Friday, March 10, 2017

Another good saying

Day-before-Yesterday I mentioned a saying, something Audie Murphy had written in his book "To Hell and Back."

Murphy was talking about the experience of combat in WWII in the ETO, and how the front line soldier never has and doesn't need the "big picture."

Take care of the little things, he said, and the big things will take care of themselves.

Yesterday's post prompted some interesting comments, which prompted a bit more thought.

It's pretty clear to me that Murphy defined "little things" as those things a soldier could control, and "big things" as those he couldn't. Clean rifle, clean socks, deep foxhole, panic, situational awareness. These are little things which the soldier can control, and the kind of things that generals and presidents and dictators don't care about in the least.

Do an end around at Anzio. Land at Calais or on the Cotentin Peninsula. Send the Third Army to relieve Bastogne. These are big things which the soldier cannot control and can't afford to spend time worrying about, at least not at the expense of letting the little things slide.

It's pretty easy to follow the reasoning, and it's pretty easy to see how it's generally good advice for most things in life.

Of course you can always redefine little things into big things and use that as an excuse for being stupid.

Just one current example -- health care.

In order to access health care, most of us trade money for a service, but that service is not health care. Health insurance isn't health care. It's a financial service. I don't think many Americans understand this. Recently we've been flirting with government health care, and it's been a disaster. Now it looks like the republicans want to double down on the disaster. But it'll be a republican disaster, so that's good, right?

In truth, the health care disaster has been going on for most of my life. Certainly for all of my adult life. It began when individual Americans decided that it would be a good idea to trade money for health insurance, but then also decided to be lazy and dishonest about the whole thing.

And the way the system works, most Americans really don't understand the kind of money they have in the game. "Look, my employer gives me this benefit and I have to chip in a little bit, which I hate, but the insurance pays for the ginormous bills so I'm really getting a good deal!"

Oh really!

So I can't help but notice that while a lot of self-proclaimed "hard workin' merkins" are death on lazy welfare moms, they're perfectly fine with having insurance companies apply other people's money to paying for their personal health care costs. Which kinda makes me scratch my head.

Yeah, yeah, it's a voluntary pool, I get it. But how many people are responsibly looking after the money in that pool to make sure it isn't being squandered?

Pretty much nobody. We're all too busy watching teevee and and letting somebody else do the hard work of paying for our health care with other people's money.

Hardly anyone, including me, puts any effort into the hard task of understanding health care costs. I know there's not much incentive, particularly when we all know that it's a really good deal. Minimal cost, huge benefit. But we've all seen the bills.

During my recent bout of bone infection I was getting IV antibiotics every day. The antibiotic cost my hospital about $50 per daily dose, for which they billed more than $850. You've all seen your own bills and should have recognized that a sixteen-fold markup is common.

Some markup makes sense. Hospitals and insurance companies have costs. But they don't have that kind of costs.

What we're dealing with is a ripoff on a grand scale. Makes Bernie Madoff look like a philanthropist. I know, I know. The insurance and health care industries have endless excuses, and they talk a good talk. Guess what? A big chunk of that sixteen-fold money goes to hiring lawyers and lobbyists and other smooth talkers to ensure that the scheme is perpetuated.

Many of us howled when the demoncrats did the ACA deal behind closed doors in the middle of the night without even reading the bill. It was clear that they didn't give a firetruck about health care for individual American citizens. They only wanted to be in charge of it.

Now the republiboobs come riding in on mighty chargers (each of which bear a striking resemblance to Rocinante) to save the day and fix everything. Only it turns out that they don't give a flying firetruck about health care for individual American citizens. They just wanna be in charge of it.
Stolen from whackopaedia of course.

There are a lot of parts and pieces to U.S. health care. I get that. But here's the deal -- there aren't that many parts and pieces. There are exactly zero reasons why joe sixpack and jane bagadonuts can't gain a full and complete understanding of the system.

And the first thing to understand is that the present costs of health care represent a huge swindle. Health care providers (hospitals, clinics, etc.) and insurance companies have been jacking prices up since at least 1970, and they've done it under government supervision. None of the medicines or devices or procedures or consultations are as expensive as they are made out to be. Some of those additional costs go to cover the cost of treating non-payers. Some of them represent litigation costs. To a certain extent you can understand that. But it doesn't add up, and those excuses have turned into a monumental revenue source over the years, an increasingly fat butcher's thumb on the scale.
Whatchoo talkin' 'bout Willis?

As long as we're not talking about and addressing the swindle first and foremost, it's stupid on stilts to think that the system can be fixed.

Look, the laws of thermodynamics are in play here. Money, after all, is a simple representation of energy. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If you think you're getting a good deal with your health care, I'm sorry, but you. are. kicked. in. the. head.

What's that? Another good saying? Juvat actually hit on that the other day. People who smile at you aren't always your friends, and people who frown at you aren't necessarily your enemies. Or to put it another way, you should be very careful in trusting people who promise to take care of you and relieve you of the onerous burden of running your life. And you should embrace those who frown and say, "Dammit, you're an American. Now get out there and act like it!"
What's that?
Firetruck! Americans! Run!


  1. Superb - well said Shaun. Perhaps you should consider sharing this with your elected noobs in the DC swamp.

  2. Where on Earth did you find a statue of Rosinante?

    1. Stole it (the image) from whackopaedia, of course. Forgot to cite the source, as usual. Thanks for the reminder. The statue resides in Madrid.

    2. Are you feeling more like normal?

    3. Ahhh, for certain values of normal... :)

  3. Most interesting, I'm guilty of thinking that the system works.

    Well, it does, but only for a select few.

    1. Thanks Sarge. In truth it won't be hard to fix the system. Getting people to be honest and open minded and do the math and not get sidetracked by shiny stuff? (Sighs deeply, rolls up sleves...).

  4. Your take on this seems reasonable to me. How would you fix the system?

    1. My first two steps:

      1. Give people the option to pay real costs as opposed to swindle costs. If you're in the pool, great, let your insurance company go hog wild. If you're out or opt out of the pool, however, you pay only real costs. In my example, I'd pay $50 for the drug plus five minutes of LPN time at the hourly rate plus a REASONABLE facilities fee plus a REASONABLE profit margin. So instead of $850 a day I'd pay $50 + $2.50 + $2.50 + $6 so $61. I'd be able to pay that because my insurance premiums would go into a HSA.

      2. Start a 10-year phaseout of overpaying. Better to do it over a reasonable time than immediately.

      Yes, a hell of a lot of overpaid and underworked medical "staff" would have to get different jobs. Same with insurance companies. But it's no more my responsibility to support them than it is their responsibility to chip in on my ranch, which after all produces food (and no, we don't get farm payments; ranchers is too stoopid to fill out the forms right).

      The legal lottery system would have to be crushed as well. And medicare. Again, for 10 years you'd have an opt in or out decision. Opt out you get everything you paid in in cash to spend at the casino or put into a HSA.

      I think you'd also have to make it legal to punch irrational screechers in the mouth. But we should do that anyway.

      So there are my initial thoughts.

      Oh, and people who work for the government shouldn't be able to vote. Think it through. It's not vindictive, it's just that it skews the system.

  5. First: Don't know how I missed a couple of days of posts. Second: The post is great ( as usual ), but your answer at 0924 hrs is absolutely outstanding. Third: I think that the entire Federal system is so broken that it needs to be thrown away and we start over, maybe by following the U.S. constitution ( a radical idea, but what the heck ). Likely many of the state governments need the same action, I know the Oregon's does.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. Thanks Paul. It's fixable but only if Americans stop having koobecaf do their thinking for them.