Tag Archives: Obama

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.

It’s Called Courage, Mr. President

iran_soccer_playersMany politicians and citizens hold up ‘bipartisanship’ as the ideal, claiming that the ‘middle’ is where Americans want to live and be governed, but most of us know the truth—the label of conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, instructs the way we live and the way we vote.

Elections have consequences, but as a conservative, it is painful watching the rapid devolution of America via: ‘employee free choice act’, increased federal oversight of businesses, raised taxes, the oncoming inflation resulting from a nonsensical monetary policy, defense cuts, and the acknowledgement, before the Arab world, that yes, Americans torture. The President for change has been busy, but again, he is merely setting out to accomplish what he promised—redistributing wealth, health-care for all and turning the last superpower into just another member of the UN and NATO with a vote, not a voice.

These policy disagreements are natural, but there are behaviors we expect from our President which transcend policy. Save the Code Pinkos and lunatics on the fringe, I believe all Americans demand courage from our Commander-in-Chief, which is why his silence on Iran is so troubling. Whether President Obama chooses to believe it or not, around the world, Americans are looked upon as cheerleaders for freedom. Those Iranians braving jail, beatings and death to protest the fraud perpetrated by the Ayatollah and the midget, carried signs in English—not aimed at Gordon Brown—but toward the captain of freedom’s cheerleaders.

Perhaps the revolutionaries should have written those signs in French. Here’s French President Sarkozy, from The Wall St. Journal:

The President yesterday denounced the “extent of the fraud” and the “shocking” and “brutal” response of the Iranian regime to public demonstrations in Tehran these past four days.

“These elections are an atrocity,” he said. “If [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad had made such progress since the last elections, if he won two-thirds of the vote, why such violence?” The statement named the regime as the cause of the outrage in Iran and, without meddling or picking favorites, stood up for Iranian democracy.

Aside from convincing Twitter to delay its maintenance schedule, President Obama has been mute, until yesterday, when he dropped the hammer, saying he had ‘deep concerns’ about the election. What about the protesters murdered by the government, Mr. President? Aren’t they worth mentioning?

After living abroad and traveling extensively, I’ve learned more about the unique character of the American people. When you rip apart the labels and facades, you’ll see a people who loathe nuanced positioning, especially when freedom is at stake. We crave courage and clarity from our leaders.

You might not like it Mr. President, but you have a duty to those Iranians who are willing to die for their vote and also those Americans who expect their leader to embody the ideals which set us apart.

To those brave Iranians marching, tweeting, posting and wearing the green of Mousavi on their arms while competing in international soccer competitions, we salute you.

Street Reacts to Obama’s Speech

Mideast Bahrain ObamaIf headlines and reaction of news organizations and at least one terror group is any indication of who feels the most slighted by Obama’s trip and speech today, then we might conclude that Israelis were the ones left somewhat disillusioned.

 Planted boldly atop the Jerusalem Post’s site reads, “It’s time for these settlements to stop.” Instead, Haaretz Daily News, focused its headlines on the positive reaction from Israeli politicians. Underneath its “Obama: I’ll personally pursue a two state solution,” however, the writer begins by noting that Washington views the west bank settlements as “illegal.”

 The Palestinian Authority and Hamas offered praise, both sensing a changing policy and a new beginning.

 The Arab press was mixed. One Egyptian editor refused an invitation to attend the speech explaining (from al-Arabiya):

 “If I went to the speech it would mean that the problem was just with (Obama’s predecessor) George W. Bush, but the problem is with U.S. policies in the world and in the Muslim world which haven’t yet changed.”

“We have seen a vast public relations campaign from Obama but we haven’t seen any radical differences, not on an Iraq withdrawal or on Afghanistan, or the war in (Pakistan’s) Swat. He has even gone backwards on promising to close Guantanamo.”

 So attempts to rid the Swat valley of Taliban running around shooting, beating and blowing up innocents are unjustified? If this editor of the independent al-Doustur newspaper, Ibrahim Eissa, views ridding the swat valley of primitive bearded thugs isn’t a good thing, then I’m not sure how Obama’s speech could have changed his mind. Perhaps if he’d announced his intention to convert to Islam and join the Muslim Brotherhood, he might have stood a chance.

 More response from the region as reported by al-Arabiya:

 The Jordan Times said Obama would have to exert himself as he “attempts to clean up the mess his predecessor created in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

“Muslims and Arabs would like to hear much from Obama, starting with Palestine, Iraq and the U.S. military presence in the Gulf.

“While foreign policy is crucial, a sincere show of respect and attempt to rebuild trust are more important.”

Saudi newspaper al-Ryadh said Obama’s decision to address the Muslim world and “in visiting the two most important Arab capitals, is breaking with former American presidents and wants to attack the most important front of the challenges (Western misunderstandings with Muslims.”)

UAE newspaper Akhbar al-Saa referred to “a new era in relations between the United States and the Muslim world” with Obama’s move into the White House.

But Dubai’s al-Bayan stressed that “the region wants to hear from Obama’s mouth that he is conscious of the imbalance in relations (between America) and the Muslim world and that he wants to remedy it.”

In other words, bend over Mr. President. Like all the Presidents who’ve come before you, it’s never going to be enough. As’salaamu alaykums, a smoother than smooth personality and a super-prompter won’t garner applause from those who eschew introspection in favor of blaming Jews and westerners.

Politics of Meddling

turkey_euHe came to listen, not to lecture. Yet after yesterday’s push for Turkey’s acceptance into the EU, I wonder if Europeans Obama-glow has worn off. Aside from a few missteps, like his snooze inducing presser with Brown and his ‘French’ town hall, the President and his prompter had them weak-kneed and star-struck. So, they must have been taken aback when Obama continued the ugly American habit of minding other countries’ business.

“Turkey is bound to Europe by more than bridges over the Bosphorous. Centuries of shared history, culture, and commerce bring you together. Europe gains by diversity of ethnicity, tradition and faith – it is not diminished by it. And Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen Europe’s foundation once more.”

But according to a poll released by the German Marshall Fund and the Compagnia di San Paolo in late 2007, only 21 percent of Europeans believe that their culture would be enriched enough to support Turkey’s bid for EU membership. 21 percent. Merkel and Sarkozy strongly oppose EU membership for Turkey.

Imagine the outrage and furor if, during his speech before the United States Congress, French President Sarkozy had made a plea to legalize the more than 20 million illegals currently living in the United States? After all, they would enrich our culture, add to our diversity and benefit our commerce. It would have been a classic ‘mind your own bees wax’ moment.

We should let the EU member nations and their citizens decide Turkey’s fate. Controversial mosque construction, whether to permit ‘burkinis’, and attacks on free speech, are matters for Europeans, not Americans. And if the recent Turkish resistance to the Danish Prime Minister’s nomination to lead NATO is any indication of future battles in Brussels, well, then maybe the concerns of Sarkozy and Merkel have merit.

Maybe Europeans don’t believe that the old continent, “gains by diversity of ethnicity, tradition and faith.” The riots in Paris, the cartoon controversy in Denmark and the attacks on their freedom might have them a bit spooked.

Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party leader, calls the idea “a disaster, and advises Mr. Obama to “remember that while he’s been elected President he’s been elected President of the United States only.” Good luck with that…

Stimulating the G20

 

BRITAIN G20 DINNERHe had them at bonjour. Anarchists and mainstream Europeans lauded the arrival of the ‘anti-Bush’ in London yesterday, as G20 leaders met to coordinate their cure for a crisis whose origins some would prefer to ignore. But not French President Sarkozy who noted Wednesday evening: “The crisis didn’t spontaneously erupt in Europe.”

 

Aside from the American President’s second questionable diplomatic gift, an iPod presented to the Queen, it’s the diverging opinion on how to solve the crisis making non-English headlines. The French and Germans are strongly opposed to Obama’s push for stimulus. Already overloaded with entitlement spending, they differ philosophically from a President whose budget wouldn’t qualify his country for EU membership.

 

The nonpartisan CBO contends that President Obama’s budget would incur a debt-to-GDP ration of 5.3 percent for the fiscal years 2010 to 2019. The President’s advisors have argued that his healthcare, education and energy initiatives would increase revenue, thus reducing the unsustainable deficits. But how will going green help spur corporate growth among factories and businesses whose taxes are bound to soar even higher than the tax rates which are some of the highest in the world?

 

Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi supports the French and German focus on tougher regulation, as opposed to unproven deficit-creating stimulus. In today’s column, La Repubblica’s Federico Rampini openly questions Obama’s leadership qualities by likening his ability to dictate the international agenda to former President Jimmy Carter. He called it a “historic low for America.”

 

France’s Sarkozy summed up the European opposition best—“We want a capitalism of entrepreneurs, not a capitalism of speculators.” The biggest crisis in a century wasn’t their fault, and although Obama is reticent to place blame, it’s clear and understandable why other leaders are eager to identify the cause. Because without acknowledging what went wrong, why and who is responsible, solving and preventing future disasters become impossible. Unregulated hedge funds and derivatives must be tackled.

 

According to France’s L’Express, the IMF was a big winner at the G20—its capacity went from $250 billion to $750 billion. In an attempt to demonstrate his concern for the third world, Obama additionally wants the IMF to sell off $20 billion of its gold reserves to help the poor in third world countries. Beyond making a compassionate impression, another motive might have been at play, as his budget calls for taking away charitable deductions from Americans making over $250k. Someone has to pick up the slack for Feed the Children. 

 

Bush bashers were eager to move beyond the cringe-inducing international summits of the past and into an era of change. While non-English speaking Europeans who aren’t keyed into U.S. political minutia continue to be wowed by his smile, presence and remarkable story, foreign leaders and dedicated observers are getting a clearer  picture.

Rough Week

obama_brown_460_803433c1With each day and each decision, the Obama Presidency grows more and more disturbing.

Just last week, before a joint press conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, we were told not to mind that pesky 50% decline in our retirement portfolios.

“The stock market is sort of like a tracking poll in politics. You know, it bobs up and down day to day. And if you spend all your time worrying about that, then you’re probably going to get the long-term strategy wrong,” he advised.

Tracking polls bob, but they bob between five and ten points max, and bobbing is rising and dipping, Mr. President. This market is dipping. It’s not bobbing up and down like a buoy in the water. Since your election, Wall St. is only bobbing down.

And speaking of poor Gordon Brown, he, along with the rest of the British public, left Washington disillusioned last week after learning just where Britain ranks on Obama’s hierarchy of countries. Middle of the pack. From the Telegraph:

… the mood music of the event was at times strained. Mr. Brown handed over carefully selected gifts, including a pen holder made from the wood of a warship that helped stamp out the slave trade – a sister ship of the vessel from which timbers were taken to build Mr. Obama’s Oval Office desk. Mr. Obama’s gift in return, a collection of Hollywood film DVDs that could have been bought from any high street store, looked like the kind of thing the White House might hand out to the visiting head of a minor African state.

Those critical of U.S diplomacy under Bush won’t be heartened by the new attitude at Foggy Bottom. Sunday, a State Department official responded to the criticism in the Telegraph:

“There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.”

Stockholders, business owners, Europeans, and a more disheveled than usual Gordon Brown all had to feel a little less enamored with the American messiah. One group, however, had reason to sing and dance, if only singing and dancing weren’t forbidden to them.

On Sunday, in an interview with the New York Times, Obama expressed a willingness to reach out to moderates in the Taliban. I suppose by moderates, he means those Talibani who prefer hangings to beheadings or those ‘moderates’ who whip girls for educating themselves as opposed to burning schools along with their teachers.

‘Moderate’ wife beaters don’t exist, nor do ‘moderate’ al-Qaeda members. Using that term either underscores a cultural ignorance or a commitment to pacifism at all costs.

The most troublesome aspect of last week, however, wasn’t Obama’s minimizing of the ‘bobbing’ stock markets, his clumsy state visit with Brown or even his openness to ‘moderate’ Taliban fighters. It’s his approval rating hovering around 60%.

Obama is likeable, and in today’s American culture filled with ‘atta-boys’ and ‘good trys’, he might well have to cause WWIII to garner any scrutiny or negative judgments.

 

Iran Launches Satellite

ahmadinejad3Throughout the ’08 campaign, Obama promised to engage America’s enemies through direct talks. Bush’s bullying hadn’t worked and America needed change. Finger-wagging was out. Diplomacy and gentle prodding were in.

 

According to various news reports, and the not too secretive Iranian bullies-in-chief, meetings between the Obama administration and Tehran have already begun. And we can see that the new diplomacy is working, working to get Iran to the nuclear finish line even faster. In launching their satellite today, they now have ballistic missile capabilities. The White House responded with a quick statement: Iran is not acting responsibly with satellite launch.

 

In last week’s Al-Arabiya interview Obama promised an ‘extended hand’ if Iran was willing to ‘unclench’ its fist. But really Mr. President, why should Iran stop their nuclear program? Why should they act ‘responsibly’ as you suggested? As avowed enemies of the United States, Israel and western democracies, it’s in their interest to not cooperate…

 

And I thought naivete was passé.