Friday, November 14, 2008


The view from Boortz

Let the talk of healthcare reform begin. And for this we are going to Democrat Rep. Pete Stark of California. He is the chairman of the House Ways and Means health subcommittee and there is no doubt that this guy will be a major player when it comes to healthcare reform.

Our federal government has grown. Big time. And with that growth has been obscene spending by politicians on both sides of the aisles. And at a time when our nation is facing record deficits, Representatives like Pete Stark think it would be a good idea to add hundreds of billions of dollars to that deficit. That's because the Democrats have no plans to cut spending when it is convenient to fund their schemes and dreams ... and in this case it would be universal healthcare. Stark says that he wants to waive fiscal rules - the pay-as-you-go rules (PAYGO) - in order to expand healthcare coverage.

There is no doubt that there have been exceptions to PAYGO ... take this $700 billion financial package. But ironically it was the Democrats who re-adopted PAYGO rules in efforts to make themselves look fiscally conservative or responsible. But once the election is over, they are already willing to scrap it in order to fund their spending programs.

Oh and as if you had any doubts ... Pete Stark also says that he approves of Obama's plan to raise taxes on the evil rich in order to help finance a new healthcare system for this country. A system that will inevitably cost hundreds of times more than originally estimated by virtue of the fact that it is a government operation and it is doomed to be plagued with bureaucracy and mediocrity.

Just know this, dear listeners: The Democrats are pushing this nationalized health care idea because they want more control over YOU. When they control your health care ... which inevitably will ... they control you. The clear solution to whatever health care "crisis" we have is the free market. Politicians have been working for generations to prevent the marketplace from working to bring about affordable health care. Their power means everything to them. If you have to wait for months for an MRI, so be it. If your health care has to be rationed, so be it. It's all about power ...THEIR power.


Americans travel abroad for crucial surgery

Before getting two artificial disks to ease the grinding pain in his back, Wayne King asked prospective surgeons where they trained and how many disk replacements they had done. Then he flew to Malaysia for the operation. Rising health costs and dwindling insurance coverage are driving hundreds of thousands of Americans to travel far to avoid potentially devastating medical bills.

Among them are King, an insurance adjuster who lives in east Sacramento, as well as a Sacramento City firefighter who underwent major dental reconstruction in Tijuana, and an Elk Grove couple heading to India for fertility treatment.

Other than organ transplants, there's little data on the safety of medical travel, but "there is no question that it is increasing," said Dr. Arnold Milstein, chief physician at Mercer Health and Benefits, a firm that advises companies on medical insurance. "In the U.S., it's getting to be pretty Darwinian in terms of who lives and who dies," said Milstein. Or who hurts and who doesn't.

King was driven by a steady, intense pressure on his midsection caused by one collapsed and one partly collapsed disk. It's like having an arthritic joint, but in the spine, said his rehabilitation specialist, Dr. Michael Hembd of Sacramento. "I was absolutely miserable," King said. "I had no life." Standing or sitting for more than a few minutes were equally tormenting. Painkillers fogged his mind. He withdrew from friends and snapped at relatives.

A standard treatment would be spinal fusion surgery, to immobilize a section of spine. An emerging alternative is disk replacement. Both have flaws, failing to cut pain in up to a fourth of the people who get them, said Dr. Serena Hu, an orthopedic surgeon at UC San Francisco who has researched disk replacement. But there is some suggestion that disk replacement may put less strain on nearby disks.

King was convinced replacement would give him better mobility and less risk of other disks degenerating. Although European surgeons have replaced two neighboring disks for well over a decade, many U.S. insurance companies will only pay for single disk replacement because success of two-disk surgeries - what King wanted - haven't been tracked as long. He appealed his insurance company's denial. He changed jobs to try to improve his coverage. He was told yes, then no just days before Hu would have operated.

"I said screw it, I'm just going to do it and file bankruptcy, but the hospital wanted $50,000 down" on the $105,000 treatment, King said. Ultimately, after months of Internet research and hiring MedRetreat, a medical travel organizer, he traveled in January to Gleneagles hospital in Malaysia. The bill - surgery, hospitalization, hotels and airfare for himself, his partner and his mother - came to $27,000. King borrowed from relatives and his 401(k).

Gleneagles is among dozens of hospitals in the developing world racking up international accreditations or affiliations with prestigious U.S. universities. Many boast English-speaking and highly trained doctors, and nursing ratios that outshine U.S. care. It isn't just lower pay for all those doctors and nurses and hospital construction workers that keep costs low in places such as Malaysia. Even supplies are cheaper. The exact same two disks that were placed in King's spine, at a cost of $3,200 each, are priced at $11,000 each in the United States. "It's an unfortunate statement of the cost of health care here," Hu said.

Ten months after surgery, King is almost pain-free. The twinges are so slight he is off pain medication. "I can go out with my friends. I can go on a drive. I'm coherent again." His post-surgical X-rays and mobility are about what a doctor would expect in someone who had had the same surgery in the United States, said Hembd, who has treated King since 2005.

Just last week, another patient told Hembd she's considering going to Germany for the same surgery, and has been quoted a price of $35,000. Still, Hembd stresses he wouldn't encourage anyone to seek care outside the United States.


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