Managed Care and Medicare
"An estimated 711,000 elderly and disabled Americans will be dropped from the broad coverage of HMOs next year as health plans continue their flight from the government-run Medicare program, according to a health industry survey released yesterday," writes Dan Morgan in The Washington Post (6/30/00).
"Some people whose health plans are quitting the program may be able to switch to other HMOs. But those living in communities without another option will be forced back into the traditional Medicare program, where out-of-pocket costs are higher and many major expenses, such as prescription drugs, are not paid for."
And yet, we must be careful what we ask for. Many health care experts are slobbering about the opportunity this presents for further government regulation and involvement as we discussed in the July/August 2000 issue of the Medical Sentinel.
The article also stated that, "Cigna Corp. announced recently that it will drop out of the program. Aetna U.S. Healthcare also announced that it will not renew its contract with the federal government in 11 states, as well as 30 counties in five other states where it will stay: California, Arizona, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania."
But not to worry say Medicare officials. "Some 40 million Americans still are covered by the traditional Medicare program. 'Medicare beneficiaries who are affected by plans leaving Medicare should remember that no matter what, they are still covered by a strong Medicare program,' said Medicare administrator Nancy-Ann DeParle.
Prescription Drug Goodies
"Last night House Republicans passed a prescription drug plan that will help seniors get the prescription drugs they need. The 'Do Nothing Democrats' --- including a surprising number of vulnerable Dems --- chose to play partisan politics and voted 1,926 times for dilatory motions. Then House Democrats cast the worst vote of all, voting against final passage of the bill.
This morning's Washington Post reports that Democrat Rep. James Traficant said on the House floor yesterday, 'The Democrats never did a thing about prescription drugs.' Rep. Deborah Pryce also hit the nail on the head, saying on the front page of this morning's Washington Times, 'They [House Democrats] didn't walk out on us. They walked out on seniors.' " (Jim Wilkinson, NRCC news release, 6/29/00)
A Presidential Legacy?
"The pounding (on George W. Bush by the president) will continue through November, because Mr. Clinton wants Mr. Gore to win even more than the veep does himself, if that's possible. The president knows his own legacy depends on a Gore triumph. Victory would repudiate his impeachers, ratifying his own self-justifying claim that the 'so-called scandals, of his tenure were bogus.'
On the other hand, if Mr. Gore loses, Mr. Clinton would get part of the blame. Especially if his wife also loses, their influence with fellow Democrats would crash." (Columnist Paul Gigot, Wall Street Journal, 6/30/00)
Knowledge of the Constitution --- Can We Save the Republic?
"As America celebrates 224 years of independence, one wonders if this nation's citizens are equipped to defend their freedoms against the state's natural penchant for mischief. The evidence should make you drop your hamburger. The National Constitution Center interviewed 1,000 adults and found that 24 percent cannot name a single right guaranteed by the First Amendment. Only 6 percent can cite freedoms of speech, press, assembly and religion. Fifty-two percent do not know the Senate has 100 members. One in six believes the Constitution created a Christian nation.
"America's public cluelessness begins in schools that teach little about English and the sciences and less about government. Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) joined members of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni on June 27 to call on 'educators at all levels to redouble their efforts to bolster our children's knowledge of U.S. history and help us restore the vitality of our civic memory.' A major overhaul of America's classrooms - through charter schools, vouchers or total privatization - would boost the odds that citizens will learn why this country is so special and how to keep it that way." (Columnist Deroy Murdock, 6/29/00)
Presidential Ethics Complaint Filed in Arkansas
Reverberations from the Presidential impeachment trial continue to be felt all the way to Clinton's home state of Arkansas.
"An Arkansas disciplinary committee formally filed an ethics complaint against President Clinton in an Arkansas court Friday, seeking to have Clinton stripped of his law license for misconduct 'involving dishonesty, deceit, fraud and misrepresentation.' ...Clinton's disbarment...would have a major symbolic and historical impact, and that is why Clinton is fighting the action. Clinton and his supporters have long argued that his impeachment for perjury and obstruction of justice in the Lewinsky case was a purely partisan crusade by House Republicans. ...The president's contention would be greatly weakened if the Arkansas courts, with no apparent political bias, found his conduct egregious enough to disqualify him to practice law in his home state. ...Disbarment would also strengthen the analogy between Clinton and President Nixon, who lost his law licenses in California and New York after the Watergate scandal. That is a comparison Clinton desperately wants to avoid." (Chicago Tribune, 7/1/00)
Home Schooling Catching Fire
"The number of children taught at home has increased from a miniscule 15,000 in 1978 to 1.5 million today. Academic resources are better than ever, with web pages offering information about good textbooks, teaching aids and supplemental materials.
"But mostly home schooling forges a special bond between parents and their children. It communicates to children how important they are that parents invest so much time in them. It also earns dividends for parents who are able to shape their own children's intellectual and moral development and not turn that responsibility over to an agent of the state, who, no matter how good a teacher, will always be required to teach the state's values and the state's perspective on subjects from sex to history and biology.
"Children educated at home are some of the friendliest, most articulate and socially comfortable people...They speak in complete sentences. They are the way most parents would like their children to be: smart, kind, courteous, respectful and seeking to live a moral life." (Columnist Cal Thomas, Los Angeles Times Syndicate)
Rep. Ron Paul Defends Privacy and Battles the Unique Health Identifier
Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), known as an advocate for privacy, is set to introduce an amendment to this year's Labor-HHS Appropriations bill which will prohibit funding for the unique health identifier, a national numbering system for patients. Speaking on behalf of patients, Twila Brase, RN, president of Citizens' Council on Health Care (CCHC), says a national numbering system will be detrimental to patients, individual liberty, and the American health care system.
"A government numbering system will lead to government surveillance. Government surveillance will introduce distrust between patients and doctors. Distrust will result in delayed access to care, incomplete sharing of information, and improper diagnoses," says Brase who is also a registered nurse.
For the past two years, because of a 1998 amendment by Rep. Paul, Congress has prohibited the federal funding needed for implementation of the numbering system. However the moratorium is set to expire. Creation of the unique patient identifier was part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which Congress passed in 1996.
The privacy fears of citizens are valid, asserts Brase. She points to the new federal home health data collection system which became effective in 1999. Called OASIS (Outcome and Assessment Information System), it collects financial, medical, educational, relational and behavioral information without patient consent on all adult non-maternity patients receiving home health whether they receive public assistance, use private insurance or pay cash.
"A national patient identification system would enhance the government's collection efforts. As with OASIS, all surveillance would be justified for purposes of quality assurance, fraud prevention, and public policy formulation.
Brase also notes the lack of privacy protections in the so-called medical privacy regulations proposed in late 1999. The regulations would allow unprecedented access to medical records without patient consent and would specifically forbid asking for patient consent in certain instances. Thirteen entities, including medical researchers, law enforcement agents, and government officials could all have access to patient data without patient consent. HHS has received over 54,000 public comments but has not yet issued a final ruling. (Citizens' Council on Health Care, June 12, 2000)
Turn Off the Tube
"American teenagers --- and adults too --- would enjoy the fuller complement of life if they turned off the television, and lit up a cigarette. You see, in terms of destroying years of life, television is far worse than tobacco.
"According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention...on the average, smokers lose 3-6 years of their life due to their habit. Of course, these lost years of life tend to come during old age; a person who would have lived until age 80 dies at 75, due to smoking. According to a 1998 survey by the A.C. Nielsen Company, the average American watches television for three hours and 46 minutes every day. By the age of 75, this average American will have spent over ten years watching television. So if you give up cigarettes, you'll have three to six extra years to do things. If you give up television, you'll have ten extra years. Moreover, the extra time you gain by not smoking adds years only to the end of your life, by which time you may have other health problems, and not be fully able to enjoy all the different activities you would like. But if you give up television, you gain ten extra years spread through your life, and at a time when you're younger and more vigorous - or at least middle-aged and not arthritic." (David Kopel, National Review Online, 6/2/00)
Air Bags and Children
According to Car and Driver magazine, 99 children have been killed by airbag deployments in the last two years, all in motor vehicle accidents (MVA) where the youngsters could have possibly survived were it not for the high pressure air bags that injured their immature cervical spine.
In the same period of time, 17 less children were killed in schools nationwide. One must conclude that federally mandated air bags are deadlier than school accidents and shootings.
The American Sentinel has noted the necessity for air bags was spearheaded by former Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole. A better way must be found to protect children, utilizing education, choice, and not government mandates which almost always seem to have harmful unintended consequences.
It will only be a matter of time before lawyers begin suing car manufacturers for not having - or having - air bags! And talking about lawyers, in a recent survey on http://www.vote.com, the following results were obtained regarding whether patients deserve to sue HMOs - Total Votes (96,413 votes): Yes (76,515 votes) equals 79%; No (19,898 votes) equals 21%. Lawyers will win, no matter what, particularly when it is about a government-created problem.
Heart Patients Die on Waiting List
"A face-to-face debate between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and doctors, nurses and National Health Service (NHS) managers highlights some of the problems the NHS faces in funding and allocating resources. During the wide-ranging session at St.Thomas's Hospital, London, Blair was grilled about waiting lists, clinical priorities, staff shortages and the use of resources.
* "Twenty patients waiting for heart surgery in Bristol have died within the past six months, the Prime Minister was told.
* " 'We have only half the national level of funding for heart surgery, and we have 700 patients on our waiting lists, of which 100 have been waiting for more than a year for open heart surgery,' said Peter Wilde, director of cardiothoracic services for the United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust.
* "According to Wilde, funding in the region is 45 percent below the national average, although 70 percent 'of our patients are also urgent and need to be operated on immediately.'
" 'There is pressure to cut waiting lists and one of the ways they do this is to push through minor operations. Ten minor operations from a number crunching point of view look better than one major heart operation, but we should be treating patients not numbers,' one staff member told Blair." (Roger Dobson, "Blair tackled on heart deaths," British Medical Journal, March 11, 2000)
"Total number of Public Laws enacted each Congress since the 80th (1947-48) shows that before 1995, the lowest number was 465. Only one other Congress (97th) kept the number below 500. The worst was 1,028 in the 84th Congress (1955-56). Since the GOP took control again in 1995, the numbers are: 104th - 333; 105th - 394; 106th (halfway mark) -70." Fewer laws are being passed under GOP but we need to do better. (Congressional Quarterly Daily Monitor, 5/8/00)
Media Bias or Subtle Indoctrination?
"Conservatives frequently bemoan the fact they don't get a fair shake by the news media. Reporters, however, deny that's the case, all the while supporting conservatives' claims that the media are so steeped in political correctness that they don't even notice it. So who's right? Can it be objectively proven that the media are biased? Actually it was recently proven by no less than the National Journal. Eron Shosteck in his April 27th Pencil Necks column conducted a Nexis database search to find out how balanced the usage of politically charged terms would be. The results are telling.
"He found that 'partisan Republican' ... has turned up 85 times in the English-language news media over the past 90 days. By contrast, the term 'partisan Democrat' has turned up only 58 times in the same period. That's not exactly equivalent treatment. His search produced similar results for the terms 'hard right' and 'far right' versus 'hard left' and 'far left.' Over a 90-day period, Shosteck discovered 683 mentions of 'hard right' and only 312 for 'far left' while 'far right' was used 267 times and 'far left' just 130 times. That's a ratio of 2 to 1 --- only slightly higher than the previous example --- but it gets worse. He also examined how often each side was referred to as extremists. He found that a Nexis search of 'extreme right' over the past 90 days was 'interrupted' because it exceeded 1,000 documents, which seems to bog down Nexis' data retrieval system."
Years ago in a letter to the editor in The Macon Telegraph, I pointed out this bias, particularly tagging epithets to defame people the media detests, e.g., in El Salvador during the civil war in that country, "Roberto d'Aubuisson who has been linked to right wing death squads," etc. It has not ended.
Libel? Ask General William Westmoreland with his travails suing CBS in the late 1980s.
There are organi-zations like Brent Bozell's Conservative Communications Center (www.therightvoice.org), and Morton Blackwell's Leadership Institute (www.leadershipinstitute.org), "where activists can get some great training at a cost that's a fraction of the value of the information." (Robert McFarland, Free Congress Foundation, 5/25/00)
There is also Accuracy in Media (AIM; http://www.aim.org) led by Reed Irving with its hard punching, biweekly newsletter, AIM Report, which is quite informative and highly recommended. ---Ed.
The Human Genome --- Brilliance Without Conscience?
After more than a decade of scientific labor and $15 billion in federal funds, scientists announced in the first week of July that they had mapped the human genome. Private (corporate) scientists beat the government researchers in the task. According to PE Corp. --- Celera Genomics chief J. Craig Venter, the next task is to unravel the complex structures of proteins in the battle against disease. He promised News and World Report (7/03/00) that in this new effort his company would dominate the field.
Not all share his enthusiasm. Writing for WorldNetDaily.com on June 27, 2000, Craige McMillan quotes General Omar Bradley after World War II on Armistice Day, "We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount....The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours in a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants."
McMillan then writes, "Brilliance without conscience. The death of God and mankind's scientifically-engineered resurrection in his place, all within the span of just over a hundred human years. Technological mastery; ethical infancy. As with nuclear weapons and battlefield designer diseases, the sequencing genie cannot be put back into the bottle, as much as we might wish that he could.
"The genie now roaming the halls of science will not use the words that I have used to describe our destiny under his lordship; instead, he will speak of diseases and deformities forever decimated; of lives worth living and those that are not. And if we are still skeptical he will tell us that we must do it for the children. Would we deprive them of paradise on earth; a Garden of Eden in every town square?
"The ruins of the Christian civilization upon which this technological edifice now stands still offers the same political freedom, human dignity, and divine healing it did in the past, to any willing to explore the crumbling intellectual and spiritual pillars. The God who lovingly oversaw its construction, and who guided the nations that rose on its foundations, is not dead, and has not changed. But He is a great believer in free will. The world's most dangerous place is the human heart."
I believe knowledge is power and science is a boon to mankind, as long as we don't forget our ethics and the fact that science does not have all the answers. ---Ed.
Nader Causing Gore Indigestion
"Ralph Nader, the scourge of corporate America, is threatening to cut into Al Gore's liberal base in pivotal states like California, Washington and Oregon that the vice president must win if he is to beat George W. Bush.
"...Vowing to run a more aggressive, professional, better-funded campaign than he did in 1996, Mr. Nader is firing away with all guns blazing - mostly at Democrats and Mr. Gore. He says that the Democratic Party is 'turning into a crypto-Republican Party,' and that Mr. Gore is a 'consummate political coward' who is 'drifting rightward.'
"Mr. Nader's blistering attacks seem to be connecting with enough Democratic and Democratic-leaning independent voters in a few critical states to make him a possible threat to Mr. Gore." (Washington Times Weekly Edition, 6/25/00)
And to add more problems for Vice President Al Gore, in a pivotal state, "the California Nurses Association, a 31,000-member union based in Oakland, praised Nader as committed to universal health care, patients' rights and expanded federal health insurance for Americans." The nurses' union went on to endorse Ralph Nader, the union's first endorsement for a presidential candidate.
"He is the real thing, and he deserves the support of caregivers," Kay McVay, president of the association, said in a June statement.
"Nader has been doing better than expected in some national polls, showing him at 4 percent to 5 percent in a statistical tie with Reform Party contender Pat Buchanan. But an ABC News-Washington Post poll released this summer indicated that including Buchanan and Nader in a four-way race did not alter significantly the dynamics of the contest between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore.
"Nader, who has run for president several times in the past, again has chosen American Indian activist Winona LaDuke as his vice presidential running mate." (Associated Press, June 14, 2000)
Gore will lose Texas which is Bush country. He may lose California, and he will definitely lose Florida, not only because Jeb Bush is a popular governor, but also because Cuban-Americans, a crucial bloc which had historically voted 75 percent Republican, will vote this time over 90 percent Republican (or Libertarian) because of the Elián González travesty.
Gore, Guns and Bush
One of the issues that separate the presidential candidates has been gun control. George W. Bush has passed the successful concealed carry law in Texas and has stated he favors enforcing existing laws rather than making new ones. Al Gore has favored universal licensing and registration and more new laws, which of course impact on law-abiding citizens rather than on criminals. Earlier this spring, a poll found that most Americans favor stricter enforcement of existing gun laws over more controls on firearm sales and safety.
According to The Washington Times (4/21/00), " 'Nearly two-thirds of Americans now believe it is more important to enforce existing gun laws than to enact new statutes aimed at restricting weapons sales,' according to a national survey of voter attitudes by the Pew Research Center. On the anniversary of the high school shooting rampage in Littleton, Colo., that left 15 dead, the Pew poll found that just 6 percent of voters believe that tougher gun control laws would prevent a recurrence of the Columbine High School tragedy."
And last May (5/12/00), an MSNBC survey revealed when Americans are asked, "Do you agree with the presidential candidates' position on the gun issue?" the following results are obtained:
* 1% Yes, I'm comfortable with both of them on this issue.
* 19% No, I'm not satisfied with either one.
* 22% Yes, I think Gore's approach is right.
* 58% Yes, I think Bush's approach is right.
Those results should not be surprising, when one considers the influence of the NRA, GOA, the Second Amendment Foundation, and other gun rights groups.
For instance, a recent Zogby International poll showed 10% of its respondents indicated someone in their house was a member of NRA. While NRA's actual membership is currently just under four million, responses to Zogby indicate more than 10 million Americans consider themselves or one of their family members to be NRA members. The poll also affirmed NRA membership transcends racial, political, and economic demographics.
Lawmakers who have not yet committed themselves to supporting the Right to Keep and Bear Arms should take notice. If they do not, NRA members (or those who think they are), will certainly make their voices heard "in the one poll that counts the most --- the one that will be held this November 7, Election Day 2000!"
UN Peacekeepers Spreading AIDS
"The U.N. Security Council, under pressure from the United States, said this week that U.N. peacekeepers are spreading the AIDS virus. 'Six months ago, countries didn't want to have a discussion on AIDS,' said U.S. Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke. 'Today, we have been told by every member of the Security Council that they are ready to go with this.'
"Mr. Holbrooke cited cases in which Finnish soldiers had brought the virus home after peacekeeping tours. The UN currently has some 38,000 peacekeepers engaged in 14 missions around the world, not including locally hired staff. They are often sent to places where prostitution is openly practiced.
"The UN currently issues one condom per day to peacekeepers and urges them not to patronize brothels or engage in sexual activity that is not locally permitted."
A U.S.-sponsored resolution calls on the UN to train all peacekeepers on how to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS, and urges troop-contributing nations to offer education, counseling and HIV testing.
In the U.S. military AIDS testing is mandatory and those who test positive for HIV are not deployed, but treated. (The Washington Times, July 7, 2000)
Books in Brief
American Health Care by Roger D. Feldman (ed.). The Independent Institute, 100 Swan Way, Oakland, CA 94621-1428, 2000, ISBN: 1-7658-0676-2, $24.95, 429 pp., Index, (Softcover).
This book is a compilation of fourteen comprehensive essays on health insurance, finance, and the changes being brought about by regulation, whether by administrative law or congressional health reform legislation. American Health Care is a good reference source for those interested in researching this topic, including Medicare, FDA regulations, and even medical licensure. It is fully referenced, annotated, and indexed.
The United States and Biological Warfare by Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman. Bloomington, IN, Indiana University Press, 1998, ISBN: 0-253-33472-1, $29.95, 304 pp., Index, (Hardcover).
This is a very disappointing book. While there is considerable evidence that our communist enemies use everything from mass starvation (i.e., USSR, Ethiopia, etc.) to chemical warfare (i.e., Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.) against their own populations, this book circles the wagons and shoots inward. Its thrust, "there is hard evidence that the United States lied both to Congress and to the American public in saying that the American biological warfare program was purely defensive and for retaliation only." Unfortunately, you will find no information on the use of biological or any other kind of warfare against the U.S. and its allies in this book.
The Great Libertarian Offer by Harry Browne. Great Falls, MT, LiamWorks Publishing, 2000, ISBN: 0-9656036-9-5, $14.95, 287 pp., Index, (Softcover).
Libertarian presidential candidate Harry Browne illustrates how Americans can get from today's $2 trillion federal government "to a libertarian America in which you can live as a free person --- free to live your life as you think best, not as the politicians want --- free to raise your children by your values, not as the bureaucrats demand." Harry Browne demonstrated that, among other things, you can restore a health care system without government interference with low-cost health insurance and more accessible medical care, as well as "how we can rally the American people to give up their favorite federal programs and accept a massive reduction in government." Harry Browne's campaign website address is http://www.HarryBrowne.org.
Biblical Healing for Modern Medicine by Franklin E. Payne, Jr., M.D. Covenant Books, P.O. Box 14488, Augusta, GA 30919-0488, 1993, ISBN: 0-9629876-1-1, $10.00, 236 pp., Index, (Softcover).
About this book, Hilton Terrell, M.D., PhD, member of the Editorial Board of the Medical Sentinel, writes, "When confronted by the burning issues of our day, the Church has been too-long content to offer only generalities or echoes of liberalism garnished with Scripture. However, Dr. Ed Payne has found the Biblical passages which, when joined to medical data, lead to practical answers. That many of his views are not very close to medical orthodoxy reveals just how far medicine has strayed from its only proper basis: the Bible." Dr. Payne is also the author of Biblical/Medical Ethics: The Christian and the Practice of Medicine (1995), Making Biblical Decisions, Birth Control, In Vitro Fertilization, Genetic Engineering (1989), and What Every Christian Should Know About the AIDS Epidemic --- The Medical and Biblical Facts (1991).
This edition of News Capsules was compiled by Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D., Editor-in-Chief, Medical Sentinel of the AAPS. It originally appeared in the Medical Sentinel 2000;5(5):152-157. Copyright©2000 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.