Archive for August, 2009

Do Politicians Understand Insurance?

August 27, 2009

The way some politicians talk I don’t think they understand that insurance companies don’t pay for health care, their customers do.

Insurance works in one of two basic ways.  Life insurance is part investment and part ponzi scheme.  Part of the payments to beneficiaries comes from investment of the money the insured paid in premiums and the rest comes from the premiums being paid by others.   Life insurance works as long as the death rate remains low and the number of people purchasing life insurance is high.

Health insurance may have operated through investments at one time. Today, the money paid to health care providers comes from the premiums paid by the insured.  Health insurance provides a way for many people to pool their financial resources to pay the medical bills of those who become sick or injured.

Health insurance can only function as long as the healthy insured outnumber the unhealthy insured.  A health insurance company can only stay in business if most of its customers during any given year pay more in premiums than the company pays for their medical expenses.

The problem in American health care isn’t a lack of insurance, but the high cost of medical care.  The high cost of medical care  hampers the ability of individuals and their employers to pay for medical care or purchase  insurance.

Government and private insurance played a role in increased medical charges by routinely paying medical charges without question for decades.

The first step to health care reform should be reduction of costs which will require extensive congressional hearings to determine why costs are so high. The investigation should include determining if health insurance companies are overcharging customers in order to make excessive profits or pay excessive salaries to executives.

For example, what role do malpractice cases play in health care costs?  Are medical tests or hospital dispensed medications overpriced?  Are doctors’ fees too high considering the financial resources of patients?  Do states adequately regulate the quality of medical care?  Correcting mistakes by doctors and hospitals  is expensive and leads to malpractice suits.

The Best Health Insurance Program

August 23, 2009

During the coming weeks we will be hearing about the nation’s best health insurance program.  It doesn’t cover  a wide variety of disorders, but it provides complete coverage  for  the type of disorders it covers — the various forms of Muscular Dystrophy.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association provides  assistance  in the form of wheelchairs as well as  medical treatment for  those  whose  form of MD can be treated.   The MDA doesn’t require patients to have other insurance or make payments.

The MDA isn’t the only charitable health organization.   St. Jude’s Hospital provides treatment to children without regard to ability to pay as do the Shriners’ Hospitals.

Charitable hospitals once played a major role in American health care until administrators discovered they could make a profit by charging government and private insurance for health care.  The organizations that once funded many of these hospitals gradually allowed the hospitals to become self supporting by charging patients and their insurance companies.

Churches and other charitable organizations need to play  a greater role in providing health care to those who  find it too expensive.   I don’t expect  Democrats  to support  this approach because they want to make the federal government  bigger even though  the federal government doesn’t  do anything particularly well.  It even has trouble running the post office or fighting wars  in spite of the fact  it  has handled  both functions  since before the current constitution was adopted.

I doubt that the Ferengi Republicans like Rush Limbaugh  will be interested in encouraging charitable organizations,  but perhaps the religious Republicans might.

Incidentally, I emailed some suggestions on health care to the Obama administration earlier this year when it requested input.  I originally wrote it in 1992 and expanded it during the Clinton administration, with occasionally mailings to politicians.  It’s a work in progress that I haven’t done much with for several years.     I really need to go back through it and do a better job of making the various parts fit together, but with the politicians we have now,  I don’t think it’s worth the time.

Obama Not Trustworthy on Health Care

August 23, 2009

Why should we believe statements about health care from the most secretive president since Richard Nixon? We have no way of knowing if presidents who keep significant secrets in some areas are telling the truth on other matters. Barack Obama’s continued refusal to release minor personal documents like his actual birth certificate, college records, etc. implies he is covering up important information that we should know about. Unless his critics are correct, none of the information should have any adverse affect other than possibly causing some embarrassment. A president who feels he has to keep personal secrets is very likely to also keep secrets about his proposals including those involving health care. He shouldn’t be surprised that many people suspect he has ulterior motives for some proposals and may be lying about their impact. Obama has lied on other important issues. Last year he said there wouldn’t be any new taxes for most of us. After being elected he proposed huge tax on carbon emissions that will affect all of us. The purpose of the tax is to allow the greedy financial interests who bought the White House for him to make billions trading “carbon credits”. I don’t know if his critics are correct that the refusal to release his actual birth certificate is due to him being born outside the U.S., but there doesn’t appear to be any other reason for him to keep the birth certificate secret. Does the birth certificate indicate Obama was born outside the U.S. or could it include information that might indicate that Obama is not the child mentioned on the certificate? Perhaps the real Barack Obama died shortly after birth and his mother in a humanitarian move adopted an African orphan to replace the baby she lost. She then used the U.S. certificate to make it appear her new child was born in the U.S. Incidentally there is now a claim that someone has found a Kenyan birth registration indicating he was born in Kenya. As was the case with the document used to claim he was born in Hawaii, the other side suggests it is a forgery. And, like the Hawaiian document, it merely states that there is a birth certificate rather than being an actual birth certificate. Those who believe the document is valid suggest it may have been produced in connection with his mother’s divorce case.

Unacceptable Child Abuse on All My Children

August 12, 2009

I recently had the misfortune to observe some very bad psychological child abuse that I was powerless to stop.  Calling the police would have done no good because the abuse was on a television show, the July 23rd episode of  ABC’s All My Children.

Several adults were ganging up on a little girl, Emma Lavery, trying to  get her to stop saying  she had seen one of them, Kendall Slater, kill someone by mistake.   Worse than that they were attempting to coerce her into saying that she had  seen her mother, Annie, commit the murder instead.  One would talk to the girl than leave so another could continue the ordeal.  By the end of the ordeal the  poor little girl was catatonic.

I debated  writing about  the show because I don’t usually write about  television.   I decided to write because  no one else seems particularly concerned about the incident and because it appears none of the characters will be punished for their crime.

There is no excuse  for such a scene.  If child abuse is going to be dealt with on television, it should happen off camera or be referred to rather than shown.   The purpose should be to deal with the subject rather than to allow adults to use it for some type of dramatic affect.

The incident is part of an effort by the show’s ineffective writers to rescue a poorly  designed story line involving a murder in the May 15 episode.

The episode was a ratings stunt to build sagging ratings by releasing rumors that a long standing character would be killed in the episode.   Then ratings would be maintained by the mystery of who fired the fatal shot — as in who shot JR on Dallas, except on AMC the shot would be fatal.

As far as I know the episode isn’t available online, but if you can find someone who has a copy you might watch it.  The episode was hilarious.  If I didn’t know better I would have thought  it was written and directed by bad horror movie king Ed Wood.   The show featured numerous individuals wondering around a darkened mansion seeking to kill the owner. A few bumped into each other.  Others just missed each other.   In the end someone killed the  identical twin of the owner.  The victim, Stuart Chandler, was the nicest man in town. His  “evil twin” Adam was the object of the would be killers.

The writers managed to establish  that several  had a motive to go to the mansion to kill Adam.  However, they didn’t set up the crime scene so that the killer could have fired from anywhere in the room or through a doorway, including an open patio door instead of patio door that was apparently closed and fired through.      They also should have had the murder weapon with several different sets of fingerprints or perhaps no fingerprints so anyone could have fired it.

Instead of many suspects they quickly ended up with only one, Kendall, who thought her baby had died because of a medical device made by Adam’s firm.   The writers attempted to remedy the situation by making “Crazy Annie” (Emma’s mother) a suspect even though she had no apparent motive and was at the mansion to get her daughter who was visiting Adam’s grandson.

Annie was under treatment for mental illness caused by abusive treatment from her brother.  He eventually pushed  her over the edge and she had killed him with a tire iron.  She escaped from the mental hospital to get her daughter and leave town.   The writers have decided to have the characters blame her for any violent crime and ignore the possibility that one of the town’s leaders might kill.  Considering the way the other characters treated Emma, Annie may now be the sane one.

Recent episodes make the abusive treatment of Emma unnecessary except to pad the storyline.  Kendall, after seeing the ghost of Stuart accusing her of his death, decided to confess.    Incidentally for those not familiar with AMC, Kendall is the daughter of character Erica Kane played since the show’s beginning by the legendary Susan Lucci who holds the record for the most Emmy nominations before winning one.     David Canary who played Candy Canaday on  “Bonanza” began playing Adam Chandler in 1983 and his twin brother Stuart in 1984.   Canary was briefly on a list to replace Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock during a contract dispute involving Nimoy.

I had watched AMC several years ago when I got soapnet with digital cable which ran a week’s episodes on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon.  The show had a reputation for dealing with social issues and I liked Lucci’s performance in a version of Dickens’ Christmas Carol,  “Ebbie”.  At that time one of the characters had a teen age daughter who was autistic.  I eventually decided there were other shows I would rather watch.  After I retired I had more time and decided to try the show again. I have a research interest in television and its role in society.

Unfortunately,  the show has been going down hill with the child abuse of Emma indicating the writers have run out of ideas.  Unless the network can find some new writers the network should seriously consider canceling it.   According to the ABC site the network plans to move the production of the show to LA .  The network  should save its money unless the move includes replacing the writers, director and producers responsible for the show’s decline.