A mini Friday news dump

Healthcare, VPs, Tommy Thompson


The spouse and I had a rare long discussion about healthcare last night. (Rare – he’s rarely home; long – more than three minutes) Something came to mind that we might want to delve into one day.

We hashed over how to put a price on a life; how do you tell someone no to more testing; what obligation do we have to provide coverage to those who have none.
I argued health insurance was the problem, not the solution. The cost of health care exploded exponentially once we stopped actually paying for health care. He argued the system was too complex to unwind now. But then I wondered:

Why does healthcare insurance contract for services without us knowing the real price when no other insurance arrangement does that?

Think about it. You insure your car, but when you need to make a claim on that insurance policy, you go get a few estimates and determine the service. Not so for an appendectomy.

The single most important thing we could do for health care is put the cost back to individual responsibility. Then we could decide how to share the wealth so that each person has adequate funding if that’s what the majority wants. I bet the health care bubble would implode if real transparency existed in that market.


I caught a friend’s attention on Twitter the other day by mentioning how much fun a Joe Biden v. Newt Gringrich vice-presidential debate would be to watch.

Think about it. 🙂

Tommy Thompson

Every liberal’s favorite go-to candidate. Well? What else am I to surmise after this editorial from Dave Zweifel of the Cap Times?

Another missive arrived the other day from the so-called Club for Growth, the right-wing PAC that spends millions on political attack ads.

The Club for Growth has been after Tommy Thompson, insisting that the former Wisconsin governor and member of George W. Bush’s Cabinet isn’t fit to be a U.S. senator because he’s not conservative enough.

Me-thinks someone has decided Tammy Baldwin won’t be elected, so best go to the Republican you can tolerate. 🙂

I have two more things to write today, but frankly, I’m up to my elbows in puppies. I’ve become the designated dog grandmother, and I’m exhausted. Sadly, one of the little guys isn’t doing very well. He needs a lot of attention right now.

I’m assuming you don’t. 😉 Have a nice weekend. (Just in case I don’t get to the other stuff.)


  1. healthcare cost is the problem. the average person is priced out. medicare breaches the gap quite well and supplemental insurance helps more if you pay for it. insurance companies are in business to deny claims. thats how they make money. i.e., pregnancy, pre-existing conditions,arthritis related, limits on coverage and a host more. without some control it gets out of hand. the rising medical cost prices make it worse because ins. policies do not account for inflation, i think. so you have private business vs. private business. they win. we lose. i used to do collections for hospitals and it was awful because hardly anyone was insured. many lawyers in private practice did collection work as a starter. not fun but kids had to eat.

  2. No, I think healthcare cost is the symptom. Insurance is the problem.

  3. Many of my moderate Democrat friends like Tommy Thompson and might be willing to vote for him in the U.S. Senate race next year. I think Tommy brings a lot to the table. I just hope that he’s willing to give us more specifics about what he wants to do rather than just rely upon his past record to help him win in 2012.

  4. Healthcare costs are a symptom of the problem which is insurance? That’s a huge oversimplification.

    You are right that transparency is a big issue, as is the related issue of 3rd party payers (although you didn’t mention that in many cases the 3rd party payer is the federal or state government, not an insurer). But there are lots of other things going on too. Technology is rapidly improving, hospitals are in an arms race to outdo each other to get the latest and greatest, there is more utilization of health care of all types (for example, drug companies engage in direct marketing that results in consumption of drugs that aren’t needed), doctors have to cover the cost of their medical malpractice insurance. There’s not one problem, there’s a lot of problems all pulling things in the same direction.

    It’s very much on the long side, but this is a pretty interesting article on this topic: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/06/01/090601fa_fact_gawande?currentPage=1

  5. True, technology is improving. But in most other industries, Ryan, the improvement of technology brings about lower costs. (Bought a terrabyte hard drive lately?) John McCain brought this up when he ran for president. (I tried to find the link just now, but can’t sort it out. Sorry!) So why is healthcare so different? The excuse here is “the technology is so advanced” but the reality remains it shouldn’t be so expensive.

    Hospitals wouldn’t be competing for overpriced healthcare if the healthcare wasn’t overpriced.

    In consumers are using drugs that aren’t needed I’d lay blame at the doctors’ feet. Consumers can’t get those drugs without prescription.

    We can agree that tort reform is long-past due.

    So, I’ll add tort reform. Insurance and law suits are increasing healthcare costs.

  6. The reason technology gets cheap in other industries is because of economies of scale. When only a few of the best universities in the nation had computers, they were VERY expensive. Now that almost everyone has their own computer, they are much cheaper.

    In the places in health care where that happens, costs do go down. Medications that are over-the-counter and widely used generally are pretty cheap, for example.

    I am not a medical futurist, but I have heard there are notions that things could move in this direction. What if rather than a brain surgeon who can treat 2 patients per day, you had a brain surgery robot who could see 20? Or better still, what if you could own a small machine that based on a monthly test, could identify cancerous cells well before they are caught today? I think those sorts of developments are coming, and likely sooner than many realize.

    These sorts of solutions address not only quality, but also efficiency… and once more efficient solutions become commonplace, you will see a drop in health care costs.

    Most of health care is just so darn complicated that the focus has been (understandably) more on trying to find cures and treatments that work. At a certain point, we will be able to devote some attention on taking the solutions we do have and making them much more accessible. THAT is the point at which the technology that has been increasing health care costs will begin to make health care more affordable.

    Of course, all of this only works if we remain a capitalist country long enough to give folks incentive to develop such solutions……

  7. I was thinking more in terms of time in a hospital bed, lab work, MRI’s and xrays. Why are those so stupidly expensive?

    Healthcare has nothing to do with capitalism. There are too many barriers to service. I need a doctor’s prescription for most useful drugs. I can’t order my bloodwork from any lab based on the cost of their test and service, etc. I’m forced into relationships with a limited provider once I’m locked into an insurance company.

  8. in order to support tort reform you have to define a tort. we went down that road before. so please tell me the specific laws that need to be reformed, taking into consideration all the different state laws, legal precedent and complex legal issues. remove the jury system? ban insurance companies from making settlements ?, which are the majority of the cases. stop trial lawyers from taking contingent fee cases? having a workers compensentation type system where the body parts each have a price tag. put a cap on pain and suffering which is the most popular argument. putting a cap on recovery of medical expenses which is impossible and controlled by insurance policies? every business and profession has expenses and malprac insurance is one of them for physicians and lawyers and many other businesses. frankly i do not have a firm answer. i guess you can only control the federal court system anyway by federal law. each state has their own. then we have the issue of conflict of laws.

  9. cindy. whos dat? the campaign letter from TB is about excusing herself from her dating preference and about the abuse she takes. welcome to the real world which is full of people who have no excuses and take abuse with only their teddy bear for protection. The US Senate has no room for pouting.

  10. “Healthcare has nothing to do with capitalism. ”

    I wonder if you went to have a medical procedure done in 1980s USSR and then came back here if you would still agree with that statement.

  11. Bad comparison. Neither is capitalism. One’s just much worse than the other.

  12. capitalism: an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.

    There is clearly some state involvement in health care, both in state run clinics and public payers for health care services, but it seems strange to say American health care is not capitalistic. If you also reject that it is socialist, then what do you think it is?

  13. There is also state control in licensing and some in distribution (prescriptions, for example)

    If healthcare were properly capitalistic I could call around, see who charges what for an MRI, go in and have a scan done, and then take the results to my doctor of choice for a reading.

    Try making that happen.

    What do I think it is? Messed up. That’s why we are having such a heck of a time unraveling it all. There is no other model from which to work. And so many little empires have sprung from control in one area or an other that will fight to the end to keep their influence.

  14. my experience is that you cannot just get an MRI without a physician reference and your medical records. when you check in for the procedure you must show proof of coverage and payment. at a hospital you don’t get a radiologist of your choice. you get the one on duty or assigned to you. the medical records are then prepared via the procedure by possibly another Dr. and then you are notified. without a medical release you cannot get your own records under the privacy laws. the referring Dr. gets the report before you and you see him/her about it. that system is locked in by the medical profession. medicare is accepted by almost all hospitals and physicians who also like supplemetal coverage. they do not want to read you private insurance policy but some get an advance determination on the amount of ins. coverage you have for ea. procedure. sorry, but i thought we all knew this.