Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mad As Hell Docs and Peak Oil -- Two Frames in Spokane

By Paul K. Haeder

Sept. 9 -- I get to interview three doctors, on the Single Payer Health care caravan called Mad as Hell Doctors (,
setting off from Oregon onward east -- a journey that will culminate in Washington DC with dozens of other groups fighting to finally solve America's out of whack health care system; presidents since Teddy Roosevelt have tried to reform, fix, resusitate health care in the USA.

*also see Physicians for a National Health Program

These doctors have compelling stories about patients, the struggle to be treated, to get to primary health doctors; the reality is that 90 percent of our time in the health care system is in a clinic, not ER, and our medical system is broken, from overtaxed rural doctors, to huge deficits in the number of primary care docs around. Patients who need procedures but whose insurance companies reject them, or nickle and dime them, until the doctors become bogged down in administrative hell.

Yes, 18,000 Americans die every year from preventable diseases because they do not get to the doctor when they should. At $2.4 trillion dollars, and 18 % of the USA's GDP, health care costs are unsustainable. The average Joe or Jane spends about $7,900 per year on health care. And a recent study found that medical problems contributed to 62 percent of all bankruptcies in 2007.

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Health care costs, rotten delivery, lack of primary health care physicians, and the smart docs being forced to do unnecessary procedures in order to keep that billing up in order for the for-profit hospitals to get money, which in turn prompt the insurance companies hike premium against the citizen to pay for their exorbitant profits, these are just some of the reasons doctors, and more importantly the millions of folk in dozens of health care professions, are now speaking out. This fact is also one reason doctors are having a hard time stomaching the current private insurance system: William McGuire, former head of United Health, accumulated stock options worth $1.6 billion. Cigna CEO made more than $120 million in the last five years. CEO compensation for the top 7 health insurance companies now averages $14.2 million.

Now 50 million Americans (or more) have no health care; more than 25 million (or more) are under insured. These Mad as Hell Doctors are talking about a broken system, and more than 60 percent of internal medicine MD's are for a single payer system, and a heck of a higher percentage of nurses and health care professionals are too. The profits insurance companies have made in the past five years are up 170 percent. Medicare and the VA systems have about 3 percent overhead to run their systems. Private health care now is more than 5 times that amount for administrative costs.

These doctors are real patriotic citizens, and are finally getting out and actively lobbying for sane health care. They spoke in Spokane at the Foley Federal Building, and held a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. at Gonzaga U. Sept. 7, 2009. More than 250 people showed up, and an abbreviated version of the film put out by one of the docs on the panel and the clip of the movie "Network" got the crowd riled up. ""I'm mad as hell and I won't take it anymore," is part of that film's famous speech, and it really got the crowd going.

More importantly, these smart women and men, who have dedicated themselves to healing, want a health care system for all, and an end to people not getting help for preventative fixes, and they want no more people with insurance and those without having to face bankruptcy because of health issues.

Here's a clip of "Health, Money and Fear."

This is the basic credo of Mad As Hell Doctors, in support of a single payer system: "Let's restart the effort and take Health Care legislation off the table until the Spring session of Congress. In the meantime, let's use HR 676 as a starting point for a new health care conversation and empower MAHD physician-citizens to seek out the best minds from America's vast resource of inspired health care professionals. We will then assemble these individuals into a working team that does not include anyone from the private Health Insurance Industry, the Pharmaceutical Industry, or anyone currently holding public office. Their assignment will be to craft a thoughtful, actionable single payer health care model, uniquely tailored for America, that the entire country can comprehend.

MAHD will then present this model to you, to Congress, to the Senate and to the entire country for their consideration. In the true spirit of competition, let all comers do the same: craft a plan, present it alongside the other plans and submit it to the American people for their review and approval.

Health Care is too important to rush. As physicians who have sworn an oath of care, we feel that health justice is the next great, social movement in America that will restore dignity and security to this generation and to generations yet to be.

Mr. President, we can begin immediately. "

Then, after that interview on, Thin Air Radio, 92.3 FM, Low Power, I got to interview Peak Everything's Richard Heinberg, who will be in Spokane Sept. 17, at the WSU campus in town, to talk about his work on Post Carbon Cities.

Here's a piece from his organization discussing why the New York Times is just plain wrong to have editorials, full of mistakes, on denying Peak Oil -

Heinberg and I went toe-to-toe for an hour, looking at many issues tied to climate change and peak oil and the impending century of declines -- which the 21st Century is sure to be --

"The 20th century saw unprecedented growth in population, energy consumption and food production. As the population shifted from rural to urban, the impact of humans on the environment increased dramatically.

The 21st century ushered in an era of declines, in a number of crucial parameters:

  • Global oil, natural gas and coal extraction
    Yearly grain harvests
    Climate stability
    Economic growth
    Fresh water
    Minerals and ores, such as copper and platinum

  • To adapt to this profoundly different world, we must begin now to make radical changes to our attitudes, behaviors and expectations. "

These two topics, health care and earth care, while on the surface are not related, are indeed interlocking, and in a world of declines, of peaking oil, of energy peaking, coal, even all the minerals and power to move us to a green power structure, all of those declines tie into the decline in health care, the decline of our mental health, decline in our ability to frame and associate disparate ideas and counter-intuitive ways of looking at things.

We'll look at Heinberg more closely, in future blogs, and we'll parse some things in his latest book --

Blackout :

Coal fuels about fifty percent of US electricity production and provides a quarter of the country's total energy. China and India's ferocious economic growth is based on coal-generated electricity.

Coal currently looks like a solution to many of our fast-growing energy problems. However, while coal advocates are urging full steam ahead, increasing reliance on the dirtiest of all fossil fuels has crucial implications for climate science, energy policy, the world economy, and geopolitics.

Drawbacks to a coal-based energy strategy include: Scarcity--new studies prove that the peak of usable coal production may actually be less than two decades away. Cost--the quality of produced coal is declining, while the expense of transport is rising, leading to spiraling costs and potential shortages. Climate impacts--our ability to deal with the historic challenge of climate change may hinge on reducing our coal consumption in future years.

Blackout goes to the heart of the tough energy questions that will dominate every sphere of public policy throughout the first half of this century, and it is a must-read for planners, educators, and anyone concerned about energy consumption, peak oil, and climate change.

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