Tag Archives: healthcare reform

Lemon Meringue or Crap Sandwich?

They want it. Even if they don’t want it, Americans need it. And if they just had it, they would want it.~Democrat leadership.

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Nancy Pelosi shrugged off polls clearly showing a strong American opposition to the Democratic healthcare reform proposal by likening the bill to an unbaked pie.  From The Washington Post:

“Our bill, the House and the Senate bill, had some major differences, which we’re hoping now to reconcile,” Ms. Pelosi said. “Then when we have a bill — as I say, you can bake the pie, you can sell the pie, but you have to have a pie to sell. And when we do, we will take it out there.”

For a year, citizens have packed town halls and congressional phone lines, apparently angry over a pie they couldn’t see. A lack of tort reform, tax monies used for abortion, higher taxes, insurance rate hikes, larger deficits, and a failure to address the fundamental concern of the American people, cost—weren’t drivers of citizen opposition. According to the Madame Speaker, Americans are simply opposed to pie unseen.

As Nancy spent time hiding behind the old “you don’t like it ‘cause I’m not finished yet,” other Democrats on the Hill and in the White House were mischaracterizing public sentiment.  “People understand the need to do this,” replied Rep George Miller (D-Calif), ignoring all the February Obamacare polls dominated by the opposition. The people understand the need for Mr. Miller to pass socialist reforms; they understand it so well that when Rasmussen or Gallup calls to gauge support, they lie.

The most disappointing Democrat position is coming from the White House and other Democrats in Congress. On ‘Meet the Press’, the Director of White House Health Reform hints at reconciliation:  “…we’re not talking about changing any rules here. All the president’s talking about is: Do we need to address this problem and does it make sense to have a simple, up-or-down vote on whether or not we want to fix these problems.”

Senator Menendez, appearing on Fox News Sunday mischaracterized the public’s position, and touted reconciliation as a viable option, claiming that they would have the support in an up or down vote. “So the opportunity is there. We’d really like to get a bipartisan bill. In the absence of that, the American people, I think, have said in the polls that they want to see move forward on health care reform.”

Nancy can call it a pie, Dems on the hill can believe that polls showing opposition should be read to show support, and the President can cling to the view that Americans really don’t know what they need.

 In November, the American people will remove all doubt when they aim their outrage at representatives who have consistently ignored their wishes.

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When Did Americans Lose Their Balls?

Like other seminal moments in history, most remember where they were when the first passenger jet hit the twin towers. Other turning points are just as significant, even if they aren’t marked by a single catastrophe.

 Last night, Congressman Wilson’s ‘liar’ assertion and the aftermath which ensued, prompted, once again, the question: when exactly did Americans lose their balls? It wasn’t Obama’s speech, or even the President himself spurring the eye-rolling; it was a congressman’s response to his own outburst and the reactions of his fellow republicans.

 “You lie.”

 Ok. Perhaps that wasn’t the place to call out the POTUS, however, the congressman’s initial reaction was, in fact, the correct one. It’s a fact that the House has refused to adopt the Heller amendment which would prevent illegal aliens from receiving health care coverage. Current legislation doesn’t require agencies to check the citizen status of the applicant; therefore, illegals wouldn’t have their status checked prior to obtaining coverage, thus insuring illegals without insuring illegals. So, technically, the language excludes them, while implicitly including them, via processes.

 If their ever was a carpe diem moment, it was last night. Congressman Wilson’s manhood was screaming to be acknowledged. Have some courage man. Tell the truth. Call him out.

 All gave way to what has, unfortunately, become the norm in the United States. Let people talk, and whatever you do, don’t challenge the substance of their arguments. We have Presidential debates with moderators who might as well be analysts announcing the down and distance at a football game. Pols are able to spin and lie about issues without challenge. I’m surprised no Presidential hopeful has asserted that the sky is green, because there isn’t a chance his claim would be disputed.

 “This evening I let my emotions get the best of me. While I disagree with the president’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.”

 Disagree with the statement? Nice walk-back from calling the President a liar. Disagreements should be reserved for opinions, not statements of fact. Obama’s assertion that illegals wouldn’t be covered under the bill is false, unequivocally so.

 It’s more than the congressman. Where is the media? Bias aside, liberal bias in the established print and television medium is well documented, where are the questions? Why is it so hard to ask questions, instead of allowing politicians, or anyone else for that matter, to get away with lying?

 We used to call it lying; now it’s simply ‘misleading’. We used to call 700 lb people ‘fat’, now they are just ‘overweight’. We used to call those who finished second ‘losers’, now we call everyone ‘winners’. We used to respond to questions, now we simply spin. We used to have courage, now, we just say sorry.

“The Absentee Ballot”

 

hammer_sic3aFor generations, Italy has inspired transplanted writers. From personal narratives to cookbooks, from history books to blockbuster fiction, its enchanting culture and historical legacy has helped to churn out manuscript after manuscript. Although I was fascinated by its history, transfixed by its culture and wowed by it cuisine, my Italian experience, as I write about in The Absentee Ballot, falls into an entirely separate category of “back from Italy” books: surviving liberalism and living to tell about it.

Unlike those who vowed to leave the U.S. if George Bush was elected, I had simply decided to follow my Italian husband who was returning home after spending several years in the U.S. My husband had motivated my move, and in chapter one, I explain what motivated my book.

Historically, there have always been hypercritical Europeans, but the shameless assault that I was seeing emanate from American leftists prompted me to give a broader perspective on a Europe that I found strikingly different from the one championed in their blogs, e-mails and newscasts. European attacks on U.S foreign policy and culture weren’t new, but the rhetoric that was spewing forth from American liberal circles had become unbearable.

More and more Americans jumped on the bandwagon, and the America bashing intensified. It became hip to be an Amerihater.  With the casualties rising in Iraq and no WMD to be found, they became bolder in their criticism.

Not only were these Americans blinded to the notion that they were living in the greatest country on earth, most of them hadn’t a clue about the practical effects of the policies which they advocated. George Clooney might have filmed a commercial for the former communist running for Prime Minister of Italy, but his Italian experience is quite atypical. His American paycheck, his reluctance to learn the language and his lakefront villa opulence keep him from grasping the frustrations of a typical hard-working Italian, so how is he qualified to comment, let alone recommend a candidate.  I wonder if he has ever attempted to reach the center of Milan on a train, bus or subway when strikers have shut them down. Because I used the train and the subway, I wasn’t as lucky. Then again, I was, because I was able to witness socialism at work.

Looking down, I watched impassioned hippies march through the otherwise car-packed streets, while flags and banners waved as thousands of people chanted and played music. The sea of red had the odd Soviet flag sprinkled here and there. Some protestors screamed into megaphones, while others sang the communist worker’s hymn. Not being a communist myself, I didn’t recognize what the song was until I watched the news later that night.

CGIL (ex-communist union) had turned out thousands of people, including children, to manifest in over one hundred towns across Italy.  The strikes varied in complexion from city to city, but the scioperanti, as they are called in Italy, used this occasion to protest a panoply of issues ranging from the war in Afghanistan to environmental policies. In Bologna, they took over a Benetton shop.  Elsewhere, anti-Big Mackers organized a three day event against McDonalds.

Every drumbeat and bell struck in squares across Italy signaled new grievances. Ding: Global warming. Dong: Unfair layoffs. Bing: No War. Bong: More vacations. However serious or ridiculous the grievance, the habitual strikers used any and every excuse to march and complain. I guess Machiavelli was right: the power wears out those who don’t have it. Berlusconi and the right had worn them out just as Bush had exasperated leftist Americans.

Strikes were inconvenient and periodic monkey wrenches, but there were other more critical errors in the liberal utopia, namely multiculturalism which is fundamentally altering Europe’s cultural landscape. And because Italian isn’t a widely spoken language, their struggle with immigration doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Italians have struggled with illegal immigration and waves of refugees from Africa, because of their preference for multiculturalism over assimilation. The crisis has been compounded by the severe religious divide between the Catholic majority and those Muslims calling Italy their new home.

The battle between the leftists and those vying to preserve Italy’s storied culture is growing increasingly bitter.

It wasn’t just embarrassment or adding members to their roles that interested the communists. They also used the religion of the immigrants to beat back the dominant faith which they despised. Near Siena, well-known for the palio, a centuries-old horse race in the town square, religious tensions were stoked by a communist mayor, who, without seeking the approval of those living in Colle Val d’Elsa—a village just outside of Siena, brilliantly decided to provide public funds to build a mosque on a public park. The locals were outraged, not because of racism or bigotry toward Muslims in the town, but because they weren’t asked their opinion. There was no referendum.

Construction has begun and minarets will soon tower above the small cobblestone streets and medieval frescoes. Score one for those Marxists who would love nothing more than to snuff out the “opium of the people.”

At times, politicians on the far right utilized rather unorthodox strategies to affect the growing Islamic influence in Italian society.

Roberto Calderoli, a La Lega politician, planned a “pig day” to protest another planned mosque in Bologna.  “I place myself and my pig at the disposal of those who are against this mosque,” he said, offering to tour the construction site with his pig, after which the ground would be “considered infected and no longer suitable” for building.  Although the pig day proposal shocked many Italians, only 28% of the population supports any new mosque construction.

Immigration is a main concern of both Americans and Europeans; so is racism.  

It didn’t take long for me to recognize a peculiar connection between swastikas, old soviet flags and banana peelings. During European soccer matches, all were liable to end up littering soccer stadiums in appalling displays of racism.

At Milan’s San Siro soccer stadium, Zoro, a player for Messina, heard taunting so severe that he threatened to leave the field.  Other players convinced him to stay and play, but the next time he traveled to Milan for a game, he was greeted with a sign that read, “Peanuts and bananas are the price of your fame.”

I wonder how the elites, the self-loathers and the race-baiters would get along in Europe.  From human rights to UN resolutions, these folks are constantly in search of European approval. But how would they fair living inside their socialist utopia, and would they be surprised at the life they would find?  Would Jesse Jackson continue cashing in on corporate shakedowns and exploiting every race related issue to get mug time on television?  In Europe, he would have plenty of opportunities.

If Jesse and Al could help ease European racial tensions, then maybe Al Gore would be happier in Europe under its proactive environmental policy.  But, could Gore really last? He would have to alter his rather liberal use of electricity—reported to be twenty times that of the average American household.  Electricity in Europe, like fuel, is much more expensive

It would be costlier to operate his SUVs and private planes and then there are also the inconvenient “time outs” from driving in the city. When pollution levels reach a certain level inside the municipalities, the government bans city traffic and declares a pollution free zone.

If Gore lived inside an Italian metropoli, he’d have several options, starting with the many systems of mass transit. If the busses, trains and subways are not available because of strikes, there are always other viable alternatives, such as riding a bicycle or a horse.  Somehow I don’t see Al Gore riding the subway or a horse.

If it wasn’t striking workers grinding the transportation system to a halt, it was the ‘save the earth’ crowd’s efforts to ease smog in the cities and municipalities. But as inconvenient as those interruptions were, Italy’s outrageously high taxes had an even greater impact on the lifestyles of Italians, and me. Italians are known for their creativity, and their tax-evading maneuvers required every ounce of it.

I learned the routine rather quickly. If I requested a receipt for any labor completed, the bill was usually higher. Cash was always welcome and utilized more often than I was used to in the United States. My friends were refreshingly honest about their Swiss bank accounts, and would occasionally recount their tax escapades. One of my favorites was a friend who had made trips to Switzerland for years.

One afternoon when it came time for him to cross into Switzerland, the border patrol directed him to pull to the side of the road. They needed to search the car, and they did.  They looked through his briefcase, his jacket, the car and in the trunk, but found nothing and let him pass through. The only place they hadn’t checked was underneath his hat, which was where the smuggled cash was hidden. His behavior might seem extreme and deceitful, but the strain and limitations of the tax system had forced him to find another way.

High taxes, multiculturalism, environmental treaties and overbearing unions were just a few of the many socialist surprises that I found had been misrepresented by socialist sympathizers in the American mainstream media. However, their most egregious propaganda—the one that prompted my book—is their suggestion that Europeans hate America.

Getting along was easy. Europeans hadn’t held it against me that I was American, just as I hadn’t held it against them that they were not.

My neighbors didn’t seem to mind having a Yankee in their backyard. As a gated country club community, Monticello wasn’t necessarily a typical Italian neighborhood, but it was almost bizarre to see how the American flag functioned as a brand. I was amazed to see kids wearing sweaters of old glory or shirts with “I love the U.S.A” scribbled across them.  None of them had “I love Germany,” or “I love China” t-shirts. It was America they were wearing.

Surely, part of this curious admiration was due to the great marketing of the flag by designers in the U.S. However, if Italians felt loathing or even indifference toward the U.S, they would avoid dressing themselves in red, white and blue.

The most recent U.S. Presidential election, provided voters a clear choice, perhaps the most unambiguous in decades. The background of candidate Obama enticed voters with a chance to make history, while his eloquence before the teleprompter invoked comparisons with Reagan. Since his presidency has begun, however, it has been his frightening policy proposals like healthcare that have functioned as a collective double espresso to the voters.

The triple espresso is The Absentee Ballot.

Health Care Reform: Giving Chemo and Leaving the Tumor

 

child_vaccinesPhone calls to defensive health insurance officials can be nerve racking, as can opening those statements to determine which visits or interventions were covered and what percentage the turkeys decided to pay. It shouldn’t be arbitrary, but often times, it is.

 But I thought this procedure was covered completely with just a co-pay…My doctor was ‘in-network’. Or, what about when they ask you if your procedure or expense was ‘medically necessary’? Yeah, I thought about keeping that dysfunctional prostate a couple more years before deciding to just let ‘em fix it.

Haggling, arguing, pleading and sacrificing have become much too common in the lives of everyday Americans, regardless of whether they carry insurance, and some 46 million don’t, although many of them can afford it but choose not to purchase it. Excluding those making $50,000 per year or more, only 20 million, or less than seven percent of the population is left.

According to a recent survey, most Americans consider health care a “threat to their security,” and some 80 percent believe it isn’t functioning properly.

Obama’s health care plan may cost upwards of $1.5 trillion over the next decade. And largely overlooked in the ‘who is going to pay for what’ debate, is the reason why we’re here—cost. Our system is overpriced. Our drugs, doctors, hospitals and health coverage cost too much for a variety of reasons.

It’s not about who is paying the bill. It’s about the bill.

New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg echoes that belief. “We shouldn’t just be throwing more money on top of the present system, because the present system is so wasteful.”

Over the years, the AMA has vociferously lobbied to limit the number of doctors. As a result, qualified students like my friend Karen, a University of Florida graduate in microbiology, zoology and a minor in chemistry carrying a GPA of over 3.5, didn’t qualify for medical school after graduation. Rejected but determined, she entered graduate school in microbiology and received her master’s degree with a 3.8 grade point average. Still not good enough. Oh, and her MCAT (med-school entrance) score was above average. She also had extracurricular qualifications on her resume—she was the university’s mascot for several years, the same years she spent breaking her back to qualify for Med School. 

While the AMA lobbied to limit doctors, the ABA campaigned against malpractice caps. That guy who went in for an appendectomy and left without an arm couldn’t pay his bills or retire on just $2 million. The least that the hospital, doctor, and ultimately, insurance company could do is give him $10 mil.

Doctors. These days, it’s difficult to sympathize with those who run their offices like an assembly line of “get them in and out inside of five minutes,” because the HMOs, Medicare and Medicaid have destroyed their dreams by sapping the automatic riches owed them by their choice of profession. For many of them, it’s a business. You want a refill? Leave a message and give them a couple of days. You want test results? You might have to wait and take an e-mail. You want them explained? Talk to the nurse.

And honestly, spare me the woe is me argument. I was recently introduced to a doctor, born in raised in Milan, Italy who is now working in Orlando, Florida as a cardiothoracic surgeon. We exchanged pleasantries, and I explained that I was moving back to Como, which is a forty-five minute drive, well, Italian drive, from Milan. “I’ve thought about going back,” he told me, “but I wouldn’t make the kind of money I make here. Now that Obama has been elected, though, I might go back because the system will look more like Europe’s.” 

While every industry is getting hammered in the market, pharmaceuticals have dipped but they certainly haven’t cratered like other Dow stocks. It’s enough to do a chart comparison between Roche and Pfizer against the Dow’s performance. Despite spending millions in commercials of couples in bathtubs (Cialis) and in print advertising advising patients which medications they should be requesting from their doctors, these pharmas just keep raking it in. Never mind that Canadians and Europeans pay a fraction of what Americans pay…

Their argument? They need their R&D.

Simple question. How do other companies manage to create new products without price-gouging? Does Microsoft charge $4,000 for the new Windows application? Do Airlines attach an $800 surcharge to passengers for flying in the new Boeing 777?

Memo to pharmas: We don’t need to pay several hundred bucks for a prescription of Nexium to ease heartburn, we can take Prilocec.

I’ve neglected to mention hospitals for a reason. Despite their cumbersome bureaucracy and $50 aspirins, they are forced to deal with all of the above, plus two—the illegal immigrant patient who has 911 on his or her speed dial and the uninsured patient who might declare medical bankruptcy to avoid the ridiculous bill presented by the hospital.

Every industry and every professional involved in the United States health care is culpable in accelerating its demise, yet integral to its possible turnaround. For years, the American people have been doing the sacrificing, and now is the time for those in the industry to do the same.

It doesn’t matter who picks up the tab. The problem is the tab itself.