Archive | August 2014


If you think this country has the best health care system in the world, you’ve been played. In reality we have the worst system if you judge it by its effectiveness and efficiency. Ours is undoubtedly the most technologically advanced, but it is also the most expensive and the one under which millions of Americans have no insured access to health care. It is the only one that allows people to go bankrupt over medical expenses. It is the one that says, “Let those without coverage use emergency rooms and then force those with coverage to pay more to meet the expense.”

If you look at our national health vital statistics compared with those of other developed nations, you will find we are at the bottom of that list in terms of such basics as longevity, infant mortality, and much more. Forbes Magazine reported this last June. Our standing in the world is 37th among 190 nations according to the World Health Organization. That puts us just below Costa Rica and just above Slovenia.

We are the only developed country in the world without national health care. The national health care was created by that flaming liberal Otto von Bismarck back in 1873. He was absurdly accused by his political opponents of being a socialist. In fact he was in fact a practitioner of realpolitik, which means he did not use ideology or even ethics, but relied on practicality.

Our nation’s refusal to adopt national health care is based on an almost mystical belief that market forces and the profit motive are always the most efficient and fair system. There are a lot of reasons why that is not true for everything. At the top of that list is human nature. Where profit is the only motivator one sets oneself against everyone and everything else no matter the cost to the public interest. In the case of medicine add the economic principle of elasticity of price. That means that the market will set prices at the highest level that the public will spend on a good or service. It does not take a genius to figure out that people will pay anything they can for their health benefits.

Despite, not because of ACA, our system is getting even worse. My story tells you how. As I write this my primary care physician, who has treated me through very serious illnesses for the past nine years, was declared “out of network” by AARP’s United Health Care. They have a new policy under which they will cover only hospital-affiliated physicians. I do not understand how, but it seems most likely that this is a way for UHC to increase its bottom line and AARP is going along with it. Reportedly (Consumer Reports On Health newsletter) thousands of Americans are affected.

This is the insurance program advertised as the only one approved by AARP. In fact it seems that United Health Care and AARP are joined at the hip. This program continues to advertise in print and on TV that there are no networks and any physician who accepts Medicare patients is covered. These are obvious lies.
Ever since I was first informed that UHC had assigned me a new physician I have been trying to find a way to continue being covered by the physician who actually knows my case. It took me several weeks to find anyone at either AARP or UHC to discuss my case. Until then I was talking to people who were obviously reading from a script and had no authority to do anything and supposedly no phone number for me to call someone with some authority.

By this time I do have a couple of numbers to call, but call backs take a very long time.
Meanwhile the deadline has passed, my physician is no longer covered, they regard a doctor I do not know at all who is affiliated with a hospital I would never willingly go to is now my physician according to them, and, if I need hospital care, it will not be covered because my physician is not hospital affiliated.

This is the best system in the world? I don’t think so.

Three Panels in August

Before listing the three panels I will shortly participate in, I would like to remind everyone who lives here in western North Carolina that this Monday afternoon at 5 PM Mountain Moral Monday 2 in Pack Square. If you are in Hendersonville, car-pooling is happening at GB Shoes at 3:30-4:00.

I seem to have become a specialist in panel programs. I am involved in three of these in the coming weeks.

Sunday, August 10 – An interfaith panel on the environment is taking place at First Congregational Church at the Laurel Park end of Fifth Avenue.
This discussion will be moderated by Rabbi Phil Bentley, and feature panelists
Byron Ballard on Wicca, Rabbi Phil Cohen on Judaism,
Hakim Ilyas Al-Kashani on Islam and John Snodgrass on Christianity.
Sunday, August 10th at 3pm
First Congregational Church
(1735 5th Ave West, Hendersonville)

Sunday, August 17 – Agudas Israel’s Sunday Seminar series will be about Vatican II, which took place half a century ago and revolutionized the Catholic Church and started a process of reconciliation with the Jewish people. Dorice Narins will speak about Pope John XXIII and I will speak about the role of Abraham Joshua Heschel. This will take place at the synagogue at 1 PM.

Wednesday, August 30 – I have been invited to participate in a panel program on Jewish traditions concerning the dying person. The panel will include a lawyer and a medical ethicist as well as me. My presentation will be based on a published paper.
This program will be at 5:30 PM at 417 Biltmore Avenue (2 Doctors Park on the St. Joseph Hospital campus), Suite E

No Winning Side

When considering a conflict most people find it is easier to pick a side than to really consider the causes of the conflict; the role of each side in the conflict; and the harm caused by each side to the other. It comes down to a sports metaphor – my team against some other team. This is true of politics; it is true of rights issues; and it is especially true of wars.
No one, except profiteers, wins war. Every war involves bloodshed, destruction, displacement, and, of course, lies. When one side defeats the other that usually leads to the start of a path to the next war. The only way to avoid that is to promote reconciliation between the combatants and to remove causes for a new war.
The best-known example is how the Allies won WWI and then, at Versailles, created the conditions that led to the next war only 20 years later. The Allies also won WWII but the US had the wisdom to create the Marshall Plan and the vision to organize the UN. But then the US and USSR created the next war, the so-called Cold War, which engendered over four decades of proxy wars all over the globe before it burned itself out.
In the case of Israel-Gaza, what I see is both sides starting and pursuing war because of political considerations to the great harm of everyone involved. I love Israel but the demonization of Hamas has made for really bad policies by Israel. Hamas started as a faith-based social services provider (Israel even helped out at its founding) that then pursued a violent policy on the basis of demonizing Israel.
I have long criticized and worked against human rights violations by Israel against Palestinians, but I have not hesitated to criticize Palestinians, some times to their faces, for their human rights violations, often against their own people.
No one is blameless here and both sides are victimized by the other.
What is the path to peace? The only way I can see is for leaders to arise on both sides to say “enough,” and to acknowledge that their side has wrontged the other side. For me the example is South Africa where Mandela and de Klerk worked together to end Apartheid and to bring reconciliation through the Truth and Reconciliations hearings. Neither wars nor diplomacy will resolve this conflict. It must happen at the grassroots level. Both the Palestinians and Israel need the kind of charismatic leaders that will work to truly end the conflict. Those leaders might or might not be government leaders. Gandhi, King, and Mandela achieved great things by making it possible for governments to do what was right. Of these Mandela only came to political power.
When you read news or opinion about the current war, or any war, remember always that there are two sides and both are losing.