Sunday, April 11, 2010

Doctor Bills, Stud Follies and Bradbury on a Roll

Posted By on Sun, Apr 11, 2010 at 5:16 PM

The Bulletin had a rather odd editorial (well, that’s not exactly news) on Friday morning. The subject was taxes, but what really interested me was the lead-in to that subject, which talked about medical care.

The reason medical care costs so much, the editorialist opined, is that consumers get it too cheaply: “Were Americans forced to pay more up front for the services they use, they might not rush to the doctor’s office for every little ache and pain. Neither would they prod reluctant physicians so forcefully to order up MRIs and other expensive tests.”

I’ve heard that argument before, and every time I always wonder: “Where ARE all these people who are ‘rushing to the doctor’s office for every little ache and pain’? Most people I know dread going to the doctor and put it off as long as possible – sometimes too long. And I don’t know anybody who gets his kicks from having MRIs, CT scans and colonoscopies either.” (I’ve had all three, and trust me, they’re not much fun.)

But the argument fits neatly with the conservative doctrine that when something goes wrong, it’s always the little guy who’s to blame.

Thus the bankruptcy of General Motors wasn’t the fault of the executives who made bad decisions about what kind of vehicles to build – no, it was the fault of those greedy workers who wanted to be paid too much.

The subprime mortgage fiasco wasn’t the fault of the lenders who wrote unsound mortgages or the financial manipulators who packaged and sold securities based on those unsound mortgages – it was the fault of the low- and middle-income people who took out the mortgages.

And the high cost of health care isn’t the fault of health care providers, such as doctors who order unnecessary lab tests and MRIs because they have a financial interest in the labs and imaging centers that do them – it’s the fault of the patients.

In the conservative alternative universe the buck is never passed up, only down. 

***

Once again, as it seems to do in roughly two years out of three, the Oregon Department of Transportation has extended the studded tire removal deadline into mid-April because storms continue to dump snow on the mountain passes.

This almost-annual business of drivers rushing to get their studs removed and then rushing to get them back on again is ridiculous. Oregon should either (a) ban studs or (b) permanently extend the stud season to mid-April. Although people in Salem and Portland might not comprehend it, in two-thirds of this state it’s still winter.

***

Bill Bradbury, aspirant for the Democratic nomination for governor, has come out with his first TV campaign spot. It shows Bradbury, who has multiple sclerosis, rolling along on a Segway. “I’ve found in life that when you’re faced with a challenge, you just have to find a solution,” he says.

It’s a cute ad, but I’m not sure it conveys the proper aura of gubernatorial gravitas. To me, people riding Segways always look kind of silly.


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