Saturday, December 05, 2009

Socialized medicine good for bureaucrats

Britain: At least 350 NHS executives in hospitals and primary care trusts were paid more than £150,000 last year, according to research published today. A “Public Sector Rich List”, compiled by the TaxPayers’ Alliance and covering 350 public bodies, shows that 806 executives collected more than £150,000, with eight on packages worth more than £1 million.

The list, which covers Whitehall departments, quangos and nationalised industries, shows that average pay among those identified was £225,000, with 120 chiefs on more than £250,000. More than 250 quango heads were on more than £150,000 in 2008-09. Nearly 80 NHS executives earned more than the Prime Minister.

At a time when all three main parties are proposing a squeeze on public sector pay, salaries at the top have been shooting up, the figures show. While some private companies froze or cut pay, that of the 800 public sector chiefs identified rose by 5.4 per cent, the TaxPayers’ Alliance says.


British engineer Left Blind for Three Years Awaiting 20-Minute Operation

According to Britain's state-managed health service, cataract surgery is a "common" and "straightforward" operation that usually should last between 15 and 20 minutes. But such a quick turnaround would have been news to Richard Adams of London, who went blind in both eyes while waiting three years for cataract surgery.

The 85-year-old retired engineer and award-winning dancer began losing his vision in 2004. That year, doctors diagnosed Adams with cataracts, but an operation to remove them was not scheduled until March 2007. His excitement in 2007 at the prospect of getting his sight and livelihood back was short-lived because doctors cancelled the surgery. "I was over the moon when I found out I had an appointment in March [2007] but when it was cancelled I just went downhill," Adams said at the time.

Stuck in a wheelchair and suffering from asthma as well as kidney stones (also left untreated by the NHS, he said), Adams had difficulty performing everyday tasks. "I never cook anything," Adams explained then. "It always has to be cold things like sandwiches or salad. I can't go to the shops because I can't see where I'm going."

In despair, Adams said his life was "being wasted": "I have all these ideas in my head but I can't see to write and I can't see to draw. All I can do is sit in my house and listen to the TV. I can't see it and I have to turn up the volume because I can't hear well."

Spokesman Mark Purcell of Ealing Hospital, one of several hospitals that refused Adams treatment for his eyes, offered no sympathy. "If [Adams] has a complaint about the standard of care he has received he should write to the chief executive of the Ealing Hospital Trust." (Whether this bureaucratic solution, which asked a blind man to write, was intentionally or inadvertently cruel is unknown.)

Adams was scheduled to receive treatment in late May, but this was little consolation for him. "I've been waiting for three years but they don't seem to care. I think they're just waiting for me to die or something," Adams complained.

Finally, after Adams' plight received attention from the British press, doctors removed the cataracts in one of his eyes in June 2007. "He was really pleased with the result of the operation," said Roger Woolsey, a family friend. "When I went to visit him he would raise the eye-patch and say: I really can see again."

Tragically, four days after the procedure that restored his sight, Adams died. He had a heart attack after developing blood poisoning in the hospital.


Deranged Australian health bureaucracy

Political correctness trumps medical knowledge

NURSES trying to re-enter the workforce are being quizzed on unrelated health topics. Disgruntled nurse Janette Morton, 47, from Bargara, northwest of Bundaberg, contacted The Courier-Mail to voice her disgust at some of the questions on a test paper which she believes are "irrelevant" to nursing. Nurses trying to return to the workforce are required to sit a Competence Assessment Service Challenge Test as part of their assessment to regain their qualifications.

Ms Morton said one question related to the percentage of non-speaking English people in Australia in 1997. Ms Morton said the nature of some of the questions contained in the test was "utterly ridiculous". "It's a lot harder than anyone would have thought," she said. "What is knowing the exact percentage of non-English speaking people going to do when I want to go work in ahospital or a nursing home? What is the relevance?"

She sat the assessment test last month in a bid to restart her nursing career after quitting the workforce in 2000 to care for her sick father. Ms Morton said she was "shocked" there was a multiple-choice question on the exam paper asking where the majority of Aborigines lived in Australia.

"The whole thing has been an absolute circus," she said. "Finding the material that we need to study is absolutely up to us. We are given a broad outline of what will possibly be in the exam but I didn't know I would need to know these sorts of things."

Ms Morton failed part A of the test which requires an 80 per cent pass grade. The test is set up by the Central Queensland University and Central Queensland Institute of TAFE on behalf of the Queensland Nursing Council. All questions on the competence test are computer generated and it has two components – part A is a written examination and part B is a clinical competence assessment. Nurses must get an 80 per cent pass in all four sections of the exam to proceed to part B.

Queensland Nurses Union secretary Gay Hawksworth defended the questions contained in the test. "It's cultural awareness and sensitivity, it's working with people from other cultures but it's also about nursing people from other cultures," she said.

QNC defended the testing process and said all questions were based on the "enrolled nurse TAFE curriculum and the registered nurse undergraduate degree curriculum".


Obamacare: How The Unions Are "Getting Well" on it

It's already being called the "Second Louisiana Purchase," but the sad truth is that a controversial payoff to U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's home state of Louisiana is among the smallest of the thinly-disguised bribes and kickbacks that are being offered in Washington D.C. to secure passage of President Barack Obama's socialized medicine proposal.

In fact, at "only" $300 million, this disgustingly transparent (and yet transparently successful) effort by Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid to "negotiate" for Landrieu's support on a key health care vote doesn't hold a candle to the real graft that's going on in our nation's capital.

For example, you'd have to multiply that dollar amount dozens of times over to arrive at the $10 billion in so-called "reinsurance" money that has been tucked away for organized labor in the $2.6 trillion House bill. What's that "reinsurance" money for, exactly? That's simple - it's a bailout for union leaders who have grossly "mismanaged" funds that were supposed to pay for their retirees' insurance claims.

Of course in a bitterly ironic pill for taxpayers to swallow, at the same time Obama is hoping to shower money on these labor leaders for their ongoing corruption and incompetence, he has removed any accountability whatsoever over their future actions by rescinding Bush-era disclosure requirements on top union officials. And you thought Capone's Chicago was corrupt? Apparently it's got nothing on Obama's Washington, D.C.

Amazingly, though, both versions of Obamacare do something far worse than slipping billions of dollars into the pockets of organized labor leaders as a payoff for their support in the 2008 election: They actively seek the forced unionization of the entire health care industry.

In the $2.5 trillion Senate proposal, for example, a union-stacked "personal care attendants workforce advisory panel" would be established under the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). This panel would have the authority to compel union affiliation – and payment of union dues – in exchange for allowing "private" providers access to federal reimbursements for community care.

Similarly, the House proposal gives sweeping regulatory authority – including the approval of compulsory union dues – to DHHS in its role as the provider of public plans. "The House resolution establishes a scenario that would effectively exclude non-union employers from eligibility to work on program-funded contracts," a recent opinion-editorial published in the Houston Chronicle noted. "It also requires participating health care providers to pay wages and benefits that have been collectively bargained or that union-friendly appointees determine are competitive."

The scam works like this: In order to become eligible for federal reimbursements, employees who provide home care must agree to be "reclassified" as federal employees, with the strings of compulsory union membership and dues attached, of course.

Pioneered by former California Gov. Gray Davis and disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich – both of whom also owed huge campaign debts to organized labor – this scam lies at the heart of both the House and Senate versions of Obamacare. In fact, it is being pushed most aggressively by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which like the rest of these declining organized labor behemoths is desperate for new dues-paying members.

This scam is also why Obama and the leadership of both the House and Senate refuse to consider passing a bill that doesn't include a so-called "public option."

Obama and Congressional leaders know that compulsory union membership – established within the framework of a government-administered health care system – is vital to organized labor's long-term survival. Bailout billions from the government may come and go, but the effective nationalization of hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses and home care providers would provide the unions with a steady stream of billions of dollars in annual revenue for years to come. That's the "purchase" we should be keeping our eyes on as the health care debate moves forward.


The Senate Rules Protecting America From Government Run Medicine

As the Senate gets close to the end of the first week of debate on Obamacare, a controversy swirled today around a letter and memo drafted by Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), as linked by Politico, titled “Foundation for Minority Party’s Rights in the Senate.” The memo explains the rules of the Senate and how the minority party can use the rules to insure that a “full, complete, and fully informed debate on all measures and issues coming before the Senate.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took to the Senate floor this morning to complain about the document, but the memo seems to be nothing more than a guide for members to protect their rights during this historic Obamacare debate.

This document is educational and a good way to understand the arcane rules of the United States Senate. The Senate rules are frequently waived by unanimous consent and any member can take to the Senate floor to protect their rights. The Senate has rules for a reason and it seems perfectly reasonable that these rules should be followed when the Senate is attempting to pass a bill that is wildly unpopular with the American people and represents the most dramatic change in health care law in our lifetimes.

The memo informs members of their right to force a reading of every amendment. “The reading of the full text of amendments may only be dispensed with by unanimous consent. Any Senator may object to dispensing with the reading.” For most amendments, this would serve no purpose, yet many times late in the process, the Senate will consider a manager’s package of amendments that may be hundreds of pages long.

Points of order in the Senate when “a Senate procedure is being violated, with or without cause” may be made at any point during the proceedings. The presiding officer makes a ruling, usually after consulting with the Senate Parliamentarian, and then the Chairman makes a ruling. The Senate can debate the point of order. Considering that the bill costs $2.5 trillion over the first ten years of implementation and all the new mandates and taxes in the bill, there should be many points of order that apply through the Budget Act that Senators can raise. Now if a rule is being violated, Senators would seem to be committing legislative malpractice if they didn’t raise a point of order to insure that the rules are followed.

The Amendment process is the means for the minority or even motivated individual members to flex some muscle. Until debate is shut off on the bill, “Senators may offer an unlimited number of amendments – germane or non-germane – on any subject.” A non-germane amendment is defined as an amendment that is not related in subject matter to the underlying bill. For example, if a Senator offered an amendment to restore the rights of the residents of the District of Columbia to own a firearm, that would clearly be non-germane to the Obamacare debate, yet allowed under the Senate rules. Senators offered hundreds of amendments during the consideration of the Obamacare bill during the committee process and it would seem perfectly reasonable for Senators to file as many Amendments as possible and insist of a full consideration of every amendment before any final vote on the bill is scheduled.

Another interesting rule in the Senate is that amendments are divisible “upon demand by any Senator if they contain two or more parts that can stand independently of one another.” This would allow a member to offer his own amendment that could be divided into many divisions and force multiple votes on issues of importance to that member. Considering that the Senate has only completed work on a handful of amendments, a divisible amendment, called a “Clay Pigeon” in the Senate, might be a good way for a member to offer multiple amendments at one time. This would also allow a member to force a division of any managers package put together at the end of debate by the leadership.

If Obamacare is passed in the Senate, the minority still has some valuable rights before the bill leaves the Senate. “The Senate must pass 3 separate motions to go to conference: (1) a motion to insist on its amendments or disagree with the House amendments; (2) a motion to request/agree to a conference; and (3) a motion to authorize the Chair to appoint conferees. The Senate routinely does this by UC, but if a Senator objects the Senate must debate each step and all 3 motions may be filibustered (requiring a cloture vote to end debate).” This provision in the rules allows a single member of the Senate to effectively block the appointment of conferees to a bill. A member may have a concern that Senate and House conferees will merely rewrite the whole Obamacare bill and exclude the minority party from the process. See the precedent set during the Stimulus Conference for an example of one party being excluded from conference negotiations. This means that one Senator could block conferees and force the House to consider the Senate bill without changes. This procedural protection for members will allow individual Senators to have some control over the final negotiations over Obamacare.

The bottom line is that this memo is a dispassionate explanation of the Senate rules and a member who chooses to use the memo to protect their rights may dramatically slow the progress of Obamacare, while allowing the American people to follow the complex debate going on in the Senate right now.


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