Health Care Bill Helps Trial Lawyers

Jazz Shaw points out that the House health care reform bill not only fails to meaningfully address tort reform but also makes it less likely that caps will be placed on claims for non-economic damages as many advocate. The bill provides for incentives for states to consider tort reform–as long as they don’t limit attorney fees or place a cap on damages. While conservatives greatly exaggerate the impact of malpractice on health care costs, this is still a cause of unnecessarily wasted money and those serious about reducing health care costs should address this problem.

This provides one example of why it is difficult to get anything done in this country. On one side we have the Republicans who are in the pocket of the insurance industry and will fight any reform, while on the other side the Democrats are unwilling to cross the trial lawyers (as well as being influenced to some degree by the insurance industry).

This is also why I continue to consider myself an independent as opposed to a Democrat despite voting exclusively for Democrats the last several years other than in local elections where everyone is a Republican. While I have a far greater degree for contempt for the GOP since it has been taken over by the extreme right and and has lost touch with reality, voting for the opposing party in a two-party system is not the same as totally embracing them.

Shock Over Televised Breast Exam

Conservatives sure have a hang up about breasts. Other conservative blogs have joined in expressing shock over the above video. I’m sure that appearing on MSNBC added to the conservative protest. The next time a woman demonstrates a breast exam on MSNBC she better be wearing a burka.

White House Releases Visitor Logs

Another sign of increased transparency: The White House has released visitor logs of those visiting the White House earlier in the year before  White House Voluntary Disclosure Policy on visitors took effect. Now right wingers can go through the records to see which radicals and Communists Obama is currently palling around with.

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Opponents of Health Care Reform Are Child Killers

Sure the headline is sensationalistic to attract attention in RSS readers and provide a good line for Twitter, but a stronger case for this can be made for this compared to many claims coming from the right. A report published today from Johns Hopkins looks at the effect of lack of health care coverage on child deaths:

Lack of adequate health care may have contributed to the deaths of some 17,000 US children over the past two decades, according to a study released by the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

The research, to be published Friday in the Journal of Public Health, was compiled from more than 23 million hospital records from 37 states between 1988 and 2005.

The study concluded that children without health insurance are far more likely to succumb to their illnesses than those with medical coverage.

“If you are a child without insurance, if you’re seriously ill and end up in the hospital, you are 60 percent more likely to die than the sick child in the next town who has insurance,” said Fizan Abdullah, lead writer of the study and a pediatric surgeon at Hopkins.

With some seven million children in the United States currently uninsured, the problem needed addressing immediately, the report said.

Is this really the type of country which conservatives believe we should be?

Reports Already Starting on the War on Christmas

I wish that Fox would at least wait until after Halloween before whining about the imaginary War on Christmas.

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Obama Ending HIV Travel Ban

Different people had different expectations as to what Obama would do after being elected, resulting in differing views of him from the left at present. He has been criticized for not yet being successful on the big issues. I feel this criticism is premature considering how close he is to passing  health care reform after so many other presidents have failed at this. I see the big advantages of Obama’s election to be no longer having an incompetent president who has harmed the country in so many ways. Not having a president who repeatedly does bad things is a major positive step.

Obama certainly deserves some credit, even if the amount is not certain, for the economy being in much better shape than most predicted at this time a year ago. Obama also deserves credit for a number of changes which are not top headline news. Since elected Obama has eliminated the ban on federal spending for embryonic stem cell research. He has ended the global gag rule which restricted reproductive rights internationally. He is ending the federal raids on medicinal marijuana. Another achievement came today as Obama announced the end of the HIV travel ban. Andrew Sullivan has posted his remarks:

A couple of years ago Michelle and I were in Africa and we tried to combat the stigma when we were in Kenya by taking a public HIV/AIDS test.  And I’m proud to announce today we’re about to take another step towards ending that stigma.

Twenty-two years ago, in a decision rooted in fear rather than fact, the United States instituted a travel ban on entry into the country for people living with HIV/AIDS.  Now, we talk about reducing the stigma of this disease — yet we’ve treated a visitor living with it as a threat.  We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic — yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from HIV from entering our own country.If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it.

And that’s why, on Monday my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year.  Congress and President Bush began this process last year, and they ought to be commended for it.  We are finishing the job.  It’s a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it’s a step that will keep families together, and it’s a step that will save lives.

Interpretation of this is comparable to the question of whether the glass is half full or half empty. Obama has not brought about marriage equality, and there are many other areas where he has not done everything I might desire. That doesn’t change the fact that little by little we are seeing significant accomplishments in the first year of his presidency alone.

Update: The Washington Post has some history on the development of this ban and its elimination:

The regulations are the final procedural step in ending the ban, and will be published Monday in the Federal Register, to be followed by the standard 60-day waiting period prior to implementation.

A ban on travel and immigration to the U.S. by individuals with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was first established by the Reagan-era U.S. Public Health Service and then given further support when Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) added HIV to the travel-exclusion list in a move that was ultimately passed unanimously by the Senate in 1987.

A 1990-1991 effort to overturn the regulatory ban failed in the face of outcry and lobbying from conservative groups and bureaucratic turf disputes. The ban was upheld in 1993 when Congress added it to U.S. immigration laws.

The Senate finally voted to overturn the ban as part of approving legislation reauthorizing funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, in 2008, and President Bush signed it into law on July 30 of that year. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and then-Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R-Ore.) led the process in the Senate.

Another Poll This Week Shows Republican Support At New Low

Many Republican sites are showing an overly-optimistic and selective reading of recent polls. There certainly are potential dangers for Obama and the Democrats after months of the right hitting them with false claims about policies such as health care reform. That does not mean that there is any support for the Republicans to return to power. First Read provides this reality check from the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll:

Put simply, the GOP’s brand is still a mess. According to the poll, just 25% have a positive opinion of the party (compared with 42% for the Dem Party), which ties the GOP’s low-water mark in the survey and which is a worse score than it ever had during the Bush presidency. (Honest question: Can the party still blame Bush for their problems if their numbers have gotten lower since he left the scene?) In addition, only 23% approve of the way in which congressional Republicans have handled health care (compared with 43% for Obama). And looking ahead to the 2010 midterms, 46% prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 38% who want a GOP-controlled Congress. Last month, Dems held a 43%-40% advantage. Also, don’t miss this: Despite being out of office and (relatively) out of the news, Sarah Palin’s fav/unfav in our poll has dropped from 32%-43% in July to 27%-46% now. In fact, her numbers now are nearly identical to Nancy Pelosi’s (26%-42%). By the way, both Palin and Pelosi are more popular than the Republican Party.

While any dissastisfaction with Obama does not provide helpful news for the Republicans, it is notable that, “nearly half of respondents (46%) support building an independent political party to compete with the Democrats and Republicans.”

As I discussed earlier in the week, in noting that Public Policy Polling also shows the Republicans at new lows, if post historical trends continue the Republicans should pick up some seats in the off year elections next year. The Republicans are showing greater intensity,  even if their numbers are lower, and are likely to turn out in greater numbers, especially with Obama not on the ballot. Many Democrats are also faced with defending districts which historically have been in Republican hands. Between this and an overall anti-incumbent sentiment, I would expect some to be unable to hold on to newly won Democratic seats.

GDP Up For First Time In A Year

Just in from CNN: “Economy grows for first time in a year, with GDP rising 3.5 percent in third quarter.”

Quote of the Day


Does anyone know if Glenn Beck is single?”

–From Sue Sylvester’s Facebook Page

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Government And Financing Health Care Coverage

A couple of weeks ago I discussed The Free Market Case For The Public Option. Andrew Sullivan picks up this topic, citing Hayek:

I keep coming back to Hayek on this – because government-sponsored health insurance is not government-run healthcare. Maybe it’s my British roots that make this so clear to me (if the British Tories proposed a universal health insurance scheme, with care provided by private doctors, nurses and hospitals, it would rightly be regarded as a major shift to the right.) Here’s Hayek’s discussion of why this is not heresy for libertarians and conservatives of the old school:

“Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individuals in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision.

“Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance – where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks – the case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong… Wherever communal action can mitigate disasters against which the individual can neither attempt to guard himself nor make the provision for the consequences, such communal action should undoubtedly be taken,” – The Road To Serfdom (Chapter 9).”

Demanding and helping people insure themselves in a context where emergency care is already guaranteed is not socialism. It’s prudence.

One problem is that many people in the conservative and libertarian movements equate freedom with absence of government. As a general rule this might frequently work, but this logic often leads to fallacious results. We might be more free living on an isolated island without any government as opposed to living on Manhattan, but this type of change is not a sensible goal for most libertarians.

Other than for the most extreme, even most libertarians grant some role for government. There are some things which are just better handled by government than by the market. This includes police protection and national defense. Similarly most of the industrialized world has found that financing (but not necessarily delivery) of health care is either best handled by government, or at least requires considerable government involvement.

A situation in which insurance companies can collect premiums and then deny care when needed, as well as having a society in which tens of millions are uninsured or under insured, is not a more free society in any meaningful sense. Conservatives and libertarians who denounce any attempts at remedying the problem as “socialism” are both ignorant of the actual definition of socialism and have substituted blind fanaticism for a reasoned consideration of the role of government in society.