Sunday, September 27, 2009


FYI Redux - Click Here


The Fishtown Community Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia will be closed Wednesday, September 30th due to staff shortage.

Signage posted at said location

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Making Sense of the Health Care Debate

SPECTRAL VISION: 'A Winner's Curse'

Uwe E. Reinhardt, a Princeton economist, has a gloomy forecast in assessing Senator Max Baucus's health care proposal. Mr Reinhardt says the Baucus plan gives the insurance industry almost everything it could have wanted. But he describes a potential "winner's curse."

Because the Baucus plan does little to control runaway costs, Mr. Reinhardt says, insurers will still need to raise premiums year after year to keep up -- fueling the rising fury of a public that, under the Baucus rules, would be forced by a federal mandate to buy the increasingly expensive insurance. (Mr. Rienhardt dismisses the proposed insurance alternative, from non-profit cooperatives, as "mice that roar.")

"So imagine, if you will, solid-middle-class Harry and Louise, sitting at their kitchen table and beholding the latest premium notice from their friendly private health insurer," Reinhardt writes. "The private health insurance industry may yet find itself to be the proverbial flack catcher in the years ahead, and the public's clamor for a public health care plan may come back."


Timothy Stoltzfus Jost is a law professor at Washington and Lee University and frequently writes on comparative health care policy. His work includes an examination of insurance coverage in Switzerland and a comparison of the Swiss and Dutch systems. He spoke to Anne Underwood.

Q. The Swiss health care system relies on public-private approaches that have been recommended as models for the United States. What are the similarities?

A. In 1996, Switzerland instituted an individual mandate by which people are legally required to purchase health insurance in a competitive market. People buy coverage from private insurers, and the government provides subsidies for those who can’t afford coverage. About a third of the population receives subsidies.

Q. What is a major difference between the Swiss system and most of the proposals in Congress?

A. The most important difference is that health insurance in Switzerland is provided by nonprofit insurers — though some are affiliated with for-profit companies that offer supplemental policies along the lines of Medigap in the United States. The basic benefit package is defined by law and is quite generous. Maximum drug prices are regulated.

Q. How is the quality of care?

A. The quality of care is excellent. Waiting times are not reported to be a serious problem in Switzerland, and most people can get the services they need quite expeditiously. Modern, high-technology services are readily available. Coverage of some new drugs and procedures, however, is reviewed for effectiveness, and some drugs and procedures available in other countries may not be available in Switzerland if they are not considered to be cost-effective.

By The Numbers


Life expectancy: 82 years
Infant mortality: 4 per 1,000 live births
Health spending as a percentage of GDP: 11
Percentage of health spending that is private: 40
Doctors per 10,000 people: 40

United States

Life expectancy: 78 years
Infant mortality: 7 per 1,000 live births
Health spending as a percentage of GDP: 15
Percentage of health spending that is private: 54
Doctors per 10,000 people: 25

Source: World Health Organization. U.S. statistics.


Above info from The New York Times

Editorial Cartoons by Tony Auth for the Philadelphia Inquirer

One More Link:

Opposing Opinion - The Risks for Dems Going It Alone on Health Care By Jay Newton-Small for Time

Bonus Round:

Hard to Believe!

It was strange to find in this economically stressed, rural region of Vermont, not far from the state capital of Montpelier, a good news story about health care.

Those who live in the area, no matter what their income, can get high-quality primary care, dental care, prescription drug services and mental health assistance at a price they can afford. All they have to do is call or stop by the Health Center at Plainfield, which is part of a national network of centers that are officially (and clumsily) known as Federally Qualified Health Centers.

I was somewhat skeptical when Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, told me that these centers (there are 39 sites of various size in the state) had “essentially solved the problem of primary care” for local residents. Politicians are in the business of making big claims. Most of the time you don’t hold it against them. But you don’t take the claims as gospel, either.

In this case, the senator’s claim seems to be very much on the money...

Click here for complete NY Times column by Bob Herbert

Non-Bonus Round:

The Elephant in the Room: Promises have been broken by Rick Santorum

Nothing is more critical to the success of President Obama's health-care legislation than his promise that no American will have to give up his or her health plan. A related promise runs a close second: that the "government option" will create competition for the private sector, not replace it.

Why are these promises so critical? Because, while most Americans are open to fixing health care, they're also happy with their private insurance. One would think Obama would oppose any provision that appears to force Americans into a government plan. Think again.

The Medicare Advantage program is composed of private insurance plans within Medicare, created to compete with government-run Medicare. Obama's call to cut funding to the program could eviscerate it.

According to Medicare Advantage insurers, their disproportionately poor and minority enrollees do better than Medicare's on many measures, getting much more primary care and avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions. Since 2004, enrollment has doubled to 10.2 million, about a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries. The program has become popular with poorer seniors because it offers more benefits for less money, including physicals, hearing aids, and glasses.

While the reforms proposed by Congress don't abolish the program, they eliminate more than $100 billion of its subsidy, which is sure to reduce benefits. On Sunday, ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Obama how he squares that with his promise that no one would have to give up current coverage. Obama said that "these folks are going to be able to get Medicare that is just as good, provides the same benefits, but we're not subsidizing them for $18 billion a year." So, according to Obama, seniors may not have the same coverage, but they will get government-run Medicare that is "just as good."

According to the Congressional Budget Office, over the next 10 years, 2.7 million seniors who would have signed up for Medicare Advantage would end up in Medicare. And those in the program would see a reduction in benefits.

That's one promise broken.

What about Obama's promise about competition? He says he wants to cut Medicare Advantage subsidies to level the playing field between these plans and Medicare. But unlike Medicare, which can set artificially low prices, Medicare Advantage plans must pay market rates. Often, Medicare reimbursements don't even cover costs, so providers shift costs to private insurers, making them uncompetitive - exactly what many say would happen with the "government option."

I supported Medicare Advantage subsidies so the program would be available in rural areas, where managed-care plans are more expensive to operate. In exchange for the subsidies, Congress required program insurers to offer more benefits. And contrary to Obama's claim that the subsidies prop up huge company profits, the average plan profit is just 5 percent.

Bottom line: Cutting Medicare Advantage will eliminate private competition, meaning more government coverage.

That's two promises broken.

These broken promises have become a sore spot for Democratic congressional leaders such as Senate finance chairman Max Baucus. He and administration officials have gone so far as to threaten Medicare Advantage insurers with sanctions if they continue to tell seniors the facts about Obamacare. Oh, what webs we weave.

Monday, September 21, 2009


The Richmond Library
will be Closed!

Monday, September 21st and
Monday, September 28th.

Signage posted at said location

Note: Closure due to lack of support staff

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On This Date In History

Thursday, September 17th
The 260th day of 2009.
There are 105 days left in the year.

Today's Highlights in History

On Sept. 17, 1862, Union forces hurled back a Confederate invasion of Maryland in the Civil War battle of Antietam. With 23,100 killed, wounded or captured, it remains the bloodiest day in U.S. military history.

On Sept. 17, 1934, Maureen Connolly, the first woman to win the tennis Grand Slam, was born.

On this date in:

1787 - The U.S. Constitution was completed and signed by a majority of delegates attending the constitutional convention in Philadelphia.

1907 - Warren Burger, the 15th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in St. Paul, Minn.

1920 - The American Professional Football Association - a precursor of the National Football League - was formed in Canton, Ohio.

1939 - The Soviet Union invaded Poland during World War II.

1947 - James V. Forrestal was sworn in as the first U.S. secretary of defense.

1972 - The comedy series "M*A*S*H" premiered on CBS.

1976 - NASA unveiled the space shuttle Enterprise.

1980 - Former Nicaraguan president Anastasio Somoza was assassinated in Paraguay.

1986 - The Senate confirmed the nomination of William H. Rehnquist as the 16th chief justice of the United States.

1992 - Special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh called a halt to his five-and-a-half-year probe of the Iran-Contra scandal.

1994 - Heather Whitestone of Alabama became the first deaf woman to be crowned Miss America.

1996 - Former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew died at age 77.

1997 - Northern Ireland's main Protestant party joined peace talks, bringing the major players together for first time.

1999 - President Bill Clinton lifted restrictions on trade, travel and banking imposed on North Korea a half-century earlier.

2001 - Wall Street trading resumed for the first time since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks - its longest shutdown since the Depression; the Dow lost 684.81 points, its worst one-day point drop to date.

2001 - Pro sporting events resumed after a six-day hiatus following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

2003 - New York Stock Exchange chairman Dick Grasso resigned amid a furor over his $139.5 million pay package.

2004 - Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev claimed responsibility for the Sept. 1-3 school siege in Beslan and other terrorist attacks in Russia that claimed more than 430 lives.

2004 - San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds hit his 700th career home run, joining Babe Ruth (714) and Hank Aaron (755) as the only players to reach the milestone.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cookie Fortune

To aim at the best and to remain essentially
ourselves is one and the same thing.

Learn Chinese:

sugar - tang

Lucky Numbers; 36, 46, 52, 47, 3, 28

Thursday, September 10, 2009

'For Your Information'

The RICHMOND Library
will have a Delayed Opening
Thursday, September 10th
(Sometime after 12:00 a.m.) [sic]

signage posted at said location

FYI continued:

The Richmond Library
will be closed
Friday, September 11th, 2009
Sorry for any inconvenience

Nearest Library:
Fishtown Branch
1217 East Montgomery Ave.
(Montgomery & Girard Ave)
(215) 685-9990

signage posted at said location

Update: These are about to be posted on the front doors of the Central Library and all branches due to lack of funding.

Note: Photo & Update Info via

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Believe It Or Not

The New York Times Sports In-Box

Celebrating Vick

To the Sports Editor:

Re “Vick’s Path to Redemption Is Clear,” Aug. 29: I’m glad the Eagles brought Michael Vick to town. I am an advocate for animals, and I think Vick brings a gift more important than a potential Super Bowl win. He brings the possibility of saving countless animals from the horrors of dogfighting, a serious problem in Philadelphia.

If Vick is committed to being a voice against the cruel blood sport, he can save far more animals than he has harmed. I can’t think of a voice for the job more relevant than his.

Heather Veleanu

Criticizing Victorino

To the Sports Editor:

Re “In Hawaii, High School Sports Are Far From Paradise,” Sept. 1: Shane Victorino has a $3.125-million-a-year contract with the Phillies and he donates $10,000 to Hawaiian high school sports. Victorino would be harvesting sugar cane if he couldn’t play baseball and should give far, far more.

Bill Gleason
Kentfield, Calif.

Both letters published Sunday, September 6th