The Reasoned Review

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Posts Tagged ‘health

LASIK Carries Unacknowledged Risks

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Failure Magazine has a great report on the risks of LASIK eye surgery:

The estimated $2.5 billion industry has recently come under fire for its failure to acknowledge potential risks. Last spring, the FDA inspected approximately 50 LASIK facilities and found that 17 had “inadequate” systems in place for collecting and transmitting data to the FDA on patients’ reports of post-surgical complications (“adverse events”), which commonly include dry eye, blurry vision, double vision, and problems with glare and starbursts.

In August of last year, Consumer Reports Health released the results of a survey, which found that 55 percent of Americans who’ve had laser vision correction surgery still wear glasses or contacts some of the time. Fifty-three percent experienced at least one side effect within the first four weeks of surgery, and 22 percent of patients still experienced side effects six months after surgery.

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Written by pavanvan

February 28, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Health Insurance Industry to Consumers: Screw You!

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(c/o Kevin Drum)

Mr. Drum makes a nice find in today’s LA Times. The health insurance industry knows, of course, that if and when health care reform passes, they’ll see a massive new influx of customers, as America’s 45 million uninsured become required, by the stroke of a pen, to purchase a health plan from them. So what do they do with that knowledge?

They jack up their prices.

Some excellent reporting from the LA Times:

Health insurers across the country are dramatically increasing rates and slashing benefits for many of the estimated 17 million consumers with individual insurance policies, while making it almost impossible to obtain affordable alternatives.

The problems have captured national attention as President Obama steps up his campaign in Washington for a healthcare overhaul and Congress investigates rate hikes of as much as 39% by Anthem Blue Cross in California.


The money quote:

“A lot of what you see today is a product of the way the market works,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s Washington-based lobbying arm. “The market is broken. Those people who do need the coverage wind up covering the cost of everyone else.”

When the spokesman for Big Insurance tells you the market is broken, I think you had better listen to him. Maybe all those “tea party” protesters fighting against “Obamacare” and “Obamnuism” ought to take note.

Written by pavanvan

February 21, 2010 at 10:17 am

Let Them Eat Cake

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Jeff Strabone waxes philosophic in 3 Quarks Daily:

It seems to me that over the past decade, in the United States, the state and a narrow circle of powerful interests—banks, energy companies, and private health insurers in particular—have simply given up trying to persuade the rest of us that their interests were our interests. Could we be moving in the twenty-first century to a state that practices domination without hegemony? Or, to put it in plain English, will the state shamelessly turn itself completely over to serving the interests of a powerful few without bothering to pretend that it’s not? And if it does, how should we respond?

Torture, of course, is nothing new. The United States has been implicated in torture before, most famously in Central America in the 1980s. See, for instance, the article on torture in Honduras by James LeMoyne in the New York Times Magazine for June 5, 1988. But until recently, torture was always part of covert operations. The people who ordered the operations felt they had something to hide. What torture and corporate kleptocracy have in common in the twenty-first century is the lack of shame that characterizes the responsible parties.

Written by pavanvan

January 25, 2010 at 6:54 pm

The 9/12 Protests As They Should Have Been

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ABA6

The Huffington Post has got the scoop on the recent protests that erupted outside the American Banker’s Association in Chicago yesterday. Unlike the “9/12 Tea Party” protests last month, however, these outraged citizens saw very little mainstream coverage. CNN merely reprinted a Reuters dispatch which quoted none of the protesters but plenty of the meeting’s attendees, all of whom professed their unequivocal innocence. Fox News, unsurprisingly, had very little to say on the matter. Even the New York Times could not be bothered to toss the story a brief. In all, the mainstream reaction to these demonstrations stands in pitiful contrast to the 24-hour live feed which blared into millions of homes on September 12th.

When one gets a sense of who these protesters are and what drove them into the street, the reason for a lack of discussion becomes clear. This demonstration did not occur within controlled paramters; its organizer, National People’s Action, has made no direct campaign contributions, and their stated aims, in contrast to the Fox News 9/12 Movement, are antithetical to the aims of our corporate industry.

Instead of agitating against a health-care public option (opposition to which has benefited our insurance industry enormously), this group seeks strong regulation of the financial instruments which threw them into poverty – CDOs, CDSs, etc. The current proposal to achieve this end creates a “Consumer Finance Protection Agency” (or CPFA) in a highly-contentious bill which is now on the senate floor and is being vigorously opposed by the financial establishment.

As Esther Kaplan reports in The Nation:

“‘We had this image of big bankers sipping martinis and saying, ‘Did we really get away with this?'” said lead organizer George Goehl, director of National People’s Action. “Then two months ago we found out the American Bankers Association was having its annual meeting here in Chicago.” The ABA, not so incidentally, has fiercely fought against new regulations on the banking industry, and is lobbying hard now against the CFPA.

This is something to watch for, much more so than the protests last month, as yesterday’s demonstration reflects, so far as one can tell, a genuine outrage over the status quo. Yesterday’s protest was small (estimates of just under 1,000 people), but one would like to think a small demonstration against a real grievance would carry more weight than a large, manufactured demonstration over a non-existent one. It will be interesting to see whether similar demonstrations crop up, or, starved for lack of media attention, this CPFA movement dies down. We know which option our bankers prefer!

Filibuster!

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Ezra Klein gives a cheery update on the healthcare imbroglio to report that Senator Reid is “leaning toward” discussing a public option.

As he writes:

“We’re leaning towards talking about a public option,” said Harry Reid at a press conference today. Greg Sargent, along with a lot of other reporters, thought this was a weird comment. I think it reveals more than people realize, and it should make public option supporters very happy.

Klein argues that if the option is discussed during the negotiations phase there is a high likelihood of some sort of “compromise” slipped into the bill – whereas, if the option goes directly to vote it would not get the 60 votes necessary to override a filibuster, and thus die.

In his words:

That’s a big win for public option advocates. If they get something in during negotiations, opponents will need to muster 60 votes to remove it on the floor. If the public option has the 52 supporters that Sen. Tom Harkin estimates, then that’s impossible.

Unfortunately, the entry ends with that revelation – Klein does not question why a compromise must be struck if the public plan already has 52 supporters. The answer points to a persistent feature of our modern politics: the filibuster. Unheard-of in the 19th century, and still quite rare by 1940, the use (and threat of) “talking a bill to death” has overshadowed nearly all of our legislation since. No longer is it sufficient, as prescribed by the Constitution, to have a simple majority in Congress. Now  one requires a “filibuster-proof” majority (in our scheme, 60%)  to pass any significant legislation.

In practice this development has acted largely to the detriment of the public interest – most famously in the case of Strom Thurmond’s filibuster of the Civil Rights Bill of 1957. With regards to a healthcare public option, the threats of a filibuster will doubtlessly cause the Senate to act directly against public opinion. The “filibuster-proof” requirement also places undue influence on specific members of the Senate. All eyes are now upon Olympia Snowe of Maine, who holds the swing vote and can literally dictate her own terms on the final bill.

The tragedy in this is that our elected officials have not even the pretense anymore of acting in the interests of the public they serve. It is clear, according to nearly every polling agency, that a majority of Americans support a non-profit publicly owned health provider. It is also clear, from every analyst not directly in the pay of the insurance or pharmaceutical lobbies, that a public health plan would significantly drive down costs. Yet these facts hold no weight in our Senate.

Which I would put forth as rather dismal news for supporters of the public plan.

Written by pavanvan

October 20, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Tea Parties for All

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The New York Review of Books (not to be confused with the New York Times Book Review), has an excellent dissection of the recent conservative protest movement in this week’s issue. In it, Michael Tomasky attempts to answer the questions: Who were those protesters outside Capitol Hill on Sept. 12? Where did they come from? What are their aims? And perhaps most important: Should they be taken seriously?

Tomasky’s superb analysis yields some very dismal conclusions. According to him a new coalition has arisen, reactionary and corporate-funded, which comprises approximately 25% of the population. While opposition to “big government” and “bailouts” forms a strong part of their ethos, the movement’s greatest demonstration – the September 12protest – focused its denigration upon one piece of one issue ( the public option and reform in genral). They are heavily patronized both by rich benefactors and the entire conservative media apparatus, most notoriously, Fox News. With manufactured outrage and serious financial support, they give the distinct impression of populism on issues where very little popular outrage exists.

The article is valuable for its discussion of the underlying philosophy of the protest movement: the Ayn Rand – Objectivist viewpoint that has compelled so many to act against their material benefit. The financiers of these protests and the party theorists behind them seek little more than the removal of the programs many of those overwhelmingly middle-class protesters enjoy. Concepts such as the minimum wage, social security, medicare, unemployment benefits and many like them simply cannot coexist with the de-regulated “small government” the protesters apparently wish for. The wealthy capitalists behind this movement seek a government with their wealth in mind – not that of the middle class.

Tomasky makes the astute observation that the sentiments expressed betray a nostalgia for the Bush administration, and that their adherents likely comprise the 24% of Americans who viewed President Bush favorably as he departed. However he spends little time discussing a major hole in the protest’s ideology. There is a distinct difference between the protester’s stated aims of “smaller government” and their tacit support of our wars abroad. Their paragon, President Bush, expanded government almost beyond recognition, with his “Department of Homeland Security”, his 3 Trillion dollar wars, warrantless  wiretapping, politicization of the Justice Dept, employment of mercenaries, and many, many other actions. That these protesters choose such a minor manifestation of “big government” shows the divestment between their ideology and practice.

The problem, then, is not so much with the size of government, but the ends to which the government works. Government spending in the direct interest of Corporate America – no-bid contracts, costly wars, so-called “privatization”, etc. – comes under no scrutiny. Instead the objection comes mainly to the public manifestations of government spending, to government in the public interest. Hence, there was no specific opposition to a government mandate that all citizens must carry health insurance (a major goal of the health insurance industry), merely opposition to a public option (which would cut into industry profits.)

It is clear to see why our nation’s most wealthy citizens should wish to curb government spending on items they don’t purvey. But their ability to foment a purely artificial movement (Tomasky calls this phenomenon “astroturf” – corporate-funded grassroots) and  manipulate a public, with the major media complicit, into protesting against their tax-paying interest serves as a dismal reminder of the sheer power moneyed interests hold in our country.

Written by pavanvan

October 3, 2009 at 12:59 am

The Public Option: DOA

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The Times reports Big Pharma to spend up to $150 million advertising Max Baucus’ healthcare plan (the one without a public health insurance option).

So much for that, I guess. With the furor already raised over “big government”, a few velvety advertisements from the friendly (and seductive) makers of Lexapril should squelch public option discussion once and for all.

No wonder the Times also ran a front page analysis yesterday, effectively declaring the public option dead.

Corporate interests, for the win!

Written by pavanvan

September 14, 2009 at 6:21 pm