Sunday, October 25, 2009

How the state ruins health care

Thomas DiLorenzo has a helpful article on Mises.org this weekend, American Healthcare Fascialism. ("Fascialism is a term he invented to reflect the combination of economic fascism and socialism on a given social phenomenon.) The healthcare industry today is the result of a century of socialist and fascist interventions, yet most people consider it a free market entity suffering from inadequate government intervention.

At the beginning of the 20th century, 90 percent of all hospitals were private, for-profit organizations. Then states and local governments began intervening in the hospital industry, so that by the 1990s only about 10 percent of hospitals were private, and even most of those received subsidies of some kind. With the subsidies come "reams of regulation, making them fascist by definition."

Milton Friedman published an essay on the hospital industry called "Input and Output in Medical Care" (Hoover Institution, 1992), in which he shows that government takeover of the hospital industry is a case study in the economics of bureaucracy: "According to Friedman, as governments took over an ever-larger share of the hospital industry (being exempt from antitrust laws), hospital personnel per occupied hospital bed quintupled, as cost per bed rose tenfold."

The healthcare industry follows a simple rule: Healthcare socialism has failed; therefore, we need more healthcare socialism.

After discussing the failures and corruption of Medicare, Medicaid, the AMA, and the FDA, along with so-called "certificate of need" (CON) regulation, in which area hospitals have the power to decide whether there is a need for more hospitals, DiLorenzo concludes:
The only sensible approach to healthcare "reform" would be massive privatization of America's socialized hospitals, combined with deregulation of the medical professions to introduce more competition, and deregulation of the health-insurance industry. Free-market competition would produce medical "miracles" the likes of which have never been seen, while dramatically lowering the cost of healthcare, just as it has done in every other industry where it is allowed to exist to any large degree.

This is not likely to happen in the United States, which at the moment seems hell-bent on descending into the abyss of socialism. Once some states begin seceding from the new American fascialistic state, however, there will be opportunities to restore healthcare freedom within them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

US Joins Ranks of Failed States

From the article, by Paul Craig Roberts:
According to reports, the US Marines in Afghanistan use 800,000 gallons of gasoline per day. At $400 per gallon, that comes to a $320,000,000 daily fuel bill for the Marines alone. Only a country totally out of control would squander resources in this way.

While the US government squanders $400 per gallon of gasoline in order to kill women and children in Afghanistan, many millions of Americans have lost their jobs and their homes and are experiencing the kind of misery that is the daily life of poor third-world peoples. Americans are living in their cars and in public parks. America’s cities, towns, and states are suffering from the costs of economic dislocations and the reduction in tax revenues from the economy’s decline. Yet, Obama has sent more troops to Afghanistan, a country half way around the world that is not a threat to America. . . .

In any failed state, the greatest threat to the population comes from the government and the police. That is certainly the situation today in the USA. Americans have no greater enemy than their own government. Washington is controlled by interest groups that enrich themselves at the expense of the American people.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Infectious Lies by Robert Klassen

Robert Klassen writes:

I define a bureaucrat as a person who makes decisions affecting other people, but who has no personal stake in the outcome.

Some bureaucrat has decided that squirting an active virus up a child’s nose is a vaccination. That child will be infected, and will shed the active virus for several days everywhere the child goes. This guarantees the spread of the virus. We are told that this is a good idea. That is a lie.

Bureaucrats are in the habit of lying. Why not? They have job security, and they can’t lose.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The high cost of a long life

Wise people save for old age. But who can put aside enough money to save for a time when one's infirmity requires 24/7 caregiving?

My mother has lived a frugal life. She's now 94 and seldom gets out of a chair. When she does, it is with assistance and requires great effort on her part. She cannot safely walk without a walker. She needs someone to cook meals for her and help her to the bathroom. Others shop for her and clean the house.

She has had a physically active life, but she didn't jog or play tennis or do exercises, which she considers "for the birds." Mostly she spent her time doing housework and some occasional dancing. As she aged arthritis set in and it became painful to move. She suffered a possible stroke recently and spent three weeks in a rehab facility undergoing physical therapy, which she found very difficult. Though staffed by friendly people, the rehab facility itself was a depressing sight, at least it was on the floor where she lived. When I would pay her a visit I unfailingly saw old and shriveled people sitting idly in wheelchairs, scarcely giving evidence of life.

She's home now and feels better about that, but there is the matter of paying her caregivers. Nurses visits are covered by insurance, but not caregiving services. The agencies that provide around-the-clock caregiving usually charge $20 - $25 an hour. At $20/hour, that works out to $14,400 for a 30-day month (30 days x 24 hours x $20). Add to that the usual monthly bills, and you could find everything you've saved evaporating quickly.

My mom had a roommate while she was in the rehab facility. Let's call her Karen. Karen was about 10 years younger than my mom, I would guess, and far stronger. She had no trouble handling a knife and fork and could move with a walker at amazing speed. Her mind was fully intact. I wondered at times what she was doing there, given her level of health.

One day Karen's granddaughter paid her a visit. I was in the room visiting my mom at the time and overheard parts of the conversation. The granddaughter was despairing over how she could afford to keep Karen in the rehab facility. Karen had just lost her second appeal to Medicare for more money. Karen's other insurance was gone, and no family member could afford to keep her. In short, Karen had no other place to go, and she could no longer afford to stay at the nursing home.

I then went away for two weeks, and during that time I called my mom several times and Karen would usually answer the phone first. Somehow, I thought, the money had been found to keep her there.

When I returned and paid a visit to my mom, I noticed Karen's bed was stripped to the mattress. Had she finally been released? No, my mom said, she contracted pneumonia, and they took her to the hospital.

The next day I learned Karen had died.

I was stunned. At no time did Karen exhibit symptoms of illness, particularly a respiratory infection. She didn't cough, sneeze, wheeze, or sound congested. With her walker she could and did move about with ease. Can pneumonia set in quickly and kill a person virtually overnight? Apparently, it did. From Wikipedia:
Up to 5% of patients admitted to a hospital for other causes subsequently develop pneumonia. Hospitalized patients may have many risk factors for pneumonia, including mechanical ventilation, prolonged malnutrition, underlying heart and lung diseases, decreased amounts of stomach acid, and immune disturbances. Additionally, the microorganisms a person is exposed to in a hospital are often different from those at home . Hospital-acquired microorganisms may include resistant bacteria such as MRSA, Pseudomonas, Enterobacter, and Serratia. Because individuals with hospital-acquired pneumonia usually have underlying illnesses and are exposed to more dangerous bacteria, it tends to be more deadly than community-acquired pneumonia.
Curiously, the pneumonia also ended Karen's financial problems.

Higgs on partisan politics

The essence of politics, according to Robert Higgs:
. . . it’s all a fraud, designed to distract people from the overriding reality of political life, which is that the state and its principal supporters are constantly screwing the rest of us, regardless of which party happens to control the presidency and the Congress. Amid all the partisan sound and fury, hardly anybody notices that political reality boils down to two “parties”: (1) those who, in one way or another, use state power to bully and live at the expense of others; and (2) those unfortunate others.
I am in full agreement.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The missing Nobel prize

From a Tom DiLorenzo post on the Lew Rockwell blog:
So Obama joins Woodrow Wilson in the pantheon of American presidents who have won the Nobel Peace Prize (Wilson won it in 1919). I learned this morning that nominations for the prize had to be in by Feb. 20, about one month after Obama was inaugurated. That means that the prize went for his rhetoric during the campaign, not anything he could have actually accomplished. As I recall, his two most memorable foreign policy pronouncements during the campaign were 1) advocating that the U.S. bomb Pakistan; and 2) escalating the war in Afghanistan. He did order the murder of some people in Pakistan by bombardment shortly after taking office. I’m still surprised, though, that he won the prize after killing so few people. Usually, one must be a major league murderer like a Wilson or a Teddy Roosevelt to win such a prize.
Who would be the recipient of a Nobel prize if the committee decided to award one for the best warmongering? Might Obama walk away with both awards? Perhaps American presidents would be excluded from the category of warmongering since it is part of their job as the world's cop. The path to world peace is perpetual war.

Incidentally, Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1939, but the nomination was shortly withdrawn. Too bad for Hitler's Nobel credits that his aggression couldn't be packaged more diplomatically.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A possible TIA

I recently drove 800 miles to Doylestown, PA to see if my 94-year-old mother would prefer living in the South with me and my family. As it turned out, there really wasn't a choice available. She's undergoing therapy -- reluctantly -- for a possible TIA suffered on September 16. (A TIA, I learned, is an acronym for a minor stroke.) My daughter Katie happened to arrive that day to spend a few days with her and ended up staying nearly two weeks to keep her spirits up while she recovers in a rehab facility. Katie plans to move up there in the next week or so to help her grandma out around the house - when she returns home again. She spends 99 percent of her day in bed, barely moving. Her mind is intact, thank goodness, but recovery is coming slowly.

Here's some video I took September 28, before Katie and I began the long drive back home.