August 26, 2009

Dinner in Johnston

Justin Katz

Rhode Island roads are designed for people who already know where they're going. That's why I barely made it to Johnston in time to set up for the community dinner hosted b y Senators Reed and Whitehouse. And what do I find when I arrive:

Andrew sneaking up on Pat Crowley! We're a violent mob we right wingers. (No YouTubable video came out of that incident, unfortunately.)

6:03 p.m.

Whitehouse is listing ways to reduce costs in healthcare, most of which are unacceptable (e.g., throw people off the roles). His vague response is that we have to "reform the delivery system in ways that save money." No real solutions.

Jack Reed just repeated the lie that folks who like their insurance can keep it. He didn't add the necessary qualification that it would only last five years.

6:07 p.m.

A 75-year-old from German is testifying that his wife's small business has been having trouble keeping up with payments for employees health insurance. Germany, by contrast, is a nirvana of free healthcare. Not sure when the last time Germany led the world in healthcare innovation.

6:10 p.m.

Whitehouse is trying to explain that foreign companies have an advantage in exports because they don't have to incorporate healthcare for employees into their costs. Of course, the taxes must be worked into the price.

6:15 p.m.

Reed used a popular comeback when an older attendee spoke against the Democrats reform: "Well, what insurance do you have." When the answer is Medicare, he makes a face that says, "Well..."

6:22 p.m.

It's certainly the most quiet crowd tonight. Plenty of shushers when opposition voices make such suggestions as economics lessons in the Senate.

6:25 p.m.

An elderly man, who testified that he's happy with American care, brought up tort reform. Reed is downplaying the importance of that issue, and he looked to the table of planted Brown University medical students .

6:31 p.m.

A 14 -year-old asked whether a national healthcare would be Constitutional, and both Senators said "probably" and brought up a number of state-level public systems (e.g., colleges) as examples of its plausibility. Uh-huh.

6:35 p.m.

Will Grapentine just asked why, if America has the best of hospitals, medicine, etc., as he says Reed suggests, then why change it? He also suggested steps toward privatization.

Whitehouse is also bragging about America's medical facilities. "My concern is that we take all of that talent and excellence, and then we grind it through a system..." that kills people and leaves people out.

6:45 p.m.

Asked about free market competition, Reed said that they're trying to build a better system. Makes me wonder why, if they're such geniuses, in federal government, they went into "public service" instead of applying that insight throughout the economy as private actors.

6:52 p.m.

More repeats of favorite stories, such as Sheldon's example of hospitals not wanting to invest in efficiency equipment because it costs them billable minutes.

I've yet to hear anybody ask or explain why the feds aren't looking at specific problems, first, and then expanding to rewrite the entire system, if necessary.

6:58 p.m.

Whitehouse once again stated that the problems with Medicare originate in the fact that it hasn't been funded, as if some other entity than the government making those decisions.

7:11 p.m.

Whitehouse asserted that Obama has already cut taxes for the middle class, so we can trust him not to break the pledge only to tax rich people.

7:13 p.m.

Whitehouse expressed that the reform is intended to make the system, better, more efficient, and even more super duper. When asked how Congress will pay for it, he brought up digital medical records. First of all, can't that be done on its own? Second of all, is that really the big plan for saving money to pay for a public option et al.

7:20 p.m.

A young woman just noted that businessmen are not accountable to her, but these two senators are. Ah, youth.

A social worker just synopsized the liberal point of view by putting his entire perspective in terms feeling good about helping neighbors, equating a refusal to back a government system naked cruelty of soul.

7:26 p.m.

I have to say that I'm suspicious of the folks who come to these things in white jackets and stethoscopes around their necks are suspicious when they declare themselves doctors. Maybe it's just too much television as a youth, with the whole "I'm not a doctor but I play one on TV" thing.

One such doctor just said that a public option must be big enough to negotiate. That seems to conflict with earlier efforts to diminish the significance of a public option.

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Given that with increasing frequency doctors refuse to take new Medicare or Medicaid patients, it seems suspicious that more than a couple of outliers would express support for a "public option."

Sounds like we're dealing with a combination of fakes (as occurred with Sheila Jackson Lee) or some naive med students who haven't been out in the real world, and whose life experience thus far is the indoctrination they've been getting from liberal professors.

Posted by: Tom W at August 26, 2009 8:38 PM

I'm a Brown grad. Great school, but the comment above is probably on target. Whatever "experience" they may or may not have had, it's too bad they haven't "experienced" a basic economics class. Sadly, people who are otherwise very smart, just don't understand that there's no free lunch and that govt programs inevitably have unintended consequences. But they're doctors, so clearly they understand the economics of "health care" better than the rest of us [sarcasm].

Posted by: clawback at August 26, 2009 10:43 PM

This is what I truly do not understand about those Brown Students that will eventually take Hippocratic Oath.

Here's a line from the original oath: I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.

Then why would ANY doctor or Brown Student support a bill that pays for abortions?

If this bill passes, wouldn't any doctor in the government 'option' be required to perform abortions or lose their biggest client, the Government?

I mean, isn't there a more innocent form of murder than abortion?

Posted by: Roland at August 26, 2009 11:27 PM

My favorite sign from the Langevin open forum was the one from someone declaring himself a med student. Great. The dumbest demographic in the medical community has an opinion (represented by someone in their early 20's with insurance). Let's listen, everybody.

Posted by: EMT at August 26, 2009 11:30 PM

The stethoscopes, nice touch. As far as the 20 year olds, doctors or otherwise, come & tell us this when you get a real job.

Posted by: Karin at August 27, 2009 5:37 AM

Why hasn't anyone brought up rhode island's own experience with public option insurance as the inevitable result of the Obama plan?

I'm of course referring to Beacon Mutual. While not a health insurance company per se, it was set up by the state to compete with the private sector -- to provide an "option". It was to be an insurer of last resort. At the time, it was thought that companies would keep their own plans. But the
market and the restrictions put in place by lawmakers on private companies without a government interest soon made our government created option virtually our only option.

Posted by: Newporter at August 27, 2009 6:45 AM

Great point Newporter.

And we also know the union "influence" on Beacon Mutual and its Board.

Little wonder why SEIU-ACORN is one of the primary backers of the "public option."

(Something about the phrase "public option" rings like "the final solution" in my mind, as I imagine lines of old people standing in line for their showers, err, I mean "end of life counseling.")

Posted by: Tom W at August 27, 2009 9:13 AM

"Not sure when the last time Germany led the world in healthcare innovation."

Ummm, Bayer is the 3rd largest pharma company in the world and 2nd in R&D if I'm not mistaken (not to mention Boehringer Ingelheim and
Merck KGaA). Germany is certainly among the leaders in the world in health care (keep in mind the population of Germany is something like a quarter the size of the US). I find the euro-bashing a strange thing with many conservatives (especially when admittedly in the dark on the subject) .

Posted by: Russ at August 27, 2009 12:07 PM

Justin why so obsessed with Crowley. I see you two as opposite sides of the same coin.your blog should focus on your ideas or at the minimum the ideas of those you respect.

Posted by: Troglodyte at August 27, 2009 12:30 PM

Last time Germany led the world in healthcare innovation? Last year (at least by one measure)...

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2008

Posted by: Russ at August 27, 2009 12:43 PM


Consider it liveblogging shorthand. I should have taken a moment, though, to dig up the list of which I was thinking (see table here). Citing Bayer hardly proves anything, because it's a global company with affiliates and partners in the United States, and my point was that the U.S. health system (like the U.S. military system) is a prerequisite for many of the achievements elsewhere.

Posted by: Justin Katz at August 27, 2009 9:25 PM


No obsession. After setting up my video camera, I looked up and saw two figures in local blogging standing next to each other and thought it would make for a humorous picture.

Posted by: Justin Katz at August 27, 2009 9:27 PM


You said, "I should have taken a moment, though, to dig up the list of which I was thinking". Another instance of your excusing yourself through sloth or ignorance. Since most of your blogs exhibit one or the other there really is no need to apologize. Just subtitle each one with "Not well thought out" and you'll cover yourself accurately.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at August 28, 2009 11:03 AM

Interesting stuff, but hardly convincing unless you don't dig into the history:
- CT scans were the result of US and British research... check
- MRIs were discovered by Felix Bloch (and an American who shared the Nobel Prize for Physics), a Jew who fled the Nazis to the US from... you guessed it, Germany!
- balloon angioplasty is a terrible example for this debate (the first angioplasty was performed by German physician Werner Forssmann), later to win the Nobel Prize (along with 2 Americans) for his contributions to medicine.
- Statins were discovered and initially researched in Japan and then picked up in the 1970s by Merck. Yep, the US subsidiary of the German firm.
- Mammography? Also discovered by a German, Albert Salomon, the first to use x-rays to study breast cancer and later expanded by research by German scientists, including W. Vogel, who described how x-rays could detect the difference between cancerous and noncancerous tissues.

Some proof!

Posted by: Russ at August 28, 2009 3:02 PM
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