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MN2020 - Tuesday Talk: What’s the future of affordable health care in Minnesota?
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Tuesday Talk: What’s the future of affordable health care in Minnesota?

January 04, 2011 By Rachel Weeks, Communications Specialist

Without Governor Dayton’s expected executive order enrolling Minnesota in the expanded version of Medicaid, those counting on programs like MinnesotaCare and GAMC could have endured even deeper health care cuts, as the legislature tackles a projected $6.2 billion deficit. Even with the additional funding, there is a clear tension between expanding care and balancing the budget. What's your take?

What is the future of affordable health care in Minnesota? What strategies can the legislature employ to expand coverage while containing costs?

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92 Comments:

  • herb says:

    January 4, 2011 at 9:14 am

    All solutions will be elusive until we return to a highly prtogressive tax system similar to the 1950’s….the rich enjoy a decent life even when top income tax rates were at 90 %....they’ll be alright…trust me.

  • Robert St Marie says:

    January 4, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Minnesota should have universal health care for everyone paid for by an increase in the income tax rate.  If you have a private plan you would qualify for a refundable tax credit up to the amount the universal plan cost.

  • Kathryn Z Berg says:

    January 4, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Health care will never be affordable until we implement health care that really works and actually gets people better rather than having people rely on a steady stream of drugs for the rest of their lives.  Western medicine says they want to emphasize prevention, but there is SO MUCH MORE that could be done in terms of diet, accessibility to high quality, nutritious food and utilizing natural health care rather than a pill for everything.  If every Chiropractor, naturopath, homeopath, rolfer, etc., were so busy they couldn’t fit in another client or patient, it would be a sign that we are on the right path.

  • John Crampton says:

    January 4, 2011 at 9:58 am

    If we don’t adapt the Minnesota Health Plan, single-payer universal health insurance, we will bankrupt our state and nation within a decade.  Every other country in the developed world has single-payer, universal health.  The results? The U.S. pays twice as much per capita for health care as the next highest-paying country, we have 45 million people who are uninsured, administration fees eat up 30-35% of our health care costs, and we rank 42nd in health outcomes…. right down there with Serbia.  How should we pay for single-payer, universal health care?  Personally, I think we should tax the richest 2% of Minnesotans and U.S. citizens at the rates we taxed them in the 1950s when our country had the greatest period of economic growth in our history!

  • Minnesota Health Plan says:

    January 4, 2011 at 10:07 am

    The Minnesota Health Plan is a well researched and designed single payer plan that will save money, improve quality, reduce complexity and stimulate job growth.  It will be introduced in the 2011 session by Representative Jeff Hayden in the House and Senator John Marty in the Senate and was supported by Governor Dayton during the campaign.
    The legislature should fully fund a non-partisan cost study to validate projected long term savings and benefits.  Senators Franken and Klobuchar should support the Wyden Brown bill that modifies the Affordable Care Act to make implementation of this important alternative easier. 

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 4, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Thank you Katharine, what we need is a health care system that is about what is best for us!!! The present system allows Insurance Companies and Drug Companies to profit mercilessly from us and our government. Any form of Socialist medicine adds the cost and wastefulness of a bureaucracy. Obamacare ties both together for a double whammy, no savings there. Many like to point to Cuba’s Socialist system, show me how many of our doctors are going to work for what Cuban Doctors get and still have to pay malpractice. Only a Mondragon style Cooperative structure that is owned by patients and health care workers get around all the pitfalls and provides the free education of the Cuban system.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 4, 2011 at 10:18 am

    It’s a shame John that your not being honest enough to tell us that every one of those Countries you mention are Socialist. We ARE NOT. We don’t have to accept these very inefficient structures just to have something. Unless you want open warfare your not changing the country to a socialist structure just to accomadate health care. Read the return on Katharines piece.

  • Alice Mae Guckin says:

    January 4, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Please let’s look at and have compassion for people needing medical care.  Calling it “socialist” and implying it is bad is harsh and cruel.  We need to encourage more preventative and early care.  Also many low income people suffer from lack of dental, hearing, and eye care.  It is totally unacceptable to cut back on government expenditures for these needy people who may even be too sick, old, or disabled to seek employment (assuming they could find employment).

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 4, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Too bad your single payer Socialist effort is going to run right into GOP majorities. As a 62% (not of the 38%, the rich and middle class), I can tell you with some atrength of conviction that we who are suppose to benifiet from this are not impressed. It is not about what is best for us and our health, but rather it is about what benifiets you middle class, white collar, public employees the most by rewarding you with even more control in the form of thousands more fellow workers. In your desperate attempts to push us over the edge into a Socialist form of Government many of you are unwilling to allow anything else to come to the table. Even though much better, from our point of view, exists. We owe those who lie to us no allegence.

  • Paul Conklin says:

    January 4, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Universal access, while a worthwhile goal, would make health care more affordable to the individual, but it will not make health care more affordable to society as a whole.  As we increase access, our choices are either to pay the costs of an inefficient, and relatively ineffective health care system by raising taxes and cutting other spending, or make changes to make health care more efficient.

    As strange as it seems, our health care system is inefficient and ineffective because, in an economic sense we demand that it be so.

    Some of that demand is personal and intentional.  We specifically ask our Dr. for more tests, access to new therapies, that latest drug and high tech treatments based claims of effectiveness in advertising, news reports and word of mouth.  Sometimes (often?) we make those demands knowing full well that much less expensive, but more difficult lifestyle choices and treatments would improve our health more.

    Some of that demand is built into a monopolistic care system that is very hard for an individual to fight.  If what should be a $50 visit to the Dr. costs $150 and the insurance pays for it anyway, we go along, rather than ask questions or searching for a lower cost alternative. 

    Since everyone in the “supply chain” makes more money from a $150 visit than a $40 visit, there is no incentive to change, and in fact, the system has convinced us that this is “the best health care system in the world” and that we have to fight to keep it.

    Demand for a better, more cost effective health care system should be coming from both the left and the right.  From the left because that is the only way we will be able to afford universal care, and from the right, because that is the only way our businesses can remain globally competitive.  But the left is hampered by those that have fought hard to win good health care benefits in the current system, and the right is wedded to those making huge profits from the system at the expense of the rest of the business community.

    What’s the future?  The cynic would say more of the same until we hit a crisis where we’re paying half our income to the system and those who can’t afford it are dying outside the hospital doors, which will inspire a hopefully not too ugly revolution.  The optimist would say that there are models of effective, efficient care in both public and private systems around the country and around the globe, and we just need the political and civic leadership to get us to stop clinging to our battered and dirty security blanket and adopt a system that works.

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 10:56 am

    I think now is th time to explore the single-payer option in Minnesota.  It is certainly cheaper than private insurance based helth care.  Also, in these trying times, it is important that the ever shrinking middle class be attended to.

  • Betty Pat Leach says:

    January 4, 2011 at 11:16 am

    There simply is no way we can address any of these issues without paying more into the state.  I have a modest income as a single person—modest by today’s standards, at least—but I could well afford to forego my rent rebate.  In order to assure my fellow citizens of health care, to get more equity into school funding,to prevent furthe escalation of homelessness, even as a modestly middle class citizen I would willingly pay more taxes.  Can’t this be suggested?

  • Tica says:

    January 4, 2011 at 11:46 am

    I work as an RN in the emergency room of a psychiatric hospital. We see the GMAC recipients every day. Cutting their benefit would mean the hospital would have to turn these people away when they are suicidal or attacking their family members or the public. We as Minnesotans have always taken care of the poor. What will our decision be?

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Bety, you suggestion was more than generous.  I don’t think you need to be asked to anything more.  It is people like me and many any more with mre than I have that need to be asked to do more.

  • Christeen M Stone says:

    January 4, 2011 at 11:48 am

    I found the comments above very interesting. I think we all agree until we solve our health care problem we will not solve our budget problem. As an advocate who became alarmed in 1989 when I realized the seriousness of our health care needs, while listening to people whose lives had been devastated by one member who had a serious health problem and without coverage, and learned how many people were either uninsured, or underinsured I signed on to help solve that problem. We worked on a bipartisan plan which became Minnesota Care, because we had people from both parties realizing we had a problem. We realized this was only a beginning for people with lower incomes to have insurance on a sliding fee scale, but it helped to get people off welfare and struggling families to be assured of coverage. It was having good results until eight years ago when Governor Pawlenty cut thousands off to use that money to balance his budget. Our dream had been to expand that into affordable insurance for all. Now we are back to ground zero, but thank God for Governor Daytons signing the Medicaid grant tomorrow.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 4, 2011 at 11:50 am

    What is absolutely amazing is the simple, single minded refusal of the Socialist single payer crowd to allow any other possibility to come to the table. It is easy to see the loss of profit that the cooperative structure would bring to the Corporate side of this equation. What most people fail to see is the blatant greed for power being exhibited on this issue by our supposed allies in the Public Employee ranks. Most of these folks have healthcare purchased from the lowest bidder, (private contracts with different units of Government), with our tax dollar. None of you have in any way earned any right to speak on our behalf on this issue, yet you middle classers continue in trying to dictate to us what we can expect to get from any healthcare system. You Socialists don’t speak our language, quit trying to tell us that your Socialists, “Minimum Cometency Healthcare” is going to do anything but continue to profit from our deaths.

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Well, this single-payer proponent is waiting for an alternative from the unimaginative far right.  There was never any restrictions on your ability to make alternative proposals to imporve health are in Minnesota except you lackof creativeness.  You only resent/fear change.  Sorry for that, but weneed to move forward, not linger in the 19th century.  I’m afraid to say it, but you already participate in socialism, so welcome comrade.  The reat of your hate filled post was inaccurte and a lie.  Grw upwill ya?

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I totally agree with oyu Christine.  We now have a Governor who loves people, instead of money.

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Tica, good hearing from you.  I totally agree with you.  In fact,  think health care needs to be improved for everyone in Minnesota.  I believe it is a human right!  Single-payer for everyone in the state and stop the profiting fro human disease.

  • Minnesota Health Plan says:

    January 4, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Bill—you seem to need an enemy more than a solution. 
    It’s hard for me to imagine how ‘socialists’ could be preventing other possibilities from ‘coming to the table’.  What we have now is hardly a socialist solution or any solution at all for millions of people.  So why should we leave healthcare provisioning in the hands of unelected and unaccountable private insurance companies and a system that places the United States at 37th in world rankings of overall population health? 

    What on earth are you talking about?

  • Kathryn Berg says:

    January 4, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Dan:  People will continue to profit (and I mean HUGE profits) from the disease of others until we wean ourselves from our dependence on drugs.  It won’t matter who is paying until that ends.

  • Paul Conklin says:

    January 4, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Mr. Hamm is using some pretty strong anti-socialist language.  Without knowing what he means by that and what he thinks of other types of government or government regulated monopoly services, it’s hard to really engage him on that score, but don’t dismiss his ideas because of that language.  Anyone who is promoting a private cooperative structure as an alternative to the current system is not a reationary “don’t change it because I’ve got mine” right winger.

    As a co-op guy (credit union, phone, electric, farm supplies, food) I’d love to add health care to that list. That was where I thought we were head with health maintenance organizations when I first signed up 25 years ago, but then they got hijacked by managered that figured out how to milk non-profits for huge personal gain.

    Co-ops traditionally have problems with raising capital, and health care is pretty capital intensive, so the transition won’t be easy and would require (shudder) government assistance and intervention, but lets not right it off as a compromise between the government single payer and the free market ideas

  • Paul Conkliner says:

    January 4, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Make that “managers” and “write it off”... sigh, I wish I could spell the first time around.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 4, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    To: Affordable Health Care Minnesota, in the Basque region of Spain exists the most Democratic form of Capitalism on the planet. It came into existance in the early 1950’s because of the opression imposed by Franco of Spain. The Basque people were who Franco and his buddy Hitler tryed out Adolfs new War Toy on. By 1962 they started their own healthcare system with only 1200 members, now it covers more than 50,000 families at 1 dollar in 6 of what we were spending in 2000, the last year I’ve seen figures for. It is the premier wellness and patient based sytem on the planet bar none. For the Dr. and medical proffesionals, free education is provided in return for work gaurentees. Malpractice is eliminated while healthcare workers participate in ongoing self evaluation and self impovement programs. Health worker equity is in the real dollar value of equipment and buildings of the Coop. Each unit of this structure is self governing but works in connection with all others. The system is owned by it’s members and workers, has no profit margin, and needs no overpayed government bueracrats to oversee it. As for all you public employee’s, how would you like to eliminate copays and deductibles, this system would look to grab your contracts from the insurance companies first as a rapid growth mechanism.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    “Looking for an enemy”, those of us in the 62% down here have nothing but enemies in the health care debate. From the GOP we get rampant capitalism and the god given right to profit from the sheeple. From you of the Middle Class we are offered your only solution to everything, more SOCIALISM. A sollution that increases your power base and government control in our lives not to mention the tremendouse increase in cost to we the sheeple again. Both of these groups controling the discussion have healthcare, yet they are both working together to manipulate what we of the majority will get for healthcare. If you don’t understand what is fudamentally wrong with this mess than you truly are my enemy.

  • KJC says:

    January 4, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    I’ve been everything from the clerk to the CEO.  It gives a comprehensive perspective, especially on various kinds of responsibility.
    I think of all the things in our (slipping but) still exceptional standard of living.  As consumers, we all have a significant influence on the pricing of nearly everything we buy.
    Prove that?  I want to pick a real example, to make this more than theory.  I remember when we introduced compact disc players in ‘83.  The first ones cost?  $1200.  We sold?  About a dozen.  Yes, 99.99% of Minnesota said “no.”  The next round was $500, and we sold hundreds… that’s still a lot of “no’s.”  Then it was $300 and thousands of units, etc.  The “no’s” drove the price down, not the “yes’s” ... agreed? 
    In so many ways, our fundamental ability to say “no” influences the pricing of nearly everything. The price of a house, a car, a camera, a steak, etc?  I say in all those areas that mechanism, our ability to just say “no,” appears to be a reasonably effective regulator.
    I also assert that medical care is one area, maybe the only area, where you can not effectively say “no” a lot of the time.  Your wife is in the e.r. and you think I’ll wait for the price to come down on that heart operation?  Sure.  So?  If you look at the results, that would mean? Tat health care costs would steadily risen over the years… way, way out of proportion to incomes.  Certainly all that is just inarguable?
    Let’s admit that this is one area that the Profit Motive works poorly, compared to the many, many, many other areas where it is proven to be a reasonably good “regulator.”  Certainly it’s fair to measure how good that “Invisible Hand” really works, isn’t it?
    Once you come to grips with the essential truth, you’ll see why health care is not an area where “let the market decide” will work as a mechanism that will fairly provide this human necessity. (Our ability to say “no” is too limited, and therefore has a very diminished ability to be a long-term price damper.)
    You could even make a case that it wasn’t designed with an eye towards what would work well.  What?  Near as I can tell, our (unique) employer-paid system is an accident of history.  Really?  Yes, during WWII, we were out to produce ship, planes, tanks, etc as fast as possible.  War production brought tremendous inflationary pressures…so the government passed wage and price controls.  Companies soon figured out?  That the health care benefit wouldn’t be counted in that wage control….hence our employer-sponsored health care system was enabled, now unmasked as a system designed to Get Around a Rule… not because it was the best, most effective, or the most efficient.  Sorry, I don’t like all this any better than you do.
    Yet? It appears that we, as a society,  seem to be willing to keep pretending about all this?  And just how is that going for the Average American?  The 45 million people without medical care coverage could tell you, would you be willing to genuinely listen?  Looking at some of the repeated ugly rhetoric, it sure sounds like there already a lot of closed minds? 
    Mostly I don’t expect the Business of Medical to drive real change, they like things pretty much like they are right now…getting an ever larger percentage of our national income.  I also find many people on the front lines of medical care that agree change is needed, but how about in the Executive Suite?  Not so much.
    If you’re honest, you’ll see that we already admitted to failure.  Yes, back in 1965 we found that this “let the market decide & employer-will-pay” system served the elderly very poorly.  The Democrats, over Republican resistance, passed Medicare… and the positive effect on senior health is well documented.  I guess that means one possible answer is?  To delete the words “65 and older” from the Medicare Law.  I say that mostly to stimulate discussion on genuine alternatives to the ever-more-failing-in-so-many ways “let the market decide”  approach.
    Play beggar-thy-neighbor until you personally get that “failure to provide?”  It’s up to you.  Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it? (Including the bad parts.)
    The future will be? What we are willing to stand up for.  I say?  Let’s work on systems that make this better for all of America.  As for the kind of bluster that has “I’ve got mine, and I don’t want to pay for you” hiding under it, usually layered with some nice-sounding justifications? I say we, as Americans, are better than that.  All the best in the New Year.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    For those of you who might actually want to look at the Mondragon System, Joe Nathan is one of a hand full of us state wide who have an understanding of this system. He can put you on to more information that most of you would accept far more readilly from him than me.

  • David Olson says:

    January 4, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Guess what everyone!  We already have a public funded healthcare system.  What do you call Medicare and Medicaid?  What other business is there that no knows the price and everyone pays differently??
    Healthcare is something everyone uses, like it or not!
    We all have to eat, and agriculture is very heavily subsidized!  Maybe we should let the farmers send anyone who buys milk or any ag product a “growing fee” after they purchase their product from the grocer???  It would make sense according to our present system!
    Most of the people who oppose the changes are those already receiving public funded healthcare!
    Very sad the GOP will loose more credibility fighting amongst others to control these changes.  Politics ‘as usual’?  I think Not!

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 4, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks Paul for your astute observations, I am about as far from a profiteering “Right Wing Elitist” as anyone can get. You speak of t remendous amount of money to get this off the ground, theoretically the only thing the Government might have to stand for is the loan gaurentee of of a couple months operating costs and perhaps some special enabling legislation issues that might come up. As for being surounded by Socialism, I am acutely aware of that as a disabled veteran. I fully understand Katherines drug addiction issue with 47% of the American population now addicted to one or more happy pills from our friends at the DRUG Companies. As a vet, I can’t go in for a visit without that socialist organization pushing drugs at me, it gets sickening.

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    KJC- I think you have it spot on.  The profit motive doesn’t work well for helth care.  I think this ges back to what I was saying earlier.  Health care is a human right, not optional.  Free enterprise works well for things that are optional.  All other developed countries treat helth care as a human right.  The health plans are generally handled by the governments because they ae best suited to handle human rights issues.  Our problems s that we now have over 50 million people wit no health insurnace.  On top of being inhumane, it makes health insurnace costs for those who do have insurnace very very high.  I believe single-payer is the best and cheapest health care.

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Mr. Hamm, I think you have a very cynical view of things.  Everyone will profit from single-payer health care.  Not the few “government workers.”  You and your ilk will also have health care, and you will contribute to it’s cost, like everyone else.  The cost will be significantly lower than current health care premiums.  I don’t care what you choose to call single payer.  You can call it socialist, communist, fascist, dictatorship, anarchist, or whatever you want.  I’m not afraid of a label.  Why are you?  I think we should be looking for something good for everyone.  I certainly don’t think it is right to profit from the physical misfortune of others.  Why should executives profit because they caused the death of someone to whom they denied coverage?

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Mr. Hamm, Spain has free universal health care throughout the country.  However, you need to have a social security card.  I didn’t see anything about the Basque part of the country.  I would like o see your reference about the Basque area of Spain being different from the rest of the country.  I believe health care in Spain is better than we have.

  • Ginny says:

    January 4, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    This is a major problem that must be fixed by single-payer health plan or this country will go bankrupt through health care costs alone. We already us 16% of our GDP on health, compared to much lower costs in every other developed country.

  • Kathryn Berg says:

    January 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    I agree with KJC.  You can’t count on market forces to keep the cost of medical care down.  When you are in an ER, who’s going to turn down care, especially when you have been waiting for hours.  There would have to be some stiff enforcement of anti-trust laws.  It seems like big Pharma exists because of collusion.  It’s unclear to me how they can, on one hand, claim that they charge so much because they are using the $ to conduct research, but yet they take $ from all the race for the cure type events to do even more research.  I’m sure some fund raising goes to universities, but you get the idea.  It is obscene that they make so much money and yet in other countries they manage to sell their products for less $ and still make a profit.  It is equally disgusting that there is no negotiation on drug prices for Medicare and this has continued under the Obama Administration.  That isn’t an issue under control of the state legislature, but perhaps if enough noise gets made….

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 4, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Hey Danny C., “Who’s afraid of a little socialism” you ask? While I hate having to give this history lesson over again, but it is necesary again. Over the last 100 years Socialism, in it’s many forms, has been the most failed system of governance on our planet. When it fails it inevidably fails into some kind of Athiestic Dictatorship. Then there are the 100 million plus of inocent civillians killed by these dictators you seem to love. What was that you supported about this form of governance that is older and clearly less stable than our invention.

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Mr. Hamm—You talk skeptically of socialized health care, and yet you belong to the largest socialized health care system in the US.  The VA is an enormous socialized health care system.  That system offers free healtcare, other than what your insurance pays.  Isn’t it hypocritical of one to demean a socialized health care system, when you participate in it?  Also, I looked up the Basque health care system in Spain.  It is the most expensive health care system in all of Spain.  The rest of Spain offers single payer cheaper.

    Also, I receive health care at the VA hosptial in Minneapolis.  I have NEVER experienced personnel pushing drugs there.  They prescribe medically necessary drugs to imporve heath, no differently than any other hospital or doctor.  I did notice your tendency to pick on the “free” service you receive.  If anything, there would be a tendency for the VA to not prescribe unnecessary medications, because it would save the Government money.  However, private doctors, who have been known to get drug “kickbacks” might prescribe unnecessary drugs.  I think you are too free with anecdotal criticisms that seem rooted in a very limited and biased experience, instead of objectively evaluating a situation.  I have had several surgeries at the VA and long-term medical care.  While you have the right to criticize, at least use accurate facts.

    You know, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have the services of the VA for my service connected disability. I am purplexed and somwhat “miffed” by those who “kick that gift horse in the mouth.”  If you so disapprove of the VA medical services, I suggest you use that private for-profit medical service you admire instead.

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Right on Dave.

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Well, hey WD Bill.  Socialism is alive and very well all over the world.  In fact, one of the world’s most prosperous economies just elected a former Marxist guerilla.  She was preceded by President “Lula” who left as a revered leader and a 87% aproval rating.  He instituted wealth redistribution in Brazil that has caused a meteoric rise in Brazil’s economy.  By the time they host the 2016 Olympics, Brazil is expected to have the 5th largest economy in the world.  They are flourishing under socialism. 

    In the years since 2000, Lula turned Brazil’ economy around from being on the brink of defaulting on its national debt, to a country that has been loaning money to the IMF.  The new President (Rouseff) plans to continue with wealth distribution downward and providing health care shelter and food to everyone.

    Brazil will be long prospering as a nation, that cares about its people, than the US, which will continue to sink economically in this reverse Robin Hood culture.  A nation of people working together trumps a nation of infighting and selfish individuals anytime.

    Every prosperous developed country in the world is more socialist than we are.  Then, you put that together with our continuing decline, and…

  • Ken Tschumper says:

    January 4, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    A couplen things.

    It’s important to remember that all healthcare costs get paid one way or another, either through government payments to healthcare providers for uncompensated care, higher premium costs on those of us who pay some or all of our premiums, higher taxes for GMAC, and sometimes the cost to us are in the form of lower productivity by sick adults and poorer learning by children.

    Of course most people are not aware of most of the costs above, so they are mislead to believe that increased government spending on healthcare is an increase in the cost of healthcare.

    Most studies show that a government run single payer healthcare system would be the most cost effective and efficient. That’s why countries with single payer systems (see Michael Moore’s “Sicko”)spend about 8-9% GDP on healthcare and we spend 16-17% GDP with poorer outcomes.

  • Kathryn Berg says:

    January 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Dan C—“medically necessary drugs to improve health.”  Oxymoron.  Drugs don’t improve health.  They only give the illusion of improving health.  What happened to the body healing itself and giving it a bit of help in that direction, rather than suppressing or masking symptoms.

    Until we recognize that drugs don’t improve health, we will NEVER lower the cost of medical care.  Drugs manage disease, but don’t deal with the underlying reasons (dis-ease perhaps) that cause the disease symptoms.  Thus, the gravy train of ongoing customers for life.

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    WD Billy, there you go with you hyperbole.  Everybody, planet, etc.  I won’t even ask you for facts to substantiate what you say, because there are none.

    While there has been Medicare fraud, it was committed by your private capitlaist doctors and druggists looking to milk the system.  In addition, it was the Government who investigated and found that fraud.  Where are all the published fraud investigations by the private health insurance companies?  I know they commit plenty of fraud.  The Government has found some there too. 

    Need I remind you of Bayer pharmaceutical which knowingly distributed AIDS contaminated hemophiliac drugs to European and African nations.  While the US did nothing to hold those exectives accountable, several of the Bayer executives were imprisoned in Europe.  It is the capitalist profit motive that encourages some to commit crimes.  Why?  Because they can profit from it.  Does Bernie Madoff ring a bell?

    Meanwhile, I suggest you dispense with the hypocrisy and leave the “corrupt” VA system you so willingly and ignorantly stick your nose in.  You seem to be another spoiled ingrate mooching your way throh the “socialist” system, pretending you aren’t one.  You know, having beliefs and principles without willing to sacrifice anything, means it never was a principle.  It was just a moocher in wolf’s clothing.

    I think our nation would progress much farther being concerned about our neighbors and fellow human beings here, than simply “bitching” about everything and being afraid of silly “boogey man” words.  We can’t move back to the 20th century.  We have to learn and adapt to have a better life in the future. Incidently, we have many other infrastructure areas where we need to spend more money, not just medical care.  However, we can free up some more money by switching to a more economical single-payer health care system.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 4, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    [Edit]. As for my experience at the local VA clinic, glad to hear yours is better. The VA hospital in Mpls. has been much better. As for VA Doctors and Nurse Practitioners not getting drug company stipeds, I’m open to proof on that one. You seem to have run out of good material there bud. What your suppose to be looking for is the “Mondragon Industrial Cooperative Structure”. Within that organizations structure is the cooperative healthcare system I am speaking of. Not the Socialist Basque regional Governments program. Google won’t get you there in 2 strokes.

  • WAYNE says:

    January 4, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    WHATEVER GETS US TO A SINGLE PAYER SYSTEM IS THE DIRECTION WE NEED TO GO. ANYTHING ELSE IS REARRANGING THE DECK THE DECK CHAIRS.

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    Hey WD Billy—Yeah, I might be popular in Brazil.  I can’t quite ssay where you would be popular.  Obviously, not the VA.  You say you have proof of doctors taking kickback, well pony up.  You said you’re “open” to proof.  Well, I’m calling the bluff.  Frankly, I think you are entirely full of it.  You didn’t need to waste time telling me you have the truth, just show it.  You must like to be complicit in illegal actiities.  VA doctors are not allowed to receive compensation form pharmaceuticals.  So, you must be talking about privae doctors.  If you abide illegal activities, you are just as guilty as your alleged doctors.  You again would be hypocritical.  I suggest you take action, instead of just whine, whine, whine. Is that what you did all the wtime in the service…just whine?  You’re just hot air.  You haven’t gotten most of your facts right, so why would I assume you started now?

    Also, you still didn’t address you being a hypocritical mooch.  You’ve mooched so much your nose has gotten raw from the trough.  I suggest that you start bad-mouthing someplace after you refuse to go there.  Then, you have the right to wine, you socialist.  Otherwise you’re just being hypocritical.

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Well, I certainly know that’s false.  I have relatives that are diabetic.  Without the insulin they die.  Don’t make ridiculous statements. There are many many needed drugs.  Are oyu forgetting that the life expectancy has dramatically increased in the last decades?  Some reason is drugs.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    January 4, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Sorry, Kathryn, but most drugs do serve to promote healing that would not take place without them.  It would be mere wishful thinking to wait for an allergy that leads to asthma attacks to go away by itself, for instance. 

    FOR MINNESOTA:  John Marty’s Minnesota Health Plan, a tax-supported single-payer Medicare-for-All type plan for our state, will be resubmitted to both the House and Senate this year.  Passing it would be the single biggest step we could take as a state to save millions every year while making sure that no Minnesota resident went without preventive and curative care.  See the web site www.muhcc.org for information.

    Note to Bill Hamm:  To socialize a piece of the common good, such as police and fire protection or health care, is not to make our country “socialistic.”  You are perhaps thinking of what used to be called “godless communism” rather than the normal pragmatism practiced by our, and other, democratic nations. 

    SOMEWHAT HELPFUL MEANWHILE:  Perhaps those without the money to buy insurance could visit Minute Clinics for basic care at state expense instead of using expensive hospital emergency rooms.  The nurse practitioners serving in these clinics can conduct routine physical and well-child exams AND can diagnose and treat, including prescribing meds, the 15 most common ailments.  They also know when to immediately refer a patient to a specialist or to an emergency room.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 4, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Wayne, NO SINGLE PAYER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, EVER!!!!! I think that says it all to those who were not listening in the last election. We the people now have a clear GOP majority in the state legislature and a Governor with no clear majority vote, (only 45% of votes cast). It will surely be a very disappointing year for many of this sites regulars.

  • Bruce says:

    January 4, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Bill Hamm—I took your advice and did a little research on Mondragon.  A good starting point is Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondragon_Corporation

    I share your admiration for worker cooperatives, but I think the distinction between a democratic organization with a one person one vote principle and an elected democratic government run health care program is less than you think.  The main difference, I suppose, is that the benefits of the Mondragon system are limited to its members.  Mondragon has recently stirred some criticism for hiring workers without extending membership to them and for ‘offshoring’ some production.  It’s not clear to me how the Mondragon system would provide coverage for the disabled, and for others who cannot find employment with the cooperatives.  That’s a gap that we can only fill with a health care system that provides universal coverage through the state.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 4, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Sorry to see you fall so far their Dan, take anouther pill bud you’ll be OK. Then there is you Bernice, absolutely no recognition of systemic abuse on your part with 47& of our population addicted to one or more of your beloved substances. Many experts say it’s overkill but you seem to be supporting even more addiction. As Kathrine insinuates, there are those who support the drugging of the underclass out of existance. Are you a practicing wholehearted eugenicist now? Don’t you even care about appearances any more?

  • Ginny says:

    January 4, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Good for you, Dan. I do not know what is so frightening about the word “socialism.” Actually I think this propaganda goes back to the beginning of the industrial revolution and into the 1920s and beyond. Corporations put a lot of money into this campaign to scare the American people away from any such notions, including unionization, which they often “confused” with socialism. If you have read anything about corporate and industrial tactics that continue into today, obviously, since so many rightwingers and teapartiers repeat it ad nauseum.
    It’s time we told the truth about socialism in this country and throughout the world and disabused people of its corporate led ant antagonism and lies about it.
    The Twin Cities truckers’ strike of 1933 turned the tide—for a while—and finally allowed Minneapolis to become a city where union members were not harassed on a daily basis. I know some of the things that went on with the unions at that time; my dad was a trucker although he hated the unions, but many of his beliefs were really against his best interests.

  • Kathryn Berg says:

    January 4, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Actually, the reason the life span has increased is not drugs, it is plumbers.  Most people who study such things agree.  It is sanitation that has been crucial. 

    I have never said that NO DRUGS are ever necessary, but when 25% of all children are on prescription drugs on an on-going basis, that is a problem.

    There are many ways to deal with problems naturally, using a back up western medication if there is an acute flare up.  Let me give you an example.  Did you know that at least 80 - 85% of people (I don’t have a source to quote because I have known this for quite a long time) have auto immune diseases because of a gluten intolerance.  Rather than having them change diet, all the docs know how to do is prescribe immuno suppressants which are horrible drugs and actually make people sicker.  The idea of changing a diet doesn’t even occur to them. 

    Drugs can manage illnesses, but they can’t cure chronic illness, which is the most costly aspect of health care.

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Excellent points Bernice

  • Dan C says:

    January 4, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Right on Ken

  • Robin Tschumper says:

    January 4, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Bernice makes a great point about using “minute clinics”. Unfortunately that is not a viable option for many low income, unemployed people who cannot afford the relatively low charge per visit. Here we have to go to La Crosse where the charge is $40. I work with low income people who have no option but to use the ER because they have no insurance and no disposible income for anything, including necessary nonfood items like toilet paper, diapers, and medical care.

    Even the women I work with have huge medical bills and no health insurance. We have no benefits provided by the small non-profit we work for. America needs a single payer, universal health care system in this country to provide everyone with basic medical care. Maybe we could improve our infant mortality rate. I think we are ranked somewhere around 67 in infant mortality. There are not many countries that have a worse health care system than the U.S.

  • Dan C says:

    January 5, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Robin - thanks for the information.  It is criminal that some people are literally dying for lack of food and medical care.  Especially, while others are building $100,000,000 car museums for themselves.  What a barbaric way to run a country.  As I have stated earlier, health care is a human right.  Considering how well the wealthy are doing now and have done during this Great Recession, THEY need to pay for it.  The rich seem encumbered with gluttony, selfishness and greed.  They need to be liberated from those afflictions

  • Dan C says:

    January 5, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Kathryn, while I do agree with some of what you say, I feel our country and health care system are so screwed up, health care needs to be triaged.  While use of drugs merit some attention, I think we have to first look to how are going to get health care for EVERYONE.  Single-payer wold be the best way to address that.  Also, single-payer would be the best way to respond to to the overuse of drugs.  Remember, single-payer would be the sol-source purchaser of drugs.  However, there waould also need to be oversight to make sure necessary medications are available.

  • Dan C says:

    January 5, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Thanks Ginny.  I agree with you.  You know,  was a manager, sometimes at odds with the union, but I realize that unions are absolutely necessaary to protect workers from unfair business practices.  I now I would have done many expedient things, to the detriment of workers, if I did not have to deal with a worker. 

    While unions can sometimes forget what their realpurpose is, they are an essential part of a counterveiling power for corporations and businesses.  Workers need a say at any place of employment.  It might be a owned by an entrepreneur, but it is the workers health and well-being.

    I feel we really have to be concerned about the demise of unions.  Corporations hve exported jobs overseas in an effort to kill the unions, and it has worked.  Unions now comprise less than 10% of the labor force.  If unions die, there will be no protection for workers.  This will only invite future violence for people to assert their rights.

    Why can’t people wok together realizing hat everyone merits a say at the table?

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 5, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Merriam Webster describes Socialism as a theory of social organization based on government ownership, management or control of the means of production and distribution and exchange of goods or services. This is what I reffer to as “Centralization of power”. Any time you see power shifting away from bottom up local control to top down central control you are seeing Socialism in action. What Webster doesn’t speak of is who is the ruling class under Socialism. The other thing that Socialism is about is rule by the educated elite. Instead of power being in the hands of inherited money, it is in the hands of the middle class. I will not support such idiocy or any ruling class in our free country. The centralization of power in our education system has brought us from an education leader 35 years ago to 26th in the world now, thank you for nothing Socialist scum. As for the connection between public employee unionism and Socialism, it is absolutely indisputable.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 5, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Kathryn, your not harsh enough on these public sevants who only serve themselves. The addicting of children for ADHD and other ailments without a single independently done “Double Blind” study to prove said affectiveness is criminal. Public employee involvement in this as a school funding mechanism is atrocious and again should be criminal but instead they are given immunity. They support the drugging of the rest of us because the drug companies are paying the high dividends they like to see in their retirement accounts. The miidle class has sold out those of us in the 62% out so many ways they begin to make the rich look good. The only way we win is to turn out on caucus day and take back what is ours.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 5, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Bruce, there is NO government involvement in the Mondragon Coops. They are considered self employed and self governing by the state. All social welfare systems as we know them are run by the coop for the coop members. They have taken control of thier destiny by taking banking as well as food distribution away from the Corporate world. Retraining and new jobs for workers displaced by modernization falls right into place for new jobs created. Finally, yes you are right thier healthcare system is captive to their overall structure, but one doesn’t have to be too creative to find ways to cross that over into a larger more inclusive structure as an open Minnesota style Coop structure. Some of us have had a few years to think about how this can be done, will you not allow us to be heard? Are you that afraid of what we have to say? Is truth a threat to your single payer Socialist plan?

  • Dan C says:

    January 5, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Ginny - I totally agree with you.  I thought the object of Government is to do what is best for the people being governed.  I don’t give a hoot if that’s socialism, or whatever.  If people are happier with socialism, then that’s what it should be. 

    I’ll tell you one thing.  I’m not happy with this corporatocracy (plutocracy) we have now.  Corporations are NOT people, they escape way too many taxes, they have no social responsibility, and there is tendency to profit from the ill fortunes of others.  The profit motive shouldn’t replace the right to live. 

    As I understand it, our country is composed of a common culture of people working together to achieve common goals.  If we aren’t doing that, then are we really a nation?  If people choose to view our country as self-reliant and competing individuals in a survival of the fittest mentality, then I don’t think we are a nation.  Now, a mountain man might be able to survive (for a short time) under those rules, but not a nation.  What about those who have fought and died in wars to protect our country?  Maybe they have been wounded as a soldier?  Does our country not owe them?  More importantly, those who have never done anything for our country or others, are they entitled to share equally in our country’s bounties?  What about those who have worked so hard to avoid doing something for others or the country?

    Why do people think that everything they have they earned?  Haven’t they achieved much of what they have by “standing on the shoulders of others” who preceded us?  We didn’t all start from scratch.  How about the education we received, paid for by our parents and others in previous generations?

    No, I believe there is too much of an ignorant selfishness existing in our country today.  People who take for granted an enormous infrastructure built and paid for by others and previous generations.  We don’t need Thomas Edison anymore, because we have the light bulb.  Now, we are building on that to pursue more advanced technologies.  We didn’t go from nothing to open heart surgery.  This took hundreds of years of accummulated knowledge and skill.  In addition, we are using all sorts of infrastructure resources today currently being built and maintained by others around us.  WE ARE ALL DEPENDENT ON EACH OTHER!  If we aren’t and don’t want to be, then find that montain and live by yourself, but stay away from those assets developed and built by our nation.  People want to be self-reliant, then be so.  Just do it.  However, don’t share in the things that our nation has accommplished together. 

    I feel the far-right conservatives are spoiled.  They are not aware of all that has been done for them, not to mention the indulgence others must give to their whining selfishness and greed.

  • Dan C says:

    January 5, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Hey WD Billy - much of waht oyu say seems so incoherent.  I do detect a tremendous amount of hate.  You ssertions about drug testing is baloney.  Those test have been done, to my recollection.  And it is authorized prfessionals presribing those medication.  I’m sure even you are aware that prescription drugs, like ridalin, have to be prescribed by a doctor.  Also, scools are not being funded by drug prescriptions.  It is privae doctors that prescribe these drugs.  Are you foolish enough to believe teachers can medicatre the children?  Hopefully, you are smarter than that?

    The remaining part of your post is genereally incoherent and nonsensical.  You blame the middle class for “selling you out?”  I think you have done a fine job of that all by yourself.

    Yu know there was a recent Maryland University study revealing right-wing people who have watched a lot of Fox News as misinformed and of lower intelligence.  Are you one?  I suggest you make your posts more coherent and logical.

  • Dan C says:

    January 5, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Hey WD Billy -I looked up your Mondragon Cooperative in the Basque area of Spain.  Frankly, I don’t think you know the slightest of what you talk about.  Mondragon is a business cooperative, not health care.  Health care is universal in Spain.  Secondly, it is a highly socialistic form of business cooperative.  Of course, the term cooperative parallels socialism very closely.  It is much like communes.  The system of coopeatives, is closely regulated, including the ratio of wages paid to workers and management, and involves detailed employee involvement in the running of the business. 

    I find it so silly that you rail at the word socialism, but possess such blind faith in such a socialistic system.  I think you either better better research Mondragon or learn to embrace socialism.  Right now you are just revealing ignorance of either or both.

  • Dan C says:

    January 5, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Here you go WD Billy.  Defining socialism while you worship the socialist Mondragon Coop.  I think you are proving you now little about which you speak.

    It’s so comical hearing you laud the benefits of Mondragon while reviling socialism.  You are like a pregnant virgin.

  • Dan C says:

    January 5, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    WD Billy - If I don’t know it, I would not be unreasonable to assume you talk about drug abuse from personal experience.  I think you might still be using.  If you aren’t on drugs, then you should be.  It would save us from some of the incoherence.

  • Dan C says:

    January 5, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    WD Billy - I am ever hopeful single-payer is coming, particularly in Minnesota.  Your indictment of single payer is probably based on the same knowlege you have about Mondragon vs socialism….little to none.  I’m glad you idolize Mondrago so much because you would be a lot further down the socialism trail than most in our nation.  I never realized you were such a commie pinko.

    Furthermore, Mark Dayton just signed into law a wide sweeping and expanding involvement in Medcaid for the State of Minnesota.  Pawlenty refuse to do it.  So, I hope you aren’t too disappointed WD Billy.  I guess ignorance is bliss for you.

    Also, single-payer is not yet a settled issue.  Well, you’ll probably want to head to your socialist/communist Mondragon instead….comrade.  Say hi to Vladmir Putin for me.  You have been a hoot with the paranoid druggy and middle-class robbery worries.

  • Ginny says:

    January 5, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Dan, Not surprisingly I agree with you. I think one of the key issues that we must somehow return to is a sense of community. We used to have it—during World War II and beyond but I think it began to dissapate in the 1980s and greed and ME ME ME took hold. Some people may be surprised to learn we are fighting a war now—in fact 2 of them—which is eating up much more money than people realize: breaks $720 million spent each day on Iraq only. The cost of sending one soldier to Afghanistan is $3 million per year when all costs are added.
    We don’t notice because the only ones taking part are the soldiers, sailors, et al., and they are the only ones paying the price, along with their families. What if the American people decided to treat this as a national, communal issue and everybody got involved, with rationing, saving tinfoil and cans and newspapers and suffering with very little meat, sugar, gas, etc. We’d be involved then. We don’t care now because it doesn’t touch most of us. We have no idea of its effect on our national coffers—not to mention on those fighting it.
    I think we should re-institute the draft. That would make it a communal affair.
    Continuing to “debate” Hamm is a futile proposition. He can’t hear anyone else.

  • Kathryn Berg says:

    January 5, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Dan C—don’t think for a second that there haven’t been parents who have been muscled into putting their kids on drugs for ADHD.  If only they were muscling them into giving their children a better diet and actually providing a better diet than the current school lunch mondel.  And as far as $ is concerned, children who are on behavioral medications fall under a different classification and yes, the schools do get more money for those children than “normal” children.  Special Education I believe they call it. 

    When I was growing up, there weren’t all these concentration issues with kids.  What is that about?  Our diets are MUCH worse as a society, so it is a likely culprit.  There are others that deserve a fingr pointing as well (TV, Video Games), but I won’t get into that here. 

    A friend of mine is a pharmacist.  She used to work in a nice quiet suburban pharmacy.  She noticed a dramatic change when she switched to a downtown urban pharmacy.  LOTS more “performance” drugs being prescribed so people can perform better at work.  There is probably some pressure to perform at work from their superiors as well.  Its a mess.

  • robin tschumper says:

    January 5, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Dan C, you are right. It is amazing to me that most on the right, especially the far right like our “friend” Hamm, do not seem to understand that we have MANY socialist type structures in our country. For example, the Vet Admin which has been mentioned, but also law enforcement, fire departments, the postal service and so on. Do they not realize that the money to hire contractors (such as Halliburton) come from the government?! We are going into this era of not taking care of our citizens. I think it is disgusting and deplorable. People like Mr Hamm will start to get the point when there is no money to pay for old people to eat or go to nursing homes when needed.

    Already our educational system has gone to hell and not because of any centralized structure. It is because our former governor and legislature cut and/or deferred payments to schools! I am originally from California and I remember well the effects of 1972’s Prop 13 on the schools. I received a decent, free public education, but my younger nieces and nephews got a terrible education because there is so little money for schools, and there is no cultural activity in the schools.

    If socialized medicine were so terrible, why are so many industrialized countries employing that system and having much better outcomes than us? Most of the people I know would be happy to pay more taxes if they were to get health care. To make health care (even insurance) viable, we all have to work together.

  • Ginny says:

    January 5, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Minnesota Health Plan: Exactly!

  • Dan C says:

    January 5, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Amen Robin

  • Dan C says:

    January 5, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Kathryn, I don’t entirely disagree with you.  I’m sure there are abusive school officials coercing parents.  However, the medical profession has to take a big hit here.  They are the ones prescribing this medication.  It certainl would seem appropriate to monitor doctors who prescribe too much sedatives.  Howeer, this would mean increasing the sixze of Government to monitor and enforce these things.  Are you up for that?

  • Dan C says:

    January 5, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    Ginny, I totally agree with you.  I have maintained for a long time the draft should be used to fight any war.  Fisrst because it involved a shared sacrifice and second, the pressure from soldiers and families overseas would see that the war is concluded at the earliest moment.

    There are too many “chicken hawks” out there.  These are people who want to fight0 wars at the drop of a hat, but search for every draft deferment possible to evade military service.  Dick Cheney comes to mind.  It seems that conservatives want to tax the poor more for the wars while the rich plan to send the poor kids to fight in them.  The number of rich kids fighting in combat are very very very very few.

    Then, the Republicans want to cast aside the disabled veterans and surviving families of war veterans.  Remember early in the war, the US wasn’t even sending flak vests to the soldiers in Iraq because it cost too much.  That isn’t shared sacrifice.

  • Kathryn Berg says:

    January 6, 2011 at 10:35 am

    I totally agree that the medical profession is largely to blame.  The doc prescribes a drug, the kid goes to school drugged out, so guess what, he distracts the class less.  Teachers like that and the cycle begins. 

    But it would take more than just regulating doctors to make this work.  Currently, doctors learn little to nothing about nutrition.  In the top 25 medical schools in the US, only 1 has a nutrition program that is worthy of the name.  They only learn about drugs.  The best expansion of government in this regard is if the overseers of these medical schools required more learning about how to heal oneself rather than suppressing or masking the symptoms with a drug.  How about it, MN Board of Regents??

    Also, no drug ads on TV would make it much easier for doctors to prescribe less.  On the rare occasion I go to a doctor, I try to remember to ask that question—that is, the impact of drug advertising on their ability to make recommendations to their patients that they actually agree with.  Each person has said it is more difficult because people are deciding what they need and pressuring the doc.  Since they have learned nothing else (and in MN they have a difficult time practicing outside the standard of care) and they risk an investigation by the Board of Medical Practices if they do make such recommendations, none of them really do that.  When was the last time your doctor asked you about your diet?  Mine never has. Too many carbohydrates affect concentration and ability to sit still because it spikes the blood sugar.

    What MN really needs is an Expanded Practices law.  This would allow MD’s and other licensed medical providers the ability to learn, practice and/or refer to natural health practitioners.  THIS would lower the cost of health care because people would actually get well.  Such a bill was introduced at the end of last session by Sen John Doll and Rep David Bly.  Too late to do anything with it.  Unfortunately, neither of them are there anymore.

  • Ginny says:

    January 6, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Dan, sometimes it’ fun to engage with people like Hamm, but it’s not very fruitful. May I suggest you not insult him personally, the way he insults virtually everyone else. Get us nowhere. But if you can’t resist—add to the excitement.

  • herb says:

    January 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Great advice Ginny! Who knows how he will react to those around him if we set him off!

  • Dan C says:

    January 6, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Ginny - I prefer not to trade insults and demeaning remarks, but I have long held that if someone feels free to dish it out, they better be able to take it, especially, when the demeaning remarks are rooted in such ignorance. 

    I will restain demenaing criticisn for Mr. Hamm, unless he persists in his childish behavior.  How else will poeple learn to be civil, unless they experience it in return?  However, I received your message and I will not initiate demeaning remarks, unless justified.

  • Dan C says:

    January 6, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Kathryn - what you say might be all good and true.  However, I doubt prescription drugs are abused in all cases.  As far as curriculum to teach nutrition in medical school, I believe the Dean and administration of the medical school could intitate those curiculum course changes.  They might need to drop something else from the curriculum to do it though.  Medical school is already a very long and expensive process.  I doubt adding to it is feasible. 

    I think you should make contact with the dean of the University of MN Medical School and make your pitch for nutrition training for doctors.  If the Dean found your suggestion worthwhile, I’m sure he/she would pursue it.  If not, he might be able to explain why not.  I think it would be good for you to take action and voice your concerns to people who can do something about it.  There is little I, or probably anyone else on this blog site, could do to change medical schoiol practices.  Also, you would be playing an active role in participative government.

    Also, to clarify one point.  Being a lay person, I’m not an expert o law, but I believe parents have the authority to decide on issues for their minor children.  If a parent doesn’t want to have unnecessary drugs prescribed for their child, they can stop it.  Ifthis is the case, parents might be the appropriate venue for you concerns.

  • Kathryn Berg says:

    January 6, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Dan C,

    I am not making blanket statements like drugs are always abused.  I’m suggesting that they ought to be the LAST recommendation rather than the first.  doctors should be equipped with the tools to think in a different way that is less expensive, safer and in the long run, more effective. 

    Parents to have the authority to decide for their children.  However, they count on their doctor to know what is best, not knowing that perhaps they haven’t learned what is best.  It seems to me if at least one medical college in the top 25 has found room to have a good nutrition program, the rest would be able to as well.  LEts not look for reasons to NOT do something.  I’m sure one less drug class wouldn’t hurt.  I think the reality is, there is a lot of arm twisting, at the very least, to get parents to comply.  At worst, chemotherapy is forced on them by the court.  In between there are other threats by the state to gain compliance when someone doesn’t agree with the approach the state is recommending for their autistic child, for example.  So no, they don’t always have the authority as it seems they ought to.

    Believe me, I do play an active role in state government.  As a volunteer I am over at the capital several days a week during session.  Gotta change the law to support the change in the medical school.

  • Dan C says:

    January 7, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Kathryn—

    I’m not saying you are wrong, but I don’t know if I or you know all the facts.  We are talking about nutrition education for doctors and now training them to think in a different less expensive way.  You say this is safer, and more effective.  I don’t think either of us are trained in medical practices, the reasons for them, and their relationship to the Hippocratic Oath.  However, you have pointed out a concern that might merit some discussion in the medical field.  However, I’m, and think you, are not qualified to modify the curriculum.  As I mentioned before, your allegations of overmedicating children should be discussed with the AMA and university medical schools.  I think you would be more successful first trying to work within the system.  Then, if you are met by a “stone wall,” try to put public pressure on the profession. 

    I think that before anything effective can be done, the problem has to be adequately studied, to find out for sure how much of a problem it is.  It is impractical for an agency to make large scale changes in curriculum and medical practices based on anecdotal stories.  So, first, I believe evidence needs to be gathered and presented to the AMA and schools.

    I do agree that parents have the authority to decide on treatments for their children, especially in non-life threatening situations.  If the family feels the doctor knows best, then maybe he might.  If they don’t feel he does know best, then medication should be refused.  Maybe the doctor doesn’t always know what is best and maybe the doctor opts to medicate someone when they don’t know what is best, but I think there would have to be a lot more evidence to verify that.  So far, I have pretty much read what you feel, but that might be a long way from reality out there.  Who knows, you might even be surprised what objective evidence might show.

    I read about your wishes to have nutrition included in medical school training.  Have you contacted the AMA and universities to make that pitch?  If you have, what was the response?  I read many of your statements where you say “think” or “seems”, but that’s not objective evidence.  First, evidence needs to be obtained before masses of people are asked to take action.

    I certainly am not looking for a reason to not take action.  I’m looking for a reason to take action.  So far, you have not furnished evidence to explain there is a problem, let alone where the problem is.  Maybe a good place for you to start would be to research the issue and gather facts and statistics to find out about the magnitude and severity of the problem.  It has been my experience that courts really cannot force drug therapies for children without parental consent, unless there might be a life-threatening situation.  A recent case in New Ulm is an illustration that merited national attention.  You allege state threats are used to get compliance.  Do you have evidence?  You are making allegations, but offered no proof.  Laws and procedures shouldn’t be changed because someone “feels”, “thinks”, or things “seem” to be the case.  Those things need to be proven to justify changes.   

  • William J (Bill) Graham says:

    January 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Why do we insist on re-inventing the wheel?  A couple years ago, Public Broadcasting put out an excellent comparative analysis of health care systems in Britain, Germany, Canada, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore.  My family has utilized some of these systems with excellent outcomes.  There are many options for providing good quality care at an affordable cost.  Government is involved in all these health systems to one degree or another.  Let’s have a serious look at what’s possible and dispense with nonsensical rhetoric about “socialism” and “death panels.”

    Bill Graham
    Burnsville MN

  • Dan C says:

    January 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    I agree with you Mr. Graham.  France is rated to have the best health care system in te world.  They do that with only 60% of the cost of ours.  I think we could pick a health care system in most any developed, and many cases undeveloped, country and do better than we are now.  However, remember we are fighting enormous health care and pharmaceutical industries. They want to keep their enormous profits and wild executive compensation while people die.

    Did you now read about how two people in Arizona died because Arizona wouldn’t allow Medicaid to pay for life-saving transplants?  More of this will continue.  Isn’t health cae a human right?  Even the Constitution states at least a couple of times.  The 14th Amendemnt says, “...nor shall any State deprive any person of LIFE (my emphasis added), liberty, or property,...” 

    Tea Party people need to follow the Constitution they revere so much.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    January 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Mr. Graham, thank you for your common sensicle input. I too whached and was impressed with that piece. We need a real process no less intense than the Tiawanese went through, we are the people who are to be serverd and we need and have a right to be heard. With only 2 directions on the table our (the 62%)only hope is to get garbage or nothing. If our White Collar, middle class, public employee minotity gets their way and imposes their public employee utopia on us, we all lose. This isn’t us all against them because, you all from the middle class allready have healthcare just like they do. This is our war and we need the damn middle class to get the hell out of the way.

  • Alec says:

    January 7, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    How does Bill’s incessant talk of “socialist scum” not violate your insult policy?

    For that matter, I find him calling anyone who disagrees with him a “socialist” is pretty borderline.

  • B ill Graham says:

    January 10, 2011 at 12:14 am

    I became a high school social studies and special ed. teacher in my early 50’s after a 28 year career in government.  After many college courses and having raised two sons of my own, I found I was unprepared for today’s schools.  To excel in school, a child must focus his or her energy on learning tasks without minute to minute supervision from a teacher.  By junior high, the child should be a competent reader, understand basic arithmetic and collaborate in a larger group activities. 

    Unfortunately, a too many children don’t have these qualities.  A teacher must spend inordinate amounts of time managing student behavior and tending to administrative tasks that are called “being accountable.”  Every minute of a 50 minute class period spent on these things is a minute not spent teaching content material, and that is why many schools do less well than we would like.

    Incidentally, in all my years of public service, I never met a more dedicated or talented class of people than public school teachers.  It’s the most challenging and exhausting occupation I know, one it seems where no good deed goes unpunished.  It is sad to see teachers demonized and blamed for every shortcoming of the public schools.  Administrators, politicians and parents also contribute to student performance.

    Bill Graham
    Burnsville

  • KJC says:

    January 10, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Bill, thanks for telling it like it is.  I always like hearing the direct experience of those actually Doing It.  You exemplify the courage to both go forward and speak with authenticity in the face of the circumstances of our trying times, thank you for that. 
    We are likely all pondering this even further now?  Last weeks horrific event in Arizona will cause us to genuinely look at our own views anew?  With all the confirmed news reports about disruptive classroom/library behavior that required campus police intervention (etc) on the part of the accused, we are getting a glimpse of what working up to a “worst case” might be? 
    I read this as another possible failure that involves our health care system.  The many incidents with authorities were all warnings? What if we, as a society, had done better for him, what if this young man had gotten the mental health support he so obviously needed?  Might we have avoided this tragedy?  In the end, I hope we all come out to do better, to live up to the duty of all Americans: to ensure the promise of advancing our Common Good.

  • Dan C says:

    January 10, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Bill, thank for you message.  I have a sister, who will be retiring in a year or so, who is a teacher.  She is lucky to be teaching in a well-to-do school district.  She teaches third grade.  However, she has talked about some of the issues you referred to.  Children are missing out on something at home.  What it is I’m not sure.  However, I believe the need for two income-producing parents working at least 8 hours a day and the fact they are tired at the end of their work day, mean our children will suffer.  Where is the parent helping their children with homework, helping their childen reason through a problem?  Teachers end up having to teach things that should have been taught at home.

    I think over the last many decades the demands for workers to be ever more productive and connected to their jobs has robbed valuable time needed to be parents at home.  Considering the wealthiest top 1% (that’s not a typo, it really is one percent) own 70% of our country’s wealth is obscene and robbing everyone else of their earned rights.  Wealth is becoming far too skewed in favor of the already rich.  Everyone else is having to work harder and harder just o maintain themselves in a status-quo situation wile the rich become more sedentary, enjoying their riches.

    Much of the wealthiest’s wealth needs to be taxed away and redistributed to allow people a reasonable standard of living and time to competently raise their children.  We are in danger of becoming a worker society were the young work and reproduce to sustain the number of “worker bees” that further enrich the wealthiest.  Their children turn into those “latch-key” children who rely on paid people to raise them.  Not a ood direction to go.  Where is the human touch gone?

    I feel the wealthiest in our country are sucking the life blood out of our country.  How will the wealthiest compensate for this when our country collapses?  I believe they will merrily trot off to another country where they can spend all the wealth they acquired here.  I don’t think there is much patriotism behind wealth.  Wealth replaces patriotism.

    People have to be paid enough and be allowed enough time that they can work with a resonable standard of living while raising their chldren.   

    I have many many more scary financial facts, but they would be too voluminous for this site.  I believe wealth needs to be more equally distributed in our country or our country will fail while rewarding extreme selfishness.  We need to all wake up.

  • KJC says:

    January 10, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    We may be getting a little far afield from the original Health Care premise of this discussion?
    And?  The writer is raising a point in the age-old question of equitable divisions of wealth, and the stable functioning of families and societies.
    In the first thousands of years of human existence this tended to be answered more “basically.”  But eventually we had the population numbers to crowd each other, and we had to begin to learn to work things out between each other.  That process hasn’t always been too pretty? The first answers, like having kings and dictators be absolute powers, didn’t often result in much social equity. Surprise, surprise, humans chafed under this “unfree” approach. 
    Along came our brilliant Founding Fathers and a whole new “We The People” model.  They had had enough of “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  In this new model, both the rights ... and the responsibility I might add ... would be transferred to the people, and their representatives.
    In the 1800’s, with the rise of the industrial revolution, further human interdependency grew, and many early accounts depict a grave exploitation of workers in factories.
    Then along comes?  Another American…  Henry Ford. He was, by all accounts, anti-union, a driven entrepreneur type…and nobody’s definition of an altruist.  Still?  In 1914 he doubles worker’s wages, to $5 a day.  Can you imagine the commotion today, if somebody doubled current wages? Of course he was heavily questioned as to “why?”  At the time he said it was to reduce turnover (even though there were plenty of willing replacements) and to enable workers to afford the cars they made.  He further expounded on the fact that for our system to work that people needed to have money and the time to spend it… which is why he also cut the work week… calling it a “secret to prosperity.”  I think there is a direct quote from his 1922 book “My Life and Work” where he says “We wanted to pay these wages so that the business would be on a lasting foundation.”  That “lasting foundation” sounds a lot like a prosperous and secure Middle Class to me. What do you think?  He had no illusions that, as a society, we could “cut” our way to prosperity long-term.  He was thinking big, not just for the short-term, and realized that by paying the absolute minimum he would only hurt his enterprise in the future.  How’s that for vision?  And it clearly worked.  He understood that you had to drive up aggregate demand, and you can’t do that without spreading a reasonable share of the wealth to the workers. 
    This is the opposite of the beggar-thy- neighbor politics that has become so pervasive in this country.  It would appear that our problems could be the very ones Henry Ford worried about, and did something to avert, back then?
    Looking at 30 years of stagnant (or worse) worker take-home pay in our great country ... isn’t this literally a clear reversal of what Henry Ford intended when he doubled wages?  Is it merely a random event then, that we seem to have slowly undone the general prosperity in that same 30 year timeframe?  I bet one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs would beg to differ that this decline was inevitable?  (I think he would say we need breakthrough policy and action.)
    Food for thought and action?

  • Dan C says:

    January 10, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I agree with you, except that people didn’t just choose to move to cities.  When our country changed from agrarian to industrial, people left farms for the factories in the cities.  Also, farms were consolidating, like they continue to do today, and the land supported fewer people.  Therefore more people to the city.

    I believe the single biggest obstacle to education, health care, technologcal advancement, and happiness is a far more egalitarian distribution of income.  Executives might merit more pay than average, but 1000 times what the worker gets?  Nonsense.

    When incomes become more equal, people will be able to better prepare their children to learn.  When heaalth care improves, parents will not have to worry as much about how their children can get critical medical care.  Why would one person feel it is more important to cling to enormous wealth than the life of another?  Too much greed and selfishness.
    ] Most importantly, as incoem distribution is made more equal, our country will prosper more.  Look at Brazil.  A recent example of the success of welath redistribution.

  • Ginny says:

    January 10, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    A fairer distribution of money is requisite to any serious change in our society. It’s not just that some people don’t have nearly enough money; it’s that they no longer have the opportunity to pull themselves up with their bootstraps, if that was ever the case. If they can’t afford to get a higher education, for example, how can they improve their lot? If they can’t afford health care, they are at huge disadvantages. Actually I think some of us did use our bootstraps to some extent. I was able to put myself through the university, but I also had helping hands that weren’t all monetary: parents, teachers, a decent education, a culture that promoted the idea of a good education as a way to lift oneself up.
    Not to mention roads and buses and health care at the University and a dozen other things that I had nothing to do with—our foremothers and fathers did.

  • Dan C says:

    February 16, 2011 at 11:19 am

    I think Minnesota will eventually be among state leaders in the nation implementing a “single-payer-like” health care system.  Vermont is working on that plan now.  They have completed numerous studies showing a “single-payer” systems will save a huger percentage of helath care expenditures in the state.  Currently, a huge percetage of health care expenditures go to insurnace companies.

    There is a plan a foot for implementing “single-payer” for the State of Minnesota.  I would be a phenomenal success to cover everyone in the State while reducing overall health care costs.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    June 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    The PBS documentary you saw was based on the around-the-world research of T.R. Reid. (See his 2009 book, The Healing of America.)

    The Massachusetts Plan and the Affordable Care Plan for semi-universal insurance was based on the European plans that utilize private insurers. The crucial difference between their system and ours is that we insisted on letting the insurance companies remain for-profit (and how) organizations.

    In Norway, Switzerland and perhaps others, government reviews health care costs each year and authorizes only those price increases it determines are necessary.  It then TELLS the non-profit insurers exactly what they can charge in premiums to meet those costs.

    All persons must purchase insurance, but the government helps poor people pay the premiums.  Insurers join the exchanges but compete only on the basis of customer service. 

    Massachusetts has continued to see insurance premiums rise year after year. Chronic over-budget spending “forced” it to kick 30,000 legal immigrants out of their health insurance plans and into very low premium/very high deductible plans.  At least two hospitals sued the state because they could no longer cover care with the state’s too-small payments to them.  We will see the same kind of results with the Affordable Care Act, unfortunately.