Shorter NH GOP to the mentally ill: If you can’t pay, you won’t get it

I may unload on a lot of people and institutions, but this stuff gets me boiling like little else can. In part:

“We’re changing the mandate that says the agency must care for all to one that says the agency can triage,” said division Chairman Neal Kurk, a Weare Republican who proposed the language.

The new language states that if a person does not have the ability to pay for mental health services, the responsible agency “may conduct a clinical assessment and may prioritize services based on clinical needs. Emergency services may be provided as appropriate.” The amendment would also add language stating that admission to the state’s mental health services system and access to treatment “shall be contingent upon the availability of appropriations.”

I imagine these shitweasels understand that their ham-handed soft-pedaling of the language in this bill and elsewhere is not fooling anyone, but at least they have the courage to try.

People are angry at the comments from “sailmaker,” a chronic and not at all creative troll. I don’t bother. Most us us know by now just what characterizes the kind of people who haunt newspaper comment forums and the Web in general, making it their raison d’etre to complain about liberal socialist evils. They are most notable for pointing fingers at others and forgetting, or trying to, that they have three pointing back at them. I have almost do doubt that sailmaker is a major player in his own (possibly apocryphal) account, just like Gribbit is. He’s probably either been on disability for a mental condition himself or wasn’t approved for it, or failing that is upset that his physical problems didn’t qualify him for one of the government handouts he claims to hate so much. And I am in no way making a reactionary or spiteful comment–just contextualizing it for those who might think sailmaker is simply evil.

Applying for SSDI is a lot more involved and much harder than people realize. One of my friends is an attorney who specializes in Social Security law and is an advocate for people with mental illness. She grew up in a series of unstable sitations and was abused in all sorts of ways, but is sanguine enough now to realize that just because she was able to overcome lots of resultant depression and so on and establish professional standing, it doesn’t work that way for everyone.

It’s easy to bash along party lines, and I try to avoid it despite appearances, but in some cases a broad brush paints clearly, and this is one of them. Every single time the GOP makes any kind of move concerning health care, whether it’s mental health or women’s health or whatever, the singular goal is to leave needy people in the lurch or intrude into their bedrooms. There’s nothing else, ever. And they weave inelegant and shameless fictions when they do it.

Gribbit continues one-sided flame war with Justin Bieber

Sure, Gribbit has never chosen his battles, his words, his positions or his sources wisely. But he’s now sunk to making occasional posts in his one-wingnut echo chamber accusing a peripubescent Canadian teenage pop star with strange hair of talking out of his ass when it comes to the U.S. healthcare system.

Granted, when searching for informed opinions about complex socio-political issues, the cognoscenti generally don’t rush to give the words of people like Justin Bieber, or any 16-year-old (okay, 17 now) a lot of weight. But for better or for worse, people like to know what celebrities think about issues they perhaps do not, in fact, think about much, and so when Bieber was asked whether he wants to someday become a U.S. citizen, he opined:

“You guys are evil. Canada’s the best country in the world. We go to the doctor and we don’t need to worry about paying him, but here, your whole life, you’re broke because of medical bills. My bodyguard’s baby was premature, and now he has to pay for it. In Canada, if your baby’s premature, he stays in the hospital as long as he needs to, and then you go home.”

This doesn’t quite mesh with Gribbit’s report that Bieber “decided that he has some sort of input into the affairs of the United States,” as it’s generally considered fair to express a simple opinion about something without an accompanying desire to uproot it, but then Gribbit has always presented himself as something of a fascist. But Gribbit’s sole concern here isn’t Bieber, but a baby from Canada with a terminal illness who has gotten a lot of attention thanks to his unfortunately soon-to-be-over life becoming another tug-of-war between right-to-life types and doctors, or in this case the respective healthcare systems of the U.S. and Canada.

Compare this CNN story about Joseph Malaachli and his family to Gribbit’s speculation-laced gripe focusing on Canada’s “communist” ways and ignoring the sad but simple fact that this baby is going to die and that keeping him alive via mechanical means is merely prolonging the inevitable, a la Terri Schiavo. (Remember that name.)

Now, Gribbit seems to think his stance has been vindicated, because–fancy this–an anti-euthanasia, anti-abortion religious organization from the U.S. agreed to pay for all of this child’s medical expenses so that he could be transferred to a St. Louis hospital and die at home in the care of his parents after a tracheostomy that would prolong his life, if not its quality. Gribbit is obviously confused or in denial, as he seems to think that the baby is receiving treatment in the potentially curative sense.

In some ways this is a tough call. I can understand the parents’ anguish and wants here. But to frame this in terms of competing healthcare models rather than focus on the medical and ethical realities is asinine, and a column in the St. Louis Dispatch by a former G.W. Bush speechwriter and “traditional marriage” drone embodies this perfectly. It’s not about healthcare to people like this. It’s about a dogmatic belief rooted in broader religious convictions and nothing more.

Indeed, Canada’s system is different from the Unites States’ in that the courts can and do function essentially as medical decision-makers in cases like this one. But really, it wasn’t the government’s refusal to pay for a necessary procedure that’s at issue here. It’s the baby’s doctors having made a difficult but eminently justifiable decision based on the baby’s health and chances of truly living on. And if people like this guy get to be front in center in situations like this one, it demonstrates nothing other than the fact that lives can be prolonged in utter futility as long as someone with questionable motives is willing to pay for it.

One last wonderful tidbit from Gribbit, the king of all irony-meter-slayers:

Justin should stick to what he knows.

On second thought, Justin oughta just shut the hell up because he doesn’t know anything.

Nebraska woman given the privilege of delivering corpse-to-be

Actually, I’m lying; Danielle Deaver legally no choice but to deliver a baby that was certain to die.

Danielle Deaver cradled her daughter, knowing the newborn’s gasps would slowly subside, and the baby would die.

Through tear-blurred eyes, she looked her daughter over for physical defects.

Deaver, 34, of Grand Island, Neb., wanted to see something, anything to validate the news doctors delivered eight days before: Her baby had virtually no chance of survival. And if she lived, she would be severely disabled.

What Deaver saw was perfection: A tiny but beautiful child. Ten toes. Ten fingers. Long eyelashes.

Her baby tried desperately to inhale.

With her husband, Robb, at her side, Deaver sobbed, gently kissing her daughter’s forehead and hoping her baby wasn’t in pain. That fear – that the baby would suffer before its predestined death – compelled the couple to seek an abortion. But a new Nebraska law that limits abortion after the 20th week of gestation prevented her from getting one.

Try to overlook the ham-handed attempt on the reporter’s part to make this more troubling than it is and just consider the facts. Nebraska is the only state in the U.S. that currently defines 20 weeks as the threshold for “late term.” Under state law, this woman could only have gotten an abortion if her life or physical health was in danger. The fact that the baby stood no chance of survival in the judgment of everyone present is immaterial, because these laws are not predicated on medical realities or–like the “pro-life” movement itself–rooted in any kind of sense or human decency whatsoever. They are nothing more than efforts by benighted, undereducated and brainwashed people to shove current laws back in the direction of making abortion illegal across the board.

Aborting a still-living fetus at 23 weeks is not pretty, but it is legal everywhere in the U.S. besides Nebraska. As devastating as the whole thing is, an abortion in cases like this is functionally no different from taking someone like Terri Schiavo off life support, with the life support system in this case being a person rather than machines, and a move the same benighted whiz kids of course oppose roundly and with an equal lack of intellectual engagement.

100% of Chimp Refuge bloggers surveyed believe that Americans should never be polled

So the Kaiser Family Foundation asked 1,202 randomly selected American adults some questions about the health insurance reform law — you know, that monstrosity the newly GOP-led U.S. House of Representatives calls “Obamacare” and keeps promising, loudly, to do all in its power to see repealed — and the results were not what we’ve come to expect, which is that Americans have some serious deficits in their knowledge of the things they at least pretend to care about. No, this was evidence that an awful lot of people are ignorant beyond most workaday slurs I can produce on short notice.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that healthcare is a significant concern to virtually every conscious and sentient citizen of this country, at least those not on loan from the planet Krypton or secretly crafted from complex circuitry and state-of-the-art alloys and hence impervious to biological ails. People need not even know legislative particulars such as the fact that health reform stems from the 201 passage of two separate bills, let alone the names of those bills (call them ACA and Reconciliation, if that helps) in order to have at least a tenuous grasp of the essentials. But people should at least possess a few strands of knowledge before casting an opinion — positive or negative — on an issue, even if it’s just yapping into a telephone to slake the eager beaver from the KFF at the other end. The result of last months poll demonstrate forcefully that people are perfectly willingness to judge the worth of its government’s machinations without knowing what these are or even if they are, at least in the healthcare realm, and that the ignorance-willingness disconnect is far more pronounced on the Republican side.

Here are the essentials. 43% of those polled have a favorable view of the reform law, while 48% hold an unfavorable view. The divide between Democrats and Republicans was sharp indeed: 66% of Dems and only 11% of Repubs report a favorable opinion, while 26% of Dems and a whopping 84% of Repubs hold an unfavorable one. Nevertheless, 50% of respondents, including 75% of Dems and 17% of Repubs, either want the law kept as is or expanded, while 39% — 18% of Dems and 74% of Repubs want it repealed.

If those numbers appear to clash, it gets better. When asked about the current status of the law, 22% believed that it had been repealed, 26% didn’t know or refused to answer, and 52% knew that it is still the law of the land. Nearly one in three Republicans think that the law has been repealed, meaning that at least some Repubs who want it repealed think that repealing a law twice is necessary or useful. Fewer than half knew that it was still law, compared to almost two-thirds of Dems — the latter not precisely encouraging, either.

There are a couple ways to interpret these data. The most optimistic interpretation is that the questions were confusing in some way and failed to elicit an accurate picture of the average American’s healthcare-law knowledge, rendering the poll itself of little value. A more realistic perspective is that Americans don’t have to know their asses from their elbows in order to listen to politicians bellow about the prevalence of elbows sticking out from between people’s buttocks and begin nodding grimly in agreement. But these are not mutually exclusive views, and the ineluctable truth is that either Washington has failed grandly to explain what the new laws encompass or–and this seems undeniable–those talking heads with a vested interest in obfuscating the facts, always a much easier task, have succeeded.

Interactive childhood obesity map

Poor Mississippi manages to bring up the very rear in so many indices of functioning, and with its kids this heavy, it won’t have an easy time running to catch up.

Click on the image below to see the interactive version. Interestingly, while Colorado has long been the “leanest” state overall, its children are not among the nation’s slimmest, while the kids of generally portly Michigan are among the trimmest in the country.
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It would be interesting to make a drive from, say, Cheyenne to Little Rock, just to appreciate the heft gradient.

South Florida’s out-of-control “Oxy Express”; pill mills run willy-nilly

I don’t know that I have ever seen a more startling statistic than this:

Doctors in Florida prescribe 10 times more oxycodone pills than every other state in the country combined.

That’s right; a state with 6.1 percent of the population accounts for over 90 percent of its oxycodone prescriptions. The rest of the country’s pharmacies would need to jack out their output by a factor of about 150 in order to keep the other 49 states in step with Florida in this dubious regard. Even by the standards of the most comprehensively ludicrous state in the nation –Florida is to the rest of America what the Insane Clown Posse is to pop music — that is dumbfounding.

Rather than opine further, I leave you with NPR’s story and Carl Hiaasen’s column about the issue, which centers on a truculent governor named Rick Scott who, prior to being elected, amassed his personal fortune as the head of a healthcare company that last year proved responsible for the most egregious Medicare fraud ever perpetrated. Hiaasen warned voters of the menace in their midst prior to the gubernatorial election last fall, and true to form, they elected Scott anyway. After Scott won, Hiaasen again predicted serious problems, and the oxycodone mayhem is only the first.

Why is Planned Parenthood indispensable?

Because regardless of your views on elective abortion, Planned Parenthood is honest about its range of services and disseminates credible, unbiased medical information. That may seem to be setting the bar pretty low, but consider the alternative, which most of the current crop of U.S. Representatives would undoubtedly favor if it came down to a choice.

[F]or women unwilling to become young mothers—nervous women who are lured into [limited service pregnancy centers] for their advertised free pregnancy tests—visiting these centers can be traumatic. On their websites, brochures, and business signs, many advertise themselves as medical clinics, not Christian pregnancy centers. “Medical Clinic,” read many of their business signs, followed by “Free Pregnancy and STI Testing.”

But none of these centers are medical clinics—they’re not medically licensed with the state. They’re largely staffed by volunteers, not nurses or doctors, and their services are far from comprehensive. Some of the centers offer sexually transmitted infection testing or ultrasounds (no diagnostic analysis, just moody pictures of your insides) but no other medical care. None of them provide information about or access to birth control or condoms (just abstinence and Jesus). When you visit their websites or call to make an appointment, it’s rarely made clear that these are Christian organizations. Based on anecdotal evidence, only occasionally do they voluntarily disclose before appointments that they’re opposed to abortion and won’t refer women to providers who offer those services…

The video informs me that if I have an abortion, my chances of dying within the year are four times greater than if I chose to keep the pregnancy. If I make it through that year alive, according to the video, my risk of getting breast cancer is likely to “increase by 50 percent.” If, down the road, I do decide to have children, I might not be able to bond with them. I could also suffer for years from post-abortion syndrome (a condition dismissed by the American Psychological Association) that may lead me to contemplate suicide.

Then a woman on the video recounts her experience of getting an abortion after being forcibly raped. She says it was easier to forgive her rapist than to forgive herself for getting an abortion because “I did that to myself.” The not-so-subtle subtext of the video: Have the baby. Keep it, put it up for adoption, give it to a pack of wolves to raise—anything is better than having an abortion

Only half of the six pregnancy centers Megan and I visit during our weeklong pregnancy test spree disclose over the phone that they don’t perform or refer for abortions. None mention that they’re Christian-run clinics. “We do not discriminate, judge, or lecture,” says a woman with Whatcom County Pregnancy Clinic, a crisis pregnancy center in Bellingham, when I pointedly ask if the organization is Christian and if they refer for abortions. She dodges the referral question, saying only, “Come in and take a free test. It’ll only take a minute and then we can discuss your options.”

Christ is waiting in the waiting rooms—Bibles, crosses, and Reader’s Digests everywhere. But by the time women are in those waiting rooms, most have already committed to an appointment, which is the goal.

At every center, Megan and I are faithfully given false information about abortions that is presented as fact. Their statistics come from debunked medical studies, the conservative Medical Institute, and Focus on the Family.

What kind of conditioning can so thoroughly trash anyone’s moral compass that she thinks that preying on fearful young women with lies and scaremongering is okay, but abortion is sinful? There’s only one kind I know of, but it’s unfortunately as popular and timeless as misbegotten fads get.

Running, anorexia, living and writing: audio interview with Lize Brittin

Lize and Suzy Hamilton at the 1984 Kinney Midwest Regional

Lize Brittin was a two-time Kinney (now Foot Locker) finalist at Fairview High School in Boulder in the mid-1980s, winning the Midwest Regional her senior year and winding up seventh at the national champs in San Diego two weeks later. Translated for the benefit of non-runners, that means that she was one of the best cross-country runners in the United States, and it makes her one of the few great runners associated with Boulder who’s actually from there; Melody Fairchild, who holds the U.S. record for the high-school two-mile and won Foot Locker Nationals twice, and Kelsey Lakowske, who was fifth at the Nationals in 2010, are the only other Boulder natives to make it to the extremely exclusive race in Balboa Park, which for many years featured just 32 athletes and now allows 40. She also set a women’s course record for the Pikes Peak Ascent and was ninth in the Bolder Boulder 10K, both world-class events — and both at age 16. But even before landing at Brigham Young University and then at the University of Colorado with a full scholarship, anorexia had begun to take its toll, and she wound up nearly dying from it in her twenties.

Lize is 44 now and thankfully as far back from the depths of her illness as anyone can be. She’s had some of her freelance writing published, but more importantly has also finished a memoir about her experiences, Training on Empty, that she’s looking to publish, and she has started a blog of that name. She’s visited area schools and been on local radio over the years in reaching out to younger runners about the topic, was recently on a Runners Round Table podcast, and has compiled (in my biased opinion) a memoir that goes well above and beyond the usual “I have issues” stuff that people have become almost hardened to. Importantly, she’s healthy today while acknowledging the toll her disease took on herself and her friends and family and balancing the running she’s able to do now with the loss of her best years to a life-threatening illness.

I recently chatted with Lize about these matters, exploring the questions below and others. Listen to the audio here (50 minutes, 48 MB download).
——
As a former competitive runner myself, a person who seeks therapeutic gain or release from the act of writing, and a voracious reader (and hence a critic), I have to ask — what in your view distinguishes your story, and in particular your memoir about your experiences, from others of its kind?

You raced at a very high level, did so without becoming a household name (as you would have been had the Internet existed in the 1980s), and have kept a low profile in the running world for a long time. You are an unassuming person, the diametric opposite of an ego-driven person or a name-dropper, but I imagine that there’s a part of you that shies away from reflecting a lot on your successes because what could have become a national- or perhaps world-class career in the sport disappeared before you could see it to fruition. Is there therefore a bittersweet flavor to the whole of your competitive memories?

In many ways you’re straight from a textbook: You grew up the youngest child in a household which, while characterized by heavy-duty alcohol abuse, was still very much a high-achievement environment; you were chubby as a youngster; and in general you were never comfortable with the idea that you were a valuable person who does things right. You articulate this in the text, but even if you didn’t, this mindset emanates from your words and from your present-day persona as well. On top of that you had a coach who would weigh you and tell you, surreal as it sounds, that you were a single pound overweight on the morning of a championship race. Since you’ve come to know a good many anorexics over the years thanks to treatment and being open about your travails in your recovery years, does it seem that there has to be a “perfect storm” of factors in order for most susceptible girls — or people — to actually develop anorexia?

Anorexia is different from other disorders that could be described as addictive in that there is, in athletes at least, often a “grace period” in which afflicted people actually perform better in spite of manifesting the disease behaviors before they start slipping. You’ve mentioned that Diane Israel and perhaps others had begun counseling you well before you bottomed out. When you were experiencing success in spite of clearly having gone down the road toward “full-blown” anorexia, did you ever have the idea that you might be costing yourself in the long term or was the success itself, combined with the power of the disease, simply too seductive to allow for any such thinking to make real inroads?

Can you describe reaching a point at which you understood that this was no longer about running, or feeling thin or fit or in control, or any of the other mental shells in which anorexics shield themselves, and was really about your own survival?

One way in which you can unquestionably serve as a valuable resource to untold numbers of runners is that you’ve continued doing it at a modest (for you) level and come to terms with how running both shapes and you and how you need to command its role in your life and not the reverse, and you make no bones about the fact that there are days on which you feel fat and that it’s very uncomfortable for you. A lot of anorexics seem to fade from the activity altogether for either physical reasons or because the idea of balance is not even in the equation, but you’re someone who’s occupied every conceivable position on the whole spectrum. What would you tell a young woman who clearly is nowhere near recovery but has accepted the problem and fears that she will never be able to run again?

When did you start writing Training on Empty? Did you see it as a book-length project from the very beginning?

Where are you in terms of publishing the book at this point?

Unofficial poll about performance-enhancing drugs

There are a number of arguments about the various reasons that performance-enhancing drugs should (or should not) be illegal in Olympic and most professional sports. A discussion on the ethical side usually winds up in an argument between those who say that the conflict would evaporate if there were no such things as banned drugs, since no athletes would have to worry that others were using something that they themselves refused to use. But that opens the door to the question of whether athletes should be protected from themselves, as the untrammeled use of many PEDs is unquestionably dangerous in both acute and chronic ways, also being another subject fo lawsuits (check the Drug Guardians kombiglyze lawsuit). (This is where the idiot brand of libertarian likes to jump in with his two cents that ignores everything about the essence of athletic competition, example-setting, etc. in favor of the tunnel-vision “no rules! If they want to take chances, let them!” ethos.) There’s mention of how allowing currently banned substances would favor richer countries, but this disparity is already evident in so many ways that it’s a non-starter of an argument.

So I was thinking, what’s the main thing that would keep me from using PEDs in a world in which they remained illegal but I could be assured of not getting caught? With the parameters defined in this way, the possible answers are essentially two: Continue reading “Unofficial poll about performance-enhancing drugs”

Some seriously old shit: the lost art of paleo-scatology

(This is from page D5 of the October 12, 1992 edition of the Toronto Globe & Mail. Thanks to fellow runner Doug Pahl for realizing that I would like it and sending it my way.)


ENDANGERED FECES

It isn’t the Lost Ark, but then Andrew Jones isn’t related to Indiana

BY TONY HORWITZ
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL — YORK, ENGLAND

Below the Gothic spires of this postcard-perfect town, under its cobbled lanes and its beamed Tudor pubs, there lies a hidden world. “Beneath us right now is about three metres of dirt from earlier settlement,” says Andrew Jones, bouncing on a tourist-packed sidewalk in York. “I’d guess that one-third of it is excrement.”

Historical records support his scatological analysis. King Edward III visited York in the 14th century and declared that “the abominable smell” from “dung and manure and other filth and dirt” was worse “than in any other city of the realm.”

But what may have been a blight on medieval England is buried treasure for Dr. Jones. He is a paleo-scatologist, plumbing the depths of history for clues as to diet, health and sanitation in earlier times. In leading archeological journals, such as Antiquity, he has pondered topics such as “The Worms of Roman Horses,” while at scientific conferences, he gives an earthy lecture titled “Passed and Present: The Archeology of Excrement.”

Clearly, the sewer-level window he opens onto old English life is a far cry from the romantic idyl of Robin Hood. “The bottom line,” he says, “is that people tolerated what would seem to us incomprehensible squalor. Time and again, you get a very strong picture of filth.” Continue reading “Some seriously old shit: the lost art of paleo-scatology”

I’d hate so see their idea of “artificial”

My mother takes a cholesterol-lowering supplement called Multi + CholestOff that is manufactured by a company called Nature Made. Under the name of the product on the package appears the claim “Lowers Cholesterol Naturally.” If you’re getting the idea that this product is being marketed as a pristine and healthier alternative to synthetic or “artificial” medications, great. That’s what Forbes Medi-Tech (the parent company of Nature Made) wants you to think, and they also want you to accept out of hand the premise that “natural” categorically equals better.

Now for a look at the ingredients: Continue reading “I’d hate so see their idea of “artificial””

The First Nail

So here we are days away from the big vote on health care reform. In the lead up, I don’t think that I have seen people more polarized, agitated and even aggressive about a topic since the Vietnam War. I got to wondering why this is. Why are so many people getting red-faced over this? Why have I heard so many outright lies about what will (or won’t) happen if health care reform comes to pass?

Then something came to me. If health care reform passes and begins to work, and if it is then bolstered over the coming months and years and people begin to recognize that they and their neighbors are better off than they would have been without it, this will be the first nail in the coffin of Reaganism. Whatever else you might say about the late president, one thing is for sure: He took the dissatisfaction and mistrust that people had following Vietnam and Watergate, and instead of saying “That was an aberration, we can do better”, he instead fed peoples’ fears and preached that government can do no right, government is always the problem, and therefore less government is always a good thing. This argument elevated Reagan to a level just shy of deity in the eyes of some, and is firmly cemented as unshakable ideology and dogma in the political right wing. (Whether or not said politicians actually apply the ideology in a consistent manner is another question entirely).

Here’s the rub. There are few things scarier than having someone directly challenge your ideology. There is the initial shock that anyone could be so bold, rude even. After the initial shock, it will probably elicit a fight response. It doesn’t matter if a cogent, logical, rational defense of the challenge can be given; a direct attack at a core belief almost always causes people to dig in their heels, grit their teeth, and prepare for battle. Rational analysis be damned. Once invested, the tendency is to protect the investment, not admit to the possibility that it was a poor choice.

I think deep down, the leaders of the right wing realize that if successful and real health care reform comes to pass, their mantra will be broken. Who will believe them on any other issue if the citizenry discovers that the government can, in fact, do good things for people, in direct contrast to their continuing diatribe? How severe would this undercut them? Their power would evaporate like water in a desert.

The vote appears close, and even if it passes, some parts will take a few years before they come into play. And there remains work to be done to make it better. I guess we shall see. Oh, and I should mention that my Congressman, a “Blue Dog Democrat”, decided to vote against it as of yesterday.

Anthem Blue Cross on the chopping block

Before you go pitying what could happen to the poor, aggrieved health insurance companies in the United States as a result of healthcare reform, take a minute to see what they actually do. And this is typical. Anthem Blue Cross is no different from any of the other mass-production health plan overlords; they just got caught screwing up.

Sure, we don’t need any kind of checks and balances on these motherfuckers, right? Free market, baby!

Anthem Blue Cross of California allegedly violated state consumer protection laws more than 700 times between 2006 and 2009, according to the California Insurance Department.

Failure to pay claims within 30 days; failure to pay interest on unreimbursed claims; misrepresenting facts or policy provisions to customers; unreasonably low settlement offers; and other delays and claims handling violations are among the accusations brought by the state.

In addition, the Woodland Hills, Calif.-based insurer allegedly failed on 143 occasions to respond to the state agency in a reasonable time so these issues could be investigated.

The maximum penalty for each violation is $10,000. The state’s complaint will be heard before an administrative judge.

“It’s just really critical health insurance companies pay claims on time and fully,” California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said at a news conference. “There’s lots of examples where these deadlines came and went.”

Anthem Blue Cross, a subsidiary of Indianapolis-based WellPoint, is under state and federal scrutiny for raising rates on individual consumers this spring by up to 39%. Those premium increases are on hold until May pending an independent actuarial review.

The claims investigation has been under way for more than one year, and was launched based on consumer complaints, Poizner said. A similar state investigation of UnitedHealth Group’s PacifiCare, is ongoing.

WellPoint reported that it paid claims, on average, in 42.3 days as of the end of 2009, according to company financial statements. California insurance code requires insurers to pay claims within 30 days.

WellPoint said that it takes the issues raised by Poizner very seriously. “As the largest insurer in California, our responsibility is to pay the many millions of claims on behalf of our members each year fairly, fully and promptly,” said Kristin Binns, a WellPoint spokeswoman, in an e-mail. “While this review represents a small fraction of those claims, it is nonetheless very important to us to make sure we take any corrective action that may be necessary.”

Reporters now in the business of diagnosing people

A story in the Toronto Star today about an intruder at the Olympics opens with this:

VANCOUVER–A mentally ill man managed to breach security and get within metres of U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games Friday, the RCMP has revealed.

If you go on to read the rest of the story you’ll probably conclude that the man involved–whose intentions were evidently harmless–probably isn’t playing with a full sack of marbles. Nevertheless, there is no indication that the Mounties or anyone else had accurate information on the man’s medical or psychiatric history. This being the case, it is the height of journalistic irresponsibility to classify the guy as “mentally ill.” It’s no more a reporter’s job to make this call than it is to convict someone on trial. Hey, I may not have the hots for Joe Biden, but technically I’m mentally ill. Maybe Petti Fong is taking new patients?

Religiosity vs. health, state-by-state

The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life has released the results of its latest survey aimed at determining the relative importance of religion in each of the 50 states, plus D.C. The importance of religion in people’s lives was one of four measures used to make this determination. Here are the results (I apologize for the formatting, but WordPress sucks and doesn’t support the OBJECT HTML tag, so I couldn’t embed the interactive chart on the Pew Forum site):

Now look at the 2009 United Health Foundation’s state-by-state ranking of overall health. (for methodology and more, see this page.) Pay attention to the right-hand column, which shows the states in rank order.

2009 OVERALL RANKINGS
ALPHABETICAL BY STATE RANK ORDER
2009 RANK

(1-50)

STATE SCORE* 2009 RANK

(1-50)

STATE SCORE*
48 Alabama -0.546 1 Vermont 1.064
34 Alaska -0.091 2 Utah 1.006
27 Arizona 0.082 3 Massachusetts 0.905
40 Arkansas -0.416 4 Hawaii 0.892
23 California 0.278 5 New Hampshire 0.886
8 Colorado 0.606 6 Minnesota 0.828
7 Connecticut 0.779 7 Connecticut 0.779
32 Delaware -0.082 8 Colorado 0.606
36 Florida -0.200 9 Maine 0.569
43 Georgia -0.469 10 Rhode Island 0.557
4 Hawaii 0.892 11 Washington 0.538
14 Idaho 0.524 12 Wisconsin 0.534
29 Illinois -0.056 13 Oregon 0.530
35 Indiana -0.188 14 Idaho 0.524
15 Iowa 0.503 15 Iowa 0.503
24 Kansas 0.245 16 Nebraska 0.475
41 Kentucky -0.434 17 North Dakota 0.421
47 Louisiana -0.530 18 New Jersey 0.414
9 Maine 0.569 19 Wyoming 0.343
21 Maryland 0.281 20 South Dakota 0.286
3 Massachusetts 0.905 21 Maryland 0.281
30 Michigan -0.063 21 Virginia 0.281
6 Minnesota 0.828 23 California 0.278
50 Mississippi -0.789 24 Kansas 0.245
38 Missouri -0.238 25 New York 0.203
26 Montana 0.192 26 Montana 0.192
16 Nebraska 0.475 27 Arizona 0.082
45 Nevada -0.482 28 Pennsylvania -0.031
5 New Hampshire 0.886 29 Illinois -0.056
18 New Jersey 0.414 30 Michigan -0.063
31 New Mexico -0.067 31 New Mexico -0.067
25 New York 0.203 32 Delaware -0.082
37 North Carolina -0.206 33 Ohio -0.084
17 North Dakota 0.421 34 Alaska -0.091
33 Ohio -0.084 35 Indiana -0.188
49 Oklahoma -0.566 36 Florida -0.200
13 Oregon 0.530 37 North Carolina -0.206
28 Pennsylvania -0.031 38 Missouri -0.238
10 Rhode Island 0.557 39 Texas -0.320
46 South Carolina -0.492 40 Arkansas -0.416
20 South Dakota 0.286 41 Kentucky -0.434
44 Tennessee -0.480 42 West Virginia -0.446
39 Texas -0.320 43 Georgia -0.469
2 Utah 1.006 44 Tennessee -0.480
1 Vermont 1.064 45 Nevada -0.482
21 Virginia 0.281 46 South Carolina -0.492
11 Washington 0.538 47 Louisiana -0.530
42 West Virginia -0.446 48 Alabama -0.546
12 Wisconsin 0.534 49 Oklahoma -0.566
19 Wyoming 0.343 50 Mississippi -0.789

*Scores presented in this table indicate the weighted number of standard deviations a state is above or below the national norm.

Ideally, I would have gotten rid of the left-hand column in the health rankings, run the right-hand one through an Excel spreadsheet so I could flip the order to put the least healthy states at the top, and put the religiosity rankings side-by-side with the resulting list. It’s not difficult in any case to see how eerily strong the inverse correlation between health and faith is, at least by these measures. Mississippi was found the be both the most religious and least healthy state, the diametric opposite of the situation in Vermont. God must hate churchgoers.

Weight Watchers donates $1 million to combat world hunger…

…but dammit, they’re still in the weight-loss business and had the temerity to use pounds lost by its members as an incentive in a six-week drive that ended a week and a half ago. As noted here (and turn down the sound unless you really want to listen to Jenny McCarthy prate on), for every 1 million pounds members lost during the campaign period, Weight Watchers donated $250,000, or the equivalent of 250,000 pounds of food.

Here’s a complaint from someone on a site that is notorious for its denialism and where there is apparently no limit to the reasons people find to complain. It doesn’t surprise me that fat people are often on the defensive, what with countless examples of their being perceived and often portrayed as slothful, weak-willed and what have you. Continue reading “Weight Watchers donates $1 million to combat world hunger…”

National 24 Hour Championships

The North Coast 24 Hour Run has just completed. The men’s winner is Phil McCarthy with over 151 miles, and Jill Perry takes the women’s with 136 miles.

But I have to give a shout to two members of my running club, John Geesler who came in second with over 138 miles, and Dave Putney, eighth in the men’s race with over 124.  I train a lot with Dave and he possesses an enviable, dry humor. This makes him an excellent partner for weekend long runs. Unfortunately, he had a bad fall while on a 42 mile trail run with John a couple weeks ago and banged up his ribcage. I’m sure it had a negative impact on his race. Meanwhile, John churned out yet another enviable performance which is all the more impressive when you consider that he’s 50.

Between the two of them, they have ultra stories galore (John, like Dave, also has that certain dry wit). I’ve been trying to get them to write a book on some of their exploits. No doubt that even non-runners would find it entertaining.  Dave’s description of his 24 hours at the Across the Years event two years ago is priceless (over 131 miles on that one).

An example of Christian meddling suck

I really don’t have to editorialize any further than I have in the post title. Anyone who doesn’t think that Christopathy doesn’t threaten greater American society need only read this to receive a wake-up call.

The Alliance Defense Fund is seeking permission to intervene in a court decision ordering the Food and Drug Administration to sell the “Plan B” pill to minors.

The Plan B pill, otherwise known as the “morning-after pill,” is a very strong dose the same hormones used in oral contraceptive pills. Some doctors believe it could cause an abortion to an expectant mother. Matt Bowman is an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund.

“This is a case where pro-abortion activist groups have put their political agenda over the health of minors by attempting to force a court to expose them to a troubling drug,” he contends.

Bowman says there is no research on what potential medical problem the Plan B pill might cause for a minor. He adds that most minors who take the pill do so without parental knowledge.

First. let me say that I understand that groups like this one do not speak for most people who call themselves Christians. Even those who are personally opposed to birth control and drugs like Plan B would not interfere with the rights of others to use them. I’m targeting a particular, and virulent, subset of the flock with these observations.

With that out of the way: The claims made by the Alliance Defense Fund are, as usual, high-octane unadulterated bullshit. First of all, anyone who uses the term “pro-abortion” immediately discredits himself. No one likes abortion. But for a host of well-established reasons, the choice must remain.

As a result of a March court decision, 17-year-olds can buy Plan B over the counter. Girls under 17 can only get a prescription form of the drug, consisting of the synthetic progestin hormone levonorgesterel.

Beyond that, this idea that Plan B “could cause an abortion to an expectant mother” is screamingly incoherent. For one thing, Plan B is not an abortifacient–it prevents implantation from occurring at all. For another, how many expectant mothers–that is, pregnant women who hoped to carry to term–would take this drug? Do men sworn to celibacy seek prescriptions for Viagra?

Then there’s the implicit claim that particular risks to minors are likely to exist. This is asinine. All ovulating females would be expected to react to the same way to this medication. The idea that teenagers would tolerate a dose of Plan B more poorly than older women is nothing but special pleading aimed at achieving he ends of cross-eyed Bible-boppers. Besides, it’s not as though this is a maintenance drug–it’s a one-shot deal, for obvious reasons.

The Alliance Defense Fund is unabashedly interfering in women’s health issues, and doing so with the usual freshets of lies. If its members have an aversion to Plan B, then they can simply not take it, and they can shut the fuck up about what’s supposedly good for everyone else.

Of course, they’ll get nowhere with this from legal standpoint, but it’s the thought–and the intent–that counts. These people are assholes who remind the world of two unyielding truths: Christheads venture into areas where they don’t belong, and Christheads lie with aplomb.

Douche Limbaugh Strikes Again

Hey! Do you know what’s REALLY driving up the cost of health care in the USA? Why, according to Douche Limbaugh, it’s people who exercise! Yep. People interested in fitness are responsible for expensive health care. See if you can follow this “logic”

Apparently, Douche can’t tell the difference between the costs of one-time acute injuries such as a sprained ankle and long-term chronic maladies such as heart disease and the complications associated with them. And let’s not even get into the whole quality-of-life thing.

But when you’re a doughy Oxycontin abuser I guess it makes perfect sense. One thing I will say about Douche, he knows his audience. I’m sure there aren’t many “fitness freaks” in that group. And what’s with his not-so-thinly-veiled jealousy that I hear about injuries being a “badge of honor”? I’ve known a great many athletes who have been injured and not a single one of them is in any way proud of their injuries. In fact, injuries do nothing but frustrate the athlete. I’d go so far as to suggest that, at least to many distance runners, “injury” is almost synonymous with “I was stupid”.

The Impending Purge

There are allusions to “bonobo scat spattered walls” here at the Refuge. Time to go one better. I am scheduled for a colonoscopy tomorrow. This will be my second such procedure so I have an idea of what to expect. I haven’t found any problem with the procedure itself, but the prep is tad, shall we say, messy. Here’s what it looks like:

Three days prior, no more fresh fruit or vegetables, and no nuts. This kills me because that’s about one third of my diet. OK, so I can live on canned fruit for a while, but morning cereal without my usual blueberries, strawberries, etc. is depressing. Oh, and no dried fruit stuff either due to skin and/or seeds. There goes more snack food.

So now the “fun” stuff. The day before the procedure (today) it’s a clear liquid only diet. And Jell-O. Joy of joys. At 2 PM I am to take 2 Dulcolax tablets to “get things moving”. At 6 PM, I am instructed to mix an entire 238 gram bottle of Miralax in a 64 ounce bottle of sports drink (I chose lemon-lime) and drink 8 ounces every 10-15 minutes until it’s finished. So that’s nearly two liters of laxative-spiked Gatorade in maybe an hour and a half. Here’s the part I love on the instruction sheet: “Expect everything you drink to pass through the rectum”. That’s an understatement. If past experience is any guide that should read “Expect everything you drink to rocket out of your anus at near hypersonic velocity. You may wish to flush mid-rifle to ensure that the bowl doesn’t overflow.”

And just in case that’s not enough, it’s two more Dulcolax tablets at 8 PM.

I think it would be easier if they just had you sit on a firehose. If there’s anything left in there after this procedure, I’d have to guess that it’s welded in place.

Obviously, there’s nothing to eat or drink after midnight. In fact, that’s one of the first things they ask when you check in: “Have you had anything to eat or drink since midnight?” The instructions are quite explicit, so asked if anyone ever answered “yes” to that query. The nurse said that it sometimes happens, and in fact, one fellow answered “Yes, I had a chili-dog for breakfast this morning.”

Needless to say, his procedure was cancelled for that day.