Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Health Care in Your Own Hands

As the year comes to a close, it seem inevitable that the current Senate Health Care bill will become legislation in some way, shape, or form. Sure, maybe it will be watered down without all of the goodies that the progressive left would like (i.e. public option), but everything in it will basically transform the health care "framework" into something we won't recognize.

Obviously, I've written several pieces laying out free market solutions that would achieve all of the items that plague our system. I won't re-write all of those opinions here, but I will say that no matter what the idiots in Washington do to our health delivery system, we still have the power to control our own destiny and our own health.

About 2 years ago, I really took a hard look at my health and felt rather frustrated with my body. I was not obese by any means, but I did feel unhealthy and uncomfortable inside my own skin. I am about 5'5" and weighed about 162lbs. Not skinny, but not fat. One day, something just snapped in me and said, "you can do better"... and I decided to change many of my habits. I started eating differently. I started running on my treadmill. I began doing resistance training with dumbbells and other exercise equipment (bands). Over the course of 3-4 months, I had lost close to 20lbs and weighed 140lbs. I had lost about a pound a week and I felt the best I had since high school. I had energy, stamina, and I was extremely lean. I also went in for a physical and got excellent results on all of my bio-metric results (cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, etc). I basically felt like a million bucks.

I share all of these things because one of the best medicines and prescriptions to maintaining your own health care is to eat well, exercise, and do resistance training. Obviously, there are degrees to which one can measure how well you are doing, but the motivation must start within yourself and not be forced by anyone else. It makes absolute sense why we have a huge obesity problem in this country and why diabetes and other diseases are so widespread.

Now, I have no reason or motivation to point fingers at other who may not be in the best shape or who have no desire to make dramatic changes to how they eat or exercise. Everyone must make their own decision on how they want to live. I only raise these points as ways to not be dependent on anyone else for what you can control with your our own medical care with little or no cost to do it. There are so many cheap and easy ways to sustain a healthy life without having to go vegan, spend thousands of dollars on organic foods, or even sign up for rip off health insurance plans .

If we want to remove the stress and anxiety from what the charlatans in our government are doing, we should realize the power we hold deep within our being of the independence we have when take the initiative to chart our own courses in life.

We are sovereign individuals who can do anything we want when we put our minds to it. Let us never forget where that power comes from or where it resides. Do yourself a favor and start living your life today.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Health Care - Why Does It Cost So Much?

I'm curious to know what percentage of people who go to the emergency room do so because it is an actual emergency or because their liability to pay for said service in the emergency room is because some other entity is paying for it. What percentage of folks who use the emergency room are on Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, or some other State-sponsored health care (State's version of SCHIP)? I would think the percentage is pretty high.

Health care is a product/service just like any other consumable good (although it is somewhat inelastic since the doctor, nurse, surgeon requires a great deal of skill/education ). But the consumer hardly ever knows or is aware of the prices of what he/she is paying for when receiving a procedure. Thus, consumers have little if any incentive to shop around for the best value. When this happens, a distortion exists when calibrating supply and demand to allocate resources in the market.

Before the Great Society reforms (Medicare/Medicaid) and Health Maintenance act of 1973 (genesis of HMO style insurance) , patients used to pay their medical provider directly and providers had to be conscious of what they were charging to compete with other providers. Through these 2 reforms, the 3rd party payer (gov't/HMOs/Insurers) system transformed the free market of health care into a totally mixed market. One could argue that we have about a 50% single payer system with the gov't already deeply involved in dictating how care should be delivered.

But, instead of looking to the cause and affect through history and economics as our guide of learning how the free market has been totally distorted and has driven up costs... a majority of folks (namely in Washington) want MORE gov't control and distortion instead of less.

People should take responsibility for their health care and bear the sole responsibility of maintaining their care. They should be required to use the fruits of their labor to determine to what extent they are willing to pay for health care products and services just like individuals do for transportation, food, clothing, housing (which are far more essential goods than health care).

Catostrophic events do and will happen and life threatening disabilities, diseases, cancer, disorders, and other life-threatening things will affect people's health. But, that is where people should actually look for insurance to cover the unlikely or rare event instead of relying on it for every single element of ones health care.

It's really sad that our educational system is really deprived of applying the laws and science of economics and human action to the current debate of health care.

Hopefully what I've said will make people think more critically about health care when applying economics and history to this issue.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Never Waste Our Precious Blood And Treasure

I understand that Afghanistan is a quagmire and President Obama doesn't really have many options politically (either with his base or those opposed to him). The only real solution is getting the hell out of Afghanistan. I know this flies in the face of the normal "Conservative" talking points (unless you are a devout neo-conservative/war-hawk in the mold of the late Irving Kristol), but going back through history Conservatives have believed in a very moderate and non-interventionist foreign policy. Only since the birth of the "Bush Doctrine" has the baby been thrown out with the bath water for such conventional wisdom. For God's sake, Bush ran on being a non-interventionist opposing wars in the Balkins and Somalia. I'm hoping that more people will wake up to the fact that war-hawk/police-the-world strategy will not make us more prosperous or lead us out of bankruptcy as a country (and yes we are bankrupt).

Afghanistan is not a national security risk and neither was Iraq. Back at the time, I was conned into thinking that Iraq did pose a threat to us. I was wrong and totally misguided at the time. If we wanted oil to be secure, Canada has about the same amount of oil reserves (Oil Sands) as Venezuela. Call me crazy but I do not believe importing oil from Canada is a bad thing. I also have absolutely no problem importing oil like any other commodity. If the prices do end up fluctuating to the point of huge inflation, we all know how many natural resources we have buried in the ground off of Texas, Florida, California, and Alaska. I only hope that we don't have to mortgage those resources to pay back China, the Saudis, Japan, and all of our other creditors who keep buying our worthless paper we call the dollar.

It really saddens me (but is not surprising) that a lot of the Fox News opinion guys (Hannity, Glenn Beck, and O'Reilly) are dead set on beating the war drum. I've done some research on Afghanistan and trying to tame it, nation-build it, and/or prop up a puppet dictatorship (Karzai) will never ever work. The Soviets found this out and went broke fighting the Afghans. Afghanistan is a nation of tribes (44% are Pushtu's and the rest are other ethnic groups such as Uzbek's and Tajiks), very low literacy rate, very low life expectancy rate (average person lives to age 40). Anything outside of Kabul is ruled by decentralized war lords and or tribal rulers. The Taliban are not synonymous with al-Qaeda. Most of al-Qaeda has been destroyed and is either irrelevant or totally regrouping in Pakistan. ABC is actually reporting that only about 100al-Qaeda members remain in Afghanistan. In addition, we have no interest whatsoever (or even the sovereign right by the way) to invade Pakistan or any other nation unless we are attacked. If that is the case, we have every right to defend ourselves and abide by the Just War doctrine.

This is another thing that bothers the heck out of me with my Conservative brethren. They point to the Constitution for one thing, but then we say "oh that thing is outdated and doesn't really apply in this case". We possess no credibility when we pick and choose what we want to follow and ignore about the Constitution. It is the Supreme Law of the land and as long as we are not a Banana Republic, the rule of law should account for something.

Constitutionally, the Congress has the authority to "declare war" as the President has the enumerated power to "make war" as laid out in Article II and Article I (respectively). The framers of the Constitution explicitly bound the powers of the Executive after past experience and the history of how Kings and Monarchs exploited their country's blood and treasure waging wars. So, unless the Congress "declares war against Afghanistan...or... Al-Qaeda ...or... Iran", or any other country we declare as a "threat"... we should follow the Constitution and the framers intent. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington knew that unless they enumerated these principles as described in Articles I and II, the Executive would always have motive to use force. They were brilliant and wise beyond their years in articulating a belief in having trade and commerce with all and allegiance with no one.

As I said before (and I'll repeat it again), the Constitution is very clear on the power that are left to Congress and the powers of the Executive branch. I believe these clear enumerations have been lost to so many people and it has a lot to do with the War Powers Act of 1973. This was the background of the resolution vote that was used when we first sent troops so as to invade Iraq. The vote was for a "resolution" for using military funds for troops that would last for more than 90 days. This was also used as justification for much of the wars that have commenced dating back to the Korean War. The War Powers Act is very shaky from a Constitutionality perspective and I believe the law should be repealed (but likely never will).

According to the Constitution, if we want to hunt down terrorists or their safe havens, we should have the Congress Issue "Letters of Marque and Reprisal" also found in Article I Section 8 to both private and government sponsored fighting forces such as Special Ops, SEALs, Green Berets, or other private contractors in the form of a bounty to kill and eliminate any and all terrorist elements either in Pakistan and/or Afghanistan. This could also be done to any Somali Pirates roaming around in the Gulf of Aden.

If there really are a small sector of these groups of folks, issuing Letters of Marque and Reprisal can be retrofitted to be creative solutions to the problems we face both abroad and internally within our borders if need be.

May God bless our brave men and women wherever they are and may God grant them the strength to endure whatever challenges they may face, the perseverance to overcome fear of the unknown, and the faith in God himself that we are all here to do his will and not our own.