Tag Archives: Health Care

Some Political Issues around Health Should be Settling Now

Pearl River     Yes, we’re all tired of hearing about covid-19 and our powerlessness to protect ourselves, our federal government’s incompetence, our local government’s uncertainty, and the general chaos.  On the other hand, perhaps the virus this time is teaching that this is a parade without an end with many more to come.  If so, this national catastrophe may be moving to settle some contentious issues so that everyone’s voices are heard and the political issues resolved.

Take vaccines.  Remember there used to be anti-vac folks in huge pockets here and there.  Now, everyone from President Trump down to the school playground are pretending a vaccine for covid-19 is ready anywhere from in a minute in the president’s claim or as soon as possible in the public’s prayer.  Maine is a prime example.  A bill narrowly escaped their legislature that eliminated philosophical and religious objections to vaccinations in the state.  The approval had been on hard partisan lines with the Democrats voting to remove the exemption and the Republicans wanting to continue to allow them.  The division was supposedly so stark that an initiative made it to the ballot.  The vote on Super Tuesday, if you missed the headlines, was a beatdown.  73% of the voters and every single county supported the end of any exemptions for any reason to vaccinations.  Period.  End of argument.

How about sick leave?  A lot of talk, but not quite settled.  A new notion of emergency sick leave has entered the debate in the fog of war around the virus, even as others are coming to understand that paid sick leave is not a personal benefit, but a community and common good.  In Canada, 55% of a workers’ pay is being provided by the government for those forced to provide for their children with all day care centers closed.  Now that’s a plan.  Mandating paid sick leave without providing a way for it to be paid is a nonstarter.  Regardless of the rightness of paid leave, our social enterprise coffeehouses wouldn’t have any income to pay workers if we were forced to shut down.  We’re not alone.  The gig economy is defenseless.  We need a government and real leadership.  I read a headline that the virus is Trump’s Katrina.  Indeed!

Has this moved he needle finally on the Affordable Care Act and the need for a more comprehensive national healthcare system, even if not Medicare For All?  Maybe.  We’ll have to see.  Hospitals are strapped.  Tests are unavailable.  There finally may be an understanding that public health means health for everyone, not just private pay plans for the rich and luckily employed.

We may not have consensus on this, but people will be judging politicians on what they do and say about responding to the virus.  The fool Texas Congressman who claimed it was a hoax and then had to self-quarantine.  The President who said “what me worry?” and then watched the country implode in sickness and concern.   All will face the voters who might just have a different view now of what a community means and what its limits are without a real government ready to support all the people.   When the hero is an octogenarian public health and infectious disease expert and not the president, politicians are going to take notice and start paying attention in class or pay the price.

That’s my hope anyway.

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The NFL is Out of Control and Football is Failing

New Orleans       There is no danger whatsoever that anyone will start calling American football the “beautiful game,” which is sometimes the expression used internationally for what the world sees as football, which we call soccer.  Football is earning the moniker of the “deadly” game for its institutionalized violence, mayhem, maiming, racism, and more.

I was bumped up to first-class flying home recently.  My seatmate on this leg was an orthopedic surgeon who over the last fifteen years had built the sports medicine center at a big local hospital chain that served all of the southern Louisiana sports world except for one university.  Would he let his son play football?  Heck, no!  He was going west next year on a soccer scholarship.  Did all of these helmet changes by the NFL make the game any safer for the players?  Heck, no, he answered!  What did he think about paying players?  The good doctor thought that universities and the pros should guarantee lifetime healthcare coverage to any athlete playing football at any level.  Why?  Because, all of them are going to need it.  He tells others his views on the sidelines.  I didn’t ask his name, and he didn’t ask mine, but we both knew we had played high school football, loved the game, and in my case, I had torn ligaments and cartilage in my left knee and a Vietnam war exemption to prove it.   Youth participation in football has now gone down an average of 10%, and sometimes more, even in Southern states where the sport has long been king.

If this wasn’t enough, the National Football League, despite being an economic powerhouse worth billions, continues to shoot itself in the foot and everywhere else.  A player for the Cleveland Browns has been indefinitely suspended for ripping a Steeler quarterback’s helmet off and hitting him in the head with it.  Assault with a deadly weapon and an arrest will not be forthcoming, because there is a legal assumption that when players take the field that they have agreed to an implicit sanctioning of violence.  Cam Newton, a former MVP in the league who led his team to the Super Bowl not so long ago and quarterbacked his college team to the national championship, has been out hurt for most of two years and could be gone.  Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts quit after eight years because he didn’t think he should continue dealing with injuries.  The list is endless, and no one seems to learn anything.

When the NFL takes its head out of the sand, it specializes in farce.  The Commissioner after two years of piddling and more recently being prodded by Jay-Z, who shamed himself by throwing Colin Kaepernick under the bus so that his company could make a marketing deal with the NFL, gave him four days’ notice for a special workout in Atlanta where all teams were invited.  The NFL’s hand seems to have been forced when two teams asked them whether or not it was OK to give him a workout, implicitly confirming the common knowledge that he has been blackballed for his on-field protests against racism and police violence.  The farce includes the fact that many teams wouldn’t be able to get their general managers or head coaches to Atlanta on such quick notice for the Saturday before their own game days.  Count on the hater-baiter Dallas owner, Jerry Jones, to pop off about not sending anyone, and then, obviously under pressure by the league, have to get somebody there with a Cowboys’ t-shirt to up the number of participating squads.  No one should be holding their breath waiting for a contract offer for Kaepernick, nor is there any indication that he would stop his protest.

Typical of everything about football’s leadership at the professional level or the semi-pro NCAA level, no problem is ever confronted and solved whether about health, violence, or certainly race.  The standard football playbook for dealing with all of this is just to push the problems further on down the field.  The final signal call will be when they also kill the sport.

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