Tag Archives: healthcare

Movement for a 28th Amendment to the US Constitution

I received an email today which asked me to forward it to still another 20 people.  I thought this might be more useful.

It’s time for another Amendment to the US Constitution.  I do believe this.  And I like everything in the proposal below.  See what you think and you are more than welcome to copy and forward it to your friends and Congresscritters.  It will take a huge amount of effort to get this passed because it is not in the best economic interests of the members of Congress.  But it’s worth raising the possibility.

 

“Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.”  —Theodore Roosevelt

 

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” —Theodore Roosevelt

 

The rest of this post is the content of that email:

“The 26th Amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months and 8 days to be ratified.  Why?  Simple!  The people demanded it.  That was in 1971… before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

“Of the 27 Amendments to the US Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land… all because of public pressure.

“I’m asking you to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on your address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

“In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message.  This is one idea that really should be passed around.

 

 

Congressional Reform Act of 2011


1. Term Limits.

An elected Congressperson may serve a maximum of 12 years only, defined as one of the possible options below:

A. Two 6-year Senate terms

B. Six 2-year House terms

C. One 6-year Senate term and three 2-Year House terms

2.  No Tenure / No Pension.

A Congressperson collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

3.  Congress (past, present, and future) participates in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately.  All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.

4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.

Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

8. All contracts with past and present Congresspersons are void effective 1/1/11.

“The American people did not make the current contract with members of Congress.  Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

“Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

“If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive this message.

“MUCH OF WHAT WE FACE IN TERMS OF PRIVILEGE AND SELFISHNESS IN THIS COUNTRY MIGHT BEST BE CHANGED STARTING FROM THE TOP DOWN.”

Me again.  I poked around on the web and found the organization which is working to make this happen.  Amendment to Reform Congress is on Facebook.  And their website is here. In my humble opinion it’s time we got together and agreed on some, most, or all of these changes to our representative government.  The current approach creates a divide between the governed and the government which is hurting our country.  With this Amendment can can continue to be a government OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the people.

It’s time to align the self-interest of Congress with that of the American people and not with that of lobbyists.

So tell me more about this economic recovery thing

Forbes magazine, both in paper and on-line, has always struck me as one of the good places for intelligent people to explore economics and investing ideas.  John Mauldin, shown below, has a nice blog piece entitled:  Impossible Things And Our Economic Recovery. This is well worth reading and is presumably the first of a group of pieces he will write on the topic.  I encourage you to read it/them.

I responded with the following comment which may have a delay in being posted or may not appear at all.  Who knows?  I just write these things.  Forbes controls the “publication,” at least on their site.  So here’s the comment:

Well done, John. It’s all true, unfortunately. That so few people understand basic economics and continue to vote for the status quo is sad.

As you say, an increase in GDP depends upon an increase in (working age) population and/or workforce productivity. Back in 1999 Harry Dent’s book The Roaring 2000s Investor described the international demographic and technology trends we could expect to see play out in the 2000s. Country by country, I’d say he did pretty well with it. Dent’s book is now too old to be on the World Future Society’s current book list. Those folks who never read Dent’s book aren’t reading the rest of the WFS’s book list, either. (Here’s where we mumble something about those who do not study history, or the future in this case, are condemned to relive it, or play it out, or mumble mumble mumble…) Dent’s arguments, much like yours, rely on inescapable economic concepts.

The US has “outsourced” most of our manufacturing jobs. Big mistake. The US has created a pink puffy cloud of financial nonsense to spur personal consumption. Big mistake. The political structure of the US has enabled powerful, wealthy individuals to become ever more so. Big mistake. Increasing disparity in wealth translates into increasing political partisanship. Big mistake. The founding fathers are spinning in their graves.

Don’t you wonder what happens when somebody brings a war to our soil? Whoops, they already did that. I meant to pose the question: what happens when we can no longer manufacture anything of value? What happens when we don’t or can’t produce steel or silicon or the basic components of our modern lives? Maybe vertical integration isn’t always the best path for a corporation, but it has a lot of strategic safety for a country. It isn’t likely the US government will try to reverse our decreasing ability to manufacture. We are far along on our way to becoming a farming and service economy. That will not permit us, ultimately, to pay off our consumption debts. And if the rest of the world becomes angry because they believe the US is responsible for economic problems faced everywhere today, what leverage do these other countries have against us? A lot. Financially and production-wise.

The US has the benefit of observing economic laboratories around the world. Some have worked better than others. But the results of those lab experiments are not readily visible to the average American. Our media would rather produce cheap junk reality shows. One thing the world laboratory has proven is that universal healthcare is a good economic foundation for a country. But that doesn’t play out well with the power and wealth entrenched in the USA. The US used to have a small wealthy class, a small poor class, and a large middle class.  The middle has been crushed over the last 10 to 20 years. Now .1% of the US population controls some 20% of the country’s wealth. Big mistake.

I love the French. Their food, their wine, their art, their language, their French Revolution. Watching the Enron, Adelphia, Countrywide, etc. stories unfold, who wouldn’t want to see a guillotine factored into the proceedings?

Let’s just say it establishes a threshold beyond which tyranny is unacceptable to a rising middle class. Whoops, the US middle class is not rising and it lacks leadership to establish significant changes. So it goes. The US government reflects the best interests of the wealthiest citizens. Capitalism and democracy have lead to politicians being hired by the wealthy and their corporations in return for the campaign funds that get them elected. Long term big mistake. Looking forward to see if you have any ideas how we can dig ourselves out of this hole!

There is no dialog with Fox News

I made the mistake of reading and then commenting on a WSJ piece about healthcare entitled The Health-Care Wars Are Only Beginning by Fred Barnes.  Mr. Barnes is a conservative of the deepest hue, so any comment that does not agree with him is likely to draw rounds of flak from his supporters.  And, yes, I knew that, but started typing anyway.  If not me, who?  If not now, when?  Yeah, yeah… so my initial comments were:

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(1) Only the jerks from Faux News call it “ObamaCare”. These are the same folks who brought you “HillaryCare”. You can tell how willing they are to engage in intelligent discussion.

(2) There is some truth to this opinion, unfortunately. Conservatives will battle healthcare reform as long as the insurance companies and healthcare related companies continue to put millions of dollars into lobbying and campaign contributions.

(3) What we need is either access to Medicare for everyone or a simple universal, single-payer system. This country cannot return to its former position of strength and economic power with a poorly educated, unhealthy population. It’s a rising tide that lifts all boats, moneybags. Didn’t you learn anything from Henry Ford?

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Yes, item (1) was a tad intemperate.  Item (2) is obvious to me.   And item (3) is my opinion laced with a couple cultural references (and some name calling) I hope we all share.  Conservatives do bring out the worst in me.  In all fairness that was in response to the outrageous nature of the original article.

Mr. Barnes article was published on March 18, 2010.  When I logged in this morning I found a number of responses to what I’d written and a total of 539 comments as of 9:30 am on March 19, 2010.  That says something about the intensity of emotion around the topic.

Most of the comments I could dismiss as coming from sad Kool Aid drinkers.  Then I came across one from conservative Gerald Meazell which inspired me to respond:

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Wow, Mary, please explain to me how this country got to its “former” position of strength and economic power without government run health care. The fact is that this economy produces best when it is left alone. Henry Ford is a good example. He didn’t invent the automobile, he discovered a way to build them more cheaply. Now, if ol’ Henry had been working for the government and not allowed to profit from his work building cars, would he have cared to invent the assembly line? What would be his incentive? Government intervention in health care and its accompanying third-party payer distortions are what have brought the health care business to the state it’s in today. The solution simply is NOT more government, but less.

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Since I was asked, however retorically, to respond, I did.  People like that make me feel like Dennis Miller.  Actually I’m a big fan of Dennis Miller, or was until he became still another conservative mouthpiece.  But I enjoy Miller’s humor and consider listening to him an exercise much like a crossword puzzle.  (How many references do I get? Never all of them.)  My point here being that we share a culture.  Unfortunately it is a big, complex culture and references to some obscure component thereof will not and cannot be understood by everyone.  This leads to misunderstandings.  Kind of makes you nostalgic for the 1700’s or 1800’s where, presumably, English speaking peoples had more universally accessible cultural references.  What I think is common knowledge may not be.  So this was my response:

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There is no point responding to most of the comments above since there is no possible dialog with true believers. With respect to your comment, possibly a little reading of history and economics would help you. Europe was the world power up until World War II. There are a number of geographic reasons for this. After the Industrial Revolution we see power shifting to countries who actually make things. The US became increasingly good at making things. We built superior educational facilities for our children. We had great natural resources. World War II and its aftermath gave us incentives to activate production on all burners, so to speak. Our federal and state governments nurtured productivity and growth. Meanwhile Europe was becoming, as everyone would agree, somewhat more socialistic, if by “socialist” you mean concerned about the living conditions for everyone, not just the wealthy. As time went by in the US, some very smart people learned how to game the system really well. They developed risky financial instruments and they outsourced production jobs out of the US. Both of those activities have ultimately resulted in our current situation which consists of bad economic conditions and chronic unemployment due to jobs that aren’t coming back.

I did not say that Henry Ford invented the automobile. Please consider the history of the thing. Henry Ford developed assembly line techniques to improve production and he was admirably clever in saving money. He did, after all, make his suppliers deliver engines in wooden boxes to his specifications which were then broken down and used to make floorboards. He was brilliant and the sort of capitalist we can all admire. He also recognized that if he paid his workers well, they could buy cars and the cycle would spiral upwards. Ford paid his people extremely well for the time. Look it up. My point in mentioning Ford, which seems to have been lost on so many people, is that a rising tide really does float all boats. Economies tend to spiral up or down as conditions reinforce each other. Guess which way we’re going now? What do you think is driving our economy today?

Keep swallowing the conservative line and your children will be lucky to be dirt farmers in the ruins of the suburbs of Levittown. Have you been exposed to an economist named Hyman Minsky? Do you see why the recent economic explosion was called a “Minsky Moment”? Please, look it up. The conservative line expressed by so many is blind to the fact that we are less and less productive in this country. In recent years we substituted rising debt for the give and take of a productive economy. I’ve gone on long enough here. I hope you see where I’m coming from. Healthcare is just one factor which is making us uncompetitive today. Our superexpensive healthcare system is similar to the housing bubble. It can’t last. As a country our competitors all have universal healthcare. We pay a heavy price as a country, all 308 million of us, to make a few people wealthy via our healthcare system.

The solution actually is “big government” to dampen risk and provide economic stability, with an ongoing dialog about our values and our future.

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There really is something about addressing conservatives that brings out the worst in me.  Sorry.  I’m also a big fan of Henry Ford.  I could be wrong about him, but he strikes me as a very sharp businessperson, successful capitalist, and a man who understood that improving the life of his employees would improve his life, too.  THAT is a capitalistic way of thinking which I can support.  On the other hand, the people at the top of the financial and healthcare insurance pyramids add nothing of value to our country.  They absorb wealth from our economy and drain it from the rest of the working class.  Ultimately this will hurt not only our country but their own positions.

We all, I believe, want to live in a country where shared values include the best possible education for our children, steady advances in science which result in new businesses, and a healthy life for everyone while they pursue their view of “happiness.”  Am I wrong here?  I’d love to hear your view.

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” — Henry Ford

What I Learned from Mom’s Hip Replacement

Being involved on the business side of the medical device industry in recent years, I have taken a keen interest in all things healthcare related. I also have a mother who is over 65 by a good deal and has dealt with Medicare and Medicare Advantage programs (in Florida) for some years now. I have had the dubious distinction of sorting through the hundreds of Medicare Advantage programs out there to find some that are appropriate for her and then guide her to reasonable choice. (Thank heaven the government has a website to help with that. I cannot imagine most folks on Medicare coping with that project, but that’s another post entirely.  You can start here if you’re researching the matter yourself:  http://www.medicare.gov/Choices/Overview.asp )

Before the Surgery

My mother complained of a painful right hip for a couple years. Her primary physician finally said mom was a candidate for a hip replacement and she would recommend the operation whenever  mom would like to have it done.  This is a very common operation these days and a good, experienced surgeon will normally yield good results.  Recovery progresses fairly quickly, you can walk again within a couple days, and the patient is back to mostly normal (pain free) in 3 to 4 months.

A separate request had to be made to my mother’s primary doctor to obtain a recommendation on a surgeon, which I thought was odd.  I would have expected her primary care physician to help guide her to a surgeon, but I guess not.  We were given 5 surgeon names, 3 of which, upon investigation, were participating in her insurance plan. Of the 3, we requested that the primary care physician’s office recommend one of the three. We asked around (in the over 55 community in which she lives) about hip replacement surgeons and got additional recommendations, eventually all converging on a particular nearby surgeon.  Surgery was scheduled at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton.

Surgery, the Hospital, and Rehab

Surgery was scheduled and then moved to an earlier date as one became available. She was in surgery maybe 3 hours, then in the hospital for 4 days, then transferred to a physical therapy rehab facility a short distance away that was highly recommended.

I arrived in Florida the day she entered rehab and my sister flew out the next day. We were initially told she’d be in rehab for maybe 10 days. She was in rehab for 15 days. It was clear to me that it would have been longer if I hadn’t kept asking questions about her progress and their expectations.

The rehab facility did physical therapy for patients 5 days out of 7.  Why it was not 7 days out of 7 I don’t know.  Their website claims 7 days out of 7.  I never received an answer.  I was at the rehab facility several hours a day, every day,  bringing what my mother considered “real” coffee, walking around with her, giving her outdoor wheelchair rides, monitoring her medications, and so on.

Her first roommate (two people in every room) was a nearly deaf lady who would turn her TV on so loud that you could hear it from the nurses station down the hall.  It took several days to have my mother transferred to a different room.  Moving was dependent upon somebody else leaving the facility.  There were 55 beds and all were full, pretty much all the time from what I could learn.  Did I mention the food was surprisingly good?!

The staff was wonderful. Everyone we met was helpful, kind, and gave 110% to every task. That was encouraging. I did ask about the medications being supplied in the morning, during the day, and in the evening. Some meds were things we had agreed with her primary care physician that she no longer needed. It was disturbing to see them pop up again. It turns out that older people are seen by several doctors (primary, surgeons, specialists) who do not talk to each other. Each prescribes meds. Sometimes without looking at what has been prescribed by someone else. (My mother-in-law had been prescribed near lethal levels of one med by several physicians before her two sons figured out what was going on with her.)

My mom is becoming a bit forgetful, not Alzheimer’s but forgetful.  Doctors and therapists should not assume that telling older people something is adequate. Things need to be written down and should be transmitted to family members. Even if the older person does not appear to have dementia, it seems to be a natural issue as people age. It is very clear to me that both in hospitals and in rehab facilities, people needs advocates watching out for them when they are not completely able to manage their own care. This appears to be true for everyone, regardless of their age.

Upon entering rehab, we were told that my mother was now under the care of one of the two physicians associated with the rehab facility.  She was there 15 days.  She NEVER saw a doctor of any size, shape or color while she was there.  Her second roommate had been there for a month and she said a woman doctor had popped her head into the room once during that time and asked her “How are you doing today?” and then left.  Without being overly cynical we all assumed that both doctors were charging everyone in the facility (55 patients) on a regular basis for “visits.”  Let’s see, 55 people a day times let’s call it $100 a visit would come to $5,500 a day that Medicare is paying this place for absolutely nothing.  Let’s assume that these two doctors are on call.  Maybe they do get called to deal with a patient once or twice a day, maybe.  Still, $5,500 a day is pretty good.  Times 7 days a week that’s, let’s see, $38,500 a week.  Not bad for being on call and walking through the building maybe twice a week. The nurses and staff do all the work and are very good. I thought the references to patients being under the care of these doctors was pretty clearly fraudulent.

Conclusions

(1) Ask questions. What is being done? Why? When and where will it be done? How long will it take? What are the expectations? When does the patient transition from one stage to another and what are the criteria for transitions?

(2) Watch medications. Who prescribed what? Was the surgeon aware of the person’s previous medications? Does anything conflict with anything else? Are any of the medications to be given on an “as needed” vs. “regular” basis? What are the meds and what is each being given for?  Assuming some of the meds are sent home with the patient, find out again what needs to be given and when.  Then make an appointment with the person’s primary care physician to review.

(3) Watch what you are being billed for. Since most bills will be transmitted directly to Medicare or to the Medicare Advantage health insurance program, this is not always something you see.  I remember when my father died, the doctors charged for several visits “to him” after he had already died. (That was also at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, FL.) These people have no shame. They simply game the system for their own benefit.  If that explanation seems harsh, the only other explanation is that they are too disorganized to bill correctly, but somehow the errors are always in their favor.  You pick.

That’s what I learned.  I hope it helps you.

And today (3-17- 2010) I learned something else

Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts Attorney General, published a preliminary report titled Investigation of Health Care Cost Trends and Cost Drivers dated January 29, 2010.  I highly recommend you read it.  All 21 pages.  Don’t worry, there are some large graphs!  It will either enlighten you or confirm whatever cynical views you may have about our healthcare system.  The conclusion is that in our free market system, healthcare providers charge what the market will bear.  And that drives up costs. Let’s put it this way: you can pay 280% more for the exact same market basket of healthcare services, depending on where you go in the state of MA.  And we have some pretty fancy, well known medical institutions here.  Mind you, I am not condemning them for this, because I believe those that charge more are also doing more in the community that they are not being paid for.  But the overall report helps explain how broken the system currently is.  I hope you can read this below.  It shows the variation in price for the same services is, broadly, 100% from lowest to highest paid, with the exception of one heck of an outlier which is 280% of the lowest paid.  Still, a 100% difference is a heck of a market premium for healthcare.

Pages 19 and 20 have conclusions, including the following:

Our preliminary findings show that the current system of health care payment is not value-based – that is, wide disparities in payment levels are not explained by differences in quality or complexity of the health care services provided. These findings have powerful implications for ongoing policy discussions about ways to contain health care costs, reform payment methodologies, and control health insurance premiums without sacrificing quality or access in Massachusetts. The Office of the Attorney General looks forward to completing its investigation and to presenting a fuller exposition of its findings through the DHCFP cost containment hearings.

Although our investigation continues, it is clear that prices paid for health care services reflect market leverage. As a greater portion of the commercial health care dollar shifts, for reasons other than quality or complexity, to those systems with higher payment rates and leverage, costs to the overall system will increase and hospitals with lower payment rates and leverage will continue to be disadvantaged. If left unchecked, there is a risk that these systemic disparities will, over time, create a provider marketplace dominated by very expensive “haves” as the lower and more moderately priced “have nots” are forced to close or consolidate with higher paid systems.

The present health care marketplace does not allow employers and consumers to make value-based purchasing decisions. Our findings show the system lacks transparency in both price and quality information, which is critical for employers and consumers to be prudent purchasers.

These market dynamics and distortions must be addressed in any successful cost containment strategy. Payment reform, such as the global payment methodology recommended by the Special Commission on the Health Care Payment System, may result in system benefits such as better integration of care. But, a shift to global payments may not control costs, and may result in unintended consequences if it fails to address the dynamics and distortions of the current marketplace.

We need universal healthcare.  And we aren’t likely to get it in the near future, no matter what Congress does.

Obama Healthcare Town Hall Meeting in Portsmouth, NH on 8-11-2009

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Last week I received an email from Kevin Jones who runs much of the Norwell Town Democratic Committee asking anyone interested in attending the Obama town hall meeting in Portsmouth, NH on Tuesday, August 11th, to respond.  My mother is visting and I thought this was something we’d enjoy doing, so I promised the two of us would attend and assist in any way needed.

Days went by, we confirmed our volunteering and ability to drive ourselves up there, our ability to make a sign of some sort, and willingness to commit to an all day effort.  Ok.  All of this was being coordinated through John Bowes our key regional community organizer.  Someone who has a clear future in politics.

Tuesday morning dawns, rain – maybe even hail – threatens but holds off during the 70 mile drive to Portsmouth.  Mind you I’m in a 2001 Prius so the ecofootprint of this trip isn’t as bad as it might be.  So we searched for the address we were given near the old Pease Air Force Base.  No such address.  We stopped a couple times and asked at what buildings were there… no such address.  Called the organizer who said go to the Park and Ride we had passed.  Still with me?  We park, walk over to the bus, introduce ourselves, blah blah blah, get on the bus, …and THE SKY OPENS.  Like a firehose.  So far we were blessed!  The bus fills up and starts over to a field where a rally is to take place.  HA.  No, I don’t think so.

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Everyone who had been at the park was walking their wet way to the Portsmouth High School which was where the President’s town hall meeting was to take place.

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This wasn’t pretty.  A few stalwart souls were standing outside, drenched to the skin.  The media folks must have been there the night before since lots of equipment was firmly established.

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The bus was driving a circuit from the high school to the Park and Ride.  Let me point out that the bus was never completely full, before I admit that we didn’t want to get out in the pouring rain and stand around outside at the high school.  So my mother and I rode the circuit, along with a couple other wimpy souls, back to PnR and around again to the high school.  This is around 8:30 or so am.  Then the rain stopped.  The sky brightened.  We joined the crowd at the high school.

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There were a large number of media folks, which was to be expected.  Newspaper reporters with pads of paper, photographers and video folks with huge black cameras sporting what looked like very heavy lenses.  There was a lot of interviewing going on and reporters were drawn particularly to older participants.  Given the scare tactics being used, like Sarah Palin’s “death panel” allegation, the media was testing to see just how scared these older folks might be.  Again, HA.  They so do not know my mother.  But being a white haired old biddy, she was interviewed several times.  The most pleasant of which was by a lovely young lady shown below.

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With respect to the crowd, the pro healthcare reform folks were on one side of the entry road and the paid shills and mislead lambs were on the other.  The anti reform folks had that huge stupid color sign printed on vinyl purporting to show how the healthcare plan will work (an expensive scare tactic), they had bullhorns, they had an angry attitude.  They shouted across the road at

signpeople.  The organizers had made a point to tell everyone, as they boarded the buses, not to respond to the antagonists,  since that plays into their efforts to obtain publicity.  Fortunately there were no serious confrontations all day.

There was one nutcake who was walking around with (what appeared to be) a large gun strapped to his leg.  The police knew about it, so I figured that was their business, not mine.  It does make one a bit nervous, however.  In retrospect I assume it was a toy used for effect.   The Charlotte Observer has some great photos, including one of this nutcake.  Most of their photos are of the opposition. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/galleries/gallery/882852.html

So the angry folks festered, they shouted for supporters to go home, leave them their “freedom”, and keep government out of healthcare. And don’t mess with their Medicare, either.  Wha?

On the other side of the street, the good guys were having a great time.  Lots of individual groups had come together: AFL-CIO, Green Energy supporters, Mass Nurses, and others mostly recognizable as groups by their matching tshirts.  And now and then a group shouted slogan.  Mass Nurses’ slogan was “Everybody in, nobody out.”  The whole scene was quite noisy.

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There’s mom holding my hand made, heartfelt albeit not terribly artistic, sign.  And this is why I appreciate graphic artists of all persuasions!

The best of the noise on our side was the African drum guys.  They played all morning and were a delight.  You can listen to a bit of it over on YouTube…

As if this wasn’t enough fun, there was a group called the Leftist Marching Band which was a real hoot.  Hey, Democrats are a lot of fun, what can I say?  And, like all good musicians, their dummer had a Zildjian cymbal (I’m a big fan and Zildjian is headquartered in my town).

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Of course you have to hear them live…  At one point the band and the drummers played together.  I believe I was too busy dancing to tape that.  Oops.

So that was pretty much the morning.  The sun began to shine.  Some of us had box lunches overflowing with goodies which we shared with people nearby. Bottles of ice water were wonderful in the heat and humidity.  Everybody who was going to get into the High School for the Town Meeting had a ticket and was already in line.  A line which snaked a long way, I might add.

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John Bowes, our community organizer, came through with tickets for my mother and I.  And we were ushered inside.  Oh, yes, I bet you’d like to hear about the town meeting part of the day….  Obama was supposed to arrive around noon.  We were inside the gym around 1:30 pm I think it was.  There seemed to be maybe 2o00 or more people inside the gym.  The group was in good spirits.  The high school band played until the presidential seal was installed on the podium.  A woman who had been an entrepreneur and had employed people herself spoke about how she was now uninsurable due to a condition she currently has, Hepatitis C, which had killed her husband.  She introduced Obama.

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It was a crowded room with plenty of media.  One set, shown above, was against the back wall of the gym, another set was off to my right on the side of the room.  Luckily Obama really “works” a room, going from side to side and addressing everyone, so I think all the media and attendees had a sense of connection.    It seems a bit silly to include video of the President since he looks and sounds exactly like every single time you’ve ever seen him on TV.  What you see is what you get.  I began to think of the Secret Service guy on our side in front of the president as our personal watchdog.  The guy actually made me a tad uncomfortable, but he certainly kept an eye on folks.  Other Secret Service guys, state police, local police, etc. were all over the place.  I think that is why the Obama town meeting was more “polite” than the meetings Senators and Congressmen have been holding.

The governor of Maine and governor of New Hampshire were both there, although not the governor of Massachusetts.  The usual collection of Congresscritters and local politicians were all greeted individually by the President.

I’ve attached some pieces of Obama’s speech and his answers to various questions in the video below.  He spoke about savings anticipated from Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and from eliminating the Medicare Advantage programs which have added no value to Medicare but have significantly increased the costs.  (I’ve been struggling for hours to squeeze more and more seconds out of this video to get it under what YouTube thinks is 10 minutes or 2 GB whatever comes first. Very difficult. So if my editing sucks, well, so be it.)

In any event, even the people who had serious concerns (inside the gym) were polite.  The speech and the Q&A were both conversational.  The President made an effort to address not only those who agree with him, but those who disagreed and had concerns.  I still think the event organizers managed to keep the screaming crazies outside.  The process of obtaining tickets to the town hall meeting was said to be open to everyone and was posted on the whitehouse website, so if the other side did not register for tickets in time, I can only imagine that is because the organizers tried like crazy to get all the tickets signed up before the opposition learned about them.  That seems fair enough, given the way politics is generally fought. And particularly so on this issue.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the President walked around, shook hands with and spoke briefly with a great many people.  Probably driving his Secret Service guys a bit nuts.

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That second photo was the last one I was able to take before the President was close enough that I could shake his hand, and so I did.  Cool.  I think the world of the man and am pleased to have been able to tell him I support his effort on healthcare.

We left after that, eventually took a shuttle back to the Park and Ride to see a line of trucks, cars and people pressed up against the Pease fences across the road.  Air Force One was sitting on the ground and about to take off momentarily by the time we got there.  That thing really takes off fast.  I thought I’d have more time to get a picture, but …that’s all foks.

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We had a great time, enjoyed seeing the President live, and were pleased to have lent our support on this important issue.

Last night and early today the various media already had their stories about the event printed, aired, and posted on the internet.  Here are links to a few:

WBUR http://www.wbur.org/2009/08/12/obama-nh-visit

NECN http://necn.com/Boston/Politics/2009/08/11/President-takes-pitch-for/1249982712.html this is ABOUT the NH meeting, but no video from it.

NECN http://necn.com/Boston/Politics/2009/08/11/Obama-Americans-shouldnt/1250022649.html this is part of the speech

WSJ http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124999368750322533.html headline reads Under Pressure, Obama Defends Health-Care Plan / In Town Meeting at New Hampshire School, President Faces Friendly Audience in the Hall as Protestors Chant on Streets Outside.  (Well, actually it was on the driveway leading into the school.  And they were noisy.  But so was the other side. Guess you can’t expect the WSJ to be objective on this.)

AP via Yahoo News – this is a well written, comprehensive summary  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090811/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_obama_health_care_overhaul

Voice of America http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-08-11-voa48.cfm (decent article but needs editing)

Washington Examiner http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Obama-takes-on-_death-panel_-claims-8092307-52987527.html

Christian Science Monitor http://features.csmonitor.com/politics/2009/08/11/obama-steps-up-attack-on-healthcare-status-quo/

You Tube – somebody else fascinated with the drummers, there may be more videos up there, don’t know.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsciYt0oZ4w

The Portsmouth Herald covered the arrest of a guy who broke into the high school just before the town meeting event and had a gun in his truck  http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20090812-NEWS-908129980

report on the meeting and related topics  http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20090812-NEWS-908120357

Boston Channel [WCVB] has 5 pieces – the comments mostly appear to the from the paid lobby or the sadly mislead.    http://www.thebostonchannel.com/news/20359043/detail.html

Boston Herald has what we’ve come to expect.

Boston Globe, Boston.com has a lot of stuff – my favorite being a quote from AFL-CIO president Mark MacKenzie “New Hampshire workers desperately need major healthcare reform and we will not let our voices be silenced by the corporate-funded mobs on the other side.”  http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2009/08/12/at_nh_forum_obama_hits_wild_criticism_of_healthcare_overhaul/

http://www.boston.com/news/local/new_hampshire/articles/2009/08/11/protests_set_on_obama_nh_talk/