We’re So Sorry About Louisiana’s Senator John Neely Kennedy

New Orleans      Those of us who live in Louisiana or care about the role of the state and its people in public affairs are just as sorry as we can be every time our junior Senator John Kennedy tries to take the stage with cameras running to provide the sordid sideshow commentary about the impeachment, the President, or almost anything else.  When Ronald Reagan or Sony Bono were elected to federal offices, it was clear voters, right or wrong, were pulling the lever for entertainers who had become politicians.  Somehow Louisianans who voted for Kennedy, right or wrong, thought they were voting for a seasoned politician to represent the state’s interest in Washington and now discover we’ve humiliated ourselves as he’s decided to act as some kind of cross between country bumpkin, horse’s butt, and total dufus.

He thinks he’s a quipster and comedian of some sort tossing out one-liners here and there appropriate for nothing.  We knew this was coming when he said he would rather drink weed killer than support Obamacare, and he didn’t stop even when many roared, “Please!”  As the Bayou Brief reviewed his act,

It’s part of a carefully, albeit mysteriously, calculated image to portray a well-educated professional politician as a cracker barrel philosopher; a character straight out of the long-running teevee show, “Hee-Haw.” In short, our senator and former state treasurer thinks he’s Grandpa Jones only without the banjo and the droopy mustache:.

Stephanie Grace, a columnist for the local paper in New Orleans in a rarity, stepped out of her comfort zone recently and zinged Kennedy for trying to act the “class clown,” and worse for being a dupe or a shill for the President’s widely discredited Russian coverup fantasy that Ukraine rather than the Kremlin was behind all of the 2016 monkey-business and election interference.  As Grace writes,

…he is a shape-shifter, a worldly scion of Vanderbilt University, the University of Virginia School of Law and the University of Oxford who adopts an aw-shucks demeanor on television, and a former moderate Democrat who put his finger to the wind and tacked hard to the right.

Worse, with impeachment soon heading for the US Senate, who is going hold the hook that pulls Kennedy and his act off the stage so serious business can be conducted?

We’ve been there and done that before, but Huey Long was an original, and that was last century.  He was also a brilliant politician with his finger on the pulse of peoples’ pain and aspirations.  Those were different times.  There’s no going back.

In 2019, there’s no traction in being a cornpone, country hick in a state like Louisiana trying to move forward rather than backward.  Lil’ Abner’s Dogpatch is hardly making it in Arkansas, and only Dolly Parton can be the impresario of Dollywood, but if John Neely Kennedy wants to audition for a part in some atavistic Louisiana hayride role, he should get on with it, rather than practicing that shtick in Congress. The people of Louisiana and America, frankly, deserve better than a comedy act when it comes to dealing with the current tragedy of our government.

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Have Doctors and Hospitals Joined Banks as Fraudsters?

New York City     It’s the holiday season when old time movies used to give us hope that miracles might happen.  Santa might climb down from the chimney, if you had a chimney anymore.  There were urban legends of teenagers finding car keys under the tree, although none of us  even remotely knew anyone who lived that miracle.  Some even thought there might suddenly be good will throughout the world.  Bah, humbug!

Maybe there’s something to all of that though?  Reports indicate that committees from both the US House and Senate are close to agreement to finally take some steps to stop “surprise billing” by doctors and hospitals.  Surprise billing occurs when a patient is using a hospital where their insurance is in full force, yet they get additional bills from doctors that are not covered, sometimes practitioners, anesthesiologists, or general blood suckers.  The step they seem to be contemplating seems small, but at least it’s forward.  They are debating a way to allow patients to appeal to reverse the charges.  It might make a difference.  Something to look forward to in 2021.

It’s not enough of course.  Elizabeth Rosenthal, a former Times reporter now working for Kaiser’s newsletter, raised the real question recently:  why are medical billing practices not fraud as they would be classified if practiced by other professions and industries?  A very good question!

If a building contractor charged you for putting in sheetrock in your back room or replacing the gutters on your roof, but then didn’t actually do it, it would be fraud.  Right?  We know that in wake of criminal charges, convictions, jail time, and lawsuits that fell like rain in the wake of Hurricane Katrina where unfortunately many homeowners were victimized by some rouge contractors.  Yet, doctors and hospitals routinely bill patients for procedures that they did not perform.  How is that not fraud?  Even worse they are ripping people off, just like the victims of Hurricane Katrina, at their most vulnerable when they are sick and desperate.  Added to that predatory behavior is price gouging, which is now simply standard operating procedure.

Yet this is regular behavior, just standard operating procedure.  Doctors who submit bills when they weren’t there; hospital charges for emergency room procedures when there was no other way to get care; doctors charging for nurse and intern work at their top rates, and more.  Accounting firms, legal practices, construction contractors, and others all charge apprentice rates for underlings rather than billing top-line prices. Why are doctors and hospitals allowed to engage in such exploitative and, frequently, fraudulent practices?

All of this is done with impunity.  The American Hospital Association just went to court recently to challenge the federal government over its rule that would force them to transparently publish their prices.  Tell me who does this?

Except on the wrong side of the law, that is.

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