Monday, September 28, 2009

Health care two-cents-worth

 I've been observing a lot of the health-care debate and thought I'd post a few principles for Americans to consider.  I hope these point/principles will guide us as we sort all of this out.  Some of you may have more personal experience than me, whether you are a health provider or someone who has navigated the system through a major problem of your own or a loved one.  I appreciate feedback from anyone.

1.  Whatever Americans are mandated to do, absolutely must be mandated for members of Congress.  The best way to ensure that they will work to fix any future problems that arise (see Social Security) is to make them have a personal interest.  There can't be an exemption or gold-trimmed version of health care available for Congress.  I'm not optimistic about this happening.

2.  High quality medical care costs money, a lot of it.  The kind of medical treatment that is available to those who can afford it is hundreds of times better than what has been available to people throughout history.  The difference is mind-boggling.  In fact, until about 1910, an ill person was, statistically speaking, better off staying home than seeking the primitive medical treatment available at the time.  (This according to Lawrence J. Henderson, physician and medical educator of the early twentieth century).
But let there be no doubt, with all the sophisticated equipment and highly educated people who work hard and receive (deservedly) a high compensation for their work in research and treatment of disease, it costs money to receive sophisticated medical treatment.
It will always be hard for a group to consent to pay for one person's treatment.  We humans are sinners and selfish by nature.  We don't like to pay for something for someone else, especially if we are not sure if the group will step up and help us out if we need it (we may not need it either).  And we know that other people are sinners and will try to "beat the system."  The ill person will always want everything covered, and the rest of the group will usually look for a way not to pay for it.  Removing the decision from the shareholders by a proxy group, be it an insurance company or a "non-partisan government panel" does not take away this problem entirely, but if the group is not able to take a profit, it could help. 

3.  Mandating health insurance is not like mandating auto insurance.  "Many drivers can go without collision insurance if they like. If a hood is dented on the car of someone without the coverage, that person can drive around with a dented hood. But the only kind of health insurance Obama is talking about is collision insurance. If someone's body is a jalopy, he or she still has to get covered."  from Fox News.

Auto insurance is mandatory in many states because it covers "the other guy."  Here in Jordan, they actually call it ضد الغير "against the other."  If the accident is your fault, your insurance company covers the other person's damages.  Health insurance by nature doesn't work that way.

4. You may not like whatever government solutions are finally offered.  Not everyone in UK, Canada, Europe is happy with their nationalized health care.  Wherever you go, you can find people who have had major problems.  Can we do better?  Probably.  Do some countries have a better system?  Maybe.  But the chances of us coming up with a system now which, twenty years down the line, shows its faults, leaves people sick, dying and penniless, and raises up a new generation of Kennedys and Pelosis to rail against the injustices and inefficiencies, are pretty high.

5.  Nationalized health coverage programs in Europe and Canada may be more successful and affordable than an American one would be because they are subsidized by US military commitments to defend them.  European states, since World War II, have been able to spend less on defense and more on social programs, even though they have been at most risk (being on the doorstep of the Soviet bloc), because they know that the US will come to their defense.  Germany has hosted tens of thousands of American troops for over six decades now.  Maybe it's time to let Europe defend itself while we take care of our own problems.  (Of course, it's not only Europe; Japan and Korea have also hosted large numbers of American troops while building their economies).

6.  Government intervention often makes a problem worse.  If the government were so great at providing health care and coverage, then our veterans should be receiving treatment that is the envy of the world.  Alas, they are not.  The best thing the government could do may be to become less involved.  Government is already up to its elbows intervening in health care in our country.  By enabling employers to make contributions toward health coverage before taxes, they have intervened in the system in a big way and greatly disadvantaged alternative, free-market coverage options.  The law of unforeseen consequences.
Another solution may be for each state to develop its own plan, thus creating more competition as people may look out of state to find a better option.

7.  Any government "solution" will likely benefit the powerful and well-connected much more than the average citizen.  That's how things go in our nation today.  Those who have the ear of law-makers get what they want.  Contrary to much popular thinking, regulation does not hurt or even disadvantage big business.  They are very happy with regulation because they are large enough to send lobbyists to fight for regulation which disadvantages their competitors and large enough to hire lawyers to make sense of it all.  Insurance companies, medical providers, pharmaceutical companies are NOT going to lose their shirts in this matter, and are NOT going to lose business.  You can be sure of that.  But the average citizens may find themselves worse off.  And my generation?  Which mostly doesn't even bother to vote?  Why should we expect anything good to come out of this?

8.  More government intervention may take away many treatment options that people are currently taking advantage of now.   Herbal medications, home births, refusing immunizations for children, chiropractors, acupuncture.  We ourselves are pretty "traditional" as far as the medical treatment we pursue, but we have friends who pursue all of those various options.  Normal, intelligent people who decide to go against the ideas of the majority/establishment.  I'm concerned that the ideas being thrown around would restrict their freedoms.

9.  Many people are calling for quick action.  We must do something now!  President Obama has attempted to scare everyone into action/acquiescence by saying "more people will die" if we don't act now.  The truth is people will always get sick and die.  Rushing a solution may very well make things worse.
Have you ever heard of a government agency that was canceled because it was no longer needed?  Didn't think so.  Government programs never go away.  Never.  If there is one thing that bureaucrats know how to do, it is keep their jobs.  If we rush something now, we will be stuck with it, and in fact, the urgency of the problem will be gone and the motivation to seek a better solution will disappear.

10.  Due to our country's insatiable appetites and shameful impatience, we have dug ourselves into a chasm of debt out of which it will take generations to climb.  We need to save money somewhere.  I suggest pulling troops from a large number of our foreign bases.  See the following article:
 America's Unwelcome Advances
According to the Pentagon's 2008 "Base Structure Report," its annual unclassified inventory of the real estate it owns or leases around the world, the United States maintains 761 active military "sites" in foreign countries. (That's the Defense Department's preferred term, rather than "bases," although bases are what they are.)
Or this article from the Campaign for Liberty which claims there are at least 1000 US military bases overseas.

Many people speak of the need to bring troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan where they are in harm's way. Those are good arguments.  We also need to bring troops home from  places where there is little compelling need, and where our presence may be counterproductive.

11.  We need to search our hearts as a nation.  As humans, we will always struggle against the curse of death, until the return of the Lord.  God cursed humanity with death in order that they might turn to Him and live, not turn to a government which seems more and more eager to take the place of God.
Many people are hoping to reform health care to make it more just, affordable, and accessible.  I applaud those efforts.  However, others seem to want to get something for nothing, or at least something on someone else's tab.  I believe in some cases this is a sign of rebellion against God.  To whom are we looking for deliverance from sin and death?

Finally, for an expert's (expert on policy-making and medical treatment) view on the subject, see Ron Paul's statement before the US House of Representatives

Abu Tulip

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Painting with the boys or how we spent our holiday

Yes, we actually taught our 3 year old and 6 year old how to paint walls.  This week was the end of Ramadan, and the schools closed for a week.  We spent the week painting our house, one room at a time, along with visiting friends, going out, and having some great family time.  It had been four years since we moved to our apartment, and the walls were very marked up and ready for a fresh coat.  The whole house had been done in 'natural calico' which is a light beige.  We went for 'wild rice' in the hallway, 'buttermilk' in the living room, 'blueberry white' in our bedroom, and Oliver picked out the boys' room.  Aqua and yellow stripes.  They had a blast painting with us.  We had a few friends come over to help in exchange for food, and I am so pleased with the results.  Today we were able to enjoy the home, and also made shish kabobs outside during the day.  Yes, we could finally cook outside before sunset without having angry neighbors.  Our good friends joined us for their first taste of grilled pineapple.  Arabs are experts when it comes to mashawi, but pineapple was a new thing for them.  Yum.

We had brought some blue painter's tape with us from the states this summer.

Even baby bulb got in on the action.

 Teddy Bear made letters.

The last pic is of a new lego house we made but you can see the 'buttermilk' color in the background.

Now, do we really need to go back to work on Monday?           ~ Um Tulip

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dotting the 'I'

So, my sis posted this on her Facebook page and I have to add it to my blog.  The Ohio State Marching Band has always been my favorite thing about football season.  What is frustrating is that when games are aired over here (which is rare) they don't show the marching band.  My high school band teacher got to do the 'I' in Script Ohio and we band-nerds were in awe.  My parents were at this game.  The Buckeyes lost but the band still is TBDBITL.          ~ Um Tulip

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dozan wa Awtar

I'm part of an amazing local choir called Dozan wa Awtar.  A fellow singer posted about our concert this week.  If you'd like to read about our Quiz night follow this link.  If you'd like to see a video from our Easter Performance, follow this.  Or, a favorite of mine from AOSFYC days, Siyahamba.  Singing with Dozan has been such an incredible joy for me as I love choral music and the members of this choir are phenomenal people to work with.     ~ Um Tulip


The Black Iris is a great blog about what's going on in Jordan.  The writer has put forth a challenge to all it's readers.  Get people to read his 'Open letter to Orange' and get on the top 10 of a Google search about Orange.  For my friends in the States, Orange is the local telephone/internet/mobile company that causes headaches for all who want to communicate with others using any type of technology.

We have had our share of horror stories.  Recently we needed service and after being promised 5 to 10 days, an employee came to fix our service 21 days later.  I was actually impressed they came at all.  Another friend told me, "when we requested internet service it took them 9 weeks to come and set it up, after a promise of 5 to 10 days - 3 weeks is amazing for Orange".  The most difficult time was last year when our speed was down.   We had a techy friend take a look at things and could tell we were getting the wrong speed.  We weren't able to Skype or Vonage as the connection was painfully slow.  After several weeks of infuriating phone calls to 'customer service'  I took matters into my own hands.  I wore a nice outfit and heels, and headed to the main office.  With the security guards yelling at me not to enter the restricted area and telling me I had to go to the customer service area downstairs, I demanded in loud, clear, English that I needed to speak with somebody about my internet service.  I refused to leave, and eventually a big shot heard the commotion and invited me into his office.  Nice, big leather couches and I was served Turkish coffee.  Within minutes we were talking with tech support.  By the end of the day, I had a call from tech support telling me that indeed, they were giving us the wrong speed and the problem had fixed.  No, I was not reimbursed for the months I received the wrong connection speed, but at least the problem was fixed.  Now, some days the connection is fast enough to Skype.  Of course, even as I write this post (now for the second time as I forgot to save it earlier and the connection was dropped) the internet is spotty and I'm not sure when I'll actually be able to post.

Please read the following excerpt:

Since writing that open letter to Orange Telecom Jordan on their terrible service I’ve noticed the link really flying around the twittersphere. It’s gotten around 1,700 views in the past 48 hours, which, along with the comments and emails people left me, is a real indication that many are simply not happy with the Kingdom’s telecom giant and it’s level of service.
As I warned in the letter, blogs and social media can have an impact, and the people who read them, use them and support them are at the helm of that impact. Google’s Top 10 search results for ‘Orange Jordan’ already places the open letter in the 8th position.
So I have a request for my fellow bloggers and my dear readers (for anyone who’s interested that is), let’s build on this letter - maybe (just maybe) it can have the desired impact we’re looking for.
Consider it an experiment in Jordanian social media. People are constantly asking me whether Jordanian bloggers have an impact on politics in Jordan - and I always say probably not. But let’s see if we, as customers and as citizens, can use blogs and social media to impact the private sector.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of just writing…
Let’s do a bit of cyber activism and see what happens.
So, who’s in?

Please do your bit to promote cyber activism.  Thanks!   ~ Um Tulip

"Trust us"

I thought after the last election it would be no more "politics as usual," right?

Once again, Representative Ron Paul hits the nail on the head.  I'm glad people are paying more attention to this guy.  It's about time.

"There is much confusion and debate over what is and is not in the reform plan being considered. Are there or are there not so-called death panels? What are the end-of-life consultations really for? How will private insurance be affected? Can you keep your current plan or will you eventually be forced into a government plan? Will it pay for elective abortions or not? What are the implications for medical privacy? The truth is no one knows what will be in the final bill until it is on the House floor, and provisions could be added in and taken out in the wee hours of the morning before.

In February, the House was forced to vote on an over 1,000 page "stimulus" bill that had first been posted on the internet just after midnight the morning of the vote. It passed. Then in June, House leaders rushed a vote on the cap-and-trade bill, even though an over 300 page "manager’s amendment" making substantive changes to the bill, was introduced shortly after 3:00 a.m. the morning of the vote."

So, Washington, you expect us to trust you when you pull shenanigans like this?  Are you really surprised to see people get riled up at "town hall" meetings?  You're approving broad-sweeping legislation without even reading it.  You wouldn't even have time to read it if you tried!  Why should we put up with this?

He continues:
"Washington thrives on crisis. If enough people can be convinced that we are in an emergency, they will more likely tolerate rushing legislation to the floor like this. Last minute changes will be slipped in, benefitting who knows what special interests and at what expense to the taxpayer. But the mantra is repeated over and over: We are in a crisis. We must act immediately.

"It should be unconscionable for legislators to vote in favor of legislation they have not had the opportunity to read. This is why I have re-introduced the Sunlight Rule, H.Res 216. The Sunlight Rule prohibits any piece of legislation from being brought before the House of Representatives unless it has been available to read for at least 10 days.

"Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." The Sunlight Rule would do much towards negating the cycle of pseudo-crises and cleaning up the legislative process here in Washington. I sincerely hope this is the year Congress remembers its deliberative duties and passes it."

Well put.  "It's a crisis."  "More people will die" (that comes from Obama's speech yesterday).  Yup.  People will die.  They do every day.  But how are you sure the change you want to rush through is actually going to make things better and not worse?

If we are in a "crisis" right now, it is a governmental one, one in which congressional leaders can rush a bill through with huge changes and no time to consider them, listen to the voice of constituents or even read them.

Cleaning up that process is truly "the change we need."

-Abu Tulip

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How Should We Then Live? (Part Three)

And furthermore:
In Chapter Twelve Schaeffer discusses "Manipulation and the New Elite."  He describes various techniques which authorities could use to manipulate the public.  He discusses the problems of exalting determinism over free will and the idea that what is is what should be.  He explores the possibility of an elite creating a set of arbitrary absolutes and imposing them upon others, who being left with no objective foundation for morality, are unable to object.

He closes the chapter with:

"The central message of biblical Christianity is the possibility of men and women approaching God through the work of Christ.  But the message also has secondary results, among them the unusual and wide freedoms which biblical Christianity gave to countries where it supplied the consensusWhen these freedoms are separated from the Christian base, however, they become a force of destruction leading to chaos.  When this happens, as it has today, then, to quote Eric Hoffer (1902--), 'When freedom destroys order, the yearning for order will destroy freedom.'
"At that point the words left or right will make no difference.  They are only two roads to the same end.  There is no difference between an authoritarian government from the right or the left: the results are the same.  An elite, an authoritarianism as such, will gradually force form on society so that it will not go on to chaos.  And most people will accept it--from the desire for personal peace and affluence, from apathy, and from the yearning for order to assure the functioning of some political system, business, and the affairs of daily life.  That is just what Rome did with Caesar Augustus." 

-Abu Tulip