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unspinning healthcare reform and exposing the US healthcare oligarchy

February 19, 2010 11 comments

By Morose Perish
2/19/2010
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Editors note: An oligarchy (Greek Ὀλιγαρχία, Oligarkhía) (oligocracy) is a form of government in which power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society.

Healthcare in America today is delivered by an exclusive club. This exclusive club consists of providers, hospitals, insurers and big pharma. Big pharma funds the FDA which acts as a wholly owned subsidiary.

Over 3,300 lobbyists have descended on Washington to to throw money at politicians for votes specifically on “healthcare reform”, thus ensuring the interests and profits of the healthcare oligarchy are upheld.

Over the past 40 years, the cost of healthcare in America has risen at an annual rate of approximately 12 percent. This is the root of the healthcare crisis in America. $100 dollars spent on healthcare 40 years ago increasing at an annual rate of 12 percent costs $9,300 dollars today. During this same 40 year period, $100 dollars in average income has increased to about $220.

The simple fact is that the cost of healthcare has risen at a greatly exaggerated rate relative to the cost of everything else. The rate of increase has been so dramatic relative to income that the costs are now an impossible burden on society.

Two thirds of all personal bankruptcies in America today are due to illness requiring major medical treatment. 78% of those people had medical insurance.

Over the past several decades, Americans have been paying more, getting less, and the enormous profits generated by Americans paying more and getting less have lined the pockets of but a few. Furthermore, there is an economic incentive to overtreat by prescribing unnecessary drugs, ordering expensive tests, and undergoing ineffective treatments. This has the effect of increasing patient costs and unnecessarily increasing risks to patients from side effects of drugs, tests and procedures that were ordered not out of necessity, but out of greed from our elitist providers. Enormously profitable cholesterol lowering drugs have been pushed upon the population by big pharma for decades under the auspices of preventative treatment. Now decades later, we find that not only are the drugs ineffective, they substantially increase the risk of death and disease from other causes. This is not medicine. It’s legalized drug pushing to maximize corporate profits at the expense of their trusting victims. A tragic error? Statistically improbable when we look at the volume of so called preventative drugs pushed on the population in the past several decades which were later pulled from the market because they killed or injured healthy people.

In my city, the CEO of the hospital drives a Rolls Royce. We recently saw an orthopedic specialist to give an opinion by reading an xray. We gave him the CD, he loaded it into his computer, and he spent a total of 10 minutes with us. The cost? $600. That’s $3,600 an hour for giving opinions.  The point is that the healthcare system in America as it stands today is enriching a few at the expense of the many, and at the expense of the sick.  This is not healthcare, it’s racketeering and profiteering from illness and injury. Capitalism? No. Powerful special interest cartels, yes. The only thing that has been capitalized on is the inherent willingness of sick people and their families to spend everything they have and go into debt to save themselves. The healthcare system in America today has many, if not all of the attributes of organized crime.

Furthermore, when analyzed on a price performance basis, although the costs have skyrocketed relative to everything else, the average life expectancy of Americans has gone down, and quality of life studies show that Americans are less healthy overall today and on a declining trend. The system has become impossibly unaffordable, and at the same time delivered a lower quality product as measured by longevity and quality of life. The system, collectively, as a whole, has become a wealth confiscation mechanism, siphoning off the wealth of the citizens and depositing it with a small group of elitist oligarchs.

In recent years, we have seen the development of a phenomenon called “medical tourism” where the costs of treatment in foreign countries is so much lower relative to the US, that US citizens are traveling to places such as India, staying in a five star hotel, receiving first rate treatment for major medical procedures, and then returning to the US still for far less than the cost of the medical treatment or procedure here in the US.  How is this possible?

Clearly something is systemically wrong with the US healthcare system.

Today one in ten of the adult population in America have diabetes and take on the average six different expensive drugs as a result. One in 100 children have autism. Studies have shown that the highest cause of death in America is being admitted to the healthcare system. The list goes on and on but plotted as price vs performance, it can be easily argued that Americans are paying more and getting less, that the system is not competitive, and it is siphoning off the wealth of the citizens at an unsustainable rate.

Why?

To answer that question, we need to ask the question, what mechanism is in place to contain healthcare costs balanced against the demand side of people willing to pay whatever they have to pay to save, cure or treat themselves.

In a free market, with competition, one would expect healthcare costs to rise only at the baseline rate of inflation. Healthcare however is not a free market. There are 4 distinct groups, each having enormous lobbies in Washington, and there is effectively no competition because barriers to entry have been erected.

  • providers (represented by the AMA and ADA)
  • big pharma (funded and represented by the FDA, lobbied by Hill & Knowlton and tens of other powerful lobbying firms)
  • medical insurers (represented by “America’s Health Insurance Plans” and other lobbies)
  • hospitals (represented by “American Hospital Association reps” “the Federation of American Hospitals” and others)

In other words, this is not a free market. There are 4 distinct cartels, each with powerful lobbies, and competition outside of those four groups is effectively banned.

Given a monopolistic supply curve and an inelastic demand curve, the cartel can effectively charge whatever price they want without reducing demand. They can charge up to the point where the society is unable to pay. This system has reached that point and then some.

As a result of this, any sort of “reform” can be guaranteed one thing. Each of these 4 lobbies will pay money to lawmakers to ensure their interests are upheld. Interestingly, those interests all involve maximizing their own profitability. If the providers, big pharma, insurers, and treatment centers are all maximizing their profitability, the flip side of that is that they are delivering decreased price performance…ie a higher cost and lower quality care. Their maximizing of profits ensures a declining standard of care and ever increasing costs. Interestingly, this lines up exactly with what can be documented using the historical data.

Where does that leave us?

It leaves us with a broken healthcare system. It is a broken system because the system itself after 40 years of annual double digit cost increases now collectively requires more money than is available to feed it.

It is not going to be fixed because of corruption. The lobbies will ensure that every vote on any kind of reform is paid for in advance. In come cases, the lobbies are even writing the reform and the lawmakers are just rubber stamping it without even reading it. It doesn’t matter because it’s all been purchased. The votes have been purchased and the wording in the reform has been purchased. The corporate media is running interference by trying to paint it as a left vs right political issue. It isn’t. It’s the criminal corruption of an entire industry who effectively bribes Washington to get what they want.

So what about the future of healthcare in America?

In an introspective look, I wrote that the only thing you can be sure of regarding healthcare reform is that you will pay more and get less. The lobbies will ensure that as they endeavor to maximize their profitability. One would expect to see the total size of the four groups decrease, but for prices to continue to rise. It will be a dysfunctional system with shortages of care, high prices, and a good percentage of the people going bankrupt as an unfortunate result of getting sick and entering into it.

Edit:Add Footnotes

Life Expectancy Declines for American Women
By Larry West
Life expectancy for American women is declining for the first time since the Spanish influenza epidemic in 1918, according to study [pdf] published today [April 22, 2008] by the Harvard School of Public Health and reported in the Washington Post.
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Life Expectancy Worsening or Stagnating for Large Segment of the U.S. Population
Monday, April 21, 2008
Boston, MA — Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the University of Washington found that 4% of the male population and 19% of the female population experienced either decline or stagnation in mortality beginning in the 1980s.
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Anemia drug doubles stroke risk, study finds
Marilynn Marchione, Associated Press
Saturday, October 31, 2009
A new study raises fresh safety concerns about widely used anemia medicines, finding that the drug Aranesp nearly doubled the risk of stroke in people with diabetes and chronic kidney problems who are not yet sick enough to need dialysis.
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Cholesterol-lowering drugs increase risk of diabetes, study finds
17 February 2010
By Lyndsay Moss
USING drugs to lower cholesterol increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, research in Scotland suggests. An analysis of 13 studies involving the drugs, known as statins, found that they increased the chances of someone developing diabetes by 9 per cent.
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Child cases of diabetes set to double, says study
Number of under-fives with type 1 diabetes will be twice figure it was four years ago by 2020
Alexandra Topping
UK Guardian
Thursday 28 May 2009
The number of cases of insulin-dependent diabetes among children under five is expected to double in the next 11 years, according to experts. If present trends continue, by 2020 the number of children with type 1 diabetes will be twice the number it was four years ago.
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U.S. diabetes rate doubles in 10 years
By CDC
Oct 31, 2008
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Dozens of Pfizer and Merck Research Studies Faked
In the largest research fraud in medical history, Dr. Scott Reuben, a former member of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s speakers’ bureau, is pleading guilty to faking dozens of research studies published in medical journals.
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Senate Turns Down Drug  Reimportation
Mark Crane
December 15, 2009 — The US Senate today turned down a bipartisan amendment to allow the purchase and importation of prescription drugs from other countries.
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Widely-used diabetes drugs can cause heart disease and death, warn experts

A diabetes drug used by tens of thousands of Britons increases the risk of heart disease and death, according to a new report.
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Medical problems were behind two-thirds of personal bankruptcies in 2007. And that was before the economic crisis.
By Andrew Leonard
Friday, Jun 5, 2009
Salon
Americans filed for bankruptcy at a rate of 6,020 per day in May, reports Credit Slip’s Bob Lawless. That’s the first time the 6,000-per-day mark has been broken since the passing of the 2005 bankruptcy law, which made it hard for Americans to seek relief from their debts. In related bankruptcy news, the results of a study to be published in the August issue of the American Journal of Medicine show that “medical problems contributed to nearly two-thirds (62.1 percent) of all bankruptcies in 2007.” More strikingly — “between 2001 and 2007, the proportion of all bankruptcies attributable to medical problems rose by 49.6 percent.” (Found via Mark Thoma. The authors of the study cite their findings as yet more evidence that the healthcare system in the United States is broken.
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78 Percent Of Bankruptcy Filers Burdened By Healthcare Expenses Had Health Insurance
In an update to their landmark 2001 study on medical bankruptcy, researchers at Harvard University have concluded that medical debt contributed to 62 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies in 2007 — 78 percent of bankruptcy filers burdened by healthcare expenses had health insurance but “still were overwhelmed by their medical debt“:
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Six Lobbyists Per Lawmaker Work on Health Overhaul
By Jonathan D. Salant and Lizzie O’Leary
Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) — If there is any doubt that President Barack Obama’s plan to overhaul U.S. health care is the hottest topic in Congress, just ask the 3,300 lobbyists who have lined up to work on the issue. That’s six lobbyists for each of the 535 members of the House and Senate, according to Senate records, and three times the number of people registered to lobby on defense. More than 1,500 organizations have health-care lobbyists, and about three more are signing up each day. Every one of the 10 biggest lobbying firms by revenue is involved in an effort that could affect 17 percent of the U.S. economy. These groups spent $263.4 million on lobbying during the first six months of 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group, more than any other industry. They spent $241.4 million during the same period of 2008. Drugmakers alone spent $134.5 million, 64 percent more than the next biggest spenders, oil and gas companies.
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Modern Health Care System is the Leading Cause of Death
Doctors are in fact the LEADING cause of death in this country. Not heart disease, not cancer–doctors. In all fairness, doctors themselves are not to blame for all of this. The entire modern health care system, however, is to blame for allowing, even promoting, so many unnecessary procedures, drugs and mishaps.
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How Big Pharma is Infiltrating Your Child’s School
by Steve Gaylord
F ebruary 25, 2010
This subject is definitely alarming…
School Based Health Centers: How Big Pharma Is Infiltrating Your Child’s School
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Despite outcry, Anthem Blue Cross to go ahead with big rate hike
By Michael B. Farrell
San Francisco – Anthem Blue Cross, the health insurer that plans to boost rates by as much as 39 percent in California this year, has become a lightning rod in the national debate over healthcare reform
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Statins: The side effects ‘are worse than feared’
By Jenny Hope
Last updated at 10:02 AM on 21st May 2010
The side effects of statins can be far worse than previously thought, a study suggests. For the first time, the level of harm posed by the cholesterol-lowering drugs has been quantified by researchers. They found some users are much more likely to suffer liver dysfunction, acute kidney failure, cataracts and muscle damage known as myopathy. For some patients, the risk is eight times higher than among those not taking statins. Overall, the risk of myopathy – which may be irreversible – is six  times higher for men on statins and three times higher for women.
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Tags: Healthcare,  Health Care, medical insurance, unaffordable, lobbyist, lobbying, reform, oligarchy, bankruptcy, illness, major medical, medical tourism, failure

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the republic is dead

February 13, 2010 21 comments

By Thomas Jefferson Apparition
2.13.2010
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Editors Note: This article represents a fact based analytical analysis regarding the current state of the republic in the USA along with an opinion why it is beyond the point of self correction.

The people’s representatives no longer represent the people

In order for a democracy or a republic to function, the citizens must have a voice. This essay will argue that the people have lost their voice, and will be fundamentally unable to regain that voice regardless of who is sitting in the political seats. Even the president is powerless to affect change, and is wholly subservient to the money interests who put him there.

Over the past decade, polling has shown that the American public is extremely dissatisfied with their representation in Washington. During the 8 year dominion of the self proclaimed “great decider”, public approval of congress ranged from 20% down to 12% by the end of his reign. Arguably, the approval ratings could not under any circumstances fall much lower. In fact, even among the most miserable and totalitarian regimes across the world and at any time in history, public approval ratings of the leadership were higher than in the US over the past decade.

Voters demanded a change.

The problem is that there has been no change.  Mr Barak Obama, elected on a platform of change, is currently leading the effort in change=no change. At the present time Mr Obama is registering record low public approval ratings, and the latest polls are showing only 8 percent believe that Congress represents the interests of the people. Even more telling and worrisome is the data showing only 21 percent of the population feel the government has the authority to govern. So once again, we are back to great decider levels and arguably as low as possible.

Few Want Members of Congress Re-Elected, Poll Finds
By Jonathan D. Salant
Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) — Just 8 percent of Americans want the members of Congress re-elected, according to a CBS News-New York Times poll taken nine months before roughly one-third of the Senate and the entire House face voters. The Feb. 5-10 survey found 81 percent of respondents saying the lawmakers shouldn’t receive another term. By 80 percent to 13 percent, Americans said members of Congress are more interested in serving special interests than the people they represent.
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Only 21% Say U.S. Government Has Consent of the Governed
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The founding document of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, states that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Today, however, just 21% of voters nationwide believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed.
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So think about that for a minute. For the past decade, under the leadership of both political parties, public dissatisfaction with their representation in congress is arguably as low as it could possibly be.  How is that possible?

Lobbyists didn’t suffer a slowdown in 2009
Health industry spent $544m
By Jonathan D. Salant
Bloomberg News / February 13, 2010
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The obvious problem is that the politicians in Washington, regardless of whether they call themselves Democrats or Republicans, are all bought and paid for by lobbyists and special interests. Their hands are tied. While seeming powerful, their only power lies in determining which lobbyists and special interest groups are going to buy them first. When Mr Obama was campaigning, he made a point that if elected he would address this situation, and yet a year after he was elected, lobbyists and special interest groups are two of the only thriving industries amid 20% real unemployment among the general public.

What we have now is not a democracy and not a republic.

When the people have no representation, they have no voice. We have a government today whose policies are dictated by a small group of very powerful corporations and special interest groups represented by lobbyists who lavish gifts and cold hard cash for votes on issues. These corporations and special interests throw billions of dollars annually at approximately 500 people for the express purpose of buying  a vote.

It is bribery, and it is unfortunately all legal.

The reason it is legal is because these lobbyists and special interest groups are so powerful they made it legal. In a disgusting display here in 2010, these lobbyists are now so powerful they bought the Supreme Court with an unprecedented ruling that allows unlimited political contributions by corporations. Now the corporations can not only influence the vote, they can also pick the candidates.

“And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.” – Senator Dick Durbin 2009

Where is the press?

The media in the United States has undergone a rapid consolidation and transformation. Two decades ago there were thousands of independently owned media outlets, and guess what happened? The largest of these operators lobbied the people’s representatives to relax important rules regarding the media and monopoly behavior. As a result, instead of thousands of independent media outlets, in 2010 six mega corporations control 96% of what Americans, read, hear on the radio and see on Television. Journalists are the watchdog of a democracy. When media becomes one with the government, the people become disinformed and uninformed and a democracy cannot function.

While you were sleeping…

The people have lost their voice. The power has been transferred to the few. This is corporatism by the elite money interests. It’s not democracy. It’s not a republic. Using the correct definitions of words, it’s corporatism (fascism) or to be more correct in this case, a fascist oligarchy or plutocracy. The will of the people is of no consequence. The people are to be placated, manipulated, disinformed and entertained while less than 0.1 percent of the population make the rules and rule over them like kings. The government and big corporations are joined at the hip. The banking system controls the money and the power. The media is in their pocket. The people have lost their voice and they are not going to get it back.

The republic is dead.

I will now join good company with Thomas Jefferson, the primary architect of the US constitution who stated:

“When once a republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying any of the growing evils but by removing the corruption and restoring its lost principles; every other correction is either useless or a new evil.” -Thomas Jefferson

The fundamental issue is that once power has been transferred to the few, they are not going to willingly relinquish that power. In the past decade, that has become painfully obvious and there is no one person who can stop the progression.

Tags:  Economy, Democracy, republic, capitalism, death of capitalism, corruption, fraud, banking, bankster, ponzi finance, fascist, fascism, oligarchy, plutocracy, NWO, New World Order
15 Years Ago, the Combined Assets of the 6 Biggest Banks Totaled 17% of GDP… By 2006, 55% … Now, 63%
Monday, March 1, 2010
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Ron Paul: The US Government’s Debt Can Never Be Repaid
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Rasmussen: Mere 4% Support Establishment Political Class
Rasmussen Reports
April 14, 2010
Sixty-five percent (65%) of voters nationwide now hold populist, or Mainstream, views of government. That’s up from 62% last September and 55% last March. Mainstream Americans tend to trust the wisdom of the crowd more than their political leaders and are skeptical of both big government and big business (see crosstabs). While Republicans and unaffiliated voters are more likely to hold Mainstream views than Democrats, a majority of those in the president’s party (51%) hold such views. Only four percent (4%) now support the Political Class. These voters tend to trust political leaders more than the public at large and are far less skeptical about government.
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Radical Concentration of Wealth is Destroying Both Capitalism and Democracy

Sunday, April 11, 2010
George Washington’s Blog
Note: If you wish, feel free to substitute the word “republic” for “democracy”.
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