FATAL SHOOTING NOT GOOD PR FOR CRIME-ADDLED CITY … BHS OCTOPUS EXEMPLIFIES A CAUTIONARY TALE, or WHAT’s WRONG WITH GETTING SICK IN AMERICA
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
ADD 1 MONDAY, DEC. 5, 2011
Fatal Shooting Brings Crime Situation in City of Pittsfield to the Front
The city of Pittsfield’s latest shooting, this one fatal and looking now like a murder, brings us around again to the crime wave sweeping through town. A 23-year-old man was found lying dead in the street on Wellington Avenue and Lincoln Street from gunshot wounds. Police reported getting 911 calls about gunfire at 11:30 p.m. last night. They are treating it as a homicide.
It appears that the recent reports in crime (not just those reported in the press but all crime from the police blotter) indicate more of a systemic breakdown than a freak spike in crime for other temporary reasons. The large numbers of the city’s population considered “in need” seems to have drawn with it a large market in crime, violence, drug abuse, and other such plagues.
One of the more interesting aspects of the BHS story is the company’s description of the region it serves. It is interesting to use BHS’ view of the area with the descriptions given, for example, by the city of Pittsfield in its “commercials” advertising the city for economic or tourist purposes and groups such as the Chamber of Commerce.
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, DEC. 5, 2011) — For those who are interested, THE PLANET shall be on the radio tomorrow morning with our good friend, “The Fat Man,” Bill Sturgeon, at my old electronic playpen, WBRK. We shall be on the air at 11 a.m., but we won’t be doing our famous bird calls. It would also take a bit of pleading to do our Johnny Most, John Wayne, Ed Sullivan, or James Mason impressions. We have a hard enough time impersonating “Dan Valenti.”
THE PLANET set a new record for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday hits (no, don’t ask for the numbers. We keep those to ourselves, since this site is non-commercial in every sense and also because it’s one of the whims we can indulge “just because.” Or as Papa John Creech would say, “I can drink all the liquor in Costa Rica, ain’t nobody’s business but my own”). We also set a new high for comments.
Today will be a recap, mop-up, and recon day for the Berkshire Health Systems story. Allow a few random observations, please, doctor.
* THE OCTOPUS — In the late 19th century, Frank Norris wrote an epic novel on the railroad trusts and how the monopolies maintained by the RR barons nearly strangled American democracy. Such was the power consolidated in the rail trusts, whose long tentacles reached into every facet of American’s life. Norris called the stranglehold of the rail trusts “The Octopus,” the title of his great book. A commentator to this site referred to BHS as The Octopus, and it works for us. If you consider how from little Pittsfield General Hospital the organization mushroomed into a 27-tentacle monster (one arm for each of BHS’ companies) and what a powerful place BHS occupies not just in serving the health care needs of the Berkshire County region but also its place economically, politically, and socially, you can see how the name would stick under a reasonable definition of monopoly and a fair-minded application of its local relevance pursuant to healthcare.
* CALLING DR. HOWARD, DR. FINE, DR. HOWARD — If we step back and take a hawk’s view of THE PLANET’s presentation of “The Octopus” story, we see an over-arching, plot-driven idea. We believe this story has generated so much response and readership for two reasons: (1) The nearly omnipresent nature of BHS in the region and particularly the county seat, i.e.,, the city of Pittsfield (see above) and (2) the light the BHS story sheds on the nature of health care in America today. Health care in America is broken. “Bean counting” mega-corporations, the kind that hide assets in the Cayman Islands yet claim to be “non-profit” and take advantage off tax advantages that politicians have written into the law at behest of the healthcare industry’s lobbyists, have replaced Marcus Welby, MD or even Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, and Dr. Howard. BHS, The Octopus, look what your type hath wrought in America. See the next items.
* BIG MONEY WINS, THE LITTLE GUY LOSES — What to do about healthcare, a broken systems that has taken the Hippocratic Oath and replaced it with the Hypocritic Oath? Healthcare reform, so-called, is all the rage every national election. The windbag politicians open their bovine jaws, pretending to listen to the Little Guy, the Mary Jane and Joe Kapanskis out there, but in the end, they cave into the political contributions that comes from Octopi like BHS, the pharmaceutical companies, and the insurance thieves. And before BHS apologists serve up their usual salted red herring, THE PLANET is not criticizing the abilities of the dedicated doctors, nurses, and staff, who are in many ways as co-opted by the Leviathan as the rest of the hoi polloi. Just as THE PLANET has not alleged wrongdoing in raising questions about BHS structure and operations (for example, asking why does a non-profit choose to park financial assets in a notorious tax-dodge haven such as the Cayman Islands?), we are not making any disparaging claims about the quality of health care available at BHS companies.
* WHAT AILS THE PATIENT — If the patient is Health Care in America, the prognosis looks grim. Consider this long list of symptoms, adapted from businessinsider.com (what’s wrong the the healthcare system):
— Bad Moon on the Rise, and So Are Costs: America spends $7,290 a year on healthcare for every man, woman and child, far more than other countries. Do the math: multiply the US population (312,723,520 as of this morning) times $7,290. In fact, if the healthcare costs in America were its own country, it would be the 7th largest economy in the world.
— A System Built on Greed and Balanced on the Broken Backs of We The People — The nearly $3 trillion America will spend on health care this year equals the amount that all Americas will pay for food, clothing, and for the Pentagon and National Defense budget, combined. The common factor to this unimaginable amount of money is greed on the part of the big shots in healthcare: Hospitals or rather, Health Systems; the major pharmaceuticals, and the insurance companies. Our national, state, and local politicians are nearly all bought and paid for by this money.
— Up, Up, and Away: From 2000 to 2010, health care premiums jumped 15%. In that same time frame, inflation rose 2.8%
— Bum’s Rush: A majority of Americans complain their doctors neither spend enough time with them nor respect them. Doctors, rather, too often maintain a superior and dismissive attitude.
— E-Health: In the United Kingdom, which provides national health insurance to its citizens, 90 percent of all physicians use electronic records. In America, that number is 28%. Remember, this is an average figure. Some hospitals will do better and some worse.
— Singing for Your Supper: Most of the physicians in Europe get paid based on the quality of their work, in other words, their performance. In America, this is true with only 30% of doctors. Please spare us, “Well if you like Europe so much, why don’t you move there”? The point is that we should look at the best practices of countries doing health care better than the United States. Maybe we would do better off losing our insidious Ugly American attitude and learn from the best.
— Is This What America Has Become?: Businessinsider.com reports that 41% of U.S. adults have problems paying medical bills. Collection agencies unleashed by hospitals hound many of them (while the free-loaders get gratis healthcare). What is the cost in emotional distress? Who can even understand the cavalcade of forms, bills, and other paperwork even a five-stich cut generates? Speaking of that, why does a 5-inch stitch job cost $14 in Japan and, what, $1,000 here?
— See that Kid? Dope Him: American kids are three times as likely to be prescribed antidepressents than kids in Europe.
— Some Prescription: Americans throw away one quarter of all prescriptions because they can’t afford to fill them.
— Remember, Many of them (Hello, BHS) are “not-for-profit” (Yeah, Right!): All of corporate America will generate $1.5 trillion in profits this year. Health care profits will double that.
— Fearing Fear Itself: U.S. doctors spend $210 billion each year on procedures based on fear of liability and not because of patient need.
— Where is Dr. Kildare?: America has half as many doctors per capita as Greece. This is a problem, of course, acutely experienced in Pittsfield. Just a question: Are doctors reluctant to set up practice here, given the lengthy reach of the Octopus’ tentacles?
— Large Overhead: Non-profit insurance companies (remember, BHS owns a “captive” insurance company, Berkshire Indemnity Company, SPC, Ltd., in the Cayman Islands) operate with a built-in overhead of 16% Lots of “gold in then thar hills” for a non-profit. Private insurance companies build in 26% for overhead. What, you don’t think that beautiful (former) Berkshire Life building was built on operating efficiency, do you? For comparison, Medicare, which is often the only think that prevents Americas from total healthcare destitution, operates with a 3% overhead. Inefficient practices in processing insurance claims cost Americans more than $200 billion each year.
* Up, Up, and Away, Pt II: Compared to all the other industrialized companies, prescription drugs in American cost 50% more, adjusted for inflation.
* Only Getting Worse: If the healthcare system promulgated by the likes of the BHSs of the world is not reformed, by 2025 (only 12 years from now), healthcare will east up 25% of the untire Gross Domestic Product of America. Today, despite the $$$, the U.S. is ranked lower in life expectancy than Puerto Rico. Without reform, employer-based healthcare costs are expected to rise 166% in the next seven years. By 2019, American businesses, on average, will be paying $28,350 per employee for health insurance.
* Deader than a …: Almost 200,000 people die each year in American hospitals because of medical errors.
* Beddy Bye: The number of beds per-person in the U.S. has declined each year, every year, since 1988. Hospitals and insurance companies make much more money if they treat you then boot you out. More turnover, more profits.
* You really want health care coverage? Knock off a Liquor Store: America spends $4.5 billion each year to provide health care coverage for inmates in prison. That’s the taxpayers who pays. See him, over there in the corner, trying to find two nickels to rub together. In America, 8% of healthcare costs go to insurance administration. In Finland the total is 2%.
Enough? No, there’s much more, but, like Sophie Tucker, we have found there is much more to do on THE PLANET and not enough time to do it in. As always, we invite you to continue this discussion.
We would like to leave BHS with three simple questions:
(1) What is the value of the entire BHS holdings?
(2) What, specifically, is the “substantial” (Mr. Colbert’s word) payment to the city of Pittsfield, in lieu of taxes (as a “non-profit,” BHS pays no property, excise, or sales taxes. In short, those rules don’t apply to them. Yes, it’s all legal. Remember, “crime” is merely a legal construct. We can’t agree on “Monopoly,” so let’s see how we do with “substantial.” Only then can we make an assessment of your claim’s accuracy.
(3) What is the value of the BHS holdings in the Cayman Islands? What is the nature of those holdings?
We await, breathlessly. We do not ask these questions because we think anything is amiss. That has been one of BHS’ (via Steven Colbert) standard dismissals, calling questioners “negative,” “conspiracy” hunters, and other such disrespectful names. In fact, based on what we currently know, we shall assume all the “i”s are dotted and “t”s crossed. Everything appears legal, above board, and proper. Why, then, do we ask these questions?
We ask these questions so that common, everyday, citizens can begin to understand its major healthcare provider a little bit better. Does that spoil a vast, eternal plan?
THE PLANET thinks such knowledge is to the benefit of the entire community, and we would ask BHS to take our questions in this light. Since the Boring Broadsheet (or any other local mainstream medium) will not do (and has not done) its fiduciary job in covering a story like this, we have and will.
ON AND ON AND ON WE GO.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.