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Monday, November 30, 2009

Is Right-Wing Pundit Losing His Mind Over Health-Care Reform?

Conservative bloviators have written and said so many outrageous things about health-care reform that it's hard to determine who has gone most over the top. But Cal Thomas makes a strong case for himself with a recent column that is so out of touch with reality that one can only wonder if the veteran columnist's sanity has permanently left the building.

Our guy Cal informs us that, with the possible coming of health-care reform, our country will become the U.S.S.A.--the United Socialist States of America.

This is not a joke column, like something out of The Onion. Thomas is as serious as a heart attack--one that strikes when you don't have health insurance. Consider this paragraph:

Great horrors don’t begin in gas chambers, killing fields, or forced famines. They begin when there is a philosophical shift in a nation’s leadership about the value of human life. Novelist Walker Percy examined the underlying philosophy that led to the Holocaust and wrote: “In a word, certain consequences, perhaps unforeseen, follow upon the acceptance of the principle of the destruction of human life for what may appear to be the most admirable social reasons."

Gee, sounds like Cal's about to stroke out here. One can only wonder if Walker Percy, a Birmingham native and a noted humanist, is spinning in his grave at the notion of Cal Thomas twisting his words to oppose health-care reform.

But that's not the only indicator that Cal has lost it. Consider this:

Why would anyone trust government—which has a difficult enough time winning wars—to properly administer health care? What track record does government have in living up to its economic forecasts and competence in running anything?

Memo to Cal: The federal government already is up to its eyeballs in our health-care system. Don't believe it? Try asking someone who has worked at a university with a major medical center. You could, in fact, ask me.

In my almost 20 years working at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), I learned a thing or two about how American medicine works. And remember, this is a system that many conservatives say provides "the best health care in the world."

Consider just a couple of tidbits I learned from my time at UAB:

* UAB receives more than $400 million a year in federal research funding, mostly from the National Institutes of Health. What does that mean? If your doctor prescribes a medication, recommends a therapy, or performs a procedure, it almost certainly has been exhaustively tested under the auspices of . . . the federal government.

* UAB receives $100,000 a year for each resident in its graduate training programs. This applies to other academic health centers across the country, and the funding comes from Medicare, a federal program. What does that mean? Surveys regularly show that most Americans are pleased with the quality of care they receives from their physicians. That indicates that patients perceive their caregivers to be well trained. Because physician training largely is underwritten by Medicare, Americans who respond positively in these surveys should send a letter of thanks to . . . the federal government.

Heck, there even is good news for Cal Thomas. American research and training in mental health is world class, thanks largely to the federal government. A guy like Cal, who could stand to get reacquainted with the real world, should take comfort in that.

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