Landing the Health Care Reform Bill: It Feels Like Apollo 11 Redux

The voyage of the legislation to create a Health Care Reform Bill has all the

Sen. Harry Reid Launches Health Care Reform in U.S. Senate. Photo credit: C-Span

emotional elements of landing Apollo 11 on the Moon in July 1969.  Health Care reform has been a long, complex mission with an uncertain outcome.  Is it an overstatement to say that landing on the Moon and returning to Earth was an easier and safer endeavor than getting the Health Care Reform Bills passed, conferenced and onto the President’s desk for signature?

At this moment, it seems almost to be the case.

When Neil Armstrong took manual control of the lunar lander to find a safe spot to set down, a thousand different things could have gone wrong.  In fact, alarms were going off in the cockpit.

As the Eagle’s landing radar acquired the surface, several computer error alarms appeared. The first was a code 1202 alarm and even with their extensive training Armstrong or Aldrin were not aware of what this code meant. However, they promptly received word from CAPCOM in Houston that the alarms were not a concern. The 1202 and 1201 alarms were caused by a processing overflow in the lunar module computer. As described by Buzz Aldrin in the documentary In the Shadow of the Moon, the overflow condition was caused by his own counter-checklist choice of leaving the docking radar on during the landing process. Aldrin stated that he did so with the objective of facilitating re-docking with the CM should an abort become necessary, not realizing that it would cause the overflow condition.  Source: Wikipedia

Eagle Lunar Lander just seconds after separation, Apollo 11, July 1969, Photo: NASA

It’s one thing to read about it.  As we close this 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Landing, it really is much more satisfying to watch it.  This video is one continuous shot of approximately the final 10 minutes of the descent and landing, viewed from the right window of the LEM.  The audio is quite good, as well.  Watching it still stirs in me that sense of excitement I felt as a 16 year old kid glued to the TV set with my family.

[For a similar, but NASA produced video, click HERE.  This is the final approach, and included is an inset window that tracks the Lander’s progress crater by crater.  It provides a sense of perspective for the approach.]

Regarding the impending passage of the Senate bill and then the conference process, if you tend more toward the pessimistic side, you probably agree with Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic:

If your standard for comparison is your ideal health care reform, then of course this will be disappointing. Like every bill that’s moved through Congress, this one would leave millions uninsured even after full implementation–and leave millions with coverage facing substantial, although generally not crippling, financial burdens. It would introduce some reforms to the delivery system and, according to the official cost estimates, generate budget surpluses over time. But it’s not going to radically turn American health care into a paragon of cost efficiency.

If you tend more to the optimistic side, you probably agree with Paul Krugman of The New York Times:

Let me say that I get especially, um, annoyed at people who say that the plan isn’t really covering the uninsured, it’s just forcing them to buy insurance. That’s missing not just the community rating aspect, but even more important, it’s missing the subsidies. And we’re talking about big stuff: between Medicaid expansion and further support for families above the poverty line, we’re looking at around $200 billion a year a decade from now. Yes, a fraction of that will go to insurance industry profits. But the great bulk will go to making health care affordable.

So how anyone can call a plan to spend $200 billion a year on Americans in need a defeat for progressives is a mystery.

I wish there were a public option in there; I wish there were broader access to the exchanges; I wish the subsidies were even bigger. There’s lots of work to be done, work that may eventually culminate in a true, not simulated, single payer system. But even in this form, we’re looking at something that will make America a more just, more secure nation.

If you are a Republican or Tea Party Advocate, you are most likely hoping and praying the Health Care Reform bill will suffer the fate of the Soviet Luna 15 Lunar Lander Probe that was launched three days before Apollo 11:

Luna 15, launched only three days before the historic Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, was the third Soviet attempt to recover and bring lunar soil back to Earth. The spacecraft was capable of studying circumlunar space, the lunar gravitational field, and the chemical composition of lunar rocks… After completing 86 communications sessions and 52 orbits of the Moon at various inclinations and altitudes it began its descent. Astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin had already set foot on the Moon when Luna 15 fired its main retrorocket engine to initiate descent to the surface at 15:47 UT on 21 July 1969. Unfortunately, transmissions ceased only 4 minutes after deorbit at a calculated altitude of 3 kilometers. The spacecraft impacted the lunar surface on July 21, 1969. The spacecraft had probably crashed onto the side of a mountain.   Source: Wikipedia.

Launched 3 days before Apollo 11, the USSR's unmanned Luna 15 crashed onto the Moon's surface just hours after the Eagle had safely landed with Armstrong & Aldrin on board.

I’ll give House Minority Leader, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) the final word…

Photo courtesy Politico.com & BlueStateDigital.com

No, I think I’ll give this Tea Party protester the final word.  Just like the rest of us loyal and patriotic Amurricans, life without spell-check is worse than…oh, wait, he spelled the word right.  In high school he clearly decided to protest which sections of Mrs. Dewey’s English classes were not patriotic enough, because he was getting this way-too-liberal education paid for through public taxation.  And those unacceptable sections happened to include homonyms and writing complete sentences.  I think his pointy hat needs to be cone not a tri-corner.

A Tea Party Protester: The Epitome of the Well-Educated American. Photo: ImageShack

The World Still Has Hope in Us

This age of instant news, images flowed from my TV, of celebrations around the world: Barack Obama had just been elected President of the United States.

One of the news reporters said that fireworks had been scheduled as part of the victory celebration at Grant Park in Chicago, but Obama had canceled them, himself.  America is at war, the economy is crashing about our heads.  Fireworks could come later.

Around the world, millions didn’t care.  They rushed into the streets celebrating.  From every continent, rejoicing that this very multi-continental man blended of race but utterly American would become the Leader of the Free World.  Despite what reservations they had harbored just a day ago, now there flowed an exhilarating rush of new hope from America and for themselves as well.  No government or regime compelled them to take to the streets, but they just couldn’t seem to restrain themselves.  And I thought if I awoke tomorrow and Kenya had applied for statehood, I would not be surprised.

Barack Obama.  He has not served a second in the office to which he has been elected.  But the world didn’t care.  As he stepped onto that Chicago stage, the world saw America stepping back onto the global stage with him.  The America they feared they could no longer trust; the America they feared had lost its way with belligerent disregard for the world itself behaving as a feral child lashing out in abject fear; the America they had relied on for hope even in the darkest hours of devastation wrought by tyrants or the earth’s unstoppable natural forces.  They feared that this fertile land of opportunity now suffocating under a glacier of paranoia and greed had been lost forever.

And perhaps we, too, shared those same fears.  With one exception.  For we know the power of one vote.  That is our heritage and our legacy, the flame of liberty lighting our path, each step we take as “We the People.”

I wondered.  I wondered what would those millions have been doing if John McCain, as honorable a Patriot as he is, had won the presidency?  Would the streets around the world been flooded with those exuberant crowds?  No, in all honesty, I believe the streets would have been empty.

I wondered.  I wondered what the most private thoughts of President George W. Bush were, watching on television the adulation for America’s decision bursting with joy and wild abandon from around the world?  Crowds cheering for the United States, jockeying for a moment in front of the cameras to praise America, waving our flag with pride as if it were their own.  What did he ponder, knowing that his name, indeed his presidency in those same places brought not celebrating crowds but angry hordes, wreaking havoc, tearing his effigy to pieces, calling America the worst terrorist in the world, and, burning the Stars and Stripes, words unable to express their outrage?

I know that the challenges Barack Obama faces when he takes office will be daunting.  As will they be to every citizen of the United States.  But for this moment, it’s good just to know the World still has hope in us.

AMA’s Health Care Plan: McCain’s Plan on Steroids, UPDATED

The Great Debate over how to fix America’s critically ill health care system is being microscopically examined throughout the media.  As the world anxiously watches to see if the major “bailout” surgery by the U.S. government performed on Wall Street has saved that patient, health care has returned to the crucially important attention it demands.  The question is, will the emergency care Americans need to produce a  revolution in health care be enough to save this patient?

In the time since I originally wrote this post, the presidential candidates have revised their talking points about access to health care for Americans, but their overall plans have not changed.  What has, is the public’s demand for a solution that will actually provide access to medical services while not threatening the financial survival for those who have health insurance, or the very lives of those who don’t.

One thing is certain.  The status quo is not acceptable, and whichever candidate takes the White House better move quickly to implement what he has promised.  That plan will determine the degree of medical access for years to come, virtually determine the level of health Americans will be able to achieve, and whether we will be able to compete economically and socially, through the 21st Century.  Failure to take this action would  be the equivalent of political suicide for the new president, his administration, and his party in Congress.

My hypothesis for what constitutes the most beneficial health care system is simple: Each healthy individual adds to a healthy community, which adds to a healthy society and nation, which provides for a higher quality of life and, therefore, allows those individuals to optimize their personal potential and creativity, reducing the cost of health care by hundreds of billions of dollars across generations and generating trillions in productivity.

If I can figure this out, not being a physician, one would think that the American Medical Association, combining the experience and insight of tens of thousands of doctors would have a plan for health care reform that would be medically astute, financially creative, in short, a work that reflects the highest possible standards for evidence-based patient care.  The AMA calls their plan “Voice for the Uninsured.”  Here’s the link: http://www.voicefortheuninsured.org/.  Read what they state in the synopsis: In short, the AMA advocates a clear role for government in financing and regulating health insurance coverage, with health plans and health care services being provided through private markets, as they are currently. The AMA proposal gives patients more control over our nation’s health care dollars, while increasing affordability and choice. It reflects important social values and traditions, such as assistance based on need, freedom of choice, market innovation and fairness.

When I read the AMA’s full statement my immediate reaction was “we’ve been here before.”  Look at John McCain’s proposal for his health care policy: John McCain Believes The Key To Health Care Reform Is To Restore Control To The Patients Themselves. We want a system of health care in which everyone can afford and acquire the treatment and preventative care they need. Health care should be available to all and not limited by where you work or how much you make. Families should be in charge of their health care dollars and have more control over care.

When you read the AMA’s proposed plan, “Voice for the Uninsured,” the similarities between it and John McCain’s is undeniable.  McCain’s proposal (at least as presented on his website) is very short on details, but it’s no particular problem for him because the AMA’s plan provides that detail, and so, all he would have to do is bring in the AMA lobbyists and in one afternoon it would be a done deal ready to send to Congress.

But what astonishes me is that the AMA program, despite its provisions for wellness and prevention, still focuses first on the cost and not on a coherent set of health goals for all Americans.  There is little evidence that the logic behind their plan even approaches or improves on my hypothesis.  And why is that?  My assessment is that this plan, like most others, is designed to impose as little change as possible on their slice of the industry.  It appears that the AMA and its thousands of physicians propose a plan that forces change on everyone else while protecting themselves from the amount of change required to radically and effectively create a health care system that would truly move Americans toward specific goals for health. It doesn’t lend to one sleeping well at night if you are one of the 46 million (according to the AMA) without health insurance.  My vote is that I prefer not to have the AMA be that voice for me (and I have health insurance) or for the 46 million. The AMA, looking out first for its own, fails to uphold that sacred trust given to the physician to be the healer to all who are in need.