Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Good Intentions, Flimsy Excuses

When good intentions collide head-on with the reality of adverse circumstances, good intentions almost always come out the big loser. To make the point, I’ll cite an example from recent personal experience. While my intention was to do all the things I’d committed to do, the reality was that a sudden downturn in my health—not life-threatening, but life-complicating—forced me to suspend most of my writing activities for the duration. The net result is that I inadvertently ended up screwing the pooch on many of my projects—none of which were more important than my obligation to read and review Portland novelist Bill Cameron’s excellent new thriller, Day One. Oh, the reading part of that project got done in a timely enough fashion; it was the written part of it—you know, the actual review—that couldn’t seem to get written. And for the longest time, it didn’t.

For missing the publishing date, for the long delay in getting my review posted, for missing his book signing at Murder by the Book, I owe Bill Cameron apology on top of apology. Well, Mr. Cameron shall have his apologies (I’m truly sorry, Bill, on all counts), and I shall come away from this debacle thoroughly humbled and with yet another lesson in the application of Murphy’s Law as a permanent part of my résumé.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Health Care Redux

The following blog post, reprinted here unchanged from the original, comes to us courtesy of Barbara O’Brien (The Mahablog, Crooks and Liars, et al.) Barb asked if I would be interested in helping her out by reposting her article; because I stand ready to enlist the pages of Frieddogleg to any number of worthy progressive causes, I readily agreed. Live and learn, then pay it forward.

Health Care Reform Will Help Everybody

Many Americans assume the new health care reform act will benefit mostly the poor and uninsured and hurt everyone else, according to polls. As Matt Yglesias wrote, “Basically, people see this as a bill that will take resources from people who have health insurance and give it to people who don’t have health insurance.” Those who still oppose the reform say that people ought to pay for their own health care.

We all believe in the virtues of hard work and self-reliance, but these days it’s a fantasy to think that anyone but the mega-wealthy will not, sooner or later, depend on help from others to pay medical bills. And that’s true no matter how hard you work, how much you love America, or how diligently you take care of yourself. The cost of medical care has so skyrocketed that breaking an arm or leg could cost as much as a new car. And if you get cancer or heart disease — which can happen even to people who live healthy lifestyles — forget about it. The disease will not only clean you out; it will leave a whopping debt for your survivors to pay.

And the truth is, we all pay for other peoples’ health care whether we know it or not. When people can’t pay their medical bills, the cost of their health care gets added to everyone else’s bills and insurance premiums. When poor people use emergency rooms as a doctor of last resort, their care is not “free.” You pay for it.

Another common fantasy about medical care is that the “free market” provides incentives for medical companies to develop innovative new drugs and treatments for disease without government subsidy. It’s true that private enterprise is very good at developing profitable health care products. But not all medical care can be made profitable.

For years, the U.S. government has been funding medical research that the big private companies don’t want to do because there is too much cost for the potential profit. This is especially true for diseases that are rare and expensive to treat. An example of a recent advance made possible by government grants include new guidelines for malignant pleural mesothelioma treatment developed by MD Anderson Cancer Center researchers. Another is a blood screening test developed by mesothelioma doctors like thoracic surgeon Dr. David Sugarbaker. The health reform act provides for more dollars for such research, from which even many of the tea party protesters will benefit.

The biggest fantasy of all was that people who had insurance didn’t have to worry about health care costs. But the fact is that in recent years millions of Americans have been bankrupted by medical costs, and three-quarters of the medically bankrupt had health insurance. And yes, insurance companies even dumped hard-working, law-abiding patriots. But the health care reform act will put an end to that, and now America’s hard-working, law-abiding patriots are more financially secure, whether they like it or not.

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