Eric v Martin

House Democrats Health Plan

This is unreal. In the wake of the worst Metro accident in Washington D.C. history, PR for the DC transit system is going from really bad to rock bottom.

Check out this YouTube video, which apparently shows a metro operator falling asleep at the helm!

(first reported by NBC washington).

Part of me feels bad for the guy. It’s gotta be monotonous driving one of those trains. But Metro doesn’t need this. Not now.

Guys, check out this interesting article from the Atlantic on health care. Thoughts??

Apr 13 2009, 9:16 am
by Regina Herzlinger

The time for universal health insurance coverage has come. Everybody seems to know that — except for the Republicans, all too many of whom cling to traditional denunciations of universal coverage as socialism. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has been holding talks with Republican lawmakers over the past week, and all signs point to opposition from the GOP.

But for the welfare of the country and their political party, Republicans should, instead, seize the lesson of Nixon’s trip to China. With one brilliant foray, Nixon converted the massive threat posed by the isolated China into an asset, secured a favorable mention in history, and stripped the Democrats of a key issue. By embracing their own brand of universal health coverage, Republicans can do the same.
There’s a massive constituency behind the policy. Buffeted by the recession and the threat of losing their employer-provided health insurance, the American people want universal coverage. Much of the US business community wants it too. CEOs rarely say “Know what I love about my job? Buying health care.” The chore is so unrewarding — corporate buyers have failed to create effective cost or quality improvements — that many small business CEOs simply skip it. As a result, millions distort the efficient allocation of labor in our economy by opting for jobs in dying, big companies that offer health insurance, rather than productive ones in small companies that do not. Furthermore, our employer-based health insurance system forces American businesses to pack our massive health care costs — about 70 percent greater as a share of GDP than other countries’ — into the cost of their exports, a huge albatross in a globally competitive economy.

The Republicans can do a Nixon-goes-to-China by offering a better version of universal coverage. There is, after all, substantial concern about the Democrats’ reliance on universal coverage through a government-controlled system like Medicare. Some distrust government’s ability to make good on its promises. Medicare currently owes $36 trillion in services to those who paid for its use when they hit 65. Have you seen a spare $36 trillion hanging around? (For perspective, that amount is equivalent to about three years of US GDP.)

Another concern is that government will control costs by rationing health care to the sick. The government-controlled UK health care system, for example, has the lowest uptake of cancer drugs among the five biggest European economies and correspondingly low cancer survival rates. Concerns about rationing are not demagoguery. How else can a government control costs? Many experts dismiss as wishful thinking the Democrats’ claims of achieving efficiency by implementing dazzling information technology and other technocratic tools. And because the truly sick constitute only 20 percent of health-care users, but account for 80 percent of health-care costs, they may as well wear a bull’s eye on their backs: they are a politically vulnerable target for cost control through rationing.

Transforming the government into a monopolistic buyer of health care will also affect the supply of doctors. All too many doctors, saddled with massive educational debts, refuse to see Medicaid patients because they are pay so little. But if government were the only payer, some prospective physicians, facing the prospect of incomes totally controlled by the government, would reluctantly enter other professions.

Finally, a government-controlled system would likely impair the medically and economically important genomic sector. US venture capitalists have provided billions for research that may provide cures or even preventions for genetically linked diseases. Kiss that money — and the important personalized medicine industry it could create — goodbye under a system of government-controlled universal coverage. Venture capitalists will find it too risky to invest in markets where one payer controls prices.

The Republicans could instead offer a consumer-controlled universal coverage system, like that in Switzerland, in which the people, not the government, control how much they spend on health. There are no government health insurance programs. Instead, the Swiss choose from about 85 private heath insurers. Rather than being stuffed into the degrading Medicaid program, the Swiss poor shop for health insurance like everyone else, using funds transferred to them by the government. The sick are not discriminated against either — they pay the same prices as everyone else in their demographic category. Like the US, Switzerland is a confederation of states that, as in the US, oversee the insurance system. Enforcement by the tax authorities has produced 99 percent enrollment.

This consumer-driven, universal coverage system provides excellent health care for the sick, tops the world in consumer satisfaction, and costs 40 percent less, as a percentage of GDP, than the system in the US. The Swiss could spend even less by choosing cheaper, high deductible health insurance policies, but they have opted against doing so. Swiss consumers reward insurers that offer the best value for the money. These competitive pressures cause Swiss insurers to spend only about 5 percent on general and administrative expenses, as compared to 12-15 percent in the US. And unlike Medicare, the private Swiss firms must function without incurring massive unfunded liabilities. Competition has also pushed Swiss providers to be more efficient than those in the US. Yet they remain well-compensated.

We can also learn from the mistakes made by the Swiss. For example, they pay providers for fragmented care, rather than for integrated treatments for diseases or disabilities. The Swiss sustain an inefficient hospital sector, and they aren’t transparent about the cost and quality of providers.

Republicans could enact Swiss-style universal coverage by enabling employees to cash out of their employer-sponsored health insurance. (Although many view employer-sponsored health insurance as a” free” benefit, it is money that would otherwise be paid as income.) The substantial sums involved would command attention and gratitude: a 2006 cash out would have yielded $12,000 — the average cost of employer-sponsored health insurance — thus raising the income of joint filers who earn less than $73,000 (90 percent of all filers) by at least 16 percent. Employees could remain in with an employer’s plan or use this new income to buy their own health insurance.

The Republican choice is clear. They can whine while the Democratic Congress enacts a government-controlled system, or they can embrace a Republican approach to Universal Coverage.

I don’t know what’s more unsettling, the fact that I had pork chops last night, or the fact that Sarah Palin is unraveling before our eyes via Twitter, of all mediums.

swine-flu1

I’ll choose the former, because Channel News 8 is reporting that an Alexandria man has died of complications from the “swine flu” virus.

That’s right folks, swine flu has hit the Alexandria shores, and it has probably already infected me via delicious, local-butcher-bought, grilled pork chop.

According to Channel News 8, victim David Twomey could have been any of us. He was 27 years old, and “had two passions in life — communications and politics”.

Creepy.

But I guess there are worse ways to die.

FENT

When it comes to managing a tragedy, Rudy Giuliani set the gold standard for American mayors with his masterful handling of the September 11 attacks on New York City.

Flocked by cameras, Rudy rolled up his sleeves and demonstrated poise and strength that the city was able to rally around. The Big Apple recovered beautifully, and Giuliani exploded in popularity, becoming a national personality overnight. No doubt, mayors from major cities across the nation watched enviously as Giuliani vied for the Republican presidential nomination in ’08.

So not surprisingly, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty attempted to handle the METRO disaster Giuliani-style. According to the Washington Post, Fenty decided to crown himself METRO spokesman during the disaster by funneling information about the crash through his office.

METRO officials, and other top city employees were not permitted to speak to the media. The result was a disorganized press conference where Fenty incorrectly informed the press that only 7 people had died in the crash, even though METRO and public safety personnel had confirmed nine deaths.

Candace Smith, a spokeswoman for METRO, alluded to Fenty’s domineering handling of the tragedy when she told the Post, “The spirit of cooperation is not what we would like it to be.”

Adrian Fenty is no Rudolph Giuliani, and the METRO accident was no September 11. There are no heroes here, only victims. So on a purely tactical level, it didn’t make sense for Fenty to try to monopolize information about the accident. Effective leaderership, in this case, would have meant Fenty allowing METRO and other city officials do their jobs.

Oh, and Adrian Fenty, please get this into your head: most of America knows you only as the guy behind Barack Obama in the Ben’s Chili Bowl picture.

obama-smokingEarlier this month, we talked about how the Nick Naylors of the world needed to work their magic in defense of the tobacco industry to prevent a new bout of aggressive anti-smoking legislation from hitting the President’s desk.

Well, Nick Naylor failed.

Surrounded by lawmakers and special guests in the Rose Garden today, President Obama signed the “strongest anti-smoking measure ever” into law, according to the Associated Press.

Apparently, the irony of the moment wasn’t lost on Obama, a chain smoker since his teen years. According to AP, he alluded to his own struggle to quit cigarettes as he signed the bill into law.

UPDATE: According to the LATEST reports, two red line trains collided. In a press conference moments ago, DC Mayor Adrien Fenty announced that four have officially been confirmed as dead, making the accident the deadliest in Metro history. ###

156724If you’ve been following the news at all today, you know that a red line train and a green line train collided near the Fort Totten metro stop.

Sometimes it takes a disaster like this to mind us that life is short, and can change so quickly and without warning. For me, it’s particularly sobering, as I easily could have been on that train. I was riding the metro’s yellow line during the time of the collision, and was less than a mile or two away from ground zero.

Say a prayer for the victims and their families. They need all the support they can get.

As DNC Chairman, Governor Tim Kaine has been jet setting around the country the past five months, promoting Democratic candidates in a slew of national and state elections. But with the Commonwealth facing record budget deficits, and a spiking unemployment rate, he’s come under fire recently for, well, not being around.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the Republican Party of Virginia “requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) records of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s out-of-state travels and state expenditures related to his work as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.”

Kaine spokeswoman Lynda Tran told the Times-Dispatch that this FOIA request will be handled no differently than other similar requests.

“We’ll look at them and see whether the Freedom of Information Act applies to the requests,” she said. “And if it does, we will provide the records that are required.”

For Virginia Republicans, who have endured losses in the last two gubernatorial elections, the move reflects a revamped tactical approach to politics in the state. The impending showdown between Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell promises to receive national attention, and holds important significance for Republicans who are hungry to regain momentum.

Republican Pat Mullins told the Times-Dispatch that Kaine is fiddling while Virginia is burning.

“He’s more concerned with his role as chairman of the DNC,” Mullins said. “Instead of addressing the huge budget deficit, he’s in Kansas City.”

The Kansas City Star didn’t help Kaine’s cause when it reported this past Tuesday that “Kaine … will return to the KC area Friday … Kaine is a former Virginia governor.” The Star quickly corrected its error, but Kaine’s opponents have attempted to take advantage of any stigma that remains with this video:

329893_617173155Apparently, Alicia Hughes ran for city council in Alexandria without being a resident of Alexandria, OR the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Only problem is, she won.

The Alexandria Gazette Packet reports today:

“With less than two weeks before [Alicia Hughes] is sworn into office…three Democratic campaign contributors filed a complaint with city officials charging that Hughes was not a properly registered voter in the city of Alexandria at the time she filed for candidacy on March 3.

Registrar Tom Parkins has scheduled a June 25 hearing to consider Hughes’ eligibility to vote in Alexandria. To become a registered voter in Virginia, applicants need to be a resident of the commonwealth, not claiming residency in another state.

The three individuals bringing the complaint plan to present evidence that Hughes received a homestead exemption on a house she owns in Baltimore…”

If Ms. Hughes truly is a resident of Maryland, this could be Alexandria’s biggest “what were you thinking?!?” moment of the year. Seriously, it’s this simple: if your drivers license says “Maryland”, you can’t run for political office in “Virginia”.

Please stay tuned for tomorrow’s blooper: “Alexandria mayor attempts to annex Anacostia and name the resulting territory ‘Barack Obama'”.

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