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Conservative Fear April 20, 2010

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Government, Health Care, Science & Society, The Obama Administration.

Jason Arvak writes a post at The Moderate Voice entitled The Slide Down The Slippery Slope Begins. In it he argues that the concerns that conservatives professed about government interference in the tiny details of our private lives just might be justified because the FDA is thinking of proposing standards to reduce the amount of salt in processed foods. He ends his post with the line “But it is unclear why they are unwilling to allow the government into the bedroom but perfectly willing to shove it into our kitchen pantry.”. While he links to an article on the proposals in the Washington Post he does not mention why this proposal is being put forth. From the WP article:

Until now, the government has pushed the food industry to voluntarily reduce salt and tried to educate consumers about the dangers of excessive sodium. But in a study to be released Wednesday, an expert panel convened by the Institute of Medicine concludes that those measures have failed. The panel will recommend that the government take action, according to sources familiar with the findings.

He also doesn’t mention why this proposal is important. Back to the WP article with the emphasis being added by me.

A recent study by researchers at Columbia and Stanford universities and the University of California at San Francisco found that cutting salt intake by 3 grams a day could prevent tens of thousands of heart attacks, strokes and cases of heart disease.

Most salt eaten by Americans — 77 percent — comes from processed foods, making it difficult for consumers to limit salt to healthy levels, experts say.

“We can’t just rely on the individual to do something,” said Cheryl Anderson, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who served on the Institute of Medicine committee. “Food manufacturers have to reduce the amount of sodium in foods.”

Is there some conspiracy to enter our kitchens and confiscate our table salt? No. Is it at all likely that this is going to happen? Once again, no. In fact, the industry, with the exception of the Salt Institute, is working with the government and has been for a while and both groups recognize the problems inherent in the attempts to reach this goal as this bit shows.

Above all, government officials and food industry executives say, a product with reduced salt must still taste good, or it will flop in the marketplace, as evidenced by several low-sodium products that had abysmal sales.

“Historically, consumers have found low-sodium products haven’t been of the quality that’s expected,” said Todd Abraham, senior vice president of research and nutrition for Kraft Foods. “We’re all trying to maintain the delicious quality of the product but one that consumers recognize as healthier.”

So while it may be something that conspiracy theorists will love to seize upon as a weapon against the evils of Obamacare I just don’t think it’s very good ammo for them.


So Much for Health Care Reform January 10, 2009

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Corruption, Government, Health Care, Health Insurance, Politics.

Tom Daschle is promising that health care reform will be truly bipartisan. If by this he means that he won’t be pushing for anything that the Republicans won’t sign up for then meaningful reform that will help the uninsured in this country is dead. The Republicans in the House and Senate will never go along with anything that doesn’t protect the current profit levels (If not even more.) of the insurance companies, the large publicly held hospital chains and the pharmaceutical industry. Given those limitations you cannot accomplish anything that will really help. All you have to do in order to understand that is read the position expressed by Senator Michael Enzi R-WY. What’s really important? Not the uninsured. Not cost control. Not the health of millions of Americans. It’s the insurance companies.

“Any new insurance coverage must be delivered through private insurance plans,” said Senator Michael B. Enzi, Republican of Wyoming and his party’s ranking member on the Health committee, in prepared comments for the hearing, the panel’s first session of the year.

There’s some real caring and compassion for you. Care for corporations, that is.

Related Issues November 13, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Government, Health Care, Health Insurance.
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I stumbled across this article through Google news. It’s always sad when someone joins in with others who just miss the point completely. If you do something to help take care of the health care situation and do it properly then it will in fact help the economy.

About That Wonderful, Honest Free Market Health Care System… February 17, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Health Care, Health Insurance.

The New York Times reports on an investigation by New York state AG Andrew Cuomo that has uncovered what appears to be a rigged system to determine the “reasonable and customary” rates charged by health care providers. The determination is made by a company named Ingenix and is used by insurers to determine payments made by insurance companies when customers have to see doctors outside of the insurers’ networks. The problem is that Ingenix is owned wholely by UnitedHealth Group. Golly gee, there’s no room for a possibility of abuse, is there? Cuomo not only thinks there is but has done investigations that seem to show that abuse has been taking place. What a shock.

Health Care Needs More January 27, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Government, Health Care, Health Insurance.
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I like the essence of Senator Obama’s health care ideas but I think we just need to go farther. Comparisons to the system in Canada and Great Britain are always made by conservatives but they ignore other countries that have more government involvement than we do, including single payer systems that work much better than those two countries. This of course includes the rest of Europe. But in the real world it is questionable whether even any of those variations would be politically achievable in the United States. So I tried to think of something else. If anyone stumbles across this blog opinions and input are something I’d love to read.

First, nothing beyond current regulations except for consumer protection legislation would be passed limiting private insurance companies. But they’re still going to have to adapt to the existence of a new type of insurance organization. This organization would have a closer relationship to the government than the Post Office, but like it not be an actual agency of the government. It would be a purely non-profit health care organization like no other.


“The free market can do it!” Redux October 14, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Economics, Health Care, Health Insurance.
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David Broder writes about a plan to fix our health care problems with a “publicly subsidized individual health insurance”. Of course this concept is somewhat useless. OK, it’s lots of “thought” about a proposal that will do nothing to help improve our system. Why won’t it? The key lies in this paragraph.

Instead, the report calls on government to restructure the private insurance market in less rigid form than Hillary Clinton proposed 14 years ago — and then step back and let competitive market forces do their invaluable work of forcing recalcitrant insurers, doctors and hospitals to bid against each other on the basis of price and quality.

Competitive market forces do not simply function magically in a vacuum. The primary concept behind the ability of the market to accomplish what these people expect it to is the rational choice theory, which is also used in other social sciences. Rational choice in turn relies on a rational actor. The assumption of the existence of a rational actor is one where the people taking part in the economy are willing and able to make a choice based purely on their knowledge of their needs, the product being purchased and their ability to pay for it. It does not account for irrational fears, emotions or choices based on incomplete information or lack of understanding. The plain truth is that the vast majority of the American populace does not have any information base for making these choices and the plans that hope to use the magic of the free markets do not address that fact. There are economists and social scientists addressing the limitations of this part of neoclassical economic theory, as shown by this article in Harvard Magazine but apparently those who are proposing that the market will solve the problems in the American health care system don’t acknowledge them. They also don’t acknowledge the desire of those in the health care industry to distort rational choice with advertising, small print, legalese and the ability to in effect change the terms of any agreement unilaterally much as their compatriots in other industries do. Look at this article from SmartMoney and realize that those who propose that the current system, largely unchanged, is what we need to stick with believe it is perfectly acceptable that consumers go through this routine. I disagree.

Doctor Knows Best October 7, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Government, Health Care, Health Insurance, Politics.
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At least I think that this doctor writing an op-ed for the Washington Post does. He calls the Republicans for their constant refrain of socialism, socialist and socialized when ranting against their political opponents proposals. There’s just no way it can be called a discussion when this rhetorical overkill and inaccuracy is used.

Of Course the Socialists Aren’t Coming! September 28, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Government, Health Care, Politics.
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Of course that’s not what the New York Times OpEd piece is titled. It is in its way more accurately titled The Socialists Are Coming! The Socialists Are Coming! to highlight the empty rhetoric that is used in attacks on any government involvement in health care…except for the avoidance of attacks on those programs that would crucify them politically like the VA or Medicare.

I particularly like the last paragraph, which points out what I consider to be a basic truth of the debate:

The take-home message for voters is this: Look behind the labels to judge health care proposals on their merits. Whenever you hear a candidate denounce something as a step toward socialized medicine, it probably isn’t. More likely the politician is demagoguing the issue or is abysmally ignorant of the inner workings — and real, not ideological, failings — of the country’s multifaceted health care system.

The Sub-Prime Mess as Part of a Pattern September 2, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Economics, Health Care, Health Insurance.
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That’s what David Ignatius writes about in the Washington Post. What it comes down to is a variation on my criticism of what motivates much of the current American business world. It’s not enough to make a profit. There’s never enough profit, apparently. The search is always on for a greater margin or rate of return no matter how risky or how questionable it might be for the long term good of the company or our society. It doesn’t matter what happens to those thousands of people you fire from their jobs so that Wall Street will approve of you enough to up the stock value and the incomes of those executives who receive a significant part of their income from stock options. There is no other value that matters. Now keep in mind that many would have this environment and set of values determine everything about our health care system.

And On a Related Subject August 26, 2007

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Health Care, Health Insurance.
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MSNBC also informs you of 9 Things the Insurers Don’t Want You to Know. Among them is that if you become expensive to them they’ll go over your records to see if there is absolutely anything that they can use against you as a reason to drop your coverage retroactively. They call it recission.

You know how the insurance companies tell you that you should get things pre-approved? Look at this little gem.

 “Preapproval is often what triggers the rescission review,” says Shernoff. “If it’s for hip surgery, that’s an expensive item that they’ll look at and see if you’re a candidate for rescission.

Catch-22, anyone?