Health Care Reform: How Gurneys Become Beds

To be frank, I share neither the euphoria nor the enthusiasm that seem to surround the rush to “reform” health care. Of course, the optimistic aura surrounding Obama’s push for reform is largely media induced, leaving us little hope that we’ll see or read anything to detract from what’s going on.

My position is that there is no reform of health care going on; there’s just a push to get government more involved with an eye toward eventually creating “Medicare for all,” for lack of an easier description. Once that happens, then the real, intended reform can take place–bureaucrats will dictate to doctors and hospitals what they can and can’t do based on cost effectiveness. In other words, if it’s expensive, don’t expect to get it once Obamacare takes full effect–unless you want to take a medical vacation to India and pay for it yourself.

Consider this example from Great Britain, which I actually found in a real, live American newspaper (but appearing below and inferior to a more “positive,” pro-reform article):

In Britain, for example, politicians were getting pressure from constituents because hospital emergency rooms were so crowded that patients were left on gurneys in hallways awaiting care, sometimes for days. Politicians told the hospitals this had to stop and that they had to admit patients faster.

The response of some hospital administrators: Take the wheels off the gurneys because they then fit the definition of a ‘hospital bed.’ The patients were no better off, but the statistics looked better to the politicians.

The article was written by someone named Grace-Marie Turner, whom the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quickly described as “president and founder of the Galen Institute, which is funded in part by the pharmaceutical and medical industries” (my emphasis).

At least the AJC let the article see the light of print before quickly disavowing and discrediting it.

So you see what I mean about how hard it is to find and read the truth.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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What’s Up With the UAW and Ford?

Ford, which is in the best shape of all three American automakers and has not gotten (nor will it seek) government bailout funds, has wrung a deal out of the United Automobile Workers (UAW) to cut costs in health care and in overtime and unemployment pay.

Or is the shoe actually on the other foot?

The UAW has typically struck a deal with one automaker that it then sets up as the gold standard for the other two. By cutting a deal with Ford that leaves pay scales and health care for existing workers intact, the union may be drawing a line in the sand for GM and Chrysler, both of whom are on a federal umbilical court and under orders to cut costs or die.

It’s unlikely that the union, outside of government or courtroom pressure, will go any further in making concessions, even to two firms that may expire of their own decrepitude and obesity. It’s also highly unlikely that the Obama administration will try to force the UAW into further concessions, so it looks like this is a union gambit that could play out for them.

Of course, if GM or Chrysler or both disappear, then all the gambits in the world won’t help.

It should be an interesting side show as the Great American Recession continues.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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China: Laboratory for EFCA-Style Unionization

Can’t blame ’em. Business owners in China’s manufacturing belt, their businesses up in smoke in the worldwide recession, are fleeing the country and leaving their workers high and dry–and yuan-less–rather than cope with China’s restrictive labor laws.

Of course, you can also call them rats for absconding with their companies’ loot while leaving their workforce with no money to survive on. China’s recent Labor Contract Law supposedly protects workers from unannounced factory closings and loss of pay, but many owners have been doing an end run and disappearing.

To date, some 20 million migrant workers, who relocate from the provinces to work in factory-rich Guangdong Province and send money home to their families, are now unemployed.

Since all workers are unionized in China (but have no right to strike), the national union is fighting back, and so is the government.

“We will use all labor-related laws to help migrant workers keep their jobs in this difficult time,” Zhang Mingqi, vice-chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions said at the start of the National People’s Congress (NPC) session.

Some owners were also hopeful that the government would not enforce the Labor Contract Law and other provisions, but that’s not going to happen, evidently.

Xin Chunying, the deputy director of the legislative affairs commission of the NPC Standing Committee, said the Labor Contract Law will not be amended because of the current global economic downturn.

“The crisis has nothing to do with the law. We won’t amend the law because of the downturn,” she told a press conference of the ongoing NPC session Monday.

Anyway, all this looks eerily like what will happen in the United States if the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA–see yesterday’s posting) passes. In a word, chaos. In two words, disappearing companies.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Personnel Concepts’ White Paper Predicts the Future

Well, not quite, but Personnel Concepts–the labor law poster pioneers–has added a white papers section to its home page, and one of the featured papers looks at labor law changes coming under Barack Obama.

Prominent among the anticipated pieces of legislation is something called the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has christened “Armageddon”–the end of free enterprise in America.

EFCA, also derisively called “card check” because it enables employees to unionize simply by signing unionization cards and shunning any secret ballots, looked to be a shoe-in at the start of the Obama administration, but recently speculation has surfaced that some previous supporters are having second thoughts.

The bill is reportedly going to be introduced in the House of Representatives today. Passage in the House, which is wildly stacked in favor of the Democrats, is almost a sure thing, but the Senate–with its 60-vote cloture rule–is more iffy, and that’s where the reported defections have taken place.

We’ll just have to wait and see. Meanwhile, I’m sure Personnel Concepts will keep us posted.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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The Road to ‘Armageddon’ Starts Today

Sources tell Personnel Concepts that the much-feared-by-business Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) will be introduced in the House of Representatives today. Well, nothing new here.

EFCA made it through the House’s 435 members once before and passed with flying colors, but its fate in the Senate may be another matter altogether.

Just today, the Wall Street Journal reported that "Labor Bill Faces Threat in Senate" because of some suddenly wavering Democratic support. Whether this wavering is just posturing or temporary remains to be seen, but EFCA does require 60 votes in the Senate to pass. Without 60 votes, a bill can be filibustered into extinction, which is exactly what the Republicans would gladly do to this piece of legislation.

EFCA, also called "card check" because it does away with the requirement for secret-ballot unionization votes and makes certification by majority signatures possible, has come under a withering attack from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which called it "Armageddon") and other business groups.

Even Obama supporter and billionaire investor Warren Buffett came out against EFCA in a CNBC interview yesterday. Time will tell what happens to EFCA, but I’m sure the folks at Personnel Concepts will keep us up to date with its news alerts.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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The World’s 50 Safest Banks

I was a bit surprised to find any U.S. banks on Global Finance magazine’s list of the 50 safest banks in the world.

Wells Fargo was the highest U.S. bank at number 21, followed by U.S. Bank at 26, the Bank of New York Mellon at 35, and JPMorgan Chase at 47.

Top spot went to KfW in Germany. Overall, both France and Germany had six banks on the list. Spain had an impressive five; the United Kingdom proved more mundane with three. Canada can boast of five on the list, and Australia of four.

Global Finance has been publishing the list for 17 years, but the one just released a week ago and quoted here was a mid-year update spurred by the global financial turmoil.

I’d be interested in seeing who’s still standing on this list come next January.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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All of You Who Think Health Care Reform=Free Care, Read On

interactive_map

Click on Image for Interactive Map

I just read a polling result that said three out of four Americans now favor health care reform. That’s all well and good, but I bet you that at least three of every four who said they favored reform also believed that it meant they would soon be getting health care for free, or that Obama would somehow find a way to soak the rich to pay for everyone else. You know, Obama waves his magic wand, and soon you can just walk into the doctor’s office and walk out with free treatment and free medicine, or you you can just check into the hospital, get all fixed up and never hear from their accounting department.

I’d say that the vast majority of those favorable respondents to the poll are going to be rudely awakened under “reformed” health care when they find they must buy the insurance themselves or, if they get it at work, pay taxes on it as income. Plus, they’ll be shocked when they’re told by some faceless bureaucrat in D.C. that the service or medicine they want isn’t cost effective and thus they can’t have it.

Anyway, without tackling doctors and hospitals and putting them on restricted, set budgets, there’s no way anyone in D.C. can make health care as we know it “affordable.” It’s all a big hoax (unless you’re on Medicaid because you’re dirt poor, then it’s both “affordable” and “free”).

The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, a massive study of health care in every region of the country, tracked Medicare costs per patient per city and region over time. The researchers found that, in areas with more hospitals and more specialized testing facilities, physicians ordered more tests, jacking up the costs often needlessly. In contrast, in areas (rural, etc.) where there was no glut of test facilities, costs went down while residents often got better care.

Sure enough, by doing away with both duplicative and needless tests and office visits, you can begin to lower costs around the country, or at least even them all out, but this is where that faceless bureaucrat comes in: Someone has to dictate what can’t and can’t be done and what will and won’t be paid for, or doctors and patients will continue to avail themselves of everything at their disposal.

That’s the dirty little “R” word that no one dare utter in D.C.–rationing. It’s the lynchpin, obviously, of any nationalized health reform; everything sinks without it.

Anyway, the Dartmouth Project is interesting to study. There’s a link to the text explanation in the title above, and you can click on the map image to open up an interactive tool to compare health care costs region by region and city by city. A good way to while away some idle time at work anyway, so go for it.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Personnel Concepts Jumps on the White Paper Bandwagon

I‘ve always liked the BLR (Business and Legal Reports) site because it features informative, lengthy pieces that go by the prevailing title of “white papers.” However, when I did an on-site search of BLR’s white papers the other day, I think the most current one I saw was from the summer of 2008, though I may have missed some in my search.

BLR also doesn’t always broach some of the regulatory topics affecting employers like the ADAAA (Americans With Disabilities Amendments Act, which took effect this Jan. 1) and the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act, which was restructured this Jan. 16).

That’s why I was happy to see that Personnel Concepts has added its own white paper section, and the section already contains lengthy, analytical pieces on both of those laws, as well as good stuff on other issues affecting employers. And if you wanted the lowdown on Lilly Ledbetter, that’s there too.

If you’re a labor law junkie like me, these kinds of resources are nice to have available.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Here’s One Liberal Economist Who Actually Makes Sense

I actually had never heard of economist James Galbraith until I stumbled upon his testimony before Congress in an article in, of all places, Mother Jones. So you gotta figure the guy is pretty liberal, but in his testimony, he comes across as having some solid answers that the Obama team overlooks or rejects.

Actually, most of our problems–except for foreclosures–could be solved quickly and simply if we just resurrected the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since that was a Bush initiative (see Bush, George Herbert Walker), however, the Democrats are loath to give it any credit, let alone emulate it. They’d rather let the economy go to hell and stay there–and then blame it forever on the other President Bush (see Bush, Dubya).

Meanwhile, the stock market continues to tank in the face of governmental indecision and inaction, taking with it the retirement dreams of millions of Americans. (Will they still vote for Obama if their savings remain wiped out for years–or forever?)

Anyway, back to Mr. Galbraith. He actually broaches an RTC-type solution in his testimony.

Galbraith sees no alternative to putting “several very big banks” that are “deeply troubled” into receivership, breaking them up, firing existing management, and selling them in parts or relaunching them as “multiple mid-sized institutions.”

So RTC-ish.

Galbraith also tackles the foreclosure problem on two fronts. The first front is to establish a modern version of the New Deal’s Home Owners Loan Corporation. Since the New Deal, to me, was nothing but a complete failure and only exacerbated the depression, I’m not sure about that idea, but his other idea has merit. He proposes having the government buy up all foreclosed homes and renting them back to their foreclosed owners, even with the option of future repurchase. This would at least keep the housing stock from further deteriorating. (Of course, this is not something you could do retroactively either.)

In sum, it’s refreshing to find an economist, especially a liberal one, with solutions that hold promise. Now, I wish I could say the same for Obama’s twin pillars of indecision, Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers. Then again, it’s probably the unrealistic expectations that Obama and his liberal operators place on the whole economic dialogue that leads to the indecision in the first place.

After all, the head man and his team are still looking for that magic wand to wave over the economy–and health care–that will make all the problems disappear while a pile of loot arises magically from the top five percent of taxpayers in America. More likely, “Rome burns while….”


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Modification Practitioners (!) Come Under the OSHA Knife

I was grateful to learn today that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has clarified its position on modification practitioners.

Say who?

It’s a fancy term for tattooists and body-piercing artists (I’m not sure artists applies, but whatever), and OSHA has stepped in with a Letter of Interpretation (LOI) about training requirements for said manipulation practitioners.

In answer to the question, “Does OSHA consider generic bloodborne pathogens training to be sufficient for modification practitioners (tattooing and body piercing artists), or should annual training be specific to the unique procedures and practices within the industry (i.e., industry-specific training)?” Richard E. Fairfax, OSHA’s director of the agency’s Enforcement Programs Directorate, noted that 29 CFR 1910.1030(g)(2) does require that all employees with occupational exposure to blood and OPIM* receive initial and annual training on the hazards involved and how to avoid them.

“While the provisions for employee training are performance oriented, with flexibility allowed to tailor the program to, for example, the employee’s background and responsibilities, the categories of information listed in paragraph 1910.1030(g)(2)(vii) must be covered, at a minimum.”

That’s probably more than any of us would care to know about OSHA and tattoos and body piercings, but if you’re curious, you can go to OSHA.gov to the What’s New section for Feb. 28, 2009.

* Other Potentially Infectious Material, and yes, I had to look it up.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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