SHM Media Highlights

“This American Life” on Why the Healthcare System is Out of Control

If you can spare 2 hours, do yourself a favor by listening to the two-part healthcare series on NPR's extraordinary show, This American Life. By using examples that are memorable for their simplicity and lack of hyperbole, the series (the episodes are here and here) does a superb job illustrating how we got into the predicament we’re in, and how hard it is will be to extricate ourselves from it. Although the dominant theme mirrors that of the Expensive Lunch Club I discussed in July, the vignettes and interviews bring the problems to life: what we can learn about healthcare insurance by examining the emerging market in pet insurance (yes, you too can treat your pet hedgehog with antipsychotics); the acne medicine whose generic version costs $500 less than the brand version (and the cat-and-mouse games Big Pharma plays to get patients to favor the latter); the accidental nature of…

Stephen Colbert’s Riotously Funny Interview of a Lobbyist for Universal Healthcare

In the 9th installment of his 35,000 part series, “Better Know a Lobby,” Colbert interviews the head of “Health Care for America Now,” Richard Kirsch. The whole thing is hilarious, but the funniest portion comes at 3:45, when Colbert asks Kirsch to choose between saving universal healthcare or an old lady from drowning.The healthcare debate in Washington has been so depressing, do yourself a favor and spend 5 minutes watching the best satirist of our generation do his thing. [Sorry – there's a 30 second commercial that you'll have to tolerate before the interview begins.]

Could This Be What He Planned All Along?

A conventional look at the The Speech: Obama over-learned the lessons of Hillary-care; he gave Congress too long a leash; he lost control of the message; the wacko’s attacked with a barrage of Socialist/Nazi/Plug-Pulling-on-Grandma-isms; not only was health reform on the ropes but the entire Obama Presidency was in danger of imploding (taking the Dems down with him in the mid-terms); Obama had his back against the wall, a make-or-break moment. Then last night, the President gave a great speech that staked out a thoughtful middle ground; Joe Wilson went rogue, horrifying nearly everyone; this led to real sympathy for Obama and the Dems and a shift in the political landscape. In the end, a mild version of health reform – with nearly-universal coverage, some regulatory protections against the most heinous insurance practices, fee hikes to pay for it all, and a little movement toward improving quality and efficiency –…

Death Panels, Palliative Care, and the Dangers of Modern McCarthyism

It’s time to fight back. The “death panel” nonsense is not a harmless and amusing political canard – it is modern McCarthyism: the shameless, heinous use of lies and distortions to scare and confuse people. The tide will only turn if all of us begin speaking up for the truth.Read this morning’s NY Times piece on palliative care, and you get a sense of the power and beauty of the modern movement to provide patients and families with information and support at the end of life. The piece chronicles the decline and ultimate death of Deborah Migliore, a former topless dancer from the Bronx, from metastatic carcinoid, and the efforts of palliative care specialist Sean O’Mahony to support the patient and her husband through her painful final weeks. The article describes palliative care providers this way:They are tour guides on the road to death, the equivalent of the ferryman in…

Healthcare Rationing: Why Stalin Had it Right

Princeton ethicist Peter Singer’s article in this week’s NY Times Sunday Magazine is creating lots of buzz. It is a classic utilitarian description of the case for rationing – QALYs and all – and a plea for a mature national dialogue about the dreaded R-word. Don’t hold your breath. To understand why, remember the words of Joseph Stalin: “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.”A society of grown-ups would read Singer’s article and say, “Gosh, he’s absolutely right. If we don’t make some hard choices about whether to cover $50,000 palliative chemotherapy to extend a life of an 80-year-old by a few months, then we are choosing not to have enough money to provide universal health insurance, or to ensure that everybody has their pap smears and generic Lipitor (or, while we’re at it, to house the homeless, provide decent public education, or have viable…
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