Uncommon Sense

October 17, 2019

WTF? In This Corner . . .

In this corner we have bigotry and hatred . . .

A U.S. District Court judge in Texas has overturned the protections written into Obamacare for transgender people, ruling they violate the religious rights of healthcare providers who hold religious beliefs that oppose the existence of transgender people. (WTF? “Oppose the existence . . .”)

And in this corner we have the Constitution of the United States of America . . .

(First Amendment) Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; . . .

(Fourteenth Amendment) No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

“Obamacare” refers to a law passed by Congress. This federal judge has decided that it is okay for individual “healthcare providers” to deny transgender people health services because of “religion.”

How is a healthcare employee practicing their religion while doing their job? Answer: they are not (formally or by the law). The religious can say that their religion informs them every minute of ever day (Jesus told me to choose the corn flakes this morning!) and I do not doubt that there are some folks like that. But what part of their secular job is exercising their religion? Answer: no part (formally of by the law).

How about “when taking a secular job, perform the duties of the job or seek employment elsewhere.”

So, the federal government is not allowed to go into any church activity and say “this is not allowed” but apparently Christians are allowed to tell the federal government which secular laws they will obey and which they will not.

So, what would Jesus do, Christians? Jesus healed sinners. Jesus healed lepers! Modern Christians apparently do not measure up to that standard. Would not the kindness of a Christian healthcare provider possibly help transgender people “see the way?” In what way would a Christian be diminished by helping a transgender person regain their good health?

Do not Christians oppose the existence of Muslims? What about divorcees? What about people who wear garments of mixed fibers? Where does one draw the line? How about “when taking a secular job, perform the duties of the job or seek employment elsewhere.” If your religion does not recognize gay marriage, do not get a clerk’s job (aka powerless job) processing marriage licenses in a state that has legalized gay marriage. If your religion claims that animal blood makes you unclean, don’t get a job as a butcher. If your religion says that people of color are abominations, don’t take a retail job of any kind. If your religion says that you should serve only Christian people, get a job at a church . . . if they will have you.

July 16, 2018

We Can Trust Corporations … Right?

I often heard the trope from the Republihooligans that “we can trust the corporations, that they wouldn’t do anything illegal or immoral as that would affect their reputation which would ultimately hurt profits.”

I haven’t heard that line repeated much lately, especially since there has been a conga-line of disclosures of corporate wrong doing and illegality that has been unending before, during, and after that line was fed to us.

The latest example of corporate abuse involves a court case lost by Johnson & Johnson over one of their flagship products: baby powder. Surely J & J would never include a chemical in any of their products that would knowingly harm its customers (baby customers!), why that might damage their reputation. So would a $4.7 billion dollar award against them.

“Thursday’s massive verdict was handed down in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis. It was comprised of $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages.

“The women and their families said decades-long use of baby powder and other cosmetic talc products caused their diseases. They allege the company knew its talc was contaminated with asbestos since at least the 1970s but failed to warn consumers about the risks.”

OMG, do you think corporations could do such things?

Asbestos. Gosh, we all have know that asbestos is a health hazard for decades now. We have watched TV shows where house remodelers have to call in hazardous waste disposal teams to remove asbestos products before they can remodel their homes. Our public buildings have had to have “asbestos abatement” services in to make expensive extractions of the stuff.

Gosh, could J & J have not known? The judge who issued the $4,700,000,000 award thought not.

And what about the “we can trust the corporations” bullshit purveyors? I say, identify them and get them out of office and out of power, if for no other reason than gross stupidity but more likely because of political and moral corruption.

September 24, 2017

Republican Healthcare Policy Laziness

Once again the GOP has a proposed policy in the U.S. Senate to “Repeal and Replace™” Obamacare. That it would repeal Obamacare is without doubt, the problem comes with the “replace” part. They can’t seem to come up with anything like a coherent plan to do that. Their latest effort seems to be the worst of the recent lot and opposed by even the health insurance lobby along with the other usual suspects.

The GOP seems like the student looking for the minimum effort path through a college course of study. They want a passing grade but they really do not want to have to do any real work. Consider the following alternate scenario: after the passage of Obamacare, the GOP (one of its plutocratic sponsors pays for the effort) sets up a private study group to come up with a better plan. They have access to all kinds of healthcare experts, policy wonks, and expertise in the insurance marketplace. They come up with a water tight plan to pull out of their pocket at a moment’s notice. Ta da!

There are any number of available working models. The Swiss have a model that works, built entirely upon private insurance companies; that should appeal to the small government types. The Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA all have systems that work quite well, with high patient satisfaction levels. (The VA’s much touted problems are administrative and mostly related to computer services and processing of new members, not based on quality of service.) The models they do not favor, like those in the UK and France are well-documented to supply them with evidence against those systems should they need any. This is a piece for cake for consultants willing to accept the generous funding supplied (a few million bucks one way or another).

So, why hasn’t the GOP “done its homework”? Surely something better than the despised Obamacare has to be available. Maybe it has done its homework and failed to come up with something better. I believe there are all kinds of things better than Obamacare, but the genie has been let out of the bottle. All of the better alternatives lead away from GOP cherished ideologies and not toward them. The Swiss system of health insurance, which is intensely driven through private insurance companies, is heavily regulated by the government, for instance.

I guess there is no system that works that includes the GOP preferred “pay as you go,” market-based, non-governmental ideology. Interesting.

Or maybe the GOP’s representatives are just lazy, stupid, and mean. Occam’s razor applies here.

September 17, 2017

Why We Do and They Don’t Want National Health Care System

We are talking here about the healthcare systems such as Canada and France have as examples, you know, all of the other advanced western nations. Names such as Medicare For All have been bandied about for such a system here in the U.S., which is just one such option.

Here in a nutshell is why we want to do this and the conservatives and their paymasters do not:

Per Capita Spending Health Care 2015
United States: $9451
Canada: $4608
France: $4407
Japan: $4150
United Kingdom: $4003
Miraculous Finland: $3984

When we see this list, we see “Gosh, we could have quality healthcare for only about half of what we are spending now!” and “We could use some of what we save to make sure that all Americans are covered.”

When they see this list, they see “Oh my gosh, look at the profits we will lose under national healthcare.”

We spend twice what most other countries spend on healthcare and only the very rich get a commensurate healthcare outcome. Most people spend more and get less than they get in other countries. For those of you who think Canada and France do not have quality healthcare systems, you might want to consider how you learned that … Fox (sic) News, maybe? We have a higher rate of infant mortality than most of those other countries. We have shorter life spans than people in those other countries. The middle class incomes in those other countries often exceed ours, especially when you include the fact that we pay so much for healthcare. We also have millions of people with no health insurance at all, who simply go to a county hospital when they are very, very ill and plead for charity care. In the meantime, those sick people spread diseases and die much younger than they could have.

Whatever your position, do realize that the opposition to “socialized medicine” comes from those making megabucks off the current system: doctors (lead by the AMA, so their faces don’t get shown), Big Pharma (surprise, surprise) and, of course, the health insurance industry.

The insurance companies are playing a game. Through accounting procedures, they are claiming big losses through Obamacare. These losses are being used to argue for large premium increases under the system. But if you look closely, these very same corporations are claiming record profits and their CEO’s are receiving big bonuses. There stocks have soared even higher than the record stock price surges under President Obama. Huge losses, record profits, skyrocketing share prices! Some companies made so much profit that they exceeded the 20% allowed under Obamacare and had to issue refunds! This can be compared to the 3% total overhead for Medicare.

Look at that list again and ask yourself, as Ian Welsh has over and over: why don’t we see those numbers on the news over and over and over again … instead of never. Who controls the news?

September 14, 2017

How Will We Pay for It?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:58 am
Tags: , , ,

Now that healthcare as a right of citizens is becoming viable, there is much public hand wringing along the lines of the question “How will we pay for it?”

Hello? This is a stupid question.

Currently, people’s health insurance is provided by:
Employer  49%
Medicaid  20%
Medicare  20%, and
Other Public  2%.
Add all of those up and you get 91%

The 49% provided by employers (actually almost always a negotiated fringe benefit, so this is part of their employee’s compensation, so it is the employee’s money being spent by the employers) is provided through insurance companies which extract profits from the system. In a national system, the monies currently going to profits, can go to cover the 9% not currently covered. The only political problem is the redistribution of those monies.

The money formerly paid out as a employee fringe benefit to insurance companies, will be paid instead to the employees who will, in turn, pay taxes sufficient for their coverage. Considering the amount of waste, fraud, abuse, and profit taking in the private health insurance business, after their taxes are paid, there will be money left over in their household budgets. The only people who do not benefit in this are the insurance companies currently making too much money for processing too little paper. The people actually delivering the medical services will not change. (It’s called cutting out the middle man, people.)

To those who argue that this gives government too much control over people’s healthcare, tell that to the people getting Medicare and Medicaid, who are all happier with their coverage than other folks. And if you are going to make that argument, then you have to agree that the militaries of this country are socialist and we give too much control over the military to the government, and….

The government is “us,” people, just “us.” It is as good as us, as corrupt as us, as well-meaning as us.

October 25, 2016

Look Out, Here Comes Single Payer!

According to the Associated Press ObamaCare premiums are expected to rise by double digits in 2017. A report from the Department of Health and Human Services forecast an average 25 percent rise for midlevel benchmark plans across the 39 states served by the federally run insurance marketplace. Major national insurance carriers have also scaled back their participation in the ObamaCare exchange, which could leave about 20 percent of consumers with only one option of insurer. The Obama administration is emphasizing that taxpayer-provided subsidies should offset the increases for most consumers.

Ah, heaven forbid that insurance companies reform their processes or take a little less in the way of profits, so up our rates go … fueling the demand for a Medicare-like single payer system.

The basic question still is “Why should insurance companies be paid so much for pushing paper?” All they do is take our money and pay our doctors, yet what they charge for this is way more than Medicare costs to do its paper work. Is great puzzlement.

It is to our advantage that they cannot just lay low for a while, they have to turn the screws to squeeze out better quarterly profits for their shareholders and so they do, undermining their very existence.


May 4, 2016

Because the GOP Said So!

Remember back in the Obamacare debate? How the Republicans kept claiming we have the best health care system in the world, so why would we want to undermine it? It is clear we have the most expensive health care system in the world, that is indeed true, but best? Today a report is out finding that the third leading cause of death of people in the U.S. is … wait for it … medical error.

That’s right, boys and girls, our medical system makes mistakes, but don’t pay any attention to them, they are not important. The fact that a few people die here and there is a small price to pay for our freedoms and American Exceptionalism!

What kind of freaking world would the GOP actually fit in? Sheesh!


March 29, 2016

Religious Liberty Runs Amok

The latest code words for the religious wishing to be able to discriminate illegally is “religious liberty.” The Constitution guarantees all of us the right to practice our religion without government interference. Unfortunately, the religious are now trying to impose their “rights” onto the secular government and onto us.

Basically, owners of businesses are claiming the right to refuse service to anyone that would violate their religious beliefs. This can include the businesses own employees. In a case before the Supreme Court a number of businesses say that being required to provide contraception services as part of mandated government health care provisions violates their religious proscription against artificial birth control. This is in spite of the fact that a specific religious proscription of artificial birth control, 98.2% of Catholic women surveyed volunteered the fact that they used artificial birth control. What this means is these business are arguing that the government needs to help them to enforce a religious prescription that the Church itself cannot enforce and enforce it on their employees whether or not they are Catholics. Amazing!

I have a novel idea: if you can’t do business without violating the law, pick another business.

If you are an Ultraconservative Jew who can’t interact with women or be in close proximity to women, don’t open an lingerie shop. If you are a Mormon who cannot drink coffee, don’t buy into a Starbucks. If you are a Buddhist who is forbidden to eat meat, don’t buy a McDonalds franchise. Seems simple enough.

If you truly accept the tenants of your faith, accept the limitations and don’t force the rest of us to enforce your chosen limitations on others.

Basically, it comes down to the idea that religion should not be used as an excuse to refuse service to anyone via a legal commercial enterprise. If you decide to go into business, you are accepting the premise that our government (which equates to all of us collectively) sets the rules and if you cannot abide by those, do something else.

You have the personal freedom to exercise your religion as you see fit; you do not have the collective right to make us exercise it as you see fit.

March 24, 2016

Sign This, Bitches!

A Supreme Court case is once again bringing the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, into the headlines. According to the N.Y. Times, “The case, Zubik v. Burwell, is a collection of lawsuits by religious nonprofit organizations challenging the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employer health plans provide free contraceptive coverage to female employees. Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from this requirement. The challengers, which include religiously-affiliated universities, hospitals, and social-service groups, want the same exemption. So the government offered them a special accommodation: Notify their insurer or the government in writing that they refuse to provide contraceptive coverage, at which point the government takes over.

“But this was not enough for the challengers, who say the notification process itself forces them to be complicit in what they consider a sin. They sued under a 1993 federal law that prohibits the government from “substantially” burdening religious freedom unless it can show the law furthers a compelling interest that can’t be achieved by less restrictive means.”

These “religious organizations” have been blithely signing “forms” that could be used to support all kinds of sinful activities for generations and there was not a peep out of them. But now they have to sign an insurance form! Oh, the inhumanity!

Just signing a form makes them complicit in sinful behavior? WTF? They readily sign forms every month that could be far, far worse; they are called pay checks. Their employees can take the money they are paid and buy birth control pills with it. They can donate money to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They can but illicit drugs. They can hire prostitutes. And yet, these “religious organizations” have been blithely signing “forms” that could be used to support all kinds of sinful activities for generations and there was not a peep out of them. But now they have to sign an insurance form! Oh, the inhumanity!

Will no one stop this persecution of religion?

March 15, 2014

Why Is It the Koch Brothers Can’t Find a Real Obamacare Victim?

Every time the Koch brothers, through one of their many false front organizations, create another “Victim of Obamacare” political ad, it usually takes less than a day to find out the victim was just a D.C. actress who was not a real Obamacare Victim, just playing one on TV, or a numb nuts who couldn’t figure out that he or she was getting better insurance for less money.

I thought all of these plutocrats were filthy rich because they were smarter than us, because they worked harder than us, because they had more grit and gumption than us.

If Obamacare was such a disaster you should be able to find a real victim by swinging a cat in a not very crowed room with your eyes closed. (No animals were hurt in the writing of this blog!)

It isn’t bad enough that the plutocrats are driving our democracy into a ditch of their digging, but it is the stupid and lazy plutocrats doing it.

We should be ashamed of ourselves for letting them fool us for even one minute; the damned plutocrats will never feel any shame at all.

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