British Tories Adopt Edwards’ Mandatory Health Care Ideas

Is the British right now turning to the American left for bad ideas? Recently John Edwards discussed how his health care plan would make preventative care mandatory. In Great Britain the Torys are proposing that the National Health Service penalize those who engage in unhealthy life styles.

Under this plan, the NHS will decide if everyone’s been naughty or nice. Those who have been naughty might be denied certain health care services or be penalized. In contrast, good behavior, such as losing weight or giving up smoking, will receive a NHS Health Miles Card which will provide benefits such as discounts. There is even some grumbling that those who are not overweight and do not smoke do not have the same potential for such rewards.

Conservative bloggers are rightfully appalled by this idea. Not surprisingly, some also try to draw comparisons with the health plans proposed by the Democratic candidates. Last week I would have said this is absurd because (with the exception of Kucinich) the Democratic health plans rely on continuation of private health plans. John Edwards certainly changed that, but I also believe that one consequence of Edwards’ statement on mandatory care will be to prevent any form of single payer system from being adopted in this country for quite a long time.

By including such requirements in his plan, Edwards also shows that his plan will place more control over health care and the types of insurances that are offered than many other Democrats support. As Hillary Clinton has avoided providing any details on her current plan, there is also legitimate cause for concern, especially concerning what she came up with previously. At present the smaller plans offered by Barack Obama and Bill Richardson are looking much better.

Q and O calls this a risk of government run health care plans, but that is an oversimplification. In the United States, many insurance plans currently do have measures to penalize bad behaviior and offer rewards for good behavior. Some of the plans I deal with currently have such provisions. To my dismay, even the plan I use to insure my employees recently went to a two-tier premium system where both the amounts I pay and the employee contribution are higher for those who do not participate in wellness programs. At least they do not deny care for those who refuse to participate in their programs.

To some degree what we are seeing is John Edwards and the British Tories adopting ideas from the private sector for their government plans–something that in other situations conservatives might support. The difference is that such intrusion in individual’s lives is a far more serious matter when conducted on a nation-wide basis as opposed to by individual insurance companies. As long as each insurance company is making their own policies, individuals have the opportunity to shop around, and market forces might result in reduced business for those which become overly restrictive.

Back in 2003-4 I supported John Kerry’s more voluntary health care plan both because it was a good idea and because I feared that unless there was a solution offered to the health care crisis future plans would be more intrusive, as Hillary Care was. Those fears appear to have been justified, especially in light of the vast difference between Edwards’ plans of 2003 and 2007, along with a growing number of people pushing for even bigger government-run programs.

Bill Richardson Defends Against Bush’s War on Cancer Patients

Bill Richardson is receiving some unfavorable press and comments in the blogosphere today following a joke on all the changes in primary and caucus dates. At least a New Mexico television station is covering some real news about an issue of significance–Richardson’s campaign for legalization of medical use of marijuana:

A battle is brewing in Santa Fe over medical marijuana. An angry Governor Richardson wants the feds to leave sick New Mexicans alone and let them grow their pot.

But a Santa Fe County Commissioner is speaking out, saying he’s going to fight to get rid of the medical marijuana law.

The current law shields patients from state prosecution, but not from the feds.

“I’m very concerned that the Bush administration instead of going after drug dealers, is going after people suffering from cancer, a paraplegic, most recently,” said Governor Richardson…

“The Bush administration seems to be, because they’re unable to go after drug dealers, they seem to be picking on people suffering from cancer. That’s inexplicable to me. And I’m gonna fight them,” said Governor Richardson.

God and the Iowa Caucus

It was rather appropriate that I ran across this news item after a post on the manner in which the media has made major issues out of off minor asides by Al Gore. Bill Richardson has supported Iowa in having the first caucus:

“Iowa, for good reason, for constitutional reasons, for reasons related to the Lord should be the first caucus and primary,” Richardson, New Mexico’s governor said at the Northwest Iowa Labor Council Picnic. “And I want you to know who was the first candidate to sign a pledge not to campaign anywhere if they got ahead of Iowa. It was Bill Richardson.”

Having seen other examples of Richardson’s sense of humor, Richardson’s previous statements on religion, and considering that nobody would think God has any interest in who has the first caucus or primary, I have no doubt that Richardson was joking here. Besides commenting on all the recent noise about the primaries, he might have also been playing off of the many times Bush has had comments such as that God chose him to be president or wanted him to invade Iraq. I’m also certain that Richardson had many other statements of far more substance than this joke.

Update: The Politico reports that a Richardson spokesman has verified that Richardson is joking. I wouldn’t have thought anyone would have taken this any other way than as a joke, but from the comments around the blogosphere it appears some bloggers did not realize this. (Returning later, some bloggers prefer to continue attacking when they think there is blood and continue to claim that Richardson really believes that both God and the Constitution say Iowa should be first to vote. Some people are just unable to give up their biases even when faced with reality.)

Update II: At least another news source is reporting on Bill Richardson and a real issue–taking on George Bush’s war on cancer patients.

Al Gore Discusses Treatment by Media in Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair examines the manner in which the media covered Al Gore in 2000 and discussed the effects of this with Gore. They provide examples of how innocuous statements from Gore were twisted to create the illusion that Gore was an exaggerator or worse. One story concerned a comment on Erich Segal’s Love Story which was twisted by the media:

The seeds of Gore’s caricature had been planted in 1997 when he, the presumptive candidate for 2000, made a passing comment about Erich Segal’s Love Story, over the course of a two-hour interview with Time’s Karen Tumulty and The New York Times’s Richard Berke, for profiles they were writing. Tumulty recounts today that, while casually reminiscing about his days at Harvard and his roommate, the future actor Tommy Lee Jones, Gore said, It’s funny—he and Tipper had been models for the couple in his friend Erich Segal’s Love Story, which was Jones’s first film. Tumulty followed up, “Love Story was based on you and Tipper?” Gore responded, “Well, that’s what Erich Segal told reporters down in Tennessee.”

As it turned out, The Nashville Tennessean, the paper Gore was referring to, had said Gore was the model for the character of Oliver Barrett. But the paper made a small mistake. There was some Tommy Lee Jones thrown in, too. “The Tennessean reporter just exaggerated,” Segal has said. And Tipper was not the model for Jenny.

In her story, Tumulty and co-author Eric Pooley treated the anecdote as an offhand comment. But political opinion writers at The New York Times, it seems, interpreted the remark as a calculated political move on Gore’s part. “It’s somewhat suspicious that Mr. Gore has chosen this moment to drop the news—unknown even to many close friends and aides,” wrote Times columnist Maureen Dowd. “Does he think, going into 2000, that this will give him a romantic glow, or a romantic afterglow?” Times columnist Frank Rich followed it up. “What’s bizarre,” he wrote, “if all too revealing … is not that he inflated his past but that he would think that being likened to the insufferable preppy Harvard hockey player Oliver Barrett 4th was something to brag about in the first place.”

The twisting of Gore’s statements on his role in the development of the internet has been even more common:

The Love Story distortion set the stage for the “I Invented the Internet” distortion, a devastating piece of propaganda that damaged Gore at the starting gate of his run. On March 9, 1999, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer conducted an interview with Gore shortly before he officially announced his candidacy. In answer to a question about why Democrats should support him, Gore spoke about his record. “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative”—politico-speak for leadership—”in creating the Internet,” he said, before going on to describe other accomplishments. It was true. In the 1970s, the Internet was a limited tool used by the Pentagon and universities for research. As a senator in the 80s, Gore sponsored two bills that turned this government program into an “information superhighway,” a term Gore popularized, and made it accessible to all. Vinton Cerf, often called the father of the Internet, has claimed that the Internet would not be where it was without Gore’s leadership on the issue. Even former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich has said that “Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet.”

The press didn’t object to Gore’s statement until Texas Republican congressman Dick Armey led the charge, saying, “If the vice president created the Internet, then I created the interstate highway system.” Republican congressman James Sensenbrenner released a statement with the headline, delusions of grandeur: vice president gore takes credit for creating the internet. CNN’s Lou Dobbs was soon calling Gore’s remark “a case study … in delusions of grandeur.” A few days later the word “invented” entered the narrative. On March 15, a USA Today headline about Gore read, inventing the internet; March 16 on Hardball, Chris Matthews derided Gore for his claim that he “invented the Internet.” Soon the distorted assertion was in the pages of the Los Angeles Times and The Boston Globe, and on the A.P. wire service. By early June, the word “invented” was actually being put in quotation marks, as though that were Gore’s word of choice. Here’s how Mimi Hall put it in USA Today: “A couple of Gore gaffes, including his assertion that he ‘invented’ the Internet, didn’t help.” And Newsday’s Elaine Povich ridiculed “Gore’s widely mocked assertion that he ‘invented’ the Internet.” (Thanks to the Web site the Daily Howler, the creation of Bob
Somerby, a college roommate of Gore’s, we have a chronicle of how the Internet story spiraled out of control.)

Further examples are discussed in the article. Gore does realize that he had some difficulties communicating his views, but the manner in which statements had been twisted greatly complicated Gore’s relationship with reporters: (more…)

Mandatory Assessments of Ability to Raise Children

While we may have to contend with threats of mandatory health care in the United States, health care appears even more Orwellian in Great Britian where they can reach mandatory judgments on the ability of women to raise their children. In a twist on predicting crimes in Minority Report (which I’ve already noted some believe is possible), social services in Great Britain believe they can predict whether a woman will be a suitable mother. From The Telegraph:

A pregnant woman has been told that her baby will be taken from her at birth because she is deemed capable of “emotional abuse”, even though psychiatrists treating her say there is no evidence to suggest that she will harm her child in any way.

Social services’ recommendation that the baby should be taken from Fran Lyon, a 22-year-old charity worker who has five A-levels and a degree in neuroscience, was based in part on a letter from a paediatrician she has never met.

Hexham children’s services, part of Northumberland County Council, said the decision had been made because Miss Lyon was likely to suffer from Munchausen’s Syndrome by proxy, a condition unproven by science in which a mother will make up an illness in her child, or harm it, to draw attention to herself.

Under the plan, a doctor will hand the newborn to a social worker, provided there are no medical complications. Social services’ request for an emergency protection order – these are usually granted – will be heard in secret in the family court at Hexham magistrates on the same day.

From then on, anyone discussing the case, including Miss Lyon, will be deemed to be in contempt of the court.

Miss Lyon, from Hexham, who is five months pregnant, is seeking a judicial review of the decision about Molly, as she calls her baby. She described it as “barbaric and draconian”, and said it was “scandalous” that social services had not accepted submissions supporting her case.

“The paediatrician has never met me,” she said. “He is not a psychiatrist and cannot possibly make assertions about my current or future mental health. Yet his letter was the only one considered in the case conference on August 16 which lasted just 10 minutes.”

Northumberland County Council insists that two highly experienced doctors – another consultant paediatrician and a medical consultant – attended the case conference.

Making decisions such as this based upon a case conference without even seeing the patiient reminds me of Bill Frisk deciding that Terri Schiavo was not brain dead based upon viewing a video tape. The inaccuracy of that diagnosis was verified on autopsy. The Telegraph quotes a Member of Parliament as saying that such diagnoses of Munchausen’s Syndrome “had been used to remove a number of children from parents.” They also report that 2000 babies under one year of age were taken from their parents.