Friday, January 14, 2022

Ted Rall: Corporate Journalists Are Blind to a Big COVID Lesson

 One of my complaints about mainstream media is that they recruit reporters from inside the establishment: Ivy League colleges, expensive graduate journalism programs, rival outlets with similar hiring practices. Some staffs develop admirable levels of gender and racial diversity. But they all come from the same elite class. Rich kids believe in the system and they accept its basic assumptions. 

On New Year's Day, a reporter (UPenn and Oxford, of course) published a solid piece for The Washington Post about an important issue: how America's "fractured" health care system hurts our response to COVID-19. Seeking to answer the question of why the pandemic is still going on after the miraculously rapid development and distribution of vaccines, the Post identified organizational shortcomings as part of the problem, citing the need for "improvements on the delivery side." She quoted an expert who called for "increasing staffing and funding for local health departments, many of which have been running on a shoestring. Officials in some local health departments still transfer data by fax." Both true. I've been asked to fax my records recently.

But nowhere in the Post piece was there any mention of what the United States is missing that most other countries in the developing world are not: a unified national health care system like the United Kingdom's NHS.

I'm not talking here about fully socialized medicine or a single-payer Medicare For All system like the one championed by Bernie Sanders, although I strongly believe Americans need and deserve one. This isn't about who pays for health care (though it should obviously be covered 100% by the government). 

It's about data integration.

In the same way that law enforcement agencies across the country can access criminal records from other jurisdictions via the FBI's National Data Exchange system, public health officials need access to a real-time, constantly updated source of every report of disease whether it's known or novel, the visit was paid for in cash by the patient or covered by insurance, or it was diagnosed by a country doctor, walk-in urgent care center or a giant urban hospital system. 

A fully integrated national health care database would be a powerful side benefit of a national health care system like Medicare For All. But how likely is Sanders' pet project to cross the mind of a writer who graduated from UPenn and Oxford and has a gold health insurance plan provided by her employer, who is Jeff Bezos?

Here in America, the nation's top epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are flying blind, relying on algorithmic models that estimate what's going on rather than providing accurate, precise situational awareness. 

I tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 30. I notified my doctor's office on Jan. 1 but due to the holiday didn't hear back until Jan. 3. Will New York City authorities and/or the CDC be notified about my case and, if so, when?

Several friends and friends of friends also tested positive during the omicron surge using home tests. Many, probably most, didn't tell their doctor. You have to assume that official numbers for omicron have been significantly underreported.

If we had a national health care system instead of a medical Wild West in which the ailing are jostling against one another, fighting over $24 testing kits like shoppers rushing into Best Buy on Black Friday, testing would be handled through clinics and doctor's offices in coordination with the federal government, which would instantly compile the results.

A national health care database could include "visualization tools to graphically depict associations between people, places, things and events either on a link-analysis chart or on a map. For ongoing investigations, the subscription and notification feature automatically notifies analysts if other users are searching for the same criteria or if a new record concerning their investigation is added to the system ... (allowing) analysts to work with other analysts across the nation in a collaborative environment that instantly and securely shares pertinent information."

I lifted that last quote from an FBI description of their police database. Crime, by the way, kills a small fraction of the number of Americans who die from disease.

HIPAA regulations governing patient records would need to be modified by Congress, but consider the potentially lifesaving benefits even when there is no longer a pandemic. Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States. 

Decentralized recordkeeping is a public health disaster. If you live in Wyoming, there is no good reason that your health care records shouldn't be accessible to first responders driving the ambulance that responds to a call that you collapsed and are unconscious at a mall in Florida. As soon as you are identified -- something that could be facilitated by a national health care ID card that you carry in your wallet or as an app on your smartphone -- EMS workers could use your patient history to identify chronic problems. They could avoid a medication to which you might be allergic or feel confident in administering one thanks to the knowledge that you are not. 

I didn't go to UPenn and Oxford. As an independent writer, I pay my own health insurance. I am reminded of America's crappy health care system every time I pay my ACA bill and every time I cough up a copay. Newspapers like the Post may or may not need me. But they definitely need people (SET ITAL) like (END ITAL) me if they want to relate to the readers they're trying to serve.

Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, "The Stringer." Order one today. You can support Ted's hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.



Anonymous said...

LOL keep dreaming

Anonymous said...

Copied & pasted from the article...

"This isn't about who pays for health care (though it should obviously be covered 100% by the government)."

Why in hell should the government use my dollars to pay for the health care of those who make absolutely no effort to take care of themselves???

Anonymous said...

Wow. The writer is incredibly naive and also uninformed. He should stick to cartoons.

Anonymous said...

Just be another giant database for Russia to hack!

Anonymous said...

"This isn't about who pays for health care (though it should obviously be covered 100% by the government)."

You mean 100% paid by the taxpayers. Duh.

No thanks. I'll pay for my own and you pay for your own. We each get to buy our own insurance if we so choose. We also each get to pay our own uninsured costs. If you want me to help pay for your costs, you go buy a policy from my insurance company; that's how insurance works.

Anonymous said...

If all we were considering was a national database the final cost might be somewhere close to reasonable, but that's not the end, it's hardly the beginning. Medicare for all, free college, guaranteed income, and all the rest are ultimately part of the deal. In essence all of us except the bosses will work for the state, those of us willing to work. They may even let us keep a few dollars at the end of the year. All the rest will be a tax.

Anonymous said...

This guy starts off with, " . . . they recruit reporters from inside the establishment: Ivy League colleges, expensive graduate journalism programs."

Sounds to me like sour grapes from a guy with a low IQ, too dumb to score high enough on SAT to be competitive with the heavyweights. SAT ain't the ACT, it's IQ-related. As for graduate programs, the GRE has a way of sorting out the morons, doesn't it? Then throw in "expensive" to make it a class struggle.

I too disagree with "progressive" politics, Bernie Sanders, socialized medicine, but brains are brains and this guy, Mr. Rall, is a brainless twit.

Anonymous said...

This guy is 58 years old, and was born/raised in Cambridge, MA. He wrote a book called "Revenge of the Latchkey Kids". At heart he knows what happened, and why things are they way they are. Children don't ask to be born, yet Boomers had them to fulfill their own sense of "we're going to be better parents" (meaning the Greatest Generation who was emotionally detached). Boomer men and women wanted to work and not really build families, they liked nice stuff. Those parents are responsible for their own children on every level, including teaching them how to take care of themselves. The last thirty years was an experiment by foolish parents wanting to be their kid's friends, and expected nothing from them.

Now, these young "adults" they want everything handed to them. Not too hard connecting those dots.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Rall begins his piece with false assumptions. He clearly doesn't understand what is required,besides money, to get into an Ivy League school or that Ivy League schools (with the same "considerations" every college and university gives to big donors) needs smart students who will succeed to be highly ranked.

What is true is that as children, we don't are necessarily aware of our parents' economic and social issues. Nor,do people in rural communities appreciate city challenges and vice versa.

He doesn't seem to know that the most prestigious school of journalism for most of the last century was not Ivy League . Nor does he seem to know a well known anchor on television never went to college.

The problem is a human one. Just because one is smart enough to graduate from college and even get degrees in higher education, doesn't mean they are experts in everything. An ob-gyn only knows the basics of other specialities,but the ones in Congress thinks that makes them experts in all medicine and think that extends to socio-economics because they made money and investments worked out.

It doesn't.

Those who spend their lives studying one specialty, know you have to keep up with the progress in your field. Those who are truly smart, know that their field doesn't exist in a vacuum and other discoveries in other fields can overlap. So, they search to find out who are the best in a specialized area and read or talk to those people. When they do, they can narrow down conflicting views where the knowledge is evolving.

Given the Internet, finding the most knowledgeable people in any area is gloriously easier than it used to be. But, if you don't do it or don't know how to research good information or only seek that which reinforces what you want to be true, then you remain ignorant.

And, as a society, you end up with social commentary finding the extreme absurdity for every suggestion to improve society for everyone.

There is more than a little solid, confirmed information on what it takes for a society/country/nation to function with the most individual freedom and social mobility and most informed populace. If you don't know how things are supposed to function, you can't make them function well.

It's too bad there isn't a humility pill available. Then Mr. Rall and others might be able to best describe clearly what in society doesn't function for "people like him".

PS I didn't go to an Ivy League School. I would have been accepted had I applied as a high school or college graduate. I did not deem it necessary succeed as I defined success for me.
More importantly, before you opine or judge others or blame others, start taking an honest look in the mirror. And, if you are a parent, for god's sake, help your children learn to own their bad decisions and learn to make better ones and face that life isn't fair but knowledge is the best armor when it isn't.

Recent Comments

Search Jackson Jambalaya

Subscribe to JJ's Youtube channel


Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS