January 23, 2018
Art, politics, angels, demons . . . and righteous dogs.

Triumph the Blue Dog

Blue Dog550As the legislation moves through the Senate a consensus for watered-down health care reform starts to emerge: a plan that regulates the corporations some more, sparing them the inconvenience of  the desperately needed Public Option.  This turn of events didn’t come from the GOP, but from DEMOCRATS.  Conservative Democrats, called Blue Dogs.  But “conservative” is a misnomer here. These representatives are from the state of Corpo-predation. And as funny dogs, they insult the people and the government of the country to the tune of the big bucks of the industry that put them there. A laugh and a half.

PS: Chow down on this from Democracy Now:

President Obama’s plan to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system and create a public insurance option has been dealt a possible setback in the Senate. A bipartisan group of six senators on the Senate Finance Committee has been working in secret for weeks to draft an alternative to Obama’s plan. The alternative legislation under consideration would not require businesses to offer healthcare coverage to their workers and would not contain a public insurance option, despite support for such an option from American voters. The Senate legislation was drafted during meetings in the office of Montana Democrat Max Baucus, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee. The senators crafting the legislation have received support in their secret efforts from the US Chamber of Commerce. Last month, the Montana Standard reported Max Baucus has received more campaign money from health and insurance industry interests than any other member of Congress. In the past six years, nearly one-fourth of every dime raised by Baucus and his political action committee has come from groups and individuals associated with drug companies, insurers, hospitals, medical supply firms, health service companies and other health professionals.
In related news, the National Journal reports twenty-two groups related to healthcare spent at least $1 million on lobbying during the second quarter. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, spent $6.2 million in lobbying expenditures. Pfizer spent $5.6 million, and the American Medical Association spent $3.9 million. Since 1998, the health sector has put $3.4 billion into lobbying efforts, ranking second only to the financial industry.

PPS: Check out this howlin’ piece by Joanna Molloy in today’ Daily News:

My husband got the telltale bull’s-eye of the Lyme disease infection on his leg recently – but it’s the medical bill that bites.

We have to pay $297 for a “Lyme disease DNA test,” the bill reads, because the insurance company refused to pay the laboratory because the test is considered “experimental.”

Oh, and because on the same bill is the normal Lyme disease tick test at $49.50, which the company paid.

We wondered, did they have Dr. James Watson, co-discoverer of the double helix structure of genes, do the test himself?

Why was it so expensive, and did we really need to know what color eyes the tick had? We argued with the lab, and what do you know, there was a tick DNA sale going on that day; they dropped to 50 bucks.

For one short minute, we felt sorry for the health insurance conglomerates, as well as for the Blue Dog Democrats.

You know the Blue Dogs: They’re the conservative Democrats who are dragging their paws on President Obama’s wish to pass a law by September to give all Americans health insurance.

The Blue Dogs used to be called Yellow Dogs, because they were so loyal to the Democratic Party that they’d “vote for a yellow dog if it was on the ticket.” They changed to blue after feeling “choked blue” by the liberals.

The 52 Blue Dogs are linked to the Republicans. They want to “reduce the subsidies lower-income Americans will get,” The Wall Street Journal says.

As it is, medical bills cause half the personal bankruptcies in the U.S., even for people with health insurance. We called Alpha Blue Doggie Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas to ask if he wants poor Americans to get less health care than rich Americans. He didn’t call back.

The Blue Dogs also want to know how we’re going to pay for insurance for the 46 million Americans, including 8 million children, who don’t have any.

Maybe their fear is fueled by the $508,000 their political action committee got from the health care sector – up 90% from two years before.

Oh, well, since Congress is going to recess before doing anything, lawmakers might want to come to New York and visit Dr. Daryl Isaacs, who has seen 23,000 patients at his SoHo practice in 30 years.

Unlike many of his colleagues, he still accepts health insurance, despite having gotten reimbursed as little as $3.98 for an office visit over the years.

Does he treat patients with no insurance?

“Of course,” he snaps.

Isaacs worries that if legislators “don’t do real reform” that reins in insurance companies and malpractice lawyers and keeps premiums down they will just be making a bigger salad.

“They must rein in the power of the insurance companies,” he said. “CEOs are getting millions, even a billion, in compensation. Yet you prescribe a drug, and they contact you and say why don’t you prescribe a cheaper drug. It’s apples and oranges.

“You ask them, do they cover physicals, but they really just want you to listen to the patients’ heart and lungs and take their blood pressure. They don’t want you to do blood tests for diabetes, cholesterol, kidney function, unless a patient is sick.

“Everybody in the U.S. should have a plastic card and every doctor, pharmacy, hospital, a machine like a credit card machine, you swipe the card, it gives medical records and pays the bill.

“In Florida some of the people go to different doctors and get the same test in one day. That’s why Medicare costs are so high. This would stop that. I would support a one-payer system.

“Radiologists are so afraid of getting a malpractice suit, they won’t say a test is ‘normal,’ so you have to order another MRI, another cat scan, a sonogram after a mammogram. One-third of the costs are extra tests.”

Like for a tick’s DNA.

PPPS:  Here’s the jaw-dropping interview by Jon Stewart with the wonderful Bill Kristol from last night.  Billy admits the government provides the best health for patients  . . . and that he doesn’t think we deserve it.

This should be the clip Obama’s gang runs all day on TV:

And finally, here’s an action site. Take 2 minutes and do this please:

Mister Doctor

Mister Doctor 550I’m really an insurance company . . . but I play a doctor on TV.

All week, as the intensity of the health Care debate has been ratcheted up.  Obama and reformers have had to defend against attacks on reform.  These have gotten sharper and more destructive as poll numbers for reform sink, commensurate with many millions spent on coordinated ad and media reframing of the issue, a stunning replay of the Clinton Health Care Debacle.  The new frame is: the system will be damaged by what the government does and patients will pay more and get less.
I would like to un-re-frame for a moment.  The reality is there is no “system”.  And that’s what the insurance industry likes: a chaotic scramble where business always win . . . because this is not a “health care” model.  It is a business model. So the Big Insurance companies are companies.  They make their decisions based on profit for their stockholders and investors.  Not patients.  The reform, the one Obama so clumsily tried to explain on Wednesday (why didn’t he call an illustrator?) is to give a Medicare option to everyone. If Medicare sucks for those under 65, then it must suck for those over 65. So why not come right out and say it?
So Blue Dogs and Red Republicans, glowing in gold dust flowing form K Street, are talking about keeping this a business.  Big business.
These corporations are throwing people off the system everyday and undercutting the rest of us for health care.  This is rationing. And we all know it.  The ads, media and pols want to keep this in the realm of “normal”. And it doesn’t belong there.  It is a public need; a utility.  A public utility.  That’s my frame.

KristolNeo-con-man Willian Kristol offered his advice to the GOP on how to address health care reform this week: “Kill it!”  Here he is leading the chorus.

The Most Trusted Guy in America

Cronkite 550Walter Cronkite’s 92 years spanned most of the important events of the 20th Century.  In fact that was the name of a program he hosted (as though the century was “brought to you” by Cronkite).  And it sort of was.  From World War II to Reagan he was on the scene to so great an extent that he would seem to blend in and become part of the story. He covered the Kennedy Assassination, his image indelibly ingrained as a part of the history of that day and weekend. The Space Program, where we all expected him to go up one day. Viet Nam, when he, after observing the war and traveling overseas several times, finally came to understand the nightmarish stupidity of the war, and then in a highly moral and political move, publicly denounced it.  This was, to me, a very high level of courage that we seldom see in places of power.
Here’s my encounter with him; two years ago in Austin, doing a story for Texas Monthly.  Extremely hard of hearing, he needed an assistant to repeat everything to him.  He seemed to me to be fully in charge of himself . . . and had a killer handshake.  He was a guest at a Texas arts celebration.  Later I saw him in the well of the Senate, as painted here, being honored by the entire body.  And none more overwhelmed by his presence than a hard right talk show host / state senator, Dan Patrick.  Walter Cronkite’s achievements crossed all lines.  He was the most trusted guy in the America.  And who knows maybe he really did blast off at last.  That’s an obit cartoon idea for somebody.

Jack in the Baucus

BaucusThe Moment of Truth is here. For years a National Health Plan has been a dream.  Now it is coming.  The level of pain is too high and all the forces of the Medical Industrial Complex cannot overcome the collective will.  Or so it seems.
Meanwhile, back on K Street, the armies of the Empire are massing and greasing politicians like mad.  Max Baucus, chair of the Finance Committee in the Senate has been funded by Big Med for years.  This from the Montana Standard:
“As Sen. Max Baucus has taken the lead on health-reform legislation in the U.S. Senate, he’s also become a leader in something else: Campaign money received from health- and insurance-industry interests.
“In the past six years, nearly one-fourth of every dime raised by Baucus, D-Mont., and his political-action committee has come from groups and individuals associated with drug companies, insurers, hospitals, medical-supply firms, health-service companies and other health professionals.
These donations total about $3.4 million, or $1,500 a day, every day, from January 2003 through 2008.”

House and Senate committees have voted out bills that will allow for a public option for people to choose along with (perhaps newly competitive) corporations.  Baucus has said he will oppose a public option.  Obama now seems to be toughening.  The new definition of bipartisanship seems to be that the suggestions from Republicans that get included in the bill will count as cooperation from them.  NOIT THEIR VOTES. . It has to be accepted now that there will be almost no Republican votes.  And the Dems have the numbers to go for this, if they have the guts as well.  Here’s Amy Goodman’s great interview with  Wendell Potter, formerly of Cigna, who blows the whistle on the whole infuriating industry.  He refers to their methods as “dumping the sick”.  This marvelous story of how the high-flying Big Med exec. sees the truth and gradually has a kind of conversion pilgrimage.  Worth your time.  As would be  a card to an actual senator, especially if yours is on the on this.

Here’s the NY Post’s funny take yesterday.  “Successful” means earning over $280,000. I guess that would classify most of us as unsuccessful.  This tax is asking the rich to return to pre-Bush rates so that everyone can be covered.Sick Post

News Quiz

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