An old conservative friend sent me a link to a post on a popular Blog. The post was about U.S. Health Care Waste Larger Than Pentagon Budget.
In this post, Walter Russell Mead’s Blog said, “It’s not exactly earth-shaking news that there’s a lot of waste in the U.S. health care system, but this item we came across still managed to stagger us: A report by the Institute of Medicine estimates that as much as $750 billion is wasted in the U.S. health care system each year.”
Mead’s Blog was correct. This news isn’t new. However, it’s how his Blog ends the short post that misleads:
“Obamacare doesn’t seem to do much to solve any of these problems.”
Both of these statements are correct, but it’s what’s missing that creates a bias and ignores the truth. The implied conclusion is misleading for the following reasons:
No President and/or Congress have successfully solved these problems in the U.S. health care system—ever.
However, that isn’t entirely true. During President Clinton’s second term in office, he was responsible for overhauling the Veteran Administration’s health care system turning it into a model of efficiency, and the VA medical system now serves more patients, thanks to World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War and the war in Afghanistan, because the VA is allowed to negotiate prices with the drug industry in addition to a computerized medical system that tracks the health care of every patient with safeguards built in to help avoid making mistakes. The VA is my medical provider and I have no complaints.
In fact, recently, the VA found several polyps in my colon during a colonoscopy that Kaiser Permanente (my health care provider when I was still teaching) missed several years earlier. The VA removed them and possibly saved my life because they had not become cancerous yet.
Of the 24.3 million veterans alive at the start of 2006, nearly three-quarters served during a war or an official period of conflict. About a quarter of the nation’s population, approximately 63 million people, are potentially eligible for VA benefits and services because they are veterans, family members or survivors of veterans.
Since Clinton did do something as president to fix one sector of the American health care system, to avoid misleading readers, I should have said, “No Republican president has accomplished anything to fix this mess. However, Democratic presidents have succeeded three times.”
Back to the U.S. Health Care system and its wasteful spending.
The reason for the waste in health care has nothing to do with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA: popularly known as Obamacare).
However, the waste in health care has everything to do with lawyers, doctors, hospitals, and the drug industry that has spent billions blocking any attempt to reform the system. If these industries saw the PPACA as a threat, national health care would have failed as it has before.
It may surprise many that the earliest health care proposal at the federal level was in 1854. Both houses of congress passed this bill but President Franklin Pierce vetoed it. The next attempt was by Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, but the American Medical Association (AMA) did not approve and there wasn’t enough public support, so it failed.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried again in 1933, the AMA attacked and succeeded in blocking this proposal. Then in 1965, with public support, President Lyndon Johnson established Medicare to provide health insurance to people age 65 or who meet other special criteria. (Note: Medicare has been under attack since it was established and its critics may be responsible for the financial mess Medicare is facing today–if you cannot destroy it one way, bankrupt it.)
In 1974, President Richard Nixon called for comprehensive health insurance for the nation in his State of the Union address. Nixon’a plan would have mandated employers to purchase health insurance for their employees. Nixon, a Republican, also failed.
Then in 1994, President Bill Clinton attempted to enact a national health care plan but failed just as everyone else before him did.
However, that wasn’t the last attempt. President G. W. Bush, in 2001, supported a patient’s bill of rights but the AMA and the pharmaceutical industry came out against that congressional health bill. In 2004, both the Bush and Kerry campaigns again offered health care proposals, and during Bush’s second term, there were two more attempts (one in 2007 and one in 2008) in congress to pass health care reform. Both failed.
From 1998 – 2010, the health care sector spent $4,222,427,808 lobbying to block reforms to the health care system and lobbyists donate money to both Democrats and Republicans.
1. Formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), this group of plaintiffs’ attorneys and others in the legal profession now goes by the name of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) and boasts 56,000 members worldwide. A lobbying heavyweight, the association has been battling any attempt at tort reform, including recent proposals to cap awards in medical malpractice lawsuits.
The sector total for Lawyers and Lobbyists for 2011-2012: $156,747,409 — 65.3% went to Democrats Party and 30.2% to Republicans
2. Critics of the American Medical Association, including economist Milton Friedman, have asserted that the organization acts as a guild and has attempted to increase physicians’ wages and fees by influencing limitations on the supply of physicians and non-physician competition. Profession and Monopoly, a book published in 1975, is critical of the AMA for limiting the supply of physicians and inflating the cost of medical care in the United States.
3. The American Hospital Association represents 37,000 individual members at more than 5,000 hospitals and health care systems. With one-third of the nation’s hospitals in the red, the association’s primary focus is lobbying against any reductions in Medicare payments.
Total spent on health care lobbying in 2011-2012: $147,136,594 — 35.7% went to Democrats and 43.2% went to Republicans
4. The pharmaceutical and health products industry includes not only drug manufacturers but also dealers of medical products and nutritional and dietary supplements — is consistently one of the top industries for federal campaign contributions. Annual Lobbying by the Pharmaceuticals/Health Products industry for 2011: $241,481,544.
Top Recipients, 2011 – 2012 – Barack Obama: $785,385, and Mitt Romney: $622,986
STOP! You may have noticed that President Obama (D) received more money this year than Romney (R). However, when we look at 2004, campaign contributions from this industry to President G. W. Bush (R) were $1,125.915 while John Kerry received $684,423 (D). What does this tell us? That lobbyists may donate more to the candidate they expect to win and Bush was already president.
Average Contribution to Members of Congress in 2010:
1. House Democrats: $27.1 thousand
2. House Republicans: $30.62 thousand
3. Senate Democrats: $103.67 thousand
4. Senate Republicans: $79.69 thousand
Source: Open Secrets.org
Is it possible that Walter Russell Mead’s Blog has a political agenda of its own?
A proper conclusion to U.S. Health Care Waste Larger Than Pentagon Budget might have said, “Both Democrats and Republicans have done little to nothing to solve the waste in America’s health care system, because the health care industry owns too many politicians on both sides from presidents to members of Congress.”
You may remember this claim by Mead’s Blog: “Obamacare doesn’t seem to do much to solve any of these problems.” This is also misleading.
CNBC reported, “Health-care fraud is an $80 billion-a-year national epidemic, with some estimates at twice that much. President Obama’s signature piece of legislation is providing the blueprint for the government’s war against this fraud. The little-known provision in the bill provided an additional $350 million in anti-fraud funding, coordinated an unprecedented partnership among law enforcement agencies, and created real-time fraud prevention systems.”
Is it working? To answer that question, CNBC said, “In fiscal year 2011, a record $4.1 billion in taxpayer money was recovered by authorities, according to the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services.”
You may be thinking, fraud and waste have two different meanings. However, when has a Republican president or GOP dominated Congress ever done anything constructive to deal with one or both? Instead, the GOP wants smaller government and more freedom in the private business sector to do whatever it takes to make profits even if that means turning a blind eye to waste and fraud.
Now, I am going full circle back to that old friend that keeps sending me links to Blog posts similar to Walter Russell Mead’s Blog. I’ve known this guy since I was a kid—more than fifty years. He wasn’t always a born-again fundamentalist evangelical Christian with far-right conservative libertarian political beliefs.
However, now that he is, I’ve complained to him in e-mails about the biased, misleading crap he keeps sending me links to. I’ve probably deleted and ignored more than I’ve been tempted to open and read.
Aside from a few funny photographs and jokes that were not religious or political in nature, most of this stuff turns out to be the same as what I’m writing about in this Post. This old friend seems deaf, dumb and blind to the misleading bias he keeps sending me.
I’ve threatened to SPAM his e-mail address but that hasn’t stopped him. I have accused him of being brainwashed. I’ve insulted him as ignorant or stupid, etc. Nothing seems stop him. Maybe it’s time that I follow through with my threat and activate the SPAM filter to stop this endless garbage of propaganda that is biased and is misleading a nation.
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His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.
And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.
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