William Thien

Archive for July 2011

I participated in a healthy debate on an email list about socialized medicine versus privatized medicine in 2004 and 2005. A fellow conservative had remarked that Canada’s health system required long waits for substandard care and concluded that all socialized health care programs produced the same results.

At the time I was paying for my own health insurance to the tune of about $6,000 per year. But when I went in to have some blemishes removed from my skin where my backpack straps (I like to hike) rubbed them, which was painful, the health insurer said it was a “pre-existing condition” and refused to pay for the doctor’s visit. Upon discovering the greed of the health insurer I stopped paying the monthly premium and was in fact better off by about $6,000 the next year. But people need health care.

The online debate I had caused me to use my own situation as an example and to examine what indeed the realities of socialized medicine were in other countries and then make a comparison to our own.

The first thing I learned was at the time people in Canada lived longer than people in The United States. So, in order to begin a somewhat scientific study of whether or not socialized medicine is better or worse than the system we have here in The United States, I had to have a control, a reference point, something to anchor the discussion so that I could use it as an example as the discussion proceeded. I decided to use “longevity,” or how long people lived.

It was astonishing to me to hear all of the negative things about Canada’s socialized medicine and then find out that in fact Canadians live longer. How can that be, I asked myself? How can it be that a system which is supposedly less efficient, and less expensive than our own as you will see later, how can it be that such an inefficient system would help their population to live longer? I mean, you would think that something that doesn’t work as well would produce less effective results. People living longer indicates efficiency when it comes to health care I believed, better results. So, I chose from the get go to use “longevity” as the reference point to determine a system’s efficiency.

Then, I went to several web sites that list statistics about the various countries on the planet, and perused The CIA Fact Book as well, a book which compiles information about every country to include the size of the country, its population, etceteras.

What I discovered is that in many countries with socialized medical programs, the people live longer, not just in Canada. I was flabbergasted. I’d been hearing all of this negative political rhetoric about how socialized medicine is a failure, yet here it was that many countries with socialized medical systems had populations that lived longer, in some cases, close to a decade longer. A decade! That’s significant in terms of statistical observation. Remember, I’m trying to be a little scientific.

Then, I tried to gather as much information as I could about the cost to each person of the socialized medical programs in each country. This was more difficult, but I was able to determine that the costs ranged anywhere from $3,500 to $6,000. Again, complete surprise. I had the impression after hearing all of the debates at the time that socialized medicine would cost the individual $20,000 or more, much like it costs the elderly here in The United States. No such luck. It happens that socialized medicine is actually much less expensive to administer than our own system of medicine.

What!? You say WHAT?!

That’s right. Socialized medicine is much less expensive to administer than our own system of medicine where, by the way, many don’t even have health insurance in the first place.

How can that be, you ask? How can socialized medicine be less expensive? It involves the government. The government always costs more. True. But as you will see, in this case, there is somewhat of an exception due to the complex nature of our own system of medicine.

For one thing, we are actually paying for several types of systems at the same time here in The United States. In a socialized system, you are only paying for one system.

The bureaucratic mess involved in administering the variety of medical systems in The United States means that many more dollars actually go into the administration of the system instead of the administration of the medical care and medicine. In other words, you are paying bureaucrats instead of doctors.

Well, what do you mean we are paying for several types of systems here in The United States?

For example, let me use myself as an example, again. Today, my employer sends me a statement of benefits at the end of the year whereas before I paid for my own health insurance. Last year my employer paid $11,000 for my health insurance (quite a bit more than the $6,000 I paid several years ago, which means the costs are skyrocketing). But not only did my employer pay $11,000, I paid in to Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security as well. Social Security also has a medical component to it. So, not only does my employer pay for my health insurance, I pay for three socialized medical programs myself. And this is just at the federal level. My state has three socialized health care programs. Some say the cost to administer that bureaucratic mess is immeasurable. Needless to say, it’s huge! Gigantic. But more importantly, it’s inefficient, much more inefficient than say just having one system, or socialized medicine countrywide.

When I total up all of the input costs to my health care, the $11,000 my employer paid for my health care last year and what I paid into Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, the cost is approaching $15,000. Today, socialized medicine in countries that have it, where they often live longer, is about $4500 to $7000, or about a third to one half of what it costs in The United States. And I’m just summing up the federal dollars that I pay and adding it to what my employer pays to the private health care insurer, and not adding what I pay to the state. That may approach $16,000 to $17,000, or two and a half times what people in countries with socialized medicine pay. Wow! That’s a lot of money.

Does this mean that we should move to a socialized health care system? Not exactly.

One of the things that I noticed in my somewhat scientific investigation is that there is a big fat guy in there that, were he properly regulated, medicine in The United States would be just fine, much less expensive, much more efficient. That big fat guy is The Health Insurance Company. Here we have a big fat middle man between America and its health care, a middle man that often tells the individual who pays dearly for the insurance that they are not covered due to a “pre-existing” condition, or that procedure is not covered because it is new, or that the prognosis is that you will only live three more months so they have decided not to approve the surgery.

In countries that have socialized medicine they have discovered something about efficiency in providing health care. Get rid of health care insurers. If you have a business, everything you do to structure that business is designed to make that business more efficient. You don’t have a special division of your business that doesn’t do anything related to that business. In this case, that would be the health care insurers. One thing health care insurers don’t do is provide health care services. They don’t treat patients, they don’t administer medicine, yet they are enormously costly. Countries with socialized medicine have recognized that fact and removed health care insurers from the health care equation. And guess what happened? The costs dropped dramatically. You can still purchase your own health insurance policy. But it’s not a law that you have to do so.

Since we live in a free market economy, that is really not an option. Or is it?

One of the major problems with health care in The United States is that big fat guy, health insurers, is not properly regulated and his weight is unhealthy for America. What we could really use is proper regulation of health care. After examining the issue on both sides, I’m convinced that is the answer, along with a couple of other minor tweaks that you will discover later.

Health care is not like other things. If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything, the saying goes. Perhaps that is true of a country and its health care. And maybe like the historical relationship of the church and science, maybe health care and profit don’t make for a healthy marriage. Maybe there is something diabolical about profiteering so thoroughly as health insurers do from someone’s sickness, maybe not. But it sure is big business, in fact, one of if not the biggest in this country. In the last decade pharmaceutical companies have often been the most profitable businesses. Guess what else is in the top ten? Health care insurers. Nothing wrong with making a profit, unless it is making everyone sick. And I’m convinced that is what is happening with health care insurers.

So, from my perspective, the one measure to come out of the current administration’s health care legislation, the result of that big all-consuming discussion we all had at the beginning of the current administration, the one element that is of any value is that health care insurance companies can no longer say something is a” pre-existing” condition. This is an excellent example of the proper regulation of an industry that has been acting like a anti-societal monstrosity.

Yet, from my perspective also, I don’t see any benefit to making it a law to have to purchase health care in the first place, which was also an element of the current administration’s health care law, especially now that doctors are starting to offer lower rates if you don’t use health insurance. See how the health insurers have wheedled their way into the health care equation for good. Now, by law we are going to have to buy health insurance. Clever bunch those health care insurers. Pulled the wool right over everyone’s eyes in Washington.

I am not certain when the term “pre-existing” condition came into being, if it was an invention of some clever business school graduate brought on at one of the health care insurers, but that one term has increased the profits at health care insurers dramatically, I am sure, while it has simultaneously brought down the quality of health care in The United States, brought it down to that of a third world country in many instances. At one point I heard that close to forty percent of the population did not have health insurance. Well, why not just scrap it altogether, then? Something obviously isn’t working. Quite the opposite.

Outlawing the “pre-existing condition” status was in my opinion the one thing to come out of the current legislation on health care in this country to be of any measure. And it is an example of proper regulation. When the law says a corporation “must” do everything in its power to increase its profits and satisfy its shareholders, you will get things like the term “pre-existing condition.” Therefor, you must properly regulate against such behavior, and in this case, you must properly regulate health care insurers in general if you want costs in The United States to come down.

Furthermore, in reference to tweaking the system that I mentioned previously, it used to be that health care providers could not advertise their services as they can today. Advertising is not cheap, it’s expensive. All of those costs are incorporated into what you pay for health care. Do you think providers just throw that money out the door? No, the health care industry transfers those costs to you. So that brings health care costs up incredibly. In a “one system” form of health care, privatized or socialized, you make the choice, you would likely remove that part of the cost equation as well.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is much less expensive to administer one health care program in comparison to administering three or four programs at the federal level and then several again at the state level. One program for everyone and you will see the costs plummet. People will have more money for everything. The economy would likely flourish. Even major auto manufacturers and other industrial giants have said that health care costs are putting them out of business.

And, as a conservative I have to ask the question: Is having a government-run health care system comprised of multiple and perhaps likely redundant systems of care at both the federal and state levels actually better than having just one government-run system? The obvious answer is no. Having one system would be the better choice.

That is if a conservative can even accept having socialized or government-run health care in the first place? If in fact having one such system is much less expensive and more efficient than the multiple government and private systems we have today at such great cost, then of course the answer is a clear and definite yes, regardless of whether or not the system is totally government-run or private. It would be by default the most conservative system.

There are of course the questions which remain as to whether or not such a system could work in The United States. But we ought not to let the media front men decide that question for us.

In my opinion, if we want to lower health care costs in The United States we need to switch to one system and only one, whether it be private or public, into which everyone pays, and properly regulate that system. In that way, we will simplify and therefore decrease the administrative costs and insurance costs and everyone will likely live longer, as they won’t be sweating the cost of going to the doctor in the first place.

Copyright © William Thien 2011

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I really don’t know what to make of this story except that it is an indication how haywire the social safety net has become in this country.

I was chatting recently with a friend of mine on the telephone and he tells me this story about someone he used to work with that was laid off. The guy who was laid off owns cats and likes his cats very much. One day when he gets up in the morning he notices there is something wrong with one of his favorite cats and so he takes the animal in to the veterinarian.

After a few minutes the vet comes out and says his cat is going to need a $4500 operation. Luckily, the guy says, he’d saved some money before he was laid off and he can pay for it. Go ahead, he tells the vet, let’s do it.

Two months later the guy himself finds out that he himself needs to have some medical work done and it turns out the doctor’s bills approach thirty-five hundred dollars. But since he was laid off, he lost his health insurance. And since he spent the money on his cat’s surgery two months prior, he can’t cover the cost of his own health care anymore. He didn’t buy his own private insurance plan. Now he doesn’t know what to do.

So, he files with the government that he is unable to pay for the doctor’s bills. Now you and I are paying for his doctor’s bills when, had he not paid to have $4500 dollars of veterinarian work done on his cat, he would have had the money.

I like animals as much as the next guy. But this seems to me to be a little insane and is a clear indication of how haywire the social safety net has become in this country. And I’d be willing to bet many of those cat women out there, you know, the ones that have three or more cats, and there are a lot of them, have done just what that guy has done. It’s not just the money, it’s the cost to administer the money as well.

And it’s the insanity of it all.

It’s Not My Cat. Why Do I have to Pay to Have it Cured? Because that’s effectively what has happened, make no mistake. And it probably happens all the time.

Copyright © William Thien 2011

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The most significant reason to pass a balanced budget amendment may on the surface appear to be that it will require the federal government to keep the country’s financial matters in order. But something else occurred to me after my previous note concerning my support for a balanced budget amendment.

Lately, and this is a historical observation as well, all we hear is that one side has a plan for a budget and the other side does not accept it. This has been going on thoroughly for over a month, now. And we are paying dearly for it. Then, the other side counters with their plan, and it is stiff armed off the table with a sour look of disdain. But is it all an act? I’d wager much, perhaps most of it is, but there are genuine differences as well.

Yet, there is a lot of posturing and nothing is getting done. Our elected are posing in the window, but there is a lot of partisan bickering and nothing is accomplished. The media loves it and thinks we should, too. All this time our elected could be working on more important matters. But instead, they choose to make it appear that they are at odds with each other when we all know the plan is to come up with a solution at the eleventh hour and we will all have to swallow it. And what’s worse, they will likely have slipped something in that nobody can stomach. The country will reel for days with a political hangover while the spin doctors will tell us all it’s for the best and that’s that. People will forget. The wool, though it may feel scratchy against the skin, will keep us warm anyway they will tell us, even if we be blinded by it.

With a balanced budget amendment, the country’s elected will be required to not only balance the budget, but a balanced budget amendment, if properly drafted, will require our elected to work more efficiently on our behalf. This may be more significant than the mere fact that a balanced budget amendment will require the government to balance the budget.

In other words, a balanced budget amendment will not only require our elected to take better care of our country’s financial matters, it will likely “stimulate” more efficient government behavior, because the elected will be less likely to pose and strut for the media, getting nothing done except keeping the media happy, and then slip something unpalatable in at the last minute nobody wants in the first place. In fact, that last part of the previous sentence may be the very reason our elected don’t want to appear to be getting along. They may in fact be quite chummy and we wouldn’t even know it with the way they have been carrying on all along. Washington is isolated from the rest of the country in a way with its bureaucracy and way of doing things. And politicians are insulated from our way of life with their lavish benefits and elaborate security, too. Many citizens believe most politicians that have been to Washington for more than one term have lost touch with the realities of American existence, and that Washington, with its high-profile system of lobbyists and special interests, has a corrupting influence. A balanced budget amendment would help to bring politicians back to the realities of American life.

Of course if you don’t want the two sides of the aisle to cooperate on our behalf, don’t pass a balanced budget amendment. It’s that simple.

Copyright © William Thien 2011

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After hearing all the “end of the world” scenarios and all of the pleas for an increase in the debt ceiling, the one thing I think which should come out of the current budget negotiations is a balanced budget amendment.

Why?

It is the only way we as a country can get Washington, which often thinks differently than the rest of the country, particularly when it comes to taxes, to treat the American taxpayer with some respect. Washingtonians, which is what our elected become after being in office for several years, are insulated from the rest of us. It’s a private club. Aside from a few politicians that meet regularly with their constituency, those elected to federal office often lose sight of what it is to be an American.

With a balanced budget amendment, our elected will by law never forget what it is to be an American. Let us not let them forget. Let us not!

Contact your elected officials today and tell them you would like to see a balanced budget amendment now!

Copyright © William Thien 2011

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William Thien’s novel The Dream Chip (ISBN: 978-0-7388-6313-9) is now available as an Amazon Kindle book as well as The Barnes & Noble nook and other popular electronic formats.

A quick read melding science fiction and politics into a speculative manifesto, The Dream Chip deals with the subjects of big government and how it can be controlled through the implementation of modern computer technology. In The Dream Chip a software suite called The Common Council Software Program is implemented where the elected must vote on the day-to-day issues of government based upon the preponderance of votes cast by the electorate. No more politicians voting completely opposite to what they promised during the election campaign. Voters respond to emails requesting a vote on such things as the widening of roads in their voting district or other matters that can affect their taxes or individual rights. If voters don’t like an idea, they simply vote it down. And by law, the elected representative then has to vote it down. It is a redistribution of democratic power right to the individual. Naturally, the government and the elected don’t like the idea. To find out what happens next, order your copy of The Dream Chip today.

First published in 1997 at Electric Works Publishing, The Dream Chip was originally available only as an electronic book, sent to you as an email attachment or on a diskette. Electric Works Publishing later went out of business. Then in the year 2001 John Feldcamp, CEO of Xlibris, approached William Thien and asked if he would like to have The Dream Chip published in paperback format? “It was an exciting time with all the new publishing formats becoming available,” Thien said. “I jumped on the opportunity. Ten years later we are back in electronic format again. You knew it was going that way. It was just a question of when.”

William Thien was the first to represent that an approximation of the human soul could be stored in digital format in The Dream Chip and describes what the process might look like if and when it becomes a reality. He explains how a person’s thoughts and memories might be stored for eternity using an advanced computer chip originally designed for deep space flight communications.

Order your copy and have it right now for your Kindle and nook readers.

Don’t have one of Amazon’s Kindle readers or a Barnes & Noble nook book, you may also enjoy The Dream Chip in other formats such as on your Sony Reader, or if you have a mobile computing device you may read The Dream Chip as a MOBIPocket book. Order yours now and have it now!

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From my experience, which admittedly is limited to a few brief visits to The United Kingdom and my continued interest in their news media, the news media here in The United States have a more propagandistic or supportive role of the various social and governmental mechanisms in place than that of the peripheral media in The United Kingdom, which thrives primarily on tabloidian behavior. So the calls by a number of politicians in The US to compel the FBI to examine such cell phone hacking practices in The U.S. by the media will likely produce few public results because of that apparent symbiotic relationship stateside.

Here the government states something, the media reports it; together they work with very little discord. As long as the media serves this purpose, the government does not try to curtail its other activities. In other words, the media is often an organ or an arm of the government. The media do a lot of dirty work for the government, and in this way also acts like a buffer between the citizenry and the government enabling the government to move more fluidly amongst us, which of course is often necessary.

I’m inclined to think that the media here in The U.S. are more involved in things like attaching malicious tracking software to your computer and hacking emails if they are doing anything like what Murdoch’s employees were. Did your computer ever slow way down after visiting a news website?

One thing is for sure now that the scandal has broken. The media eat their own. And of course this could all be part of a larger plan by the media, and Rupert Murdoch could simply be saying, circulation and ratings are down, Eat Me!!!!!!!! sort of along the lines of Hollywood’s publicity stunts, or any publicity is good publicity, particularly bad publicity. If it bleeds, it leads.

It brings to memory one of my previous essays, Should The Media Be Removed From The Election Process? in which I describe the relationship of the media to our community and offer an example of predatory behavior on their behalf, that of a local television reporter attaching a GPS tracking device to the car of his subject.

Who polices the media?

Even more concerning is that our elected often make decisions based upon how the media will react and not what is best for the population, totally disregarding the needs of the citizenry. This demonstrates the power of the media but it also presents a valid reason for more control of the media. The media actually can and often does act as a wedge between what is best for the country and what actually happens. The media have their interests which may altogether be different from that of the country.

I enjoy very much reading the newspaper and watching the news on television or online.

Yet, we must not forget, the media are corporations whose product often is “us.” They attack us, assassinate our character, use our images, investigate and publish about us without our permission, all the while making massive profits from such predatory behavior, to which we profit very little if at all. The news media produce no tangible goods, no food or retail goods. The public is “the goods.” The media are corporations which have the rights of an individual person. The media just do not appear like a person when manifested, and often they act like anti-social monsters with fangy, cannibalistic appetites, deftly cloaked in our Constitutional Laws. We must not forget that as we move forward, lest we find ourselves always heading to our destinations with a stake in our hands in order to protect our interests from that creature writhing in the shadows of our Constitutional Law.

Copyright © William Thien 2011

One of the themes you will see throughout my media is that of the individual vs. the collective, or “the collective” that can often be “the tyrannical masses.” In fact, one of my essays is titled just that, The Individual vs. The Collective.

It seems to me that in modern American politics the drive is primarily to accommodate the greatest number of voters only and there is a great disregard for the individual and his or her rights. Special interest groups are just that, groups, groups with special interests. Elections are won by attracting the greatest number of voters to your ticket. But the individual and his rights is more often than not left out of the process. Consequently, I believe so are the rights of the individual.

Therefor, I’ve decided to make the rights of the individual one of the primary elements of this media and I’ve developed a slogan to represent that ideal, Defining Politics for the Individual American. Or, correspondingly, Politics for the American Individual.

Please feel free to add your comments at any time. You may sign up simply by adding your email address at the upper right hand corner of this page. It’s easy and safe.

Sincerely,

William Thien
https://williamthien.wordpress.com
Thousands read it. Thousands agree.

Copyright © William Thien 2011


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