Robert's Random Ravings

The sorry state of Health Care

Health Insurance

It is amazing to me that the United States is the richest nation in the world, yet we lag behind other nations in so many areas. One of the important ones to me is the state of health care in this country. Billions and billions of dollars are spent on health care in this country, but there is so much waste and corruption in our system.

I realize that this is a capitalist society – so earning profits is part of the point. However, I wonder if it is really proper for medicine to be for profit. The FDA, the agency that is supposed to keep the pharmaceutical industry in line, is nothing more than a mouthpiece for that very industry. It seems more concerned in generating profits for pharmaceutical companies than for keeping the American public safe.

Figures are thrown around about the number of Americans that do not have any insurance at all. It is probably somewhere around 46 million people, which represents nearly 15% of the overall population and 18% of the under-65 population. That is just not an acceptable state of affairs.

During Bill Clinton’s first term as President, his wife tried to put together a plan for providing Universal Health Care for all Americans. There was so much opposition to it from all sides (especially the insurance and pharmaceutical companies) that the plan completely died. We are once again talking about this kind of plan with President Obama.

health-care2.

Why is it that if I go to a hospital and have to be admitted, if I have insurance, the hospitals charge a reduced price that has been agreed on with the insurance company, yet if I do not have insurance, I have to pay a much higher rate for the same services. It seems to me that this is completely the opposite of the way it should be. The ones that are least able to pay are charged the highest fees.

Even if you do have insurance, it is a constant fight with the insurance companies to get the tests and medicines that you need. If your doctor prescribes a specific medicine for you, the insurance company will do everything in its power to move you to a different medicine because it costs them less money. Again, the insurance companies are dictating health policy because they control the purse strings.

Here in the US, we are subjected to hours of advertising every day for new medicines. The pharmaceutical companies are trying to get us to ask for these medicines, whether they are the best thing for the job or not. I personally believe that ALL advertising for pharmaceuticals should be barred from television, radio and print. Let the doctors decide the medicines we need based on their education – not based on pretty models that bend the truth and hide the side effects of these drugs.

Another part of this mess is the drug companies send out all of their salesmen to doctors’ offices and giving them all kinds of samples and goodies for free. Buying their staff breakfast and/or lunch. Giving away notepads, pens, clocks, mugs, etc. that all have their drug names on it so that the doctor will think of them when prescribing medicine.

Again, this type of advertising is counter to the reality of how doctors and their staffs should be educated. Maybe if the drug companies did not spend so much money on advertising and sales staff, the drugs would not cost so much.

And why is it that the same drugs are cheaper in Canada than they are in the US? On top of that, the pharmaceutical industry has a powerful lobbying effort in place in Washington and gets our elected officials to do things that benefit them, but not the public. They got the government to make it illegal for states to get their medicines from Canada, even though that could be cheaper.

The problem is that it is all about the bottom line for the health care industry and not about our health. This is something that HAS to change. If that means that health care should be socialized, I am not opposed to that. There is a lot of good that has come out of the pharmaceutical industry in the United States, but that does not mean that it should have a free pass for all of the corruption that has also come out of the industry! Continue reading

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01/31/2009 Posted by | General, Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Abortion – the great conflict

Let’s talk about one of the third rails of modern politics: abortion. Obviously there is quite a cultural war in our country now about the topic. Some people look at it as a form of murder, while others look at it as something that woman should be able to decide for themselves – a women’s rights issue. Of course, religious belief factors into this as well. Many Christians and Catholics are against abortion (or as they like to say – “pro-life”). Much of the liberal left is pro-abortion (or as they like to say – “pro-choice”).

It is a difficult issue too. I personally struggle with which side of this debate I am on. I don’t like abortion. I think it is a terrible waste. But I also am not ready to say that abortion should be made illegal in the US. People are going to get abortions, whether it is legal or not. With that in mind, I would prefer that woman can get it done (if they must) in a safe setting, as opposed to a clandestine, underground setting that can be very dangerous (or trying to use a coat hanger or something awful like that).

One thing we need a lot more of in this country is education on the topic. As I said before, it is not really as simple as “I am for it” or “I am against it.”

I often wonder about the people that say that it should be against the law, except in the case of rape or danger to the mother. See, that means that they are not 100% against it. If you really are against abortion, I would think that there would not be any exceptions.

I would like to see a real discussion in this country about the topic – not one laced with threats and fear. An educated discussion, free of emotion. Just the facts. That is very necessary (and not just for the topic of abortion).

Even those people that feel that it is a woman’s choice and believe that it should be legal struggle with it when it comes to their own bodies. I doubt there are many people that could have an abortion and not have any regrets about it. Whether you believe in your mind that a fetus is a real person or not, your heart will still probably feel that it is. I think it is only human to feel that way.

At any rate, anyone that is considering getting one should definitely have to go through a bit of a process to get it done. I really don’t think that you should be able to decide today that you want one, walk into an office tomorrow, and have the procedure done. There should be people trying to talk you out of it all the way. There really are other options.

In addition, one of the things that I hear a lot with regard to abortion is that it is a woman’s body and therefore a woman’s choice. Well – guess what. It takes a woman and a man to make a baby. I have a lot of trouble saying that a woman should have the right to an abortion without the consent of the father. I know that will not make me a popular person with many of my liberal friends, but it is the way I feel. I have even more trouble with a minor being able to get one without the knowledge of her parents. That is hypocritical to me. A minor cannot legally enter into a contract, so why should they be able to get an abortion without parental consent?

All that being said, once a couple has decided that their choice is to have an abortion (after attempts to dissuade), I do think it should be allowed. Just because I do not like it does not mean it should be against the law. At that point, it is something that they will have to deal with in their hearts and minds. I definitely think it is important that people that do decide to go through with it have a safe environment in which to do the procedure. That also means being spared the taunts of people at clinics that will throw words and more at people as they go into a clinic. That is not the way to deal with the situation! America is so devoid of compassion at times. I would definitely like to see it return.

01/29/2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Freedom?

Here in the United States, we tend to take a lot of things for granted. For example, when we go to the grocery store, we expect it to be stocked with all of the food items that we like. When we go to the gas station, we expect there to be gas available. When we turn on our faucets at home, we expect clean, drinkable water to come out.

In many parts of the world, this would be considered luxury. I went to see Slumdog Millionaire yesterday. It is one of those movies that helps open your eyes to the way things are in other parts of the world. We think we know what poverty feels like here – but I don’t think that we even have a clue. The worst of us have it better than most people in countries like China, India, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Kenya.

We can walk outside on the street and expect to get from one place to another safely. We expect that our government will protect us. We don’t see our children being sold into slavery and forced to become beggars or prostitutes. Don’t get me wrong. I know it happens in the US as well, but not on the scale of other places in the world.

We get to tell the government that we don’t like what they are doing, without having to fear that as a result we will be thrown into prison, tortured and even killed. In Argentina in the 1970’s, talking against the government caused you to disappear. More recently, similar things have happened in Thailand, China, East Timor, Myanmar and Tibet, just to name a few countries.

Yes things are bad at the moment for a lot of people in the United States, but let’s not lose sight of how Good things still are here. I think it is time for our people to get off the island of protectionism and isolation that we like to live in and really participate in making the world a better place for EVERYONE, not just a select few.

We also need to make sure that the help we give goes to the people and not the corrupt governments that are strangling their own people just for “treasure.” Is there anything more traitorous than a national leadership that steals from its own people while they starve?

01/26/2009 Posted by | General | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Same-Sex Marriage – Legal Discrimination

Gay Marriage Cartoon

Marriage Cartoon

This will no doubt be a controversial topic to some, but it is an issue near and dear to my heart. I am a gay man. I have a partner of nearly 15 years. But in the eyes of the law, we can never be more than just friends because the federal government and the majority of the state governments will not allow same-sex marriages. They define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

 

The Los Angeles Times recently printed an editorial about gay marriage. You can find that post at this link.

Not too long ago, both the man and the woman had to be of the same race. A white man could not marry a black woman. Many of the same arguments thrown around now were used to justify this position, including using the Bible. I doubt anyone today would try to say that a marriage between a white man and a black woman (or vice versa) should not be allowed on moral or religious or civil grounds. Allowing it has not destroyed marriage.

Gays and lesbians are one of the last bastions of “legal discrimination” in the U.S. In fact, the topic is so toxic that the Republican Party used gay marriage as one of its primary speaking points in the 2004 Presidential election. George Bush got re-elected, partially by scaring the people of the U.S. in terms of the gay agenda and what allowing it to move forward would do to this country. “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

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It worked because so many people in the U.S. do not understand homosexuality. Some want to have you believe that it is a choice that each person makes, and as such, they could easily choose not to be gay. This is something I hear quite regularly, even to this day. And it makes me very sad and angry that I still have to be subjected to this mentality in 2009.

Some want to convince you that homosexuality is a moral sin; an abomination against G-d, the result of which is eternal damnation in hell. While anyone that feels that way is entitled to his or her beliefs, that is not a belief that should have any part in the laws of the country. Our forefathers were very clear about keeping the Church and the State separate. There are just too many religions around and trying to force one “moral code” on all of us is a violation of our freedom and is something that the Founding Fathers wanted to keep from happening. Religious persecution is a serious thing. We have seen what it can become when taken to the extreme in places like Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East, or in Bosnia or in Ireland.

gay-cake

I have no problem with a church or a synagogue or a mosque (or any other religious gathering) making their rules as to what they themselves will accept as a definition of marriage. They can enforce that within their own group and if someone does not wish to adhere to those guidelines, they don’t have to stay in that religious group. However a civil definition has nothing to do with sanctity, religion or G-d. Legally it is discrimination to say that a heterosexual couple can leave their social security benefits to each other, but a homosexual couple cannot. There are so many legal rights that a married couple has and these rights are denied to same-sex couples because they cannot marry. This is just plain wrong and discriminatory.

The recent vote in California that overturned same-sex marriage in that state was a very sad day for me and many of my friends. While celebrating the discrimination breakthrough of electing an African-American President, we had to also have thrown in our face that same-sex discrimination is here to stay for now. This is something that needs to change.

01/23/2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , , | 2 Comments

President Obama – So Help You G-d

Hope and Progress

This week, we here in America and interested parties all over the world got to witness history being made. The United States swore in its first African-American President. This is certainly an exciting time in America.

Click here to watch the Inauguration Speech, as posted on the White House Web Site.

There is a spirit of enthusiasm and excitement over the potential of the next 4 years (and beyond) while we wait and see what the administration of Barack Hussein Obama will really be like.

Up to now, it has only been talk. “We plan to…” “We hope to…” “We expect to…” It is easy to say you are going to do something. It is much harder to actually do it.

These are scary times for the US and the rest of the world. We are still involved in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is a significant energy crisis – and we all saw how quickly things changed when the price of oil spiked to $150 a barrel, causing gasoline to top $4 a gallon in the US. We are damaging our environment with pollution. Our economy is in shambles. Home prices are dropping like a rock. The American Dream is on shaky ground right now.

There is still an ongoing crisis in the Middle East between Israel and its neighbors (almost all of which have sworn to see the complete destruction of Israel).

There is still genocide and ethnic cleansing occurring in Darfur and Zimbabwe and other regions of the world. There are still millions of people that are hungry and homeless.

President Obama is taking the reins at a time when this country is very divided – he may have a party majority in both the House and the Senate, but that does not mean that Congress will just hand him everything he wants. Nor should it.

Our system was designed as a three branch system so that each branch will keep the other branches accountable.

Yes We Can!

It was a beautiful thing to watch the pageantry of the Inauguration and the Parade and the various Inaugural Balls afterwards. Showing the world how the peaceful transition of power is possible, even when the parties involved have very distinct differences. President Bush was very gracious throughout the ceremonies, even when he was called out on his policies by the incoming President. This is what our country is all about.

Differences of opinion – discussing a situation and coming to a reasonable conclusion as a result of learned discourse – this is one of the things that makes our country great.

While I may not agree with everything that President Obama does, or the people he has chosen as advisors, I am cautiously hopeful for our future. I see a man that is willing to do what it takes to “save” this country. I see a man that is ready to change the “business as usual” money machine that has been the US government into an entity that is really and truly by the people and for the people.

I know that I will have disappointments over the next 4 years. It is impossible not to. But I am willing to give this President a chance. He was not my first choice, but I did vote for him. And even if I had not voted for him, he is my President. May G-d bless him as he leads this nation, guide him to the proper path and save him from any and all that wish him or our country harm.

01/22/2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hello world!

This will be my soapbox.  I will periodically talk about subjects important to me.

01/21/2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment