Health Care Reform – Why Are People So Worked Up?

Why are Americans so worked up about health care reform? Statements such as “don’t touch my Medicare” or “everyone should have access to state of the art health care irrespective of cost” are in my opinion uninformed and visceral responses that indicate a poor understanding of our health care system’s history, its current and future resources and the funding challenges that America faces going forward. While we all wonder how the health care system has reached what some refer to as a crisis stage. Let’s try to take some of the emotion out of the debate by briefly examining how health care in this country emerged and how that has formed our thinking and culture about health care. With that as a foundation let’s look at the pros and cons of the Obama administration health care reform proposals and let’s look at the concepts put forth by the Republicans?

Access to state of the art health care services is something we can all agree would be a good thing for this country. Experiencing a serious illness is one of life’s major challenges and to face it without the means to pay for it is positively frightening. But as we shall see, once we know the facts, we will find that achieving this goal will not be easy without our individual contribution.

These are the themes I will touch on to try to make some sense out of what is happening to American health care and the steps we can personally take to make things better.

A recent history of American health care – what has driven the costs so high?
Key elements of the Obama health care plan
The Republican view of health care – free market competition
Universal access to state of the art health care – a worthy goal but not easy to achieve
what can we do?
First, let’s get a little historical perspective on American health care. This is not intended to be an exhausted look into that history but it will give us an appreciation of how the health care system and our expectations for it developed. What drove costs higher and higher?

To begin, let’s turn to the American civil war. In that war, dated tactics and the carnage inflicted by modern weapons of the era combined to cause ghastly results. Not generally known is that most of the deaths on both sides of that war were not the result of actual combat but to what happened after a battlefield wound was inflicted. To begin with, evacuation of the wounded moved at a snail’s pace and this caused severe delays in treating the wounded. Secondly, many wounds were subjected to wound care, related surgeries and/or amputations of the affected limbs and this often resulted in the onset of massive infection. So you might survive a battle wound only to die at the hands of medical care providers who although well-intentioned, their interventions were often quite lethal. High death tolls can also be ascribed to everyday sicknesses and diseases in a time when no antibiotics existed. In total something like 600,000 deaths occurred from all causes, over 2% of the U.S. population at the time!

Let’s skip to the first half of the 20th century for some additional perspective and to bring us up to more modern times. After the civil war there were steady improvements in American medicine in both the understanding and treatment of certain diseases, new surgical techniques and in physician education and training. But for the most part the best that doctors could offer their patients was a “wait and see” approach. Medicine could handle bone fractures and increasingly attempt risky surgeries (now largely performed in sterile surgical environments) but medicines were not yet available to handle serious illnesses. The majority of deaths remained the result of untreatable conditions such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, scarlet fever and measles and/or related complications. Doctors were increasingly aware of heart and vascular conditions, and cancer but they had almost nothing with which to treat these conditions.

This very basic review of American medical history helps us to understand that until quite recently (around the 1950′s) we had virtually no technologies with which to treat serious or even minor ailments. Here is a critical point we need to understand; “nothing to treat you with means that visits to the doctor if at all were relegated to emergencies so in such a scenario costs are curtailed. The simple fact is that there was little for doctors to offer and therefore virtually nothing to drive health care spending. A second factor holding down costs was that medical treatments that were provided were paid for out-of-pocket, meaning by way of an individuals personal resources. There was no such thing as health insurance and certainly not health insurance paid by an employer. Except for the very destitute who were lucky to find their way into a charity hospital, health care costs were the responsibility of the individual.

What does health care insurance have to do with health care costs? Its impact on health care costs has been, and remains to this day, absolutely enormous. When health insurance for individuals and families emerged as a means for corporations to escape wage freezes and to attract and retain employees after World War II, almost overnight a great pool of money became available to pay for health care. Money, as a result of the availability of billions of dollars from health insurance pools, encouraged an innovative America to increase medical research efforts. More Americans became insured not only through private, employer sponsored health insurance but through increased government funding that created Medicare and Medicaid (1965). In addition funding became available for expanded veterans health care benefits. Finding a cure for almost anything has consequently become very lucrative. This is also the primary reason for the vast array of treatments we have available today.

I do not wish to convey that medical innovations are a bad thing. Think of the tens of millions of lives that have been saved, extended, enhanced and made more productive as a result. But with a funding source grown to its current magnitude (hundreds of billions of dollars annually) upward pressure on health care costs are inevitable. Doctor’s offer and most of us demand and get access to the latest available health care technology in the form of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostic tools and surgical procedures. So the result is that there is more health care to spend our money on and until very recently most of us were insured and the costs were largely covered by a third-party (government, employers). Add an insatiable and unrealistic public demand for access and treatment and we have the “perfect storm” for higher and higher health care costs. And by and large the storm is only intensifying.

At this point, let’s turn to the key questions that will lead us into a review and hopefully a better understanding of the health care reform proposals in the news today. Is the current trajectory of U.S. health care spending sustainable? Can America maintain its world competitiveness when 16%, heading for 20% of our gross national product is being spent on health care? What are the other industrialized countries spending on health care and is it even close to these numbers? When we add politics and an election year to the debate, information to help us answer these questions become critical. We need to spend some effort in understanding health care and sorting out how we think about it. Properly armed we can more intelligently determine whether certain health care proposals might solve or worsen some of these problems. What can be done about the challenges? How can we as individuals contribute to the solutions?

The Obama health care plan is complex for sure – I have never seen a health care plan that isn’t. But through a variety of programs his plan attempts to deal with a) increasing the number of American that are covered by adequate insurance (almost 50 million are not), and b) managing costs in such a manner that quality and our access to health care is not adversely affected. Republicans seek to achieve these same basic and broad goals, but their approach is proposed as being more market driven than government driven. Let’s look at what the Obama plan does to accomplish the two objectives above. Remember, by the way, that his plan was passed by congress, and begins to seriously kick-in starting in 2014. So this is the direction we are currently taking as we attempt to reform health care.

Through insurance exchanges and an expansion of Medicaid,the Obama plan dramatically expands the number of Americans that will be covered by health insurance.

To cover the cost of this expansion the plan requires everyone to have health insurance with a penalty to be paid if we don’t comply. It will purportedly send money to the states to cover those individuals added to state-based Medicaid programs.

To cover the added costs there were a number of new taxes introduced, one being a 2.5% tax on new medical technologies and another increases taxes on interest and dividend income for wealthier Americans.

The Obama plan also uses concepts such as evidence-based medicine, accountable care organizations, comparative effectiveness research and reduced reimbursement to health care providers (doctors and hospitals) to control costs.
The insurance mandate covered by points 1 and 2 above is a worthy goal and most industrialized countries outside of the U.S. provide “free” (paid for by rather high individual and corporate taxes) health care to most if not all of their citizens. It is important to note, however, that there are a number of restrictions for which many Americans would be culturally unprepared. Here is the primary controversial aspect of the Obama plan, the insurance mandate. The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided to hear arguments as to the constitutionality of the health insurance mandate as a result of a petition by 26 states attorney’s general that congress exceeded its authority under the commerce clause of the U.S. constitution by passing this element of the plan. The problem is that if the Supreme Court should rule against the mandate, it is generally believed that the Obama plan as we know it is doomed. This is because its major goal of providing health insurance to all would be severely limited if not terminated altogether by such a decision.

As you would guess, the taxes covered by point 3 above are rather unpopular with those entities and individuals that have to pay them. Medical device companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, doctors and insurance companies all had to “give up” something that would either create new revenue or would reduce costs within their spheres of control. As an example, Stryker Corporation, a large medical device company, recently announced at least a 1,000 employee reduction in part to cover these new fees. This is being experienced by other medical device companies and pharmaceutical companies as well. The reduction in good paying jobs in these sectors and in the hospital sector may rise as former cost structures will have to be dealt with in order to accommodate the reduced rate of reimbursement to hospitals. Over the next ten years some estimates put the cost reductions to hospitals and physicians at half a trillion dollars and this will flow directly to and affect the companies that supply hospitals and doctors with the latest medical technologies. None of this is to say that efficiencies will not be realized by these changes or that other jobs will in turn be created but this will represent painful change for a while. It helps us to understand that health care reform does have an effect both positive and negative.

Finally, the Obama plan seeks to change the way medical decisions are made. While clinical and basic research underpins almost everything done in medicine today, doctors are creatures of habit like the rest of us and their training and day-to-day experiences dictate to a great extent how they go about diagnosing and treating our conditions. Enter the concept of evidence-based medicine and comparative effectiveness research. Both of these seek to develop and utilize data bases from electronic health records and other sources to give better and more timely information and feedback to physicians as to the outcomes and costs of the treatments they are providing. There is great waste in health care today, estimated at perhaps a third of an over 2 trillion dollar health care spend annually. Imagine the savings that are possible from a reduction in unnecessary test and procedures that do not compare favorably with health care interventions that are better documented as effective. Now the Republicans and others don’t generally like these ideas as they tend to characterize them as “big government control” of your and my health care. But to be fair, regardless of their political persuasions, most people who understand health care at all, know that better data for the purposes described above will be crucial to getting health care efficiencies, patient safety and costs headed in the right direction.

A brief review of how Republicans and more conservative individuals think about health care reform. I believe they would agree that costs must come under control and that more, not fewer Americans should have access to health care regardless of their ability to pay. But the main difference is that these folks see market forces and competition as the way to creating the cost reductions and efficiencies we need. There are a number of ideas with regard to driving more competition among health insurance companies and health care providers (doctors and hospitals) so that the consumer would begin to drive cost down by the choices we make. This works in many sectors of our economy but this formula has shown that improvements are illusive when applied to health care. Primarily the problem is that health care choices are difficult even for those who understand it and are connected. The general population, however, is not so informed and besides we have all been brought up to “go to the doctor” when we feel it is necessary and we also have a cultural heritage that has engendered within most of us the feeling that health care is something that is just there and there really isn’t any reason not to access it for whatever the reason and worse we all feel that there is nothing we can do to affect its costs to insure its availability to those with serious problems.

OK, this article was not intended to be an exhaustive study as I needed to keep it short in an attempt to hold my audience’s attention and to leave some room for discussing what we can do contribute mightily to solving some of the problems. First we must understand that the dollars available for health care are not limitless. Any changes that are put in place to provide better insurance coverage and access to care will cost more. And somehow we have to find the revenues to pay for these changes. At the same time we have to pay less for medical treatments and procedures and do something to restrict the availability of unproven or poorly documented treatments as we are the highest cost health care system in the world and don’t necessarily have the best results in terms of longevity or avoiding chronic diseases much earlier than necessary.

I believe that we need a revolutionary change in the way we think about health care, its availability, its costs and who pays for it. And if you think I am about to say we should arbitrarily and drastically reduce spending on health care you would be wrong. Here it is fellow citizens – health care spending needs to be preserved and protected for those who need it. And to free up these dollars those of us who don’t need it or can delay it or avoid it need to act. First, we need to convince our politicians that this country needs sustained public education with regard to the value of preventive health strategies. This should be a top priority and it has worked to reduce the number of U.S. smokers for example. If prevention were to take hold, it is reasonable to assume that those needing health care for the myriad of life style engendered chronic diseases would decrease dramatically. Millions of Americans are experiencing these diseases far earlier than in decades past and much of this is due to poor life style choices. This change alone would free up plenty of money to handle the health care costs of those in dire need of treatment, whether due to an acute emergency or chronic condition.

Let’s go deeper on the first issue. Most of us refuse do something about implementing basic wellness strategies into our daily lives. We don’t exercise but we offer a lot of excuses. We don’t eat right but we offer a lot of excuses. We smoke and/or we drink alcohol to excess and we offer a lot of excuses as to why we can’t do anything about managing these known to be destructive personal health habits. We don’t take advantage of preventive health check-ups that look at blood pressure, cholesterol readings and body weight but we offer a lot of excuses. In short we neglect these things and the result is that we succumb much earlier than necessary to chronic diseases like heart problems, diabetes and high blood pressure. We wind up accessing doctors for these and more routine matters because “health care is there” and somehow we think we have no responsibility for reducing our demand on it.

It is difficult for us to listen to these truths but easy to blame the sick. Maybe they should take better care of themselves! Well, that might be true or maybe they have a genetic condition and they have become among the unfortunate through absolutely no fault of their own. But the point is that you and I can implement personalized preventive disease measures as a way of dramatically improving health care access for others while reducing its costs. It is far better to be productive by doing something we can control then shifting the blame.

There are a huge number of free web sites available that can steer us to a more healthful life style. A soon as you can, “Google” “preventive health care strategies”, look up your local hospital’s web site and you will find more than enough help to get you started. Finally, there is a lot to think about here and I have tried to outline the challenges but also the very powerful effect we could have on preserving the best of America’s health care system now and into the future. I am anxious to hear from you and until then – take charge and increase your chances for good health while making sure that health care is there when we need it.

Assistive Technology An Independent Life For Everyone

Not depending on others is very important for every human being. As technology progresses everyday and the development includes specially designed devices and equipment, everyone can now enjoy an independent life style. Even people with disabilities can have a better life, avoiding frustration or incapacity to communicate. Assistive technology is for a great help for those who need to feel secure when they are by themselves, even if they have certain disabilities. Our assistive technology products meet their needs and offer an alternative for a better life. Communication for example, is one of the biggest problems for people with disabilities, but our assistive technology products make it easier. Even if your problem is about hearing, seeing or moving around, the solutions we offer can solve any type of problem related to physical challenges.

We also offer you a great variety of products as furniture, software, workstations or switches, specially created for an independent living. You can enjoy assistive technology products in your own house and anywhere you go, avoiding frustrations and difficulties you were exposed to before. Assistive technology is even for people who suffer from Parkinson, Lou Getring’s Disease aka Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Multiple Sclerosis. All the products we recommend are easy to use, the technology being adapted to every special need. Now, deaf-blind people will be able to communicate between themselves or with other people because assistive technology makes it possible.

If you want to make your children’s life easier, now you can do it with the help of special communication software or CDs that contains all kinds of information about social activities. Eating out, shopping, transportation are some of the social activities children need to learn about before they go out. This and some other assistive technology products can help your children have a better, independent life, even if they have some disabilities. It’s important to mention that these teaching products are not only for children, but also for people who have found themselves, all of a sudden, in the undesirable situation of an accident that has affected their health.

Our furniture is designed for people who need better access in the kitchen, bathroom or in the bedroom and for those who need special workstations in their homes or offices. You don’t have to feel uncomfortable at your desk anymore, because now you have the perfect solution, easily accessible through an online order.

In one word, assistive technology is for those who want to raise the standard of living, for those who need to increase the quality of life because an independent living is now possible through technology. This is why our products come to meet your special needs, helping you achieve what you want.

An Information Technology Degree And An Open Door

Of all the most sought-after degree programs there are, the information technology degree is the one that is currently in the hotseat. Information technology is a branch of engineering that basically has to do with utilizing computers and their software to exchange, process and save information. Because there are different types of technology available, there are several different types of IT professionals.

The word technology is widespread now and covers a vast array of different applications; and it would seem that those applications are almost limitless. From working on computers as a systems analyst to selling computer systems based on a strong foundation of knowledge, getting a degree in information technology can be just the thing to not only push a career forward but give a person just that much more of an edge over their competition.

An assortment of specialized areas in information technology allows for the everchanging and evergrowing needs in the field to be met without alteration. A qualified individual in any one of the IT areas will be able to provide a company with a level of optimum productivity; especially when the learned skills are mixed with the basic fundamentals of business and their applications. It is no secret that employers tend to look for prospective employees who can provide a strong foundation in order to keep operations smooth.

Project management theory, computer programming, database and network systems are only just a few of the lessons that apply to getting an information technology degree. Hands-on training is great for building confidence and provides a level of comfort when entering a professional work environment. Professional certifications and dual degree programs can not only upgrade IT degrees, they can boost resumes and help to achieve the earning power that one has been looking for. A fully certified IT professional with a degree can expect to make $45,000 per year and up.

As this is one of the fastest growing fields around (and it looks to stay that way), there is always a need for those skilled in information technology. One would be hard pressed to find any area of everyday life where computers aren’t already in use; and that is why the demand is and will always be what it is. An added plus is that with the use of computers being so widespread, there is hardly any place on the map a person can go that doesn’t need workers with an IT degree.

With computers and technology, the learning is never done. As the demand continues to grow and change, so will the technology that complements our every day life. The person seeking a degree in information technology must be truly interested in computers and have a thirst for knowledge. There must be willingness and an aptitude for learning something new as software and technology upgrades itself at an amazing rate. The IT professional is a person who is alert and able to keep up; and better yet, is one step ahead of the game at every turn.

The person who has taken the time to earn his or her information technology degree will have opened the door to a career path that is wide and all encompassing. While one path in information technology may be right, that path can often lead to others; and the more skills behind a person the more well rounded and better off they’ll be in their career. Information technology has come a long way and will continue on for many years to come. It is definitely one of those professions that will have the opportunity to see what tomorrow brings, today.

Get Approved For A Bad Credit Home Improvement Loan

Home improvement projects are wonderful, but can quickly become expensive. There are a number of factors that should be taken into consideration when planning home improvements. In some situations, contracting the services of professionals, buying tools and supplies are necessary for completion. There can be a strong inclination to withdraw from your personal savings for home improvements, especially if there is a large repair involved that is an absolute necessity. This can lead to a strain a family’s financial security. If this is the case, you might want to try to get approved for a bad credit home improvement loan.

Making home improvements are one way to increase the appraisal value of your house. However, if your have a bad credit history, your chances for loan approval will certainly decrease. Banks and other financial lenders take your credit history into consideration when trying to get approved for any type of home improvement loan. The lower your credit score, the more difficulty you will have in obtaining a home improvement loan.

Even though this is not encouraging news, don’t give up just yet! You may still be able to qualify for some types of bad credit home improvement loans. Lenders do exist that are willing to approve home improvement loans for persons with a bad credit history, however, possessing sufficient equity in your home will likely be a major requirement.

Unfortunately, bad credit home improvement loans have higher interest rates. But there is a bright side, because if scheduled loan payments are made on time, the credit rating of the borrower will increase provided there are no other negative factors affecting the credit score. After a period of 12 to 24 months of timely payments, you may be able to refinance your bad credit home improvement loan for a lower interest rate.

Here are some excellent tips on ways to get approved for a bad credit home improvement loan and get the lowest possible interest rate for your current credit score:

1. Research
Take time to research your available options. Knowing your options will be a large help when it comes to finding the lowest possible interest rates on a bad credit home improvement loan.

2. Recommendations
Talk to other people who may have gone through the bad credit home improvement loan approval process. Recommendations from friends or co-workers could save you hours worth of your own research time. You may get information from people who have completed the process that you might not learn otherwise.

3. Multiple Lender Quote Comparison
Always get more than one lender quote. You should compare home improvement loan quotations from no less than three or four lenders before attempting to make a decision.

4. Good Rapport
Contact the lenders with which you think you have the best chance of getting an approval for a bad credit home improvement loan. Once a good relationship has been established, lenders may be more likely to give you a lower interest rate.

Improving your credit score as much as possible before you apply for a loan is the best way to get approved for a bad credit home improvement loan. Your bad credit home improvement loan should be seen as an opportunity to both increase the value of your home as well as improve your credit score in the future.

Tips For Home Improvement Home Equity Loan Financing

No one will argue that increasing the value of your home through home improvement projects is a great idea. However, large home improvement projects can become quite expensive. Home improvements lighten your wallet and empty your savings account. Careful planning and thinking about all your financing options is necessary before beginning your home improvement project. Below are a few tips for home improvement home equity loan financing to take into consideration.

Home improvement home equity loans are becoming one of the most popular loans when it comes to home improvement. Because the interest is deductible from your taxes, It’s a viable tool for borrowing money. Interest rates on home improvement home equity loans are usually lower than the interest rates of other types of loans. Another good thing about home improvement home equity loans is that they are fairly easy to get.

Home improvement home equity loans are great loans for home improvement because the project can greatly increase the appraisal value of your home. This is a loan that is obtained to be able to get additional investments for use in the future. Home improvement projects such as bathroom additions, bedrooms and home extensions can increase the value of a house. However, some home improvement projects don’t really result in increasing the value of the house. The construction of a swimming pool is one such project.

Take care when getting a home improvement home equity loan. Don’t forget that the collateral that you are putting up against the loan is your own house. If you can’t make the payments and make them on time, you could end up losing your home. You borrowed money for the sole purpose of improving your house and losing your house would be a disasterous situation indeed.

Many people use home improvement home equity loans for other reasons. The money is sometimes spent finance other expenses such as vacations or everyday needs. Steady appreciation of their houses is what people rely on to be able to pay for the debt. If the value of their house depreciates at the end of any period, they are in huge financial hot water. This is why home improvement home equity loans should be used for the improvement of your home because the risks of depreciation are lower.

To avoid being indebted because of home improvement projects, these tips for home improvement home equity loan financing should be kept in mind. Home improvements are a great way to increase the value of your house but always use your head when getting home improvement home equity loans to finance these projects.