In the News: Week of April 12th

What happened in the world from April 12th - 18th

Happy Sunday morning everyone! I hope this newsletter finds you well. If you’re like me, all of this time spent indoors may leave you feeling unproductive. Remember, with all of the stress from the global pandemic we’re experiencing, it’s normal to be less productive and need more time to take care of your mental well-being. Don’t feel bad for watching Netflix or playing Animal Crossing.

In the news this week

The White House issued guidelines on reopening Thursday afternoon. After stating he had “absolute authority,” Trump reversed course and now says that governors will be responsible for reopening their own states. President Trump has, however, made it clear that he wants the country reopened as soon as possible. Public health experts have warned that reopening without widespread testing and precautions in place could lead to another outbreak and another lockdown. States will reopen in stages rather than all at once, and some states could reopen parts of their economy before May.

President Trump halts U.S. funding to WHO, saying the organization “failed in its basic duty” of helping protect the world from coronavirus. The WHO is supposed to be an apolitical organization but lately has found itself involved in political controversy. A top WHO official said he couldn’t hear a question about Taiwan in a recent interview, and then appeared to hang up after the reporter repeated the question. When the reporter called him back and asked about Taiwan again, the official said, “Well, we’ve already talked about China.” The refusal to recognize Taiwan as independent from China is no doubt an attempt by the WHO to avoid angering China. The WHO has praised China early and often throughout the coronavirus outbreak, and some believe that praise created a false sense of security and accelerated the spread of the virus.

China has never controlled Taiwan, but only 17 countries officially recognize Taiwan’s democratic government. The island of Taiwan is an anomaly; they have their own military, president, parliament, currency, and passports. However, most countries don’t recognize Taiwan as an independent country because that would upset China. The WHO, an organization that is already willing to go to great lengths to please China, will likely be under even greater Chinese influence after the U.S. cuts funding.

Jill Karofsky, liberal challenger for a Wisconsin Supreme Court Seat and endorsed by Bernie Sanders, upset a Trump-backed incumbent in the election held last week. Wisconsin could be a battleground state in November; Barack Obama won the state in 2012, but Donald Trump captured Wisconsin in 2016 and it was very important to his victory. The conservative incumbent, Justice Daniel Kelly, is just the second incumbent justice to be voted out since 1967. Democrats are hoping that Karofsky’s victory is a sign of things to come in November.

Headline of the Week: US Running out of Frozen Pizzas Amid Ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic

I should have seen this coming. The signs were there. Weeks ago, when I was shopping at Publix, I was limited to buying two frozen pizzas. I didn’t buy any because there weren’t any good pizzas left. I can’t even remember the last time I had frozen pizza.

In the good ole days, before I could legally drink, I would buy personal frozen pizzas by the case at Sam’s Club. My roommates warned me I wouldn’t be able to do that forever. “Those pizzas have so much sodium,” they said. “Your heart will stop,” they warned. 

Well, Lee and Jamie, you were both right. I couldn’t do this forever. I am both proud and disgusted that the only obstacle in the way of my frozen pizza habit was a global pandemic, and not my own health. I am holding out hope that one day, in that not too distant future, I will be able to taste that sweet, preservative-laced sauce, uniformly white mozzarella, and golden brown crust that tastes slightly better than the cardboard underneath it. 

I miss you, Red Baron. I hope we will be reunited soon.

Recommended Reading: ‘They Know How to Bamboozle People’: Ex- Health Insurance Exec Says Industry Will Fail Us During Coronavirus

I don’t think health insurance companies are inherently evil. I think it’s impossible for health insurance companies to be as profitable as they are without being evil.

The insured aren’t viewed as human beings. That would make it too difficult to run the business. They’re viewed as profitable or non-profitable. If you are young, healthy, and not using your insurance benefits, you are very profitable. If you are using more benefits than you’re paying for, you are non-profitable. You don’t want to be non-profitable. Health insurance companies don’t like the non-profitables.

One 17-year-old girl died in 2007 because her insurer, Cigna, initially denied her claim for a liver transplant. Liver transplants are expensive, and she made the mistake of being non-profitable. If Cigna would have known she was going to die, they would have approved the procedure immediately, of course. Not because they valued the girl’s life, but because the negative PR from her death would cost the company much more than her liver transplant.

Wendell Potter, an executive for Cigna at the time, was tasked with defending the company’s actions to the media. He said that was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and left Cigna. Now he is a staunch supporter of Medicare for All, the progressive policy that would provide government-run healthcare to all Americans, regardless of income.

Insurance companies make money by denying as much care as possible. The more care they deny, the bigger their profits. The coronavirus pandemic may be the straw that breaks the backs of insurance companies. Hundreds of thousands of Americans, possibly millions, will need medical care. Many will die. Many more will leave the hospital alive, but with thousands of dollars of medical debt.

Again, I don’t believe health insurance companies are inherently evil. I just don’t think there’s a way to make healthcare as profitable as they have without being evil. The actions that make them money - denying care, raising premiums - also cause death and bankruptcy. I don’t believe it’s possible to run an extremely profitable health insurance company and also provide people the care they need. 

I recommend reading the full interview from Wendell Potter. I am always a big fan of people who have had changes of heart about certain things because they usually have a unique point of view and special insights. As a former healthcare executive, Potter has all of that and more.

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