Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Window on the True State of Health Care in the United States

People line up in the early morning at Wise County Fairgrounds in Virginia, the site of a makeshift field hospital providing free care for those in need. (Photo: Becky Lettenberger / NPR)

Blogger’s Note: This story was originally published on the National Public Radio (NPR) site, where you can elect to listen to the “All Things Considered” broadcast. I first picked up on it thanks to truthout, a free* daily news service replete with articles you’d like to read but don’t often find in the so-called Mainstream Media.

You might also want to see “Whistleblower Tells of America's Hidden Health Nightmare for Its Sick Poor.”

*Truthout is available for free by e-mail subscription, although it actually survives on the donations of a few percent of its subscribers.

Rural Medical Camp Tackles Health Care Gaps

by Howard Berkes

July 27, 2009

It was a Third World scene with an American setting. Hundreds of tired and desperate people crowded around an aid worker with a bullhorn, straining to hear the instructions and worried they might be left out.

Some had arrived at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Wise, Virginia, two days before. They slept in cars, tents and the beds of pickup trucks, hoping to be among the first in line when the gate opened Friday before dawn. They drove in from 16 states, anxious to relieve pain, diagnose aches and see and hear better.

"I came here because of health care - being able to get things that we can't afford to have ordinarily," explained 52-year-old Otis Reece of Gate City, Va., as he waited in a wheelchair beside his red F-150 pickup. "Being on a fixed income, this is a fantastic situation to have things done we ordinarily would put off."

For the past 10 years, during late weekends in July, the fairgrounds in Wise have been transformed into a mobile and makeshift field hospital providing free care for those in need. Sanitized horse stalls become draped examination rooms. A poultry barn is fixed with optometry equipment. And a vast, open-air pavilion is crammed with dozens of portable dental chairs and lamps.

A converted 18-wheeler with a mobile X-ray room makes chest X-rays possible. Technicians grind hundreds of lenses for new eyeglasses in two massive trailers. At a concession stand, dentures are molded and sculpted.

Desperate for Health Care

The 2009 Remote Area Medical (RAM) Expedition comes to the Virginia Appalachian mountains as Congress and President Obama wrestle with a health care overhaul. The event graphically illustrates gaps in the existing health care system.

"We're willing to sleep in pickup trucks or cars and deal with the elements to at least get some kind of health care," Reece adds. He earned a six-figure income working for an international industrial supply firm until an accident five years ago left him disabled. Joining him for dental, vision and medical checks are his wife, daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren.

"Tomorrow, I'm going to see the doctor to get my ear and my nose fixed!" grandson Jacob shouts excitedly. His nose appears battered and his ear has an oozing scab.

Before the gate opened, Loretta Miller, 41, of Honaker, Va., got four hours' sleep behind the wheel of her parked minivan. She was No. 39 in line for her eighth RAM expedition. Her visit last year saved her life.

"They done an ultrasound and told me that my gallbladder was enlarged and was ready to burst and it could kill me," Miller recalls. "They told me if I hadn't got help when I did, literally I could have died."

Medical, dental and vision help is often elusive for the 2,700 people seeking treatment during the three-day RAM event. Just over half of the people attending this year have no insurance at all, according to a survey of the patients conducted by RAM. Forty-seven percent could be considered underinsured, given unaffordable copays or gaps in coverage provided by Medicare, Medicaid and conventional insurance plans. Only 11 patients have dental insurance, and just seven have vision coverage.

"There's no doubt about it. There is a Third World right here in the United States," concludes Stan Brock, RAM's founder. Brock has organized similar medical expeditions in Asia, Africa and South America. "Here in the world's richest country, you have this vast number of people, some say 47 million, 49 million, that don't have access to the system and that's why [this] is necessary."

About 1,800 volunteers provide the medical, dental and logistical help, including hundreds of doctors, dentists, nurses, assistants and technicians.

Almost 4,000 Teeth

Miller is ecstatic when her number is called. The divorced hairdresser and mother of two is uninsured and in pain. But she had taken the time, even with little sleep, to put on makeup, braid her blond hair and dress in a white lace tunic. She walked briskly through the gate for what would turn out to be five hours in dental chairs, given the extraction of an abscessed tooth, three fillings and a root canal.

More than half of those seeking help sign up for dental exams and procedures. They fill the more than 70 dental chairs while hundreds wait their turn under tents nearby. Hundreds more out in the grassy parking lot hope they'll get their teeth cleaned and fixed before the event ends.

Dental health greatly affects general health, says Dr. Terry Dickinson, who directs the Virginia Dental Association and the RAM dental effort at the Wise fairgrounds.

"The infection in the mouth certainly has been shown to have an effect on systemic diseases," Dickinson explains. "So it's really critical that these folks be able to get infected teeth out and infection treated in the mouth because it's going to help them with their overall health."

The extent of infections is staggering. Dickinson and his team pull 3,857 teeth in 30 hours of work spread over 2 1/2 days. Some patients lose all their teeth. A 4-year-old had cavities filled in every tooth.

Who Is Responsible for Health Care?

Terrible teeth, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes are common among the people seeking help here. That raises an important question. Are they at fault for their poor health?

"There's enough blame to go around for everybody. I think patients certainly have to have personal responsibility for what they're putting in their mouth, but we are also trying to create a better access care system. How are you going to get providers, whether it be dentists or physicians or anybody else, into these areas where economically these communities are struggling?" Dickinson asks.

That's a reference to the costs of medical and dental schools and the debts that graduates incur, which can be $100,000 and more. There's pressure to practice in more lucrative places beyond rural regions like Appalachia.

"There are areas of the country, and certainly Wise County is one of them, where there just aren't [enough] physicians," says Dr. Susan Kirk, an endocrinologist and diabetes specialist with the University of Virginia Health System, which provides specialists for the Wise RAM event. "We provide indigent care at the University of Virginia, but that's six hours away."

RAM founder Stan Brock is impatient with those who suggest the people seeking help in Wise are somehow at fault and unworthy of care given poor health habits.

"The rest of the population is not exactly in the best of shape themselves," Brock asserts. "They're eating well and, therefore, they're putting on weight and, therefore, they've got heart disease and the rate of diabetes in this country is going up. But, in the case of the well-to-do and the well-insured, they can afford to take care of it."

At the end of her long day with dentists, Loretta Miller was still numb with Novocain but grateful for the care she could not otherwise afford.

"It's well worth the drive and the wait," Miller said, close to 12 hours after her number was called. "You get tired and stuff. But you think about all the trips and the money it would have cost to have all this done. I couldn't have had it done."

She then laughs about standing in line again at 5 a.m. the next day so she can get eyeglasses to "see what they've done."

RAM organizers say they spent about $250,000 providing care worth about $1.5 million. In 10 years in southwest Virginia, they say, they've treated more than 25,000 people. They have eight more expeditions planned this year, from Virginia to California.

By the Numbers

A survey of RAM attendees by the event's organizers provides some insight into who is left out of conventional medical, dental and vision care.

What: Health care providers saw 2,715 patients and performed 2,671 medical exams, 1,088 eye tests and 1,850 dental exams. They extracted 3,857 teeth and put in 1,628 fillings.

Who: Patients came from 16 different states; 30 percent were repeat patients.

Of the patients, 51 percent are uninsured, 40.3 percent are on Medicaid or Medicare, and just 7.3 percent have employer or private insurance. Fewer than 1 percent of patients have dental or vision insurance.

Twenty-six percent of the people are employed, 40.6 are unemployed, 4.7 percent are retired and 4.8 percent are children.

Cost: The organizers paid about $250,000 out of pocket to run the event, and they provided an estimated $1.5 million worth of care.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Eliot Spitzer: "The FED is a Ponzi Scheme, an Inside Job”

Watch this 8:38 minute MSNBC video of a TV show that aired only 3 days ago.

And just remember that prior to his sex scandal, AND his Governorship of New York, Eliot Spitzer was best known as the "Eliot Ness" of the financial world, busting insider crime on Wall Street.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Uncle Sam's Ponzi Scheme Will Make Bernie Madoff Look Like a Piker ...and Impoverish Millions MORE Americans

(Original article here)
Many Predict US Financial Collapse in September

July 18, 2009

by Charles (A Reader)

Let us contemplate the day in the
near future when the consequences of financial chicanery finally outpace the ability of the governments, central banks and big media to cover up and obfuscate the truth. Many respected voices have now gone on record that September 30 or
thereabouts will be that day.

Bob Chapman [] revealed that the US State Dept has advised embassies worldwide to stock up on a year's worth of the local currency in anticipation of collapse of the US dollar. Look for a temporary banking shutdown timed for around September 2009. As under Roosevelt, some banks won't reopen. 96% of bank reserves are currently held with the Federal Reserve who tells the banks not to loan the money, but rather to save it for further banking acquisition and consolidation. Chapman foresees a bank holiday lasting 4‐5 days. Chapman thinks this first bank holiday presages a much more significant bank holiday months to years later which will involve simultaneous devaluations of multiple currencies as well as other significant changes in the banking system.

Harry Shultz [as quoted in] says "Some U.S. embassies worldwide are being advised to purchase massive amounts of local currencies; enough to last them a year. Some embassies are being sent enormous amounts of U.S. cash to purchase currencies from those governments, quietly. But not pound sterling. Inside the State Dept., there is a sense of sadness and foreboding that 'something' is about to happen ... within 180 days, but could be 120‐150 days."

Benjamin Fulford [] states that for almost a century the US Treasury Dept has been issuing specialized debt instruments to countries with which the US has had a trade surplus. These complex debt instruments are tailored by complex treaties. Unfortunately, the recent US Treasury funding needs exceed the willingness of these creditor nations to extend additional credit. Fulford writes, "The problem is that after nearly a century of issuing these debt instruments, the chickens are coming home to roost. President Obama tried at the recent G8 plus 5 meeting in Italy to borrow more money than George Bush junior did in 8 years. He was told a resounding no. The result should be total economic chaos in the U.S. by September 30th . "

Jim Willie [] writes of an Asian led initiative ending dollar hegemony beginning this weekend. Willie suspects that the Fed/Treasury is covertly loaning foreign central banks the money with which the central banks are now using to buy US debt. Increasingly, US debt is being bought by foreign central banks taking up the slack of investors abandoning US Treasury debt. Willie confirms Chapman's comments and says he solicited and received "multiple confirmations." He adds, "CHAOS WILL PREVAIL WITHIN SEVERAL MONTHS, PERHAPS A YEAR AT MOST{his emphasis}."

Jim Sinclair [] has recently visited China meeting with its leaders. He states that China is increasingly more willing to take on the United States in its apparent maneuvers to inflate its way out of its debt crisis. In early July Sinclair started a 120 day countdown till breakdown of the US dollar ends market manipulation and all those sour economic chickens come home to roost.

Seemingly the Federal Reserve/US Treasury have exhausted their bag of tricks. The Fed is fighting rising interest rates, a difficult task given the hyperinflationary debt financing it is now doing. Once rising pressure on interest rates become too much for the Fed to control, there will probably be several sudden economic and financial surprises cascading with currently known dilemmas: crashing dollar; increasing home mortgage defaults; commercial mortgage defaults reaching critical mass; falling bond and stock markets extending insolvency of pension funds; defaults on debt by state and local governments. And don't forget derivatives and further exposure of corruption and criminality on Wall Street. Bernie Madoff may soon have lots of company.

Unable to produce any more financial wizardry, the cynical federal government is arrayed in full battle dress uniform: 1] Mass forced swine flu vaccinations scheduled this fall performed under the specter of martial law; 2] Rumblings of extending the wars in Asia into Iran and Pakistan; 3] Rekindling the Korean conflict may also be in the cards. Of course, don't forget that both Iran and North Korea are client states of the British World Order. All the recent saber rattling involving Iran and North Korea is wholly orchestrated. We need the distractions from the economic crisis, so our clients Ahmadinejad and Kim provide us with the necessary theater. So what will come first, further banner headlines of dollar collapse and market crashes or the distracting theater of more war or 911 type events?

What will this fall really bring? It is not too far away so we shall soon know. Unfortunately, it may make last fall look pretty tame. When the government answers economic distress by preparing for the worst, then the worst may very well be what happens.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Real Price of Goldman’s Giganto-Profits

Bloggers Note: The figure above is taken from the article below by Matt Taibbi, which tells of the many, many other ways Goldman has been picking taxpayer pockets than by merely raking in profits from stock-market manipulation. For a refresher on the meaning of “Value at Risk” or "VaR" plotted in this figure, check out an earlier blog of mine. But be sure not to miss the full article by Matt Taibbi, only the first three paragraphs of which I reproduce below.

July 16, 2009

by Matt Taibbi

So what’s wrong with Goldman posting $3.44 billion in second-quarter profits, what’s wrong with the company so far earmarking $11.4 billion in compensation for its employees? What’s wrong is that this is not free-market earnings but an almost pure state subsidy.

Last year, when Hank Paulson told us all that the planet would explode if we didn’t fork over a gazillion dollars to Wall Street immediately, the entire rationale not only for TARP but for the whole galaxy of lesser-known state crutches and safety nets quietly ushered in later on was that Wall Street, once rescued, would pump money back into the economy, create jobs, and initiate a widespread recovery. This, we were told, was the reason we needed to pilfer massive amounts of middle-class tax revenue and hand it over to the same guys who had just blown up the financial world. We’d save their asses, they’d save ours. That was the deal.

It turned out not to happen that way. We constructed this massive bailout infrastructure, and instead of pumping that free money back into the economy, the banks instead simply hoarded it and ate it on the spot, converting it into bonuses. So what does this Goldman profit number mean? This is the final evidence that the bailouts were a political decision to use the power of the state to redirect society’s resources upward, on a grand scale. It was a selective rescue of a small group of chortling jerks who must be laughing all the way to the Hamptons every weekend about how they fleeced all of us at the very moment the game should have been up for all of them.

...find rest of article here