Oil: Can’t Live With It; Can’t Live Without It

As I was driving into town, I noticed how much more expensive gasoline was this week than it had been last week.  At least 25c more per gallon (at places like Sam’s Club — more at private stations).  In fact, the ups and downs in prices on gasoline seem to be mimicking the ups and downs we have been experiencing with our weather of late.  Anyway, I was wondering why the gas prices were once again on the rise.

I guess I have become quite cynical in my old age because it finally dawned on me that this past weekend, there had been a large gathering of people in Washington to protest any further drilling for oil on our lands.  According to a friend of mine who attended, there were around 40,000 people who braved very frigid weather  to protest the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to U.S. And so  I concluded that the oil companies were raising the prices at the gas stations so that people would “buy into” the idea that drilling on our own lands would provide cheaper gasoline.  What better way to make the point than in people’s wallets.

According to U.S. News and World Report:

There’s no business on the planet that gushes forth more profit than selling oil — nothing even close.

In 2007, Exxon beat its own one-year old record of the biggest corporate profits ever by 3 percent.  If Exxon were a country, it would exceed the gross domestic product of nearly two thirds of the 183 nations in the World Bank’s economic rankings.

The article further asserts that at that time, Exxon’s profits were 80% higher than General Electric, once considered one of the most successful companies in the United States.

The most recent quarterly earnings (ie December 2012) for ExxonMobil shows a revenue of $449.89 billion with a profit margin of 9.98% or $41 billion in profits.  Astoundingly enough, even with these kinds of numbers, Exxon gets tax breaks.  Not only that, but they have the arrogance to gripe about the fact that President Obama is making noises of taking those tax breaks away.

In an article written by Katarzyna Klimasinska and Jim Snyder for Bloomberg News,

Chief Executive Officer Rex. W. Tillerson and four counterparts defended the $21 billion in U.S. tax breaks that Democrats are seeking to recapture to reduce the federal deficit.

The Democrats’ proposal would raise about $13 billion by blocking the five largest oil and gas companies from receiving a domestic-manufacturing deduction for exploration and extraction in the U.S……[and] generate $6.5 billion by curtailing the oil companies’ ability to claim tax credits for royalty payments made to foreign governments.

Royalty payments to foreign governments?  I could go into the rampant use of euphemisms by those in power, but I better remain focussed on the topic at hand.  Royalty payments to foreign governments.   Oh, that’s right.  We mostly drill in other countries.  Unfortunately, and this is probably for another article, much of the drilling that goes on by these huge corporations are in impoverished parts of the world like Angola or Nigeria.  As we pump Shell, Exxon, or BP into our cars, we remain blissfully unaware of what goes on “over there.”  Because there are no stringent regulations in place with regard to environmental soundness, ecological areas are destroyed by the drilling that these companies do.   It is not our backyard.  It’s not even in the State next door.  In fact, the destruction of those environments are so removed from our immediate realities, that we can’t even conceptualize thousands upon thousands of acres that are left to fester in the waste product of the extraction process.

Furthermore, people in these parts of the world are displaced from their homes if their homes happen to be sitting on a site that may produce crude oil.  Some people are even killed and the villages destroyed.  Now I am not saying that BP or Shell are behind these destructive means of acquiring land.  At least not directly.  Nevertheless, these are terrible realities that exist in other countries to allow us our freedom to come and go as we please.

So here we have huge oil conglomerates who receive incredible tax breaks and make more money than God, pushing to extract oil in the United States.  Of course we have tasted some of the repercussions of oil spills over the years destroying the ecology of our coastlines.  We all cry out in horror and shame, scramble to do some clean up, and then go to the gas pumps to fill ‘er up again.

We would have to so radically change our lifestyle to stop being so dependent on oil.  I am not sure that we have it in us to proactively do this.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013

 

Social Security, Let’s Take a Look

I decided that since there has been so much hooplah, and do I dare suggest, misinformation about social security, that I would focus on the history of social security and move forward to the present as I had done with the healthcare question last month.  As it turned out, the author of one of my favorite blogs, “Time Goes By” found a great little video on YouTube explaining Social Security.  Since I certainly cannot do it any better, I thought I would pass it along.  However, I am still interested in writing about the history of Social Security (in particular when it was started in the ’40’s and when it was first reviewed in the ’80’sand why it keeps being put on the table as an area that needs to be adjusted.  In the meanwhile, please enjoy this video explanation.

I am placing this in the boomer blog because clearly, Social Security is the next big thing facing boomers.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013

 

 

 

 

“Forks Over Knives”

The other day, my yoga teacher invited several of her students to share in a potluck lunch and to watch a documentary called, “Forks Over Knives.”  The setting was beautiful, the company delightful and invigorating, and the documentary educational.  The movie

examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering ….. researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

Dr. Campbell, a nutritional Biochemist at Cornell University had embarked on a research project in the late 1960’s to help bring high quality meat protein to the undernourished of the third world.  In the Philippines, he made a life altering discovery:  Children who lived on a meat based diet were more likely to develop cancer than children who lived on a plant based diet.

Dr. Esselstyn, a surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, on his part, started to observe that many of the diseases he routinely treated were rarely found in countries where animal-based diets were not the norm.

Their separate but mutual discoveries brought them together and they have conducted many studies since.  One of the most comprehensive was conducted in China.  the 20-year China-Cornell-Oxford Project, led by Dr. Campbell, found that most degenerative disease can be reversed by changing one’s diet.  Remove the meat, the sugars, the dairy and you remove the tendency towards many cancers, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Through media, we have learned that we are at pandemic levels with cancers, diabetes, obesity and heart disease in our country.  Yet over the years, we have been taught that meat is the best source of protein and milk is the best source of calcium.  This belief system is so ingrained in us that many people are unwilling to change their diets.  Not only that, but many nutritionists still insist that meat and dairy are primary sources of protein and calcium.  Add to this the fact that fast food restaurants still dominate in our very busy world and empty calories (ie snacks, sugar filled cereals, and soda pop) continue to be a mainstay in most people’s daily lives, the truth of the matter becomes that we are all willingly poisoning ourselves.

the film [Forks Over Knives] advocates a whole foods, plant-based (vegan) diet as a means of combating a number of diseases. It suggests that “most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.

When my husband was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (and by the time they “uncovered” what was ailing him, it had already spread to his liver), we were told to go home and try and make him as confortable as possible.  But our friends rallied and we learned of a clinic in Chicago, The Block Center on Integrative Cancer Care.  I believe that going there and completely changing our diet had a lot to do with the fact that my husband came back from death’s door to live another year, most of that year with good quality of life.  Had we foregone the chemotherapy, would he still be alive today?  Clearly, there is no way of answering that question.  His cancer was at a very advanced stage when found and he was at an age where the first two oncologists we saw basically gave the thumbs down.  Our choices were very limited by that point.

BUT there is no question in my mind that a whole foods, plant based diet is healthier than a fast-food, meat/sugar/dairy based diet is and there is no question in my mind that the chronic diseases that are so prevalent in our society are caused by the foods we choose to eat.  Unfortunately, the lower income citizens of our country have much less choice as to what is available for them to eat, and by turn, we see much chronic illness and obesity in that population.

Our country has a lot of work to do to turn this situation around.  It may take years, but we have to start somewhere.

With regard to sugar, which is found in most processed foods,  many of the symptoms related to withdrawal from other “drugs” are similarly experienced by individuals who remove sugar from their diet.  it takes two weeks for withdrawal of sugar from the system.  An individual can experience agitation, ill-temper, lethargy, headaches, a sense of depression.  But these really are just withdrawal symptoms.  If one recognizes this, one can control those symptoms and know that they will go away with a little time.  No need to get pills from your doctor!

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013

 

 

Scams Everywhere

Over the past few years, it seems that every time you turn around, you are reading about how the elderly are being taken advantage of or, at the very least, how the elderly should be aware that they could be taken advantage of.  I tend to get annoyed by all the trumpeting about scam artists and how the elderly need to protect themselves against these predators.  I have, in the past, looked on this as a bit of fear mongering and making the elderly feel more vulnerable.

However, just recently, I found myself the victim of a situation that could have been avoided and in which I was taken advantage, thus helping me to recognize that scamming can happen to anyone at any time.  This is what happened to me.

I needed to have some trees cut: they were too tall and too close to the house and winds have started to become much stronger in our area.

I looked at the newspaper and called a couple of numbers.  One person answered.  He came over to give me an estimate.  He had his nephew with him and he seemed like an okay guy, so we agreed that he would do the work.

The day he came over, he came with another individual, his brother, he told me.  This man had a wild look in his eyes.  He also brought a different kid.  So it was the two men and a kid.  As I recount this story, I am aware that the outcome is just as much my fault as anything they may have done.  But the element that allowed the outcome was that I felt intimidated by their numbers and by the wild look in the “brother’s” eyes.

They cut down some trees — did not cut down the tree that had originally been the reason to call a tree cutter.  But, and again, this is on me, when we had originally talked about that tree, we had spoken about cutting it down.  On reflection, what with the fact that it was a hardwood tree and actually acted as a block should any of the pine trees behind it be blown down, I decided that I only wanted to top it off.  They claimed that they did not have the equipment to do that.  The main fellow offered to bring me real firewood when they came back to finish the job and then charged me an exorbitant price for the work done.  I really do not know why I did not negotiate, but in part it was because this kid was in our faces and the the wild “brother” standing a few feet away.  Oh, and the fact that they would ask questions like: “So do you live here all alone?” and had spent ALL day hanging around the house doing their “work.”  All of that added up to my writing a check for an amount that I did not feel I should be paying for the work done.

They claimed they would come back the following week to finish the job, but, of course, I have not seen hide nor tail of them.  And, I just gave them the money.  I have called every single day, leaving various messages of anger, guilt-riding, threats, but to no avail.  I will give their names to the Better Business Bureau.

What did I learn from this?  Yes, one can be taken advantage of if one is feeling vulnerable.  What can be done to avoid this?

1) Do not call someone cold turkey.  Get a reference from a friend or a neighbor.

2) When you call, tell them they were referred by the person who referred them.

3) if  possible, ask someone else to be there when the person comes to give an estimate and when you are ready to pay for the work.

At least this is what I learned from my very expensive lesson.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013

 

 

“Obama Care” summarized – part 4

…and so here is the final entry to the long story of trying to implement universal health care in the United States.

The opposition fought a dirty war, even incorporating racism to try and prevent the Health Care Reform Act from becoming law.  But politics is a dirty game and often has very little to do with us, the people.

The reality is that health care in this country has become so exorbitantly expensive, the system would become financially bankrupt were it allowed to continue in the direction it has been.   Thus, all the posturing by the opponents of the bill had more to do with buying time in order to figure out how to ensure their interests under the new system.  In the end, much of the original bill was watered down and implementing universal health care will be much more expensive than it would have been when originally considered.  However, some important laws did get passed and, hopefully, States will recognize the benefits to them.  Unfortunately, since so much of the focus on the part of big businesses is on how to take advantage of circumstances, (and by this I mean milk the system) we have become a society that is encouraged to look at how to take advantage of legislation.  I really do not know a remedy for this since the example in front of us is that one can get away with milking the system (Wall Street being the biggest example of getting away with….).

So, in the end, what is the Health Care Reform Act?  I think the following video will probably do a better job of explaining than I can.  So view and enjoy.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013

 

 

An Interesting Perspective

I was looking up healthcare videos and came across this video which I found interesting.  Other than the mis-pronounciation of President Obama’s name, some of the arguments being put forth are food for thought.  Watch and tell me what you think:

 

Obama Care Part 3 – 2009: The Battle

In my previous entries, I shared the history of the whole universal health care debate, a debate that has been going on for almost a hundred years in our country.

President Obama rolled out the details of the Health Care Reform Initiative in the summer of 2009.  As you may recall, there was an unbelievable amount of acrimony around the topic.  This was where older folks, who really did not know what was within the 906 page document, were encouraged to come to Washington, D.C. (free bus ride and free lunch) and hold up placards that “yelled out” such lines as “Don’t kill Grandma.”  This phrase, it turns out, was referring to a clause, somewhere in the middle of the 906 page document in which every patient would have a right to talk with their doctors about end of life issues and it would be covered by insurance.

Ah, yes.  It was quite a period of time, back then.  Representatives, who backed the President’s health care initiative, would hold town meetings, facing really angry voters, who, quite frankly, did not fully understand how this health care initiative would benefit them.  I remember our representative in the Fifth District of Virginia, Tom Perriello, one of the finest politicians I have ever met.  He was a straight shooter and he had the most impeccable manners.  He held town meeting after town meeting after town meeting, where angry folk would challenge the initiative. In fact, it was known that the opposition sent in individuals with prepared questions on specific, if not, obscure points within the document.  Congressman Perriello had such a grasp on what those 906 pages contained, that he was able to answer most every single person’s question, no matter how obscure.    On the rare occasion that  he was unfamiliar with a clause that was brought up, he took the person’s name and address and promised to get back with him/her within the 24 hour period with an answer.

In spite of his efforts, not only did he loose re-election because he stood firmly behind the health care reform initiative, but the anger and fear that had been stirred up to such a frenzy, made his answers fall on deaf ears.  The people were not there to learn, but rather to try and trip up or embarrass the Congressman.

During a June 2009 speech, President Obama  outlined his strategy for reform. He suggested seven steps that would bring down the costs of our exhorbitant health care costs:  1)  electronic record-keeping; 2) preventing expensive conditions; 3)  reducing obesity; 4) refocusing doctor incentives from quantity of care to quality; 5) bundling payments for treatment of conditions rather than specific services; 6) better identifying and communicating the most cost-effective treatments; and, 7) reducing defensive medicine.[8]

In September of 2009, the President added a a few more points to the original plan: 1)  by having everyone be part of the insurance plan, the plan would be deficit neutral; 2) implementing laws that would prevent insurance companies to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions; 3) individuals would have a cap on how much they would have to spend out-of-pocket;  4) the creation of an insurance exchange for individuals and small businesses so that these entities would not be unfairly penalized for not having the numbers that larger companies have and thereby lack the means of equal coverage; 5) tax credits for individuals and small companies; 6) the creation of  independent commissions to identify fraud, waste and abuse; 7) in order to lower insurance costs for doctors to protect themselves against malpractice suits, the President added malpractice reform projects to the package.   [9][10]

Atul Gawande, a surgeon, writing in The New Yorker, further distinguished between the delivery system and the payment system.  He argued that reform of the delivery system is critical to getting costs under control, but that payment system reform (e.g., whether the government or private insurers process payments) is considerably less important yet gathers a disproportionate share of attention. Gawande argued that dramatic improvements and savings in the delivery system will take “at least a decade.” His recommendations were to address the over-utilization of healthcare in our country.  That the focus of healthcare needs to move back to keeping people healthy rather than making profits.  He also suggested that a comparative analysis system of the cost of treatments and outcomes across various healthcare providers be initiated.  Gawande argued:

this would be an iterative, empirical process and should be administered by a “national institute for healthcare delivery” to analyze and communicate improvement opportunities.[13]

When I read these points, they certainly make sense to me.  So why all the anger?  Why all the hostility?  Why all the emotion?

Because a group would stand to loose quite a bit if the Health Care Reform Act were to become law.  What group?  The Health Care Industry which is made up of the insurance companies, the pharmaceuticals, and the hospitals.  Oh, and then the investors in this industry.  (To be continued)

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2012

“Obama Care” – Part 2, The History

On February 6, 1974, President Richard M. Nixon proposed a comprehensive health insurance plan to Congress.

How the times they have changed! Following is the first sentence of President Nixon ‘s address:

One of the most cherished goals of our democracy is to assure every American an equal opportunity to lead a full and productive life.
In the last quarter century, we have made remarkable progress toward that goal, opening the doors to millions of our fellow countrymen who were seeking equal opportunities in education, jobs and voting.

Now it is time that we move forward again in still another critical area: health care.

Without adequate health care, no one can make full use of his or her talents and opportunities. It is thus just as important that economic, racial and social barriers not stand in the way of good health care as it is to eliminate those barriers to a good education and a good job.

It is hard to believe that nearly 40 years ago, it was a Republican President speaking like this.

I will continue to quote President Nixon because he says it all:

Three years ago, I proposed a major health insurance program to the Congress, seeking to guarantee adequate financing of health care on a nationwide basis. That proposal generated widespread discussion and useful debate. But no legislation reached my desk.

Today the need is even more pressing because of the higher costs of medical care. Efforts to control medical costs under the New Economic Policy have been Inept with encouraging success, sharply reducing the rate of inflation for health care. Nevertheless, the overall cost of health care has still risen by more than 20 percent in the last two and one-half years, so that more and more Americans face staggering bills when they receive medical help today:

–Across the Nation, the average cost of a day of hospital care now exceeds $110.  {!!!]
–The average cost of delivering a baby and providing postnatal care approaches $1,000.
–The average cost of health care for terminal cancer now exceeds $20,000.

For the average family, it is clear that without adequate insurance, even normal care can be a financial burden while a catastrophic illness can mean catastrophic debt.

Beyond the question of the prices of health care, our present system of health care insurance suffers from two major flaws :

First, even though more Americans carry health insurance than ever before, the 25 million Americans who remain uninsured often need it the most and are most unlikely to obtain it. They include many who work in seasonal or transient occupations, high-risk cases, and those who are ineligible for Medicaid despite low incomes.

Second, those Americans who do carry health insurance often lack coverage which is balanced, comprehensive and fully protective:

President Nixon then shares how his health care plan would be organized:

The plan is organized around seven principles:

First, it offers every American an opportunity to obtain a balanced, comprehensive range of health insurance benefits;
Second, it will cost no American more than he can afford to pay;
Third, it builds on the strength and diversity of our existing public and private systems of health financing and harmonizes them into an overall system;
Fourth, it uses public funds only where needed and requires no new Federal taxes;
Fifth, it would maintain freedom of choice by patients and ensure that doctors work for their patient, not for the Federal Government.
Sixth, it encourages more effective use of our health care resources;

And finally, it is organized so that all parties would have a direct stake in making the system work–consumer, provider, insurer, State governments and the Federal Government.

Unfortunately, President Nixon’s health care initiative never went further because of the Watergate affair.  In the end, President Nixon resigned the presidency and the question of health care once again was pushed aside. 

In his memoirs, “Seize the Moment” Nixon reiterated his views on why health care is such an important topic:

“We need to work out a system that includes a greater emphasis on preventive care, sufficient public funding for health insurance for those who cannot afford it in the private sector, competition among healthcare providers and health insurance providers to keep down the costs of both, and decoupling the cost of healthcare from the cost of adding workers to the payroll,”

Next came President Jimmy Carter, but he had alienated the Congress so badly, that he had very little sway over them and the question of health care floundered.

Under Ronald Reagan, a health care mandate  was passed.  This turned out to be a compromise that ended up taxing the wrong people, that is the hospitals, with no stipulation to be repaid for their services.

The law requires hospitals to treat patients in need of emergency care regardless of their ability to pay, citizenship or even legal status. It applies to any hospital that takes Medicare funds, which is virtually every hospital in the country.

Under President Bill Clinton, a comprehensive health care system was devised based on universal coverage.  Although the added coverage would be expensive, the cost of non-insured and the poor in emergency room procedures was more.  Hillary Clinton headed up the task force to provide the proposal.  Clinton’s plan, like Nixon’s, called for building on the existing private-sector health-care system and using government subsidies and tax credits to get all Americans under an umbrella of health coverage. Like Nixon, Clinton said her plan “is not government-run. There will be no new bureaucracy.”

In 1993, 23 Republican senators, including then-Minority Leader Robert Dole, cosponsored a bill introduced by Senator John Chafee that sought to achieve universal coverage through a mandate that is, a mandate on individuals to buy insurance. Nearly every major health care interest group had endorsed substantial reforms–grandiose ones, in fact. The American Medical Association (AMA) and Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA), the two great, historic bastions of opposition to compulsory health insurance, both went on record in support of an employer mandate and universal coverage. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed an employer mandate, as did many large corporations. Other groups came out variously for reform options that ran along a spectrum from Canadian-style, single-payer programs on the left to managed competition and medical savings accounts and radical changes in tax policy on the right. Under the circumstances, it was easy to believe the country was ready for substantial reform and that a market-oriented, consumer-choice approach to universal coverage, positioned in the center, could become a platform for consensus.

But, once again,  politics got in the way, and thus this health care initiative came crashing down. And every year, the health care costs have gone up.

These days, a day stay in the hospital costs at least $1,700, sometimes more, depending on which hospital.  Back to the history and onto…..

George W. Bush signed into law the Medicare Modernization Act.  This was supposed to provide all 40 million Medicare beneficiaries with a voluntary prescription drug benefit. This drug benefit gave seniors their choice of various plans to help them afford the cost of their medicines.  Of course what was not taken into account were the pages and pages of documents that these seniors were expected to go through.  And then there was the donut hole, that place wherein which the senior would fall when they reached a cap of $2,250 in their prescription drug costs.  In an environment where a pill can cost as much as $1,000, that hole could reach the senior fairly quickly.  And thus, something that looked like it was giving, ended up giving nothing.

So, the picture looks a little bit like different administrations offering a cake and being shot down for political reasons and some administrations getting crumbs through but with consequences that somehow undermine the crumbs thrown at the public.

Meanwhile, the law makers who keep negotiating and fighting against the idea of a universal health care system have the best healthcare system provided them for life.

(to be continued)

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed 2012

“Obama Care” Part 1, The History

Since President Obama has been re-elected, I decided that I had better educate myself on the question of the Health Care Reform Act and find out what is really at stake.  I do believe that the only way the President will get the support he needs to make this initiative successful is if he and his Administration educate the public with the same energy and coordination that they used for his election and re-election.  For my part, I will begin with the history of the universal health care question in our country and move forward.

Many people think that the whole question of universal health care was “pushed” on us  by “this” president.   Untrue.  Universal health care has been a topic of discussion since the turn of the century — the 20th century.  Yes, since the early 1900s.  Why is it that the idea of universal health care has not been embraced by our country, the only advanced nation in the world not to have universal health care?  The answer to that question has many components.  Jill Lepore, in an article  she penned December 7, 2009 for the New Yorker, wrote that a group of economists which included Louis Brandeis, Jane Addams and Woodrow Wilson formed a committee they called the Committee on Social Insurance.  By 1915, the committee had drafted a bill to provide universal medical coverage.  At the time, the American Medical Association enthusiastically supported the idea and by the end of 1916, the idea was presented to Congress for their approval.

According to Lepore, part of their presentation lauded Germany as the great example to be emulated.

“Germany showed the way in 1883,” Fisher [one of the committee members] told his audience. “Her wonderful industrial progress since that time, her comparative freedom from poverty . . . and the physical preparedness of her soldiery, are presumably due, in considerable measure, to health insurance.”

However, in April 1917, the United States declared war with Germany,  killing, along with some German soldiers, any move towards Universal Health Care which was now being correlated as a product of Germany.

In Lepore’s article, we learn that:

In California, where the legislature had passed a constitutional amendment providing for universal health insurance, it was put on the ballot for ratification: a federation of insurance companies took out an ad in the San Francisco Chronicle warning that it “would spell social ruin to the United States.” Every voter in the state received in the mail a pamphlet with a picture of the Kaiser and the words “Born in Germany. Do you want it in California?” (“If you are opposed to a thing these days,” one frustrated health-care advocate wrote, “the cheapest way to attack it is to call it ‘German.’ ”) The people of California voted it down. By 1919, John J. A. O’Reilly, a Brooklyn physician, was calling universal health insurance “UnAmerican, Unsafe, Uneconomic, Unscientific, Unfair and Unscrupulous.”

Hm.  This certainly sounds familiar, although these days, the word German has been replaced with the word socialist.

Fast Forward to Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal.  Once again, universal health care was bandied around as a right of all citizens.  But opposition came, in the form of Southern Senators (who were mostly Democrats at the time, because Abraham Lincoln had been a Republican), concerned about the implications that a National Health Insurance (NHI) might have in their segregated societies.  They aligned themselves with Republican senators and brought the American Medical Association (AMA) into the fold to put a block to this.  President Roosevelt, concerned that other New Deal reforms would not pass if he pushed too hard on NIH, dropped it.

However, after World War II ended, President Truman tried to implement the national health insurance once again. His plan proposed a single insurance program that would cover all Americans with public subsidies to pay for the poor.   Once again, according to an article published by the Kaiser Foundation:

Southern Democrats in key positions blocked Truman’s initiative, partly in fear that the federal involvement in health care might lead to federal action against segregation at a time when hospitals (in the South) were still separating patients by race. [The irony of the fact that it was President Obama who successfully brought universal health care into law is not lost on me.]

Also “an increasingly powerful AMA opposed National Health Insurance believing that physicians would lose their autonomy, be required to work in group practice models and be paid by salary or capitated methods.  In addition, business and labor groups were not supportive, nor was the emerging private health insurance industry. “

Now the opposition was becoming stronger.  The area of health care was being recognized as a potentially huge money making enterprise by the business class.  But the government continued to plug away at the idea of universal healthcare.  President John F. Kennedy presented the concept in the form of health care coverage for all those on Social Security.  This was in 1962.  President Lyndon B. Johnson was able to pass legislation creating Medicare/Medicaid programs to provide comprehensive health care coverage for people aged 65 and older, as well as for the poor, blind, and disabled in 1965.  At this point, healthcare related spending started to skyrocket.  Health care became a lucrative business.

In 1971, confronting the escalating costs of healthcare, President Richard M. Nixon backed a proposal that would require employers to provide a minimum level of health care for their employees, while maintaining competition among insurance companies, keeping medicare/medicaid for those over 65 and creating a pool insurance coverage for self-employed individuals.  Senator Teddy Kennedy at the time was promoting a universal health care coverage directed and financed entirely by the government.

In hindsight, President Nixon’s proposal might have helped to contain health care costs.  The issue that was being challenged by Senator Kennedy was that President Nixon’s program supported private insurance companies as the providers of health insurance.  Kennedy’s proposal would take health care out of the private sector.

The debate that occurred between President Nixon and Senator Kennedy probably best epitomizes the struggle our country has had throughout its existence [go back to the acrimonious exchanges between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton].  The debate has always centered around the rights of the citizenry and the rights of businesses to thrive and keep this country moving forward economically.  What the debate never seems to quite latch onto is that there are some areas that are service areas by nature and other areas that fit under the intent of business.  Health care is a service area.  It should not be a money making enterprise.  When the focus is on making money, the focus is no longer on service.    [to be continued….]

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2012

 

 

Antibiotics

Antibiotics:  A regular part of our lives.  We get a tooth pulled, we are given antibiotics.  We have surgery, we are given antibiotics.  We have a stomach ailment, we are given antibiotics.  We have a cough, we are given antibiotics.  We have diarrhea, we are given antibiotics.  We have vague feelings of not feeling well, we are given antibiotics.  We have a viral something, we are given antibiotics.  Antibiotics have become as common in our lives as getting a yearly check up.

And yet, ……

Often, there are side effects that can be very harmful to our systems.  Often, the antibiotic prescribed is too potent for the particular ailment.

In an article written by Jane E. Brody for the New York Times, we learn in great detail some of the terrible repercussions of poorly prescribed use of antibiotics.  Ms. Brody cites that fluoroquinolone is the ingredient that causes innumerable unwanted side effects. :

Part of the problem is that fluoroquinolones are often inappropriately prescribed. Instead of being reserved for use against serious, perhaps life-threatening bacterial infections like hospital-acquired pneumonia, these antibiotics are frequently prescribed for sinusitis, bronchitis, earaches and other ailments that may resolve on their own or can be treated with less potent drugs or nondrug remedies — or are caused by viruses, which are not susceptible to antibiotics.

In an interview, Mahyar Etminan, a pharmacological epidemiologist at the University of British Columbia, said the drugs were overused “by lazy doctors who are trying to kill a fly with an automatic weapon.”

I don’t know about lazy or not.  If in fact lazy is the reason, we have a major problem in our medical system.  But we might be talking about ignorance, not laziness.  If that is the case, we have an even greater problem in our medical system.

Ms. Brody continues:

Adverse reactions to fluoroquinolones may occur almost anywhere in the body. In addition to occasional unwanted effects on the musculoskeletal, visual and renal systems, the drugs in rare cases can seriously injure the central nervous system (causing “brain fog,” depression, hallucinations and psychotic reactions), the heart, liver, skin (painful, disfiguring rashes and phototoxicity), the gastrointestinal system (nausea and diarrhea), hearing and blood sugar metabolism.

The rising use of these potent drugs has also been blamed for increases in two very serious, hard-to-treat infections: antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (known as MRSA) and severe diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile. One study found that fluoroquinolones were responsible for 55 percent of C. difficile infections at one hospital in Quebec.

A friend of mine, who had been on antibiotics, became a welcoming environment to the C. difficile.  My mother-in-law developed severe diarrhea while she was living in an assisted living facility.  No one could figure out why.  She had just gotten off a regiment of antibiotics, but, of course, no one suspected that as being the cause since antibiotics are beneficial, right?  Luckily for us, my friend had learned that her problem was being caused by C. difficile and she apparently had a brilliant doctor who suggested that Pepto Bismol would take care of the problem, which it did.  We gave my mother-in-law Pepto Bismol and lo and behold, her diarrhea, which had been going on for months, stopped!

Unfortunately, there are no studies out there to solidify the direct link between the fluoroquinolones and the C. difficile.

Fluoroquinolones carry a “black box” warning mandated by the Food and Drug Administration that tells doctors of the link to tendinitis and tendon rupture and, more recently, about the drugs’ ability to block neuromuscular activity. But consumers don’t see these highlighted alerts, and patients are rarely informed of the risks by prescribing doctors.

Until antibiotics are more closely scrutinized, I always check the “allergic to” box.  I think I am safer and will probably remain healthier that way.

 

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2012