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What I Know About Healthcare
by William P. Meyers

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I was born in a government-run healthcare system. My father was an officer in the Marine Corp. When I was six years old he retired, but I went to Navy hospitals and clinics for my care until I was 18 years old. We lived far enough from the Naval bases of Jacksonville, Florida that the threshold for seeing a doctor kept going up as the years went by. My main problem was ear-aches and I learned they were caused by a fungus that could be killed with alcohol in the ear, so I just did not see doctors much after I was about 10 years old.

I had won a scholarship to a private high school, then I went to Brown University on scholarships and ended up majoring in Political Science. But I had a strong analytic background, ending up with credit for 8 courses in math, computer programming, and logic. At Brown I suffered minor fractures in my hand from a sports incident. After one doctor wrapped up my hand to immobilize it, another doctor decided the most important thing was to use it, less I lose flexibility.

I did many things as a young man, but relevant to health I took a civil service job in Washington and saw how federal pensions were processed. I hated that and did not stay long. Then I worked for a biomedical research firm as a data gatherer. It was a low level position but I volunteered to help in whatever way and thus learned a great deal about the FDA and biostatistics. But the job itself was tedious, and promotion seemed distant, so I left seeking adventure.

The next major step came from working as a temporary paralegal. You can pick up a lot from that, if you are assigned to the right cases and keep your eyes open. My most memorable case from a health care standpoint involved a class action suit against a drug company by women who had taken a drug during pregnancy and whose children suffered higher-than normal rates of birth defects. I worked on document production and coding, but I followed the case in the newspapers after that.

I also worked for a while for an insurance defense firm. In other words, these lawyers helped insurance companies not pay claims made by the insured. It is a necessary evil because there did appear to be people who were trying to scam their insurers. On the other hand, there appeared to me to be people who had valid claims that the insurance companies were trying to avoid.

All along, of course, people I met talked to me about their medical problems. I made many friends who were poor, usually working poor, and they told me how to get what government aid was available. I did not like to go to doctors, so I just took care of myself. I've been lucky that way, mostly, so far.

Of course I also followed the politics of healthcare. Like most people I heard a good deal about the Clinton health care reform plans that failed to pass. I listened to and considered the plans of anarchists and socialists on the left and of libertarians on the right. After I got married my wife and I got health insurance through Blue Cross of California, which was a non-profit organization back then. Then some jackals ran a scam to make it a for-profit corporation. But by then Jan and I were old enough that we did not have any reasonable option except to stay with them. Our high-deductible, catastrophic health insurance now [May 4, 2008] costs $347 per month. It has never actually paid any of our medical bills and medication costs, which are now creeping up to being in the $1000 to $2000 per year range.

I went on the Point Arena, California School Board back in 1999 and served until the end of 2007. The health care plan of the employees was a recurring issue, especially given the rapidly escalating costs of that plan. I was in the funny position of representing the citizens, or taxpayers. I had really crummy, catastrophic insurance that was plenty expensive given my income, while the employees I was responsible for had great insurance paid for by taxpayers like me. I've noticed the higher-level politicians have great insurance policies paid for by taxpayers too. California public school boards are allowed to receive, as a benefit, the same taxpayer-paid medical insurance that employees get. However, we looked at how much that would cost, about $70,000 a year for the full board, and given the small size of our district decided to continue to forego this benefit.

One bit of luck for me is I was able to get some freelance work analyzing technology stocks, including biotechnology stocks, for an asset management company. At this point I have listened to pharmaceutical industry executives talk for hours about their companies, and sometimes their attempts to influence public policy. I now own a few shares of five biotechnology companies.

All in all, I am fairly well situated to comment on the health care industry and public policy. I know how to research everything from clinical trial data to congressional voting records. I know the tricks to politicians use to keep you from having good, affordable, health care. And my intention is to share with you not only my knowledge, but my strategic and tactical skills.