Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Health Insurance Now Cost MORE Than a New Car - Every Year!!

"Health Insurance Costs More Than a New Car" is certainly a Drudge worthy headline.  He has a eye for the grabber headline that yields massive click-thrus.  And this one sure caught my eye.

But in this case the click through from Drudge leads you to an honest to goodness news story in POLITCO (not even an op-ed piece).  But it's still a scary story.  Family Health Insurance for the average family in America now exceeds $15,000.00 a year.  That's more than the cost of a new Ford Fiesta. Every single year!

You could have a Jay Leno sized garage full of cars in just a few short years if you simply stopped buying Health Insurance!!

How can this possibly happen?  The key is that the average American doesn't realize how much he is being charged.  His or her costs are partially paid by the employer and the balance is split up by paycheck, between 24 and 52 payments a year, so they seem smaller than they actually are.

The POLITICO article goes out of its way to make certain readers know that OBAMACARE (or the Affordable Care Act) is NOT the reason for these huge premiums, it's mostly actual increases in healthcare costs.  In fact the POLITICO article points out that Obamacare may hold back future cost increases.

But this is reality and the article makes clear that these costs are increasing much faster than the rate of inflation.  I believe the so-called Affordable Care Act is not part of any solution.  I'm sorry the bill became so politically charged that real compromise was never even considered.  Republicans and Democrats share the blame equally.  Although I feel Nancy Pelosi was primary the architect of this fiasco.

Market forces could reduce these costs, but only once the actual payer, the patient or the employee, understands how much he is really paying.  Our system of employer paid health insurance hides the real costs from the insured, while forcing the uninsured into certain bankruptcy.

Monday, September 19, 2011

George Washington Wrote the Tea Party Agenda

Thanks to the wonderful Garrison Keillor and The Writer's Almanac on National Public Radio I learned that President George Washington published his famous Farewell Address 215 years ago today, on September 19, 1796. This address was never spoken or delivered to an audience, it was published in newspapers around the country.

After listening to Keillor, I decided to read the original address myself. Here is a link ot a PDF of the address in it's entirety: Washington's Farewell Address to the People of the United States.  It's a difficult read as English isn't the same language it was 215 years ago.  And Washington was verbose.  No 140 character tweets here.

According to historical accounts, Washington took over four years to write this address.  He had significant help from James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.  He had things he wanted to say, things he felt were important.

As many of you already know I have frequent breakfasts and lunches with a group of conservative Tea Party types who hold the majority here in rural central Mississippi.  These folks are most assuredly clinging to their guns and bibles.  We engage in lively, but good spirited debates.  

As I read Washington's Farewell Address (for the first time ever, I'm embarrassed to admit), I was struck that I read virtually EXACTLY what my breakfast Tea Party companions have been saying.  Not just sort of saying, but damned near word for word.  I don't know if ANY of these folks ever read Washington's Farewell Address.  They certainly don't ever claim to be quoting Washington, but they sure share his beliefs.

Washington had five major points of advice to his countrymen in his address.  To say Washington was passionate would be an understatement.

  1. Washington believed strongly in the importance of a balanced budget.  He felt our good credit was critical to the very survival of the nation.
  2. Washington believed in the importance of Religion and national morality.  Folks I'm not making this up, read it for yourself.  Let me quote Washington: "And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."
  3. Washington believed in the importance of avoiding permanent foreign alliances.  To paraphrase he certainly wouldn't believe in Nation Building, nor would he ever want the United States become subservient to any foreign body.
  4. Washington feared Constitutional Amendments might weaken the Federal Government.  OK. he certainly called that one wrong, but he believed in a strong federal government.
  5. Washington Feared and Warned Against Political Parties.  My Tea Party breakfast companions and I don't often agree, but we're certainly together on this one.  Nothing hurts our society today more than the political parties that work only for power and rarely for the good of the people.
Although it's common to believe the Tea Party is an offshoot of the Republican Party, nothing could be further from the truth.  Tea Parties turn on Republicans quickly and field primary opponents to oust those who don't agree with their principles.

This is all food for thought.  Washington's words have wisdom, but they are 215 years old.  We occasionally accuse Tea Party conservatives of living in the past.   Some things have changed.  Some things haven't.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tears in Tragedy: Remembering Sue Kim Hanson

Several years ago a diverse and eclectic group of bloggers created the 2,996 Project. In this project, one blogger was assigned to prepare a remembrance for each of the victims who died during the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001

It's hard to believe ten years has passed since this horrific tragedy. As I watch television today we seem to remember the event, but the individuals, the quiet lives of the victims are fading into the mist of time. That is the greatest tragedy of all.

Please take time to remember just how frail and how fleeting life really is. Read and remember Sue Kim Hanson.

Sue Kim Hanson
September 11, 2006

A short note appears on the Boston University Medical Campus Calendar Website noting that Jonathan W. Yewdell, M.D., Ph.D., Chief, Cellular Biology Section of the Laboratory of Viral Diseases will be speaking tomorrow, September 11, 2006, on the topic of "Gained in Translation: Generating Viral and Cellular Peptide Antigens from DRiPs."

He is speaking at 4:00 pm in Keefer Auditorium and a Reception in the Wilkins Board Room will follow.

What might be missed by a casual observer is perhaps the most important fact of all. Dr. Yewdell is the guest speaker for the
5th Annual Sue Kim Hanson Lecture In Immunology.

If you noticed this, you might simply assume that Sue Kim Hanson is (or was) some generous benefactor to the University. A lecture named for her to repay her gift.

Or perhaps you would guess that she is (or was) a notable scientist who, at one time or another, taught or studied at Boston University. Someone who should be honored for the advancements she made in Immunology.

And, indeed, all of the above is true. Just not in the way you might expect.

Susan Kim Hanson was one of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack that took the lives of
2,996 souls in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the fields of Pennsylvania.

Sue, her husband Peter, and her two year old daughter Christine were on United Airlines Flight 175 that crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Her daughter Christine was the youngest victim of the September 11th attack.

But the Boston University Lecture Series is not named after Sue Kim Hanson because of the way she died, but because of the way she lived.

Sue Kim HansonSue was a great scientist in the making. She was a doctoral candidate in micro-biology immunology at Boston University and working on her final thesis. Her work promised to reveal the workings of a chemical believed to regulate immune responses. She had isolated in lab mice a gene suspected of being involved in asthma sufferers and AIDS patients. Her work had the potential to help millions of people.

Susan Kim was one of those wonderful American success stories. A Korean-American, Sue had lived with her grandmother in Korea until she was 6. Her mother died when she was 15 and she was raised by her strict Korean father. Through hard work and discipline, sacrifice, dedication and sheer will power she neared the goal her mother and father and grandmother had hoped she would achieve, her doctorate degree.

Dr. Hardy Kornfeld, Hanson's thesis adviser, said "She was sort of fearless. Sue just took on tasks that were incredibly challenging, and more often than not she was able to make a go at them."

That she would be attracted to the wild and undisciplined Peter Hanson was a great surprise. Three years younger than Sue Kim, Peter gained his education by following The Grateful Dead. Peter believed that the group and its music would become classics, up there with Beethoven, Bach and company, and he tried to sway the opinion of anyone who would listen. Many of our listeners to Wizard Radio would certainly agree with Peter.

But even if Sue wasn't quite convinced about the Dead, she believed in Peter. And her faith was well placed. Peter was, by all accounts, a brilliant software engineer, a great salesman and a wonderful person.

He was passionate about Sue and Sue fell head over heals in love with Peter. She obviously had a great effect on him.
Legacy.com has a reprint of a New York Times article about Sue that tells the story:

    "The relationship spurred Peter Hanson to clip his tangle of brownish-red dreadlocks, trade in tie-dyed T- shirts for suits, go to business school and become one of the best software salesmen his friends and family had ever met. He was vice president of marketing at TimeTrade in Waltham, Mass."

    "Her bond with the Hansons was so strong that they accompanied her to California when she went to inform her father about her engagement. She worried that her father would protest because Peter Hanson was not Korean. But her family embraced the Hansons."

Sue and Peter were married and had a beautiful daughter. Sue continued to pursue her doctoral degree. She was scheduled to defend her thesis in November, 2001.

Sue, Peter and ChristineTaking a last break before finalizing her research and thesis, Sue, Peter and Christine were on their way to visit the Sue's father and grandmother in California, and take Christine to Disneyland, when they boarded United Airlines Flight 175. Peter was one of those who made a final cell phone call to his parents moments before the plane crashed into the south tower.

Sue's friend
Mona Pengree writes, "Sue was awarded her PhD posthumously, as her professor finished her work on her behalf. This is a wonderful picture of her, and she shone every bit as brightly in person. Probably more. Her loss was a loss to all mankind."

Sue gave a great deal to Boston University and she gave a great deal to all of us. Her work in immunology inspired her fellow students, faculty and the University to continue her research and finish her thesis. They awarded her a doctorate degree. And they established the Annual Sue Kim Hanson Lecture In Immunology, not just to honor her memory, but to give full credit to her work and the inspiration, the strength and the courage Sue provides to us all.

God bless you Sue... and Peter and Christine and all those who died so tragically five years ago.

God bless.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
ADDENDUM: Inserted September 11, 2011:

Michelle Malkin wrote this in her syndincated column back in December, 2001, but I had never seen it until today. Christine Hanson SHOULD HAVE BEEN 13 years old this year. In her Christmas column in 2001 Malkin wrote:

"Eight children were murdered on hijacked airliners that crashed on Sept. 11. Christine Hanson, 3, was on United Airlines Flight 175 with her parents. She was on her first trip to Disneyland. Christine was brown-eyed and rosy-cheeked and button-nosed. At family meals, she made everyone stand and hold hands while singing the theme song from Barney. During Christine's funeral, mourners re-enacted the scene, singing:

"I love you, you love me . . ." "

As I mentioned in an earlier entry, there is a wealth of information, tribute and love scattered throughout the Internet in remembrance of Sue Kim Hanson. I owe every contributor who came before me a deep debt of gratitude. Through each of you I have come to know Sue, Peter and Christine. You have touched my heart.

If my Tribute to Susan Kim Hanson here today fell short in any way, I deeply apologize and would love to hear from any of you.

I suggest these following resources from which I have borrowed freely in preparing this tribute:

Remember September 11, 2001

A mother to her son: How could I forget your curiosity and energy? By Eunice Hanson, for The Associated Press

Peter, Sue Kim, and Christine Hanson Memorial Web Site

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Back in 2006, the 2,996 Project asked bloggers to prepare tributes to all who died in the tragic events of September 11th. Many of those blog entries remain on line and many will be reprinted today.