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lostnfound's Journal
lostnfound's Journal
July 18, 2017

This whole healthcare fiasco very telling: Discussion CAN'T focus on excess profits driving cost

The country spends almost DOUBLE per capita what other countries spend.
💰We have $10,000 injectable opioid antidotes that used to cost $65.
💰We have $70,000 per year MS drugs that cost $7,000 in the U.K.
💰We have kickbacks to doctors, who themselves are in deep debt due to unfunded universities and medical schools.
💰We have trumped-up dieseases wherein the limits for saying you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol were artificially lowered due to lobbying from drug companies that simply wanted to expand their market.
💰We have direct-to-consumer drug advertising every 5 minutes on TV.
💰We have very well-paid executives, like the United Healthcare CEO who received annual compensation between $30 M and $100 M per year -- whose MAIN job is to increase profits, increase revenue, and increase value back to shareholders.
💰We have at least $100 Billion dollars in dividends going back to stockholders in the for-profit healthcare industry.

Even on MSNBC, the debate isn't -- and CAN'T be -- seriously focused on why medical costs are so high, because, well, there is direct-to-consumer drug advertising every 5 minutes .

How much of the $4.5 trillion health care cost in the US is turning into profit for the top 1%? How much of it is unnecessary treatment driven by a desire to increase revenues to for-profit companies?
The Powell memo has been so successful that the only argument allowed is "some people want free stuff and they want ME to pay for it through higher taxes". do they teach the
Powell memo in school now? Ha. I doubt it -- and if they did, any person in the state of Florida has the legal right to challenge it, even non-parents.

July 14, 2017

Russian oligarchs and American Liberty

I was curious which Russian born spy turned "lobbyist" might have been present at the Kushner-Manafort-Trumplet meeting, and googled. Didn't find an answer, but I did find a couple of interesting articles. One was an article in the Weekly Standard (ugh, I know) from April 2012 saying that one of the oligarchs, Bidzina Ivanishvili, "one of the world's richest men with an estimated $6.5 billion fortune, hired a small army of PR consultants and lobbyists in Washington, including at least 7 of Washington’s most prominent firms". It says that he is "the single largest private investor in Russia’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom. He also holds a major stake in the Russian oil company Lukoil" and praises Putin. April 2012, an election year.

I also ran across this: http://www.therussianoligarchs.com Which has an interesting graphic or article or two. The 24 year old daughter of Rybolovlev is the new owner of the Cyprus island that Jackie Onassis once lived on -- maybe a birthday present, because fourteen months earlier she was also given a Central Park penthouse.

There's a graphic showing that the world's second biggest collection of billionaires is in Russia.

One of the oligarchs with political ambitions lists Renaissance Capital as one of his major holdings ($460 M). Is that the Mercer firm? Maybe not. Appears to be a separate Russian company with a similar name.

There's an article about how Miami is becoming the "Russian Riviera". Which again makes me think about Berenton Whisenant, the federal prosecutor found dead on the beach near Miami ("head wound by possible gunshot or other trauma&quot , who'd been "handling several visa and passport cases". http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/obituaries/article152981139.html and

Outside of google, in real life, I meet a freshly minted Russian immigre, a young man with an unusually hard or aggressive edge about him, who picks me ups in an Uber, in a suburb not so far from the place where Peter Smith, the GOP conspiracy true believer who committed suicide ten days after disclosing his own Russia-Trump connections to the Wall Street Journal, lived. There's a Russian-born banker whose son is no longer friends with my own, after his dad freaked out that that I'd let them take an Uber together. (What a great database Uber must be compiling, all the addresses that people go to. Which we know they USE, at least, to avoid picking up anti-Uber politicians.) I laugh at my own "lighthearted paranoia"; it amuses me to mention to a close friend that I noticed a group of Russians meeting up and high-fiving back in an obscure restaurant not long after the election. Celebrating. I'm a fan of a kind of dark humor, when things get bleak. Abramovich had the world's largest yacht parked by the Statue of Liberty for a while - is it still there, blocking the view? (Nope. It finally moved. http://nypost.com/2017/06/19/statue-of-liberty-finally-free-of-oil-tycoons-mega-yacht/)

My city is one of three cities mentioned as a hotbed concentration for Russian spies, per James Clapper, if I recall. Mr. Clapper says there's been a sharp increase in Russian spies and visa applications after election. He says they are laying the groundwork for the 2018 elections. http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/06/politics/russia-steps-up-spying-efforts-after-election/index.html Maybe there are many more, people who get jobs here to support themselves in mundane roles, so they blend in. Maybe at various levels in society. It feels like the "Red Scare", but I don't feel any animosity toward the individuals; that's just the system they were born into. They are humans first, potential spies second. Up until the point where they get involved in pushing people out of windows. It's America, right? We let anyone in, if you are loyal to America. (Except Latinos coming across the border, for some reason I can't understand, but that's another story.)

The locusts are coming. What do they do when they take over a country? Maybe Russian style oligarchy is coming. Are they collecting bank account numbers too, in their hacks? Can they strip the stock market, try to trigger a collapse, make the electronic records of your money disappear?

Most of us see wealth inequality as a problem, but to some, wealth inequality is the goal. Enrich yourself like Putin and the oligarchs and the Kochs and the Mercers to become powerful, then use the power to enrich yourself further. Putin mastered this. Maybe our own oligarchs are jealous. All the oligarchs are created by greed and corrupt systems, but in Russia, they are also routinely created through fear. In Russia, Putin is the all-powerful terrifying rich guy at the top of the heap. Do our oligarchs feel less powerful in comparison? Did they feel less powerful when President Obama was in office? The oligarchs of the world are in a race to corner the private Greek islands and the private oil and the biggest yachts, and maybe 3% taxes to pay for the little people's healthcare lowers their standing on Fortune's Richest Lists.

The world's largest yacht was anchored last month in a place where it blocks the view of the Statue of Liberty, but I wouldn't feel any better if it was owned by an American, instead of a Russian. Public treasures are not anathema to freedom; they are the flowering of it, no matter what the Ayn Randians tell you. But we do like our bright illusions of freedom, and all these Russians teaming with the useful idiot in the White House are making it pretty dark. Are we going to let America turn into the kind of oligarchy that pushes people out of fourth story apartment windows, or weakens a banister and watches them fall, or poisons them or sprays them with bullets on a public sidewalk in broad daylight, for opposing a political leader or expressing dissent or being a journalist exposing corrupt financial connections? If we let that happen, well, we might as well send that Statue all the way back to France.

July 2, 2017

Damn it,we need a fact-based debate...WHERE the money GOES, not just who to KICK OUT of lifeboat?

In this stupid debate about who should or shouldn't be thrown out of the lifeboat, about who pays for the bloated bureaucratic behemoth we call the "US Healthcare System", can we talk about health care costs?

Pharma Revenues by Market

US $339 B
Japan $94 B
China. $87 B
Germany $46 B
France. $37 B
Italy. $27 B
Britain. $24 B

Partly driven by excess marketing, absurd "what the market will bear" pricing, markets for prescriptions expanded by lobbying the AMA or NIH to drop targets for blood pressure or diabetes etc., and kickbacks to doctors.

That's just pharma. So, what happens if we focus on where the money is going? Might pharmaceutical revenues be under threat? Could it be that our public discussion is restricted to "Single Payer vs. ACA vs. Tax Credits vs. Cutting Medicaid" because focus on underlying costs would create downward pressure on revenue for major health related corporations?

One minor difference between the U.S. And other countries is gunshot wounds -- likely exceeding $3.7 billion per year. ($1.4 / 42% + $180 + $224)

From Blue Cross Website, 39% hospitals; 22% physician/clinic, 21% pharma, 10% administration.

Or this, broken down by disease.

Breakdown of hospital stays: https://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb148.jsp
Interesting collection of public health references: http://www.bettycjung.net/Phdata2.htm

Here's a hypothesis: The RANGE of DEBATE on this topic has been ARTIFICIALLY and intentionally NARROWED to prevent real debate. Real debate might cause us to take steps like: banning direct-to-consumer ads, outlawing price differentials based on who pays for a procedure or drug, identifying the most wasteful and ineffective drugs, prohibiting price gouging. What we humans see as "savings" is seen by WallStreet (and its most important owners) as drops in revenue. The impact on market cap is the bitter pill that the Owners refuse to swallow.

They'd rather kill Medicaid and eventually Medicare, and force old or sick people to use their life savings and reverse mortgages to cope with inflated costs, than accept a present decline in Pfizer or Untied HealthCare or Merck or Aetna stock. That's a big part of the reason that common sense is swimming upstream in American politics. Protecting the Dow.

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