Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy Birthday to the Constitution of the United States of America

My daughter announced she needed to learn the Constitution Preamble. She asked me for help, and I proudly began to quote it...just like Barney Fife.

Embarrassed, I YouTubed the School House Rock song. Now, it runs through my head, reminding me the humble origins of our nation. I don't mind though. It makes me proud, given my family history in the establishment of this country, to know the Wings and Snows (yes, probably the same origins as Olympia...) probably debated to construct the document and fought to preserve the infant Republic, these United States of America.

Many people think our Constitution dropped out of the sky (or Thomas Jefferson's ink well) without any debate or discussion. Hardly. After a LONG fight for our country's independence from Great Britain, it took almost another ten years before the penning of this precious document. Why? For the same reason why all good things take time. They wanted to get it right.

The United States Constitution was constructed on September 17, 1787 after months of conflicting views, heated debates and clashing ideas finally yielded to compromise and thoughtful reconsiderations. The founders of the Constitution were delegates appointed by the state legislatures to represent each state's welfare. They had first convened in the Philadelphia statehouse as a quorom of 55 emissaries on May 25, 1787. Of the thirteen original states, only independent-minded Rhode Island declined to participate. The group's express original purpose was to revise the Articles of Confederation, our nation's first constitution that was constructed in 1777 after the Revolutionary War with Great Britain.
Taken from

Debate was necessary to clarify the pro's and con's of what they were about to institute for all generations. It took time because the effort it required to get it right mandated all points of view to be considered. Farmers and businessmen, financiers and manufacturers, students and the educated, poor and rich all had to inject their positions so all might be incorporated into the document. As such, the debate then clarified the document we have today.

Debate will always be a critical component for the governance of any democracy. Our Founding Fathers knew this, and interjected the requirements of debate in the legislative process. But the debate isn't enough. Those who are in the debate must be willing to HEAR the arguments with careful consideration. Part of the whole debate process usually involves keeping an open mind. But if our Legislators enter the debate with a predetermined decision, the debate is rendered useless. In addition, the voice of the people must be heard by our legislators in order to weigh the information. We MUST keep this component at all costs. Otherwise, we will get things like a $1 Trillion dollar stimulus bill that wastes the future of our children's income. And we could end up with a Healthcare Reform system that cripples the country rather than cures it.

Today is the anniversary of this precious gift from our Founding Fathers. In their memory, and the memory of every soldier that has fought to preserve this document for our posterity, (which means future generations, not to be confused with prosperity, which is wealth) I am embedding it the School House Rock version of the Preamble so you all can have it run through your heads.

Surprise your kids with the song. Ask them to listen to the words. Discuss what they mean. Better yet, read the Constitution. Then ask yourself, am I willing to die to preserve this document, and its principles and values?

Finally, go to a veteran's website or memorial and say a prayer for any soldier who gave their life for the defense of this great country. Say a prayer for those who defend it today. And pray that George Washington's vision comes to pass. "While the stars remain, and the heavens send down dew upon the earth, so long shall the Union last." Amen.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Every Conservative Should Have a Liberal Friend

I, like most conservatives, have strong opinions about how healthcare reform should be approached. Because I was raised conservative, I just assumed liberals had very little to contribute due to the preconceived notions I held. (I.e., Every liberal is a secret, card-carrying communist, etc.) I figured all liberals really wanted in the healthcare debate was power and control. I saw them as ideologues who wanted to use society as a petrie dish for their philosophical theories. I may have been assuming a little too much.

I had a conversation with liberal friend I hadn't seen since high school. I also had another conversation with a liberal acquaintence from high school. In the course of these conversations, I was inspired to investigate and research the healthcare problem as a whole, partly out of anger. Based on the information I uncovered, I am beginning to realize why both had such a passion about the issue.

We, as a generation, are on the cusp of one of the most overwhelming moments in healthcare history. The baby boom generation are entering the retirement years, just as the healthcare industry has morphed into a multi-billion dollar industry. While I understand this is precisely what made America the most advanced country for medical care, it is also the most expensive. The two trains are speeding towards each other at top speed, and they are on the same track.

Aetna, one of the largest healthcare insurance providers, recorded 1.3 billion in profits for 2008. M.D. Anderson, one of the largest private "non"profit hospitals recorded $310 million in net revenue (aka, profit...called net revenue for tax purposes)just in 2008 alone, and they paid their president well over 1.8 million in salary last year. This is a NON profit hospital...ergo, no taxes. They claim to spend the rest on their charitible endowments, while at the same time, demanding cash up front for share of cost from their patients. This seemed incredulous to me, especially given the whining both groups have done recently about not being able to stay financially afloat. Obviously, they are gearing up for a long winter.

For those of you preparing the traditional Free Market Mantra of "the laws of supply and demand...yada yada yada," hold your breath a second. This was my error at first as well. The problem is we are facing the recession/depression (lower disposable incomes) coupled with the baby boomers entering the age of highest healthcare demand.

The first Boomers will turn 65 in 2011 and, according to today's report, more than 37 million of them—six out of 10—will be managing more than one chronic condition by 2030. Also by 2030:

*14 million Boomers will be living with diabetes—that's one out of every four Boomers.
*Almost half of the Boomers will live with arthritis and that number peaks to just over 26 million in 2020.
*More than one out of three Boomers—over 21 million—will be considered obese.

As patients live with multiple chronic diseases, demand for services will increase. The number of physician visits has been increasing for all adults, up 34 percent over the last decade, and this trend is expected to continue. By 2020, Boomers will account for four in 10 office visits to physicians. Over the next 20 years, Boomers will make up a greater proportion of hospitalizations as they live longer but with multiple complex conditions. At the same time, the number of registered nurses, primary care and specialty physicians will not keep pace with demand.

This comes from , a caregivers website.

In other words, the hope for supply and demand to regulate down the price of healthcare, with or without insurance, is pretty slim to none.

OK, now prepare for something to hit you on the side of the head.

Bearing all this in mind:
1. Healthcare costs are going to skyrocket with the increased demand,
2. The Medicare plan is ALREADY paid by the government, only the government also pays a middleman (the insurance administrator) to process the claims, and
3. Healthcare demands are going to limit access NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS, even WITH health insurance for every American...

Doesn't it make sense to CONSIDER a direct pay option? Why are we giving a middleman (Aetna and their 1.3 billion in profits) the power to limit our care further? What about an HMO system provided just for seniors? Set up a managed care system for the retired Americans, and allow the non-profits to manage them. (They DID say they were non-profit.) Medicare payments to providers must be reduced to stay solvent. Wouldn't it make more sense to create a salaried position for a doctor to work exclusively with an HMO rather than leave it arbitrary? As unpleasant as it sounds, it may be the only way to control the enormous costs.

By removing the seniors from the private system (as they already are) it frees up the doctors and hospitals to provide more care for the regular insurance paying patients. In other words, we push down the demand, freeing up the supply. Allow the rest of the system to remain intact, with a few tweeks, like allowing the purchase of prescription drugs internationally and lift the restrictions on medical savings plans so it doesn't penalize the people who save but are healthy. A mandated purchase of health insurance will no longer be necessary when doctors lose 40% of their patient load. Or premiums will go down, as the insurance industry no longer has to subsidize the high utilization of elderly patients.

Also, how about focusing on prevention, such as naturopathic medicine (chiropractors, allergists, etc.) who advise adjusting food consumption and increasing activities rather than go on medication to manage cholesteral, diabetes, etc. For example: I had skyrocketting cholesterol and was borderline Type II diabetes. Instead of using Lipitor ($75 a month) and other diabetic controlling drugs, I went to a doctor who tested me for allergies. After eliminating the offending foods (wheat) from my diet, my blood sugar went down to that of a 20 year old, as did my cholesterol!

I'm not suggesting we need to all go organic (although I'm sure my eldest would be happy if I did,) or that the government will fix everything, but we can't just stick our heads in the sand on this one. It will sneak up on us while our heads are buried and bite us in the butt.

Oh, and to my liberal friends (you both know who you are) and my liberal leaning children, thank you for your patience. Debate is a painful process, but well worth the effort. If we are patient, we might just get through this mess!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Adults with ADD, or Welcome to Facebook!

I have officially become a member of the Facebook Community and I couldn't be more unhappy. I realize that the Internet has become a gift to those looking for long lost friends and family, but sometimes the past is, well, better left in the past.

I joined Facebook at the behest of several friends. They were looking for me, and I can't imagine why. I always knew where I was. But, it sounded fun, so I joined. It was like going back in time, and WHAM! All those people you enjoyed the company of while in high school were there, with their not-so-high school-ish physiques (well, all but Paul DiGi...the bodybuilding is obviously still a hobby!) It was comforting to know that, although we all started at different points in the looks catagory, we are now in about the same place with our graying hair, our belly rolls, and our proud parent pictures.

What I didn't expect was to find the lack of attention everyone has in conversing. In a blog, I get to state a point, give the supports to that point and invite others to make commentary, pro or con. It is civilized, productive and reasonable. Facebook is very different. An opinion or thought (random, usually) is thrown out to the general community and everyone gets to throw their two cents into the hat. It's like I'm back home and all the opinions carry more weight than my own. There is no civilized debate, because they all flit from one page to another, randomly commenting on what so-and-so is doing, or something that came up in the news or some weird animal a widget declared them to be. It is all surface, and substance seems to be as rare as the Obama Healthcare Bill. Lots of talk, but in the end, very little meaning.

I did have one quality discussion with an individual I knew would be reliable, and one that went very wrong. It was initiated in response to the President's speech regarding healthcare. Now, this individual was always known for quick wit and biting remarks, so in fairness, I should not be offended. But I was alarmed at the sheer hostility when a person (namely, me) disagreed with his opinion. His opinion was, of course, that noone should die because they couldn't afford healthcare. I would agree with this statement, but I disagreed with the solution. This immediately made me the target of his wrath.

I began to realize, too late, that going on Facebook would also be time travel back to high school and all its immaturity. It became a game of taunts, as though we were all teenagers again. And due to the nature of Facebook, the conversations are started, and dropped as quickly as they start. Attention is distracted to the newest random thought a friend posts.

Now, I understand that intelligent debate was not made for Facebook. I realize that email is a better medium for this type of conversation. But it never ceases to amaze me how rude people feel they are allowed to be when talking on an internet. My own daughter has been known for biting remarks when sending an email. It is probably related to the ADD approach to the internet. We don't have time to reread our notes, and we click that send button before we consider how the other person might interpret our words.

So, I am returning to blogging my thoughts. I believe politics and religion are far too important to waste on random thoughts tranmitted through Facebook and Twitter. Some subjects need careful thought, reconsideration, and intelligent observation before replying. Reasonable discussions must begin with clear and cohesive thoughts, not random ones. And biting remarks only distract and hurt.

So for all you out there discussing the Healthcare Reform issue, I suggest reading the various issues facing Medicare payments and the government response. Look at the amount the government will be expected to pay in the next four years. It is the clue to why the panic is overcoming Congress.

And for those of you who would like to read more about the issue, here is a link to an article by the AMA about the projections of Medicare spending: After you read it, you'll understand why the members of Congress are defecating all over themselves.

Then we can BRAINSTORM ideas. And remember...reread before hitting the 'post' button!