Sunday, February 28, 2010

A New Way of Seeing Data May Influence US Health Care Reform

Hans Rosling is a doctor and a Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. He is also the Director of the Gapminder Foundation, which developed the Trendalyzer software system and is continuously working on making publicly funded data accessible to all. The Gapminder Foundation has made interesting fact-based animations of data that really help people see trends among countries over time. The data can also be used to analyze trends within a country, by state, as well.

I want to share this website with all of my readers, not only to disseminate great information, but also to spotlight and compare the status of health care in the United States with other countries by looking at life expectancy and infant mortality. When you look at the animations in the link below, you'll see that, although we have a high per capita income, our life expectancy is not as high as many other "first world" countries, and our infant mortality rate is not as low as theirs either. There is a definite need for improvement in US health care. Although we spend far more money on health care than most other countries, our results are not the best among "first world" countries.

The current state of our health care system is remediation of illness and dispensation of sick-care benefits and procedures decided upon by insurance analysts, rather than well-care, preventative medicine and dispensation of sick-care benefits and procedures decided upon by medical professionals. We have millions of un- and underinsured people who are literally dying for health care reform. They certainly do not believe our health care system works.

Doctors are going out of business. Those that remain in practice are unable to provide a high quality of medical care due to the forced necessity of seeing a high volume of patients in order to make enough money to live, because insurance payments per patient are so low. Some doctors are splitting their practices into cash-based cafe services in which they can spend more time with individual patients who can afford to pay, while their lower-income, medically-insured patients see a physician's assistant. Other physicians are totally cutting out their insurance patients in favor of those who can afford to pay cash.

When physicians are effectively reducing or eliminating their medically insured patients, this further increases the patient load on the remaining physicians who still see patients covered by insurance. As this happens, and they are able to spend less and less time with each patient, the quality of health care will be compromised. Our own health care providers do not believe our health care system works. The AMA endorsed the health care reform bill. The highest quality medical care in the United States is now based upon whether or not you are in the top income brackets. At this rate, I see our future statistics moving even further away from those of  "first world" countries.

If United States citizens spend more on health care than do those in any other country, then where are all the dollars we spend going? They go to the for-profit insurance companies and pharma industries who are only interested in their bottom lines, and will do what is necessary to maintain profits and defend their products.

Women are discriminated upon by the insurance industry as domestic violence and rape are still considered pre-existing conditions in some states. During the heat of the health care reform debate late last year, insurance companies conveniently and just in time to stir more controversy about the health care reform bill, pushed to revamp mammogram and pap smear testing in a way that would exclude millions of women, putting them at higher risk for cancer, while saving the insurance industry billions of dollars. The insurance industry will do whatever it takes to maintain profits and their position of power in the United States, no matter how many people they hurt, in particular women who already pay significantly more for their premiums than do men.

Putting peoples' health and lives in the hands of a business whose primary goal is increasing profits and saving money, not lives, is a huge mistake. A public option that is not-for-profit, as is found in countries with higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality rates, is a much more intelligent method of providing health care. Statistics don't lie. Just because something has always been done one way, doesn't make it the best or the most intelligent method to use in the future.
Here's a link to one of Hans Rosling's wonderful TED Talks:

Life Expectancy:$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=6;ti=2007$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj1jiMAkmq1iMg;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj2tPLxKvvnNPA;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL%5Fn5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=194;dataMax=96846$map_y;scale=lin;dataMin=23;dataMax=86$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

Infant Mortality:$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=2.9316129032258;ti=2006$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=pp59adS3CHWfKPVb7dEexFA;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=pp59adS3CHWeR0Ufcou95MQ;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=20;iid=pp59adS3CHWcajNS5Y44uLw;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID1;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=240;dataMax=152481$map_y;scale=log;dataMin=1.569;dataMax=211$map_s;sma=50;smi=2$cd;bd=0$inds

Powerful Money-Mongers Steal from Children and Average Citizens

Those who caused the "recession" are thieves. Who is going to stand up and tell the Governor and our Legislature not to take anything away from already underfunded education? Where are all the people who, in good times, tell me that teachers should be paid more? Now is the time for all of them to stand up and be counted to save education!

When people say, we have to share the tough times, I want to ask them a question. Why weren't you first in line to have education and teachers share in the good times with you, as well? We've been here all along, working ourselves to the bone for the children, the future of our country, yet you stood by and enjoyed the fruits of success without sharing it with education and educators. Now you want to take what little we do have, and have worked so hard to attain. Why is that? Doesn't anyone value the education their teachers gave them?

Those who have caused this "recession" remain sitting sweetly in their offices on high, enjoying the perks, bonuses and offers of golden parachutes because of the hard-earned money of taxpayers who bailed them out. These same taxpayers are now scrimping to make ends meet because of their greedy, unethical and collusive practices. They are no better than the folks at Enron and other power companies who stole money right out of our pockets without, again, any restitution being made.

What are these people doing to repay their debt to society? Why isn't our government protecting the people, rather than the corporations? Why is the government taking hard-earned money away from the people to pay for the corporations? The rich may have been affected, but most are not losing their homes, worrying about how to pay the utility bills, put food on the table, gas in their cars to go to work if they're lucky enough to still have a job, or clothing on their backs. Most citizens did not profit from the practices of shylocks and white collar criminals who will never meet the judge and jury, yet average citizens certainly are the ones paying for them to remain in their positions of power and continue their unethical practices. Now, our children suffer in poverty and homelessess while money is taken away from their education, stealing their future.

How do we change the current course of events? Who will stand up and demand accountability and restitution? When will people speak out and demand a government OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the people? Denial and putting one's head in the sand never makes problems disappear. Silence is effectively a proxy vote for those who hold the reigns of power, whether or not that is one's intent, as one will be bound by the decisions of others, good or bad. Wake up, unite, protest, and make your voices heard!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Icebergs May Alter Ocean Currents

Massive iceburgs that have calved away from the vast Antarctic ice sheet may alter ocean currents, which may also cause a die-off of ocean life due to oxygen deprivation. The question is, will ocean inhabitants be able to migrate quickly enough to be saved, given an outside human-generated impetus of some sort? Will this be necessary? Hopefully scientists will be carefully monitoring the situation in the coming months and years.

Many other questions come to mind. Will this alteration of oceanic currents eventually also affect sea surface temperatures, change the albedo of the planet, and alter our weather and climate? Will this cause the release of some of the carbon dioxide and methane stored in our oceans? Will all of this begin another negative feedback loop? If there is a massive die-off of ocean life, how will we feed the continually growing population of this planet, most of whom live along our coastlines, and many of whom depend upon fishing for survival?

Whether or not the calving of country-sized iceburgs is caused by global warming, I sincerely hope scientists are modeling all of the effects they may have on our planet.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Living a Bigger Game

As I grew up, I always dreamed of doing great things. At this point in my life, that goal has not yet been realized. The good news is that I'm still alive and have the opportunity to rectify that situation. Now, the question is, how do I live that bigger game?

Sitting back in fear, inability to stretch due to lack of confidence, or just plain letting everyday life get in the way are no longer viable choices. Unfortunately, I can't just say "Bam!" like Emeril, and kick my life up a notch. The most important thing is to do things before I'm ready, because waiting has gotten me nowhere towards reaching my higher mission in life.

One solution is to network to find like-minded people by joining organizations and taking classes. Another is to finalize my books and get them published. Learning how to improve my public speaking and speaking up at public events would increase my chances. Blogging is one more conduit through which thoughts and ideas can be effectively communicated. I've already begun taking some of these steps. Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated. If any of you have created and spread your life mission to the world, how did you go about living a bigger game?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

So, Why Are You Still There, You Ask?

I'm always looking at and dreaming of new places to visit, photograph, write about, and maybe even live. As I've said in a prior post, dreams are important, as they enrich one's life with possibilities that can be realized.

The internet and, in particular, blogs are tremendous resources for planning the future. As with many of you, I keep my eyes on a few favorite blogs that personalize places of interest. Chantal, the author of the blog "Writer Abroad" has listed the top portable careers for expats. Upon perusing the list, I discovered five for which I'm qualified to be hired. So, why are you still there, you ask?

In running from place to place, one brings one's issues along as extra baggage that weighs one down in life. So the best course to take is to stay and deal with things, in order to move forward into the future without that extra baggage, and with an unencumbered heart.