|BRETT FAVRE IS A VIKING
Unless you live here, you wouldn’t believe what Favre’s signing with the Vikings means to Minnesota. In a state that has cold-shouldered efforts of the Vikings ownership to get some financial support for a first-class stadium, Favre’s $12 million salary has been nearly paid for by ticket and apparel sales in the first 24 hours after he suited up. Favre’s deal is that he gets to start in the Vikings Friday night game with the Kansas City Chiefs and after that it’s go with the new flow.
My brother Mark, who has been consumed with sound engineering the new tax-supported baseball stadium for the Minnesota Twins, noted in this morning’s e-traffic that in six pages of Tribune coverage of Favre’s first day in MN there was a large ad headed “Cash for Clunkers.” Jason Lewis who is MN’s “Mr. Right” on KTLK radio declared “Favre may cost the Vikings millions, but they’ll get a lot of it back if he’s injured because his medical expenses will be covered by Medicare.”
Longer ago than my time, the town hall was where township residents met every other year to elect their officers who met there to do the township business. Minnesota had a particularly strong township base. As a Senator, I met with them frequently and their national association named a leadership award the Durenberger Award.
Over time, the town hall meeting began to be attended by larger numbers of persons who came prepared to speak to a single issue, often with information provided by a state or national association to which they belonged. By the time I retired, it was possible to anticipate the tenor of the meeting by the “issues of the day” in Washington, and the genuinely concerned found it more difficult to express that concern and I found it more difficult to make time just for them.
THE HEALTH POLICY REFORM TOWN MEETINGS
Everyone is deeply concerned about their own health care access. Costs are a big concern for everyone, but uncertainty about the future even greater – a sense of “something has to be done, but what?” Those most concerned about losing coverage, and about those without, are supportive of the efforts in Washington to expand coverage. Especially by reforming the health insurance system which is perceived to be the biggest part of the cost and uncertainty problem. Aspersions were cast on the undue influence of big corporations on prices, on change and on members of Congress and their decisions.
Almost no one questions the quality of their own health care or their doctor or hospital. A number of veterans say “quit worrying about government-run health care – the VA health care system is the best you can get and ought to be a model for change.” Health care providers all seem to favor major payment reform. They support universal coverage and any effort to improve “fairness” in the third-party payment system, like Medicare and Medicaid.
People who speak against the current Democratic bills seem concerned by forces beyond their control: Congress members who don’t know what they are voting on. The power of federal programs and those who sponsor and run them over the lives and decisions of ordinary people. The president. Why is he in such a hurry to tackle these huge problems? Why not take them one at a time? How can he promise we don’t have to change when we all know change is coming or he wouldn’t be doing this? If the system’s so bad, why expand it to more people? Then, of course, there are a couple dozen people with HR 3200 pages to cite for threats designed by opponents in D.C. And of course, there was a young man with a camera from the Minnesota Republican Party recording everything that was said especially by the Democratic congressman.
PUBLIC PLAN . . . CO-OPERATIVE . . . HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM
No wonder Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) has chosen to take on big health insurance and big government with his “health care co-operative” solution to insurance reform. I love Kent and know his heart is always in the right place. But the value of his co-op as national reform was evident on Monday when the stock market went down 186 points on the DJA, but most national health insurance corporate stock went up – substantially. And corporate insurance jets were flying to Washington to take advantage of the opening. I can just imagine the White House “woodshed” where HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and health reform czarina Nancy Ann DeParle were closeted with Rahm Emmanuel.
RIGHT OF CENTER REPUBLICANS
Texas money is also funding a start-up non-profit called America’s Action Network, which is designed to give definition to a principled “role of government” approach to the Republican Party’s future. In the process, its founders hope to leave some of the “other issues” like those which firmed “the base” in the social values arena behind. New president of the right-of-center group will be former Minnesota Republican Senator Norm Coleman. This will place two Minnesota Republicans in the national political spotlight as Governor Tim Pawlenty seeks to similarly define the next national GOP for what he calls “Sam’s Club” Americans.
LOUISIANA POLITICS GETS ROUGH
BILL CLINTON DOES NORTH KOREA
What I continue to find remarkable about events like this is the potential this president has. Not because he’s smarter than everyone else, but because he has a confidence that comes to few in politics. Barack Obama chooses his main primary opponent, the presumed heiress to the Clinton presidency, the loser, to be his Secretary of State. Like the Clintons used to tell us in 1991-92, “you vote for one, you get two.” What president wants both Hillary Clinton and a former President Clinton, with their egos, representing him and America? Only a confident Barack Obama. Or so it seems.
SENATOR JIM WEBB IN MYANMAR
So it has always been. Congressman Charlie Wilson was warned off of the mujahidin cause in Afghanistan, until he became successful in persuading clandestine support against the USSR. While I was chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I was told we couldn’t send staff investigators to places like Angola. Through an African president, I was asked to meet in a neutral place with Libya’s Muhamar Khadafi, but could not because we were pressuring him to release perpetrators of Pan Am 007. What he wanted was what he eventually got after 9-11 – an opportunity to conditionally rejoin the nations we’ll talk to. Senator Arlen Specter and others have been criticized for talking with leaders “we aren’t talking to,” like Bashir Assad of Syria.
HILLARY GOES GOMA
Hurray for Hillary for going to Goma and for condemning the combination of corrupt politicians, private mineral companies and official Chinese policy that exploits, in the worst sense of the term, Africa as a source of needed minerals and for the employment of Chinese workforce.
THE POST OFFICE GOES THE WAY OF THE NEWSPAPER
Analysts say the ownership goes from a man who craves proximity to and the exercise of power, to one who aims only to shape powerful people to his way of thinking about the world. Murdoch, of course, does that only on the editorial and two opinion pages of his Wall Street Journal.
THE FINANCIAL CRISIS INQUIRY COMMISSION GOES CA
JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN GRASSLEY
Over on the House side, the GOP Healthcare Solutions Group will present a Republican health care policy reform policy sometime in September. The bill was to be ready in July, but had to get in a line to be “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office. So now Republicans have time to tout savings, and to claim constituent support from an August recess saturated with advertising by the growing number of opponents to health reform.
DICK CHENEY’S BOOK TO DESCRIBE RELATIONSHIP WITH PRESIDENT BUSH
BIO TECH IN PINE ISLAND
Let me be among those who predict big success for Burrill’s venture on a 2,350-acre planned development site owned by Tower Investment Company of CA. Success is predicated on its sheer size and Burrill’s audacity. He’s the closest thing to a Rudy Perpich we’ve seen in the state of mediocrity in decades. That alone could do it. The other is that the Mayo Clinic and academic medical research centers at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota will have to pay attention to the investment potential this brings.
Academic medicine in America is engaged in a medical research arms race playing off the NIH’s $30 billion a year in grants, drug industry research and research facilities, billionaire philanthropy and inter-state competition for income tax breaks. Much of academic research goes to maintain inefficient medical education and clinical enterprises. Not so Burrill’s billion-dollar bio-tech center. Audacity, money and location means Mayo has to play at some level. So will IBM Rochester and hundreds of information technology start-ups that see health care modernization and sickness prevention as the future.
CASH FOR CLUNKERS…
CAP AND TRADE LEGISLATION
Economist A. Gregory Mankiw does a more detailed job in the New York Times. The National Defense University is releasing studies on climate change world-wide and the de-stabilizing effect it will have on politics and national security. John Broder in the New York Times.
|Tom DeLay will be a contestant on this season’s TV show: “Dancing with the Stars”!
A lean, muscular gray-bearded man about 60 at a health care town hall meeting in Willmar, MN sits quietly for 2.5 hours holding this sign: “Veracity Not Velocity.”
A South African woman who remembered to Hillary Clinton all the other American visitors to her project, “In the end, all we got was a pile of business cards.”
Peggy Noonan on health reform: “The Obama White House has done the near impossible: it has united the Republican Party, social conservatives, economic conservatives and libertarians.”
To which I would add: “United by the synchronization of right wing radio and cable TV pundits using Wall Street Journal editorials and op-eds by the people who brought us the end of the last health reform effort.
Maureen Dowd of the New York Times said “I’m not sure the man who popped off and tweeted that Sonia Sotomayor was a “Latina woman racist” is the best Henry Higgins for the Eliza Doolittle of Alaska. But Newt Gingrich was a professor. And he does know something about pulling yourself up by dragging down others and imploding when you take center stage – both Palin specialties. Besides, he agrees with Sarah – who fretted that her parents and son Trig might be in danger from Obama “death panels” – that we should be very wary about trusting government with end-of-life decisions. So Newt took it upon himself to become Palin’s Pygmalion.”
“Members of Congress are afraid to hold town halls. We are winning. They are afraid of us.” Twila Brase who runs an anti health reform, pro consumer driven health association in MSP to ensure no doc has to be measured and no clinical data can ever be used for research.
Congress will spend $500 million to buy new jets for members of Congress to travel the world and find facts in out of the way places. The drug industry’s PHRMA will spend $150 million promoting the Obama health reform bill once it is clear TV viewers understand it’s as good for their health as Cialis is for erectile dysfunction.
|HEALTH AFFAIRS Briefing
FACT VERSUS FICTION: KEY ISSUES IN HEALTH REFORM
WHEN: Thursday August 20, 2009 – 8:30 am to 12:30 pm
WHERE: National Press Club, Washington DC
For information and to RSVP
High Performance Health Care Blog
This blog is written to be of use to progressive health care leaders, clinicians, policymakers and academics. It is authored by the faculty and staff of the St. Thomas health care programs. Dave Durenberger has recently joined the HPHC blog as a regular guest contributor.