Open Thread for Monday, April 7, 2014

OK, after a nice, lively discussion at the end of last week, comments are thin on the ground today.

So maybe I’m not giving you what you want. Pick a topic and have at it.

Some possibilities:

  1. The movement to have Russia take over ever more of Ukraine continues apace, as Russian troops kill a Ukrainian soldier in Crimea.
  2. Columbia City Council will take its final vote on the baseball contract tomorrow.
  3. The NYT remembers that 20 years ago, experts were saying society was disintegrating to the point that we were headed toward an era of ultraviolence committed by teenaged “superpredators.” But it didn’t happen.

Or whatever you choose…


67 thoughts on “Open Thread for Monday, April 7, 2014

  1. CJWatson

    Regarding city council’s vote on the ballpark: there was an editorial ( My Turn ) in the Free Times on March 26 that discussed a “third option” which introduced the idea of going back to the University and offering to build more seating, skyboxes, and other improvements in exchange for sharing the stadium with a pro team. It made sense (which is probably why it is not being considered.) It would put a minor league team in a great park in a good area and it would keep us from having 2 parks in town.

    I know that the university said that they could not allow the stadium to be used by the city because…blah blah…the financing…blah blah… I never really believed that line when i read it.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      They would have to refinance. The bonds they used cannot support private activity. USC does not want to go to the considerable time and expense of refinancing. It’s light years more complex than refi on your home mortgage loan

      1. Mark Stewart

        And yet the Koger Center and Colonial Life Arena host plays, concerts, monster truck jams and what not all the time. This “refi” issue is a total red herring.

        1. Phillip

          But are Koger and Colonial Life really “owned” by USC? If the USC School of Music uses the Koger Center (for the USC Orchestra or Wind Ensembles) they have to rent the hall. I think those buildings are in a different category from Carolina Stadium but I could be wrong. In any case, it’s a moot point now I guess.

        2. Kathryn Fenner

          The stadium was financed with tax-free revenue bonds. No private activity is allowed under those. I do not know what the Koger or Colonial Life were financed with.

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    Why the city does not take the Edens guy’s advice and locate a stadium at Gervais and Huger where it would be far more likely to succeed? He only knows how to do successful commercial projects?
    The problem is that the mayor wants a stadium at Bull Street, and has lined up four votes to do it. He does not care what we want.

    1. Mark Stewart

      The place to put the stadium is next to the State Museum. That’s the rational response to urban planning and economic development.

      The Bull Street site is neither.

      1. Silence

        Yes, yes and yes. The corner of Gervais and Huger is the best site in town for a stadium, as I have been saying for a while, prior to this Edens guy jumping on the bandwagon.

  3. Mark Stewart

    Busy work day; slow news day.

    I was most struck by The State’s story on the Rock Hill 15 yr old boyfriend/girlfriend nude photo sexting.

    This is becoming a really big way for today’s kids to embarrass their future selves. But it is also a situation that deserves a well-articulated response from society to help kids avoid this pitfall. I think the adults failed the kids – both of them – in this instance.

    The article basically said that even though they each had photos of the other (and it appears neither forwarded this to anyone else – a big caveat), the boy was arrested because his photo(s) showed his face and the girl was not cited because her pics did not. That’s the sort of thing that will make kids roll their eyes and ignore adults.

    Kids shouldn’t sext. It isn’t wise or smart or healthy, period. On the other hand, adults ought to have the maturity to deal appropriately with kids who trip across the line without malice. Arresting a 15 yr old boy (because he happened to take a photo that showed his face) and not the 15 yr old girl is not an appropriate response to the situation. Neither one should have been arrested, and both should consider themselves lucky their photos weren’t forwarded to others. And for what it’s worth, it sounds like the girl is the one with the bigger issues…

    Adults need to model appropriate behavior; it sounds like the girl’s parents did not – and neither did the cops.

    1. Harry Harris

      Two factors bother me about the issue of money in politics being speech protected by the Constitution.
      One is the tax subsidy of such “speech” resulting from political advocacy groups masquerading as charitable educational endeavors. For example, Karl Rove’s GPS (“Grassroots” Policy Strategies”) allows very rich individuals to anonymously give large sums and take a tax deductions for it. It poses as “grassroots” while being largely funded by hidden wealthy interests. Other taxpayers essentially subsidize their activities which include funding misleading and factually wrong political ads aimed at politicians, but masquerading as “issue” ads. Now a Supreme Court majority has declared that they can support or oppose candidates. Charles and David Koch can easily out-give 50,000 contributors to OFA (an Obama group) or Move On.Org, neither of which has applied for or gotten tax-exempt status. The attack on the IRS for scrutinizing (then erroneously granting TE status to) many of these groups missed the point of the scrutiny. The press has largely only told the Republican talking points version of this story.
      This relates to my second concern. Much of the commercially successful press is too intimidated or too lazy to counterbalance the distortions, misleads, and outright lies promoted by Rove, Armey, countless “Think Tanks” (Heritage Foundation, et al) and Rupert Murdock’s entities by fact-checking and prominently reporting the results. The wealthy, and their minions have the means to heavily influence and often shape the public discourse in the direction of protecting and enhancing their wealth and power. The “Obamacare” issue is not what the Koch Brothers ultimately care about. It is a promotional issue (remember DeMint’s Waterloo comment) for getting their allies back in charge – in charge of tax, environmental, energy, and employment policy. Our press and media are failing to do their job. “Free speech” is bought and paid for.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        If I’m understanding you correctly:

        Your first point is that you disagree with the tax-deduction that is associated with donating to advocacy groups. I think that’s a debatable point, but it seems to be beside the main point, and it certainly goes both ways. I think you’re also omitting the fact that there are advocacy groups on all sides.

        As to your second point, it seems to be a criticism of commercial media companies, but I’m not sure how that ties into freedom of association and expression.

        Maybe you can clarify a little.

        Remember, just because you find the expression to be distasteful doesn’t eliminate it from protection by the First Amendment. On the contrary, the First Amendment exists to protect expression and association that the majority of people find distasteful.

        Moreover, it bears repeating that a major purpose (arguably the core purpose) of the First Amendment is to protect the free discussion of governmental affairs, including discussions of candidates. Contributing money to a candidate is an exercise of an individual’s right to participate in the electoral process through both political expression and political association.

        If you believe that some speech is a distortion of the truth or wrong policy, etc., the answer shouldn’t be to suppress that speech, but to engage in other speech that points out the errors.

        One final note: Your second point suggests that certain individuals are speaking out for certain policy to promote their own interests (as opposed to what may be the best policy for all), which may or may not be true. I can’t say for sure what anyone’s motivations are for their speech – other than my own. However, as before, I think that’s arguably beside the point.

        As a lawyer, would I not be permitted to contribute to a candidate or group who would advocate extending the statute of limitations on certain cause of action (as in the case of the Lilly Ledbetter Act)? That legislation (now law) certainly benefited trial lawyers and arguably, their potential clients, by doing exactly that.

        1. Harry Harris

          Let me be more direct, and I hope more clear. I don’t want to restrict individuals’ speech. i want to completely shut down tax deductions for political speech. I want to stop anonymity for sponsoring advocacy of any position or candidate (under the guise of education or charity). I want it to “certainly” go both ways. Arguing that there’s a parity of cheating on both sides is simply factually wrong. While some left-leaning groups have applied for 502c status, most have not, and very few have been granted such. My point about the speaking out on behalf of their own interests doesn’t oppose the speaking out, but decries the anonymity and sometimes tax deduction granted for such advocacy. As a lawyer or an oilman, contribute to whomever you will, but don’t do so with your identity and amount hidden and don’t expect a tax deduction.

    2. Bryan Caskey

      The relevant rationale from Buckley:

      “A restriction on the amount of money a person or group can spend on political communication during a campaign necessarily reduces the quantity of expression by restricting the number of issues discussed, the depth of their exploration, and the size of the audience reached.

      This is because virtually every means of communicating ideas in today’s mass society requires the expenditure of money. The distribution of the humblest handbill or leaflet entails printing, paper, and circulation costs. Speeches and rallies generally necessitate hiring a hall and publicizing the event. The electorate’s increasing dependence on television, radio, and other mass media for news and information has made these expensive modes of communication indispensable instruments of effective political speech.”

      What do you think?

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        I never cared for Buckley, but at least it covers human beings. United Citizens is truly frightening. Corporations are not humans! They may be legal fiction persons, but they should not have individual rights like free speech and free exercise of religion.
        I try to take comfort in the Freakonomics analysis that money does not actually influence elections outcomes.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          Huh? Come now, Kathryn. Let us speak plainly.

          Is The State Newspaper, are magazines, are television shows, and are book publishers protected by the First Amendment? Do NARAL and the the Sierra Club have First Amendment rights?

          Does ADCO have any right to prevent the police from coming in and inspecting all computers and files on a whim?

          Corporations and other legal entities do not have rights because they are corporations, but because they are composed of rights-bearing individuals. It is strange to think individuals should lose all their rights merely because they come together to work in unison.

          1. Juan Caruso

            Continuing Bryan Caskey’s of non-individuals with profound First Amendment rights, we must include labor unions, law firm LLPs and LLCs.

            Let us not forget the 410,000-member ABA, whose Committee on the Federal Judiciary has ratied Supreme Court nominee since 1956 either, KF.

            The ABA has corporate-like skeletons, as well. In 1925, African-American lawyers formed the National Bar Association during a period when the ABA excluded their membership. Also, In 1995 the United States Department of Justice accused the ABA of violating Section 1 of the Sherman Act re law school accreditations. The case was resolved by a consent decree. In 2006, the ABA acknowledged violating the consent decree and paid DOJ a $185,000 fine.

            Had the ABA been an individual, would we have to guess how Mark Stewart might describe her/his ethics?

            1. Silence

              I was a big fan of the ABA, especially the Kentucky Colonels. Their flashy offensive play was ahead of it’s time, and the red, white and blue basketballs really stood out.

          2. Doug Ross

            Agreed, Bryan. Corporations aren’t people – they are comprised of people with collective rights to express themselves however they choose.

            If you don’t like what a corporation chooses to support, don’t utilize their services, don’t purchase mutual funds that own their stock, and feel free to contribute as much money in opposition.

            I think the Kock Brothers and Sheldon Adelson have wasted a ton of money. They don’t buy elections.

            1. Rose

              “don’t purchase mutual funds that own their stock, ”

              Which brings to mind the Hobby Lobby case currently before the SCOTUS. The owners object on religious grounds to providing coverage for birth control and abortion services because they are so offensive to their beliefs. Yet the company’s employee 401k plan invests over $73 million in companies that manufacture contraceptive and abortion products. Hypocrisy anyone?

          3. Kathryn Fenner

            I believe the First Amendment should protect individuals’ speech. The actual journalist who writes the piece. The State Newspaper Corporation ( or whoever owns the paper now) per se should not have free speech rights.
            Things are done by people, individual humans. We give them rights, and hold them responsible. That works for me. If an individual acts on behalf of a corporation, he should have an indemnity action over to the corporation if appropriate.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              That makes no sense.

              By your reasoning, you would overturn New York Times Co. v. Sullivan on the grounds that The New York Times newspaper didn’t have First Amendment protection to run the ad that contained factual errors. Remember, it wasn’t any individual journalist or person who wrote a column in that instance – it was the newspaper as a company that ran a paid advertisement. The company did it.

              Also, your reasoning of individual rights breaks down in my earlier ADCO example.

              What if the Richland County Sheriff’s Department came in and decided to just pick up the ADCO computer that Brad uses at work everyday? The computer is owned by ADCO – not Brad. The information on it is ADCO’s – not Brad’s. Does ADCO have a Fourth Amendment right to protect them against unreasonable search and seizure?

              Of course it does.

              What about quartering soldiers? Can the soldiers be quartered in Nexsen Pruet’s office space?

              Obviously not.

              And I find your opposition to the idea that corporations having rights to be odd, given your communitarian leanings in most other matters. In a broad sense, corporations represent almost a communitarian ideal: They are groups of people who have come together voluntarily to pursue a collective interest.

              Your position about only people having their individual rights sounds downright… Randian.

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              Actually, I own the computer I use at ADCO. I did have a Mac laptop on my desk provided by ADCO, but I never used it. (I CAN use a Mac, but I find it horribly frustrating to have to stop and think how to do simple tasks that I do instantly and without thinking on a PC.) Well, I DID use it to enter time on projects where we needed to track billable hours, but not for anything else.

              I don’t keep the Mac on my desk anymore. If I need to enter some time, I go do it on a Mac in another office that is seldom used.

              I own the laptop I use all day, and my iPad and my iPhone. Pretty much everything you see, and everything I do for ADCO, is generated on those…

            3. Kathryn Fenner

              I did not say it was good precedential law. I did exceptionally well in constitutional law.

      2. scout

        Thank you for the reference to the rationale in the case, Bryan. I appreciate it.

        I’m not familiar with all the legal precedents. My objection is more pragmatic. At least in theory, all people have an equal claim on free speech, since all people have the ability to think and form their own opinions and to speak those ideas. All people do not have an equal claim on money though. Money is not speech itself; money gives the ability to amplify speech. Therefore, allowing unlimited spending distorts the conversation by amplifying some voices and not others. It gives the ability to people with money to dominate the conversation.

        I do realize that logistics are such that the conversation can never be completely equal to all voices. Even if you are just talking about people talking in a room, some have naturally louder voices and more verbal charisma and are going to hold more sway. I get that. But usually civilized people strive in the direction of trying to have as balanced a conversation as possible. We do at least have social conventions for conversation where we take turns talking so that each party can be heard. In that room, if the loudest speaker chose to abandon social norms and talk over and drown out the others in the room refusing to allow their voices to be heard, would communication be served?

        This ruling feels rather like we have abandoned all attempts to civilize the conversation and are allowing those with the most money to yell over everybody else.

        I’m not sure I agree with this statement either: “A restriction on the amount of money a person or group can spend on political communication during a campaign necessarily reduces the quantity of expression by restricting the number of issues discussed, the depth of their exploration, and the size of the audience reached.”

        I don’t see that “quantity of expression” necessarily equates to “the number of issues discussed” or the “depth of their exploration”. I think allowing more voices into the conversation would better achieve increasing “the number of issues discussed”. Allowing unlimited spending does not allow more voices into the conversation. In reality, it seems to me that having more money to spend in campaigns has resulted in beating a greater number of people over the head with the same number of limited issues explored rather shallowly.

  4. Norm Ivey

    I’m intrigued by the number of stories like this one about preventable communicable diseases that are cropping up. There’s an aversion to vaccines that seems to be spreading among some of the populace. (See what I did there?)

    In South Carolina the only exceptions for vaccination are medical and religious. Is there ever a point where public health concerns supersede religious freedoms? I’m not suggesting forced vaccinations, but hypothetically, could non-vaccinated person be excluded from public spaces? (Think school.) Are those who request a religious exception a danger to those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons?

    Does science ever trump religion in the public sphere?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      No. Science does not “trump” religion. It’s not necessary to address religion at all. I think the idea of excluding unvaccinated people from schools is an idea worth discussing. It’s a public health issue; I don’t see religion entering into it.

      1. Doug Ross

        Religion enters into it because there are some people who will not vaccinate their kids due to religious beliefs. Can those kids be banned from public schools? And if you ban them from public schools, can you ban them from any public building? Where does it end?

        I think you can make the case to require vaccinations for public schools but I get concerned that the government will always attempt to go too far. Will they make the HPV vaccine for girls a requirement? That one should not be mandatory since there is a 100% safe way to avoid transmission.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          Aren’t almost all of the people who refuse to vaccinate their children doing so on the basis that they believe it might cause autism?

          I guess there might be a few (very few) people who object to vaccinations on religious grounds, but if you’re objecting to vaccinations on religious grounds, you’re probably objecting to all medical treatment on religious grounds, right?

          As for when the state can intervene (via a Court) and require medical procedures to be performed on a child over a parent’s religious objection, it seems to be fairly fact specific, as the Court is being asked to balance the rights of the parent vs. the interests of the minor. In specific fact patterns, it appears that in instances where the lack of medical care will result in immediate harm to the child, the Courts will come down in favor of the child. Accordingly, it seems like the parents’ rights would probably trump the child’s interest in a vaccine question.

          But again, it cannot be that many people that have religious objections to vaccines. We’ve got to be talking about a very small number.

          1. Norm Ivey

            In SC, the only exceptions are religious and medical. Fear of side effects doesn’t qualify, so here, at least, parents can’t reject vaccination for fear of autism. Of course, you can lie on the exception form and say it’s because of religious beliefs, but that takes some gall.

          2. scout

            I’m not sure that’s true anymore (people mainly resisting because of fear of autism). There was a piece on 60 minutes recently about this and they didn’t even mention autism. The parents they featured seemed to be willfully taking advantage of the situation that because most people have been vaccinated for so long and the diseases have been seemingly eradicated that their children will likely not be in danger. This selfish attitude is facilitated by the fact that most modern people have no direct personal memory of how bad or serious these diseases are. So it’s like Kathryn said, they are taking advantage of herd immunity while selfishly refusing to join the herd. One couple they spoke to was waiting til the last possible moment to have their children vaccinated before they have to go to school. These delayers and resisters increase the number of unvaccinated in the population at any given time which risks the loss of herd immunity.

            But also like Norm said that shouldn’t be the case in SC since medical and religious reasons are the only exemptions available. I deal with 3 and 4 year olds in a high poverty school. I know that most of them don’t get vaccinated until they have to in order to come to school, and it’s not due to any philosophical resistance – it’s just logistics. Having the money, time, transportation, knowledge, wherewithal…etc. to get the kid to the doctor and get it done.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          OK, I wasn’t thinking about the HPV thing. But isn’t that more of a values objection than a religious objection? Yes, I know people conflate the two, but I see a difference. I see that as a Culture War thing — people not wanting the government to decide their girls need a vaccination that they only need if they are going to be sexually active.

          When you say “religious objection,” I think more of people who don’t believe in doctors or any kind of worldly health care, who believe in leaving our health and well-being entirely in God’s hands.

          It seems that THAT would be, as Bryan says, a very small number.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            As for what I believe, I refer you to the widely cited modern parable that ends with God delivering the punchline, “I sent you a canoe, a boat and a helicopter. But you never got in.”

            When it comes to diseases that can be prevented by vaccination, I can imagine God saying, “I sent you a nurse with an inoculation against the disease, but you refused it…”

            1. Doug Ross

              How small does the number of religious objectors have to be before its okay to negate their religious beliefs?

              The Christian Scientist Church is estimated to have 100,000 members.

            2. Bryan Caskey

              Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that beliefs shouldn’t be respected simply because a small number of people profess such beliefs.

              I was simply making the point that there’s not a rash of people all over the place objecting to vaccinations on the basis of religious beliefs, so I’m not really worried about it.

        3. Norm Ivey

          HPV isn’t passed through casual contact, so it certainly doesn’t need to be a required vaccine. The vaccine reduces the risk of cervical cancer, so it serves a purpose other than protecting against HPV.

          1. Mark Stewart

            I don’t see why parents of either girls and boys would see vaccination against HPV as a bad thing or some sort of governmental intrusion. There’s some pretty twisted-up rationalizing in that perspective.

            1. Doug Ross

              Check the data. What is the incidence of occurrence of cervical cancer related to HPV? What are the potential side effects of the drug? It is a disease that is 100% preventable.

            2. Kathryn Fenner

              Parents who are not plugged into reality see the HPV vax as a license to make whoopie, just like sex education and condoms. The fact that teenage whoopie is made regardless, but with *new and improved* MORE consequences, escapes their notice. Don’t confuse them with the facts!

            3. Doug Ross

              I’ve never heard anyone suggest the HPV vaccine is a sexual bonus… Kids who are sleeping around with multiple partners (something that has happened since, um, forever) will still have plenty of opportunity to catch other STD’s, get pregnant, etc.

              The vaccine is a nice little revenue booster to Big Pharma. And the little secrets that they don’t tell anyone is that they have done no clinical studies on the longterm efficacy of the drugs…

              So if you think your kid has a decent chance of sleeping with multiple partners as a teenager, better to be safe. All that random sex will be worth reducing the 2-3% of developing cervical cancer down the road.

            4. Doug Ross

              From last fall.. a leading oncologist in Israel, Dr. Uzi Beller,:

              “Beller testified at a meeting of 40 specialists in oncology, gynecology, vaccines and women’s health regarding HPV vaccines in Tel Aviv earlier this month. The Israeli Health Ministry was set to begin a widescale vaccination program of 65,000 14-year-old school girls this fall, but the program has been halted for further review after multiple doctors have come forward voicing concerns that these vaccines’ scant potential benefits do not outweigh the myriad adverse health effects the HPV vaccine can — and has — caused.”

              “If HPV vaccine…were proven to prevent cervical cancer, that would be something else. But it hasn’t. The US Food and Drug Administration checks for safety of the vaccine, but not for efficacy. There is no evidence that the vaccine protects against cervical cancer, only [that it] counters the virus itself. No decrease in invasive cervical cancer… in the vaccinated population has been documented so far.”

              ““HPV is different from all other vaccines. It is not a vaccination against cervical cancer but against a virus that in some cases causes a premalignant condition, and in a small number of cases, a malignancy. In a year in Israel, there are 180 cases of cervical cancer, and half [of those with the disease] die of it. [This] is a rate of five per 100,000 residents – the lowest rate of cervical cancer in the world. One would have thus have to vaccinate 20,000 girls to prevent one case.” “

      2. Norm Ivey

        I’m thinking of situations in which a student who cannot receive a vaccination on medical grounds (usually due to some sort of immune system condition) is exposed to a student who doesn’t get vaccinated on religious grounds. Those who choose not to vaccinate–even on religious grounds–are endangering those who cannot vaccinate.

        And, yes, I know we are talking about very small numbers of people in either camp, but there’s something of a moral dilemma involved.

        Several years ago I had a student with juvenile diabetes who had to eat a snack during class every day. His mother often sent some sort of peanut butter crackers. In the same class was a girl with extreme peanut allergies. Not quite the same issue because neither student’s family had a choice about their conditions, but when we force kids into close proximity, whose rights take precedence?

      3. Norm Ivey

        And the law allows for it. If students are vaccinated for certain diseases by 7th grade, they can be removed from school. In practice, they generally get a principal’s temporary exclusion that allows them to attend school until they do get vaccinated.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      The anti-vaxxers are not doing so largely on religious grounds. They are free riding on herd immunity. When we get a huge epidemic of some preventable disease because of them, a lot of people will be hurt. Vaccines are not 100% effective, but herd immunity protects us from the lack of total effectiveness. I believe in forced vaccinations or freely contagious diseases (HPV requires significant interpersonal contact) as a public health measure supported by all respected scientists.

      1. Rose

        And many people don’t realize how devastating these diseases can be – how many children and adults used to die from them. As a child, I knew someone who had survived polio. I remember her very clearly. I know someone whose child had pertussis (whooping cough). Plus the study done about vaccines & autism that really started all of that paranoia has been thoroughly debunked because the doctor faked the study and he was stripped of his medical license.

        There was a study recently that showed outbreaks in the US and how they were primarily connected to religious communities that were antivaccine. Can’t find it right now.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          My friend’s mother survived polio as a child, but later in life has post-polio syndrome. Not fun

  5. Doug Ross

    Here are some of the “plutocrats” bud talks about..

    Medicare (that bright and shining example of government efficiency in health care) paid 344 doctors over $3 million in 2012. One doctor, a good buddy of Democrat Senator Robert Menendez, took home almost $21 million.

    “About 1 in 4 of the top-paid doctors — 87 of them — practice in Florida, a state known both for high Medicare spending and widespread fraud. Rounding out the top five states were California with 38 doctors in the top group, New Jersey with 27, Texas with 23, and New York with 18.”

    The amount of waste and fraud in Medicare is staggering..–politics.html

    1. Harry Harris

      Just a couple of things to consider. If you think 3 million billed by a medical practice is huge (even at Medicare rates), you haven’t looked at a medical bill lately. You also don’t know how much a doctor “took home” because you don’t know the size of the practice, how many doctors, practitioners. staff are involved. Waste and fraud in medicare is certainly a problem, and the last 4 years has shown a big increase in prosecution, much of it in Florida. Waste and fraud in medicine overall is a huge problem, which is why I always audit hospital and medical equipment bills in my family – especially when “paid by insurance.” I find overcharges, superfluous items charged for, and charges for stuff that never happened almost every time.

      1. Doug Ross

        When Obama was running for President in 2008, the numbers he was throwing out for Medicare fraud was in the hundreds of billions of dollars. In the Miami area alone, it is estimated at over a billion dollars per year.

        1. Harry Harris

          Cool. Medicare convictions for fraud have set a record for the past 4 years. Recoupment of overpayments and fraud have more than doubled during the same period over the previous four.

          1. Doug Ross

            Imagine a system where it didn’t overpay billions in the first place and then have to spend additional millions to discover, investigate, and prosecute offenders….

            Since there is no incentive in the first place to control costs, plenty slips through the cracks. No accountability = no efficiency. That’s government at work.

            1. Harry Harris

              The private health insurance system is the one with no incentive to control costs – they base their premiums on what they pay out. I used to get 2-3 premium increase notices per year from BC/BS based on “increased costs.” That is with my wife and I never having a claim paid in 35 years (high deductible). Interestingly, the first year of the ACA, I got back a check for $450 based on their not paying out 80% in “medical losses.” When they paid out more, they just raised premiums. The “competition” argument was quite bogus. I shopped policies annually, finding it nearly impossible to compare policies because of lack of standards in coverage.

            2. Doug Ross

              Right – both systems are broken, public and private. Public because there isn’t any real concern about cost control and private because of government regulations (driven by insurance, healthcare, and pharma industry lobbyists) that limit competition.

              I’d rather have single payer than any of the mess we have now which is the worst of public and private. But I would only support single payer if EVERYBODY paid into it. X% of your income.

      2. Doug Ross

        The doctor who makes $21 million a year has a private jet that he “loaned” to Senator Menendez to fly to Latin America to allegedly engage in some less than Senatorial behavior.

        How many ophthalmologists do you know who have private jets?

        1. Silence

          Riddle me this, Brad’s best and brightest:
          Querying the Medicare Payment Database for items of local interest, I notice that Medicare made $2,794,090.82 in payments in 2012 to a Pediatrician in West Columbia (Lexington Medical Center), a Dr. Larry C. Smith II. My first thought was, “Why is a pediatrician receiving Medicare payments?”

          Apparently, in 2012 Dr. Smith performed 27,600 Natalizumab injections (avg. 75/day), a treatment for Crohn’s disease that the NIH says is generally given once every 4 weeks.

          Dr. Smith also performed 20,070 Infliximab injections in 2012 (avg. 55 a day). It is apparently a treatment for some autoimmune disorders, including Crohn’s, and according to the NIH it is administered once every 2 to 8 weeks.

          Dr, Smith also gave 13,682 Gammagard liquid injections (avg. 37/day) in 2012. This is also an injection for people with immune system problems. According to the NIH, it is typically give at 3 to 4 week intervals for most treatments.

          I’m not trying to allege that Dr. Smith is doing anything wrong, he works at Palmetto Infusion services, so perhaps the injections from a whole group of physicians are billed under his name. Perhaps he also has a gastroenterology specialization, and perhaps there’s thousands of Crohn’s patients in the midlands. I just thought it strange that someone listed as a pediatrician was billing $2.8 million from Medicare… Is this confusing to anyone else?

          1. Mark Stewart

            It’s odd in that Crohn’s disease doesn’t usually afflict children.

            The light of day is not going to be very kind to many “providers” over the long run. I’m glad that this sort of information, as incomplete as it assuredly is, is being released. Government itself isn’t much of a market watchdog.

            Just for kicks I checked out his employer – who lives (or who at least maintains a FL residence) in a $6 million house bought out of foreclosure last year in Ft. Lauderdale. Lot’s of other interesting factoids exist around this SC born firm.

            1. Silence

              It’s interesting that none of the people listed in the “Bio’s of Management” section are MD’s.

            2. Doug Ross

              What is depressing is that this type of analysis should be performed every day… imagine if we had a device called a computer that you could program to spot anomalies in large datasets?

              Turn the data loose for analysis by the private sector and universities and offer a reward for finding the thieves.

          2. Doug Ross

            Nice analysis, Silence. The more public data that the public can actually get access to, the better.

            I hope someone at one of the local news organizations picks up the trail on this — Brad, can you pass it along to someone who might be in a position to get a response from the doctor?

            1. Doug Ross

              And there’s this from Andrew Sullivan.. explaining how ophthalmologists are rigging the Medicare payment system by prescribing more expensive drugs:

              “A dose of Avastin costs only $50. A dose of Lucentis costs $2,000. Both Avastin and Lucentis are made by the same company, and they’re remarkably effective in treating a form of macular degeneration that was long the leading cause of blindness among the elderly, The Post reported. They are very similar on a molecular level and probably cost about the same amount to manufacture.

              Nonetheless, doctors prescribe Lucentis almost as often as Avastin. They also make more money doing so. Medicare is legally obliged to pay for any drug a doctor prescribes, and doctors also receive commissions of 6 percent to cover their own expenses. The commission a doctor collects on each dose of Avastin would be only about $3, as opposed to $120 on each dose of Lucentis. Congress and the courts have refused to allow Medicare to save money by scrutinizing doctors’ decisions.

              As a result, taxpayers spent about $1 billion in 2012 more than they would have if doctors had been prescribing Avastin. Avastin, for all intents and purposes, has been shown to be equivalent to Lucentis in six studies and one massive review of Medicare records.”

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