American Elephants

Cool Site of the Day by American Elephant
September 22, 2009, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Art, Pop Culture | Tags:

‘Steampunk’ is the name given to a sub-genre of science fiction that re-imagines the Victorian era with contemporary level high-tech and mechanization using only the technology available in their time — like steam power, pistons. magnets, springs and lots of gears. As far as I know, the genre is entirely contemporary, perhaps reaching its broadest audience with the 1999 movie, ‘Wild Wild West‘  starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh and Salma Hayek, but has its roots in the works of authors such as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Mary Shelley.

Steampunk artists also love to play with the elaborate mechanization of everyday objects — as artist Mike Libby has done brilliantly with — of all things — dried insect carcasses. His entire collection can be seen, and purchased, here.




Saving Money or Saving Lives? Deciding What is Really Important. by The Elephant's Child
September 22, 2009, 3:31 am
Filed under: Capitalism, Domestic Policy, Health Care, Taxes | Tags: ,

It daily becomes ever more clear that Democrats, wrapped in the mantle of their good intentions, have no conception of the long term consequences of their glorious ideas.  They hate the idea of profit, for profits are the product of greedy capitalists. Try explaining to a Liberal that without profit, there would be no business,  no innovation, and no products and you will likely get a blank stare.

The current theme is that evil Insurance companies make vast profits while leaving their hapless healthcare-denied policy-holders dying in the streets.  Doesn’t work.  Health insurance companies profits are around 4¢ on the dollar of sales.  Hardly admission to the evildoer hall of fame.

American healthcare is about saving lives.  Socialist healthcare is about saving money.

When Democrats  plan health care for everyone, they want to add (according to President Obama) 30 million uninsured Americans to the plan, paying for their health care, and they don’t know how to pay for it without bankrupting the country.

The big things that actually would save money — tort reform, opening the market to all insurance companies and  forcing them to compete for business,  health savings accounts, offering individuals the tax benefits heretofore given to employers, catastrophic care policies for those who don’t want to pay for insurance for the small stuff — are nowhere in Democrat plans.

Democrats won’t offend the trial lawyers, they don’t like competition, they reject health savings accounts, which are a proven success.  They want the young and healthy, who don’t feel that they need much insurance, to pay to support the rest. They insist, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that “preventative care” will save money, that a “medical home” will save money, and left with vastly increased costs — they cut back on payments to doctors and care providers, slash payments for drugs and medical supplies and cut back on tests and treatments. That is rationing.

When IBD/TIPP sent out a questionnaire to 25,600 practicing physicians from around the country, they asked “Under a government plan do you think drug companies will have incentives to develop as many lifesaving new drugs?” Sixty percent of those who responded said “no.”  As well as polling questions, the questionnaire allowed physicians to elaborate on their concerns.

A major concern was that drug and technology in medicine — considered by many to be the most vital part of the U.S. health system — will wither under government-run health care.  One physician summed it up as follows: “It will crush medical research because new and innovative treatments/technology cost money initially and the government won’t pay.”

A landmark report by economist Frank Lichtenberg in 2002 looked at the huge increase in life expectancy — from 69.7 years to 76.5 years — during the period from 1960 to 1997.

He found that much of the gain in life spans was due to improved drugs and technology. He further found that investment in new drugs shows an enormous return: For every $1,345 spent on drug R&D, about one life-year is added to the U.S. total.

Given that the average productive value of one life-year for a healthy person is about $150,000, economic gains from new drug innovation would appear to be enormous.

Take just one class of new treatments: anti-hypertensive drugs used to treat high blood pressure. In 2001, according to a study by economist Genia Long and six others, these drugs saved about 89,000 lives — and prevented 420,000 hospital visits.

It costs industry more than $1 billion to develop and bring a drug to market, a 10 to 15 year process.  Health care responds to demand, and we demand the best for ourselves and for our loved ones.  Will we insist on a health care that is about saving lives?  Or will we surrender to a health care that is primarily about saving money?

In America, when we have asked the free market to compete and invent and develop ways to help us to live and yet save money, the market has always responded.  All the things that make it cost more, slow growth, discourage innovation and deprive us of care have been the result of government action.

And these— are the very folks who assure us that they can fix it, just as they fixed Amtrack, the Post Office, the automobile industry, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the Indian Health Service.  Their record of success in fixing things is……..

Strongarm, Threaten and Bully, Passing Healthcare Reform the Democrats’ Way. by The Elephant's Child
September 22, 2009, 2:02 am
Filed under: Capitalism, Law, The Constitution | Tags: , ,

Earlier this month Humana sent a one-page letter to its customers who were enrolled in its Medicare Advantage plan, which offers extra benefits to Medicare beneficiaries.  Humana explained that because of spending cuts proposed by Democrats (Taking $500 Billion out of Medicare) “millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable.” They also suggested their customers  contact their congressional representatives. Not exactly a startling political communication.

Well.  You have probably noticed that strongarm tactics are definitely on the menu when it comes to the Democrats’ Health Care plans.  Senator Baucus, whose very own health care plan has just been released, not only took offense, he went to war.  He complained to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency in charge, which on Friday ordered Humana to cease and desist.  And opened an investigation to see if the company mailer violated laws about how insurers that manage Advantage plans are allowed to communicate with their customers.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

“It is wholly inappropriate for insurance companies to mislead seniors regarding any subject—particularly on a subject as important to them, and to the nation, as health-care reform,” Mr. Baucus said in a statement yesterday, playing the role of Congressional censor. “The health-care reform bill we released last week strengthens Medicare and does not cut benefits covered under the Medicare program—and seniors need to know that.”

In fact, the Baucus draft legislation slashes $123 billion over the next decade from Medicare Advantage, which Democrats hate despite the fact that almost one-fourth of beneficiaries have chosen it over traditional fee-for-service Medicare. One reason seniors like it is because private insurers focus on quality and preventive care and try to manage benefits, as opposed to simply paying bills.

A new study from America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group, finds that seniors on Advantage in California spent 30% fewer days in hospitals over fee-for-service patients, based on federal data. Democrats say that insurers are “overpaid,” but the cuts—as Humana correctly noted—mean that seniors may lose this coverage.

What business it is of government to tell private companies just what they may communicate to their customers remains a mystery. The Journal adds: “Mr Baucus and the Obama Administration are out to make [Humana] an object lesson to the rest of the business class, and that means they won’t stop until Humana cries uncle or is ruined.”

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