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Pastor Chuck & The Fact Check Fail

01 Jan

I don’t usually go back two years for articles or blog entries to excerpt but I came across one while cleaning out some of my archives that caught my eye simply because… over two and a half years after it first appeared, I’m still hearing the same lame assed  and hugely debunked talking points from the right in regard to health care that this dude was spitting up then.

One of those arguments I keep hearing in regard to Universal single payer healthy care in this country is that there simply would not be enough physicians and other skilled professionals to handle the massive increase in case loads that would result in any system of say, Medicare for all.  Really, I would expect nothing else from the thoroughly coddled and taken care of gutless cowards who make up the Republican caucus in our congress.  These are after all, people who don’t think that mere serfs and other commoners should have any health care at all  if they can’t afford the massive costs of private health insurance that provide the billions in profits to the insurance companies and dividends to their institutional shareholders.

What I wanted to know back then… and still do… was where this massive increase in  patient load per provider was supposed to be coming from?  Had there been some massive increase in population when I wasn’t looking?  Because I’ll tell you right now, the conditions these folks are talking about had been with us for at least ten years when this discussion was just reaching the strident stage which for RWs means early on.

I’ve been on Medicare/Medicaid since 2003 and I’ve lived with assembly line medicine every one of those nine years.  These contentions , as put forth from both sides of the radically narrowing political spectrum differ only in the manner in which they are presented and while the left is (generally) more reticent in the manner in which they express the viewpoint, once all the semantic and rhetorical layers are peeled away, they are indeed the same viewpoint.  .

Here’s a snip from a July 16, 2010 blog entry by Pastor Chuck Baldwin,an ultra right wing Tea Party preacher/radio commentator/pundit/demagogue who is apparently making tons of money as a religious version of Rush Limbaugh, liberally mixing healthy doses of politics and hate into his religion and who in two short paragraphs, put the viewpoint of the rabid right on healthcare in a perspective we all could understand readily:

The negative effects of Obamacare are already starting to take effect. Across the country, tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of physicians are making preparations to retire. I would be willing to predict that the vast majority of physicians who are financially able to retire will do so before 2014 (the year Obamacare officially takes full effect). And who can blame them? Not me.

Think of it: under Obamacare, physicians will be told to increase their patient load by at least one-third, or maybe even half. Imagine a physician with a government-mandated patient load of maybe 5,000 or 6,000 people (or even more than that). Imagine some federal bureaucrat demanding that the physician spend not more than, say, 4 minutes with each patient.

OK, back to the present where hindsight rules.  Of course hundreds of thousands of doctors didn’t retire… in fact we have no idea how many doctors have retired in the past two years but I suspect i t misses being “tens of thousands” by a dab and of course we have no idea why they retired.  I suspect most of them had just reached that age when it seems to be the thing to do and that it didn’t have a damned thing to do with the president but that’s just my personal opinion.

There are so many levels at which Preacher Baldwin’s statements and the statements of others like him over the past two and a half years were and still are utterly f**ed up but the main problem with his rhetoric is that… as is usually the case with these putrid profundities being offered from the pusillanimous pricks in the right wing’s fundamentalist pulpits is that was not a shred of evidence to back up a single word in what he was saying and those two paragraphs.  Indeed the entire blog post from which the excerpts were  taken… were nothing but the maunderings of a man bent on pushing as many buttons as he possibly can on the for the ignorant Teabots who are his core audience and he gives the whole thing away with the very first sentence in paragraph #1 which is really all you need in order to know that this is simply one more regurgitation of the same old right wing bullshit talking points we’ve been  hearing since the Reagan days at least..

He starts with the obligatory RW demonization of the president which is signaled by the code word “Obamacare”, because he knows that the quickest way to get his audience pumped up and running on a combination of adrenalin and hate over something is to simply tie President Obama’s name to it. Then, in the same sentence he attempts to create some sense of urgency with “already starting to take effect”.  So now he’s got the setup all done and next comes the totally hyperbolic statement that forms the basis of any support for his contention that Obamacare is a bad thing.   “Across the country, tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of physicians are making preparations to retire”.

Now I don’t know about the rest of you  but my own immediate response was, “Now just how in the &^%$ would you know that tens of thousands of doctors (maybe hundreds of thousands) are going to retire, let alone their reasons for doing so?”.  But then you stop and think… Wow, what a masterpiece! the whole statement is simply so ludicrous as to be laughable and yet so perfectly crafted to invoke frenzy in the ignorant cretins who make up the Tea Party’s base

Anyone capable of reasoning beyond the level of a rock would immediately see this statement for what it is, namely pure hype with no empirical evidence or data that would support it.  It comes directly from off the top of Pastor Chuck’s head or… in the vernacular of today, straight out of his ass… and is served raw to his target audience with no garnishment… like empirical evidence or linked data of any kind that would lend support to what he’s claiming.  The only thing I see as a glimmer of actual information to be gleaned here is that Pastor Chuck surely knows his audience.

But putting aside all else, I for one… and I’m only one of a multitude… don’t have to Imagine someone “demanding that the physician spend not more than, say, 4 minutes with each patient”,   because I’ve been living with exactly that kind of health care ever since I was medically retired from the fire service and forced to go on Social Security and Medicare to survive.  There’s a hell of a lot Chuck and the good folks to his left obviously don’t know about how medical services are dispensed to the poor and lower class working stiffs in this country or they would have hooked up by now with the simple fact is that the day envisioned by Chuck and his ilk in which medical clinics are run on an assembly line basis and doctors and other care providers are limited to as little as 4 minutes with each patient is already here, having arrived virtually unnoticed or at least unheralded by those who haven’t had to deal with it.  I’m going to assume that group includes most, if not all, of those who are dissing universal single payer as some kind of utopian pipe dream because “there wouldn’t be enough doctors to go around”.

Once you’re trapped in our system of privatized public healthcare you learn very quickly that number one, there is no way out of it except to die and number two, you likely going to arrive at number one a whole lot quicker than you would have imagined in the days when you were still a productive member of society and making lots of money for the insurance companies.  What you are now is merely a vessel by which our government transfers Medicare/Medicaid dollars to Wall Street.

One of the biggest fallacies about healthcare in this country is that MC/MA recipients have some kind of options going for them that gives them the same control as to where and from whom they receive care as the folks with private insurance have..  Not so, grasshopper.

Sure. most of us on Medicare/Medicaid are nominally free to choose our own physicians and facilities, but as always anytime the government grants a privilege that should be a basic right, the key word there is “nominally”. Yeah yeah sure, we’re free to choose our own doctors.  And… guess what?   If said doctors’ fees are more than the reimbursement schedules for MC/MA and we lack the wherewithal to pay the difference then said doctors are just as free to tell us to  to go attempt aerial intercourse with a rapidly revolving pastry (I’m feeling rather literate tonight and that’s my literate version of go take a flying &^%$ at a rolling donut.

Though medical professionals and the media might choose to word it differently, the fact is that we can only choose from doctors that will accept MC/MA recipients, usually at a clinic or other facility founded especially for that purpose and one that relies on sheer volume to offset the “reduced levels of return” due to controlled reimbursements from MC/MA.   Doesn’t matter if it’s a for profit organization or a tax exempt 501c “non profit”, whoever’s running that clinic is going to make more money by providing less care to more people than by the opposite.

Using my own case as an example, right after I was forced to retire and had to go on SSDI and Medicare, I went through the humiliating ordeal of calling to make an appointment with the same doctor I had been going to for over twenty years and being told basically that now that I was a pauper, Dr. Soandso would now longer be seeing me as a patient and that I should probably contact one of the “public” (as in “for ordinary commoners”) clinics that would accept MC/MA as full reimbursement for services because I obviously couldn’t afford to pay the difference out of my own pocket in the form of copays..

The problem with referring someone to public health services that is that since the Reagan as governor days there have pretty much been no “public” health services, here in California and, from what I’m reading and hearing, very few other places in the country are offering direct publicly provided health care services these days.  Most states and local jurisdictions have opted to contract out their health care services, using their Medicaid and other public health grants to pay private companies or non-profit (tax exempts) to provide the actual services.

In the case of the private corporations, this has meant the same old “seen ‘em so often they’re perfectly predictable” results we’ve seen in every other instance of privatization of a public service, the subordination of actual levels of care to the profits and dividends of the corporations and institutional shareholders.  In the case of the non-profits, a case can conceivably be made for it actually being a matter of not enough people or hours in the day to see all of the people who require varying levels of treatment with varying degrees of urgency but it all boils down to the fact that it’s numbers, not care that are the ultimate agenda in the “greates health care system in the world”..

Opting for the lesser of two evils and not wanting to contribute any more than absolutely necessary to the wallets and portfolios of corporate parasites I finally wound up hooked up with a clinic operated by Family Healthcare Network a local non-profit organization. If you ever want to see the ultimate shining example of assembly line medicine, just hang around my clinic for a while. I consider myself damned lucky to get Chuck’s four minutes as my allotted time with my primary provider.  If any organization ever epitomized the concept of Medical Assembly lines, believe me it’s FHCN.

As a patient with a long history of heart attacks and a stroke or two thrown in for good measure, suffering from advanced congestive heart failure and acute COPD, I can tell you right now that four minutes doesn’t cut it and that there is very little actual treatment going on in that place.  I went for almost four years without ever being referred to a cardiac, pulmonary or vascular specialist.  I was never referred for any type of diagnostics nor was there any kind of preventive treatment or even advice offered and I can remember several times following my doctor down the hall on his way to his next appointment trying to get answers to questions I had and knowing damned well there was nowhere else I could go.

Last year, he left (for another assembly line facility) and the clinic assigned me to a new primary care physician, a young lady from India who… not used to the “wham bam next patient” style of medicine available to the lower working classes in this country…  immediately set about getting me fixed up and the first order of business for her was getting to know me well enough to form a viable diagnosis.  In other words, spending more than the allotted 4 or 5 minutes with me.

First thing out of the box, she referred me to a cardiac/vascular specialist who took one look and  immediately scheduled an angiogram.  I was already so far gone that I coded during the procedure and only the fact that I was in a hospital surrounded by skilled medical personnel saved my ass.  Over the next few months I underwent numerous tests and diagnostic procedures that turned up long term problems I didn’t even know I had and for the past year I’ve been treated for every one of them.  To say that I’m alive today because of this young lady would in no manner be an overstatement… but you know and I now that’s too good to last.  If she’s spending that much time actually caring for her patients that means she’s seeing fewer patients and we can’t have that in a health care system, now can we?.

That young doctor’s gone now after a run-in with the clinic administrators because she refused to compromise treatment in favor of numbers.  So, I once again find myself with no primary care provider and the prospect of having to resign myself to deal with a doctor or other provider who doesn’t have the time to actually treat me.  That’s a fact of life for millions of Americans already, whether Pastor Chuck Baldwin and his ilk or any of the well intentioned but “pragmatic” folks on the left care to acknowledge it or not.  As always I’m no expert on anything but I do know first hand what I go through on a day to day basis.

If we enacted universal single payer healthcare tomorrow, there would be absolutely no change in the situation as far as levels of service to the majority of patients are concerned and this whole “not enough doctors” routine becomes just another straw man set up and subscribed to mostly by people with an agenda.  The people who would actually BE that increased case load are already out here and already going without adequate care as Wall Street and the congress run their little health care racket and those making the assertions that we can’t have universal health care in this country when some form of it works in every other developed country in the world  offer nothing in the way of solutions for what they see as the problem and indeed, even the best intentioned of them can suggest nothing but to kick the can down the road and deal with it later.  In the meantime, thousands of people like me die needlessly from lack of adequate health care in spite of the fact that they supposedly have access to it..

One last little rant here is in regard to this whole “America has the best health care system in the world” thing that people like Pastor Chuck have going.    Here’s some more of Pastor Chuck’s exquisite demagoguery:

With all its faults, America’s health care system is the finest in the world. Why else would rich people in Canada, Australia, Great Britain, and elsewhere come to the US when the medical chips are really down? Socialized medicine doesn’t work for them and it won’t work for the United States.

Sorry Chuck, but first off, we ranked #37 in the world in terms of the criteria used by the World Health Organization and other agencies and organizations charged with developing and maintaining this kind of data as recently as 2009 and all three of the countries you named actually rank ahead of us.  The ONLY thing in regard to health care in which we rank #1 in is the amount we pay for it.  I’m always a tad surprised at the number of folks who by bullshit by the truckload from fertilizer peddlers like yourself but I’m actually more interested right now in the purely anecdotal “evidence” you use to support your claim that we’re #1.

What Chuck fails to mention in this little jewel of demagoguery and jingoism is that even if there were some smidgen of truth in his claim and that a few people did  come hereon occasion for some form of specialized treatment they couldn’t get at home,  it would only the folks who can afford to come to America and pay the high price who would get the levels of service he pretends to think all Americans get.   The poor and the average working classes obviously don’t come here for their treatment.  Hell why would they, even if they could?  The only thing they’d be doing is seeking health care from a system that ranks below their own and paying more for it than they would at home.

My final question is when the hell do we start doing something besides sitting around explaining to the powerless people doing the dying that “while  it would be nice if they could get the same level health care that those with the power have, it’s just not possible under the present circumstances”?  Seems to me that all this talk should include at least some preliminary discussions as to what can be done about starting to change the circumstances.  Otherwise it’s just more flipping can kicking and there are far too damned many of us out here who can’t afford to wait to see how far down the road that can winds up.  Just stop with the telling me why it can’t be done and start looking for ways to do it.

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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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