The Supreme Court and Health Care

March 29, 2012

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With the case of Florida vs. Department of Health and Human Services, the circus came to Washington this week in and outside of the Supreme Court. Now that the arguments are over we will sit back and debate over things ad nausea until the opinion of the court is released, which is not expected until sometime in June. It basically will come down to how Justice Kennedy will decide upon the issue of the individual mandate. It is going to be a 5-4 decision either way, and I am really unsure at this point how things will fall in the end.

On one hand you had Kennedy discussing an analogy of burial insurance on the arguments over the individual mandate. Would you go up to a young person and say that you are going to die one day so you must buy this burial insurance policy from me to cover your expenses. Now I liked this analogy, at least in the fact that it was original, unlike that partisan hack Justice Scalia and his talking points handed broccoli analogy. Then on the other hand, later in his talks Kennedy talked about maybe healthcare being different.

Like I said at this point I have no idea how his vote is going to sway. I do know though that depending on how the majority opinion gets worded and whether they go all Bush v. Gore and state that this cannot be used in any other case, it is going to have a profound effect on many things if it is a 5-4 decision striking down the individual mandate.

Like I said it all depends on how the opinion comes out, but after decades of trying to do so, the Republicans have backed into a way of getting rid of Social Security and Medicare. Based on the Justices’ line of thinking on those obviously voting to get rid of the mandate both Social Security and Medicare can be deemed unconstitutional. What gives the government the right to come to me as a young worker and say you must put side this money for later on in life for you and to pay those older workers currently receiving the benefits of this if I choose not to. Hey I’m young I can do that later, if I really want to. Hell even the Republicans tired old private accounts argument would be unconstitutional. So you are going to force me to put my money into the market? What gives you the right? Then the same applies on to Medicare as well. What gives the Government the right to force me to put money forth for older people’s medical coverage now and mine in the future if I really don’t want to? Under the argument set forth in the Justices’ line of questioning this rational would be the same for these as well.

Another effect that a ruling that strikes down the law would have is disturbing as well. If you don’t like something the opposition party writes into law, have it brought to the court to strike down. Say Mittens or Santorum by some evil joke of God wins the election. A state with liberal control will just bring its argument against the law before the court. It’s a long shot in any circumstance to succeed, but right now it’s a 4-4 split of hard conservative to moderate liberal on the Supreme Court. Then with Kennedy and is usual swing vote there is a shot you can get things done and with this precedent set try and try again will constantly be the partisan fight from now on to get rid of whatever is passed that you don’t like.

Maybe Gingrich is right. Did I just say those words; I am throwing up in my mouth just a little. Anyways, I have been thinking this all day in hearing the arguments on what the Justices felt on different parts of the law if the individual mandate was struck down. We really do need to just arrest these partisan Judges from legislating from the bench. Your job in my opinion is over with you striking down the individual mandate, you don’t have the authority on which legislation is worthy to be kept or not, or what can be salvaged for cost reasons. That is Congress’ job, not the Judicial branch’s

 

job.

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Extremes In The Face of Reason

October 11, 2010

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Why do solutions to problems have to be all or nothing these days? A few years ago, my state was reconsidering the deposit on cans and bottles. One group in our legislature wanted to put a five cent deposit on all cans, regardless of use. This would include soup cans and the like. Others wanted to drop the whole deposit effort. The question I had was; what problem were they trying to solve? The original intent of the can and bottle deposit was to put a financial stimulus in returning the items with the goal of reducing road side trash. From the data I could find, this was exceptionally successful. Not from people saving their cans and bottles, but because industrious people went around picking them up to redeem them.

So, if we look at what the legislature was taking up; was there a sudden increase in soup cans on the side of the road, or had the deposit suddenly become too big of a burden for the citizens of our state? Neither condition was evident. The deposit program is actually a pretty big money maker for the state, with many people simply throwing their containers away or people purchasing on their way through the state. At the end of the debate, no change was made, much to my relief.

Now we have new national legislation on health care, or rather health insurance. It was an all or nothing debate. The legislation completely dismembers the existing health care system by putting the government in as the primary health insurance provider (even though this is denied by many who voted for it). I do not understand why the specific problems were not addressed. The main reason seems to be that no one could define any real reasons or problems in the system. All of the arguments were nebulous. Some people can not afford insurance, true, but does this require an overhaul of the system? Some people are denied coverage, again true, but again is this a full fledged disaster?

My father chimed on the debate stating that we have a member of our family without insurance. What did we do before the government stepped in? Most of us depended on family to pay the bill. Those who could not went to the hospital and were cared for by the county (this is true for every county in the United States). So if some people cannot afford insurance, why not provide some sort of support? With the new law, many part time employees are losing what coverage they have due to cost. If some people are denied treatment, set up an agency to investigate and help those people who really need it get treatment.

I really wish I could take the time to really read legislation (before or after it is passed) since our legislators do not seem to be doing the job (the speaker of the house actually said we cannot know what is in the bill until we pass it). The problem is, I do not have the time or the training to comb though it. I could not find it, but at one time I knew where in the bill it stated that taxes in this bill will not be considered taxes. I hope there is no penalty associated with this statement, as I will definitely consider any extra charges as taxes.

I am not currently under threat of losing my health care or insurance. The company I work for has sent out informational sheets telling us that things will be changing, but they could not tell us how until they are told. My doctor has suggested retiring rather than dealing with the added costs and effort that the government program will entail. So I will still have insurance (of some kind) and still have health care (of some kind), but all will be well, right? My question is; how much should I be saving to pay for my free health care?

Let’s talk Government Health Care with Squeaky

November 5, 2009

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Today, we welcome another new member to the staff.  Squeaky joins as a conservative voice for The Political Observers.  We are still looking for another liberal writer for The Political Observers segment.  Email Kosmo if you are interested.  Without further ado, I’ll turn the floor over to  Squeaky.

WOW! 2009 has been an exciting year for both Liberals and Conservatives. There has been so much political activity since November 2008 that my head sometimes spins trying to follow it all.

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Squeaky and I’m a married father of two living in Fort Collins, CO; home of the finest microbrews in the United States. You’re probably wondering where the name Squeaky came from. I am a former Law Enforcement Officer. After just a few months on the job, I was walking through one of the hallways following a long night on the streets. It was past shift change so it was pretty quiet when one of the more seasoned officers yelled, “Hey Squeaky!” I stopped and looked, but I was the only person in the hall so I knew he was referring to me. When I asked him what the name was for, he said it was because I was so new that my leather duty belt still squeaked. The next evening at lineup he made sure he announced to all of the other officers that my new name was Squeaky. That name stuck for years and a few of my friends still refer to me as Squeaky today. That’s enough about me though, let’s talk politics.

I hear the term moderate used frequently. The older I get, the more I think that it is one of the most widely overused terms in politics. Let’s clear up one thing now, I’m no moderate.

What are moderates? Moderates claim to not be “extreme” and they say that like it’s a good thing. Well, I have another thought. Why aren’t all of us extreme? Do you care about our country? Do you think that you know what is best for you and your family? Don’t you want to be part of our future? Do you want to ensure that our country remains the strongest in the world and leads the other countries? Do you just want to surrender and accept mediocrity? Then why do we have moderates?

As many negative feelings as the Barack Obama Administration stirs up for me, I can take an enormous positive away too. When I think about the excitement that followed his campaign and election, I know that citizens of the United States care. People came out in droves to support and vote for him. They followed him like a rock star and showed support for him the way I wish the Republican voters would have supported their candidates. Either way, it has taught Conservatives a priceless lesson.

There is another unexpected fire started by the Obama Administration. I am a member of the Northern Colorado TEA party. We have Obama, Pelosi and Reid to thank for the resurgence of the TEA parties. Most people that I visit with don’t have any idea what the TEA parties are about. They are not a group of racist Obama haters. They are not a group of radical or violent protestors. TEA party groups are people bound together by the common thought that we are Taxed Enough Already (TEA). We are people that want the Government to stop all the reckless spending and taxation.

I’m learning more about the new Health bill (HR 3962) every day. Earlier this week I found a document released by the CBO (Congressional Budget Office). The CBO does all the number crunching on costs and use of government programs. The one I ran across demonstrates what the costs for participants will be. Folks, I don’t know what your expectations are for this plan, but it’s far from free. In fact, it costs substantially more than what many corporate plans will cost. On top of that, these estimates are for the “average of the three lowest-cost “basic” plans”. If you would like a plan with a low deductible or wellness benefits, your premiums would be higher. You will likely be surprised to learn the costs of these “basic plans”. Here are two examples from the CBO document:

  1. A single tax payer making $44,200 will pay $7300 in premium and cost sharing.
  2. A family of four making $66,000 will pay $10,000 in premiums and cost sharing.
    ***Document can be accessed at this link: http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=10691&type=1

Currently, my PPO family of four health insurance plan is loaded with benefits. It pays for my 100% of my children’s wellness visits/wellness treatments. It also pays $1000 per year for my wife’s and $1000 for my wellness benefits/wellness treatments. We pay $179 per month in premiums and have no medical based exclusions. (179 x 12 = $2148 annually)

I have pretty good health insurance coverage. If you’re a teacher, if you’re in the teamsters or work for a public entity, you probably have even better and less expensive insurance than I do. I can’t understand why anyone from these groups (that elected Obama) would want this health care option. Now that we have solid numbers supplied by the CBO, it should be obvious to everyone that government run health care is the not the answer.

The current Health Care Bill is 1,990 pages so I don’t expect everyone to read all of it. I would however hope that all voters are reading several different sources to find out the highlights of the bill. As a voter, you are responsible for knowing what our representatives are voting on and letting them know what your educated opinions are. Please, be a responsible and active voter. Learn all you can and help ensure that our country remains the free and powerful country that it is today.

A Health Care Plan I Can Believe In

October 22, 2009

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Today, we welcome another member to the staff of The Soap Boxers.  The Crunchy Conservative is a longtime personal friend of Editor-in-Chief Kosmo.  She will be writing conservative articles for the Political Observers feature.

Hello loyal readers of The Soap Boxers. You may be wondering about my name, The Crunchy Conservative. Let me tell you a little bit about myself.

I am a college educated, twenty-something mother of two boys from Iowa. I have my Bachelor of Science degree in English, emphasis in British Literature and Creative Writing. And I lean to the right, politically speaking that is.

I was nicknamed Ann Coulter while working at the Iowa State Daily as a conservative opinion columnist. I think it was intended to be an insult. I took it as a compliment.

I have worked on many political campaigns ranging from local city council to Communications Director for a US Senate race. I also volunteered for Bush 04 and the McCain campaign.

So where does the “crunchy” come in? Well, I am passionate about breastfeeding, baby wearing, and co-sleeping. I’ve even dabbled in cloth diapers.

I maintained my household, a full time job and a toddler while my husband served in Iraq. And I’m opinionated and strong. And I’ll let you know it. And I hope you enjoy reading my contributions to The Soap Boxers.

A Health Care Plan I Can Believe In

I’ll admit it. I’m a nerd. I spent a weekend reading the 1000 page healthcare bill.

I’m highly irritated that our representatives are willing to vote on a bill that they have not read. If I can do it while doing my usual weekend duties (laundry, cleaning) AND nursing a 6 month old who is going through a growth spurt, I’m sure they can take time to read something they are going to vote on. Isn’t that why we send them to D.C?

Our Commander in Chief seems to be a big fan of Thomas Jefferson, therefore, I think in this instance, it is fitting to quote him. “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” Wise words Mr. Jefferson. Well informed. How does one become well informed? Well, how about reading what you’re voting on!

Public Option? No. No way. No how. Again, let’s see what Mr. Jefferson thinks about that. “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

Cease to exist. Pretty strong words.

I’ve seen too many people leech off of the system. It makes me sick. I am working 40+ hours a week and paying full price for daycare for my children while other parents get to enjoy watching their children daily and stay at home (while I pay them?). It’s not right and it’s not fair. And now they want me to pay for their healthcare too? What’s the point in working anymore?

Personal responsibility and a dash of pride.

Do you want to take care of yourself and your children? Or should the Government do it for you? Now here comes the Conservative mixed with the Crunchy. You chose to do the action that created the child. After conception, the child is a child, not a choice. You care for the child while it’s in the womb, giving the baby nourishment and helping it grow, so why discontinue that after birth?

An article I read in Mothering magazine showed how breastfeeding can boost the National Economy and decrease the burden on our health system.

http://www.mothering.com/breastfeeding/how-breastfeeding-boosts-national-economy

Nursing by Numbers: How Breastfeeding Boosts the National Economy By Olivia Campbell Web Exclusive, April 2009

In 2001, the USDA concluded that if breastfeeding rates were increased to 75 percent at birth and 50 percent at six months, it would lead to a national government savings of a minimum of $3.6 billion. This amount was easily an underestimation since it represents savings in the treatment of only three of the dozens of illnesses proven to be decreased by breastfeeding: ear infections, gastroenteritis, and necrotizing enterocolitis.

The AAP says each formula-fed infant costs the healthcare system between $331 and $475 more than a breastfed baby in its first year of life. The cost of treating respiratory viruses resulting from not breastfeeding is $225 million a year.

The multi-study report estimated that breast cancer rates could be cut by more than half if women increased their lifetime breastfeeding duration. The National Cancer Institute reported the national expenditure on breast cancer treatment in 2004 was $8.1 billion, meaning extended nursing could save upwards of $4 billion a year.

For the national Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), supporting a breastfeeding mother costs about 45 percent less than a formula-feeding mother. Every year, $578 million in federal funds buys formula for babies who could be breastfeeding.


The health benefits of breastfeeding alone is what motivates many families to feed their babies breastmilk, but the individual costs of formula (quoted as anywhere from $700 to $3,000 per year) also has a huge impact on family budgets.
 

Let’s think about it. Decreased risk of breast cancer for the mother, healthier babies AND 578 Million in Federal funds saved on formula alone. But what do I know. I only breastfed my oldest until he was 2 1/2 (night nursing after age 1 ½ ) and am now nursing baby #2. I have also noticed that my children are healthier and smarter, I believe, partly due to breastfeeding. The bond that nursing mothers have with their children is something that Enfamil could never produce.

Take responsibility for your health and for your children’s health. It would save everyone money, it would produce healthier people and maybe even more emotionally adjusted children. Children who bond more with their parents are more likely to be well adjusted adults.

So here’s my health plan. Encourage breastfeeding. Stop the formula subsidies. Make the mothers on public assistance feed their own children. If a woman physically cannot breastfeed (which is only about 2% of women), a doctor’s note would be required to obtain formula.

This is a healthcare plan that I can get behind. And it didn’t take 1,000 pages to do it!

Health Care: Carrot or Stick?

October 15, 2009

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We are happy to announce the debut of a new feature, The Political Observers. Writers from each side of the political spectrum will share their views in the column, which will appear on Thursdays. Zarberg kicks it off today.

Health care seems to be the dominant story on the news these days, and for very good reason:  the changes being proposed will have some sort of impact on the vast majority of all American citizens.  Since I have spouse with a chronic disease, and I’m government employee for a state that now has the worst rated state health plan in the US, I’m paying pretty close attention to what’s going on. 

One thing in particular that caught my attention about my current health plan is a penalty that will go into effect in 2010 that says if you smoke or are obese you will get dropped from the 80/20 plan to the 70/30 plan.  This means that your health plan will pay 10% less of your claims if you smoke or are obese.  Since I don’t smoke and as an average height American male am only 165 lbs, I don’t fall into either category so my first thought was, “great, I won’t be penalized.”  Ever the optimist.  I didn’t think much of it after that until one of my co-workers pointed out that they’re applying the stick rather than offering the carrot.

The bleeding heart in me says rather than give them a punishment, offer them incentives they can’t refuse to lose weight.  The capitalist in me says hit ’em where it hurts if they’re costing the system, and hit ’em hard.  I’m still mulling over which part of myself I agree with more.  On the one hand, people who are already in shape will not have anything change, other than the standard increases in cost.  On the other hand, what if those obese state employees are genuinely trying to lose weight and simply don’t have the body type or biological makeup?  Interestingly enough, I have a co-worker who if this plan went into effect today, would be considered obese and not eligible for the lower cost plan.  He was vocally upset about it when first informed, but now has used this as an incentive to join a gym and work out 2 days a week.  He’s already lost 10 lbs, and is a shining example of exactly what the state health care plan wanted to achieve with this.

But what about those smokers?  I’ve never smoked more than a cigar on New Year’s with some friends, so I don’t know how addictive nicotine is but based on the large sums of money being made by stop smoking programs and patches and gum and so forth, I’m sure it’s pretty darn addictive.  Will 10% be enough to get them to kick the habit?  I’d rather see something where if they start a doctor-approved plan to stop smoking and it succeeds, the insurance company picks up the tab.  If they fail, the smoker pays. 

In the end, the part of me that is bitter about how broken the current system is will win out over the capitalist and bleeding heart parts of me.  I have a wife that continues to struggle with her health and we’re paying thousands a year above and beyond our health care plan while CEO of our not-for-profit health insurance company just gave himself a $3 million bonus.  We’ve been giving the health insurance companies the carrot for so long, they could stand to have a little stick applied to where it hurts them.

Canada’s Health Care Plan

October 4, 2009

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I am not following the current battle in the USA where Barack Obama is putting in his health care plan.  I don’t know if and when it will actually happen.  For those who are against it (or even for it) here are some thoughts from someone who has known only universal health care.

Here is a quick summary of what is covered and what is not:

Covered:

  • Hospital visits and all tests done at the hospital (CT Scans, x-rays, lumbar punctures, MRIs, etc.)
  • All drugs administered at the hospital
  • Visits/checkups to your general practitioner

Not Covered:

  • Ambulance rides
  • Prescriptions
  • Doctor notes to give to your employer

I should note that for the ‘not covered’, ambulance rides and prescriptions are covered by many benefit plans through employers.  For instance at my work, ambulance rides are covered 100% and my prescriptions are covered 80%.  So even with those, you often end up not having to pay/pay a limited amount.  And if you are also covered by your spouse’s plan, their plan will usually cover the remaining 20%.  So really in the end, there is not much that requires payment.

Why do I like this so much?  Well for one, I like the fact that everyone can get health care.  It doesn’t matter your background, your income, etc. if you need surgery for an emergency you don’t first have to produce a credit card or insurance card to get what you need.  Second, I like that if I am in pain and am suffering, I don’t have to add the worry of money on top of it.  A serious illness can be so stressful and debilitating to a family, I could not imagine the financial burden on top of that.  I think back to my own recent hospital visit.  The doctor proposed to me a lumbar puncture as a way to confirm that there were no serious underlying issues going on with me.  If this test carried say, a $2500 bill attached to it, I highly doubt I would have went through with it.  But since it did not, I could go ahead with it and get confirmation that I had no serious internal stuff going on.  On top of this, as someone who makes an hourly wage (not on salary) being sick already cost me a day of wages.  That can be tough enogh for people to overcome let alone the double whammy of a big hospital bill too.

So that is a summary of the good things.  Are there negatives?  I am sure there are, just like with most things in life.  But in my opinion, the positives outweigh the negatives any day.

Back From the Almost Dead

September 27, 2009

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So it’s been a while…much too long. I give many thanks and apologies to Kosmo for his understanding and ability to fill the spot in my absence.

The main reason for my absence was the combination of a brutal migraine/sinus infection which kept me on the sidelines from pretty much everything for about three weeks. Migraines have run in the family a long time, back at least three generations. I remember the losing battles my mom had with them, often spending days laying in darkness and trying not to throw up. Well, this was my first official taste of a migraine and I really hope this isn’t a sign of things to come.

I do have to give some props though, props to our health care system. Hospital overcrowding is an issue just about everywhere, and many bad things have occurred as a result of patients waiting too long. Well on the Friday morning I decided that I needed to head to the Concordia hospital, the main reason I was not looking forward to the trip was because of the anticipated wait time. It’s bad enough my head felt like it was caving in, thinking about then having to sit in an uncomfortable waiting room for a few hours made it even worse. So one can imagine my surprise when I arrived at the hospital to find an EMPTY waiting room! I really thought I was in bad shape and that I must be hallucinating. So I gave my information, went through triage, and went right in to my own room. Within half an hour I had a consult with a doctor, blood work drawn, and plans to get a CT scan done. When that came back clear, we discussed and then executed a lumbar puncture. Meds were brought promptly, I had regular visits from nurses, you name it. Percocet was a highlight of the day. All in all, it was pretty unbelievable, especially considering a friend of mine went to the Grace hospital within the next week and waited over six hours to see an MD.

I really consider myself fortunate for the quick and effective treatment I got, and it really makes me sad that hospitals get slammed so badly when obviously most of the people there are trying their best to give patients proper and prompt care. I am also fortunate this is only the second time I’ve needed to go to the hospital for care in my life. And I am most fortunate for the fact that after this whole experience, I am not thousands of dollars in debt. I’ll talk more about that next week though!

Obama Gets Help From Europe

August 28, 2009

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Today marks the debut of Jonna Wibelius as our international voice.  Jonna is a native of Sweden and currently lives in China (you can read all about it in her blog, SHEinChina).  Jonna’s monthly column will address a current issue from the point of view of a European.

“Help Obama!” says a red banner on the right side of a Swedish online newspaper. By clicking on the link you eventually end up on Avaaz.org, “a small team of global campaigners working in many countries,” or, in other words, an organization that is trying to make some difference, simply by the support of the public.

Avaaz.org wants Europeans to share their stories about the health care system in their countries. They want to defend national healthcare, as a respond to the “disinformation about international health systems from health reform opponents in the US health debate.” They ask citizens to contribute their personal stories and sign petitions. All in order to “show” US citizens that a health care reform isn’t in fact simply “risky and costly” but rather, essential and very right for the time being.

What Avaaz.org is doing is just the tip of an iceberg. For weeks, months, well, years, European papers have printed libraries of articles highlighting the deficient health care system in the US. The reasons for change are substantial, at least if we are to believe the facts presented to us in the newspapers:

The cost for health care in the US is twice as big compared to the costs in countries on the same level. Still, the general level of health is much worse. A large number of Americans, some 46 million, don’t have any health insurance.

Other reasons that the papers are pointing out are lack of incitement to seek health care, bureaucracy and expensive subpoenas. There also seem to be a lucrative business in the US to offer health care to those who are not in need of it. The demand for “flawless health” has never been bigger. And many people do an extra health check, just to “make sure.”

How the US Government should reform the system should be discussed in detail, and it already has been for many years. The Michael Moore movie “Sicko” made headlines around the world some years ago, but still failed to make something happen. During the presidential election in 2008, health care was on the agenda for many of the candidates. And now, when President Obama is finally trying to go on with his plans and actually do something, he bumps into resistance from every corner. Meanwhile, the health care system continues to cost the US Government millions. It has been estimated that between one fifth and one sixth of the US’s BNP goes to health care.

The criticism Obama’s health care reform has been given has been harshly criticized in Scandinavian media as it is not considered as constructive. Activists have been demonstrating, some have been armed, and Obama has been accused to turning America into a bad version of the Soviet Union, or even Nazi-Germany. Swedish media writes: “In fact, he’s just trying to turn the US into Sweden.”

The protests are so exaggerated that it is hard not to feel for Obama. After all, he’s only doing what needs to be done. In 1994, Hillary Clinton hit her head on the wall as she failed to engage her husband Bill Clinton in the mission to reform America’s health care system. Afterwards, a lot of American politicians avoided the subject.

In the current situation, it is the financing of the health care reform that seems to be the biggest issue. Suggested higher taxes worry a lot of US citizens.

As an outside observer that comes from a country with a well-developed health care system with social security and health care for all Swedish citizens, it is hard to imagine being in a situation as many Americans. Not having any health insurance sounds completely foreign to any Swede. We pay some of the highest taxes in the world, but we are also given free health care, free dental care (until we turn 20), free education and unemployment benefits. The security net is so thick that it’s almost hard to tumble and fall. Not to say that it is perfect, as the Swedish health care system obviously battles their own problems (long waiting lines at the hospitals are one), but at least we don’t have millions of people that are outside the system. Still, it is obviously not fair to compare a small country like Sweden to a big country like the US.

I guess my point is that I hope the US will get their much needed health care reform. There’s been a scream for a change for so long now. When so close, I hope the US doesn’t turn back, and I also hope Obama can get some more support from his own Government. After all, he’s only trying to make things better.