Monthly Archives: September 2009

A reason for health care reform

We all know why Liberals want to make health care available for all Americans. Liberals have bleeding hearts and a proclivity for redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor.

They would agree with Peter Montague that “the growing gap between rich and poor has not been ordained by extraterrestrial beings. It has been created by the policies of government.” And government should fix it.

Conservatives, on the other hand, believe in the unfettered hand of the free-market system. It’s a system that may produce social and economic inequalities, but you can blame the individual for that, not government policies. Read more

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Will Ferrell, MoveOn.Org use humor to support health care reform

Can sarcastic humor make a convincing case for health care reform? Will Ferrell, the comedian, and MoveOn.org, the liberal political advocacy organization, are giving it a try. They’ve created a video that defends beleaguered insurance company executives.
The video is available on YouTube and features well known celebrities. The cast, the humor, and Internet-only availability suggest this pitch is meant to appeal to healthy young adults who may feel they don’t need the expense of health insurance. Mandatory insurance coverage — even for the young and healthy — is one option that may end up in the final version of health care legislation.

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Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: The health care shell game

Rob Peter to pay Paul

Source: Tax Tea Party

When it comes to health care reform, there are moral issues and financial issues.
If there are indeed 46.3 million Americans without health insurance; if 45,000 people die every year from preventable causes because they have no health insurance; if the US ranks 21st out of the 21 wealthiest nations on child well-being – these are all moral issues. It’s when we try to do something about these issues that morality sprouts a price tag.
Those who oppose health care reform aren’t necessarily heartless ghouls who want children to die and the sick to suffer. They’re simply approaching health care from a financial point of view, which can be difficult to reconcile with a moral perspective.

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Acne, allergy, and toe nail fungus make you uninsurable

One reason we need health care reform is the insurance industry practice of canceling or refusing insurance coverage. Since insurance companies are profit-making endeavors, it’s understandable that they don’t want to insure someone with a history of cancer, diabetes, or even arthritis.
What about those people who truly believe they’ve always been healthy? When it comes to insurance, health is in the eyes of the beholder — in this case the eye’s of the insurance underwriter.

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Music: Rosen Movement Playlist September 15

Bridge over river in a valley

Source: TruthSeeker

The Rod Stewart Great American Songbook albums have many songs that are perfect for Warm Up, Circle, or Across the Floor. There are four of them:
It Had to Be You,
As Time Goes By,
Stardust, and
Thanks For The Memory .
The Voice of the Violin album has many songs that work well for Stretch and On the Floor. Same for the Secret Garden albums.
Thanks to Theresa for all the music and so much more.

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How Australia does preventive health care

Australia kangaroo at sunset on beach

Source: textually.org

The Australian government is about to introduce a number of public health measures dealing with smoking, alcohol, and obesity. The measures are designed to reduce chronic diseases and make Australia the world’s healthiest nation by 2020.
Australia’s National Preventative Health Taskforce has published a report that includes 174 recommendations for preventing disease. Among the measures that could be implemented:

  • A 50% increase in the price of cigarettes
  • Cigarette packaging that allows only a bland box with the brand name and a health warning
  • A minimum unit price for alcohol and increased taxes
  • The elimination of alcohol advertising during TV sports events
  • The elimination of alcohol advertising before 9 PM, when more children and adolescents are viewing
  • Tougher restrictions on where and when alcohol can be sold
  • The elimination of TV advertising for “energy-dense”, nutrient poor (i.e., high empty-calorie) foods before 9 PM
  • Reduced taxes on health foods to make them more affordable
  • Tax breaks for gym memberships and for parents who enroll their children in sports activities

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Why is it so hard to reform health care? Political structure

US Constitution

Source: Amazon

A country’s health care system reflects its character, ethics, and cultural values. Politics, medicine, and economics may shape the particular design of a system, but when it comes to deciding who will be included, that’s a moral question.

The United States is the only industrialized democracy that does not guarantee health care to all its citizens. For some Americans, this is consistent with our Jeffersonian heritage of a limited and frugal government. The wealthy should not have to pay for the poor, even in matters of life and death.

For many Americans, however, our health care system is disturbing. 45,000 Americans die every year from treatable diseases because they lack health insurance. We’re the only country with medical bankruptcies. This feels morally wrong, just as some wars seemed wrong and made it difficult to feel good about being an American.
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Carl Jung's Red Book, an illustrated chronicle of horror and madness

Carl Jung The Red Book-cover

Source: Amazon

Anyone who has an interest in Carl Jung will want to read this New York Times article on the upcoming publication of Jung’s The Red Book. For most of the last century, the very existence of this work has been only a rumor.
Jung wrote this illustrated journal between the ages of 39 and 55 and kept it locked in a cupboard. The controversial nature of the subject matter prompted his descendants to keep it there after he died in 1961 at age 85. It was transferred to a safe deposit box in the underground vault of a Swiss bank in 1984 and remained there for another 23 years. Jung’s relatives allowed almost no one to view the book. Jung himself commented: “To the superficial observer it will appear like madness.”

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Global warming makes me sick

pollution-sun-landscapeThere’s an unfortunate parallel between the politics of climate change and the politics of US health care reform. They differ in scale — global vs. domestic. But consider this: Who suffers the most from the lack of universal health care in the US? The poor and unemployed. Who will suffer the most from climate change? The poor and unemployed. There are many reasons for this, but largely it’s a matter of where the poor live: the tropics, underdeveloped countries, overcrowded slums.

The world’s poorest populations will be the first to suffer from climate change. When they can no longer survive where they currently live, they will leave their homes and migrate. The Indian government is presently constructing a seven-foot-high fence made of double-thickness razor wire and steel. It will be 2,800 miles long (4500 km) and line the entire border between India and Bangladesh. Its purpose? To keep out terrorists, yes, but according to the BBC, it’s also meant to keep out immigrants who will flee the impact of climate change. Read more

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Why is it so hard to reform health care? The historical background

alexis-de-tocquevillleSome segments of the American population receive excellent health care. Statistics on their life expectancy, mortality, and risk factors for disease compare favorably to citizens of other advanced countries.

What throws off the numbers for the US — the reason our overall statistics are 23 points behind Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and Japan on a scale of 100 — is that there are pockets of the population who lack access to health care and its benefits. The statistics for this segment resemble those of a poor, unsuccessful Third World country. The US ranks 21st out of 21 wealthy countries on child well-being according to UNICEF.
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Couples who prefer to sleep alone: Your room or mine?

Feet of couple sleeping in bed

Source: Timeless Lesons

In pursuit of a good night’s sleep, an increasing number of couples now choose to sleep alone.

Couples who share a bed suffer 50% more sleep disturbances than those who sleep apart, according to recent research by a sleep specialist in Britain. In a separate study, a British sociologist found that when one bed partner moves during their sleep, there’s a 50% chance the other partner will be disturbed.

75% of adults either snore or wake up frequently during the night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. More than half of women surveyed by the Foundation reported that they slept well only a few nights a week.
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Music: Rosen Movement Playlist September 8

Autumn Leaves

Source: TruthSeeker

Click photo for larger view.

This was the first class of the fall semester.
For Warm Up, Renee Olstead (like Rod Stewart) is great for updated versions of old standards.
This was the first time I used Il Divo. I figured it would be too dramatic for On the Floor, but it works well for Stretch.
All the On the Floor music is available on a wonderful album called Touching Beauty. In this post I’ve linked to other albums on Amazon and iTunes, since the Touching Beauty songs aren’t available as MP3s.

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Your insurance industry at work

Here’s something about health care reform that can unite the Left and the Right. They should find this equally offensive.
The one Congressional committee that has yet to agree on its legislative reform plan is Max Baucus’ Senate Finance Committee. An 18-page summary (PDF) of what we can expect was revealed this week.
Insurance reform of policies sold to individuals – that is, to people who are not covered by their employer — includes some of the things we’ve been hearing about. Insurance companies can’t deny coverage due to a pre-existing condition. They can’t impose lifetime limits on what they’ll pay. Your policy can’t be cancelled for no good reason.
What’s new is a gift to the insurance industry in the form of rates that can be charged for insurance premiums.

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The health care debate: Seeing ourselves through the eyes of others

Desmond Tutu

Source: The Guardian

I wonder if the behavior of Europeans is restrained by a desire to maintain their self-image in the eyes of neighboring countries. Is there social pressure in France to avoid outrageous behavior because your nation would immediately be ridiculed by England and Germany? Does national pride operate as a constraint?
That certainly doesn’t happen in the US. We have little knowledge of what other countries think of us. We get our news from American media outlets – Fox, MSNBC – that confirm our narrow point of view. It’s in the interests of these outlets to magnify events and fan our emotions so we’ll keep coming back for more. Their tactics include demeaning or demonizing those who hold a different point of view. Liberal and conservative media are equally guilty of this behavior.

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After health care reform, will Big Insurance be the enemy of Big Food?

Fast food

Source: eHow

Michael Pollan has a great editorial in today’s New York Times on Big Insurance and Big Food. Could health care reform motivate the insurance industry to lobby for healthier food? The argument goes like this.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care dollars are spent on preventable chronic diseases. Smoking is an obvious culprit, but many (if not most) chronic diseases – diabetes, heart disease, cancer – have a connection to poor diet. We eat too few fruits and vegetables and too much sugar, salt, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fat.

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Kennedy's posthumous letter, Obama on American character, a Congressman's apology

Joe Wilson South Carolina Congressman

Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina

Source: The New York Times

Two years ago, when Democrats were preparing for the presidential primaries, a liberal political expert advised against discussing health care for the uninsured. Everyone loves to say they care about the issue, he said. No one – with the possible exception of Ted Kennedy — cares enough to actually fix the problem. Americans may believe in helping their neighbors, but they’re not willing to transfer their wealth to someone they don’t know.
In a town hall meeting on health care this summer, a woman confronted Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington: “If you are so keen to forcibly take from one person to give to another, who you deem as needier than me. … If you believe that it is absolutely moral to take my money and give to someone else based on their supposed needs, then you come and take this $20 from me and use it as a down payment on this health care plan.”

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The doctor/patient relationship: What have we lost?

marcus-welby-with-patientI collect stories of how the doctor/patient relationship has changed over the last half century. There’s a new generation of doctors and patients who’ve only known the 12-minute office visit. For them, an extended, personal conversation between a patient and her physician is as antiquated as Marcus Welby, MD.

In the 12 to 15 minutes allotted to a patient, discussion is necessarily limited to the immediate symptoms. There’s no time to understand the context in which the patient lives, works, and loves. For that type of holistic understanding patients seek out alternative medicine, which they do in increasing numbers. Now that anti-depressants are more cost-effective than talk therapy, conventional vs. alternative medicine is the new division of labor.
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Swine flu and hand washing: The how, the when, and the why

Hand washing children mother

Source: PR Newswire

There are a number of things about the H1N1 (swine) flu that are different from the seasonal flu we see each year. For example, adolescents are at a greater risk of dying than younger children. This is just the opposite of what we typically expect. In a normal flu season, at least half the deaths are among children younger than 5. With swine flu, 80% of deaths have occurred in children ages 5 to 18.
Normally, flu fatalities are higher among older adults, but that’s not true for swine flu. Three out of five deaths have happened in people younger than 50. “Sophisticated” laboratory tests indicate that the immune systems of older adults are providing an unusual amount of protection against the swine flu virus. This suggests that adults over 50 were exposed to an ancestor of the H1N1 virus – probably when they were children – and their immune systems are now prepared to defend against related strains.

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Swine flu, kids, and a "wash your hands" rap video

Mother and sick child

Source: Feelgood Health

Here’s a well-written story by a mother (Brigid Schulte) whose son caught the flu at summer camp. She ended up nursing a houseful of sick patients, including herself. Everyone survived, but it was no picnic.
The subtitle of the article is “During the Swine Flu Season, Think Before You Share a Drink With Someone.” She had innocently offered her water glass to her thirsty son the day before he started showing symptoms.

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Flu season: Should we stop shaking hands?

Greetings during flu season

Source: The New York Times

Click photo for larger view.

What with the start of school, the flu season may already be here. Washington State University has already reported over 2000 students with flu symptoms.
Public health officials recommend staying three to five feet away from anyone who coughs or sneezes. Also from anyone who might be infected. But how do we know if someone is carrying the flu if they’re not yet showing symptoms? Are we to stop shaking hands with business colleagues and giving hugs to arriving friends?

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Preparing for the flu: Why don't we do it in our sleeves?

Sneeze in your sleeve

Source: Coughsafe.com

Goodness! I’ve been sneezing into my elbow and didn’t realize it was socially unacceptable.
It makes so much sense. You should never sneeze into your hands unless you can wash them without first touching something. Handkerchiefs collect germs and tissues should be used only once.
This first video is from the CDC and makes a good lesson for kids.

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Doctors in the trenches speak out – Part three

maggie-mahar-money-driven-medicineHere’s the third and last installment from the documentary Money-Driven Medicine. The topics this time focus on the financial issues of health care: Insurance premiums, competitive hospitals, the control of medicine by profit-driven corporations, the disconnect between money and health. The first and second installments are in previous posts.

Is it possible for opponents and proponents to find common ground here? Are these issues that could unite concerned citizens of various political persuasions? Could we all agree there’s something profoundly wrong with the existing health care system that needs to be addressed?

One of the most disturbing quotations comes near the end of this post: “The end product of all of this mess and confusion in [medical] technological innovation is going to be a system that cannot be sustained, because it will be so expensive that only the extremely well to do, the elite, will have access to it.”
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Doctors in the trenches speak out – Part two

maggie-mahar-money-driven-medicineHere’s a second installment from the documentary Money-Driven Medicine. The producer, Alex Gibney, is an Oscar-winning filmmaker (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room). See the previous post for the first installment.

Bill Moyers: “Money-Driven Medicine is one of the strongest documentaries I have seen in years and could not be more timely. The more people who see and talk about it, the more likely we are to get serious and true health care reform.”
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Doctors in the trenches speak out – Part One

maggie-mahar-money-driven-medicine

I grow weary of the politics of health care reform. Powerful interest groups buy the politicians. The need to get re-elected takes precedence over the national interest. Paul Krugman writes: “Actually turning this country around is going to take years of siege warfare against deeply entrenched interests, defending a deeply dysfunctional political system.”

My sympathies may lean towards one side of the health care reform argument, but I find it distressing to see good people on both sides insult, demean, and provoke one another. I know it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, but does it really have to be? When Rodney King said “Can we all just get along?” did that resonate with us and become unforgettable because it was so naïve?

I don’t think so. I believe, deep down, the vast majority of Americans would prefer a kinder, gentler nation. What we have now is a spectacle with high entertainment value.
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