Category Archives: Health

President Obama “I’m not perfect”

So President Obama made the best of a bad situation regarding the Affordable Care Act. He’s allowing the insurance industry to extend existing health plans for a year. This applies to individual and small group markets. In doing so, the president tried to stop the bleeding that stems from being seen as not telling the truth when he said people who liked their plans could keep them.

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A CBS News tally says nearly five million people across the country are being dropped from insurance plans by the industry, not by the president. People need to be clear that these dropped plans are essentially failures, since many don’t meet basic mandates for things like maternity care, emergency room visits (quite expensive, these), and mental health treatment.

President Obama is up against a political buzzsaw here, and only part of it was of his making. The botched rollout of the government Website, combined with the perception that he went back on his word made Obamacare a four letter word in the minds of many. The other problem is this. If people have a cheap insurance plan and don’t use it, they like it. After all, it’s a small amount of money, and many people, especially younger folks, don’t worry about getting sick.

The firestorm all this has created is amazing, given that we’re only talking about 5% of all Americans in the individual market in the first place. But you know what they say about the squeaky wheel…..

I know he couldn’t do this, but I would have loved to see Barack Obama double down on this existing plan thing. What better time to say to the insurance companies that if they’re going to cancel policies (and be clear, they didn’t have to), the government would provide insurance for those affected. If the CBS tally of 4.8 million cancellations is correct, that makes a great base for a PUBLIC OPTION.

Yeah I know he can’t do it. But don’t you wish he would?

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Does the Senate Have the Guts to Pass Healthcare Reform?

This past weekend’s vote to begin debate in the upper House was heartening, but anyone who follows politics knows it’s the first skirmish in a long battle. Credit ought to be given to Majority Leader Harry Reid for having the guts to see the first step through.

I have been critical of his leadership in the past, but I take it all back (can you do that in one post?). Harry Reid came through like a champ, not like some of his colleagues, and I’m not talking about Republicans. You don’t expect them to have any heart when it comes to providing quality affordable care to millions of Americans for whom that’s just a pipe dream now.

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I’m talking about  a few Senate Democrats, and that independent who dares to caucus with them. Joe Lieberman should have been tossed out on his ear the day he addressd the Republican National Convention on behalf of John McCain. Now he couldn’t wait until the last echoes of Saturday’s vote to allow debate to go on tv and try to eviscerate the public option. “If the public option is still in there, the only resort we have is to say no at the end to reporting the bill off the floor,” says the Senator from Connecticut. Ben Nelson of Nebraska isn’t much better.

What they’re saying is the next step, after a lot of contentious debate, may be for opponents of the bill to filibuster.  At that point, the only recourse may be the complex and misunderstood procress of reconciliation. Trust me, it’s not nearly as benign as it sounds. Suffice to say that’s how Bush got his two tax cuts through, but would it work for healthcare reform?

Reconciliation is about the only way you can get a bill through the Senate without the 60 votes necessary to bring it to the floor. That is, bypassing the usual obstructive devices, like the filibuster. The jury is still out of whether the health bill fits the criteria necessary to be eligible for reconciliation. Absent that, Harry Reid will have to find a couple of Republicans who will go along with the overwhelming majority of Democrats to get this thing done.

This is usually the cue for political junkies to look to the two senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Snowe, however, has as big a problem with the public option as Lieberman does. Make no mistake. A bill without a public option isn’t acceptable, nor should it be to President Obama (we’ll see).

So you tell me. Does this Senate have the guts to pass a healthcare reform bill with a public option?

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Suicide Soldiers. Why are So Many Killing Themselves in active duty?

The Army says there are already as many active duty suicides in their ranks this year as all of last. That number has reached 140. This news won’t get nearly as much play as whether the terror trials should be held in New York, or whether alleged Ft. Hood Shooter Hasan is a radical  Muslim terrorist. Yet it ought to concern everyone who say they honor the service of our military.

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In addition to the active duty soldiers who took their own lives, another 71 committed suicide after being taken off active duty, a 25% increase over last year. Army brass are cautioning about drawing any conclusions about why more soldiers are killing themselves. However, the stress being sent to Iraq and/or Afghanistan more than once might be a good place to start.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to do one tour in either of these war zones, spend a few weeks home with your family, then find out you’re going back. Obviously this may not represent the experience of a majority of suicides, and in fact one third of them had never been deployed abroad. Yet it could play a role.

This increased suicide rate takes on added significance in the wake of the Ft. Hood Massacre. The actions of the alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, have caused the military to take a second look at whether it’s missing signs of depression in its ranks. Consider that the rate of suicides per 100,000 people in the US is 11.1. Among active duty soldiers, that number is 20 per 100,000.

Something is wrong here. The folks at the top of the military food chain acknowledge this, and let’s hope they get to the bottom of it. Even as the President talks about phasing out the stop loss policy that sends soldiers back into harm’s way again and again, it hasn’t stopped yet.

Part II may have a bit to do with the current state of the US economy. Even as we say we honor the service of our military, the economic downturn has made it more difficult for them to find work after their service is done. Some may see staying in the military as an unpalatable job of last resort.

And then there’s this. Could some soldiers be so stressed out at the prospect of being sent into a combat zone that they take their own lives? Until the hysteria began, Maj. Hasan was believed to be experiencing  just that kind of stress.

So you tell me. Why are so many soldiers killing themselves? And what do we need to do to stop it?

Resources:

Soldier Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention Lifetime

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