Category Archives: Health

Only hours left to join the blog team, fight breast cancer!

No, you don't have to dress like this. But you WILL get a T shirt...

No, you don’t have to dress like this. But you WILL get a T shirt…

And when I say “hours,” I mean fewer than 24!

So save me from being a team of one. Come on out and help your community fight breast cancer.

If you don’t want to join my team, join another one. Or, if you can’t walk, just kick in a contribution. In any case, the deadline is noon Wednesday.

Click here to help.

Or, you can click on the button:

CLICK HERE

Don’t leave me hanging, here! Come on and Walk for Life

Last year, the Walk ended up at the Fireflies' ballpark.

The Walk starts and ends at the Fireflies’ ballpark.

Yes, it’s entirely my fault that I waited until the last minute to register the team for Walk for Life, which is happening Saturday.

So late that we’ve only got a day or two left before the cutoff to join the team — to be exact, the deadline is at noon on Wednesday. So that’s, um… just under 49 hours as I type this. (For you non-numbers people, that means it’s just past 11 a.m. on Monday.)

So if you want to help fight breast cancer in the Midlands, this would be an excellent time to step up and join the team. Or join some other team. Or, if you can’t walk, just kick in a contribution.

Click here to do either.

Do you prefer a button to click on? OK, here you go:

CLICK HERE

I realize that at this late date I can’t hope for much, but I still hope at least a couple of you can come out and walk. Or give.

Because the cause is a good one — none better…

Join the bradwarthen.com Walk for Life team!

The winningest team in the history of bradwarthen.com: me, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey and Doug Ross.

The winningest team in the glorious history of bradwarthen.com: me, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey and Doug Ross.

OK, so I waited until the last minute this year. But that should just help you focus on the fact that the Walk for Life to fight breast cancer is only a week away! As in, the morning of Oct. 14.

Come on and join the bradwarthen.com team, and help save some lives!

I’d love to have you come walk with us, but if you can only give money, well, we’ll accept it. We’re easy.

Click here to join/contribute.

My platelets went to Puerto Rico — BEFORE the hurricane

ontheway

Well, this is kind of cool to know. I received this via email over the weekend:

Thank you for being an American Red Cross platelet donor. Your platelets may be a lifesaving gift to patients in need, including cancer and trauma patients, individuals undergoing major surgeries, patients with blood disorders and premature babies.

After first ensuring local needs were met, your donation on 9/12/2017 was sent to Hospital Municipal De Cayey in Cayey, PR and Hospital Menonita de Caguas in Caguas, PR to help patients in need. Your donations are on their way to change lives!

Platelets have a very short life span – only 5 days! It’s critical for us to collect platelets continuously to ensure they’re available for patients when they need them. Your ongoing donations are greatly appreciated.

On behalf of the hospitals and patients we serve, thank you for being a Red Cross platelet donor!

That was actually several days before the hurricane. So, while I’m glad to have helped Puerto Rico, I guess my timing was a little off.

Here’s hoping that they sent my most recent donation, on Sept. 25, to Dominica. They really need help there…

I’m still staying in step — at least 10,000 a day

IMG_2698Sorry to bother y’all with this, but I just do it to keep pressure on myself so I don’t backslide.

At right you see the evidence, from my phone app, proving that I’m continuing to walk (or do the elliptical) at least 10,000 steps a day.

You may note that the record ends on Monday, but that’s because on Tuesday I took my fortnightly day off. I’ve decided to rest on the days after I give platelets, which I do every two weeks. I tend to drag for a day or so after doing that, and need the rest.

I’m still doing 35 minutes in the morning on the elliptical to get a head start (that gives me about 4,300 steps right there). Over the weekend, I think I’m going to move up to 40-minute workouts.

I’ll keep reporting in periodically….

McCain steps up to try to save us from Grahamcare

File photo from 2007

File photo from 2007

Last night, I saw a clip of John McCain just after he was captured in North Vietnam. I, and others watching the Vietnam series, saw him at one of the lowest moments in his life. (The narrator told us that after the interview, the North Vietnamese beat him for failing to sound sufficiently grateful to them for having treated his severe injuries.)

And now, in spite of once again being laid low, he ascends to the heights:

McCain says he will vote no on GOP health-care bill, dealing major blow to repeal effort

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced Friday that he does not support the latest Republican effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, dealing a major and potentially decisive blow to the last-ditch attempt to fulfill a seven-year GOP promise.

McCain’s comments came on the same day that Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who like McCain, voted against a GOP repeal bill in July, said she was likely to oppose the proposal, leaving the legislation on the brink of failure….

In a lengthy written statement, McCain said he “cannot in good conscience” vote for the bill authored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), which GOP leaders have been aiming to bring to the Senate floor next week. As he has done all week, he railed against the hurried process Senate GOP leaders used to move ahead.

“I would consider supporting legislation similar to that offered by my friends Senators Graham and Cassidy were it the product of extensive hearings, debate and amendment. But that has not been the case,” McCain said. He blamed a looming Sept. 30 deadline that GOP leaders were racing to meet to take advantage of a procedural rule allowing them to pass their bill with just 51 votes….

I doubt this will shame Sen. Graham into backing off his abominable proposal. But if anyone could, it would be McCain.

And we’re not out of the woods yet. This could still, conceivably, be crammed down the country’s throat.

But it’s welcome news.

Thank you, Senator!

Sen. Graham, please stop pushing this awful plan

Graham pushing his proposal recently in Columbia.

Graham pushing his proposal recently in Columbia. FILE PHOTO

If Lindsey Graham succeeds in selling the Graham-Cassidy proposal for repealing Obamacare, it is what he will be remembered for.

At the moment, to watch him as bounces about on an apparent high because of the way Republicans are lining up behind his plan, that’s a thought that would please him.

But it ought to chill his heart.

Sen. Graham is a man who has courageously stood for wise policies at great political risk — immigration comes to mind, as does his efforts over the years to break partisan gridlock over judicial nominations. But with this, he is completely on the wrong track, poised to make health care less available — especially to the poor and vulnerable — than it was before the Affordable Care Act.

As The Los Angeles Times notes:

Not content just to roll back the expansion of Medicaid in the Affordable Care Act, it would cap funding in a way that would threaten services for Medicaid’s core beneficiaries, including impoverished disabled people and families….

Graham likes to talk about federalism — normally a word that pleases me, invoking the principle of subsidiarity — in selling his idea of taking federal money for healthcare coverage and handing it out to the states as block grants.

Since I (just like Lindsey) live in a state that has bullheadedly refused to expand healthcare coverage even when the feds were almost entirely paying for it, that idea is a nonstarter. Worse, it would take funding away from wiser states that have tried to cover more uninsured people.

Do you trust South Carolina’s current leadership to actually expand access to healthcare with such a block grant? I do not.

But perhaps the worst thing about the proposal is the way Graham — and other Republicans desperate to do something, anything to “repeal Obamacare” before the end of this month — are rushing pell-mell to push it through, absent careful consideration and without a CBO assessment.

Most of them, I gather, could not care less about the impact of this proposal on actual Americans, as long as they pass something they can toss as anti-Obama red meat to their base.

The American people do not want this bill:

The block-grant proposal at the center of Cassidy-Graham is astoundingly unpopular, with just 26 percent of all voters and 48 percent of Republicans telling pollsters that they favor it….

Frankly, I’m confident that it would be less popular if people knew more about it — which they don’t, because of the way this is being jammed through.

“Success” in passing this abomination could prove disastrous for Republicans — not only on the national level, but in the state legislatures they so overwhelmingly control, since blame for the mess it would create would be in the states’ laps.

Some speculate that in the long run it would make Bernie Sanders’ single-payer pipe dream viable, such would be the backlash it would cause. This is ironic, given the mean-spirited way Graham taunts Bernie in trying to sell his plan to the right: ““Bernie, this ends your dream.”

I’ve never been a Bernie Sanders fan, but that Trumpist applause line of Graham’s makes me more sympathetic to the cranky old socialist than I have ever been. After all, health care is the one issue on which Bernie is actually right.

Wiser Republicans, such as my man John Kasich, are trying their best to pull their party back from this precipice:

In a letter to Senate leaders, the group of 10 governors argued against the Graham-Cassidy bill and wrote that they prefer the bipartisan push to stabilize the insurance marketplaces that Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) had been negotiating before talks stalled Tuesday evening.

As I’ve said before, that’s what Graham and other more-or-less centrist Republicans should be doing — backing the far more sensible Alexander approach. Instead, our senior senator is rushing madly toward a disastrous policy.

Sen. Graham’s senses have deserted him on this matter, even to the point that he seems to exult that the Trump administration is backing his plan. That fact alone should sober him up and cause him to realize he’s on the wrong path, but it’s having the opposite effect.

And Lindsey Graham knows better. Or he used to…

Hey, Doug! I’m doing ten thousand steps a day, too!

The view from my elliptical trainer, in my home office (yeah, that's "The West Wing" on the tube).

The view from my elliptical trainer, in my home office (yeah, that’s “The West Wing” on the tube).

Like so many, this particular mania started with an iPhone app.

Or maybe I can blame Doug Ross. After all, he had been bragging to me about his 10,000 steps  a day — which sounded extreme to me — just a day before this happened.

Or maybe it was the app.

Anyway, I was having lunch with some folks from ADCO, and a couple of the women were wearing Fitbits, or something like that. To make conversation, I asked if they had apps on their phones that tracked their data. Then a little light went off in my head. I remembered that awhile back I had started to use this Health app that I think came with my phone — I went in and entered some basic stats and such — but then had lost interest and forgotten about it.

Curious, I called it up, and to my surprise saw that it had been counting every step I took, every day, for two years!

I also saw that, thanks in part to my morning workouts on the elliptical trainer, I was frequently doing six or seven thousand steps a day without knowing it. And I’d exceeded 10,000 a couple of days when I was at the beach earlier this summer.

So the next day (Aug. 31), I started actually trying — I added some time to the morning elliptical workout (I’m up to 35 minutes now), and started taking a walk around the neighborhood with my wife in the evening. And if that’s not enough (it usually is), a very few more minutes on the elliptical does the trick.stats

And bingo! I’m not just doing 10,000 a day, sometimes I go over 12,000 without meaning to.

(Oh, and I hope it won’t offend Doug and Bud too much, but I do take a day of rest once a week. Usually, it will probably be Sunday. But this week, as you can see from the stats at right, it was Wednesday. That’s because I gave two units of platelets Tuesday evening at the Red Cross — I went for a long walk downtown on Tuesday at lunchtime to get in my full 10,000 without the evening walk — and that always takes something out of me more than just platelets. I need the next day to recover my energy.)

Also, yesterday morning my weight was down to 172.2 — better than it’s been in… a while. (When I started the morning workouts a couple of months back, I was usually well over 180, sometimes more than 185.)

And I feel pretty good about it. And it’s weird how motivating it is to watch those steps mount up on the app. Silly, but it works. I let nothing stop me, so far. Last night, my wife didn’t feel like walking, so I did another 35 minutes on the elliptical — 70 minutes for the day — bringing my total to 11,730. I’m a machine!

Anyway, I’m telling you all this in order to put pressure on myself to keep going. Sorry to use you that way, but it’s for my health, you see…

My home office, where the elliptical magic happens.

My home office, where the elliptical magic happens.

Why doesn’t the political mainstream back the only commonsense approach to paying for healthcare?

single

The first time I wrote about single-payer, in a column at The State, my headline was “Can anyone (any viable candidate, that is) say ‘single-payer?’

That was 2007. As I said at the time:

CAN ANYONE among those with a chance of becoming president say “single-payer?” If not, forget about serious reform of the way we pay for health care.
It doesn’t even necessarily have to be “single-payer.” Any other words will do, as long as the plan they describe is equally bold, practical, understandable, and goes as far in uprooting our current impractical, wasteful and insanely complex “system.”
And the operative word is “bold.” Why? Because unless we start the conversation there, all we might hope for is that a few more of the one out of seven Americans who don’t have insurance will be in the “system” with the rest of us — if that, after the inevitable watering-down by Congress. And that’s not “reform.” Actual reform would rescue all of us from a “system” that neither American workers nor American employers can afford to keep propping up.
But the operative word to describe the health care plans put forward by the major, viable candidates is “timid.”…

Which is what led us to “Obamacare,” an overly complex, timid approach that still leaves millions of Americans uncovered.

But when I wrote that, I knew we weren’t likely to do any better than that, because the only “name” Democrat willing to say “single-payer” was Dennis “The Menace” Kucinich.

And today, the charge is led by… Bernie Sanders. And even he wants to call it something other than single-payer — namely, “Medicare for All.”

The somewhat better news is that he has 15 senators with him this time (all Democrats, of course) — only 45 votes short of what it would take to get the proposal through the Senate before it went down in flames in the House, as it surely would.

Never mind that EVERY alternative advanced looks insanely over-complex and inefficient next to a system that simply covers everybody. No more worrying about making too much money, or too little money, or getting laid off and losing your medical coverage. Or sticking to a lousy job for the benefits, rather than going out and doing something bold and courageous that might help build our economy. No more of doctors having to employ people who spend all their time trying to navigate the bewildering array of different kinds of coverage their patients have.

And I’ve never heard a reason not to do this that didn’t sound idiotic. The most devastating argument opponents come up with is that you might have to wait for certain kinds of procedures. Which certainly beats waiting until you die if you don’t have coverage under the current non-system.

Other countries, including those most like our own — Britain and Canada — adopted this approach long, long ago. But in this country, we have this completely irrational resistance that makes it impossible even to have a calm conversation about what makes sense.

It’s time we got over that. And we may be making progress in that direction. But we have such a long, long way to go…

Graham should drop his healthcare proposal, support Alexander’s efforts

Graham pushing his proposal recently in Columbia.

Graham pushing his proposal recently in Columbia.

I’ve already written dismissively of Lindsey Graham’s approach to healthcare “reform.”

Today, with it getting so much more attention, I share with you this view of it, headlined “New Trumpcare Deserves a Quick Death.” An excerpt:

On Wednesday, a group of Republican senators plan to release a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It comes from Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and they will market it as a bill that gives states the flexibility to create the system that they want.

But that’s deeply misleading. While it would theoretically give states more flexibility, the bill would mostly rob states of money to pay for health insurance — and millions of Americans would lose coverage as a result. Think of it this way: Every reader of this newsletter has the theoretical flexibility to buy a private jet.

Cassidy-Graham, as the bill is known, ends up looking remarkably similar to previous repeal attempts. It would likely result in 15 million Americans losing their insurance next year and more than 30 million losing it a decade from now (based on analyses of an early version of the bill, which was similar to previous Republican health bills). “The similarities are more striking than the differences,” Aviva AronDine of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities told me.

The same column hints at a far better way for our senior senator to direct his energies:

There is also good reason to hope that Cassidy-Graham dies quickly. Members of both parties — like Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican — now seem open to a bipartisan bill to fix some of Obamacare’s problems. A Senate committee held a hearing on the subject yesterday. But it was clear at the hearing that Republicans have a hard time talking publicly about bipartisan compromise so long as the fantasy of a beneficial repeal bill remains alive….

Indeed. Y’all know I’m a Lindsey Graham fan (most of the time), but I was a Lamar Alexander fan long before that. And this time, Lamar is clearly in the right of it. And what Graham is doing is actually an impediment to wise policy.

It amazes me that anyone from South Carolina could think that turning it all over to the states could be a good idea, given that our solons utterly refused a Medicaid expansion underwritten by the Feds simply because it was associated with “Obamacare.”

Lindsey should drop his bad idea like a hot potato and get behind Alexander’s effort. Or better yet, support Bernie Sanders’ single-payer approach. But somehow I’m thinking the Alexander option would be less of a strain for him.

It’s time to get past this “Repeal Obamacare” mania that afflicts Republicans, and get on to serious matters of governance…

A word to overwrought football fans: Lighten up, Francis

I just saw the above promo, and I’ve seldom seen anything more absurd in my life.

If this is the way you feel about football, let me make a suggestion: Turn it off. Step away from the TV. Take a cold shower, and maybe a Valium.

Lighten up, Francis.

I don’t know what’s wrong with Americans. Maybe it’s because we ended the draft, so that most men haven’t experienced military service, much less combat. So they think of football as war, and say idiotic things suggesting that it’s just as life-and-death, the outcome just as critically momentous.

Note some of the language in this ad:

Every Saturday’s an attack, an ambush, an air raid…

They’ll show you hate and disrespect unlike anything you’ve ever seen….

You’re wearing that uniform, and you’re the enemy. You must be eliminated…

They want you to lose more than they want to win…

The biggest game, the only game, is the one you’re playing…

EVERY GAME IS EVERYTHING

That’s the tagline of this promo campaign from Fox: “EVERY GAME IS EVERYTHING.”

Seriously?

The ad revels in the violence of the game. The instant when an opposing player smacks into a quarterback (see image at the bottom of the post) comes as the announcer says with relish, “It’ll make your ears ring…”

Which brings us to George Will’s latest column, in which he optimistically predicts that, with all we now know about the damage the game — yes, it’s a game, not a thing we need anyone to do — does to human bodies, especially to human brains:

CTE is a degenerative brain disease confirmable only after death, and often caused by repeated blows to the head that knock the brain against the skull. The cumulative impacts of hundreds of supposedly minor blows can have the cumulative effect of many concussions. The New York Times recently reported Stanford University researchers’ data showing “that one college offensive lineman sustained 62 of these hits in a single game. Each one came with an average force on the player’s head equivalent to what you would see if he had driven his car into a brick wall at 30 mph.”

Boston University researchers found CTE in 110 of 111 brains of deceased NFL players. In 53 other brains from college players, 48 had CTE. There was significant selection bias: Many of the brains came from families who had noticed CTE symptoms, including mood disorders and dementia. A Boston University researcher says, however, that a 10-year NFL linebacker could receive more than 15,000 sub-concussive blows….

Here, by the way, is the difference between a normal brain and one with advanced CTE:

Chronic_Traumatic_Encephalopathy

Given that I find the trumped-up machismo of the game so offensive, I particularly like the way Will ends his column:

It has been said (by Thomas Babington Macaulay) that the Puritans banned bear baiting — unleashing fierce dogs on a bear chained in a pit — not because it gave pain to bears but because it gave pleasure to Puritans. But whatever the Puritans’ motives, they understood that there are degrading enjoyments. Football is becoming one, even though Michigan’s $9 million coach has called it “the last bastion of hope for toughness in America in men.” That thought must amuse the Marines patrolling Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.

ears ring

 

Graham’s healthcare plan: I’m just not seeing it

Graham pushing his healthcare plan in Columbia today.

Graham pushing his healthcare plan in Columbia today.

Y’all know I tend to be a fan of Lindsey Graham, but sometimes I just can’t go along.

The healthcare plan he’s touting is one of those times.

Yeah, I appreciate that he’s been dismissive of what other Republicans have been putting up in their desperation to be able to say they “repealed Obamacare.” And I like that he says “federalism” a lot in advocating for it. And that it’s really, really different from anything the GOP leadership in Washington has come up with yet.

But that’s about it.

Basically, he wants to turn it all over to the states: Have the feds give the states block grants, and let the states decide for themselves what kind of system they want. His plan for getting it through an Obamacare-repeal-weary Senate is to enlist governors to help him push it — he says our own Henry McMaster likes it.

There are a couple things about it that bug me. First, the whole idea of having 50 little systems instead of one big one. To my mind, that throws away one of the greatest advantages of having a governmental system — a gigantic national system that includes everybody (which you’d have if you had real mandates with teeth) gives you economies of scale, and the mother of all bargaining positions when it comes to negotiating costs down.

I asked the senator about that at a press availability he had at his Columbia office today. He replied that costs have risen dramatically in the Medicare and Medicaid systems, so my principle doesn’t work.

This was a general availability for working press, so I didn’t do what I would have done in an editorial board meeting: argue with him. I didn’t say, How do you know costs wouldn’t have risen much higher with 50 separate systems? Nor did I say, if there’s any reform that might lower costs or slow increases, wouldn’t it be easier to implement nationally than in 50 different systems?

And I didn’t get into the essential unfairness of forcing Americans to leave their homes and move to another state if their state doesn’t provide the health benefits they need.

Which seems a scenario South Carolinians would likely face. I ask you, what sort of system do you think we’re likely to get in a state that said “no” to Medicaid expansion — to a deal under which the feds would have covered the whole additional cost for the first three years, and 90 percent of it thereafter? How savvy was that? Do you want the same elected leaders who turned that down designing a system?

I may have voted for John Kasich last year (partly because the decision he made to expand Medicaid), and would do so again given the same primary choice, but I wouldn’t want to have to move to Ohio to get decent coverage. Would you?

Some other topics Graham covered at the presser:

  • Charlottesville. He said Trump missed a big opportunity Saturday to “jump on hate with both feet.” He said the white supremacists think they have an ally in the president, and “Donald Trump’s job is to persuade them that he is not their friend.” He gives Trump credit for saying good things Monday, but that must be followed by action. The administration needs to “come down like a hammer” on hate groups. He wants to see Sessions prosecuting what happened aggressively. “Don’t let these people drag us back into the darkness.”
  • The abandonment of SCANA and Santee Cooper’s nuclear project. Setting aside the fact that what he said may now be out of date, I liked what he said. He said if these two plants and the one in Georgia all fail, “that’s the end of the nuclear renaissance.” And that’s bad news for anyone who cares about global warming or energy independence. He points to France as a country that wisely gets most of its power from nuclear, and notes with satisfaction that at 50 percent, South Carolina already gets a higher proportion of its power from that source than any other state. He doesn’t want to see us, or the nation as a whole, lose that advantage, and asks, “What has happened to our industrial base that we can’t do big things anymore?”
  • “I don’t think war is imminent with North Korea.” But he does worry about the future if Kim is not stopped. He worries less, though, about a direct attack on the United States — he thinks Kim’s generals can restrain him — and more about a future when Kim has the H bomb, and is in a position to sell it to others who may use it. And he puts the onus on North Korea’s big neighbor, saying “China is 100 percent responsible for North Korea.” Without Chinese support, he said, there is no Kim regime.

Red Cross says I’m tapped out; y’all need to step up and give

They showed me the numbers, and it just added up to too much plasma...

They showed me the numbers — two pages like this — and it just added up to too much plasma…

Well, it finally happened: The Red Cross says I’ve given them too many platelets, and I need to take some time off.

And you know what that means: It means some of y’all need to step up and give, because the need is still there. In fact, over the weekend I received this message in an email reminding me of my appointment today, and telling me how badly it was needed:

emergency

Yeah, they say that a lot, but here in SC, we’re generally in a shortage situation. I used to think that was a Midlands problem, but it seems wider than that. For instance, the two units I gave June 19 (that was two donations ago) went to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center in Myrtle Beach and Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg. Just think of me as the Scarecrow, and this is the Tin Man’s cue to say “Well, that’s you all over!

You can give platelets again after six days; they come back that fast. But I’ve generally been giving every two weeks. Last month, to keep them from calling me so often, I decided to go to a standing appointment — every other Monday afternoon.

And today was that Monday, but when I showed up, and started going through the usual series of questions that precede the donation, the young lady saw something on her computer screen that made her jump up, excuse herself and run for help. A moment later, someone came in and said that was it for me: I’d given too much in the past year, and I wouldn’t be able to give again until after Aug. 2. Which nixes my appointment on the 31st as well.

It’s not the platelets, though — as I said, they come back pretty quickly. It seems that over time they’ve taken too much plasma from me for my weight — 12,000 ccs. And I won’t be starting over in August, either — it’s cumulative, so this is likely to happen again if I keep giving at the same rate.

This respite will be a relief to my family and friends, who are always asking why I, personally, have to give so often. This is always my cue to go into my Gary Cooper routine and explain, “I’ve got to; that’s the whole thing.” I’m just that kinda guy, ya know. Man of action. Few words.

(Don’t look at me like that. For too many years, I was too scared to do this. Having overcome that fear, I’m going to milk this for all it’s worth.)

But now I’m out of action. And the need is still there. So it’s time for you to be the hero.

You just gotta.

Here’s where to sign up.

That's the thing: You just gotta...

That’s the thing: You just gotta…

Somebody forgot to drive a stake into the Senate ‘health’ bill

People on the left have told them it’s a horrible bill.

People on the right have told them it’s a horrible bill.

People in the center have done the same.

Yet Republican leaders in Congress keep on trying to resurrect it when it should be dead:

McConnell is trying to revise the Senate health-care bill by Friday

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is aiming to send a revised version of his health-care bill to the Congressional Budget Office by as soon as Friday, according to Capitol Hill aides and lobbyists.

The effort reflects the tight timeline McConnell faces in his attempt to hold a vote before the August recess — and the pressure he is under to make changes that improve the CBO’s measure of the bill’s impact on coverage levels and federal spending.

McConnell is trying to move quickly to produce a new CBO score by the time lawmakers return to Washington in mid-July, giving the Senate about two weeks to fulfill the majority leader’s goal of voting before the August recess….

Once again we see the relentless phenomenon that characterizes our politics. Keats said it this way:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

People with good intentions see that the bill is dead, say “that’s good,” and turn away. They go back to their lives. But the people with the very worst, most destructive ideas just never, ever give up. It happens time and again.

It’s like, in the final reel of the horror movie, when everybody thinks Dracula is dead, and he pops back up out of his coffin yet again — because no one remembered to put the stake through his heart…

download (4)

De Tocqueville’s description of what’s wrong with America today

Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville

One of the great things about switching to the NYT is that now I can read all of David Brooks’ columns without going over my allotment of free stories for the month.

So, I recommend to you his column today, “The G.O.P. Rejects Conservatism.” It’s about the Senate GOP’s morally and intellectually vapid “healthcare” bill, and it’s good throughout.

But the best bit wasn’t written by Brooks but by de Tocqueville about 180 years ago. He documented how the self-deceptive belief in radical individualism was a problem in our country from the start. Here’s the quote about those proto-libertarians:

“They owe nothing to any man, they expect nothing from any man; they acquire the habit of always considering themselves as standing alone, and they are apt to imagine that their whole destiny is in their own hands. Thus not only does democracy make every man forget his ancestors, but it hides his descendants and separates his contemporaries from him; it throws him back forever upon himself alone and threatens in the end to confine him entirely within the solitude of his own heart.”

Yep. Sounds familiar…

Donald Trump and Barack Obama on social media today

Let’s do a little compare-and-contrast.

Today, Senate Republicans released their health-care proposal, which apparently is almost, but not quite, entirely like the abominable House plan:

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans, who have promised a repeal of the Affordable Care Act for seven years, took a major step on Thursday toward that goal, unveiling a bill to make deep cuts in Medicaid and end the law’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance.

The 142-page bill would create a new system of federal tax credits to help people buy health insurance, while offering states the ability to drop many of the benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, like maternity care, emergency services and mental health treatment…

Anyone checking to see what the president of the United States had to say about it via his favored mode of communication was disappointed. He didn’t address it. Here are his last two Tweets as of this posting:


How do you like that? He went into depth! Two whole Tweets on one topic! His other Tweets today were more or less in the usual “it’s all about me, and everybody else is to blame” mode.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama, who no longer gets paid to do this stuff, had this to say on Facebook:

Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.

I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.Barack Obama Facebook

We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.

Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.

And you made a difference. For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past.

We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.

At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.

That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.

But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system.

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.

Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.

See which you find more valuable…

I’m stuck here, but my platelets are at the beach!

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I enjoy getting these little notes from the Red Cross, letting me know where my platelets have gone:

Thank you for being an American Red Cross platelet donor. Your platelets may be a lifesaving gift to patients in need, including cancer and trauma patients, individuals undergoing major surgeries, patients with blood disorders and premature babies.

After first ensuring local needs were met, your donation on 5/22/2017 was sent to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, SC to help patients in need. Your donations are on their way to change lives!

Platelets have a very short life span – only 5 days! It’s critical for us to collect platelets continuously to ensure they’re available for patients when they need them. Your ongoing donations are greatly appreciated.

On behalf of the hospitals and patients we serve, thank you for being a Red Cross platelet donor!

Sincerely,

Mary O'Neill, M.D.
Mary O’Neill, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer
American Red Cross

I give about every two weeks. (Unlike with whole blood, you can give platelets every six days, but I like to give myself an extra week to recover.) My last donation was Monday. So I’ll give again around the 19th.

Any time y’all would like to help out, jump on in. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.

You might want to ease into it. It would be awesome if you were up for giving platelets right away, but I’ll admit that’s pretty hard-core, and I had to work up to it. It can take almost three hours, from the time you walk into the donation center until the time you walk out. Giving whole blood is much easier, and much faster — and you can’t give again for eight weeks, so it’s less demanding that way, too.

After you do that a few times, you might be ready to step it up. But I know in my case, I had to get desensitized to the process before I was ready for platelets. I had to get over my tendency to get faint at the very idea of the needle going in…

Someone at MUSC has incorporated a part of me

I gave platelets again on Monday evening — something I do about every two weeks, so often I generally don’t mention it here any more — and today I received this note from the American Red Cross, which I think is cool:

Your donation is on its way to change lives.

Dear Donald,

Thank you for being an American Red Cross platelet donor. Your platelets may be a lifesaving gift to patients in need, including cancer and trauma patients, individuals undergoing major surgeries, patients with blood disorders and premature babies.on the way

After first ensuring local needs were met, your donation on 4/24/2017 was sent to MUSC University Hospital in Charleston, SC and Conway Medical Center in Conway, SC to help patients in need. Your donations are on their way to change lives!

Platelets have a very short life span – only 5 days! It’s critical for us to collect platelets continuously to ensure they’re available for patients when they need them. Your ongoing donations are greatly appreciated.

On behalf of the hospitals and patients we serve, thank you for being a Red Cross platelet donor!

Sincerely,

Mary O'Neill, M.D.
Mary O’Neill, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer
American Red Cross

It would be great if I could get some of y’all to come donate as well sometime. You don’t have to do platelets — it’s pretty hardcore, taking as long as three hours from the time you arrive until you leave. (It can be done, but only if you have the Right Stuff.) But I’ve given whole blood (way less complicated) in just a few minutes.

You should try it. You’ll feel good about yourself after.

And Bryan, the doctor says there’s no better way to rectify the gross humours, and he says you’re a likely victim for a calenture, or perhaps the marthambles…

Finally, House GOP set to do what America does NOT want it to do

Basically, they're trying to undo what this signature did.

Basically, they’re trying to undo what this signature did.

They say Speaker Ryan has the votes now:

House Republicans are set to pass a controversial plan to revise key parts of the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, capping weeks of fits and starts to fulfill a signature campaign promise.

“We’ll have the votes. This will pass,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) vowed on Thursday morning.

Final passage of the bill that would dramatically reshape the nation’s health-care system is expected by early afternoon. Attention will then shift to the more closely-divided U.S. Senate, where formal debate isn’t expected to begin until June….

So finally, they’re about to do what they found so easy to do, over and over, when they knew it would go nowhere.

This is something they’ve really, really wanted to do really, really badly for eight years.

Trouble is — and now that it’s in their power, many of them have started to realize it, which is why this has taken so long — this is not what America wants them to do.

Of course, many House Republicans will say America wants them to do it — because they define “America” as the extreme subset of a subset of people who vote in Republican primaries in sufficient numbers to scare GOP officeholders senseless. In other words, their actions are another illustration of the evils of gerrymandering.

But the truth is, actual America really doesn’t want them to:

President Trump and many Republicans intend to move forward with another effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

But according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, most Americans don’t want them to.

The poll, conducted between April 17 and 20, found 61 percent of respondents support keeping and working to improve the health care plan in place, while only 37 percent say they want it entirely repealed and replaced.

Ultimately 79 percent said Trump should invest in the Affordable Care Act’s success rather than expend time and energy ensuring its failure….

Of course, for the GOP, it’s all about the 37 percent, which is more than enough to cause them to win or lose a primary.

That poll was from April 25, and is consistent with others over the last few months. If you’ve seen some more recent ones, let me know…

Why doesn’t GOP just change the name to ‘Trumpcare’ and declare victory?

Just change the name, and call it a win!

Just change the name, and call it a win!

Basically, I just said it in the headline. But to elaborate:

The GOP Congress is at an impasse because it’s impossible to please both the Cro-Magnon wing of the party, which wants to make sure nobody gets healthcare from the gummint, and the moderate members, who know that their constituents don’t want to lose anything they’ve gained from Obamacare — such as providing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

For his part, Trump has promised that the replacement will be awesome, terrific, and nobody will lose out on anything.

And we know that the real problem with the ACA for Republicans is that it’s identified with Barack Obama. If you could somehow hypnotize every GOP voter into forgetting about the former president’s involvement, the whole repeal imperative would just fade away. They might not learn to love it, but they wouldn’t hate it the way they do.

And we know that the current president just loves putting his name on things, especially if they’re shiny, and isn’t particularly fussy about the facts as long as he gets credit.

So why not start calling the ACA “Trumpcare,” tell everybody “Obamacare” is gone, and have a party to celebrate?

You think this sounds stupid? What do call what the GOP has done on the issue so far? This approach is at least something doable…