From Volume 36, Issue 34 of EIR Online, Published Sept. 4, 2009

United States News Digest

Dems in Congress Doubtful About Obama-Care Reform

Aug. 27 (EIRNS)—The nationwide outpouring of constituents' anger at town hall meetings during the Summer recess, has begun to show an effect on Congress. In addition to Republican opposition, Democratic members from both houses have begun to express doubts about the health-care reform legislation.

* On Aug. 13, Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.) issued a statement explaining the need for health-care reform, but saying he supported slowing down the process, to work for better solutions. Spratt said that the Super-MedPAC, with rate-making and regulatory authority over Medicare and Medicaid, proposed by the Office of Management and Budget, "may be a bit too powerful."

* The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported Aug. 26, that Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on Domestic Policy, requested that six top insurance company executives appear before his panel on Sept. 17 to explain how they do business. In a letter to CEOs of Aetna, WellPoint, Cigna, Humana, Hemingway Health Care, and UnitedHealth, Kucinich stated that the hearing will examine "the nature, cost/benefit, and impact of administrative measures and protocols used by the health insurance industry to determine coverage for doctor-prescribed health care treatments, as well as costs of administrative measures undertaken by doctors to interface with insurance companies."

Kucinich asked the insurance executives to prepare testimony to "discuss the methods and protocols by which your health insurance company determines coverage for prescribed medical treatments, the administrative cost associated with this activity, and your company's awareness of the response by doctors to these activities."

Roll Call reported on Aug. 25, glum comments by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.)—a member of the Senate Democratic Conference whip team—at a town hall meeting last week in Mercer, Wisc. The Senator, who is up for reelection in 2010, said, "Nobody is going to bring a bill before Christmas, and maybe not even then, if this ever happens. The divisions are so deep. I've never seen anything like that.... We're heading in the direction of doing absolutely nothing, and I think that's unfortunate." Feingold was also reported to have said, that he would not decide whether to support or oppose a final health-care bill without first seeking out the opinion of his constituents.

Senator Enzi Rejects Obama Health Bill

Aug. 29 (EIRNS)—Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), one of the three Senate Republicans negotiating with their Democratic counterparts on the Finance Committee for a bipartisan health-care bill, rejected the Democratic proposal, because it would 1) reduce medical care to the elderly by means of a "comparative effectiveness research" board, and 2) make the country's "finances sicker without saving you money."

Enzi, who gave the Republicans' weekly radio and Internet address yesterday, pointed to the opposition of the American people to the Obama health-care bill, as expressed at town meetings during the Congressional recess. "I heard a lot of frustration and anger as I traveled across my home state this last few weeks," said Enzi. "People in Wyoming and across the country are anxious about what Washington has in mind. This is big. This is personal. This is one of the most important debates of our lifetime."

Citing the House bills which would make radical cuts in Medicare funding, Enzi said: "This will result in cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from the elderly to create new government programs. Savings from Medicare should only be used to strengthen Medicare.

"The bills would expand comparative effectiveness research that would be used to limit or deny care based on age or disability of patients. Republican amendments in the HELP [Health, Education, Labor and Pensions] Committee would have protected Americans by prohibiting the rationing of their health care. The Democrats showed their true intent by voting every amendment down and leaving these unacceptable provisions in the bill. This intrusion of a Washington bureaucrat in the relationship between a doctor and a patient is not the kind of reform that Americans are seeking."

Obama Administration Sets Doctors Against Each Other

Aug. 29 (EIRNS)—Cardiologists are up in arms against a new Obama Administration proposal to reduce Medicare payments to specialists, including cardiologists and oncologists, by more than 10%, in order to increase payments to family doctors and nurses by 8% and 7%, respectively. The American College of Cardiology says that such payment reductions will have the effect of rationing care, because many cardiologists, especially in rural areas, will not be able to stay in business. The proponents of this plan, among them former Medicare chief Mark McClellan and MedPAC member Nancy M. Kane, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, are more worried that the cardiologists' revolt may undermine the Obama health-care reform drive, than they are about the actual impact that the payment proposal may have.

Another effect may be that of "divide and conquer" between general practitioners and specialists, when they should be united against the Obama Administration's Nazi health-care policy. Family-care doctors-in-training spend part of their residencies with specialists, but Ted Epperly, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, who teaches at the University of Washington School of Medicine, told Bloomberg News, "What I've heard is 'maybe we just won't have time any longer to teach your residents.' "

Arnie Auctions Off California: 'Our Prices Are Insane'

SACRAMENTO, Aug. 29 (EIRNS)—Worn out from pushing through murderous budget cuts, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to shift his attention to increasing revenues, which have taken quite a tumble under his stewardship. Since he needed income right away, and realizing that creating jobs and building infrastructure would take far too long, the Governator did the next-best thing: He decided to auction off state property, first on eBay and Craigslist, then, a giant flea market at the state's surplus goods center in Sacramento. Over 6,000 items were put up for sale, including automobiles from the state transportation fleet, used office furniture, computer equipment, digital cameras, and items confiscated by the California Highway Patrol, such as jewelry. Although the event drew more than 5,000 shoppers yesterday, only about $1 million was raised—not much, when you consider that the state is expected to add another $8-10 billion to its deficit by the end of the year.

Billed as "The Great California Garage Sale," Schwarzenegger pushed this as part of his plan to eliminate waste in government, while having "a little fun." He said, "By posting items online, Californians and people from other states and around the world can participate.... This is a win-win for the state and for shoppers. Together, we are eliminating waste and providing great deals in this tough economy. I encourage everyone to log on or attend this great event," he said.

Meanwhile, legislators are due back in Sacramento on Sept. 8, to take up Arnie's plan to release up to 43,000 non-violent prisoners, and to see if he will follow through on cutting off more than 900,000 children from state-funded health insurance.

Preparedness for Pandemic? Stop the Hospital Closures!

Aug. 26 (EIRNS)—Shutdowns of specialty medical units (emergency rooms, in-patient psychiatric wards, etc.) and even entire hospitals, is proceeding across the country, in the face of a potential peak need for H1N1/09 flu hospitalizations this Fall. A few essential parameters of this crisis are summarized in the new White House "Report to the President on U.S. Preparations for 2009-H1N1 Influenza," despite its wrongful assertion that the Obama Administration is acting to "minimize negative impacts" of the pandemic.

The report presents a possible scenario in which the new flu spreads rapidly this Fall, before any inoculation program can take effect (which now cannot be until late November). A peak date of incidence of H1N1/09 infection could occur as of Oct. 15.

At this time, the peak need for occupancy of hospital beds could be in the range of 50-150 beds per 100,000 population, when in fact, there are only 211 beds per 100,000 persons in the U.S. hospital system totally!

The peak occupancy of intensive care unit beds, especially with ventilators, due to H1N1/09, could be 10-25 ICU beds/100,000 population, when the U.S. has only 20 ICU beds/100,000 population! The number of pediatric ICU beds is very limited, and the new flu hits the young the worst.

The report advocates an "action response" by government authorities, to monitor "stress" on hospitals this Fall, and then engage in "resource reallocation" (i.e., triage; kick non-flu patients out of care). The fact that there are insufficient resources to begin with—no matter what the allocation—is part of the underlying premise of this Grim Reaper document from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

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