Archive for January, 2008

It’s A Matter of Perspective

Friday, January 25th, 2008

I have always wondered how I could be so differently wired politically than some of my best friends.  We make our livings in the same field (healthcare related), share similar hobbies, went to the same schools, etc…. but look at politics totally differently.

So, I was intrigued by seeing the following survey http://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/HealthPolicy/tb/8084 results of a telephone survey, a joint venture between the Harvard School of Public Health and the Kaiser Family Foundation, which was conducted from Nov. 1 through Nov. 11, 2007 and responses were statistically weighted to reflect the U.S. population. 

The researchers also considered data from 10 other recent surveys by national media polling organizations. Among the findings:

  • 43% of Republicans approved of Bush’s handling of health care compared with 14% of Democrats
  • 44% of Republicans rated the nation’s health care system as excellent, but only 20% of Democrats gave it those high marks
  • 66% of Republicans are dissatisfied with the cost of health care in the U.S. compared with 89% of Democrats
  • 58% of Republicans are satisfied with the quality of care in the U.S. but only 20% of Democrats feel that way

So, take a look at how differently Republicans and Democrats view healthcare.  For example, the survey found that 58% of Republicans are satisfied with the quality of care in the US.  Yet, only 20% of Democrats are satisfied.  So, are we all being treated by the same healthcare providers?  Maybe not when you account for age, education, income, etc… However, I would assume with some reason that we are seeing the same providers, both Democrats and Republicans.  Instead, I think politically, we are just wired differently.  We all bring our own experiences, biases, and backgrounds into the healthcare and political arena.  I don’t see how a 38% difference can be accounted for other than bias of being in favor of our healthcare system (Republicans) or not in favor (Democrats) long before any treatment occurs.

Another example from above is that only 44% of Republicans rate our U.S system as excellent.  I think that number should be higher, but there are improvements to be made for sure.  Yet, it seems amazing to me that only 20% of Democrats would rate our system as excellent.  So, again, I guess we are just wired differently???

Who Is Your Candidate for President?

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

I was sent a link yesterday to a website that allows one to answer basic questions regarding national issues and then it compares your responses against the positions held by the presidential candidates.  At the end of the test, ”your” candidate is chosen.  Here is the link:

http://www.wqad.com/Global/link.asp?L=259460

I don’t know how accurate the test is, but for me it was accurate.  Let me know your thoughts regarding the results of the test and who you support.

Medicare As A Single Payer System

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

As I knew would happen, the first of the year has brought a lot of travel.  Last week I posted about my trip to Philadelphia, which was a great trip, especially since I missed all the cold weather and snow in the Northeast.  

On Friday I returned from a trip to the Northwest, specifically the Seattle area.  As I understand is normal this time of year, it was cloudy and cold, but no snow.  As I always have time to think on long trips, and this was a long one in the air, I turned my attention to medicare and the structure of that program.  This was on my mind due to the client I was visiting.

My understanding is that Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich is the only candidate that wants a true single payer system for healthcare in America.  The other candidates on the Democrat side want at least a government ran program as an option for the uninsured or for those that might choose it based on certain criteria.  It sure concerns me that any program like those proposed by Hillary Clinton or Obama might turn into a single payer system (meaning the government controls our healthcare).  For all the potential problems with a similar model proposed by Hillary, study the Tenncare mess that occurred in Tennessee.

However, getting back to Medicare, my “air time” brought me to the conclusion that we of course already have a single payer system in Medicare.  It just happens to be for a certain age range.  As I recall, Kucinich would like for Medicare to just be turned into the program for us all, a single payer  healthcare system.  Yet, the more I learn about Medicare and the government regulations via CMS; I know that we must create free enterprise and competition into our healthcare system, not government control.  So, I am studying all the candidates’ healthcare plans before I cast my primary vote on February 5th.

Rising or Setting Sun?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

I had the pleasure this week of being in Philadelphia on a business trip.  I travel a good bit, but for some reason my travels rarely take me to the Northeast.  So, being the history buff that I am, I knew I had to check out Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell while in Philadelphia.  I should also state that I was in search of the perfect Cheese Steak sandwich!

For those of you that might need a reminder, Independence hall is the site where the Declaration of Independence was adopted. It was in the Assembly Room of the building that George Washington was appointed commander in chief of the Continental Army in 1775.  Furthermore, it was also where the US constitution was debated, drafted, and signed.

Rising Sun ChairDuring the Constitution debate, George Washington presided over the meetings.  He sat in what has become a very famous chair, named the “rising sun”.  This original piece of furniture is still in the building, which I saw this week.  Viewing this chair, made me think about the differences in Americans and the major miracle that occurred in that room to adopt the U.S. Constitution.  When looking at the image of the sun on the top of the chair, it is clear that it can be viewed as either a rising sun or a setting sun.  The actual image is simply the sun split in half.  So, one is either optimistic (rising sun over America, best of times still to come) or pessimistic (setting sun over America, best days behind us) in how they view the image.For me, America has always been a rising sun.  There are many that believe the American Century was the 20th, but the 21st will belong to China.  I instead am the optimist for America, the sun is still rising.  Yes China will be a force this century, but American ingenuity will keep us strong as long as we keep government out of our lives as much as possible, promote free enterprise, and not punish those in our society that take risks and create jobs, and lower our tax burden.

By the way, the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich at Gino’s in South Philly was excellent.  It was recommended by the staff at our hotel.  Anyone know of a better Philly Cheese Steak in Philadelphia for my next trip? 

HSAs - Handsome Subsidies for the Affluent???

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

I hate to keep picking on Joe Paduda’s blog and his thoughts, but here is another example of just how far off Joe can be on www.joepaduda.com. In his recent post, Joe states the following:

“I (and others) have long opined that HSAs are thinly-disguised tax breaks for the well-to-do. Touted as a solution to the growing number of the uninsured and cited as the plan of choice for the newly-insured, HSAs have been the darling of the conservative think-tank set.”

He also writes the following:

“The article notes that the “biggest beneficiaries” of health savings accounts “are proving to be well-to-do investors looking for another way to fund their retirement savings.”

My company offers an HSA plan to all of our Full –Time employees. As I have said on this blog before, a single employee only pays a net of $31 a month in premium, which of course is one of the benefits of the HSA. The trade off for lower premiums is that the policy holder has to pay a high deduction, $2,500 prior to any financial coverage kicking in for the calendar year. For example, every Jan 1 all of my employee’s deduction starts over and they must meet the $2,500 threshold before the plan kicks in paying on medical bills. They do receive PPO discounts on the first $2,500, but these are first dollars out of their pockets.

This is where the actual HSA account comes to play. Each of our employees holds a MasterCard and or checks to be used to pay for the $2,500 deductible. Thus, many of our employees get into a cycle to where they never have to pay out of their normal assets for medical care. Instead, they have saved money in the HSA account, (We, the employer deposit money in their HSA account along with the employee) to pay for their expenses. Once the $2,500 has been met, the insurance plan pays 100% of any medical expenses including pharmacy.

In reality the HSA plans are better than a traditional 80/20 plan. As a single employee, you know in our company that the most you will spend out of pocket in a year is $2,500. Under an 80/20 plan like so many have, a $30,000 hospital and related expenses bill will mean the employee would pay $6,000 out of pocket. The HSA is a better deal.

So, how can HSAs be a disguised tax break for the well to do? I have no idea. Our employees with health insurance range from employees that make below 20K a year to ones that do very well. I don’t know of any employee of our company that believes HSAs are for their retirement. Come on Joe, the HSA money is for medical expenses, not retirement. Real companies that have HSAs know they are a good deal for all.

Hillary Healthcare and Iowa

Friday, January 4th, 2008

As many of you know, I often disagree with Joe Paduda regarding his healthcare views. I don’t have to look far to find good examples of where I disagree with him. Below is a post from Joe on 01.03.2007 the day of the Iowa Caucus at, www.joepaduda.com

“Hillary’s strength - health care

Among Democrats polled in Iowa who are most concerned about health care, Hillary Clinton has a substantial lead (38% v 21% for Edwards and 18% for Obama). While health care is not the top issue (the economy is), it is for 24% of Iowa Democrats.

And it remains a big issue for the rest of America - a gut issue, one that keeps voters up at night, worried about coverage for their moms, dads, and kids. It bleeds over to the economy and jobs - with health insurance tied to employment, many middle-class voters are keenly aware that losing a job means losing health insurance. This is not an esoteric, remote intellectual issue - it is the neighbor who just lost her job, the “pennies for a cancer victim” tin can at the convenience store, the parent too young for Medicare and too wealthy for Medicaid.

With the Iowa race wide open, the gut issue of health care could be a deciding factor.

The caucus environment is one where neighbors talk to neighbors about issues that concern them, and about which candidate is best suited to fix that problem. Yes, Hillary Clinton has her share of detractors, but many are undecided and Hillary owns health care. And that may just make the difference for her in Iowa.”

The results of the Iowa Caucus are in, and Hillary came in THIRD. If healthcare is owned by Hillary, as Joe states, then democrat voters in Iowa must not be as interested in the topic as Joe believes. Yes, polls indicate it is an important issue. Yet, they also have indicated for some time that the economy is very important as Joe states, despite what is still a great economy in the US. Voters will ultimately decide who our next President will be, but don’t be so sure that Hillary owns healthcare. She nearly socialized our system in 1993/1994 and I don’t know that voters have forgotten.

Global Warming and Healthcare

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

What does global warming and healthcare have in common? It would seem not much on the surface. Yet, when it is examined more closely there are many connections. Let’s examine one of the most important to me, which is the political outlook of both the global warming enthusiast and the person that wants universal healthcare. Now, to set the stage further, I am not talking about your average guy on the street that thinks we need universal healthcare and also believes we should take care of the environment. No, I am talking about the Al Gore types that are extreme alarmist (Healthcare and Global Warming) who assume mankind is bad, heartless, and uncaring toward our planet and fellow man. Oh yea, let’s not forget they tend to be political types that believe they know better than the rest of us, which is the ultimate connection between them and global warming/healthcare.

I am a conservative, not Republican or Democrat. But, something funny happens in the debate on healthcare and global warming, extremist on both topics seem to be Democrat party supporters and liberal, not Republican. These extremist are convinced that Global Warming must be caused by people. Why, well because it can’t be a natural cycle of the earth they reason, it must instead be caused by people. Reagan optimism in people is not something they posses. They also believe that we as American’s are heartless because we don’t’ provide healthcare to all of our citizens. The problem I have is that liberals, and some democrats, have high jacked these two topics for political gain. As I said above, these people simply believe they know better than the rest of us. Unfortunately, they gain political power from both of these topics, Global Warming and Universal Healthcare, and thus have a stage to influence us all.

For example, Al Gore has been an advocate of Global warming caused by man. Yet, his personal life has contributed more to carbon emissions than most of us will ever contribute. He also says the debate is over, attempting to make everyone who disagrees seem unknowing and ignorant. Yet, good ole Al is the ignorant one on top of being a hypocrite. In his movie An Inconvenient Truth, he fails to tell everyone that Carbon emissions over history only go up AFTER the temperature has risen (usually by several hundred years). For me, that simply blows every explanation this crowd has of global warming. Instead, it is a natural cycle of the earth. Is it getting warmer, sure, it seems that is true. But, it is not caused by human activity, in my opinion. Most of the warming in the twentieth century occurred in the early part, prior to the 1940s. Check out the 10 biggest myths of global warming.

What about a healthcare example? Well, look no further than Michael Moore. In Sicko he tries to tell us how wonderful the Cuban healthcare system is for their people. Do you want to go to Cuba for healthcare? I kind of doubt it. Yet, Mr. Moore has political clout and would rather trust his fellow American’s healthcare, in my opinion, to the government instead of to people’s choices. Again, healthcare high jacked as a topic to advance his liberal extreme political beliefs. So, let’s debate both topics in our society, Universal Healthcare and Global Warming. However, let’s not let the extremist highjack these topics for political gain. Americans as a whole are very smart when they have the facts, not when the media presents biased one sided arguments to the public such as Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. At least in Great Briton a high judge had the sense to point out the inaccuracies in the documentary. I wish we had public officials with the same guts in America. If you have kids, ask them if they saw An Inconvenient Truth in school, mine had no choice but to watch it.