Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bowling 1, Health Care 0

I deeply admire Elizabeth Edwards. She speaks the truth when others pussyfoot around it. Read her Op-Ed piece, Bowling 1, Heath Care 0.
The vigorous press that was deemed an essential part of democracy at our country’s inception is now consigned to smaller venues, to the Internet and, in the mainstream media, to occasional articles. I am not suggesting that every journalist for a mainstream media outlet is neglecting his or her duties to the public. And I know that serious newspapers and magazines run analytical articles, and public television broadcasts longer, more probing segments.

But I am saying that every analysis that is shortened, every corner that is cut, moves us further away from the truth until what is left is the Cliffs Notes of the news, or what I call strobe-light journalism, in which the outlines are accurate enough but we cannot really see the whole picture.

Why aren't we having substantive discussions about the state of our health care system and the way it distorts our markets and private lives? How many people die from lack of access to medical care versus acts of terrorism?

Why, in an election year, is Hillary going on about bitter-gate instead of speaking as thoughtfully and eloquently about health care as she did in 2004's Now Can We Talk About Health Care?
Think for a moment about recent advances in genetic testing. Knowing you are prone to cancer or heart disease or Lou Gehrig's disease may give you a fighting chance. But just try, with that information in hand, to get health insurance in a system without strong protections against discrimination for pre-existing or genetic conditions. Each vaunted scientific breakthrough brings with it new challenges to our health system. But it's not only medicine that is changing. So, too, are the economy, our personal behaviors and our environment. Unless Americans across the political spectrum come together to change our health care system, that system, already buckling under the pressures of today, will collapse with the problems of tomorrow.

Twenty-first-century problems, like genetic mapping, an aging population and globalization, are combining with old problems like skyrocketing costs and skyrocketing numbers of uninsured, to overwhelm the 20th-century system we have inherited.

The way we finance care is so seriously flawed that if we fail to fix it, we face a fiscal disaster that will not only deny quality health care to the uninsured and underinsured but also undermine the capacity of the system to care for even the well insured. For example, if a hospital's trauma center is closed or so crowded that it cannot take any more patients, your insurance card won't help much if you're the one in the freeway accident.
This is a very real worry in LA as one trauma center after another closes for lack of funding. Hospitals are closing their emergency rooms and even the ERs that are open have difficulties finding people willing to work in them. The number of uninsured people in LA is staggering. Each insured person supports another uninsured one. If our ERs are overwhelmed on an ordinary night, what chance do they have in the event of a catastrophic natural disaster like an earthquake? We are all at risk, insured or not.

Why is the media feeding us pap about the candidates' wardrobe and font choices instead of showing us the real differences between their health care plans? OK, anyone can have a plan, but it is another thing to get the nation behind them to carry it out. But maybe we can hear about their very different approaches and core philosophies instead of their haircuts and how much they paid for them. Is that too much to ask from the mainstream media (MSM)?

I will quit ranting now, but do read Elizabeth Edwards and Hillary Clinton in their own words.

You will notice this blog has been notably lacking in sewing and knitting content lately. I had a flare-up and have been resting and reading instead. Mark surprised me with a fantastic convalescent present--more on that later.

When I finished reading Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben, my first reaction was that I learned nothing new. On second thought, he makes a good point about the old-fashioned notion that the public airwaves are a shared public resource and the people who run radio and TV stations have a responsibility to the citizenry that grants them the airwaves. I have long shared his opinion, but rarely hear that point of view. (Perhaps because the MSM doesn't want us to notice?)

Overall, Deep Economy is a good read, though I do not share his sanguine view of the future of Bangladesh. OTOH, it is a relief to read good news from Bangladesh amid all the doom and gloom about global warming and sea level rise.

In The Black Swan, Taleb mentioned that he stopped watching TV and reading the day to day news. In the time he saves, he is able to read 2 books a week or 100 books a year. After 20 years, that really adds up.

I resolve to read more, even when my health is going along swimmingly.

Katy emailed me a reading suggestion (The Ten-Year Nap), which I am reading instead of packing. I must put it down. If you read a good book recently, please share in the comments.

(Katy completed a triathlon last weekend and will compete in an even longer one in 2 weeks. She sounds apologetic for not having more sewing projects to share. Go to her blog and congratulate her.)


  1. Anonymous08:17

    I liked "The Ghost Map" by Stephen Johnson.

  2. I completely agree that we should be talking about health care plans (or any number of other real issues) instead of whether or not the candidates can bowl or drink a shot of whiskey. The state of health care in this country depresses me, angers me, or does both, depending on my mood that day.

    One of the unexpected side benefits of having a child is that we watch far less TV (and we never watched that much). I don't want Pumpkin watching TV yet, and she'll watch if it is on. I get my news from the internet, which means I get several different perspectives- I usually check CNN, BBC, and the NZ Herald every day. Pumpkin doesn't allow much time to read, yet, but that is one advantage of still pumping- it gives me a block of time before bed to read.

  3. I recommend _The Omnivore's Dilemma_.


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