Medicare for All?

I wanted to weigh in on Elizabeth Warren’s statement.

Elizabeth Warren on September 21st:

There is something fundamentally wrong when one of the richest and most powerful countries on the planet can’t make sure that a person can afford to see a doctor when they’re sick. That’s why I’m co-sponsoring Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill. The American people have made it clear that they believe health care is a basic human right–
but it will be a tough fight. Add your name to join me and show your support.

Just a few of my thoughts:

I am concerned that a single payer healthcare plan through Medicare may not be the best idea in solving the nations healthcare crisis.

First off, Medicare is a fairly well run bureaucracy in our country.  The coverage is good and fairly inexpensive.  Premiums typically run around $120 per month.  You can add a optional supplemental coverage plan and drug plan at a reasonable price.

My fear is that adding 180 million people will tax the system to the point where the non-social security members will not receive the health care that Medicare provides now.  Healthcare providers as it stands now need the revenue from private insurance companies in order to honor the discounts they must extend to participate in Medicare.

There may also be an increase in the amount participants pay for co-insurance.  This is the charge by providers that reflects the difference between what Medicare pays and the provider charges.

Socialized healthcare does exist in most countries.  What is not being reported is the fact that these programs tax these countries economies.  Also, these plans are  inherently inefficient causing it’s citizens to often face unreasonable delays in being able to see their provider.  This would be a significant reason why we should not have socialized healthcare or in my opinion, socialized anything.

Another thing to consider is that the United States economy identifies with a free market system with few government controls.  There are four different types of economies in our world, our system by far is the strongest.  Medicare, defense, national parks, justice, and infrastructure are just a few examples of the limited government controls within our economy.  A market economy relies on private citizens and private companies in order to provide the wealth and tax revenue that run the country.  Our economy also allows for its citizens to have ownership of property, business and even a free press.  Capitalism, free enterprise and our constitution are the keys.

In our two party government system, the republican party principles are based on fiscal balance through the relaxation of regulations and controlled spending.  The democrats principles reflect a more liberal, inclusive and entitling platform.  This is why it is so important that the two parties work towards compromise in order to ensure a balance.  This is also why in the Trump era neither party’s values are being applied.  The programs including healthcare have no thought out plan to fit in to either parties culture.  You can’t be supporting the values of the right if every significant piece of proposed legislation costs a ton without a plan to pay for them.  Conversely, you can’t legislate entitlement programs without a plan to pay for them either.  What is happening now is that we are legislatively functioning with every program based on political agendas.  This practice is what perpetuates the compounding struggles of programs like the ACA.

Here are Just a few thoughts on how I see healthcare for Americans:

First off I would repeal any programs that provide coverage for government employees.  This would level the playing field for the rest of America.  This would also provide a larger pool of insureds.

We would need to allow for insurance companies to provide policies over state lines.  As it stands, most larger providers operate in multi-state regions. If they can’t, I am afraid the costs for coverage would be unstable and non-competitive being subjected to coverage loss in some areas.

The mandate needs to stay in place. No matter whether the system is socialized or not, everyone’s participation is important.  If we allow the mandate to be repealed,  some insurers will fail and be forced to pull out of certain markets or go out of business which  doesn’t help anyone.  The thought that the healthy would only be paying for the unhealthy is narrow minded.  I’ve never met anyone who planned on getting sick, but most of us and our families do at some point in our lives.

Given the fact that almost all of us will need medical attention at some point, what  would not covering existing conditions accomplish?  It doesn’t make sense to me that a congress and President who want to nurture job growth and middle class opportunities would even consider programs that could bankrupt millions.  For instance, why would you allow the financial demise of a family that should celebrate the birth of a child, not go broke doing so.

Block grants are a stupid idea.  We are not naïve enough to think that states that are struggling financially wouldn’t pick pocket funds from the grant for other state expenses.  The effect would mean unreasonable cuts to the healthcare provided to their citizens.

It may make sense to expand Medicare to allow for healthcare for those that can’t afford it.  Before we just started pumping more into this program, I strongly believe that we need welfare reform.  I am sure that there is millions if not billions of dollars in Medicaid provided to those who commit fraud or for those who don’t really need the coverage.

Prescription drug coverage is out of control.  We need to hold the drug companies to agreements that reflect the lowest possible drug costs.  We also need to stop brand name manufacturers from paying the generic manufactures not to produce lower priced drugs.  We also need to provide low cost drug coverage plans that eliminate coverage gaps or the doughnut hole.  This is when the drug insurers stop providing coverage for the balance of the year when a person reaches a predetermined dollar amount of drug coverage.  This can leave Medicare patients for instance, from being able to afford the drugs they still will need.

We also need to consider the idea of streamlining a drugs approval process.  There are countries that seem to approve drugs much faster than the FDA.  One challenge for the US is the sheer number of drugs in the approval pipeline.  This particular bureaucracy could use some rehab.

If you take out the politics, it is very possible that the existing ACA program can be tweaked and modified to meet all of the goals that the government needs to achieve.

Anyway, I am no expert,  I just suspect that we are going to get a plan shoved down our throat that will probably not meet America’s healthcare needs.  Isn’t our government supposed to look out for us?

 

 

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Set Aside Climate Change for a Moment

It seems that the major topics that make up the discussions of today are the Russian scandal, congress, North Korea, the President, race and global climate change.  We need to remember that the environment is arguably one of the most important challenges we face in our country.  We must return our focus to the subject.

Here’s my thoughts on just a few important topics:

Compromise of our natural resources including our forests, deserts, mountains, waterways and wildlife need ongoing attention including the enforcement of laws meant to protect the integrity of them.  Hazardous waste, natural events and even litter should be at the top of the list.  Business development without controls can cause lasting damage.  We need to evaluate the regulations repealed through legislation and executive order such as the unified agenda which has repealed many important regulations. Basically a majority of these regulations were imposed by the Obama administration so it appears the repeals were more political than anything else.

An environmental impact study prior to any development is still very important and reflects the evaluation of a company’s impact on areas of our environment specific to their projects.

If you want to build a housing sub division,  issues such as the removal of trees,  erosion,  dranage and consideration of the concerns of the community need to be addressed before any permit is issued or commencement of work is allowed to happen.  Activities related to logging, mining, oil exploration, farming, just to name a few need to be subject to strict controls in order to protect the integrity of the land and our environment.

As an example, some businesses such as farming make their living by carefully working the land and maintaining healthy soils.  A corn farmer for instance, may plant corn one year then turn the soil and plant oats the next year in order to keep their soil healthy for their crops to grow.  On the opposite side of agriculture, large livestock operations can have a very negative impact on the environment.  Things such as ground water contamination, air pollution, methane emission and degredation will cause an eminent long term crisis if not brought under control.

Most of us have seen the Discovery channel show called Gold Rush.  What you may not know is that their method of mining can cause lasting damage to the earth.  As a result, these companies are required by law to return the land to the condition it was before mining was being done.  There are images on Google that show how beautiful land restoration can be.

In some states, in order to get a permit to build, developers must have a plan to deal with changes in drainage that can cause irreversible erosion of their land.  Also some are required to plant a new tree elsewhere for every tree they cut down before they clear the property for building.

In the US, all businesses that use hazardous materials for production must have a plan to safely dispose of the spent materials.

Not so surprisingly, litter and solid waste are a major problem.  Our landfills are filled with dangerous materials that are not disposed of properly so they are mixed in with normal solid waste garbage that is being folded into the ground forever.

Oil companies which do not always face the same regulations as other industries will set up huge exploration and drilling operations that cause major ireversable damage to our environment.  The current administration turns a blind eye citing the job opportunities that removal of many regulations will bring.  The truth is that this argument for all of the repeals benefits the business and rarely the majority of working Americans.

Air pollution by many causes can have a serious negative effect on more than the air we breath.  As an example, when you are in a large city such as Las Vegas, look at the sky over Henderson next door.  You will see a haze that is air pollution caused by man.  This type of pollution can cause problems with vegetation, water and obviously our ability to breath healthy air.

Our waterways have been subjected to some significant abuses by businesses in this country.  Illegal dumping, catastrophic oil contamination and general polluting are important factors.  If you need examples of a disgusting result of water pollution look at China, look at the oil contaminated rivers in Canada.

The truth is that almost all of us understand how important our environment is to our health and quality of life.  A majority of our businesses do as well.  The reason we need strict regulations and controls is to protect us from those who don’t demonstrate responsibility for their actions.

All too often,  shortcuts and illegal activities by some business in order to maximize their profitablility have left the rest of us tasked with having to clean up after them.  I don’t understand how any business who operates with a risk of any kind of contamination can not include the mitigation costs in their business plans.  This is where significant regulations come in to play.  Since the late 70’s our country has spent billions in resources to clean up messes through programs like the “superfund” program as well as programs that allow for fairly safe disposal of waste.  To defund and repeal regulations of these programs will void some of the progress our country has made which is probably not in the best interest of our country.

Anyhow, my point is that while we are focusing on Climate Change, we need to at least continue the conversations that will address the specific problem areas that are of immediate concern in our country.  Conversely, these issues also have a direct effect on global warming.

 

Government Control and Military Surplus

On Tuesday Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the repeal of a bill passed by the Obama Administration to regulate the transfer of some specific types of military surplus to local law enforcement agencies, schools, parks etc.

The original program was established by the Clinton administration to allow local law enforcement and government agencies to obtain several articles of surplus equipment from the federal government.

The list of items include a variety of things from clothing, safety gear, aircraft, land vehicles, tactical gear even military weaponry.  There is even musical instruments and big screen televisions.

It makes sense that the local agencies that qualify for the surplus transfer can find value in obtaining things like clothing, aircraft, construction equipment, communication equipment etc.  Equipment such as tractors, snow cats and benign vehicles of all types can enhance a departments resources, especially the smaller departments that just don’t have the financial resources to afford some of these items on their own.  As an example, major beneficiaries of acquiring such gear could enhance their search and rescue efforts.

The controversy as it stands now is the part of the transfers that include military weaponry, high powered military rifles, hand guns, armored assault vehicles, grenade launchers and even bayonets are the main concern. These were items that were to be reviewed and restricted by the Obama administration.  Many law enforcement agencies around the country are returning many of these items because the philosophies and principles of these departments do not include the use of purpose built military weapons and military tactical equipment.  The idea is that most, including law enforcement groups in places like Chicago, LA and Seattle are not interested in establishing a military presence within their communities.

Earlier this week the Trump administration lifted all of the restrictions imposed by Obama because according to Attorney General Sessions, this type of equipment can improve security, safety and combat the rampant lawlessness in our country.

Sarcastically, I have a conspiracy theory that puts all of these components including unrealistic immigration restrictions, foreign policy and border security together to create an autocratic and military society.  Manipulating and eliminating the free press is a perfect way to get the message out to the citizens that these policies would protect.

Although this theory has not been independently evaluated,  I am sure that most people will see the logic.

By building the wall we will divert drug trafficking from land to the open ocean.  Since the government is cutting funding to the Coast Guard, the new plan is really to apprehend  these bad hombres after they successfully navigate the waters off our sovereign shores without detection and land on American Soil.

By allowing local law enforcement  to arm themselves to the hilt, we can establish check points at all city, county and State lines.  There, we can capture anyone who appears to meet an arbitrary nefarious profile.  The best part is that we could stop, search, check for citizenship, confirm the identity, religious allegiance and social media activity of everyone including law abiding citizens and their passengers who are just passing through.

These check points will be manned by heavily armed officers dressed in military uniforms adorned with appropriate technology.  These tactics will ensure that undocumented border jumpers, drug traffickers and minorities (only the bad ones) would be caught and taken down.  Should you try to escape the check points you will be brought to justice by a very large caliber bullet, a grenade or be run down by an armed assault vehicle.

The benefit to our country is that these tactics will reinforce the President’s promise that he will not tolerate any “lawlessness” in our country.

Although these practices will require minor changes to our constitution, it makes perfect sense.  In order to ensure these methods work, our country will need to make a seamless transition to a government run by the government for the government which will require the dismantling of our pesky congress. We will need to expand the president’s role to include a governance more reflective of a dictatorship rather than a democracy.  Putin and Russia can be the perfect model to build from.

Problem solved, we will all be thrilled that our government will take these steps to make our country great again.

Ok, I made all of this up.  Actually, I am truly concerned that some parts of these ridiculous concepts could really happen and even be supported by some Americans.

We do not live in a disastrous and lawless society riddled with economic and monumental security shortcomings brought on by previous leadership.  America is already great.  Maybe we need to rethink who we allow to represent us.

 

The Future of Industrial Jobs

The future of Industry and manufacturing in this country is not as bleak as it seems.

Coal Production in this country is doomed and not just because of unhealthy emissions. The coal industry as a whole is being swallowed up by evolving changes in the focus of countries around the world to convert their energy sources to more renewable and affordable products.  Because there is so much investment by companies to produce products such as solar, wind and natural gas, there is now and in the future a far more lucrative and diverse market place than there would be for fossil fuel and products that use fossil fuels as an ingredient (such as plastic).

There is little chance that any time soon our country will make a full transition to energy that leaves a basically non-existent carbon trail signature in our atmosphere.  Along with the most obvious being cars,  most companies will continue to use oil or gas related products in their operations at least until conversions make good business sense.  We have to remember that for companies small and large, their investments in capital equipment and the ability to deduct from their tax obligation the depreciation of that equipment doesn’t give a significant incentive for companies to change.  The government until lately has been imposing regulations to motivate those that have been resistant to change.  Who knows when the time will be right for most businesses to make a significant change.

I have heard that a large part of the economic growth in not only our country, but countries around the world can be attributed to new technology applied to every part of their culture including energy.  These advances are not only economically beneficial, but they have also created opportunities for a better quality of life.

There are so many complicated variables that effect jobs, pay, benefits and longevity.  The fact is that all jobs are tied to the success or failure of the companies that provide them.  Being fluid and not fixed, payroll and related costs are the single largest expense component of any company,  This in part explains why companies are open to outsourcing production including labor.  There is also a portion of companies within the US who relocate there operations to different locations within the country in order to reduce their labor expenses.  Most of these moves are a result of locating or relocating to states or cities that have a cheaper labor market not bound by the prices of organized labor.

Like I say, we could spend a couple years in college learning all of the factors and principles that make up business and labor in this country.

Most of us understand the simple concept of any business.  Build a product or create a service that is in demand and sell that product to customers for a profit.  A “customer” comes in many different forms.  For instance coal and corn companies don’t just sell to customers within the country, they generate a major part of their income by exporting their goods to foreign customers.  Their business structure is based on the simple concept of supply and demand rather than American produced, American sold.

Many companies such as grocery stores and restaurants make their money by selling to customers who work within these local industries.  In turn grocery store and restaurant workers are customers of the local clothing store and so on and so on.

One of the major reason that communities are wiped out by the closing of a business is that they are dependent on the success of a single or very few businesses in order for their existence.  It really doesn’t matter why a company fails, the impact on the community is the same.  If a small community relies on, let’s say a horseshoe manufacturer to provide for a majority of their economy, it would make sense that as the business goes, so goes the community.  If these towns and cities could attract more than one business, their exposure to failure is reduced.  Using the horseshoe example, if a town also was supported by a saddle manufacturer and a steel nail manufacturer, this diversity would provide more security.  Add to that the community could better thrive by hosting say an annual rodeo using the identity of the local businesses.  To make a simple comparison on how multiplication works, you could look at any larger city to see how this concept plays out.  If you had a business in Los Angeles and it failed, the impact on the community would probably not have much effect on the economy. On the flip side however, your chances of succeeding are increased just by the sheer number of customers you would have access to.

With the coal industry, labor is made up of local workers who have been following in the footsteps of many generations before them.  The work is hard, frequently unhealthy yet is the source of work for almost everyone in the coal producing community.

All of this brings me to a larger point about jobs.  The dominate industries of today and the future will be built around evolving technologies.  Renewable energy will probably be the most common and well known industry we speak to everyday.

Surprising to most, the US is experiencing a very significant shortage of qualified workers.  There are tens of thousands of jobs that remain unfilled.  Jobs range from technical to health care.  A majority of  these jobs are good paying middle class jobs.  Unfortunately, a majority of job candidates are unwilling or unable to pursue these positions.  Sometimes it is a simple as a person not entertaining a change in vocation.  Sometimes recruiting for these jobs does not include many people outside their industry.

No matter what the industry, there are positions open to those who have been brought up through more traditional trades.  If you build a solar farm, along with traditional factory workers you still need engineers; you still need machinists, mechanics, equipment operators, electricians, plumbers, steel workers, wood workers and all of the construction trades.  You also need all of the same administrative infrastructure as you would within old school industries.  The biggest challenge is to get the workforce trained to adapt to the new technology and methods.  In the case of the highly publicized unemployed coal worker, they are going to have a harder time being able to get trained and put to work, even if the newer employer is located within the community.  Since most coal and other product specific workers have no substantial skills that could translate, the cost and time involved in training can be cost prohibitive to some companies.  On the other side of the coin, the average coal worker can’t afford to go through a lengthy training cycle.  These workers and their families need to make money right away, not at the end of the rainbow. As it stands now, the coal industry is set to disappear.  Corporations and special interests are doing whatever they can to convince the world that their product is still important.  Funny thing, coal exports to countries who have very serious pollution and emissions problems.  All of these countries except 3 (including the US) are committed to reducing the effects of pollution and global warming within their cultures.  These commitments don’t reinforce the future of industries such as coal.  Sorry, I got off track for a second.

At the end of the day, when it comes to opportunity, the world is changing and mostly for the better.  At some point the changes we make to grow along with the change will become the norm, not so much fraught with fear and uncertainty.  If you step back and think about how solid and talented the overall work force in our country is, you may not be so quick to be bogged down.  We will always have to work to address the problems and crisis we as a country are exposed to every day.  Their is little chance that the world will realistically change and become a world filled with global peace and harmony.  Just as with many other milestones in our history, the American worker including the middle class will grow and prosper.

RAISE Legislation and Reality

Today, senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue gave a press conference joined by President Trump to announce their legal immigration legislation called the RAISE act which would reform the process and requirements for foreign workers to live and work in the US.  The reduction in immigration opportunities may not be so good for the country.

The bill will require certain qualifications such as  demonstrating needed skills that ensure the ability to support themselves and their families while being precluded from being able to receive welfare benefits.  These are just a couple of many provisions.

It seems that the concept is designed to prevent skilled or less skilled immigrants from coming to the US. and taking jobs that should otherwise be filled with American workers.  We can’t forget that we are talking about immigrants from all over the world,  not just from places like Mexico.

It appears to me that the intention of the bill has some merit, however, I also believe that there some inherent disadvantages to the US. given that the bill that would narrow the ability of foreigners to immigrate to the US, obtain employment, support their families, integrate into our diverse cultures and generally fill the need for more workers.

The notion that foreigners who are allowed to migrate to the United States take the jobs that belong to displaced American workers may be somewhat misrepresented.  This school of thought has been around for generations.  The truth is that the United States has a monumental shortage of workers to fill skilled and less skilled living wage jobs.  That is just a fact.

We already have some of the strictest prequalification rules in the world for becoming a citizen.  From sponsorship to swearing in, candidates need to show that they are worthy by living up to similar qualifications included in the RAISE bill.  In some, if not all cases, citizenship candidates are required to demonstrate a knowledge and acceptance of American ideals and cultures.  Just as importantly, they are required to have a comprehensive knowledge of our constitution.  Interestingly, only 35% of Americans have any meaningful knowledge of our constitution.

I am of the belief it is important that we look at a larger picture with regard to the debate and arguments that focus on employment in America.  Regardless of partisan beliefs, there are so many variables that make up our workforce or lack of, that we need address these current issues before we consider sweeping changes that will effect American jobs and foreign integration.

President Trump can still fulfil his campaign promises with regard to immigration.  He needs to study and learn to navigate the complex factors that make up our immigration successes and failures.  If he can knock one issue at a time off the list, we could end up with a comprehensive plan that addresses all of the issues related to immigration including topics such as border and national security, refugees, important skilled worker access etc.

The worst thing that America could do is dismiss issues that are just as important as those that we see on the news every day.  We have a lot of very serious problems domestically that will continue to need serious attention and resources.