If you’re wondering how that ludicrous “Death Panel” thing got started, here’s how it goes as I understand it:

  1. When you are past a certain age or battling a potentially (or guaranteed) terminal illness, you may wish to discuss your concerns with your doctor, particularly with respect to whether you feel you wish to undergo “heroic measures” to keep you alive once your quality of life has seriously started to decline, particularly if those measures will leave you in an even further reduced state.
  2. You doctor can (and should) bill you for this time. If you carry insurance or are on Medicare, your doctor may bill them instead. There’s even a handy code for billing for “end of life” counseling.
  3. Your insurance company, being basically The Enemy, may decide whether or not to honor this or any other claim.
  4. Your government, were it ever to step in as a “single payer” — which last time I checked was off the table — would take the place of the insurance company in item 3, and (supposedly) whatever passes for a panel of experts would decide under what circumstances a claim for “end of life counseling” would get paid. Not that I have any idea what the problem getting the government to cover an “end of life counseling” claim might be. Medicare does it all the time — as long as the patient’s age and/or general state of health warrants it.
  5. From here it kind of takes a panicked moron to take it from panel of government experts deciding which claims to pay under which circumstances (as if that’s any different from an insurance company’s panel of experts deciding which claims to pay under which circumstances) to a panel of government experts paying a doctor to talk to you about dying if they don’t want to pay for your expensive procedures anymore.
  6. Yippee! Death Panels!

“Death Panels” aside, if you’re worried about this shadowy panel of experts who decide what claims get honored and which get rejected, odds are they’d just use the same shadowy panel of experts they’ve been using to judge Medicare claims for many decades, whose names are a matter of public record and whose opinions are published with much documentation in every edition of the freely available, published online monthly (if a bit hefty in page count) Federal Register.

Conversely, it would probably take a team of spies and possibly a thug with a crowbar to reveal who the @$$hole is at your health insurance company who has turned down treatment for your teenage daughter’s sexual assault due to it somehow being a “pre-existing condition”. (Actual example from recent press — look it up on Google if you missed it.)

You’re welcome.


March 24, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else  

For the record, regarding the current busted-ass healthcare reform bill lurching its way through the ol’ “I’m Just a Bill” system, I’m tremendously relieved that it’s finally here. I look at the motherless Frankensteinian corpse that’s just barely twitching, with a face not even a Nancy Pelosi could love, with outright glee and pride.

I’ll tell you why, because I can see from here that you’re curious.

We’ve been arguing for damned near fifty years — from back in Nixon’s day, when he first suggested maybe we ought to do something about the upcoming healthcare crisis — about what to even put on the slab. Now that we have SOMETHING on the slab, we can get busy with the sculpting and the surgery. Before we’re done we may replace every arm and leg a couple of times, every critical organ a dozen times, add more fat, remove the fat, switch out the brain several times for something a little less “Abby Normal”, but at least there’s something on the slab now, and … it’s alive.

The most back-assward part of the bill is that we’ve made health insurance (mostly) mandatory without actually making it affordable — and that REALLY SUCKS for broke people like myself, who start the game with no business subsidizing my policy. More on that later.

Anyway, via (largely) this Huffington Post article, these are the top eighteen or so things we can expect out of our new experimental beast:

  • A ban on “pre-existing condition” clauses. ASAP for children (I don’t know whether this means dependents up to age 27 — see below — or tops out at 17 or 18) but won’t go into effect for us older folk until 2014, if we can hang on that long.
  • Businesses with fewer than 50 employees can expect a tax credit to subsidize 50% of the premiums for covered employees.
  • A rebate for seniors filling in 50% of that pesky donut-hole problem for Medicare prescription drug coverage. Expect 100% of these seniors to vote Democrat in the next election.
  • You can keep your dependent younguns on a parent’s plan until age 27.
  • No more lifetime caps on the amount of insurance payouts. Annual caps will be banned in 2014.
  • A temporary pool to cover “high-risk” pre-existing condition adults. Won’t be necessary after 2014. Odds are, your ‘rhoids and recurring migraines (and anxiety and depression) will have to wait.
  • New plans will have NO COPAYS for checkups and preventative care. Similar copays for existing plans will be phased out by 2018.
  • You will not have your coverage terminated if you fall expensively ill.
  • Insurers must now report regularly and publicly on how much of your premiums are wasted on company overhead.
  • Insurers must provide an appeals process for matters of coverage and claims denials.
  • Expanded Medicare services for rural areas  who typically have too few Medicare patients to make coverage cost effective to providers.
  • A 15% cap to overhead costs for nonprofit insurance orgs that wish to keep their tax benefits
  • Expanded nutrient (or lack thereof) disclosure regulations for our thriving crap-food industry
  • A subsidy to help cover ludicrously expensive early-retiree policies
  • A publicly funded website to help citizens and businesses shop for affordable insurance options
  • A $2 billion fund to encourage investment in researching new therapies for preventing and treating diseases

Funding will come from:

  • A 10%t tax on indoor tanning services (replaces a suggested tax on cosmetic procedures)
  • Cutting out subsidies to banks for proving guaranteed student loans. The government will simply provide these loans itself and cut out the middleman, saving a tidy sum. And pissing off bankers. We’re all for that.
  • New and improved screening procedures to cut down on insurance claim fraud and waste
  • Umm?

As far as the missing pieces to make insurance cheaper are concerned…. What gives?

The entire system is built around “other people’s money” syndrome. It’s worse than what Vegas does by changing your money for chips so it hurts less to throw it away. I mean, who cares? Order every expensive and experimental test in the books because it doesn’t come out of a real person’s pockets. Keep the patient coming back in for whatever old reason because we only get income when someone submits a claim through the works. Prescribe a metric #^@&ton of barely tested designer drugs with a huge swathes of barely tolerable side effects FOR WHICH YOU CAN TAKE MORE DRUGS because pushing pills is how drug companies make their money, and BESIDES, IT’S ALL PAID FOR WITH OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY! Not REAL money, OUT OF YOUR OWN POCKET money….

Also, the medical industry organism, in the USA, in any case, is designed to operate as a parasitic infection. It must provide SOME symbiotic benefit to keep us from eradicating it completely, but it maximizes its own wealth and resources by KEEPING US AS SICK AS POSSIBLE FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE WITHOUT ACTUALLY KILLING US — and also encourages such bull$#!% as INVENTING NEW DISEASES TO CONVINCE US WE ARE SICK SO WE GO WASTE A DOCTOR’S VALUABLE TIME AND DEMAND SOME MEDICINE.

I’m looking at you, Latisse.

Until we fix that little design flaw — until the medical industry is redesigned to thrive ONLY WHEN WE OURSELVES DO, we will always be its prey instead of its beneficiary.

And yes, that means I think the current healthcare hoohah is simply rearranging deckchairs while the Titanic is sinking. But I am thrilled that people are beginning to realize that SOMETHING needs doing and are actively looking around for what to do — even if that means we’re going to be stuck with ol’ Frankenstein for a few years. He ought to be able to reorganize deckchairs like nobody’s business so we can get back to looking for a real fix.


March 23, 2010 · Posted in reviews  

Lucia de Berk’s conviction will go down as one of the most serious miscarriages of justice in Dutch legal history, according to the Dutch daily newspaper NRC.

I originally wrote about this case back around Halloween of 2007 here. If you haven’t read the background first, I recommend you go take a peek. It was some damned good writing, if I do say so myself — good enough to thoroughly alienate a few Dutch friends of mine.

Anyway, the Dutch equivalent to our Attorney General’s office has decided that there were actually no crimes committed, thus it’s pretty unlikely that Lucia de Berk is a murderess, serial or otherwise, and maybe she shouldn’t have spent all that time in jail away from her partner and growing daughter. It’ll take another month for the ruling judge to come back with his final verdict, and THEN there’s the matter of compensation for being unjustly imprisoned and having her life yanked out from under her feet like a cheap rug by a DA who was hot for the glory of putting away a rare pretty female serial killer.

She might not get as much recompense as I would’ve hoped because there were some problems with her qualifications for having gotten her job as a nurse in the first place, but anything would be good. Currently she’s on the dole because 1) she had a stroke in prison and is possibly worse off from that than she should be because no one was around (like, say, family) to notice quickly and get her to treatment and 2) no one will hire her for anything because, like, she’s still a convicted serial killer. Oh, but she’s NOT ACTUALLY on the dole because they don’t give out welfare to convicted serial killers.

But hey, at least she’s not still in jail.

This won’t be over until she has some kind of compensation in hand for what this failure of the Dutch legal system did to her. Let’s see what happens NEXT month.


March 17, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else