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9:00 AM EST, Wednesday, July 22, 2009. Thomas Jefferson once said A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have. Remember this quote when you're reading about Washington's proposed health care plan.

It may now be time for all of us to study the plan and alert our congresspeople as to our feelings. The bottom line is simple: The proposed plan is expensive -- guess who'll pay for it? -- and not well conceived. How could it possibly be well-conceived, given how little time the Administaton has been in power -- just six months. And there've been some other minor crises in those six months (like the economy and the banking system).

The most efficient provider of health care is probably the Mayo Clinic. They've now come out against the plan. This is from a reporter for (of all things) Information Week:

Mayo Clinic Blog Blasts Obamacare
Posted by Paul McDougall on July 21, 2009

No less a revered, tech-savvy institution than the Mayo Clinic has come out swinging against President Obama's national healthcare agenda. "The real losers will be the citizens of the United States," warns the clinic's official blog. The problem: The plan fails to employ data to gauge whether publicly-funded providers are earning their money or operating Dickensian patient mills.

The Mayo Clinic lauds the idea of healthcare insurance for all, but it believes that the current plan before Congress would simply extend Medicare's vast inefficiencies and failures to the wider public. "In general, the proposals under discussion are not patient focused or results oriented," states the Mayo Clinic, in a post on its Health Policy Blog that appeared last week.

A major shortcoming with Medicare and Medicaid is that, controlling for regional variations, they pay the same regardless of the level of care. That is, a hospital whose patients are likely to die within 30 days of a bypass gets equal reimbursement for the procedure as a hospital whose cardiac patients can expect to play tennis well into the next decade.

Obama's healthcare reform would continue to reward such medical mediocrity, but on a universal scale. The plan does envision so-called value-based payments, but not until 2012 or 2013. And the rewards for higher performance would be modest at best. "Lawmakers have failed to use a fundamental lever—a change in Medicare payment policy—to help drive necessary improvements in American healthcare," states the Mayo Clinic.

The real shame here is that the data sets needed to create a true, results-based payment system (i.e., the longer your patients live, the more money you'll make), are available right now. The Mayo Clinic has for the past several years worked closely with IBM to create one of the world's richest medical databases.

That information could be used to compare patient outcomes at specific institutions against national and regional averages to gauge performance and create payment tables. The better the performance, the higher the payment. "Outcomes data are already available," the Mayo Clinic notes in a separate position paper on the issue.

There's lots of other things wrong with Obamacare. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says it's a trillion dollar budget buster.

But perhaps the most fundamental shortfall with Obama's plan is it’s apparent willful ignorance of existing healthcare data that could be mined with business intelligence tools to add a dose of free-market reality. Otherwise, the program threatens to make a trip to the doctor about as pleasant (and efficient) as getting a new driver's license from your local DMV.

That's just sick.

Dr. Atul Gawande wrote a thoroughly eye-opening long piece in the New Yorker back in June. He started:

Our country’s health care is by far the most expensive in the world. In Washington, the aim of health-care reform is not just to extend medical coverage to everybody but also to bring costs under control. Spending on doctors, hospitals, drugs, and the like now consumes more than one of every six dollars we earn. The financial burden has damaged the global competitiveness of American businesses and bankrupted millions of families, even those with insurance. It’s also devouring our government. “The greatest threat to America’s fiscal health is not Social Security,” President Barack Obama said in a March speech at the White House. “It’s not the investments that we’ve made to rescue our economy during this crisis. By a wide margin, the biggest threat to our nation’s balance sheet is the skyrocketing cost of health care. It’s not even close.”

The question we’re now frantically grappling with is how this came to be, and what can be done about it. McAllen, Texas, the most expensive town in the most expensive country for health care in the world, seemed a good place to look for some answers.

You can and should read the entire piece. Click here.

You need to make up your mind quickly on what's happening in Washington and make your feelings known. Now is the time. The consequences of not studying this and not telling Washington what you think may be too awful to contemplate and far too expensive to even think about.

American Banks On Thin Ice: From Business Insider's Clusterstock:

The financial crisis has passed in the sense that the sheer panic is gone. The structural issues remain, though.

Today's chart is a wonky way of gauging banking industry health, based on a data series collected by the Fed. It shows the percentage of assets held at banks whose allowance for loan losses exceeds their total non-performing loans -- a key sign of health. In other words, the vast majority of banking sector assets -- over 80% -- are currently in institutions where loan loss allowances (ALLL) are below total non-performing loans.

Some measure of satisfaction for ARPs holders. The SEC, Andrew Cuomo and others are still, remarkably chasing auction rate securities money back for thousands of people still stuck in these "cash equivalents." There are still three standouts which are acting irresponsibly -- Schwab, Wells Fargo and Oppenheimer. If you're still stuck in these securities, please read my latest update on

Our wonderful Federal government at work. This really annoyed me.

U.S. Withheld Data on Risks of Distracted Driving

By MATT RICHTEL, New York Times

In 2003, researchers at a federal agency proposed a long-term study of 10,000 drivers to assess the safety risk posed by cellphone use behind the wheel.

They sought the study based on evidence that such multitasking was a serious and growing threat on America’s roadways.

But such an ambitious study never happened. And the researchers’ agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, decided not to make public hundreds of pages of research and warnings about the use of phones by drivers — in part, officials say, because of concerns about angering Congress.

On Tuesday, the full body of research is being made public for the first time by two consumer advocacy groups, which filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for the documents. The Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen provided a copy to The New York Times, which is publishing the documents on its Web site.

In interviews, the officials who withheld the research offered their fullest explanation to date. The former head of the highway safety agency said he was urged to withhold the research to avoid antagonizing members of Congress who had warned the agency to stick to its mission of gathering safety data but not to lobby states.

Critics say that rationale and the failure of the Transportation Department, which oversees the highway agency, to more vigorously pursue distracted driving has cost lives and allowed to blossom a culture of behind-the-wheel multitasking.

The cell phone industry has heavy lobbying in Washington.

Where is my wife? She's lost.
An older man approached an attractive younger woman at a shopping mall.

'Excuse me; I can't seem to find my wife. May I talk to you for a couple of minutes?'

The woman, feeling a bit of compassion for the old fellow, said, 'Of course, sir. Do you know where your wife might be?'

'I have no idea, but every time I talk to a woman as as beautiful as your are, she appears out of nowhere .. '

Wonderful one-liners.
I once wanted to become an atheist but I gave up . . . they have no holidays. - Henny Youngman

Most Texans think Hanukkah is some sort of duck call. - Richard Lewis

My father never lived to see his dream come true of an all-Yiddish-speaking Canada. - David Steinberg

Even if you are Catholic, if you live in New York you're Jewish. If you live in Montana, you are going to be goyish even if you are Jewish. - Lenny Bruce

This column is about my personal search for the perfect investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor. I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas, concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address is . You can't click on my email address. You have to re-type it . This protects me from software scanning the Internet for email addresses to spam. I have no role in choosing the Google ads on this site. Thus I cannot endorse, though some look interesting. If you click on a link, Google may send me money. Please note I'm not suggesting you do. That money, if there is any, may help pay Michael's business school tuition. Read more about Google AdSense, click here and here.