From Volume 8, Issue 17 of EIR Online, Published Apr. 28, 2009

United States News Digest

Congress Jumps on Orszag's Health-Care 'Reform' Kick

April 21 (EIRNS)—The Senate Finance Committee held a roundtable discussion today on "Reforming America's Health Care Delivery System," which barely acknowledged the worsening shortages of hospitals, physicians, and nurses, and instead focused on how to cut costs, while "improving outcomes" of treatment, by Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag's "behavioral economics" drivel. Thirteen witnesses participated in the discussion, convened by committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who yesterday wrote a letter to President Obama, co-signed by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), pledging to come up with a new bill for "comprehensive reform" by Summer. This continues the stage show hosted by the Administration from March to early April, of two White House summits and five field hearings, on health-care reform.

The reality is, that the U.S. system of health-care delivery—based on regional networks of hospitals, anchoring programs of education, sanitation, and epidemiology, as well as screening and treatment—is falling apart, due to the economic crisis, and to the cumulative impact of "managed care"/HMO swindles. State and local officials are fighting rearguard skirmishes to keep the doors open. What is required, is Federal government intervention to hold the line, cancel the HMO deregulation, and re-build the medical infrastructure.

Instead, Congress is entertaining behavioral economics talk of new "models" of care to be imposed, to cut costs, such as the Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), proposed April 9 by MedPAC (Medicare Payment Advisory Commission), the agency advising Congress on how to curb Medicare expenditures. Citizens would be assigned to a local network of doctors and facilities, which would get bonuses for meeting required "benchmarks" of "outcomes" of treatment (such as cutting down on hospital readmissions), and penalties for delivering high-cost care.

Meantime, the process of shutdown of the U.S. hospital system proceeds. The American College of Emergency Room Physicians, meeting in Washington, D.C. this week, spoke of the "crisis in emergency medicine." From 1992 to 2003, the nation's emergency departments decreased by 15%, but over the same period, millions more people have been seeking emergency room medicine. Some examples:

New Jersey: Kessler Memorial Hospital closed March 12 in Hammonton, Atlantic City.

Pennsylvania: Northeastern Hospital in Philadelphia is to close on July 1.

Ohio: The 96-bed Commonwealth Medical Center in Alquippa, an Ohio River town, closed in December 2008.

California: The Community Hospital of Los Gatos ceased operations on April 10.

Nationwide: Six of the 22 children's hospitals run by the Shriners will be reviewed for shutdown by the national charity chain, after decades of providing highly specialized and free care. Its $8.5 billion endowment has shrunk to $5 billion. The shortlist for consideration of closure: Greenville, S.C. (an 82-year-old institution); Shreveport, La.; Spokane, Wash.; Erie, Penn.; and Springfield, Mass. This would eliminate at least 250 high-tech, licensed beds from the U.S. hospital system. In March, the Shriners voted to shut four of their eight research centers.

LaRouche on Car Czar Rattner: Guilty as Charged!

April 20 (EIRNS)—The investigation into President Barack Obama's "auto czar" Steve Rattner is going national—with New Mexico, following New York, to investigate the "kickback policies" where "placement agents" (similar to lobbyists) greased the skids to channel billions of dollars in state pension funds into select hedge funds and private equity funds. After the Wall Street Journal broke the story on April 17 that Rattner's Quadrangle had paid off political consultant Hank Morris, who arranged for New York State pension money to go to that firm, from which Rattner profited, the Financial Times of London today exposed the fact that the Carlyle Group, the George H.W. Bush/bin Laden family private equity fund, had also utilized Morris's talents to land a $1.3 billion investment from the New York State Pension Fund. Morris was paid $12 million for his services.

But Carlyle now claims that they discontinued the practice of using "placement agents" sometime in 2006—long after they got the New York State funds through Morris. Oops! It could be too late. Not only is Carlyle, like Quadrangle, under investigation by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who has indicted Morris and three cronies, but New Mexico has uncovered a similar scheme. New Mexico has already suspended one investment company involved in the deals.

Lyndon LaRouche's comment was: "Guilty as charged!" Saying that bluntly makes them nervous, he said, "because they realize they are a bunch of crooks.... What they are doing with the pension funds—that's criminal. That's robbing cradles, babies, and school children and so forth. They are trying to bail out by swindling widows and orphans. Loot the widows and orphans, when in doubt. They are bad people."

Soros Unleashes Drug Legalizers on Capitol Hill

April 20 (EIRNS)—What The Hill newspaper shills as "a growing chorus of lawmakers" is, says the tabloid, "openly calling for the legalization of marijuana as a measure to stop the escalating violence along U.S.-Mexico border." The Hill and the Soros Quartet—Reps. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), and Ron Paul (R-Texas)—are playing their roles for the George Soros legalization lobby to expand the "debate," following the drug pushers' show inside the halls of the Mexican Congress last week, and in Thailand this week.

"We would welcome a serious debate on the issue. The evidence is clear; legalizing marijuana will reduce its price and the violence surrounding it," The Hill quotes Dan Bernath, assistant director of communications of Soros's Marijuana Policy Project.

No bill to legalize marijuana has been introduced into the 111th Congress, and The Hill notes that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated recently that Obama does not support legalization.

Rohrabacher said that politicians are afraid of the political fallout if they were to speak out in favor of legalization. But, "If it was a vote—a blind vote where nobody knew who was voting—you would have overwhelming support for legalizing marijuana out there, but they will never vote for it because they are afraid of taking on a controversial issue.

"From a social policy, I don't see any reason not to legalize it, control it, sell it, [and] tax it, said McDermott.

Calvina Fay, executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation disagrees, saying, "I can't understand how anyone thinks that legalizing drugs is going to stop the violence. To think that drug traffickers in Mexico are going to fall in line and pay their taxes if marijuana is legalized is just flawed thinking."

All rights reserved © 2009 EIRNS