Archive for Health Care

Oops, wrong terror. Daesh sleeper agents hiding among refugees is the least of our worries:

Medicine’s final line of defence against deadly disease has been breached, raising the spectre of a global epidemic, scientists say, after finding bacteria resistant to last-resort antibiotics.

The discovery could herald a virtual return to the Dark Ages, with doctors unable to control common germs like E. Coli, rolling back centuries of medical progress.

We could be headed for a period when even the smallest infections could prove lethal, say reports:

… British scientists have discovered that pigs and meat sold in China are infected with bacteria carrying a new gene which makes them resistant to these rearguard antibiotics.

The MCR-1 gene is in a part of the DNA which can be easily copied and transferred between bacteria leading experts to conclude that ‘pandemic resistance is inevitable.’ The mutated forms were also found in 1322 hospitalised patients in China and is thought to have already spread to Laos and Malaysia.

British scientists and health experts described the discovery as ‘worrying,’ ‘disturbing’ and ‘alarming.’

It gets better:

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Single-payer Smart

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If you ask a Canadian who’s sick if s/he has seen a doctor, they’ll know you’re an American. Of course they have. In America, this is considered “overuse.” Is it? Sara Robinson wrote about why a single-payer system is not just smart and cheaper, but strategic in 2008:

Our every-man-for-himself attitude toward health care is a security threat on a par with unsecured ports. In Canada, people go see the doctor if they’re sick for more than a day or two. It was this easy access to early treatment, along with the much tighter public health matrix that enables doctors to share information quickly, that allowed the country’s health care system to detect the 2003 SARS epidemics in Toronto and Vancouver while they were still very localized, act within hours to stop them before the disease spread any further, and track down and treat exposed people before they got too sick to be helped. In both cases, the system worked flawlessly. The epidemic was stopped within days and quashed entirely in under a month, potentially saving of millions of lives.

In the U.S., that same epidemic might easily have gone unnoticed for critical days and weeks. If the first people to get sick were among those 75 million without adequate insurance, they probably would have toughed it out a few extra days before finally dragging their half-dead carcasses into an ER somewhere. Not only would they be much farther along in the course of the disease — and thus at greater risk of death themselves — every one of them could have infected dozens or even hundreds of other people in the meantime, accelerating the spread of the epidemic.

Worse: America’s underfunded public health system might have taken several days to piece together the whole picture of an epidemic; and perhaps another week or two might have passed before the E. Coli conservatives in charge (having thrown out the science-based management plans thoughtfully developed by the bureaucracy) cooked up some kind of half-assed ideology-driven decision about how to proceed. (It would, of course, involve spectacular amounts of lying to the public.) By that point, tens of millions could have been infected, leading to a death toll that would make 9/11 and Katrina look like minor statistical blips.

As you get your premium notices in the next months, consider why your health is tied at the hip to the insurance industry.

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Rule by tantrum

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In response to yesterday’s Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare … again … expect Republican leaders to prescribe another thousand cuts. They’ll eventually “cure” America of Obamacare the way medieval barbers used bloodletting and leeches to cure patients. They’re just folksy, that way.

But first they will pitch a patented right wing hissy fit. If T-Party cannot have Torquemada for Chief Justice, it will at least try to inflict the kind of pain that (it believes) would make him smile:

Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) said that his SCOTUScare Act would make all nine justices and their employees join the national healthcare law’s exchanges.

“As the Supreme Court continues to ignore the letter of the law, it’s important that these six individuals understand the full impact of their decisions on the American people,” he said.

“That’s why I introduced the SCOTUScare Act to require the Supreme Court and all of its employees to sign up for ObamaCare,” Babin said.

“Trolling as Governance,” as Chris Hayes tweeted. This will be Obama’s Waterloo, dammit!

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Vaccination: It’s Bigger Than You

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Freedom to be jerks

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Image public domain via Wikipedia

The Kochs, the NRA, and Randians of the right treat the word freedom as a conversation stopper. (What, are you against freedom, commie? Game Over. We win.) But just as creating the T-party pushed the GOP so far right that party regulars now are stuck with trying to reign in the monster they created, turning freedom into a worship word may be backfiring too:

A Florida man set up a gun range in his front yard, but police said there’s not much they can do but keep an eye on him.

Other residents are livid that 21-year-old Joseph Carannate set up targets and plans to fire his 9mm handgun in his residential Saint Petersburg neighborhood, reported WFLA-TV.

“I don’t know if this idiot is going to start popping off rounds,” said resident Patrick Leary. “I’m furious.”

Yeah? Furious commie.

But since by law the Gunshine State prohibits local governments from restricting gun rights, freedom means fire at will. Freedom means telling the neighbors, hide in the basement with your young-uns if you don’t like it.

The recent fight over vaccines travels that same road, doesn’t it? The teaser headline on the front page of the Washington Post online grabbed me this morning. Gerson: Vaccines and our duty to our neighbors. Whaddya mean “duty to our neighbors,” commie? Free-DOM:

Resistance to vaccination on the left often reflects an obsession with purity. Vaccines are placed in the same mental category as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), DDT and gluten. But the problem with organic health care is that the “natural” rate of child mortality is unacceptably high. Organically raised children can get some very nasty ­diseases.

Opposition to vaccination on the right often reflects an obsession with liberty — in this case, freedom from intrusive state mandates. It has always struck me as odd that a parent would defend his or her children with a gun but leave them vulnerable to a microbe. Some conservatives get especially exercised when vaccination has anything to do with sex — as with the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine — on the questionable theory that teenagers are more likely to fornicate if they have a medical permission slip (or less likely to without it).

Whether you are blazing away in a suburban front yard, or putting neighbors’ children at risk by refusing to immunize yours, or publishing cartoons of Mohammed with intent to offend (France, I know), or strolling into the Burger King with your AR-15, or doing anything else arrogantly prick-ish, because freedom, maybe the radical individual thing has gotten out of hand. Doesn’t it seem, at long last, that our freedom fetish is turning us into a nation of jerks?

Michael Gerson dares use the phrase “common good”:

In all these matters, there is a balance between individual rights and the common good. This may sound commonplace. But some Americans seem to believe that the mere assertion of a right is sufficient to end a public argument. It is not, when the exercise of that right has unacceptable public consequences, or when the sum of likely choices is dangerous to a community.


(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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If your blue state is healthier, thank a Republican

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Affordable Care Act opponents argue in King v. Burwell now before the U.S. Supreme Court that Congress intended to withhold subsidies from the states unless they established their own exchanges. If SCOTUS agrees, ACA opponents expect the ruling to effectively gut the federal exchanges operating in over half the states and to seriously undermine Obamacare.

Even as this argument seems to have fallen apart, should the court strike down the federal exchange subsidies, Republicans in Congress vow not to reinstate consumers’ health insurance tax credits.

Steve Benen writes:

Remember, as far as the public is concerned, a clear majority of Americans would expect the Republican Congress to protect consumers from hardship. Indeed, Greg Sargent this week flagged the latest report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that nearly two-thirds of Americans would expect lawmakers to keep existing subsidies in place if the Supreme Court ruling goes the wrong way. Only a fourth of the country would expect Congress to do nothing.

The same report found that even most Republicans support states setting up exchange marketplaces so that families can continue to receive subsidized access to medical care. This is, of course, the exact opposite of what GOP policymakers have in mind.

Ezra Klein reframes that outcome, arguing that Republicans’ plan for Obamacare’s demise has become “a plan to rip themselves off.” Klein elaborates:

If the Supreme Court rules for the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, the subsidies will basically shut off in (mostly) red states. And congressional Republicans won’t do anything about it. That means Republicans in those states will be paying the taxes and bearing the spending cuts needed to fund Obamacare but getting none of the benefits.

Which is to say, the biggest fight in American politics in recent years began with Democrats creating a law that was a giant subsidy from blue states to red states and has evolved into Republicans working to turn the law into a giant subsidy from red states to blue states. It is very, very weird.

Not really. Republicans, especially in the 15 refusenik states Klein identifies, have a unremitting knack for cutting off their noses to spite their faces (and their children’s). They have principles and they stand in on them.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Six Degrees of Ebola

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Kevin Bacon
(photo credit David Shankbone, Wikimedia Commons)

Is America playing Six Degrees of Ebola yet? Connect yourself to someone on Amber Vinson’s Frontier Airlines flight in six steps or fewer, then run around freaking out? (Something to play on a cruise, maybe?)

Best wishes for a swift recovery, of course, to the two caregivers infected in Texas. Yet Ebola fever (the psychological kind) has so gripped the country that articles are popping up with titles like, Ebola hysteria is going viral. Don’t fall for these 5 myths. Fox News’ Shepard Smith went off script the other day and urged viewers, “Do not listen to the hysterical voices on the radio and television or read the fear provoking words online.” Michael Hiltzik felt it necessary to write 6 ways to avoid being stupid about Ebola in this week’s L.A. Times. His number five is pithy:

5. Listening to Rush Limbaugh may be hazardous to your health. As a one-stop shop of Ebola misinformation, you can’t beat the guy. Limbaugh’s only purpose is to stir up fear, alarm and mistrust of government among his listeners. Inform them, not so much.

But informing listeners was never the point. Fear, mistrust, alarm, and misinformation is right-wing talk’s business model. It’s what listeners tune in for. It’s just not church in some circles — you haven’t been touched by the spirit — unless the preacher works up the congregation with a mind-numbing, shouted cant into a hair-standing-on-end, ecstatic state followed by emotional catharsis.

Perhaps right-wing talk works the same way. A kind of addictive drug, maybe it has begun to lose its zing (along with Limbaugh’s ratings). Perhaps over the years, the ginned-up, faux outrage peddled every day by Rush and his kin has lost its punch. Perhaps the fear-addicted (and fear peddlers) hungering for stronger stuff to give them that old rush again just found it in an ISIS and Ebola cocktail?

That and, as Digby pointed out yesterday, it’s crazy season.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Cut This

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The Throw Granny Off the Cliff People are back:

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Obamacare Refuses To Fail

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Paul Krugman observes the ever-changing predictions of the Affordable Care Act’s imminent demise.

First nobody but the sick would sign up, so we’d have a death spiral. Then it was “OK, a lot of people have signed up, but they won’t pay — and anyway, even more people have lost coverage.”

As uninsured rates take a nosedive, naysayers are going to have to line up some more reasons the act is failing, Krugman suggests.

And no, it’s not just an improving economy. An improving economy doesn’t explain the differences in state that implemented the exchanges and those that didn’t.

What he doesn’t mention is that signups are only one, slim metric of success. Gallup reports that few report that the law has helped them so far and the the law remains fairly unpopular (both polls late May) even as Americans are generally satisfied with the health system in the country.

Go figure.

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Moral Mondays Spread

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Common Dreams: Thirty-nine protesters were arrested at the capitol building in Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday during a raucous protest against the GOP-led effort to prohibit Medicaid expansion in the state. In South Carolina, 17 demonstrators were also arrested at the Columbia state house in the third weekly demonstration against lawmakers’ refusal to accept federal health care funding.

“The movements are rare stirrings of impassioned, liberal political action,” writes Herbert Buchsbaum at the New York Times, “in a region where conservative control of government is as solid as cold grits and Democrats are struggling for survival more than influence.”

The actions are spreading to Florida, Alabama, Wisconsin and New York.

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