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Health Care Reform in Surgery Recovery

Arizona Sen. John McCain is currently recovering from surgery, and for as long as that takes so is his Republican party’s attempts to reform America’s health care system.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has once again delayed a vote on a Senate health care proposal, not because McCain is a former party presidential nominee or exceedingly senior congressional member or otherwise an especially respected member of the party, but rather because at this point not a single a Republican vote can be spared. This point arrives after seven years of every establishment Republican and every anti-establishment Republican vowing repeal and replacement of the hated Obamacare law, with a solid Republican majority in the House and a sufficient one in the Senate and some sort of Republican in the White House, so the Republican effort to make good on that constantly made promise seems conspicuously sickly.
The prognosis for McCain’s recovery is reportedly good, and we certainly wish him our very best and offer our prayers, but the chances for that long-awaited Republican repeal and replace effort seem more iffy. Health care is complicated, as that putatively Republican president discovered shortly after he took office, and the politics of the issue are more complicated yet, so it’s foolish to make any bold promises such as the all of the Republicans have been making. The party’s congressional majorities might yet pass something, and that some sort of Republican president will surely sign it, but at this point there’s no guessing how that might turn out well.
That hated Obamacare law is indeed hateful, full of all the restrictions on individual liberty and increased costs for the middle class that the Republicans predicted, utterly lacking in the promises the Democrats made about keeping your doctor and your plan and pocketing a big chunk of change at the end of year, and the Republicans won three state congressional election and one-of-two presidential elections on the issue. The law never polled well, even when Obama was winning re-election, so replacing the damned thing should have been an easy enough task for a Republican congress and Republican president to do. Replacing it, though, has proved tricky even for the co-author of “The Art of the Deal.”
Some of Obamacare’s most unworkable provisions have always polled well, such as that guaranteed coverage of pre-existing conditions, and at least a few million photogenic and sympathetic folks have derived advantages from it, and it also expanded Medicaid coverage to a few more million folks in states that voted in Republican governors and senators and representatives. Obamacare still doesn’t poll particularly well, but both the House and Senate versions of repealing and replacing it are faring far worse, and at this point in this age of cynical pragmatism we can’t hardly blame any Republicans up for re-election in a year and a few month’s time.
Those poor politicians’ political calculations are further complicated by the complex nature of Republican politics at this point. One of the unsure Republican votes is Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who voted against Obamacare when it happened and is about as right-wing a Republican as you could hope for in a such a liberal state as Maine but is nonetheless reviled by the all the right-wing radio talkers in the red states and is voting against the Senate bill because it’s too austere. Another wavering vote is Sen. Ran Paul from McConnell’s own state of Kentucky, whose standing with the right-wing radio talkers is hard to assess at the moment, because the thinks the bill too spend-thrifty. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is holding out for an amendment that would allow young and healthy consumers the choice of low-cost and low-coverage plans for catastrophic care, which warms our traditional Republican hearts, but the Republican president called him “Lyin’ Ted” all the right-wing talk radio hosts aren’t sure what to make of the Cruz amendment.
Almost everyone on talk radio and the rest of the party still seems on board with that putatively Republican president, who ran on promises of coverage for everybody and the government paying for it and no cuts to Medicaid and lower costs somehow resulting, and he now tells his televangelist interviewer that he’s waiting in the Oval Office with his pen to sign anything the Republicans might put on his desk. He’s not given any speeches or even any “tweets” about why the Republican plan is so great it’ll make your head spin, but if the Republicans in congress do give him something to sign he’ll gladly take credit for it. If they don’t, he’ll be able blame it on those gutless and devious moderate and conservative establishment types of Republicans that he that he vowed to destroy, and we’re sure all those talk show hosts will heartily agree.
There’s a Republican case to be made for those widely unpopular House and Senate bills the Republicans came up, and for the compromise that should have been reached with complete Republican control of the government, and they might yet make it. Such Republicans as that putatively Republican president keep talking about how shrewd McConnell is at getting things done, and we note that he held a Supreme Court seat open long enough for the putatively Republican president to take credit for getting a conservative confirmed, but the Republican president ran on the argument that he or any other professional politician couldn’t get anything done, and that only a real estate developer could do the job.
If the Republicans don’t get the job done there will be plenty of blame to spread around, and we’re sure they’ll all do their best to spread it elsewhere. If something does get passed and sign, they’ll probably all claim credit, then start deflecting the blame somewhere down the electoral road.

— Bud Norman

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Health Care is Complicated

A bill that significantly altered Obamacare passed the House of Representatives on Thursday by a margin of 217 to 213, but that close call doesn’t bode well for its chances of passage in the Senate, where the far slimmer Republican majority has its own political considerations to be made. Even if both Republican chambers do approve the bill and the Republican president signs that still won’t fulfill their promise of full repeal and replacement of Obamacare, with much of the socialist assumptions we’ve been railing against all the these years being officially stipulated to by the Republican party, and the consequences of what’s left remain to be seen.
There are credible enough sources saying millions of Americans will suddenly be left without health insurance that the Democratic press will make a great deal of it, and surely find plenty of undeniable sob stories to tell about it, and that will probably poll even worse than Obamacare does. There’s a credible argument to be made on the right that a free-market based system of health care delivery will incur a few sob stories but overall provide a greater good to a greater number of people, but the Republican president made campaign promises about health care for everyone and the government paying for it and the Republican establishment he ran against has given up on the idea of mandated coverage for pre-existing conditions, and even after a big Republican victory the argument seems to have shifted to the left.
Health care is complicated, though, as even President Donald Trump has humbly admitted, and lately even such longer-standing conservatives as ourselves are obliged to make the same admission. Our beloved and rock-ribbedly Republican father has lately had some back surgery at a seemingly brand-new spinal hospital which we’re much relieved to say seems to be going well, and has been paid for by some incomprehensible mix of that darned LBJ’s Medicare program and our dad’s diligent lifelong payments to insurance and supplemental insurance plans, and although he’s always done a remarkably good job of taking good care of himself theres no telling how it might have turned in a purely free-market system. He characteristically asked us from his hospital bed how the latest developments he’d been watching on Fox News might ultimately affect us, and we had to admit we had no idea.
We’ll keep following the latest developments, and Dad’s health, and our own poor decisions, and hope for the best.

— Bud Norman

Fake News and Real Life

Our Tuesday morning started before sunrise and stretched into the afternoon in the lobby of a local hospital, where we anxiously awaited the outcome of our father’s spinal surgery. The rest of the day’s news seemed unimportant, but while our mother was getting some much-needed napping done there was nothing else but pacing to occupy our interminable wait.
Once upon a fairly recent time in Wichita almost any significant medical procedure would take place at the Wesleyans’ Wesley Hospital or the Catholics’ St. Francis or St. Jude hospitals, which still remain the big three under national corporate ownership, but these days there are gleamingly ultra-modern specialty facilities spread all over town. We wound up way out on the east side, across the street from one of the local corporate airports and not far from swank restaurants in trendy shopping centers, at a well regarded place where they work pretty much exclusively on spines. The workers were friendly and professional, the coffee was free, and they had several of those big high-definition televisions tuned into the various cable news channels.
An old family friend and a new friend from the parents’ elegant nearby dropped by to offer some much-appreciated moral support, as did an elder from the parents’ church, and Mom got cell phone calls from our brothers in Colorado and California and a cousin in Oklahoma, but that only took up some of the time. The local newspaper doesn’t take up much time these days, even if you do the crossword and jumble and crypto-quip puzzles, and we’d forgotten to bring along the laptop to take advantage of the free wi-fi we should have expected at such an up-to-date facility, so when Mom dozed off we wandered over to see what was on those newfangled high-definition TVs.
One was tuned into Fox News while another just a yard or so away was showing MSNBC, and it was pleasantly diverting to watch the captions and the scrollers and see what the two polar ends of the cable spectrum were choosing to yak about. On “Fox and Friends” they were making a big deal of the black-masked “antifa” idiots who had staged some destructive May Day mini-riots in Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco and Chicago and New York, while the folks at “Morning Joe” on MSNBC didn’t seem to get around to mentioning them at all, and in both cases we thought their news judgment was skewed by bias. When our Fox-watching folks showed up for the check-in they both mentioned they’d heard how that awful Michael Moore guy was going to stage an anti-Trump Broadway play, which was still big news an hour later on “Fox and Friends,” and we assured our parents that Moore’s pretty much a left-wing has-been these days and nothing to worry about it at a time like this, and they’ll be heartened to know that MSNBC seems to agree, as we didn’t spot a single picture of Moore’s jowly face during the hour so we spent glancing at “Morning Joe.”
The guy we assume is the titular “Morning Joe” and his comely sidekick Mika with the same foreign-sounding and hard-to-spell last name as a past National Security advisor were mostly interested in yakking about some interviews that President Donald Trump gave over the weekend. We could hardly deny them their fun, as the interviews were so undeniably disastrous that we’d already gotten our own kicks in from the right, and we couldn’t really criticize their critiques from the left. Even the exceedingly Trump-friendly panel on “Fox and Friends” was forced to address the unavoidable topic, and their guest, thetalk radio hostess Laura Ingraham, who is usually so Trump-friendly he seriously considered her for the job of Press Secretary, was forced to concede that the interviews “didn’t do Trump any good.” Fox’s regular panel of “Friends” tried to mount a defense, especially that pretty young woman that we have no idea who she is in the middle of the couch, but their hearts didn’t really seem in it.”
The handsomely aging guy on the left of the couch at “Fox and Friends” we recognized as Steve Doocy, and in our sleep-deprived and over-caffeinated and highly anxious yet profoundly bored state we recalled the couple of times our paths had briefly crossed on the Wichita media scene. He was a reporter for one of the local TV stations, we were clerking at the local newspaper, which was a whole lot thicker and more time-consuming and far better than TV way back then, and although he seemed a nice enough guy we couldn’t help but resent how all the women at the paper seemed slightly smitten by him, especially one that we happened to be smitten with. He seemed rather tongue-tied trying to defend those undeniably disastrous Trump interviews, and looked at least the same three years or so older than ourselves, and we couldn’t help chuckling about what all those left-wing babes at the paper would think of him now. We’re not at all famous and as plain and right-wing as ever, but our hair’s still full and we’re not obliged to muster a defense of those undeniably disastrous interviews.
After a few fitful moments of sleep in the chair next to Mom the newfangled beeper machine they’d given us went off, and then a very fit-looking and handsome young surgeon that our Mom told us had attended a Christian college came out to tell us that the surgery had gone well. We were advised that Dad would be waking up from the anesthesia in an about an hour, and after two and a half hours of fitful sleep and pacing and news-watching the beeper went off again and we were sent in to see him. He’d gone off to surgery far more calm and confident and ready to get it over with than anybody else, as usual, and he awoke from the ordeal his same mellow self. He was in intense pain and dreaming the dreams of Morpheus, but still lucid enough to inquire how his beloved wife and family and were doing, and offering reassurances while making some minor complaints, and all the news was good.
A while later he reassured us we could go home, and after we pressed him for more reassurance we somehow made our way back across town for a much-needed nap. We woke up to check the internet for the usual news feed, found nothing that seems especially pressing, took notice that The New York Yankees are back in first place in the American League East and The Boston Celtics are up two-to-none in the second round of the National Basketball Association playoffs, and at the end of it we gave thanks for a pretty good day. We’ll drop by the hospital way out on the east side tomorrow, where Dad’s going to be laid up for a days, and try to adjust our news judgment to what really matters.

— Bud Norman

A Chance of Thunderstorms, Politics, and Other Passing Problems

A chance of thunderstorms is in the forecast for our portion of the Kansas plains today, but despite all that global warming hysteria the weather around here hasn’t been anything like that “Wizard of Oz” kind of scary for the past several early falls, and we’re holding out hope the coming weekend will also be free of any extraordinary political turbulence. Our Thursday afternoon was mostly devoted to sitting around the lobby of one of those free market medical facilities that have lately proliferated on the east side of our humble prairie hometown, anxiously awaiting the results of our beloved Pop’s eyelid surgery, and as anxious at it was at least we weren’t paying any attention to that awful presidential race, so we hold out hope that blessing lasts through the weekend.
Our beloved Pop at long, long last emerged from his surgery in seemingly fine shape, still a bit loopy from the happy pills they’d given him to keep his spirit up and his eyes open during the grueling hours-long procedure but cognizant enough to order a Sprite and ask some pertinent questions about the doctor’s post-op orders, so at that point we were inclined to call it a good day. During that long wait we also had a nice chat with our beloved Mom, despite her own apparent anxieties, although even that heart-to-heart conversation couldn’t avoid the rest of the world. Our beloved Mom is a refined and cultured woman who long ago slapped a proper respect for the English language and other highfalutin ideas about western civilization into our stubborn heads, but she’s also an Okie by birth and upbringing, so of course she led the conversation to the latest football results, which in turn led to a mutually desultory talk about those National Football League players who won’t stand for the national anthem and how the National Collegiate Athletic Association is boycotting North Carolina because it insists on the very same sex-segregated locker room arrangements as the NCAA.
With nothing to distract us but weeks old copies of People Magazine and Sports Illustrated and other waiting room fare full of people we’d never heard of, that inevitably led us to the point when our beloved Mom confessed that both she and our beloved Pop had quite reluctantly decided to vote for Republican nominee Donald J. Trump, as much as they loathed him, but only because the only alternative was Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and at that point we were in no mood to dissuade either of them. They wheeled our Pop out of the surgery room a seemingly long while later, and we and our beloved Mom then wheel-chaired him into the comfort of his easy chair on the third floor of a rather swank east-side old folks’ home, and after we were convinced they could take it from there we headed on home.
Conveniently located on the way home was the notorious local dive bar called Kirby’s Beer Store, so of course we stopped in there along the way. The relatively young bartender with the National Geographic earrings was on the job, which we were glad to see because he’s such a great guy, and the only other customer was a fine fellow of our long acquaintance with a Roy Acuff tattoo on his forearm and who plays a mean rockabilly guitar, and with “Goodfellas” playing on the bar’s television we had a fine talk about our favorite gangster movies. This naturally led to talk of the presidential elections, and after some sincere sympathy from them about our beloved Pop’s plight, and despite our usual disagreements about politics, we all wound up agreeing we wouldn’t vote for any of the major party candidates. Oddly enough, and comfortingly enough, we find ourselves in agreement with all sorts of people on this point lately.
No matter how all that political stuff turns out, we cling to some hope that it won’t be “Wizard of Oz” scary, and that those free market medical joints on the east side will continue to provide due care to such deserving folks as our beloved Pops, and that our beloved and high-cultured Mom will continue to regale us with the latest reviews from her book club and the latest football results, and that our friends in low places will share with us both a beer and a disdain for the rest of it.

— Bud Norman