Friday ReadsPosted: February 22, 2013
It’s pretty common knowledge that the increasing cost of health care is the real issue that most economists see as the driver for increased federal and state deficit spending issues in the future. Time Magazine has a good article up that discusses how rapidly increasing costs are an issue for governments and families alike. The information is surrounded by personal family stories that are heartbreaking.
When we debate health care policy, we seem to jump right to the issue of who should pay the bills, blowing past what should be the first question: Why exactly are the bills so high?
What are the reasons, good or bad, that cancer means a half-million- or million-dollar tab? Why should a trip to the emergency room for chest pains that turn out to be indigestion bring a bill that can exceed the cost of a semester of college? What makes a single dose of even the most wonderful wonder drug cost thousands of dollars? Why does simple lab work done during a few days in a hospital cost more than a car? And what is so different about the medical ecosystem that causes technology advances to drive bills up instead of down?
Recchi’s bill and six others examined line by line for this article offer a closeup window into what happens when powerless buyers — whether they are people like Recchi or big health-insurance companies — meet sellers in what is the ultimate seller’s market.
The result is a uniquely American gold rush for those who provide everything from wonder drugs to canes to high-tech implants to CT scans to hospital bill-coding and collection services. In hundreds of small and midsize cities across the country — from Stamford, Conn., to Marlton, N.J., to Oklahoma City — the American health care market has transformed tax-exempt “nonprofit” hospitals into the towns’ most profitable businesses and largest employers, often presided over by the regions’ most richly compensated executives. And in our largest cities, the system offers lavish paychecks even to midlevel hospital managers, like the 14 administrators at New York City’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center who are paid over $500,000 a year, including six who make over $1 million.
Taken as a whole, these powerful institutions and the bills they churn out dominate the nation’s economy and put demands on taxpayers to a degree unequaled anywhere else on earth. In the U.S., people spend almost 20% of the gross domestic product on health care, compared with about half that in most developed countries. Yet in every measurable way, the results our health care system produces are no better and often worse than the outcomes in those countries.
According to one of a series of exhaustive studies done by the McKinsey & Co. consulting firm, we spend more on health care than the next 10 biggest spenders combined: Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia.
Slavery is still an issue around the world. It involves people of all ages and occurs in a surprising number of countries. Why is slavery still thriving?
A lot of people are pretty excited that Mississippi has decided to join the rest of the nation in outlawing human bondage. But in these celebrations, we seem to have forgotten one thing: Modern-day slavery is still a thriving industry, both in Mississippi and in the rest of the nation.
In fact, Mississippi is something of regional slave transportation hub, according to the state’s special assistant attorney general Heather Wagner, who explains that the easy highway access to nearby major cities and the Gulf Coast ports make the state a trafficking corridor. The state recently passed rules requiring longer prison sentences for people caught enslaving and trafficking humans, such as the two Mississippi men who were recently indicted for selling or buying of children after being caught with a video that shows them enslaving and raping a girl about three years old.
To be fair, human and sex trafficking isn’t unique to Mississippi. According to the Department of Homeland Security, this industry–which the website describes as “ modern-day slavery”–is thriving across the United States. Recent examples abound: The 17 young women from Mexico who were brought to the U.S., held in captivity in New York State and forced to work as prostitutes; the firefighter in Baltimore who allegedly enslaved women in a brothel; the 20 Togolese women or girls who were transported to the U.S. and forced to work in hair salons in New Jersey. Nationally; an estimated 244,000 American children are at risk of being enslaved and forced into sex work alone–that doesn’t even include the thousands of additional people who are transported to the U.S., held in captivity and forced to work picking tomatoes or strawberries for WalMart. Globally, slavery recognized as one of the most lucrative illegal industries. An estimated 27 million are enslaved, generating $32 billion annually.And that’s just illegal slavery; state-sanctioned bondage is another thriving industry with that entraps millions of people and generates billions of dollars. With one of the most punitive states in the nation, Mississippi is a model of the incarceration nation
Minx fed my interest in graves with this discovery of a warrior’s grave in Russia.
Hidden in a necropolis situated high in the mountains of the Caucasus in Russia, researchers have discovered the grave of a male warrior laid to rest with gold jewelry, iron chain mail and numerous weapons, including a 36-inch (91 centimeters) iron sword set between his legs.
That is just one amazing find among a wealth of ancient treasures dating back more than 2,000 years that scientists have uncovered there.
Among their finds are two bronze helmets, discovered on the surface of the necropolis. One helmet (found in fragments and restored) has relief carvings of curled sheep horns while the other has ridges, zigzags and other odd shapes.
Radical Right Republicans and the establishment republicans continue to reject Karl Rove with a variety of insults and personal comments made public. Here’s an example. There are more at the Bloomberg.com article.
Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for the Conservative Victory Project and American Crossroads, said the groups had “come to the conclusion that we need to increase the caliber of candidates running for office in Republican primaries, and our goal is to elect the most conservative candidates in primaries who can win” general election contests against Democrats.“We have made absolutely clear we are not trying to pick a fight with the Tea Party,” Collegio said. “We are simply trying to pick the best candidates available.”
That’s not how David Bossie, president of Citizens United, a Washington-based group that says it is “dedicated to restoring our government to citizens’ control,” sees it.
“I like it that voters get to decide,” Bossie said. “I think Rove is trying to defend himself and deflect from his failure. I hear from donors. I hear from grassroots people across the country who are offended by the very fact that Karl Rove thinks he knows best.”
“If American Crossroads has done a great job, why create some new entity with the name conservative in it?” Bossie asked. “So everybody thinks it’s good because it is from a conservative outfit?”
Hope you’ve stocked up on plenty of popcorn because this is certainly getting more interesting as their losing days wear on. There seems to be an amazing race in banana republican states to see which one can pass the most restrictive abortion laws. Yes, yes. Republicans are all about small government and less regulation.
A Republican-controlled committee in the Arkansas House of Representatives approved a bill on Thursday that bans abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy if a fetal heartbeat is detected, with exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother and highly lethal fetal disorders. The law, if passed, would be the most extreme abortion restriction in the country.
The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee also approved a Senate-passed bill that bans abortions at 20 weeks after conception. Both bills defy the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which prevents states from banning abortions before the fetus is viable — usually between 22 and 24 weeks of gestation.
Opponents of the so-called “heartbeat bill” argue that it would prevent women from having abortions before many of them even realize they’re pregnant.
“Let’s call this bill what it is: bumper-sticker message legislation with no chance of standing up in court, designed to dial the clock back 40 years on women’s rights,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy group. “This extreme ban will either force women already facing tough economic circumstances to travel to a neighboring state to access constitutionally protected health care or to turn to dangerous, clandestine options that could ruin or even end their lives.”
Apparently FBI agents are mixing work with play a little too much. CNN obtained confidential internal memos scolding employees for a variety of violations, including bugging a boss’s office, paying for sex in a massage parlor, sending nude pictures to coworkers, and “a rash of sexting cases.” “When you are given an FBI BlackBerry, it’s for official use. It’s not to text the woman in another office who you found attractive or to send a picture of yourself in a state of undress. That is not why we provide you an FBI BlackBerry,” FBI assistant director Candice Will told CNN. She added that though she thinks she’s seen it all in her time at the FBI, she continues to get files that surprise her.
With that, I turn the reins of discussion to you. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?