Thursday, July 16, 2009

Government Health Care?

As we rush towards turning our health care system over to the government I find myself wondering something. Why do we keep looking at what Canada, Britain, and other countries have done with their health care systems? We already have several health care systems in this country that are run by the federal government. The Canadian government isn't going to be running our health care. The British government isn't going to be running our health care. Our government is going to be running our health care. If we want to know what we can expect from them we should be looking at how well they've done with the health care systems they already control.

Way back in 1787, the federal government made an agreement that resulted in the creation of the Indian Health Service to provide Native Americans free health care on the reservations. So how's that working out?

On some reservations, the oft-quoted refrain is "don't get sick after June," when the federal dollars run out. It's a sick joke, and a sad one, because it's sometimes true, especially on the poorest reservations where residents cannot afford health insurance. Officials say they have about half of what they need to operate, and patients know they must be dying or about to lose a limb to get serious care.

Then there's the Veterans Health Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. You may recall a couple of years ago when the VA's crown jewel, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, was exposed as a cess pool.

Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

Now it's just recently come out that the VA isn't doing a particularly good job looking after our female veterans either:

The five veterans said women sometimes aren't properly informed upon discharge that health benefits are still available. They described how dealing with government is frustrating and confusing, and that often their unique needs, such as child care and sexual assault counseling, aren't understood by government officials.

Do you really believe the federal government will do a better job taking care of you than it has taking care of it's existing obligations? I don't.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Economics Of Wealth Envy

My mother has decided she needs hearing aids. In the process of gathering information she asked me to look online for details about Lyric Hearing Aids. It's basically a disposable hearing aid that fits completely in the ear canal and which you leave in until it's time to replace it with a new one. They have to be replaced approximately ever 120 days when the battery runs down and they have to be inserted by a trained professional. Consequently you don't buy a hearing aid so much as a yearly subscription which provides a set number of replacements per year, 5 or 10 depending on if you need hearing aids for just one ear or both.

Curious about the pricing as well as what people were saying without the information being filtered through Lyric's marketing department I Googled them and found a message board where people were talking about Lyric hearing aids. Reading the thread two messages just sort of jumped out at me, both by the same person:

I think the 3000 dlrs per year is a robbery. I'm ok with a 3000 initial pay and then a lower yearly payment, like 700 or 800. They are really not targeting the common person and the middle class. This is for rich people.
This was followed a few messages later by:

Fair? at least not for the working class wallet. As I said earlier, it would be ok to pay thousands for an initial fee, and then... 500 per year sounds reasonable... But do you know the toll it takes on us the consumers to spend such amount? 3,500.00 per year is what you spend yearly on a car payment. By 5 years, you'd make this doctor/thief $17,000.00 richer. I repeat, this product is being sold to suburban high-middle class yuppies, not to anybody below that social/economic class.
Two things are fairly obvious from these posts. First, the poster has a case of wealth envy. Second, he has absolutely no clue the economics of running a business.

Notice that he believes that at $3,500, which is the price for 10 Lyric hearing aids a year, you'll make your doctor $17,000 richer over a period of 5 years. Given the fellow's obvious poor grasp on economics I can't tell if he's just rounding the $17,500 subscription fee down or if he actually believes that 50 (10 hearing aids per year x 5 years) Lyric hearing aids will only cost the doctor $500 or $10 per hearing aid. The alternative, if he's rounding the subscription fee down, is that he believes the doctor gets the Lyric hearing aids for free.

I'd really like to know his rationale for charging a high price for the first year and then radically dropping the price in subsequent years. What aspect of this program makes the first year so much more expensive than the following ones? The only difference that I can see is that before you get your initial set of hearing aids, you'll need a hearing exam and the price of that exam isn't included in the price of the subscription. It's a completely separate item that has no effect on the doctor's costs for providing the hearing aids.

This is something that the poster and other members of the wealth envy crowd don't seem to understand. Businesses have costs. If they sell their product or services for less than it costs to produce them, the business loses money. If the business loses enough money it goes bankrupt and fails. For a business to survive it must charge at least as much as it costs to produce its product. For a business to thrive it generally must charge more than production costs so that it will have money to look for ways to improve its products and services.

So what sort of costs would be involved with providing a subscription for Lyric hearing aids? Well for starters how about 10 hearing aids? I mean the doctor isn't just pulling the old hearing aid out of your ear, replacing the battery, and putting it back in. No, he replaces the old hearing aid with a brand new one that incorporates any new technological advances that have come out since the old hearing aid was inserted. Dividing $3,500 by 10 yields a price of $350 per hearing aid. That's a pretty good price for a hearing aid.

The price can't go down in subsequent years because the costs don't go down. You're still buying 10 hearing aids a year. If you can't afford to buy 10 hearing aids per year then maybe the Lyric hearing aids aren't for you. That's not really Lyric's fault or the doctor's fault. That's just the reality of the thing they're selling.

Sorry that the poster can't afford to spend that much money on hearing but that's just life. We can't always afford the things we'd like. I'd like to drive a Lamborghini Reventon, eat lobster for dinner every day, and have a personal staff that takes care of all the drudge work that I don't want to do but I can't afford any of that stuff. That's life. Fairness has got nothing to do with it.

People with more money than you, and there will always be people with more money than you, will always be able to afford nicer things than you just as you will always be able to afford nicer things than people with less money than you. Deal with it.

Socialized Healthcare: Equal Time

We've heard a lot about how great and wonderful a nationalized health care system will be. ABC even ran an hour long infomercial for it recently from the White House. Not only did ABC choose to exclude anyone who wanted to offer an opposing point of view but they even refused to run paid ads before, during, or after the infomercial that would have presented the other side of the argument. So here is Steven Crowder with a look at how well Canada's socialized medicine program works:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How Do You Kill A Political Career?

Since Alaska Governor Sarah Palin announced that she was resigning I've heard a lot of pundits say that her political career is over with no chance whatsoever of reviving it. I thought it might be interesting by way of contrast to see what sort of things won't kill a political career.

You can be caught red-handed on drug possession charges, including being videotaped smoking crack cocaine, and serve time in federal prison without killing your political career.

You can be caught red-handed accepting bribes with $90,000 in bribe money stored in your freezer without killing your political career.

You can be a former Kleagle and Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan who spouts off about "white niggers" on live television without killing your political career.

You can delay ordering your city's evacuation in the face of an oncoming natural disaster until less than 24 hours remain because it would hurt the local tourism industry and, while you're at it, decline to use available school buses to aid in the evacuation, resulting in hundreds of deaths, without killing your political career.

All of these things are acceptable behavior on the part of our politicians but resigning your position because you can't get anything done due to a constant onslaught of frivolous lawsuits filed by political opponents is unforgiveable. And people wonder why we are so poorly served by our politicians.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Heard On Twitter

"Michael Jackson is a shovel-ready project."

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4, 2009

Today we celebrate Independence Day with hot dogs and hamburgers and fireworks and I hope everyone has a fun and safe holiday.

Recent events in Iran and Honduras remind us that freedom isn't free. It comes at a price. Sometimes it comes at a very high price (content warning). So today as we celebrate the freedoms so many of us take for granted let us pause for a moment to remember those who sacrifice so much to protect those freedoms.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Goopy Is As Goopy Does

Gwyneth Paltrow is a cultured intellectual which is why she loves living in Europe so much more than the United States. The mistress of recently explained while talking about Spain:

"It is so different from the United States. It seemed to have a history, and the buildings are years and years and years old. Here in the United States an old building is about 17 (years old), and over there it's from 500 B.C., it's incredible," she said.

I wondered if that were so. Finally I decided to have a look around and see if I could find some buildings here in the U.S. that were more than 17-years-old. First I looked in my backyard…

Nope, no old buildings around here, certainly none with any significant history attached to them. I'd better keep looking. Maybe over here…

Darn, still nothing. Hey, there are some people. Maybe they can help me! "Hey, you guys! Anyone seen any buildings that are 'years and years and years old?'"

Nope, no one has seen anything… Oops, I must have taken a wrong turn and wound up in this cave somehow. Certainly nothing to see here…

Hey, look down there! That looks like a nice tree. I'm surprised no one has ever built a house beside it.

I'm getting kind of hungry and I was hoping this new shopping mall would have a decent food court but it's empty.

Darn it, I bet there'd be a nice view here if people didn't leave their trash lying around to clutter up the landscape.

Well, I'm stumped. I just can't find any old buildings…

I guess I'd better give up. Clearly I'm not as smart as old Goopy. She certainly is more knowledgeable about history than I am. I mean, I was under the misconception that we had archeological finds here in the U.S. of people such as the Anasazi that go back to 1200 B.C. and earlier. Of course I was also under the impression that the best way to appear cultured and intellectual was to actually be cultured and intellectual. Thanks for setting me straight, Goopy.