Thursday, March 28, 2019

Is Healthcare a Right or a Privilege?

Is healthcare a right or a privilege? Is healthcare for profit a sin? Is the healthcare issue more complex or is it really just a simple, black/white right/wrong matter? Is it capitalism vs socialism? Be sure to visit Ramana's Musing

The good old USA boasts the highest healthcare cost in the world, a 3.66 trillion dollar industry with over $10,000 per  person being spent. Healthcare accounts for about 18% of our GDP, according to . And the bang or our buck? We have the lowest life expectancy and highest infant mortality rate in a group of high income western nations - including the U.K., Canada, Germany, Australia, Japan, Sweden, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

With that backdrop, healthcare is clearly an expensive proposition - something on which everyone cam agree. Is it a right?  I checked the Bill of Rights - no mention of healthcare so it must not be a right. See for yourself - Bill of Rights.

Take a closer look at the numbers and you will find that the main drivers of the cost differential between the USA and those other countries and it gets more interesting. We use the same amount of services, visit doctors and hospitals at the same rate as people in those other countries but administrative costs and prescription costs in the USA are significantly higher. Those costs account for the difference in spending. The price of medicine in the USA is often in the news - especially when a company suddenly increases the cost of their product by hundreds if not thousands of percentage points. For example, the cost of insulin nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016. Whew. That is a healthy leap but we have to pay for all that research and development - right? Think again. Eli Lilly - the company that first produced insulin made 1.7 Billion dollars on its most popular version of insulin a full 12 years after it was introduced. And mind you - to a diabetic it is usually take insulin or die. Unfortunately often that turns into a choice - food or insulin.

Again - is healthcare a right or a privilege? Knowing that one person's right to healthcare is anothers burden to pay seems to point to the notion that healthcare is a privilege. Everyone needs to take care of themselves. Working people should not be required to pay for healthcare for those who choose not to work. It is simply not fair - is it?

I believe basic healthcare service is a right everyone should enjoy. That basic healthcare should include annual checkups, vaccinations etc.. Wellness should be the focus. That does not mean it should be free. It is worth noting that the reason Medicare is acceptable to some who might otherwise be considered conservative, Medicare is not a government provided entitlement - everyone contributes to the Medicare costs when they work, along with their employer. The government essentially becomes a state run insurance provider. I have been on Medicare for almost 5 years. My policy is provided by Aetna. That should be put in place literally at the time a SS number is acquired. Individuals should make contributions at work just as they do today (but not necessarily the same rate). Employers would continue making contributions as well. Just as currently offered, private companies should be encouraged to offer policies should they choose to enter the market. Prescription  drug prices should be negotiated and reviewed periodically. Policies should be transportable so changing jobs does not cause a lapse in protection.

We have a moral obligation to care for the less fortunate members of our society. They should have have medical coverage provided.

Not all medical procedures should be considered a right. Some should be privileges offered to anyone willing to pay for them. Separate policies could be offered that individuals pay for on their own.

There will be people who say Medicare and Medicaid are entitlements that we can no longer offer, they are leading us down the path toward socialism., be they brightest of red conservative I know of nobody willing to give up their medicare coverage. Not a single individual. Private companies already carve out slices of the Medicare pie - that my friends is capitalism.

Obviously things are not entirely black and white when it comes to healthcare and it is up to us and our elected officials to resolve the issue. It is time for Congress to pull up their big boy/big girl pants and do the job we hired them for - to govern. Resistors should be fired.

That's it for this week's 2-on-1 blog. See ya next week.

Thursday, March 21, 2019


Ramana offered this week's topic  acceptance - consenting to receive or undertake something offered or being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.  Be sure to check Ramana's Musings to see what he has to say on this weeks 2-on-1 topic.

In this alleged you can do anything you want if you try hard enough world we inhabit, it is time for a bit of rain to fall on your parade. The fact is, as noble as the sentiment is intended to be you simply may not be able to  achieve anything you set your mind to. On occasion the obstacles presented may simply be insurmountable or the competition may simply be over your head. There is a point at which you simply must accept the fact that your goal will not be achieved in spite of your best efforts. As long as you have given your best effort there id nothing to be ashamed of. Period. This applies to us all. Acceptance of failure is an important learning opportunity, almost as important as success in any endeavor. Acceptance is the key that unlocks your ability to deal with change.

There is a reason the so-called serenity prayer is such a critical aspect of Alcoholics Anonymous (and the other like groups) - it is the truth. It works. 
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

You say you don't believe in God? Well you have to believe in something - even if it is yourself. The statement still works, though it seems to me faith in something bigger than yourself makes life easier.

One of life's greatest challenges is to align what you want with what you need. If you have a clear understanding of what you need then odds are you can understand better how to get there.  Dealing with and healing from the negative happenings in life - no matter what they are -requires an understanding of the event and acceptance of the event - be it health related, personal relationship related, career related or anything else. You cannot heal without acceptance. Even if you receive an ultimately fatal diagnosis health wise, you need to accept the fact so that you can live your remaining days as best you can.

I have direct experience with fatal health diagnoses - as most of you know my late wife Lynn died from Huntington's Disease. When we received the diagnosis she essentially got a 10-15 year death sentence. I'd love to say she accepted the diagnosis and lived her life as well as she could. For the first time since I had known her, she simply gave up. The fight had gone put of her. That is partially the result of HD destroying the brain but not entirely. Now our daughter has received the same diagnosis and she is not handling it particularly well. Part of that is my fault as she and I do not get along well at all but she refuses  to get a job and contribute to the household which absolutely boosts the stress levels on the rest of us. Plus, she resents the fact that I will not be there for her in the end - given my age and health the next 15 years are likely to be well past my sell by date.  She has resented me since we moved to Texas and she stayed with her grandparents so she could finish high school. She was a senior when we moved and simply could not accept the fact that there was a major recession in the SF Bay Area and no jobs in my field. Had she accepted the facts of the situation life may well have been smoother for us all. 

Acceptance into a group is also something we all deal with - starting with friends from an early age comes immediately to mind. Think back on all of the cliques in your high school days. Gaining acceptance to a clique was an important part of growing up. In my case the cliques were primarily athletic teams but I do also still have the same core of friends I had in high school. those types of cliques happen in college - think fraternities and sororities. There are also myriad special interest clubs, my first exposure to those being the Science Collection Club in junior high school.We went fossil hunting every weekend and that was pretty unique and great fun. Some of us got into rock and gem collection as well. Acceptance matters as each group you join helps shape your ideas and personality. I became interested in archaeology and for a time considered pursuing it further - until I realized I was mildly claustrophobic - so much for that. No pyramid or grave exploring for me.

Acceptance is not inaction. Inaction is the denial of reality. Acceptance allows you to deal with reality, Take aging as an example. Most of us resist the fact that we are aging - occasionally we deny it at our own peril. Some of us may try to do things that are beyond our physical or mental capabilities. Acceptance of the reality of aging and the changes aging brings to us allows us to live a happier, probably safer life. 

Lastly, there is an old saw that says to correct a problem you must first accept the fact that the problem exists. Accept that change is the norm, not the exception and you will be better equipped to respond to and adapt to the changes life throws at you.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Doom and Gloom Pt II

This weeks topic is Doom and Gloom - a topic last visited by the LBC, the precursor to the current 2-on-1 blog posts six years ago - hence Pt II. If you wonder what I said six years ago, click here.

Be sure to check Ramana's Musings to read Ramana's take on the topic.

FYI, Merriam Webster says doom and gloom is sad and tragic events : a feeling or attitude that things are only getting worse.

Life is a series of challenges - I'll wager most of us have been behind the proverbial eight ball at some point in our lives, worried about making ends meet.  Just providing the essentials - shelter and food becomes a challenge.  Somehow we muddle through, be it God's will, hard work or maybe even good fortune. Every problem has a solution - just press on until you find the answer. Some folks have a half empty glass, some have a half full glass and some folks don't even have a glass. (I hope those glassless folk at least have a full bota bag as it is always nice  to have 2L of  good red wine to help you get through the day.

Today our society seems more divided than ever. We have evidence a hostile foreign power  meddled in the 2016 and 2018 elections and is continuing to do so now that campaigning for 2020 has begun.  Some view the apparent lack of concern shown by the current administration criminal while others believe all problems  stem  from our southern border and it is a national emergency that can only be solved by allowing the president to divert already committed funds to the tune of almost 9 billion dollars from other areas.

Every nation has grounded a new Boeing aircraft - 737 Max 8 that has been in use for under two years because of two crashes within a month resulting in over 200 fatalities.  The FAA, BTW, has ruled it safe. Some have also banned the 737 Max 9  Is the sky literally falling? It is not a good time for Boeing, that is a certainty. Technology running amok?

Then there is the weather.  Global warming debunkers are having a field day making snide comments during this frigid winter. The irony that climate change is caused by global warming  is lost on them. Burning fossil fuels is something that we need to reduce and eventually stop. The steady rise in temperature will have disastrous results unless we are prepared. Doom and gloom? Entirely warranted in this instance. It matters not one iota if the warming is caused  by people, assisted by people or purely an act off God or Mother Nature. It needs to be addressed.`
 Image result for doom and gloom cartoons
We are in the midst of an economic boom that shows there is still substantial economic strength in the world economy.  We should be able to deal with whatever comes our way. Unemployment is at rates never before seen, but there is a degree of deception built into those numbers. Not everyone is employed in a job that allows them to make a living. Many people work second jobs and still struggle to make ends meet. this does not apply solely to workers in the fast food industry - teachers in many areas face the same struggle. Not only are teacher salaries too low in many instances, they work in educational systems ill equipped to prepare students for entry into the real world. If teachers were paid like babysitters. Of course there are those who feel teachers are overpaid and they get 3 months of annual vacation. Yet EVERY teacher I know pays for a percentage of their student's supplies. 

We live in a time where wealth is concentrated more and more in an increasingly small percentage of our population. There is a brewing debate about wealth distribution and a debate about the merits of capitalism vs socialism and democratic socialism. The right conflates socialism with communism but the reality here is NOT that the government owns and operates the means of production but increasingly here large companies seem to own and operate the government.real power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of fewer people just like wealth, pushing toward an oligarchy. Yes, I realize I have somewhat oversimplified the issue but look at what has been happening. There will come a time when that snowball rolling down the hill will be unstoppable.  Something to think about.

So here we are - in a rapidly changing world with various and sundry swords of Damoclese hanging over our heads. China, Russia and the USA are the largest players with India not far behind, all vying to be the big dog on the block. Russia's economy is too weak, China steals innovation from the USA. Foreign countries hold over 6 trillion  dollars of US debt, with Japan and China each holding over a trillion each. We added over a trillion in US debt last year when we issued huge tax breaks to the richest in the country.

It would be easy to be overcome with despair, doom and gloom. But, we seem to do best when our backs are against the wall and I suggest we are at that stage now. What happens in the next couple of years will dictate the future our grandchildren will face. If we can manage to bring civility back into our discussions, the divide between us will shrink. Once that happens compromise will again be on the table and we will be on the road to recovery.

Thursday, March 7, 2019


Change. One of the constants in life - like death and taxes. How you deal with change determines the kind of life you lead.
We have been living through decades of change coming at us at breakneck speed. Our inability to keep up with that change has left many us in a state of Future Shock - a term from Alvin and Heidi Tofler in their book of the same name. Essentially it means too much change in too short a period of time.

Technology and technological change has increased dynamically. It took less than 100 years to go from  the first flight to landing on the moon. Wildly futuristic gadgets written about in the 30s are now real. The laptop computer on which this is being written is more powerful than the room sized computers of yesteryear and look at smart phones.

Granted, we have not reached the Jetsons level of technology in our homes but I suspect the wait will not be much longer. We do have robotic vacum cleaners but  mass produced flying cars may be a long way off.

There is another change about to take place and it may not be as peaceful as previous similar changes - generational change. Baby boomers are about to give control to millennials. Millennials will be the ones in power and they have a completely different mindset and outlook. There are daily rumblings in the news about what the new, younger representatives in congress think and the direction they seem to be pushing things. 

Bernie Sanders excited a new, young generation of participants in our political process and those young folks have had two plus years of the Donald Trump version of the truth and battle lines are being drawn. The man we elected because we wanted change is in the process of tearing down the institutions of our government. Bernie's social democrat pitch appealed to the young generation. The 2018 midterm election saw some serious changes in congress and it showed a new progressive lean to the far left.  The GOP is trending far right. The reality is the American electorate, GOP and Democrat , is centrist in nature. Conflict is brewing.

What we now face is a panic driven, largely older white population watching power slip away. As they scramble to legislate their particular brand of morality, the progressive young left is pushing back harder. Change is in the air.  Remember the sixties - already the alt-right is threatening civil war. The danger of an amoral leader is that Trump will not care about who he whips into a frenzy. He will simply say it is Obama's fault.

Alarmist? Perhaps but who could have envisioned the lies told daily by the defacto leader of the free world? Who could have envisioned the evangelical right would sell their collective souls to support an alleged pro life President? Stack the supreme Court with alt-right judges and the evangelicals are fine. Compare Franklin Graham's comments on the immorality of Bill Clinton with the immorality of Donald Trump. Utter hypocrisy. Every time Pat Robertson opens his mouth he embarrasses Christians - or at least they should be embarrassed. Fortunately most Christians are good people. The real ones have something I do not have - faith.

Now combine the BIG CHANGE just offered with the stress and strain of the changes in daily life. As wealth is further accumulated by a tiny percentage of the population, the once dominant American middle class that drove the world economy grows smaller. Yes unemployment is low but how many jobs does it take to live a decent life?

Change - immigration  across the southern border has been trending down for decades but saw a recent upswing. Why the upswing? Perhaps the ranting of Trump. Perhaps the legitimate upswing in asylum seekers from central American countries where society is devolving and violence is the norm?

Change - climate change is real regardless of the reason. Look at the weather patterns and trends. The world's breadbasket  will be severely impacted, and soon producing sufficient food to feed the world's population will be in jeopardy.

Change - Trumps apparent alignment of American foreign policy with that of Russia is causing issues with our allies around the world. Some now consider Angela Merkel the defacto leader of the free world.  Others consider POTUS45 a traitor who should be stood against a wall and shot.

Change - our educational system needs a massive overhaul as we strive to train and prepare the kind of workers companies will need as we race to the future. At the same time we need to bring civics and real history back to the curriculum  as well as vocational training.

Everything is not doom and gloom but we need to be aware of where we are in time. Our country has survived centuries because at the core it is populated by good people.There are excellent people that go to church regularly and care about their capital NNeighbors. There are many secular people who genuinely care about others and this world we live in .it is time to heal the divide and stop fearing the furure, Change is good. Embrace it. It's time for the country  - founded on Judeo-Christian principles to act like it.

Be sure to check Ramana's Musings for his take on change.