8/15/13 The Summer Malaise

I’m in the middle of it. The summer malaise. This is that time in the south when it’s too hot, too wet, and too humid to have too much interest in anything creative, in anything that requires thought since we are too busy swatting mosquitoes, dodging wasps, and scratching from the redbugs. Even the dogs lay around under the front porch, nestled in the red dirt that is hidden from the afternoon sun, only coming out when a strange vehicle pulls up in the driveway, and immediately returning when they see that the caller is not the deadly UPS or FEDEX delivery person. What is it about the sound of a UPS truck that incites normally docile dogs to a rabid hostility?

There is still nothing to write about. Well, nothing except for our witnessing of the internal dismantling of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) by the efforts of the administration to help ensure Democrat success in the upcoming mid-term elections. Already we have witnessed the extension of benefits to members of congress and their staff (To avoid a brain drain, they say. I say, “What brains?”), the delay of the employer mandate, and the delay of the implementation of the maximum out of pocket costs. What else will be delayed, changed, or carved out for special interests. I see terrible corruptive associations in Obamacare in that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) can regulate, not regulate, waive regulations, or authorize special exemptions at will, or at least at will until some court in response to some lawsuit rules that they cannot be so capricious and arbitrary.

HHS would never admit of capriciousness or aribtrariness, though. They will only admit of informed, educated, know-what-is-best for us competence. Those of us who fail to see things like they do are merely uneducated and uninformed, which is a hazardous road for anyone’s government to take. As January 1, 2014, looms nearer and nearer, we can expect more delays in implementation since the government, and the people governed, all find themselves caught up in the words of former speaker Nancy Pelosi, “Let’s pass this bill so we can see what’s in it.” Everyone is seeing what’s in it, and no one seems to like it, including those in congress who voted for it, and many labor unions who lobbied for it, and those in congress who found a way to bypass the portions of the law that were applicable to them. Senator Charles Grassley’s amendment has been chided by members of congress. Why did they vote for it, then? Was it by design that they included the amendment, then lobbied the administration to change it by regulatory fiat? Did they do this so they could deny responsibility? It seems so to me. How does it seem to you.

“Senator Babbitt, what do you think about HHS ruling to allow the government to continue to make contributions to congressional employee health care even though the law calls for all congressional employees to purchase their insurance on the exchanges?” asked a reporter to the senior senator from Oklabama.

“I think it is a great breach of the separation of powers for a government agency to waive or change any law duly passed by this august and ancient institution that is the representative of the people in this great nation,” said Senator Babbitt, who looked uncomfortable addressing the subject even though it seemed he was so deliberate in his response he might as well have been reading from a teleprompter.

“Are you going to take the additional benefits allowed to congressional employees by HHS?”

“Well, of course, since we will be abiding by the lawful regulations,” answered Senator Babbitt. “We intend to follow the letter of the law, not daring to place ourselves ahead of the law or exempting ourselves, but subjecting ourselves to the same laws and regulations as are applicable to every citizen.”

“But, Senator, the law does not allow congressional employees any additional benefits other than that available to all citizens who will be on the exchanges,” countered the reporter, who was sure he had the senator on that one. But, senators are not so easily had.

“We are following the letter of the law. I cannot be responsible for a change in the regulations, but am required to follow them. The law allows HHS to promulgate such regulations as are necessary to implement the ACA. This change in regulations was the doings of HHS and not my office. I would have surely voted against any change, but it is out of my hands. Now, I, like every other American, am required to follow the rules and regulations.”

“But the Grassley amendment, which you voted for, specifically spells out how the health insurance benefits for congressional employees are to be handled. Is this regulation not a bypass of the very amendment the Senate included?”

“The Grassley Amendment was the doing of Senator Grassley. I did not sponsor the amendment, though I thought it was a good thing. Now, HHS has taken it upon themselves to modify it. I am not responsible for this modification,” snorted Senator Babbitt.

“Other members of congress have called for rejection of this and are refusing to comply with any waiver of the Grassley Amendment. What do you plan to do?” asked the reporter.

“Other members of congress can choose for themselves whether or not they will follow the law at their own peril. I intend to fully comply with the laws and regulations of this great nation. It seems ludicrous that any member of congress would be so bold as to say that they are not going to abide by the law,” answered Senator Babbitt, adding, “I have an important committee meeting I must attend. Please excuse me. I must go now.” And he walked off, having produced his sound byte that would air on the evening news, which would simply state that Senator Babbitt was critical of any HHS waivers and that he was bound by his oath of office to follow the law of the land. This, he thought, would play out real well in the world of politics and voters…a humble public servant doing his duty to his constituents by subjecting himself to the same law as everyone else.  His constituents were not persuaded of this, though, as he was to find out on the second Tuesday of November, 2014. Shortly after that, he would find himself referred to as “former senator”, and only then when he would make the news by getting arrested on a DUI in his hometown of Washington, DC. It had been two decades since he had any connection with Oklabama. He owned a “home” there, but had had it leased out for over ten years. Oklabama was a place he returned to every six years to campaign. Other than that, there was no need for him to visit the state. He actually found it depressing, preferring the excitement of Washington to the dreary, mundane Oklabama, where the only contacts he had were Chambers of Commerce, and business development associations, and other lobbying groups. He found the rest of the people, those not contributing large sums of money to his campaign, completely detestable, frequently referring to them in private as “inbred ingrates.”

Senators cannot be troubled to spend their time on the needs of citizens…that is what Congressmen do. He was too busy dealing with important affairs, important national and international affairs. There was no time for individuals. Besides, he had people for that. His people were instructed to defer all individual calls to the heads of the local office of the congressmen in their district. After all, he was a senator, not a mere congressman. Members of the world’s greatest deliberative body must deliberate, and above all else deliberate. They must not deliberately get involved in concerns of individuals in their state, nor be so foolish as to accidentally get involved in them, either.

“Senator, you handled that well,” said a sycophant aide. “I don’t see a committee meeting on your schedule. What committee has called a special meeting?”

“The committee of the Thursday haircut club. I’m meeting several members of the HHS oversight committee where we will discuss things, mostly football, while getting a haircut at the congressional barber shop, since I am far too busy to leave Capitol Hill to get a haircut where I might have to wait in line with commoners, or be approached by some reporter.”

The aide thought to himself that he was lucky to be working with one of the smartest senators who ever lived, one who really knew the ropes of Washington, one who really knew how to get things done. Unfortunately for the Senator, or perhaps fortunately for the aide, Washington would be drained of his brain right after the Senator lost his re-election bid, the voters of his state having successfully been persuaded by his opponent that the Senator was “out of touch” with the needs of Oklabama’s citizens, a charge Babbitt ineffectively rebuffed all throughout an ineffective, though extremely well funded campaign. As his poll numbers began to show the ineffectiveness of his campaign, Babbitt was amazed at the number of his urgent calls to those he thought supported him that went unreturned. He was livid. He was furious. He was, after all, the glorious Senator Babbitt. Who would dare to not return his phone call?

Soon, he would be one of the principals of the lobbying firm Babbitt, Sinclair, and Lewis, and would be amazed at how much money he would make. He would think he should have quit the Senate long ago. He would think that he was now on easy street, watching his bank account grow at a precipitous rate, right up to and until he got his third DUI, when his clients dropped him like a hot potato. All of his influence could not get the felony DUI charge dropped. He would spend six months in jail, during which time his accountant would empty his bank accounts and flee to Bolivia. The rest of his life he would be forced to subsist on his Senate retirement of only fourteen thousand dollars a month. This soon led to a bankruptcy filing since he could not seem to reduce his spending to less than thirty thousand dollars a month. Life can be hard, sometimes.

Enough about Senator Babbitt.

What about Dr. Farid Fata, the Hematologist/Oncologist, the Lebanese native who practiced medicine in Michigan? His story is right here: Hematologist charged with Medicare Fraud

He is right up there with former Mississippi oncologist, now federal penitentiary inmate, Meera Sachdeva. Of course there are American born physicians that get charged with Medicare and insurance fraud, but it seems to me that there is a very high percentage of them who are immigrants. Is this just me, or do you see it, too? Or is is just that immigrant physicians are the ones most likely to be prosecuted? Hmmmm! More than the fraud, I am worried about their bad medical practice. Sachdeva administered more chemotherapy agents than she purchased, which means that many people were given diluted chemotherapy, or mere saline, since it is not possible to administer more of something than you actually have, thought it is apparently possible to bill Medicare and insurers for more than you have. This came to light in Sachdeva’s case when a hospital in McComb, Mississippi, admitted several oncology patients from Sachdeva’s clinic who had the same, unusual, bacterial infection. A visit by the State Medical Licensing Board determined that Sachdeva’s clinic was using dirty IV infusion supplies.

The case of Fata seems a bit different. He merely diagnosed people with cancer and gave them chemo when they did not need it. I’m sure that if this went on long enough, Fata would have been named the AMA Doctor of the Year for his unusually high cure rate of cancers in his clinic. He would have been the keynote speaker at dozens of AMA luncheons, training doctors on how to treat patients and get the same success rate, and even more, training them on how to run a successful practice. The lust for money is not in all physicians, but because of their rigorous training, many of them denied themselves for so long that the temptation of money is hard to resist once they begin their practice. Physicians are human, too, subject to the same lusts and passions as are common to all men. It is unfortunate that we single them out as exceptional people, placing them on a pedestal that may just be a bit too tall for their own good. Our doctors are not our gods, they are merely our physicians, and they practice their craft. Some are better than others. No doubt, mine are better than yours. Remarkably, if the plumber fails to fix our leaking pipes, he gets to do some warranty work. If our doctor fails to cure our illness, he gets paid over and over again.

“But, it’s hardly the same thing,” you say to me.

“It’s hardly the same thing,” Gooday, Hemosapien, Mainmost, and other physicians say to me.

“I agree completely,” I say back. “Plumbers are absolutely responsible and accountable for their work. Only in a mixed up world do we allow that the more education one has, the less he is accountable for the results of his work”

No one says anything. Everyone scurries away, leaving me to my own devices. I have become persona non grata.

I will take two aspirin and call myself in a couple of weeks if I am not better.Like poor Senator Babbitt, no one will return my phone calls.

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