Farewell. The Flying Pig Has Left The Building.

Steve Hynd, August 16, 2012

After four years on the Typepad site, eight years total blogging, Newshoggers is closing it's doors today. We've been coasting the last year or so, with many of us moving on to bigger projects (Hey, Eric!) or simply running out of blogging enthusiasm, and it's time to give the old flying pig a rest.

We've done okay over those eight years, although never being quite PC enough to gain wider acceptance from the partisan "party right or wrong" crowds. We like to think we moved political conversations a little, on the ever-present wish to rush to war with Iran, on the need for a real Left that isn't licking corporatist Dem boots every cycle, on America's foreign misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. We like to think we made a small difference while writing under that flying pig banner. We did pretty good for a bunch with no ties to big-party apparatuses or think tanks.

Those eight years of blogging will still exist. Because we're ending this typepad account, we've been archiving the typepad blog here. And the original blogger archive is still here. There will still be new content from the old 'hoggers crew too. Ron writes for The Moderate Voice, I post at The Agonist and Eric Martin's lucid foreign policy thoughts can be read at Democracy Arsenal.

I'd like to thank all our regular commenters, readers and the other bloggers who regularly linked to our posts over the years to agree or disagree. You all made writing for 'hoggers an amazingly fun and stimulating experience.

Thank you very much.

Note: This is an archive copy of Newshoggers. Most of the pictures are gone but the words are all here. There may be some occasional new content, John may do some posts and Ron will cross post some of his contributions to The Moderate Voice so check back.


Saturday, March 31, 2012

HCR -- Arguing While We Wait...

By John Ballard

It's gonna be a long summer as everyone waits for the Supreme Court to make historic decisions about PPACA. Three days of arguments last week revealed a far more partisan divide among the justices than even the most Conservative of well-informed legal experts had predicted. It turns out that most of those esteemed thinkers reside more in academia and think tanks than the more Machiavellian world of politics. And even though Supreme Court justices are the least likely of all our political creatures to be influenced by politics, when all is said and done they are all still products of a political exercise.

Over at The Health Care Blog the blogmaster reblogged from another site a post by blogger and health policy consultant Robert Laszewski with the whimsical title What If We End Up with a Health Care System Like the One they Have In New Jersey?  That was posted Friday, less than 48 hours ago, and in the course of two days has attracted over seventy comments. Thanks to Google Reader and an opening in my schedule, I was able to get to the head of the comments line.

The current crop of news has several high-profile stories that have captured the attention of the public. The news business, like the weather, mixes excitement with boredom l depending on what's happening next, so like expectant family members in a waiting room a lot of viewers and readers are nervously looking for something to do as they await outcomes.  Five or ten years hence we will look back on this time knowing whether or not the US, Israel or Iran started a war, whether gas prices went up or down or Trayvon Martin's killer got away with murder. We may shake our heads in disbelief that so many everyday folks continued to be in denial about climate change or took seriously the apocalyptic images the GOP is crafting to fan the already hot fires of bigotry and suspicion animating opposition to the country's first and only Black president.

So to pass time waiting to find out what the Supreme Court will decide in the matter of PPACA, individual mandates, severability and such I give you my little essay from the comments thread at another blog. (I see no need to use italics since I am quoting myself.)

After thinking more about the matter, I am coming to the conclusion that mandates, both federal and state, are nothing more than red meat for the insurance business. The law was carefully crafted to allow states to retain a significant measure of control by establishing exchanges, but even then there is no mechanism aimed at capping health care inflation.

The adverse selection argument is easy to grasp. Unless everyone is in the risk pool some will always game the system. If getting insurance is optional but sold with guaranteed acceptance, what�s to stop anyone from picking up a policy after they get sick or on the way to the emergency room?

A smoke and mirrors game is going on to distract both consumers and taxpayers that the real driver of medical costs is not how best to cover the uninsured but at what point to either stop or limit treatments and/or make providers quit putting such outrageous numbers on their bills.

I can hear the screaming already about tort reform and defensive medicine, but sooner or later the only way that real costs will get controlled is that an actual safety net, clearly defined AND LIMITED is going to have to come into existence in the US, same as in most of the rest of the world.

Some countries have a pitiful safety net because they are too poor to provide anything better. Others, like Canada, have a Medicare-like plan for all that only costs about eleven percent of GDP, is tax-supported and the object of well-known spitballs from US talk show hosts and Conservative pundits, and the UK and Germany have a hybrid of both. Private insurance is not allowed in Canada, but private alternatives in the UK flourish.

In all cases those at the bottom of the economic ladder are more or less cared for some kind of way, poor though it be. The best we have come up with in the US is Medicaid, and although states may negotiate rates with providers the national picture is a Duke�s mixture of plans ranging from excellent to embarrassingly poor, all of which are supported more with federal funds than from the respective states.

Even under this plan, states want to have the money with no strings attached. I can�t speak for others, but I have no confidence that in my state that money will be appropriated any better than the local option sales tax or highway tax money� all of which is tossed into the general fund (following the federal example of how our Social Security taxes have been �borrowed� for other purposes, replaced by that so-called �trust fund� that GW Bush called worthless IOUs in a file cabinet in West Virginia).

As the years pass I�m getting closer to the time in view of human mortality, when medical care will be a total waste. When I think about my children and grandchildren my only hope is that they will be blessed with good health and no serious accidents. because absent some serious changes which I have yet to see coming, they won�t be able to afford insurance anyway other than a very high deductible policy.

Why? Because I sure don�t see any evidence that providers are competing to treat sick or injured patients at lower prices. I hear the advertisements (some even disguised as PSAs) trolling for new customers, inviting the public to get screened for all kinds of medical problems of which they may not be aware. Paranoia is being marketed wholesale when demonstrable problems like substance abuse and all those �non-emergency� cases clogging the ED are multiplying in their face. TV ads invite Medicare beneficiaries to call for a �free� motorized chair or scooter, even to get a free something or other for taking that initiative.

I see the private sector flush with success as literally millions of Americans are going without basic care. The system we have now is an economic and social train wreck and the arguments I�m hearing have more to do with how to limit care rather than figure out ways to make it more accessible to those who need it most, most of whom are the working poor and their children.

And all the while the insurance industry smiles in the corner like a cat watching a mouse, knowing that no matter which way the cookie crumbles they will still have a profitable piece of the action.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your assessment pretty much entirely except for Medicare funds being tossed into the general revenue stream "following the federal example of how our Social Security taxes have been �borrowed� for other purposes." The Social Security Administration has invested its surplus in Treasury bonds, as have millions of other investors, and the only way in which that money becomes unavailable for its intended purpose is if the United States defaults on its debt. Those funds have not been stolen, diverted, or misspent.