Well, six hours anyway. I wouldn’t miss tomorrow’s health care political extravaganza. I’m planning to crack open a brewski and a bag of Cheet-Os, and splay out in front of the boob tube for the full six excruciating hours. C-Span on steroids.
What’s wrong with me? Don’t I know health reform is dead? Don’t I know the Obama administration was dumped into the dustbin of history following election to the Senate of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, which overturned what all viewed as a permanent Democrat/Kennedy lock on the ultimate safe seat?
Oops, there I go, getting wonkish. Well, that’s what it is with me. I used to cover health policy – wrote, edited and published a newsletter called “Health Policy Week,” for God’s sake – and I can’t get it out of my blood. The issues I covered during 1982-86 are, basically, the same issues as today. They weren’t resolved then – indeed, the solutions of the ‘80s and ‘90s (managed care, prospective payment) may have made things worse – and there’s a fair chance they won’t be resolved this time.
But that doesn’t have anything to do with my plans for tomorrow. Sure, I believe passionately that health reform must pass or this great nation will go bankrupt. And yes, in my opinion the current compromise pretty much stinks, may not work, needs the public option or something like it, yada yada yada. Health policy does indeed matter to me. But the reason I’ll be glued to the TV tomorrow has more to do with spectator sports. What NFL football and NBA basketball are to others, health reform is to me. Even if I had a full schedule, I’d cancel all engagements.
Now, as it happens, I don’t have any engagements tomorrow. The decks are clear for stultifying TV. I’ve been home from the hospital since last Friday, recovering from total knee replacement.
By Helen Altonn
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 12, 2009
Hawaii and Maui counties have been designated primary natural disaster areas because of losses caused by drought this year, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials announced.
"President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to these areas and serious harm to farms in Hawaii, and we want to help," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This action will provide help to hundreds of farmers who suffered significant production losses to warm season grasses."
Some parts of Hawaii had a lot of rain the past month, but it fell mainly in places that do not have serious drought conditions, says Kevin Kodama, senior service hydrologist at the Honolulu Forecast Office.
DROUGHT IN THE ISLANDS
» Extreme drought: South Kohala
» Severe drought: Kau, North and South Kona
» Moderate drought: Lower Kona slopes (Honaunau to Kalaoa)
» Severe drought: Central and West Maui, West Molokai
» Moderate drought: East Molokai, Lanai
Source: National Weather Service
Portions of the Big Island did not receive much rain, and they are still hurting from drought, said the National Weather Service meteorologist.
Hawaii’s wet season is from October through April, but Kodama and Jim Weyman, meteorologist-in-charge of the Honolulu Forecast Office, said in October it would be drier-than-normal from mid-December through April because of El Nino conditions.
An El Nino is a weather phenomenon in the equatorial Pacific with unusually warm sea surface temperatures that affect climate worldwide.
The Big Island’s South Kohala district had the sixth consecutive month of extreme drought in November, Kodama said. Some improvement occurred with rain in the early part of the month — from extreme drought to severe drought, he said.
Then it got windy, and farm agents said the winds "dried things out quick," Kodama said.
That window of opportunity to pull out of the drought is closing, he said.
Climate models have been pretty consistent in predicting drier-than-nomal conditions through the spring, Kodama said.
Every health care reform proposal attempts to offer some relief for small businesses. According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), small businesses create 2/3 of American jobs, yet half of the uninsured are in small businesses.
Look at President-elect Obama’s health care proposal on his campaign’s web site. The first two items:
- Require health insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions so all Americans regardless of the health status or history can get comprehensive benefits at fair and stable premiums.
- Create a new Small Business Health Tax Credit to help small businesses provide affordable health insurance to their employees.
What’s remarkable about these proposals is that we are still discussing them.
Let’s look at the second item – a tax credit for small businesses. In my opinion, it is a mistake to separate the small business market from the individual market. Almost every small business starts out as a solo enterprise. How many creative ideas never come to market because the would be entrepreneur is afraid to go without health insurance?
Yet we don’t make it easy. Anyone who has ever itemized deductions has experienced the limits on the deductibility of health insurance costs. There is also something called a section 105 deduction that you can learn about elsewhere. Yet business owners can deduct the full cost of their medical insurance. I would welcome an explanation that justifies this disparity, or at least explains the politics to me.
The real nut is the first item. That we allow insurance companies to only insure healthy people is the greatest tragedy of American health care. This is called medical underwriting. Jonathan Cohn in his book, Sick, has a wonderful chapter on this stain on American health care.