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Speeches and the death of the Queen
Friday Pulse Check
Good morning and happy Friday. We are reaching the end of another week which means for us at FLATLINING.net, we are bringing you another Friday Pulse Check.
In the news:
988 call centers provide can provide vital mental health aid, but some areas experience resource strains
A new, national suicide prevention hotline number went live in mid-July; those experiencing mental health crises can now call or text 988 in the United States and be connected to more than 200 crisis call centers across the country. It is meant to be an easier number to remember than the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s 1-800-273-8255. That number remains active but forwards callers to 988. Without a doubt, the new 988 number will be a better resource for those experiencing crises and will ease the call volume to 911 centers, which were not set up to handle mental health crises. The quality of the response, however, can vary depending on where a caller lives. Urban areas can dispatch mental health crisis teams to callers to help, but that isn’t possible in many rural or poorer areas. Read more from NPR.
Could capping the cost of insulin be deadly?
This is one of two opinion pieces I wanted to share with you today. This one is written by Michael Rose, a senior resident in internal medicine and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He writes in the Atlantic that capping the cost of insulin for Medicare beneficiaries is indeed helpful to low-income seniors in the short term; this was a provision of the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act. It is possible, however, that it will discourage those on Medicare to avoid future, better, and more expansive treatments for diabetes. He says that Congress should have capped all diabetes medications, instead of just insulin so that Medicare beneficiaries can continue to receive the best care, not just the cheapest. Read more in the Atlantic.
Flocked swabs and the International Trade Commission
The International Trade Commission (ITC) is a government agency whose primary role is to protect American interests in foreign trade. In concept, this federal agency makes sense, but as Jerry Rodgers, host of the Jerry Rodgers Show on WBAL News Radio, writes in RealClear Health the agency’s recent investigation into the importation of flocked swabs could be detrimental to public health. Flocked swabs are a specialty type of swab with plastic bristles used in many viral nasal tests; they were in short supply early in the COVID-19 pandemic. He writes that the United States, without a doubt, will continue to see new waves of COVID-19 and as such, the US must be able to have enough flocked swabs to continue to conduct COVID-19 testing. He says blocking foreign importation of these swabs right now could be costly in the long run. Read more from RealClear Health.
The Fact-Free Zone
This week on the FLATLINING Podcast, Ron and I discussed a number of recent healthcare headlines including a column by healthcare policy analyst Paul Keckley, Ph.D. He expressed concern, as the US heads into the midterms, that healthcare discussions in politics is largely a “fact-free zone.” Quite frankly, we agree with him.
The American healthcare system is very complex and policy proposals of any substance are difficult for average voters to understand. Because of this, politicians often dumb down their proposals to headlines that fit on a chyron graphic.
Take Senator Bernie Sanders for example. He has consistently proposed a complete overhaul of the American healthcare system that would eliminate private insurance, give significant power to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to determine how much everything at the doctor’s office costs, tax the bejeezus out of everyone, fundamentally change how healthcare is rationed in the United States. His proposals are hundreds of pages long. Do voters read them? No, not most of them. So how is it explained? “We need Medicare for All; it will be free.” See what I mean about the fact-free zone?
Abortion is another example we discussed. Voters don’t go far beyond thinking that Justices on the Supreme Court are pro-life or pro-choice after (or even before) the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Center decision. Quite frankly, their personal views on abortion don’t matter (and I believe that about all of the justices). What matters is their understanding of the Constitution. Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg thought Roe v Wade was on shaky legal ground, despite the fact she may have personally been pro-choice. She had a much more nuanced understanding of the 1973 decision; you can read about it in this article from The Law School at the University of Chicago. In fact, she thought it was far too sweeping and was ultimately right that it could be overturned because of that. But what you’ll hear is Justice So and So is pro-life and Governor So and So is pro-choice, when the reality is, it is much more nuanced. Fact-free zone.
We also discussed a couple of other news items including the possibility of Medicaid expansion in North Carolina, one of the last hold out states which has yet to do so, and why the Federal Trade Commission would start an investigation into Amazon.com (AMZN 0.00%↑) and its decision to purchase the primary care chain One Medical (ONEM 0.00%↑).
Everyone in Ukraine will be able to receive a second COVID-19 booster shot beginning in mid-September. The Ministry of Health of Ukraine’s chief sanitary doctor Ihor Kuzin made the announcement this week. Ukraine is distributing the Pfizer BioNTech mRNA vaccine. Read more from the New Voice of Ukraine.
As I saw the news that England’s Queen Elizabeth II died, I thought back to the last speech of hers that I saw and the quality of political speech in the current era. Queen Elizabeth’s COVID-19 speech that was recorded and televised by the BBC in April 2020 has stuck with me for reasons I’ll explain below.
Last week, President Joseph Biden gave his Soul of America speech. There are many presidents with speech writers that I have admired, both Democrat and Republican, particularly Peggy Noonan who worked for President Ronald Reagan and now writes for the Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Biden’s Soul of America speech, however, doesn’t come close to recent presidential speeches. Rather than argue in favor of that unity that he sought in his Inaugural Address, Mr. Biden decried the problems of the “MAGA Republicans.” That title alone has caused his administration quite a bit of consternation this week. They have flailed about trying to define who exactly he was talking about. First, it was those who voted for former President Trump in the 2020 election (more than 73 million Americans), then it was those who stormed the Capitol on January 6, then it is Congressional Republicans, and then some Congressional Republicans and not others. As Al Kresta said on his radio show last week, it wasn’t clear at all what he was talking about and that he had created a Democratic boogeyman to be feared in all future elections. (Full disclosure, Al Kresta is my former employer.)
If you asked the press secretary, she would likely tell you that the President was calling for unity in America, especially as we are in another election cycle. If America truly is in a dark place, like we were after the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the terrorist attacks on September 11th, then is a speech that calls out an opposing political party as a “threat to democracy” really unifying?
The COVID-19 pandemic saw its own forms of political turmoil and division, particularly as those who disagreed with public health policy made their opinions known. I will be the first to admit that former President Trump did not help the situation and did not have any great unifying speeches during that time. On the other side of the pond though, Queen Elizabeth II did.
Compare Mr. Biden’s “unifying” Soul of America Speech to Queen Elizabeth II’s COVID-19 speech. Then, she also called for unity and solidarity across the United Kingdom. Did she start blaming people violating lockdowns for the spread of the virus? No. Did she speak condescendingly speak of those who disagreed with health officials? No. Instead, she spoke about the resoluteness and resolve of the British people. She remembered the struggles of those in the UK during the Second World War who, like during COVID-19, had to change their lifestyle. She praised the NHS and the acts of kindness and solidarity that were already being shown in England and around the world. She said the United Kingdom could prove to the world that better days are ahead.
In her own words, speaking about the COVID-19 pandemic, she said that, unlike in the past, “this challenge is different. This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavor. Using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal, we will succeed and that success will belong to every one of us.” That is a speech encouraging unity.
Was President Biden’s? He said, “We’re all called by duty and conscious to confront extremists who put their own pursuit of power above all else. Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans must be stronger, more determined to saving American democracy than MAGA Republicans are to destroying American democracy.”
Speech giving is an art form, one that, unfortunately, I believe is going away.
You can watch Queen Elizabeth II’s COVID-19 address here:
Have a good weekend,