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Healthcare, The Economy And Information Tech Looking at what to do about our health care system

#1 User is offline   kurtcagle 

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  Posted 14 December 2008 - 10:03 PM

Recently, my blogger at O'Reilly Radar, Julian Darley, wrote an interesting - and challenging - article about the connections between the US Health Care system and Peak Oil (A Healthcare Renaissance: Could Peak Oil Inspire America To Create A National Health Service?), which I'm also quoting below:
QUOTE
Almost every day brings yet more grim economic news, and every week another raft of people are added to the unemployment statistics. As they lose their jobs, many Americans from service workers to small company CEOs will soon find themselves without healthcare coverage. President-Elect Obama said today that "healthcare is part of the emergency" and pledged to reform the system. It is a fearsome task: at least since Hillary Clinton tried and failed about fifteen years ago, US politicians have been worrying about how to fix the wretched U.S. health (don't) care system, and most of the rest of the world knows that it is one of the glaring anomalies of the world's richest nation. So yes, it's been an awful problem for a long time, and it's about to get much worse as the economy contracts -- but you may be wondering what exactly healthcare has to do with peak oil.

As someone new to peak oil quickly finds out, just about everything depends on oil and gas. One of the more startling revelations being that the entire consumer food system in most countries would collapse within a week without fossil fuels. If a shortage continued for long, nothing much would get planted, even on organic farms.

But healthcare? Let's consider it for a minute, in two very different ways. At the most extreme point of use, namely hospitals, energy is the lifeblood. If the grid electricity supply fails, diesel generators have to kick in immediately. Many hospitals have a surprisingly short supply of diesel for their generators -- though some use natural gas, which may be more robust, except in an earthquake.

All material (as opposed to maternal) deliveries and all ambulances depend completely on petroleum. How many days supply do hospitals keep of all kinds of vital devices? If they are like supermarkets, sewage stations and just about every other part of the JIT (just in time) economy, it will be about 72 hours. Just three days. Why three days? Because that's how long it takes for FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to arrive. Try telling that to New Orleans.

However alarming these scenarios are, they are short-term issues hinging on supply interruptions. They could be ameliorated by having a larger backup supply of diesel, scalpels, syringes and so forth. Oh yes, and much larger warehouses would have to built to house all of this, not to mention more complex inventory management systems. All of this can be done, but not necessarily quickly or cheaply. Any solution will require careful planning and good execution.

So much for supply interruption issues. For the moment we'll leave aside what would happen if the whole economy got really short of oil or if the Chinese stopped making (and shipping) cheap everything, and turn to a second, much more serious aspect of the question of healthcare and oil decline.

The second issue applies most starkly to America, though it could become an issue in Europe or Canada, if those places don't take account of the dangers. (I am less familiar with other parts of the world, but am very interested to find out more.)

Here's the kind of situation I fear, and one which, thanks to the global recession now unfolding, is already starting to arrive. As an example:yYou lose or leave your job, and decide that you really want to do something that will help the world and the economy become more sustainable, for whatever reason - peak oil, climate change, guilt, love of nature, wanting a decent future for your children. Say you have an expensive graduate degree that you have only just paid off, a spouse and family, and your house now has negative equity, while you are stuck with a sky-high mortgage from the halcyon Greenspan days of borrow now, for tomorrow we die.

In other words, you have got to find some kind of work that still pays pretty well. You start looking around and you realise that if you want to become a maker of good, local furniture or become a gardener or a nurse or a science teacher, you'll have to train for years and go into more debt to pay for it all. At the end of it, you won't make a fraction of what you were earning as a software engineer, lawyer or Chief Financial Officer.

Reality begins to sink in. Something has to give. You decide to rent out your house and move into a much smaller apartment with no garden (which if you want to become a master gardener is not so wonderful), stop buying that nice local wine (not so good for the local economy), and resolve to live on rice and beans. You sell your car, join the local car share and begin to experience the joys of U.S. public transport - you learn never to leave home without a book - War & Peace, for instance.

Now you have downsized everything, given up cable television, dumped your Crackberry, use the local internet cafe for getting online, and signed up for an online course to revive your university science bachelors so that you can start to teach school children about how the world was built on cheap oil (and use Newtonian calculations to avoid the rotten tomatoes thrown at you).

However, there is one thing you dare not dump or downsize: your health insurance payments. You and your family are quite healthy, but what if your little girl really needs urgent medical help or develops one of the many new childhood afflictions that are becoming so ubiquitous? I will leave out the monstrously painful details of navigating the U.S. healthcare insurance morass. The real point is that even with so-called health insurance you never really know if you are going to be covered or whether you will find yourself saddled with six figure debts for the rest of your life. It happens every day in the United States - said to be the cause of up to half of all personal bankruptcies. In a country that calls itself civilized, private health insurance should be regarded as the number one scourge of society. National Public Radio had some poignant stories recently of children with cystic fibrosis, whose families face losing their houses or being forced to divorce in order to keep their child alive - possibly to live a long and reasonably healthy life. How can this be acceptable?
Read More ...


The issue of Peak Oil is a critical one (in some respects both as critical as climate change and as complex and interconnected), but I'd like to focus this topic on health care, technology and the economy.

Understanding the best form of health care in the US is contentious, as it is elsewhere in the world. Those on one side of the issue feel that by going to a single payer model, you are opening the door to long waits, rationing of care, diminished standards, and poor staff retention rates at hospitals. On the other side are those who feel that without affordable universal health care, millions of people will be forced to go without medical coverage altogether, leading to a rise in preventable diseases and an overall decline in the quality of life for most in the country.

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on this, and whether there are things that information technology can do to make a better system possible.

This post has been edited by kurtcagle: 14 December 2008 - 10:05 PM

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#2 User is offline   cactucmitch 

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 09:23 AM

The health care wealth extraction system is thriving on Information Technology INefficiency!
The things that need to be done are so obvious!
I'll get back and write more, but I have to do something about my medicare part D today.

How can there be so many profit making companies looking to cut a fat pig in this part D stuff?
The only way one drug provider can have an advantage is to make the drug with a patent.
I'd like to have the postage on all the obfuscatory mailngs.

Cactus Mitch:(
Working together, two are more efficient than three working as individuals.
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#3 User is offline   ShaunDay 

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Posted 13 May 2009 - 08:35 AM

It's the stories like the NPR ones that make me glad I live in a country (Canada) where everybody has basic health care paid for. Expensive drugs and "controversial" treatments can still be a fight to get a hold of and I'm perfectly willing to admit the system isn't perfect. But having to decide bewteen a house and your child's quality (and length) of life doesn't seem like a reaosnable trade-off for a first world economy.
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#4 User is offline   bradcapo2 

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 02:05 AM


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#5 User is offline   micky11 

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Posted 12 August 2009 - 04:36 AM

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This post has been edited by micky11: 12 August 2009 - 04:37 AM

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#6 User is offline   keetynice 

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 04:47 PM

The things that need to be done are so obvious!
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#7 User is offline   panasonic 

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Posted 20 August 2009 - 06:26 PM


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#8 User is offline   aardanyul 

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Posted 25 August 2009 - 04:22 AM

The health care system is extremely inefficient, and insurance companies need to stop making insane amount of profit insuring only healthy people. It's absolute nonsense that this has been allowed to continue on for so long.
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#9 User is offline   bigbigball 

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 12:54 AM

They're still brand news!
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#10 User is offline   Janiliewa 

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Posted 16 December 2009 - 06:01 PM

Great Blog and post!Look forward to updated discussion,many thanks. rolleyes.gif

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#11 User is offline   SWinchester 

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Posted 18 December 2009 - 02:57 AM

The health care issue has attracted plenty of issue here in the UK, mainly because some inaccurate reporting in the US has suggested that Britain's state health service (the NHS) is performing poorly.
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#12 User is offline   jiuchang520 

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#13 User is offline   CliffLee 

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Posted 09 March 2010 - 06:36 PM

Here in the US we need reform...but not a govt. takeover.
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#14 User is offline   williyam 

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 10:29 PM

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#15 User is offline   ryxin 

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 11:09 PM

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