Health Care Solutions: The Retail Clinic Experience

When I discuss the issues of health care with people, I tend to take what I consider the most libertarian position: that many of the high costs associated with health care are due to the structure of licensing and certification and regulation that exists in our country.  In many places around the world, prescriptions for medications needed to treat common diseases are not necessary; a pharmacist can help you get the drugs you need when you need them.  In the U.S., however, we have a gatekeeper system.

There are attempts, however, to make things work a little better here.  Some CVS pharmacies in my area have set up “minute clinics” which are in-store clinics which employ technicians who are trained to diagnose many common ills and write the prescriptions people need for those illnesses.  The prices for diagnosing and treating various ailments are given up front and everything is taken care of right there in the pharmacy.

Since I politically approve of these types of setups, I decided to go to one of these clinics and get some treatment for a sore throat / infection that I’ve had on and off for the past two weeks.  I was pretty sure I would just need a course of antibiotics and I would be fine (this happens to me nearly every year).

The technician was very careful and did everything a doctor would normally do.  She seemed pretty sure (just like I was) that I just needed some antibiotics and I would be fine, but when she listened to my lungs she thought she heard something that might indicate pnuemonia or bronchitis, and said I would have to go to a doctor.  I was skeptical because I don’t really have a cough at all, but she said she wouldn’t be able to give me the antibiotics due to the fact that my diagnosis had to be treated by a doctor.

So, I left, a little disappointed that the system didn’t work the way I thought, politically, it was supposed to.  I called my primary care doctor, but they were on lunch break so I left a message.  I drove up to their offices anyway and got lunch nearby and dilly-dallied until they called and told me to come in immediately.

I got into the doctor’s office relatively quickly after they got back from lunch and then I saw the doctor: she said my lungs sounded fine, my throat looked red, prescribed antibiotics and the whole thing was done in about 5 minutes.  She wasn’t even all that thorough, I think she just sees so many people in this situation that she diagnoses quickly and is done with it.  She seemed surprised that the clinic folks sent me to her at all.

So, I got the antibiotics I knew I needed from the start by taking up three hours of my time, burning a ton of gas, and having my insurance company pay a bunch of money.  The reform I was hoping would solve a lot of these problems apparently just made things worse, because it was so incomplete and tentative.  I still love the idea of retail clinics (and not requiring prescriptions for common drugs but letting the pharmacist be the gatekeeper) but in this case they didn’t go far enough, and for that reason I’m skeptical that the whole thing isn’t a boondoggle.

Oh well, at least I got to see a helicopter land at the hospital.


The Soda Wars 2008

Coming off of the past two weeks of political conventions reaffirmed in me my take on the current duopoly we have in government.  In nearly every fundamental way, we are being governed by political parties that are akin to Coke and Pepsi.

Both parties launched massive marketing campaigns planned by the same executives used by the big corporations.  They attempted to distinguish their brands by the use of taste tests and media buys, celebrity endorsements and local sponsorships, even while pursuing nearly the same recipe: a police state at home, multiple interventions abroad, heaps of corporate welfare, and an ever-growing public sector that cannot be reined in.

This will be especially clarified in the coming weeks as both candidates swerve towards the center, unable to distinguish themselves on nearly every issue: both offering the same syrupy government largesse with a slightly different flavor.  And even while the two parties are 95% the same, much like those powerhouses of the soft drink industry nearly every one of their consumers will remain fiercely partisan.  Coke *is* better than Pepsi, one will hear.  Another will guarantee that Pepsi is supreme.  Neither of them will waver in their fundamentalist belief that their glass of sugar water is superior to your glass of sugar water.

I’m tired of drinking cola.  Please, can I just for once have a nice refreshing glass of water?

Fannie and Freddie: What’s Beyond the Pale?

I always wonder, and I’ve never had it explained to me, what the consequences would be if we simply let Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac crash.  Without being an expert on these issues, and as someone who has a mortgage, what would be the problem with just forgiving all their mortgages (or discounting them and selling them off in a bankruptcy proceeding) and starting from scratch?  The shareholders would take heavy losses, but that’s true whenever any company goes under, and my understanding is that shareholders are losing out anyway on the bailout deal.

It seems like letting them go under would mean a few things: home prices would drop somewhat more than they already have.  It would be even harder than it is now to obtain loans to buy houses (though I can’t imagine it would be that much harder if prices dropped).  Those home prices are being held artificially high by the government interference caused by these agencies anyway; I’d love to see what their real un-tinkered-with value is.

And I’d love to have my mortgage forgiven or discounted!  Can’t homeowners get a bailout once in a while?

Libertarian Nomination

A REAL convention!

The Democrats might also have a real convention this year (though I doubt it), but I found David Weigel’s liveblogging of the Libertarian convention voting very excellent, even if I’m unsure how I feel about the result.

The result I’m unsure about: Bob Barr is the nominee this year.

I’m an Issue Voter – I wish the candidates addressed them.

The issues I’m interested in voting on and hearing the candidates address are:

  • ending the drug war
  • stopping the intellectual property insanity
  • ending farm subsidies
  • ending subsidies to all corporations
  • overhauling the tax system
  • allowing free markets in currency
  • increasing immigration to the U.S.
  • ensuring civil liberties, especially those implied by the 9th and 10th amendments
  • pulling out of Iraq (and everywhere else)

There were candidates in both major parties addressing these issues in the primaries, but the three mainstream candidates don’t have any coherent thoughts on them that I’ve heard.

I guess I’m going to have to wait and see who the Greens and Libertarians nominate.

Mini-Review: Radicals for Capitalism by Brian Doherty

So, I’ve been reading this book for two months, and I finally finished it.

I mostly only read on the Metro on the way to work and back, and lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking instead of reading, due to recent events. Whenever I bring my book into work, people ask “what are you reading?” and I know there are at least a few people who I had to tell it was the same book four or five times. I don’t know what this says about the book, it’s not *that* long, but it speaks more to my state of mind lately.

The book itself is a history of the libertarian movement, specifically focusing on four of the leading lights in the movement: Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. Everyone I tried to explain this to had only heard of Rand, and only vaguely, but I was already familiar with the works of all four. I, of course, recommend that everyone know who they are, but doubt that anyone will.

Two things struck me about the book, mainly. First: every name that could have been dropped, was. I think this is a testament to the amount of research that went into the book, and is also indicative of my second point: the movement, from the 50’s to the 80’s, seems so small and so interconnected. Anyone who was a libertarian was at most two steps away from someone mentioned in the book. Nowadays it’s so different. I don’t really correspond with anyone in the movement, I just learn about it on the internet.

And that meant I didn’t know the history of the movement, until now. I think the book is definitely useful for people like me where that is the case.

Exciting Primary Election News

What an exciting matchup it is: Hillary v. Obama battling it out to the convention, it’s a horse race people, and the most exciting one we’ve had in years, right?

April Fools.

The most exciting primary election at this moment is actually shaping up to be the Libertarian one. There are still many candidates in the field heading into the convention, and it could prove to be a raucous fight on the convention floor to see who will be the torch-bearer this year.

Wikipedia puts all the third party and independent candidates on one page for some reason: United States third party presidential candidates 2008. Obviously the Libertarian race is the most exciting one on there. Lots of candidates, and a few even have a little bit of name recognition!

They leave off Bob Barr, though. I wonder if they have information that I don’t have. Anyway, here are the candidates that I’ve heard about:

  • Bob Barr — formerly a Republican congressman from Georgia, now a ‘life member’ of the libertarian national committee, Barr is essentially an anti-war Republican. He has a good deal of name recognition stemming from his pivotal role in the Clinton impeachment, and also is expected to be endorsed by Ron Paul.
  • Mike Gravel — formerly a Democratic senator from Alaska, Gravel was “popular” on the internet for a while as a candidate in the Democratic primary. His big thing is the national initiative, allowing voters to make the laws.
  • Steve Kubby — a medical marijuana activist for many years, he played a pivotal role in passing the medical marijuana initiative in California. He has recently had some trouble with the law, being purposely targeted by top federal drug officials for his activist (and protected) political speech.
  • Mary Ruwart — I really don’t know much about her, but she seems to be the candidate a lot of people I respect are supporting. She has a Ph.D. in biophysics, and has run for the Senate in Texas on the Libertarian ticket. She seems to be an expert on pharmaceuticals and the medical industry.
  • Wayne Allyn Root — a television personality and sports handicapper from Las Vegas, he has a bit more of a Republican sensibility.
  • George Phillies — who has run for congress on the libertarian ticket in Massachusetts, and who is something of an insider candidate.

There are a few other candidates that I’m not familiar with, but I hope to find out more. The libertarian convention takes place from May 23 to May 26 in Denver. Expect little to no coverage in the mainstream media, even though real conventions are much more exciting than the dreary events put on by the major parties.

If I can figure out what’s going on, I’ll try to keep you updated.