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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

The Problem with General Motors

Category: Society
Posted: 10/15/05 10:40

by Dave Mindeman

When General Motors, one of the top Fortune 500 companies in America, is thinking of bankruptcy, the question has to be asked -- why? Executives at GM didn't mention sagging car sales or a stagnant economy or even global competition. No, the answer came quickly and unequivocally -- health care costs.

When you talk to legislative budget makers, their #1 problem is always health care. Medical liability affects Car Insurance, malpractice for Physicians, and umbrella policies. Medical issues is cited for a large proportion of bankruptcies. Nursing home care drains the life time earnings of hard working people. Even healthy individuals are affected, for the costs and expenses involved with health care affects prices and benefit packages for everyone.

It is the underlying expense, the behemoth expense, of our economy; and it will devour GDP completely unless we start fixing it rather than plugging the leaks.

Past solutions that our Congress and legislatures have proposed show a lack of understanding of the problem. They approach health care as a simple business model. They want to cut the expenses, reduce the benefits, reduce access. It is simply the wrong approach.

Health Care does not respond to usual business models. It is not consumer driven. It is not responsive to the marketplace. Profits are not measured in the usual way. Competition is restricted and in some cases outlawed. It is controlled by third partys, not the participants.

You don't believe me? Consider the following:

1) Drug Patents. Somehow the pharmaceutical industry has convinced regulators that they need extended patents to recoup the "enormous" research and development costs it takes to bring a new drug to market under our regulatory system. They have been granted that privilege with the additional means of getting extensions without giving up anything in the way of profits. They set their own prices in an environment devoid of competition.

2) Price Negotiation. When was the last time you negotiated your Doctor or Hospital bill? Never? Well that would be normal. Pricing is not set by the consumer, it is set by insurance or government payors. None of them have any personal stake in the negotiations except for the monetary payment. We sign insurance contracts that we do not understand; and they negotiate OUR needs based on actuarial and probability tables we will never see. And then, of course, there is the lack of price negotiation with pharmaceutical companies, who not only have patent protection, but they also, now, have pricing protection guaranteed in the Medicare Part D Prescription program.

3) Timing of Delivery. We have little control over the timing of our health care needs. We could have some input into preventive care, but most of that is rarely covered by insurance and so we do not access it. Most of our health care is based on crisis management and that is clearly an impossible way to control costs. When you need help, you need it immediately and from the nearest provider.

These are not the usual criteria that fit into a neat package of the normal business model. We keep trying to make it fit and that only makes it worse.

There is only one real answer. Total, universal coverage. And that coverage will need to be adapted to the workplace with a greater business partnership. We need to stop monetarily penalizing companies who do the right thing.....the companies that give ALL of their employees health care access. They need rewards and incentives to continue and expand their coverage and at the same time the government needs to fill in every single gap. We need to separate the catastrophic health coverage cases from the others. A case can be made, that to ease the health care burden on business, catastrophic coverage should be underwritten by a government supplemental program that would allow a large base to negotiate with regional carriers. And for crying out loud, change that ridiculous provision in the Medicare drug program that prohibits negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

Everyone should be required to have health care coverage. It needs to be just like car insurance. You need to be required to carry the proof. The poor will need government subsidy. The healthy will be able to shop for the best insurance deal, but unless we all have it, it cannot work.

And the only efficient way to do this is to have the government and business create a health care web that gives each of us the opportunity for health care access in a manner that is affordable, efficient, and complete. It can only be done if both sectors are included and cooperative. It can be done, but it will only work if profits are reasonable and coverage is transferable.

At some point, we all enter the health care system. It may be an accident or a sudden disease state, or a life-long problem.... but at some point we all get there. From the beginning of life to the end of life... health care is a part of our life.... but it must not control our way of life.
comments (1) permalink

Never Ending Stadiums

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 10/08/05 12:15

by Dave Mindeman

I'm a huge sports fan. I love the Twins, Vikings, and Gophers. I would love to see outdoor baseball again and have always thought it was a mistake to have Gopher football move off campus. But this endless debate about stadiums has got to get some "real world" perspective.

Legislative time should not be focusing on stadiums when we have so many needs being ignored. I don't mind stadiums being built and if they can come up with creative financing that doesn't pick the taxpayer pocket..... hey, I'm fine with that.

But a special session? It is hard to imagine that this topic can really be a "crisis". We may lose some contributing dollars from some artificial deadlines set by donors or corporations but why should that dictate the functions of state government?

We have lost far more valuable money because of legislative inaction than this... take federal transportation allotments for one example.

I want to keep our pro sports teams. They are a source of state pride and regardless of what detractors say, they are an economic revenue source. But after watching cut after cut on programs that people depend on, somehow the stadium watch seems pretty darn meaningless.
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Be Careful When Describing Your Enemy

Posted: 10/06/05 19:19, Edited: 05/26/13 11:25

by Dave Mindeman

Below you will find the final two paragraphs of Bush's speech given on Thursday at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington. I would like you to read those two paragraphs but I want you to read them with a different slant. Bush is talking about the enemy as the Islamic extremists... but imagine if you will, some other philosophical leader talking about the Neo-Cons and the Bush administration instead:

With the rise of a deadly enemy and the unfolding of a global ideological struggle, our time in history will be remembered for new challenges and unprecedented dangers. And yet the fight we have joined is also the current expression of an ancient struggle, between those who put their faith in dictators, and those who put their faith in the people. Throughout history, tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision ? and they end up alienating decent people across the globe. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that regimented societies are strong and pure ? until those societies collapse in corruption and decay. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that free men and women are weak and decadent ? until the day that free men and women defeat them.

We don't know the course of our own struggle ? the course our own struggle will take ? or the sacrifices that might lie ahead. We do know, however, that the defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice. We do know the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history. And we do know the cause of freedom will once again prevail.

Whom would you apply this to????
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