don't call Schumer the Senator of Wall Street for nothing. The day that he utters the phrase "Medicare for All" will be the day that his campaign war chest goes bare and his commanders quickly advise a permanent R&R and a brain scan. 


Jay–Ottawa said...

"[T]his one particular senator never need worry about where the money will come from to pay deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses. He very likely will never even have to look at a hospital bill. His gold-plated congressional insurance will see to that."

Do congressional representatives and senators still hold meetings in their home districts? How's about everybody who has a chance ask them questions along the following lines. If enough people around the country do this, we might not see a change, but we would at least have the pleasure of seeing representatives and senators squirm on the hot seat.

"Welcome back to your home district, Senator/Representative SomebodyOrOther, How come in a democracy like ours my health insurance isn't anywhere as good as yours, a servant of the people? Nobody else in this hall has a medical insurance plan anywhere near as good as yours. Aren't you supposed to support our interests? Or is it the other way around now? Seems like we're supporting you with a gold-plated insurance plan, while you keep setting us up for high-cost crap plans or, better yet, nothing at all. Are you aware, Senator Somebody, that most bankruptcies by families in the US are due to the inability of a family to pay their doctor bills? Tell you what: Maybe you would get a whole new perspective on healthcare legislation by my taking over your congressional health plan, only as long as you're in office of course, while you take over my plan. How about it? Don't tell me Americans can't set up an equitable system, because I'll rattle off ten countries, poorer than the US, who have been giving all their citizens better health care for decades. On the other hand wouldn't Medicare for all, for both you and me, make it unnecessary for you to dream up an answer to my questions? BTW, does your receiving XXX amount of dollars last year from private health insurance companies have anything to do with your not voting for Medicare for All?"

Anything along those lines will do. Such tactics work best when a handful of constituents pop up at a congressional town hall with the same damn questions. And if you don't have a chance to ask such questions at a town meeting, how about a bunch of you posing similar questions, day after day, as letters-to-the-editor?

annenigma said...

Jay asked "Do congressional representatives and senators still hold meetings in their home districts?"

Since the shooting at the ball field, many now hold them in virtual reality using Facebook.

Pearl said...

The Lives of Millions Are at Stake": Citizens Shut Down Capitol Hill to Protect Health Care
Thursday, July 13, 2017
By Sarah Jaffe, Truthout | Interview

Zee said...


For decades I have been a die-hard writer of [civil] letters and e-mails to my elected officials, along with placing direct telephone calls to their offices and writing Letters-to-the-Editor regarding their policies. I have also attended at least one each of face-to-face Townhalls with New Mexico’s Senator Tom Udall and [then] Representative Martin Heinrich.

I even sat down three times in the Albuquerque offices of the latter, august, personage to discuss—face-to-face—(1) Congress’s unabashed bail-out of “Wall Street” in preference to “Main Street” in 2008-2009, and (2) whether or not Congress would subject itself to the terms of ObamaCare.

I have come to the sad conclusion that it has all been a waste of time, gasoline, “key-strokes” and “column-inches.”

Whether meeting with them face-to-face (an increasingly rare phenomenon as pointed out by annenigma) or in virtual-reality space, “communicating” with them via e-mail, snail-mail, or Letters-to-the-Editor, they are virtually immune to embarrassment.

Especially when “yours” is what they believe to be the minority opinion according to the polls, anyway.

Honest answers are impossible to come by. Especially when communicating with them by e-mail or snail-mail, their written “responses” are obviously “canned,” and—IMHO and the opinions of others—are often virtually “orthogonal” to what-the-hell one was complaining about/commenting on in the first place. “What did that ‘answer’ have to do with anything?” I have often asked myself?

The one time that I might possibly have made [then] Representative Heinrich “squirm” just a teensy bit was when discussing the Great Wall Street Bail-Out.

I looked him in the eye and told him that while Mrs. Zee and I had viewed it as a personal tragedy in the ‘80s that we were unable to have our own children, I —at least—was now grateful that things had turned out the way they had. Because I couldn’t think of a single thing to tell a child as to how her/his life could ever be as good as mine given the condition in which Congress, Dubya and BHO were leaving the country.

Heinrich looked down at his notepad in silence at that comment, while his staffer scribbled away in evident surprise. But now he’s a U.S. Senator, his position a sinecure for life, and he will never have to meet me—or anyone—in person again.

Ask a question at a townhall, write, e-mail, call, scribble Letters-to-the-Editor, whatever, it is all pretty much a waste of time in our “managed democracy.”

Even voting seems a waste of time when our principal choices distill down to—at they did in 2016—Trump and Clinton.