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Medicine Government United States Science

The New National Health Plan Is Texting 191

theodp writes "With a gushing press release, Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra announced the launch of Text4baby, 'an unprecedented mobile health public-private partnership' designed to promote maternal and child health. Expectant women are instructed to 'Enter the date of the first day of your last menstrual period' to start receiving 'timely and expert health information through SMS text messages' until their child reaches the age of 12 months (limited to 3 free messages/week). The White House Blog has more information on the 'historic collaboration between industry, the health community and government.' Separately, the White House announced plans to spend $3,000 on 'Game-Changing' Solutions to Childhood Obesity. Once again, Dilbert proves to be scarily prescient."
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The New National Health Plan Is Texting

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  • Uh, rant much? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @08:56AM (#31044970) Homepage Journal

    So you don't like health care reform. Fair enough.

    And you don't like this program. Fair enough.

    Therefore this program equals health care reform?


  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @09:19AM (#31045044) Journal

    Remember, slashdot is run by young rich white guys whose parents were all well-off. They don't need health-care right now, so screw everybody else.

    For those of us on the continent, this whole thing is just another sign of the US tearing itself apart for some reason I at least cannot understand.

    I am reminded a bit about the trouble britain went through in the 60/70's wear it was close to falling apart, almost as if the people hated their own country.

    In the US it seems people hate so much the idea that someone else might get a penny out of them, they rather spend a dollar even if that someone is themselves.

    Really, what is so damned scary about a national health care system. Surely paying less for a system (the US spends more and gets less then any other western nation) would be a good thing? Or is spending 1000 dollars on bad health care to a private company good and 100 dollars on good health care to the government bad?

  • Re:Great. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @09:19AM (#31045046)

    Demographically, most people have a mobile phone.
    Now, you have a nice, efficient, easy way to get a big win with about 90% or more of the population that could help stave off a lot of resource being spent in treatment down the line, and you gripe that it doesn't cover 100% of the population? Wow.

    Being part of the NHS in the uk, I get to see a lot of initiatives rolled out. Some politically driven, and they're frequently not so great. Some well thought out. There's always discussion on who gets left out, or missed, and how they can be brought into the system effectively. There's a (much derided) program that has a web, and phone presence that gives you the general idea of whether or not you should go see a GP, or head to the hospital (or in some cases, take a paracetamol, and wait for a day to see what happens).
    Though it's not the greatest system, in the majority of cases, it does the job. Now, for this, you need an internet access point, or a telephone. If you don't have either of those, then you can't use the service, and have to go to see your General Practitioner to see if you have a problem.

    This isn't a "you take this service, or you have no support", it's a method of aleviating the load on the system by offering a lightweight alternative that you can use if you have the resources to use it, having a low cost on both sides (provider and client), rather than much higher resource cost (time and/or money) otherwise.

  • by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @10:00AM (#31045226) Homepage

    So, in exchange for the government not taking money from you, you'd rather pay more than the government would take to a third party, to get worse service? That doesn't make sense.

    The way I see it, money is money. If in place A getting a good health plan costs $X and in place B a bad one costs $2X, then place A is better regardless of who is getting the money.

    Yeah, you can rant about "choice" and "not being forced to", but you don't have any real choice anyway. You're guaranteed to have to pay for medicine at some point in your life, one way or another.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @10:17AM (#31045320) Homepage Journal

    Depends on how you define and measure "charity".

    We don't cover all our citizens with health care, and private charity does not by any stretch of the imagination come even close to making up that gap. If we include taking care of our own people European social democracies fare better than if we exclude that.

    Now with the exception of anarchists, who have an internally consistent position, nobody literally believes that "government is theft." What people mean is that "government taxation to support programs that are morally indefensible is theft." That's a position a Republican stalwart can share with a socialist pacifist who can't abide Democrats because they are too right wing. The only difference is in the details of which programs are considered morally indefensible.

    "Government is theft" is the kind of emotional political slogan I can't abide from either side ("TAX WEALTH - NOT WORK"). Such slogans are nearly always in code. There is an underlying paradigm people have in mind when they say them, usually an irrefutable one (the meddling, officious government bureaucrat, the ruthless, well connected crony capitalist who games the system) that by process of synecdoche they stretch to cover a broader class (all government workers, all wealthy people).

    It's not possible to have a rational discussion on this kind of basis.

  • Re:Uh, rant much? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by biryokumaru ( 822262 ) * <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Saturday February 06, 2010 @10:17AM (#31045324)

    Well, I think most stories are reader-submitted. Since the majority of readers are of like-mind, I would presume the majority of stories submitted would have one particular political slant. Even perfectly impartial editors would end up releasing submissions primarily focused toward the political views of the submitter base.

    In short: If you want more stories with a specific view-point, submit them.

  • by gujo-odori ( 473191 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @10:20AM (#31045346)

    P.S. Nice try with the racist reference to rich, young white guys. There's nothing wrong with being rich, young, and white, and it doesn't make you somehow automatically wrong.

    P.P.S. We don't spend more and get less than any other western nation. Health care may be tremendously expensive here, but it's also by and large tremendously good. Far better than any other country I've been to. My wife - who is not an American - says the same. She's constantly astounded by how good the health care system is here. That doesn't mean there aren't spending areas to be fixed, but the suggestion that we don't get good health care for the spend is preposterous.

  • by Bluesman ( 104513 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @10:38AM (#31045420) Homepage

    Insurance provides management of risk. Using it as a middleman for payment of routine health care costs is an inefficient perversion of its purpose.

    And please explain how the overhead of any middleman between me and a doctor would be more cost-effective.

    Even a very basic mathematical analysis shows that any of these systems is less efficient than "customer pays."

    If your answer is that the government will have none of the problems that using insurance companies as a middleman have, because the government is good and insurance companies are bad, please try again.

    It's like this: routine care has a cost x. Redistribution of money to pay cost x has an additional cost y, no matter who does it. If the customer pays cost x, adding cost y will increase costs.

    Do you expect your car insurance to pay for your gasoline? Why not? If I offered to provide you with a gasoline payment policy, in which for a monthly fee I'd pay all of your gasoline bills, would you sign up expecting to get a good deal? Would you expect the price or availability of gasoline to change? What if everyone signed up for the same program? Would the incentive be to conserve your usage of gasoline, or to use as much as possible?

    If the overhead for my gasoline single-payer program is only 10%, you're worse off in the program unless your gasoline usage is greater than 10% of the average among all users. Essentially, the bottom 60% is subsidizing the top 40%, and the system as a whole is 10% less efficient than everyone paying for their own gasoline.

    If you're saying that people should subsidize others who can't afford basic care, fine. We have medicare and medicaid, which a majority of those people already qualify for. If there are 5% that don't, expand that program; don't force me into a single-payer program I don't want.

  • by dylan_- ( 1661 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:11AM (#31045574) Homepage

    We don't spend more and get less than any other western nation.

    Yes you do.

    Health care may be tremendously expensive here, but it's also by and large tremendously good.

    No it isn't.

    Far better than any other country I've been to.

    Perhaps you should visit more countries.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:17AM (#31045616)
    When I read your post, I could see you have an amazing sense of entitlement, which probably comes with the American culture.
    You seem to think that a hospital should be like a hotel, where everybody gets their own room and a continental breakfast. Well, surprise -- You're not there on vacation, you're there to get medical treatment.
    Space is a commodity; I, for one, will put up with a little less room if it means that the impoverished family down the street's daughter gets necessary treatment.

    I live in Canada. Yes, I've been on a wait-list for surgery, and I've had to wait a couple weeks for an x-ray.
    Because the girl with stage III skin cancer should get those things first, regardless of how much money her parents have.
  • "Historic" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by electrosoccertux ( 874415 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @11:22AM (#31045660)

    Love how everybody's been throwing this term around lately.
    This is not historic.

  • Even a very basic mathematical analysis shows that any of these systems is less efficient than "customer pays."

    You're right, of course. We can just conveniently ignore all the moral implications of that. And comparing people's health to simply fueling their cars? Brilliant. Oh, and let's also pretend that everyone should be covered already since Medicare exists, even though it's heavily restricted and there's a huge subset of working poor that don't qualify for it simply because they work. Those people should totally quit their jobs so they can get on welfare for the health care! Or alternately, pay for a private health insurance plan that they can't afford (somehow). What's that? They should have insurance through their employer? Fat chance for a large percentage of people who work for small companies that don't have employee health insurance plans.

    By the way, HR676 doesn't in any way affect your relationship with your doctor and/or hospital other than who they bill. Doctors and hospitals are still private. But feel free to conveniently ignore that and rant on anyway.

    I mean really, we could just boil this down to "I've got mine, so fuck the rest of you."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 06, 2010 @12:15PM (#31045968)

    Yes, I do, because the US already has a single payer system: Medicare. It has an overhead of about 1% compared to about 30% for traditional health insurance.

    To paraphrase a very good comment I read not too long ago: the issue in this country is that we need health care, not health insurance. Insurance is a small payment that you make on a regular basis to offset the possibility of huge expenses at a later time. However, if you already have a medical condition, then the insurance model doesn't apply to you. You (and your insurance company) know that you already need expensive treatment. Thus, the people who need help paying their bills the most are the least likely to get it.

    What we need is a system for care rather than insurance. Just passing legislation to prevent discrimination based on pre-exisitng conditions would be a major start; however, I truly believe that we need a public option if we wish to make our healthcare system comparable to the rest of the developed world.

  • Re:Uh, rant much? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ojintoad ( 1310811 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @12:19PM (#31045996)
    Moreover, from the Press Release:

    The infant mortality rate in the United States is one of the highest in the industrialized world, and for the first time since the 1950s, that rate is on the rise. Each year in the United States, more than 500,000 babies are born prematurely and an estimated 28,000 children die before their first birthday—signifying a public health crisis. Prematurity is often cited as being leading cause of infant mortality. Key predictors of a child's chances for survival are birth weight and gestational age. (emphasis mine)

    Given this, providing information to young mothers with cell phones makes sense. While the Dilbert cartoon brings up valid points on using the internet for self diagnosis because you potentially can't trust the source of the data and might misinterpret it, this program does the exact opposite by creating a trusted source of information. In addition, the Dilbert article is critiquing corporate practices of cutting health care - what the hell does that have to do with limited government sponsored initiative to distribute specific information via cell phone to potentially low income individuals who can afford a cell phone but not health care since they work at a low paying job without benefits? In addition, they're partnering with the commercial sector so the costs are offset from taxpayers in exchange for the advertising and goodwill publicity for those partner companies.

    Also, the word "gushing" in the summary should be a big tipoff (potential dogwhistle?) to the bias of the summary writer. If you read press releases at all, you'll know they tend to be either gushing, or defensive, or editorializing in some way. They're press releases, not pieces of journalism.

  • by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @12:40PM (#31046134) Homepage Journal

    I pay for my own healthcare and I didn't have wealthy parents yet I'm against publically funded healthcare. Why, you ask? It's because it is NOT the Government's job to be our nanny. People need to care for themselves. If someone truly cannot do so then yes there should be safety nets, but the health care of the bulk of the population should not be paid for by their fellow taxpayers. Get a fucking job and earn some money and care for yourself.

    Yeah I'll get modded down but I'm sick of everyone with their hand stuck out wanting 'free' this and that.

  • by StopKoolaidPoliticsT ( 1010439 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @01:43PM (#31046596)

    I was in Nebraska last year with my 7 year old nephew who needed medical assistance. They billed his mother stating that they do not accept out of state insurance.

    And there is the case for insurance portability across state lines. We can do that easily with private insurance by simply passing a law that lets them compete across state lines.

    A couple of years ago I was in charge of distributing my mother's money. I made the mistake of giving my niece her money. The government seeing that she had a little bit of money(just $10,000) stripped her of medical and food benefits. While she had that money she had a $2,000 medical expense so they took her state income tax refund to pay for it. Why didn't I just give the money to the government instead? I did have to pay the federal and state governments over $15,000 in taxes. The gross national income is around $50,000 per person in this country and yet we have to take away money from the people who make less than the poverty level.

    Government programs aren't free, someone has to pay for them. Every time you advocate for a government program, you are advocating raising taxes on more people. The wealthy literally can't afford to pay for all the government programs various peoples want. You can confiscate 100% of their income and 100% of their wealth and it would barely dent the current national debt.

    If you want to reduce taxes on the poor, advocate less governemnt spending. As an anecdote, I've taken care of my dad for the last decade+ ever since he had a brain aneurysm and stroke in the late 90s. I had to give up finishing college and spent the majority of that time managing a small family restaurant for a whopping $9/hr since they let me bring him to work with me. I haven't worked in a little over 3 years now because I need a job where I can either bring him to work or I can get home on a moment's notice. He makes less than half of your per capita average, I make nothing. We both still have to pay taxes, lots of taxes, especially when you factor in property taxes (they alone consume 10% of our income and we live in a very modest 100+ year old home).

    I had to drop my health insurance when I lost my job. I don't qualify for Medicaid (see, I worked for a while so I own a home, vehicle, etc and thus, I have too many assets). So, I went to the doctor yesterday for an eye infection. It cost $69 with no insurance, compared to $15 (BCBS Medicare advantage co-pay) + $120 (insurance's part) when I take my dad. It's roughly half the cost without the insurance. The antibiotics were another $40 (it is a more expensive antibiotic, pen-vk pills are dirt cheap and some places like Wegmans give them out free). I'm dirt poor, but it's a HELL of a lot more efficient for me to pay my own routine medical bills than pass the cost onto third parties that pass the cost onto you. I'd love to buy catastrophic insurance (which would be cheap since it doesn't cover everyday booboos), but my state won't let me because they want to either force me into a high cost health management plan (with mandatory coverage for stuff I don't want or need) or onto the state plan. They force you to choose between two horrible options in an effort to control your life. It's a false dichotomy.

    I sure hope the tea party members are enjoying themselves while on their expensive cruise and while they are listening to the $100,000 speech by Sarah Palin. I am sure they can justify taking from the poor so they can spend all that money.

    I'm part of the tea party movement myself, have helped organize 3 protests and have given several speeches. I don't advocate taking from the poor OR taking from the rich. I advocate a smaller government that lets people make their own choices by getting out of their way and letting them keep their own money, rather than forcing them to benefact an unjust duopoly.

    We're $12 trillion in debt with another $100 trillion in obligations hanging over our head. M

  • by 10101001 10101001 ( 732688 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @01:56PM (#31046698) Journal

    You'd rather pay more than the government would take to a third party, to get worse service?

    It's going to take quite a bit of convincing for me to believe that this is the case, especially considering the traditional efficiency of U.S. government.

    Really, you expect that because the government is paying, quality of service will magically increase?

    Nope. But then, clearly the health care system isn't magically increasing qualify of service on its own, either. If we acknowledge that quality won't improve magically, we then have to acknowledge that work must be done, system wide, for improvement. Government is basically the only entity with a reasonable chance of enacting such change. The issue, then, is enough people investing themselves into the enactment so it's done right instead of bitching and moaning that it can't work, sitting back, contributing nothing to what is needed, and watching it fail to fulfill their needs.

    And that any possible increase in efficiency would not be offset by the overhead of a single payer system?

    Actually, a single payer system would be a lot less overhead. Instead of having to hassle multiple companies with multiple claim form types and hoping that insurance company X actually covers the procedure you just performed (since even if they say up front they will, they might renege based upon "preexisting conditions") or that some lowly person saved up to ahead of time to pay a massive bill (monthly payments aren't desirable), you'll know who to bill, how to bill, and what's covered ahead of time. In short, administration costs drop substantially. Does it solve other wastes in the system (over testing, multi testing, referrals for nearly everything, etc)? No. But, that's something that needs to be worked on over time and it would be if the government were footing the bill.

    And you have proof that this will be the case IN THE U.S., whose government cannot even pay for its current obligations,

    Well, the US routinely spends more on military spending (not even counting specific spending for actual wars being engaged in) than the rest of the world combined. So, that might have something to do with it.

    who routinely has annual deficits greater than the GDP of most countries,

    And? The US has a much more massive economy than most countries, combined. Is it any surprise our spending is more massive than most countries as well? Now, does this mean a growing deficit is a good thing? No. But, raw numbers aren't nearly as important as percentages. And it's in percentages where we have to make consideration. Currently, our total debt of ~60% of GDP is bad but not terrible. Truthfully, spending should go down and taxes should go up. To that end, entitlement reform, military spending reform, and tax increases are necessary. That holds true regardless of the health care debate. If anything, however, having a single-payer health care system will reduce the risk in the system. It's the risk of the government defaulting that's the primary reason that huge deficits are bad. Similarly, unstable health care coverage and/or health care rates induce risk, for small businesses especially.

    and whose problems will only compound as the population ages?

    So...we should stop funding Medicare and let old people die? Or do you acknowledge that we're currently taking care of the elderly and will likely do so, so the real issue is how to reform the system to cost less? The reason France, Japan, etc can fund their system is precisely because a large percentage of their population is hardly using medical services yet they all pay into the system (basically, the same way people have "universal" internet access). Even with an aging population, this isn't a problem for Japan.

    Now, there is something to say about the obesit

  • by Mephistro ( 1248898 ) on Saturday February 06, 2010 @02:19PM (#31046866)

    ...but i absolutely don't care about your health and i am sure you feel the same towards me. ...

    Wrong, ohhh, so wrong.

    I'd rather help you with your health, through taxes, than having you around with an undiagnosed and/or untreated case of Tuberculosis, AIDS, severe depression or Schizophrenia.

    Also, your poor health could mean that your children would have less opportunities in life, and stand more chances of becoming criminals, creating huge costs for the rest of the society, including me. I don't think, either, that "Let the sins of the father fall over his children" is morally correct. Not in a million years.

  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <.moc.cam. .ta. .rcj.> on Saturday February 06, 2010 @03:53PM (#31047440) Journal

    From Federalist #62:

    Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue; or in any manner affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change and can trace its consequences; a harvest reared not by themselves but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with some truth that laws are made for the few not for the many.


1 1 was a race-horse, 2 2 was 1 2. When 1 1 1 1 race, 2 2 1 1 2.