Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Health Insurance Companies Cannot Be Trusted with Our Health.

In an article in Slate magazine, Timothy Noah stated, "Private insurance companies dump very sick claimants based on stupid technicalities. That's reason enough to support health care reform." To back up his point, Noah described what is known as "Rescission," which is the process health insurers use to avoid paying out benefits to treat serious illness by finding minor errors in policyholder's paperwork that can justify canceling the policy. John Grisham's Book, The Rainmaker, described this process in detail, and was the basis for the movie of the same name starring Matt Damon.

Noah's article describes two specific instances in which persons were denied critical health care based on the flimsiest of excuses. Actually, it's very simple. Health insurance companies are in the business of making money. Their primary obligation is to their stockholders, not to the people who purchase health insurance from them. Is it fair to castigate everyone working in the health-insurance business? No, but that's besides the point. The system isn't working. That is the point.

This country has the highest level of medical technology in the world, but an inept, fragmentized, and at times highly unethical system of delivering health care services. The current health care system is bankrupting the country and denying critical medical services to millions of people. It is the ethical responsibility of Congress to put in place a better system. Of course, no one wants to put in place a system that can't be funded. Members of both political parties owe it to their constituents to work together to put in place a system that can at least start to provide adequate health care coverage for everyone.

I wanted to keep this post a positive one, except for the comments about the health-insurance industry. However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Senator Jim Demint of South Carolina. Senator Demint's personal beliefs are more important to him than the welfare of the constituency he is supposed to serve. Otherwise he wouldn't be making reference to stopping President Obama on health care being the equivalent of his Waterloo. Senator Demint created his own personal Waterloo by making this remark.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Supreme Court and Other Myths about Judges

For two days Sonia Sotomayor has repeatedly stated the mythical mantra that all decisions made by judges are based on the law. She has had to do this while Republican senators have baited her about her "Wise Latina" remark. Again, and again she has reassured each Republican Senator that her decisions have been, and will be, based solely on the law. Did you miss that? Her decisions have been, and will be, based solely on the law. If she were to do this, then she would probably be the first judge in history to accomplish this feat.

Every human being makes decisions based on a variety of factors. The decisions that people make are ultimately based on information they believe to be true. This information is gathered through a filtering process based on people's belief systems, emotions, and a whole host of unconscious and subconscious feelings and experiences that all people possess. To assert that a judge is able to bypass to all past experience, ignore emotions and feelings, and be totally aware of all the subconscious motivations is utter nonsense. Millions of people saw the interview with Chief Justice Clarence Thomas on 60 minutes. Can anyone actually believe that this angry man who grew up with a tyrant of her grandfather does not have his decisions influenced by that experience?

During the current hearings to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, stated that in every major case Supreme Court Justice Roberts sided with the prosecution over the defendant. I'm sure that the Chief Justice could cite his reasons for each and every case, but the sheer consistency on his decision-making pattern speaks to an internal believe system that outweighs the impartiality of the law. Justice Roberts has a view of the way the world should be. The information he gathers on a cognitive basis is filtered through that worldview. To believe that all all his decisions are based solely on the Constitution, legal precedent, and total impartiality beggars the imagination.

The notion that "facts are facts" is also nonsense. I live in the South where the civil war never happened. Rather, there was a war of Northern aggression called by Southerners the War between the States. The southern conceptualization of the civil war is very much alive, and if anyone doubts it, there are many Southerners who would be more than willing to debate the issue. Belief systems structure "facts" and marshal them into a coherent view of the world that enables people to live in a society that make sense to them. Judges, and Supreme Court justices, are not immune to this process and cannot render judicial systems in isolation from the society in which they live in the believes they have about themselves in the world around them. The fact that only one member of the Supreme Court is a woman is testimony to the impact of society. The fact that only one member of the Supreme Court is black or Hispanic is also testimony to the impact of society.