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Category: Politics

A Dream Day at The Beach

BY MIKE MAGEE

Senator Lindsey Graham (R.,S.C.) is on summer recess. A consummate professional politician, and war hardened lawyer, Sen. Graham has made a career out of flipping on a dime. His moral calculus has been flexible enough to wiggle and weave, and switch sides if cornered. 

In a dream, I caught a glimpse of him reading on one of his state’s beautiful beaches. He was juggling a weighty 1215 page classic – Leo Tolstoy’s “War & Peace” in one hand, and a yellow highlight marker in the other.

He looked a bit on edge, maybe because this week a federal judge refused to block a subpoena seeking his testimony for a Fulton County, Georgia, Grand Jury probe into efforts by then-President Donald Trump and his potential state Republican “alternate electors” to overturn Georgia’s Biden victory in the 2020 election.

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American health care leaders are not blameless today

By MATTHEW HOLT

It is a very sad day for America. Roughly 30% of our country is part of a quasi-religious cult. In general these people reject science and the enlightenment. This week the Jan 6th committee has shown they are prepared to use and support any tools or tactics–up to and including the overthrow of the government, in order to get what they want. 

The overturning of Roe vs Wade is the most visible artifact of a 40-year campaign. The campaign was funded by business leaders like the Koch brothers who want to revoke all environmental, labor and rational restrictions on their activities. Using dark money and the passion of religious zealots who want to control women’s bodies and discriminate against anybody who doesn’t believe what they believe, they have turned this nation back to the 18th century, using the Supreme Court as their vehicle.

The biggest of those dominos has now fallen and women’s right to control their own bodies has been taken away in most states. We can assume a nationwide ban (such as happened in Poland) will be coming here soon, maybe as soon as 2025 if the Republicans win the 2024 elections. And note that the rolling coup described by the witnesses at the Jan 6 hearings show that the Republicans are already blatantly taking over the supposedly neutral election process.

But the American health-care system is not blameless. Abortion and other reproductive health services are clearly part of health care. Yet uniquely in this country the provision of the services has not been from mainstream health care institutions. The leaders of our health care organizations, in particular our major hospital systems, have completely avoided delivering these services. They have been more than happy to allow Planned Parenthood and other specialist organizations to provide reproductive care, and have just looked the other way in the debate. 

Worse, many of our religiously affiliated institutions,  particularly those with a Catholic heritage which represent an enormous amount of hospitals in this country, have banned not only abortion but many other forms of reproductive health care such as female sterilization. The Hyde Amendment, ironically named after a religious bigot who was an appalling adulterer and hypocrite to boot, bans Federal funding for abortions. That means that private Medicaid plans which now cover most births in this country have never offered a full suite of reproductive health care.

Even in recent weeks when the fate of Roe became clear I have heard nothing from major leaders of hospital systems or health plans about this. Some of the newer provider organizations focusing on women, such as Maven and Tia, have been outspoken, as have many non health care-related employers. But the general silence from all major health care organizations in America on this topic has been deafening.

Today there is plenty of shame and blame to go around.

Republican Health Policies Disproportionally Harm White Citizens in Their States

BY MIKE MAGEE

As Ive said before, I believe Dr. Ladapo is an anti-science quack who doesnt belong anywhere near our states Surgeon General office, let alone running it. But now that hes been confirmed, its my sincere hope that he and Governor DeSantis choose to focus on saving lives and preventing unnecessary illness instead of continuing their absurd promotion of conspiracy theories and opposition to proven public health measures — but Im not going to hold my breath.”

If you identified these as the words of the former governor, and now Congressman Charlie Crisp, currently running to retake the office he once held, you’d be wrong. These are the words of another state Democrat who is running a distant 2nd in the Democratic primary battle set for this summer.

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British Doctor Suspended for falsely claiming she was “promised” a laptop. WTF!

BY SAURABH JHA

If forced to choose Britain’s two biggest contributions to civilizations, I’d pick the Magna Carta and the vaguely instructional “fuck off.” If permitted a third, I’d choose “managerialism.” Brits are good at telling others what to do. Managerialism is how the Brits once ruled India. Buoyed by the colonial experience, British managers felt they could rule doctors. 

The new Viceroy, the manager-in-chief, is the General Medical Council (GMC). The GMC is a physician watchdog, funded by doctors, which works for the public good and is answerable to…well, I’ll get to that later. Their relevance rose exponentially when the psychopathic Dr. Harold Shipman, a charming, clinically adept, general practitioner, killed over two hundred patients. Never again, said the managers. They promised to keep the public safe from dodgy doctors with aspirations of Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd.

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“Playing Doctor” – A Cautionary Tale From Health IT Pioneers.

By MIKE MAGEE

Warner Vincent Slack, MD, a pioneer of medical informatics, was a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School in the Division of Clinical Informatics. When he died in 2018 at age 85, his memoriam read:

“For over 50 years, Dr. Slack conducted pioneering research on the use of computers in the medical world and was one of the founders of medical informatics. His goal was to empower both doctors and patients by improving the communication between them.”

Followers of Dr. Slack have labored hard over the past half-century to design solutions that will strengthen rather than weaken the bonds of the patient-physician relationship. But as he suggested at multiple points throughout his career, this goal becomes exponentially more difficult if politicians are allowed to “play doctor” with citizens’ lives.

His awareness of the fallout of the Terri Schiavo “right to die” case, beginning a dozen years after his seminal publication of  “Patient Power: A Patient Oriented Value System”, likely cast a long shadow on his optimistic vision. The case spanned 15 years, as it rode the poor health and disability of one unfortunate woman literally into her grave with devastating consequences for all concerned. 

As the Supreme Court readies itself to serve up opinions in the Texas vigilante and Mississippi abortion cases, the Schiavo case remains a cautionary tale that deserves a careful review. Here’s a quick summary:

  • Theresa Marie Schindler was born in a Philadelphia suburb on December 3, 1963.
  • Terri married her husband, Michael in 1984 and moved to Florida to be close to her parents. 
  • On February 25, 1990, suffering from an eating disorder, she collapsed in the lobby of their apartment, was resuscitated, and hospitalized.
  • Her husband, Michael, was made legal guardian on June 18, 1990. Two physicians independently declared her in a “permanent vegetative state.” A gastric feeding tube was inserted.
  • In mid-1993, Michael signed a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order.
  • In May 1998, he filed a petition to remove the feeding tube.
  • The parents challenged the removal in court and lost. The tube was finally removed on April 24, 2001.
  • The parents charged Michael Schiavo with perjury, and a judge ordered the tube reinserted 2 days later.
  • On September 17, 2003,  the appellate judge ordered the feeding tube removed for a second time.
  • Operation Rescue/Right to Life extremist Randall Terry began daily public demonstrations at the care facility.
  • The Florida legislature passed “Terri’s Law”, allowing Gov. Jeb Bush to order the feeding tube surgically reinserted for the third time.
  • On May 5, 2004, “Terri’s Law” was declared unconstitutional.
  • Senator Mel Martinez’s (R-FL) political career was damaged irreparably when memo’s revealed he played politics with the issue.
  • Senator Bill Frist’s hopes for the presidency went up in smoke on March 17, 2005, when he declared on the Senate floor, “I question it (vegetative state) based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office.”
  • President Bush transferred the case to Federal Courts. The Federal Court agreed with prior State Court Appeals.
  • Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed a final time on March 24, 2005. She died at a Pinellas Park hospice on March 31, 2005.
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988: A New Lifeline for Mental Health Emergencies

By BEN WHEATLEY

Miles Hall, a 23-year-old Black man experiencing a psychotic episode, was shot and killed by police after 911 received calls of a disturbance in his Walnut Creek, California neighborhood. His mother Taun Hall had taken steps to warn the local police that her son had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and that he might be prone to mental health crises. She believed she had done enough to ensure that, in the event of a crisis, her son would be treated with care. But when the crisis came, authorities viewed Miles’ behavior through the lens of public safety, not through the lens of mental health, and it cost him his life. 

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State-Based Marketplaces 2.0 Part 2: Engines of Innovation, Competition, and Consumerism

By ROSEMARIE DAY and DAVID W. JOHNSON

Within the current political reality, how can America implement policies that increase access to health insurance while also reducing premium costs and enhancing responsiveness to consumer priorities and needs? 

Large-scale healthcare reform appears off-the-table for the Biden Administration. Yet, given the impact of the COVID pandemic on people who have lost (or have worried about losing) their employer-based insurance coverage and the intensifying pressure to reduce overall healthcare costs, solutions that increase health insurance access and affordability have become more important than ever. A significant answer to this complex puzzle can be found at the state level. 

Enabled by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, state-based marketplaces (SBMs) currently operate in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Another six states operate as SBMs using the federal government’s HealthCare.gov technology platform. Three states, Kentucky, Maine, and New Mexico, will become full SBMs by 2022.

While federal measures to improve insurance access have stalled or been reversed over the past eight years, SBMs have quietly implemented programming modifications for stabilizing local markets that improve the quality and marketability of health insurance offerings to the benefit of consumers.

In Part 2 of our series on marketplace health plan innovations, we examine how SBMs have operated as experimental policy laboratories. They’ve taken their own paths to expand consumer choice, increase access to vital healthcare services, and lower premiums.

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In “Riding” Abortion, Is Greg Abbott Driving Texas Toward Divestiture?

By MIKE MAGEE

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been on a tear lately, and his central theme appears to be “revanchism.” Faced with declining demographics, he is retaliating against enemies and newcomers alike, aligning himself with slippery politicians and vigilantes. As they say in Texas, “He’s on a first-name basis with the bottom of the deck”, and the game he’s playing appears to be “South Africa – 1950.”

The formal establishment of apartheid in South Africa occurred in 1948, though racial injustice had been baked in centuries earlier. Violence and intimidation, embedded in legislation supported by a 15% white minority, led to the creation of the African National Congress (ANC) which launched what they called their “Defiance Campaign.” By 1962, their party had been outlawed, and their dynamic leader, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned.

And yet resistance continued to grow, inside and outside the country. Religious leaders, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, took to the street, organizing huge, peaceful rallies. In 1976, images of Black children being attacked and killed in Soweto township during a protest spread like wildfire around the world. 176 died and thousands were injured. In response, the United Nations called on its member states to divest and impose economic sanctions. Only 2 leaders did not. (More on that in a moment.)

Minority rule, oppression, vigilantism, and disenfranchisement are eventually losing propositions as Greg Abbott is learning. A majority of 52% now say his state is moving in the wrong direction. The list of grievances is long and continues to grow. Catholic bishops decried his inhumane handling of immigrant families this year. Baptist minister Rev. Frederick Haynes III spotlighted the Republican legislature’s voter suppression law recently suggesting they were “dressing up Jim and Jane Crow in a tuxedo.” Only 39% approve of his handling of the pandemic, and many Texans find the renewed endorsement of “vigilante justice” for unfortunate women and girls seeking abortions to be a disturbing and dystopian new reality. By the way, 1 in 5 Texans lack health insurance, and Texas is one of twelve Republican-led states that continue to refuse federal offers to expand Medicaid coverage of their citizens.

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Biden Should Extend a “Public Option” as a Message to “Health Care Royalists”

By MIKE MAGEE

In this world of political theatrics, with Democratic legislators from Texas forced into exodus to preserve voters’ rights, and Tucker Carlson rantings about Rep. Eric Swalwell riding shirtless on a camel in Qatar streaming relentlessly, Americans can be excused if they missed a substantive and historic news event last week.

On Friday, July 9th, President Biden signed a far-reaching executive order intended to fuel social and economic reform, and in the process created a potential super-highway sized corridor for programs like universal healthcare. In the President’s view, the enemy of the common man in pursuit of a “fair deal” is not lack of competition but “favoritism.”

To understand the far-reaching implications of this subtle shift in emphasis, let’s review a bit of history. It is easy to forget that this nation was the byproduct of British induced tyranny and economic favoritism. In 1773, citizens of Boston decided they had had enough, and dumped a shipment of tea, owned by the British East India Company, into the Boston Harbor. This action was more an act of practical necessity than politics. The company was simply one of many “favorites” (organizations and individuals) that “got along by going along” with their British controllers.  In lacking a free hand to compete in a free market, the horizons for our budding patriots and their families were indefinitely curtailed.

Large power differentials not only threatened them as individuals but also the proper functioning of the new representative government that would emerge after the American Revolution. Let’s recall that only white male property owners over 21(excluding Catholics and Jews) had the right to vote at our nation’s inception.

Over the following two centuries, power imbalances have taken on a number of forms. For example, during the industrial revolution, corporate mega-powers earned the designation “trusts”, and the enmity of legislators like Senator John Sherman of Ohio, who as Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, led the enactment of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.

He defined a “trust” as a group of businesses that collude or merge to form a monopoly. To Sen. Sherman, J.D. Rockefeller, the head of Standard Oil, was no better than a monarch. “If we will not endure a king as political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation and sale of any of the necessities of life”, he said.   The law itself stated “[e]very contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal.”

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“Necessitous Men Are Not Free Men” – Words to Remember

By MIKE MAGEE

In the second half of the 19th century, Emily Dickinson wrote a short poem that could easily have been a forward looking tribute to two American Presidents – one from the 20th, the other the 21st century.

Dickinson’s poem “A WORD is dead” is hardly longer than its title.

“A WORD is dead

When it is said,

  Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

  That day.”

She certainly was on the mark when it came to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s signature legislation. FDR’s New Deal, extending from 1933 to 1939, ultimately came down to just three words – the 3R’s – Relief , Recovery, and Reform.

He promised “Action, and action now!”  This included a series of programs, infrastructure projects, financial reforms, a national health care program and industry regulations, protecting those he saw as particularly vulnerable including farmers, unemployed, children and the elderly.  And he wasn’t afraid to make enemies. Of Big Business, he said in a 1936 speech in Madison Square Garden, “They are unanimous in their hate for me – and I welcome their hatred.”

But he was also a political realist. And by his second term of office Justice Hughes and his Conservative dominated Supreme Court had begun to undermine his legislative successes and were threatening his signature bill- the Social Security Act. So FDR compromised, and in the face of withering criticism from the AMA, postponed his plans for national health care.

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