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Friday, January 01, 2010


"There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress." —Mark Twain


Senator Conrad has published a “Guest view” article on how “Health-care reform helps North Dakota.”  This item appeared in the 29 December 2009 edition of the Valley City Times-Record and, I expect, in several other newspapers throughout the state.


I would love to critique Senator Conrad’s public interpretation of the health-care reform bill by a careful application of reason to the facts.  The facts, however, are hard to come by, both because of the sleazy midnight machinations of the Democrats, and because the bill still needs to be reconciled between the House and Senate versions.  So how can Sen. Conrad make such definite statements about what the bill will be and what it will do?  Has he even read the versions of the bill that are currently available?  If he has, it would be reassuring for him to say so.  It cannot be assumed that he has done so.


There are, however, a few points that can be addressed:


1. Even President Obama no longer cites the mythical 46,000,000 uninsured.  His last-cited figure was closer to 30,000,000.  Does Senator Conrad cite 46 million because he is from the out-of-touch boondocks—as people from elsewhere in this country might suspect?  Does he think we are dimwits who can’t keep up with the news? Is that why he retails this more impressive and outdated lie?  In any case, the Senate version of the health-care bill will still leave 18 million uninsured.  Amazing, but true.


2. According to Senator Conrad, “ … we lag far behind other advanced countries on key health measures, from infant mortality to life expectancy.”  This, if true, is still irrelevant to this bill.  Many of the factors affecting health statistics lie outside the practice of medicine itself.  One such factor is the closeness of family ties—a sociological matter.  Greece for example, ranks quite low in access to high-tech medical treatment, yet ranks very high in health and longevity.  This surprising finding reflects the importance of family in Greece; in fact generally speaking, family and other relationships show a strong positive correlation with national health (See Health of Nations, Leonard A. Sagan, 1987).  This “family-factor” in health may go far toward explaining North Dakota’s consistently high state ranking in the categories of health and longevity—in spite of the traditionally very bad eating habits of the population. In citing the disparity in “key health measures” between the United States and other countries in the context of the health-care bill, Senator Conrad reveals his ignorance.  In his defense, it is an ignorance shared by most of his colleagues.


3. Throughout his article, Senator Conrad expects us to believe his account of this entirely partisan bill.  Believing him has its problems: first of all, he’s a politician, and secondly … well … I guess no more need be said.  It would, however, be nice to have some version of this bill—written and presented in a reasonable form—available for study.  But it is clear that the “most transparent administration ever” is actually almost completely opaque.


4. No rationing?  Cut $450,000,000,000 out of Medicare and not have rationing?  My fellow geezers, prepare to die!  (By the way, the Death Panels have been fully re-instituted with the added—probably unconstitutional—stipulation that under no circumstances can this aspect of the bill be repealed by a subsequent administration.)


5. Reduce the federal deficit?  Add 30,000,000 people to the system, broaden coverage, and have higher quality health care?  This will reduce the deficit?  I won’t dignify this with a comment.


6. In spite of many years in close association with several aspects of the medical field, I do not recall a single case of anyone being unjustly dropped by a health insurance company.  I am sure that it must happen occasionally, and I would be happy to hear of any such cases, but I am skeptical about the claimed frequency.  Actually, I haven’t actually heard any numbers in this regard, so I am all the more suspicious of the claims.  From my own experience—which is somewhat better informed than the average person’s—this problem is well short of epidemic.  Recently, a friend of mine, stricken with the highly fatal and often recurring form of cancer, melanoma, was—after treatment and after having to move to another state and change his insurance company—not only able to obtain health insurance from Blue Cross/Blue Shield, but do so at a reasonable rate.


7. Regarding health insurance companies: One of the game plans of this administration is to demonize whomever they wish to control, and they have demonized both insurance companies and medical professionals.  Administration claims of overcharging for medical procedures have been shown to be contrived and false.  And the avaricious health insurance companies are ranked 86th in terms of profitability at about 3.4% profit.


8. Part of the Obamacare bull, er, bill states that health insurance companies must cover individuals regardless of pre-existing conditions.  At the same time, people have the option of not buying coverage.  They must, however, pay a nominal fine, which is much less than what premiums will be.  Therefore, one can wait until a health problem occurs, then get insurance.  How can that work out?  Try smashing up your new Cadillac Escalade and then buying a collision policy to cover it.


9. Senator Conrad (emphasis on “Con”), states that “my proposal to create new consumer-run co-op health plans and national nonprofit plans [will] provide more competition.”  This sounds very much like something that could turn out to be merely a variant on the so-called “government option” plan, whereby a system is set up in which private insurance cannot compete.  (Key principle of government: It never has to make a profit, so it can undercut everyone else.).


10. To keep this short—in stark contrast to the size of the health-care bill—a politician’s claims that the government has created a bill that will “reduce the deficit,” “control cost,” “preserve Medicare,” “embrace choice,” “expand coverage,” and “reward quality and efficiency,” is as much a pile of black hooey as you are likely to hear this side of the Devil’s Domain.  That a member of an arguably criminal organization (Congress) raises the issue of reforming the insurance industry, or anyone else for that matter, takes the concept of chutzpah to cosmic levels.


11.  Why is it that with two wars going on, a very incompetent and leaky Homeland Security administration, unemployment somewhere north of 10%, and a budget and national debt that can only be understood by economists with a background in astronomy, the entire overheated and panting United States Congress has been focused on passing and implementing a health-care bill that not only stinks, but doesn’t take effect for four years? (We will, however, start paying for the non-existent benefits around the end of this month.  Happy New Year!)


12. A ready supply of medical professionals to accommodate the overnight influx of 30,000,000 people into the health-care system is barely discussed—a problem likely to be severely compounded by a high number of medical professionals who will take early retirement or quit outright.  Many will certainly quit taking Medicare patients.  I suspect that the Democrats will take care of these problems with amnesty for illegal aliens.  Nothing that I know of is mentioned about medical education, nor of medical research in Senator Conrad’s Superbill.


It is said that to retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them being made.  This health-care sausage we are being served has been made out of such a rancid stew of lies and bad ideas that what is actually produced, while familiar in shape, is quite other than sausage.  It is more like what you get when a snake finishes digesting a lizard.


Is the good Senator correct in saying that health care reform benefits North Dakota?  I am certain it would, should we ever have any reform that made sense.  Senator Conrad takes credit for the “frontier states amendment” which will give North Dakota $65,000,000 a year to support Democrat medical programs.  Senator Nelson of Nebraska got $1,200,000,000 guaranteed.  Standing next to the great Nebraska gold-gobbler Senator Nelson, Senator Conrad appears a piker at generational theft and an embarrassment to North Dakota as a horse trader.


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