Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Provo Daily Herald Illustrates Irony

When I am in the mood to read something that combines terrible writing with bad ideas I often will turn to the Opinion page of the Provo Daily Herald. The latest beauty is ironically titled "You Really Can't Make This Up." They proceed to make up a bunch of ridiculous claims about health care reform and make analogies that make no sense. You know when just the title contains a healthy amount of cliches and colloquialisms that you are in for something magical.

The article starts off thusly:
It's sometimes charged that those of us who are skeptical of Democrat health care plans are relying on myths and outright lies.
That's because many of those that of skeptical of Democrat health care plans are relying on myths and outright lies. But let's avoid getting slowed down by facts and jump right into the meat of the article.
For instance, advocates of a wholesale health overhaul reject any idea that the government would meddle in the most intimate personal issues ... that is, until the government does just that.
Definition of "meddle": To intrude into other people's affairs or business; interfere. Now the example given in the article of how the government will meddle in our personal affairs if we pass health care reform:
Last month word leaked out that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were thinking of recommending circumcision for baby boys in the U.S. even though the American Academy of Pediatrics has held since 1999 that it's a personal matter, not a medical one.
Two things. First, how does a recommendation from a scientific body, based on facts and research, amount to meddling? Is there a hoard of rampaging CDC employees roaming the countryside circumcising baby boys? Is there any indication that the CDC will require, by law, circumcision? Or is this just a recommendation? This is a case of some paranoid conservative twisting any announcement or action by the government into a scary story about government control of our lives. Next time, look up words like "meddle" before using them.

Second, what does this have to do with the health care reform debate? The article states that it is appropriate because "It's a reminder that medical issues remain incredibly complex." So the article brought up a scary story about government circumcisions just to make the point that medical issues are complex? I believe they will continue to be complex with or without health care reform, so this analogy is moot, and ill-conceived.

The article is also interested in a book co-authored by a science adviser to President Obama, John Holdren, written in the 70s in which there is a section devoted to population control. Somehow, and I won't try to tease out the logic because I doubt it exists, we are supposed to be afraid of "mandatory sterilization or even forced abortion" from the health care reform because of this book. I believe this is what we refer to as a "scare tactic," only this is so laughably insane that it isn't so scary.

Next, the PDH wants us to know that government-run health care will treat people callously. This is because in England (which, as you know, will administer whatever health care reform Americans enact) there is something called the Liverpool Care Pathway. It is a set of recommendations for English physicians and care-workers to use during end-of-life scenarios. No matter how awful this seemingly benign program actually is, it has nothing to do with American health care reform. We are not enacting the Liverpool Care Pathway, despite the lies there is no death panel or anything even approaching it, government officials are in no way empowered to choose who dies and who lives. It's all just lies. Lies.

Yet the article ends darkly with conspiracy theories:
Instead what happens is that year after year the bureaucracies spew out regulations. Year after year bureaucrats accumulate power. There's no big announcement. Just thousands of pages of regulation, and government officials following orders. A casual comment here, some whispers there and maybe a few nods and meaningful glances. With all that, a program's goals slowly and subtly evolve.
I love the image of government bureaucrats passing each other in the halls of some scary looking secret government building giving furtive looks and nods, whispering things to each other that they suddenly cut off when a stranger approaches, plotting to use health care reform to kill sick people.

Sure, it is sold as a program to provide affordable health care to the tens of millions of Americans that can't afford it. It is sold as a program to end insurance company atrocities like charging more for women, withholding payment of blatantly covered procedures and medications, and denying coverage because of some vague notion of "pre-existing conditions." It is sold as a program to help average, everyday Americans live a higher quality of life. But we all know it is all just ruse to give power-hungry government bureaucrats power over our lives.

It turns out you can make this stuff up.


grayfox said...

You could point out to these people directly how they are flat out wrong or grossly misinformed but it wouldn't matter to them.

They have an irrational fear that "the government" is after them and is always up to, and planning, no good.

Despite the flaws of Britains NHS and Canadas Medicare they both have overwhelming support of their respective populations. But people like to complain and even though their systems are vastly superior to our own, they find things to complain.

Anecdotal story, I was chatting with a Canadian friend of mine saying how lucky he must be to have the Canadian Medicare system. He complained about wait times and that he has to pay out of pocket for eye exams and other optometry related expenses. I responded, I don't have insurance nor can I afford it. If something, anything happens to me and I am hospitalized and require expensive care, I will either die because I can't afford it or have mountains of debt and or bankruptcy following me for the rest of my life. My friend then said, Oh god no I wouldn't want the health care system you have down there it's just that we like to complain about things.

Jacob S. said...

You are exactly right. Nobody is completely happy with their health care system. I'm not sure a really great system can even exist. But from what I have read and heard very few people in places like Canada and Europe with more comprehensive health care coverage would switch places with us in America. We hear their bad stories, like long waits and bureaucracy, and think how bad that would be. But ours is worse with people dying or going bankrupt because of lack of coverage. I don't think the current reform and a public option will solve all of our problems, but I do think it will be better than what we have right now.

Josh said...

Jake, that is categorically untrue!!!!! Where are you reading that crap? MOST Canucks that actually need medical aid like life threatening surgeries and cancer treatments would, and many do, run to America rather than wait in line in their Gov-run system. How can the "option" that you support be better than what we have now? I ask again, why does the government need to run an insurance business? Why can health care reform - which I support, by the way - not just revolve around reform? Let's put up some control measures on insurance, doctors, and lawyers, and drive the current prices down to affordable. Also, let's put some control on the users and abusers that you don't want to believe exist. The government has the right to control industry to an extent, to give us all a fair life. The government does not, as I have pointed out, have the right to go into business!

Also, fear of the government is not irrational. It is the founding principal of this government and this nation!!!

Jacob S. said...

Canadians prefer their health care system to ours by a pretty hefty margin:


Canadians and English approve of their health care system more than we approve of ours by a pretty hefty margin:


Again, these are not perfect systems, they are preferable to ours.

Now, as for a public option. The government competes with the private industry in a lot of places. This typically occurs where the free market failed. I think it is more important for Americans to have affordable health care available to them than for the government to stay completely out of the market. Those are just my values. I generally want government to stay out of the market as well, but I'm willing to make exceptions where the need is great enough, like here.

grayfox said...

Josh I would like to see some real figures backing up that claim, "MOST Canadians ... run to America".

Consulting the oracle (google) gave me this: 17,500 Canadians Can’t Be Wrong. No citations, no study, no nothing.

You are concerned about a "government take over" of a health care yet you are advocated increased regulation on doctors, lawyers, and increased scrutiny on the recipients of health care. How about this instead, everyone is covered by the government. Hospitals, doctors, etc, continue to operate as they do but instead of having to call your current for-profit insurance company to get pre-authorization of a treatment, the doctor just does what needs to be done.

Why is this so hard? Please tell me what you don't understand about the USA having higher, by almost double, per capita costs of health care. Or that 44 million, or 14% of our population is not insured or under insured. That we, the richest nation in the world are ranked sub 30 in health care.

Health is already rationed by cost here, and then furthered rationed by insurance companies so they can make a profit. They do this by denying people with pre-existing conditions and exercising rescission.

Again, it is very simple. Medicare for all. Medicare already has an astonishingly low overhead and provides excellent service, and did even more so before private insurance companies received a subsidy at its expense.

Daniel H said...

The op-ed piece is appealing to people who are my parents age (read, most of the people in Utah who can actually be bothered to go VOTE).

These people lived through the zero-population push of the 60's and 70's and are thus terrified that the government will really do it.

It was a visceral thing for many of them because of the teachings of the Church.

Basically, it's pandering to the fear of the masses, and since we can't get the 18-35 year old crowd out to vote in any force we get representation who only listens to the older generations, with their fears and concerns.

Is the way health care reform is panning out the best way? I don't know.

But it's better than what we have now.

Josh said...

No, I am concerned about government take over of ANYTHING. Yes, government must put limits on industry sometimes, to make life more fair for us all. I feel that we have miserably failed in limiting health care, and should rectify it. These limitations can, and should, be put in place without the government going into business. I agree with Jake, it is extremely important that Americans have affordable and FAIR healthcare, but why do we need a government run business to do that? Why can't we try to limit and restrict the industry first, before taking such a drastic, likely unneccessary step?

Jake, I won't get into posting polls, numbers, articles, or anything else that just comes off as a pissing match. You know that I can always find a poll from other sources that shows the complete opposite of what you find...polls are based on demographics, not fact. In truth, I don't care what others are saying enough to go look for it. I may have spoken incorrectly, I only base things on articles I read, which are just as biased to my way of thinking as the ones you read are to yours. My only point is that it does not make sense to give the government the control of our health care and information like this, when it does not seem necessary. Health care is a huge issue, but let's not go too far. Small steps are always better, and easier to reverse if necessary.

One last thing. Look at what you are all saying. So many people are saying the same thing. Something to the effect of: It isn't great but it is better. In other words, you are willing to spend the billions of dollars that federal health care will cost, knowing full well that it is nothing better than putting a band-aid on a bullet hole?

grayfox said...

I agree with Jake, it is extremely important that Americans have affordable and FAIR healthcare, but why do we need a government run business to do that?

Because all the private insurance industry has delivered is greed (rescission, denials), profits (growing, year over year), and suffering (to people with and without insurance). And that is all it will ever deliver.

... Look at what you are all saying. ... Something to the effect of: It isn't great but it is better. In other words, you are willing to spend the billions of dollars that federal health care will cost, knowing full well that it is nothing better than putting a band-aid on a bullet hole?

I'm saying universal/single-payer models are not perfect but they are a hell of a lot better then our profit driven insurance system. Band-aid on a bullet hole? Everyone would be covered and it would save money. You give vague proposals of limitations and regulations to an industry whose sole purpose for existing is to make a profit. Private insurance adds nothing to the actual delivery of health care services.

The solution is simple, it's called HR 676, The National Health Care Act. I suggest you give it a skim, its all of 30 pages long.

And also, as I saw stated on another blog,

There is fully as much data on government paid health care as there is for privately paid health care. Medicare wins hands down. Not sure? Name a single other insurance policy, outside of a government one, that has these features:

no eligibility requirements or physical
no exclusion of pre-existing conditions
no cancellation for excess use of services
no penalty for moving or changing jobs
no re-applying for coverage if moving or changing jobs
a stable, mature program known to both physicians and patients
no marketing cost
no sales cost
no commissions
no bloated executive salaries
no palatial executive suites
no corporate jets or limos

Shawn O. said...

"MOST Canucks that actually need medical aid like life threatening surgeries and cancer treatments would, and many do, run to America rather than wait in line in their Gov-run system."

As a person that has had first-hand involvement in cancer treatment both in the US and Canada, this statement is completely wrong. In fact, the Canadian healthcare system takes an extremely active (and rapid) approach to dealing with cancer. Specifically, the same set of MRI, Ultrasound, and biopsies that took ~2 weeks to complete in the states are completed with 1-2 days in Canada.

Of course there are negative aspects of the system, but if you can find more than 0.1% of Canadians that would give it up, I'll buy you a new AK.

Maybe we should stop being the stereotypical arrogant americans, and actually be willing to admit that other systems function reasonably well, and then emulate the good parts of those systems.

grayfox said...

Haha now I want to go out and find this 0.1% so you'll buy me an AK Shawn. Especially if its a high quality Eastern European variant rather than a cheapo Chinese.

Sorry for the off-topic but couldn't help it at the mention of an AK.

Andrew said...

The Daily Herald article, and so much of the opposition I read around the tubes, is summed up neatly in this sentence:

"A government-run health care system would never treat people callously, would it?"

This is sort of like saying that standing in line at the Post Office sucks as an argument against having a Post Office that everyone can use.

The obvious first response is, how does private insurance treat people? For tens of millions of people it treats them as uninsurable rejects whose health isn't worth preserving. That glaring fact won't go away and, in contrast to 1993, is widely acknowledged. Britain doesn't have that problem. Neither does Canada. Nor does Cuba, for that matter. We're the only "developed" country facing it, and any plan that doesn't resolve it is objectively worse than merely inconvenient health care, or the occasional glitch in the system.

In other words, there's an order-of-magnitude difference between "a few doctors don't like the British health system!" and "40 million Americans don't have and/or can't get insurance". I'd much rather have Britain's problem, and so I bet would all of those uninsured people.

Nobody on the "other" side has yet to produce any plan that addresses this basic failure of our healthcare system. The Daily Herald is no exception. Have you noticed how the furor from August has largely dissipated? That's because the Republicans haven't brought anything to the table that would "move the needle" in this respect. It's one thing to say (ideologically speaking) that you're for free markets and government-run stuff is bad. It's another to show in some sort of empirical way how that ideology translates to a real, workable plan. Republicans, in this regard, are all hat and no cattle.

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