American Elephants

Do You Remember High School? Here’s a Refresher. by The Elephant's Child

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This interactive map of the United States provides a refresher course in how the country developed from 1790 til the present. Try to ignore the Pepto-Bismol pink and dried mustard colors. Bet you didn’t pay attention in high school anyway.

The VA Scandal Predicts What ObamaCare Will Inevitably Become. by The Elephant's Child

A health-care system run and funded by a national government has been caught covering up its waiting lists, leaving patients without care for so long that they have died before they were attended to and, worst of all, perhaps, fudging the numbers in order to make itself and its political masters look more competent. I’m from England, and I’ve seen this movie before.

That’s Charles C.W. Cooke, writing at National Review. Anyone who follows the news from Britain or any of the other countries with national health care, is aware of the problems inherent in government-run health care. ObamaCare, at present, is predicated on a system of private insurance, maintains the nations network of private hospitals, and funnels taxpayer money to subsidizing monthly premiums rather than to the reimbursement of carriers. But the Democrats always intended ObamaCare to gradually evolve into single-payer health care, or socialized medicine.

Paul Krugman, once a celebrated economist, now mostly a political hack, endorsed the principle of a government takeover of the health sector and advocated nationalizing hospitals as well. Krugman endorsed the VA as “an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it.” As a result he claimed “it’s free from the perverse incentives when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense.”

One of Democrats’ core beliefs is that the federal government can be a force for good, their most basic responsibility is to make government work. Theoretically, the most basic responsibility of anyone who chooses a career in the public sector at whatever level is to make government work. Wise experts.The Best and the Brightest. Total Dedication. Not long ago the Left raved about the VA. Today it’s “Obama must fix VA scandal to redeem liberal vision of government.”How about fixing the VA scandal so no more of our honored veterans die while waiting for treatment? The “liberal vision of government” is what got us here in the first place. Here’s Paul Krugman again in 2006, during the Bush administration,  when there was no ObamaCare:

I know about a health care system that has been highly successful in containing costs, yet provides excellent care. And the story of this system’s success provides a helpful corrective to anti-government ideology. For the government doesn’t just pay the bills in this system–it runs the hospitals and clinics.

No, I’m not talking about some faraway country. The system in question is our very own Veterans Health Administration, whose success story is one of the best-kept secrets in the American policy debate.

According to, “If you’re eligible for any level of VA care, whether it’s high-priority or low-priority, you’re no longer eligible for ACA exchange subsidies.”  There are worse things than being excluded from ObamaCare, but the VA may well be one of them.

The Veterans Administration’s health care had been a problem for years and years, probably as far back as the Kennedy administration. The question isn’t blaming, it is fixing. And it is recognizing that the current VA system is an example of where ObamaCare wants to take us.

Charles C.W. Cooke writes:

In England nowadays, when bad things happen to patients, we do not blame hospitals, doctors, and drug companies but politicians and their appointees. Those who follow Parliament are thus treated to the absurd spectacle of the prime minister being asked to comment on individual medical cases in far-flung corners of the nation. This he seems to have accepted as his role. Never does he say in response, “Why am I being asked about this?” Never does he ask whether it might be better if the state got out of the hospital business. Instead, in each and every instance, he takes responsibility and promises to look into it.

Does he do so? Rarely. Because mistakes in delivering health care are catastrophic for those seeking reelection or trying to push an agenda, politicians in Britain spend the vast majority of their time worrying about perceived rather than actual improvement. Government, by definition, has no competition, which means that those who staff it can lie and spin and cover up mistakes not just with impunity but with the full force of the state at their back. Thus do results become less important than statistics, reforms less important than spending, and patients less important than careers.

“When the government is responsible for taking care of the citizenry, their care is already a political question. Which means the response will be political. Can it be covered up, how will this affect the next election, will it make me look bad?

In the private sector, success depends on your results. If you screw up, you probably lose your job and your reputation. Happy patients mean success. It may not be perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot more honest.

Paul Erlich, Still Alarmed About Population, Predicts the Need to “Eat the Bodies of Your Dead.” by The Elephant's Child

Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist, became famous 46 years ago for his book The Population Bomb, which has been widely debunked. He was back this week on HuffPost Live doubling down on his climate change and overpopulation fear mongering.

He has admitted that his outrageously wrong predictions of human “oblivion” didn’t come to pass (we’re still here), but has never given up on the idea that the dangers of overpopulation are growing, blaming Republicans and the media for failing to take action.

He told HuffPost host Josh Zepps that humans must soon begin contemplating “eat[ing] the bodies of your dead” after resources are depleted. He remains an alarmist at 82. He claims that the scarcity of resources will be so bad that humans will need to drastically change our eating habits and our agriculture.

The Population Bomb predicted that “in the 1970s the world will undergo famines — hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death” and our children”will inherit a totally different world, a world in which the standards, politics, and economics of the 1960’s are dead.”

He attacked pro-life Americans, accusing them of trying to kill women by making abortion illegal, and called for “backup abortions” for any woman whose birth control failed, in an attempt to control “breeding.” He has consistently favored population control, abortion, and I assume, China’s one child policy.

He seems to have missed the Green Revolution entirely. But predicting cannibalism as a necessary evil is going a little too far.

It must be hard when you have one big celebrated idea, and it is widely debunked, and events prove that you were way wrong. Ehrlich is not alone in that. The climate and environmentalism are full of such cases.

The Story of Trade: What’s Each Country’s Highest Value Export? by The Elephant's Child

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Not the only, but the highest value export, although for some countries it could be the only one. A little more geographical knowledge can’t hurt.

Oh-Oh! “The National Strategy For Biosurveillance” by The Elephant's Child

Obama photoshop

Under the new Affordable Care Act, hospitals and clinics are required to computerize patient records. This is supposed to save vast amounts of money. So far the expense of putting everything on newly acquired computers linked in newly acquired programs is massive. Doctors now interact more with the computer than the patient, but that’s the way it goes.

The overarching theory was that the federal government would thus gain access to American’s private medical information, and government experts thus could decide what treatments were judged to be best, and what was too expensive, and what was not worthwhile. This would give the experts all the information they need to be, well, expert, and just save vast amounts of money when all those little used treatments were discarded. One size fits all. Like school lunches. CNS News reports:

The federal government is piecing together a sweeping national “biosurveillance” system that will give bureaucrats near real-time access to Americans’ private medical information in the name of national security, according to Twila Brase, a public health nurse and co-founder of the Citizens Council for Health Freedom.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is currently seeking public comment on a 52-page draft of the proposed “National Health Security Strategy 2015-2018” (NHSS).

The deadline for comment is 5 pm EST on May 21st. (See Draft National Health Security Strategy 2015-2018.pdf)

“Health situational awareness includes biosurveillance and other health and non-health inputs (e.g., lab/diagnostics, health service utilization, active intelligence, and supply chain information), as well as systems and processes for effective communication among responders and critical health resource monitoring and allocation,” the draft states.

You might want to send the feds your comments, but keep it clean.

Brase notes that the information collected by the government will be “all-encompassing.” It would include our health status, if we exercise, how often we get a cold, what medications we take, how much we drink, do we have guns in the house, what is our preferred gender, race, and national origin. I added the last because that’s what they are asking these days.

According to the draft proposal, NHSS will create “health situational awareness” by “collecting, aggregating and processing data from both traditional and nontraditional sources (such as social media) and from various governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders…decision makers will have the capacity to visualize and manipulate data from many sources to create an operational picture suited to the specific situation and the decisions before them. Brase warns that the government’s biosurveillance plan is much more intrusive that the data collection currently being done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But the fact of the matter is that [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] HIPPA already allows the federal government and the state government and the local government and anyone who is a public health agency to have access to our medical records – identifiable medical records – without our consent. It’s in the HIPPA Privacy Rule, which has the full force and effect of law. But that wasn’t actually put in by Congress. It was put in by the Department of Health and Human Services.” (See HIPAAPrivacyRegs_EconomicStimulusChanges.pdf)

President Obama cited the NHSS and “the first-ever National Strategy for Biosurveillance which was announced by the White House in July 2012 as a “top national security policy.” Bet you missed that.

You should read the whole thing, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act forces every doctor to have “interoperable electronic medical records by January 1, 2015 or face penalties from Medicare, financial reductions in their payments.

HIPPA and the HITECH Act (part of the 2009 stimulus bill) together already allow 2.2 million entities to have access to your private medical records without your consent.

People might worry about things like HIV or depression, something that is stigmatizing or embarrassing. They should be concerned about the fact that this is a strategy to oversee your entire life, supposedly with the intent to keep you healthy.

But you will find alternate purposes in North Korea, Communist China’s one-child policy, the belief of some radicals on the left that the earth is overpopulated. The intent may be benign, or not. It is too open-ended, too uncontrolled, and there are too many big government bureaucrats at the other end. And so far, under the administration that produced ObamaCare, government bureaucracies are producing one scandal after another, each more devastating than the last. Some just have SWAT teams breaking down your door, or cost you a lot of money. Some scandals kill people.

Anyone who has worked in government (not politicians) will tell you, if they are honest, that you should not trust the government. The bigger government gets, the less trustworthy it is. Bureaucracy breeds bad behavior. When responsibility is spread across too many, nobody is responsible, and nobody can be blamed — it’s just the bureaucracy.

Emergency Room Use Goes Up. Democrats Mystified. by The Elephant's Child

Headline in the Wall Street Journal: “ER Visits Rise Despite Health Law”

Despite? Should say “ER Visits Rise Because of Health Law”

When RomneyCare was enacted in Massachusetts, much of the reason was to cut down on emergency room use. Emergency room use went up. Why is anyone surprised? Stuff doesn’t always happen during regular office hours. Everybody knows that.

You have stupid accidents or get sick in the evenings and on weekends. As the parent of an accident-prone kid, I can attest to that. And every time we have gone to the emergency room, there was someone in the next bed who had a little ringworm, or pink eye, or something else that was definitely not an emergency. Although American medicine does not suffer in general from the wait times of other countries (or the VA), instant appointments are usually not available. As the phone tree at your doctor’s office probably tells you “if this is a medical emergency, hang-up and call 911.”

But now, you theoretically have vast new numbers of newly insured, who can now go to the emergency room because they don’t have to pay for it themselves.

Emergency room doctors could have told the Democrats that emergency room use was largely patients who had insurance— not the uninsured—even before the health law took effect.  The Democrats who designed the 2010 Affordable Care Act expected to save money because they were sure the law would reduce unnecessary care. There are a lot of other things yet to come that they expected would reduce costs that are only going to add to expense.

Emergency-room physicians say they are seeing a rise in visits since Jan. 1 of this year, when expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act took effect.  Forty-six percent of emergency rooms say the volume of patients has increased, while only 27 percent say it has remained the same. Seventy-seven percent say their emergency department is not adequately prepared for significant increases in patient volume.

A spokesperson for HHS said it was too soon to draw conclusions, and they cannot speak to the long-term effects “of expanded coverage, which will be shaped by our continuing efforts to help people use their new primary care and preventive care benefits and to invest in innovative approaches aimed at improving our nation’s system of primary care.” Excellent bureaucrat-speak.

Massachusetts Care ER visits rose an estimated 2.2% a year through September 2009. In Oregon which expanded Medicaid coverage in 2008, ER visits rose over 40% over 18 months. In Napa, Calif. St. Joseph Health Queen of the Valley Medical Center is putting patients in the hallways on a regular basis due to ER crowding. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) a former OB-GYN said he wasn’t surprised, “It was a specious argument that the law wold reduce ER use.

Another proof that Democrats just don’t get incentives. The more  you make things free or low cost, the more they will be used. And that will really throw a monkey wrench into your best-laid plans.


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