Friday, August 21, 2009

Kelly Meets The President

Lebo resident Kelly Fraasch, the executive director of Mt. Lebanon based Parent Resource Network, was invited to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Obama on Thursday, August 20 and to be a part of that day's "National Health Care Forum". Video of the event can be seen at the following address -- www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHCqU_nfzbQ. Kelly can also be seen in the lower left corner of the picture below.

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25 Comments:

Blogger Tim Nolan said...

Congratulations Kelly! Very exciting and what a tremendous honor to be summoned to the White House.

August 21, 2009 10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Tim and Joe!
This was truly a humbling experience and one that I will never forget. I am still flying high and probably will for awhile.
I truly believe in this effort to reform the health care system. My family has been directly impacted by the wrongs of the "system" and my hope is that we can all work together as Americans and come up with a really great bill that brings hope and good health to us all.
My experience in Washington has only increased my dedication to this reform and please know that anyone that is interested in signing a petition to show your support can copy this link:
http://mesh.bittsburgh.com/projects/Declarations In the third paragraph there is a link to download the Health Care Declarations pdf file. This link is hosted by our local group, MESH and if you want to know more about health care reform please click on www.my.barackobama.org.
Kelly Fraasch

August 21, 2009 9:02 PM  
Blogger MTLDC-Group said...

Kelly,

I was so proud to see you sitting behind the president. He needs honest hardworking and caring people behind him right now. A lot of misinformation is out there and some have forgotten that in a democracy sometimes we have to compromise to achieve progress.

Having heard your story, seen what you have gone through and your tireless committement to helping others you are a fantastic ambassador for parents of children with special needs.

If you are reading this and have never met Kelly take a few minutes and read Taylor's story:
ParentResourceNetwork.org

Bob Lee

August 21, 2009 9:16 PM  
Anonymous David Brown said...

Thanks for mentioning our project, Kelly!

MESH members like Kelly and others are working with Organizing for America to collect Health Care Declarations. A Health Care Declaration means you stand with the President on health care, so when he goes back to Congress after the recess he can point to thousands of supporters in every district and hopefully he won't have to compromise so much.

Here's a direct link to the Declaration: Health Care Declaration.

Anyone who wants to make a Health Care Declaration can simply email their name and address at dmbrown@icubed.com. Be sure to include all household members who feel the same way, but voters only, please.

David Brown
MESH

August 22, 2009 9:38 PM  
Anonymous Dave Franklin said...

Let me be the little gray cloud for a second. Some of my family is in the car business in Philadelphia. As many of you know, Obama's Cash for Clunkers program ends today and it can't be soon enough for them. They have been faced with non-responsive government employees, crashing websites and still have not seen a dime of the government money that allegedly accompanies this program. More specifically, they are currently *out of pocket* over $100,000 for sales made under the program, and no one on the government side will return their phone calls or give them any sense as to when they will see THEIR money.

In its infinite wisdom, the federal government has just about 200 employees - or about 4 people per state - tasked with reviewing and processing all of the paperwork for sales made under this program nationwide!

Now imagine if you owned a small business that had $100,000 in sales in a month, but you had to wait an indefinite period of time to be paid. Who then pays YOUR rent? Who then makes YOUR payroll?

Now take this mess and extrapolate it out over a nationwide healthcare system. Will doctors wait months on end for payment? Can hospitals afford the additional staff that will be necessary to process the paperwork and keep after the government for payment? I'm not holding my breath.

The government should stick to the business of government - period.

August 24, 2009 10:34 AM  
Blogger Mike Madison said...

To play devil's advocate and, more important, to keep the conversation grounded in things that have to do with Mt. Lebanon, I'll ask: What, exactly, is the "business" of government?

I don't want to put too much emphasis on the paradox of that phrase in itself, since I assume that it was meant metaphorically and used in haste. The real question is what things government "legitimately" should do, and what things it should not do.

We might say, for example, that "government" shouldn't be in the business of providing education. Public schools as we know them are mostly creatures of the 20th century. Public education is rife with inefficiency and political controversy. Private schools and parochial schools are well-respected and well-liked by many people, and if we didn't have pay those school taxes (because government is out of the business of education), then everyone who wanted to educate their children could afford the tuition.

The same exercise could be run with garbage collection, street and sidewalk construction and repair, libraries, and many other things. (Even libraries, surprisingly, are rife with what some would see as inefficiency and waste. Many authors and publishers, for example, don't like libraries very much, because every time a book is borrowed, another potential royalty goes down the tubes.)

None of these things are inherently government functions or not. They are all choices about things that the community wants, both in contemporary terms and in historical terms, and that the community has to decide how to provide for.

Well, and to back it out of Mt. Lebanon a bit: I have friends and family who have benefited a great deal over the years from the medical care provided by Veterans Administration (now the Department of Veterans Affairs). I hope that those who don't like the idea of government involvement in health care at least accept the proposition that the government is already involved in health care, and don't want to shut the VA. But I might be wrong.

August 24, 2009 2:27 PM  
Anonymous Dave Franklin said...

"Private schools and parochial schools are well-respected and well-liked by many people, and if we didn't have to pay those school taxes (because government is out of the business of education), then everyone who wanted to educate their children could afford the tuition."

Mike, seriously, break that statement down and tell me if that makes any sense at all. I won't even bother to address the issues of space and religious affiliation. Let's just focus on cost. Private school tuition is double and even triple the school taxes for most in Mt. Lebanon. Take a peek at this year's numbers for Shadyside in '09:

Pre K Full Day $13,850
Pre K Mornings Only $ 9,625
Kindergarten $17,150
1st - 5th Grades $17,600
6th - 8th Grades $20,400
9th - 12th Grades $23,900
Boarding Fee (9 - 12) $ 9,625

Tuition at Kiski is $20,200 for day students. Sewickley Academy is $20,450 for day students in grades 9-12. Catholic schools are a bargain by comparison - at Seton LaSalle it runs $7,300 for Catholics and $7,700 for non-Catholics. Central is $7,800 for Catholics, while non-Catholics get hit for $8,300. And even at these lower rates the price tag is still significantly higher than what many in Lebo pay in school taxes.

And any good economics professor will tell you that with an increase in demand, the costs would only skyrocket.

Lastly, look into the conditions at Walter Reed, the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Fort Knox in KY, the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in NY or the Miami Veterans Hospital - just to name a few. The government is hardly getting straight A's in the health care that it already provides.

August 24, 2009 3:22 PM  
Blogger Mike Madison said...

We're talking entirely hypothetically here, right?

First, if we really did abolish public education, then demand for private and parochial education would skyrocket -- but not everyone would send their kids to school, and not everyone would send their kids to school through what we now call 12th grade. So we would take most of the population of the Mt. Lebanon School District and look for a private or parochial alternative - but there are lots of communities where that would not be the case. (Just to be clear, I'm not arguing that this is something that we should do.) On the supply side, the market would do what any large complex market would do in this case: it would expand, differentiate, and compete. Would every private school tuition remain at 20k or more per year? No or, at least, highly, highly doubtful. If there were no public option, and if there were people who could afford only 2k or 5k or 10k per year (remember: no school taxes), then a market to supply that demand likely would emerge. Would low cost private schools offer the quality that many people associate with Kiski or Winchester or Shadyside? Of course not. Some people would get the BMW of primary and secondary education. Some people would get the Tata.

Second, regarding the VA, of course there are problems at the VA - serious problems. And there always have been. (I first got involved in VA issues when the federal government was denying benefits to vets who were injured by exposure to Agent Orange.) That's part of my point: Despite the obvious problems, has anyone seriously argued that the government should get out of the VA business, and send vets into the private health care system? I assume that someone has. I also suspect that the argument is regularly rejected even by many of those who are opposed to the current health care proposal (whatever it is). And even if the government closed VA-run health care facilities, there is still the question of paying for care for vets. The government could get out of that, too, I suppose. Again, I am *not* arguing that this would be a good idea.

August 24, 2009 3:44 PM  
Blogger Tim Nolan said...

Dave F,

If I had a dime for every time someone brought up Cash for Clunkers as an argument against healthcare...

Just to be clear, you are comparing a temporary program to sell cars, with an effort to offer a healthcare program to 46 million Americans who currently have nothing? Do I have that right?

Do I need to bore/entertain with analogies to explain how ridiculous that comparison is?

Are you arguing that those without healthcare should continue to do without because people haven't gotten their clunker checks fast enough?

You're right to point out that the Fed Gov't (like any large organization) can do things better. But having worked for two healthcare companies, and having experienced the NHS in the UK, I can tell you first hand that for-profit healthcare is no model for efficiency and patient care either.

August 24, 2009 8:09 PM  
Blogger Matt C. Wilson said...

For your consideration,

The Atlantic this month has a very insightful article regarding a proposal for government-driven (but not government-based) reform of the health insurance industry.

I personally think it's a darn good idea. It makes a heck of a lot of sense, anyway.

August 24, 2009 9:34 PM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...

Dave Franklin wrote, "And any good economics professor will tell you that with an increase in demand, the costs would only skyrocket."

A good economics professor will also tell you that when you turn some control knob on the economy, you must consider not only the obvious, immediate consequences of that change but also the secondary and long-term consequences. For example, when airbags were introduced, the auto industry predicted that driving fatalities would be greatly reduced. The reality was somewhat different. It turned out that people felt safer in airbag-equipped cars and started driving faster, offsetting much of the safety provided by airbags. (In some accident categories, drivers with airbags were actually more likely to be killed, not less.) The lesson: consider all consequences, not merely the most obvious.

Now, what would happen if we abolished the public school system? Yes, the demand for private education would increase as students from closed public schools sought educations elsewhere. But, less obviously, the supply of private education would correspondingly increase as resources that were tied up in the public school system were released back into the market. Those newly released teachers would want to start earning paychecks, after all, and as they set up shop, they would have to compete for students. That competition would discourage overpricing. In the end, we would have an entirely new market for education, not simply today's market with increased demand.

Now, if we had that new market for education, would we be better off? It's hard to say, but I'd bet on yes. The public school system is rife with inefficiency, and markets are effective at cutting fat when buyers and sellers have choices and reliable information, which is a reasonable assumption here. So, I'd guess that overall we would get a better education for the money under the new market. In other words, a good education would be more affordable, not less.

The health care system, however, is different story.

August 25, 2009 12:42 AM  
Anonymous Dave Franklin said...

Since I'm such an idiot, please explain to me why in those areas in which the public school systems are absolutely dreadful (take Philly and South Florida for example), there aren't cheaper private school options. Clearly there's a market and a need.

Or perhaps even more to your point, why does college tuition (both at public and private institutions) continue to rise rather than fall? Certainly there is sufficient competition in that sector of education as well as the need for a cheaper model, but I certainly don't see it playing out that way.

August 25, 2009 9:03 AM  
Blogger Mike Madison said...

On schools: In part, there are cheaper options. Home schooling is cheaper, and throughout the country, its popularity is exploding. But so long as folks pay school taxes/real property taxes that fund public education, then the resources that create the demand for cheaper option are not going to be available in large quantities. (Again, this just speaks to some of the economics, not to whether I think that any of this is a good idea.)

On higher education, so far, at least, the answer is "inelastic demand." So long as the number of students who want to attend four-year schools continues to go up (right now, much of the increase is based on demographics rather than on an underlying increase in the demand for higher ed, but colleges mostly don't care about the difference), and so long as the cost of financing tuition bills remains extremely low, then colleges have little reason to bring tuition rates down.

The college tuition market is a useful example in a couple of respects. One is that some colleges -- even elite colleges -- do compete just a little bit on price. Yale, for example, is now among the least expensive Ivy colleges (not that Yale is inexpensive in any sense). Two is that many college tuition rates are set almost entirely based on market conditions (what's the competitive landscape; what kind of student and how many of them are in the college's game plan) rather than based on a college's cost of production.

August 25, 2009 9:49 AM  
Anonymous Dave Franklin said...

And you don't think you would have the exact same issues in a private K-12 landscape?

August 25, 2009 9:57 AM  
Blogger Mike Madison said...

Which issues? Inelastic demand and subsidized costs? It's all speculation, but I'm guessing no -- that demand for elementary and secondary education would fluctuate a lot in privatized market, unless the government continues to require that kids attend school up to a certain age.

Of course, that if this were to happen, then the market would be significantly less than privatized, tuition might well not come down much -- political pressure to subsidize access to private schools would be enormous. We see that already, in the school voucher debate.

August 25, 2009 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Bob Reich, Jr. said...

Unless I'm missing the whole story, I went to the PRN website mentioned and read about Taylor and her health issues related to a pre-term delivery. From what I've seen, it appears that she has received top-notch care from birth and is now a lovely, well-adjusted little girl with all the potential in the world ahead of her. To get back to the original post, what exactly are the "wrongs" that have befallen her and her family and, for which, national health care would have prevented?

August 25, 2009 11:11 AM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...

Dave Franklin wrote, "please explain to me why in those areas in which the public school systems are absolutely dreadful (take Philly and South Florida for example), there aren't cheaper private school options."

Great question, Dave. Here's my answer.

The reason inexpensive private schools are lacking, even in areas where the public schools are terrible, is that the public school system forces private schools to be expensive. To see why, pretend that you are running a private school. If you hire the least-expensive teachers and administrators, hire as few as possible, and skimp on facilities and maintenance, you can offer a low price to parents, but you'll end up offering a low-quality education, too. But parents can already get a low-quality education from the public school system, and this education is "free." Why would parents pay more, even your low prices, for what they can already get for nothing?

If you want to stay in business, then, you'll have to offer something better – much better – than a public-school education. You will be forced to hire expensive teachers and administrators, hire more of them, and buy better facilities and better maintenance. Your prices will go up, of course. Most parents, sadly, will be unable to afford your new prices on top of what they have already been forced to pay for the public schools. They will be driven out of the market, leaving only the affluent as your potential customers. As you seek to win over this new audience, you will become less concerned with low prices and more concerned with status, "excellence," and other hang-ups of the rich.

And that's your answer: The reason private schools are expensive and unresponsive to the needs of the poor is that the taxpayer funding of public schools forces them to be that way.

Cheers,
Tom

August 25, 2009 12:49 PM  
Anonymous David Brown said...

The private health insurance industry is great and far superior to whatever the government could ever do -- if you only compare the positive aspects of private enterprise to the negative aspects of government.

I look at it from a business point of view. On the balance sheet of America, health care is overhead. Cut overhead by cutting out the middleman. That would be beneficial to every business except the private insurers. But since they are constantly shifting their risks to consumers and the government, they are abandoning their very reason to exist: the aggregation of risk. Therefore, in my opinion, their relationship to the economy is as a parasite to a host. Remove the tapeworm to experience renewed vigor.

As a small business owner, I find that the private insurers might as well be the government. I can't change their behavior, I can't affect their price, I can't say no, and my service is controlled by faceless bureaucrats. Functionally they have all the same negatives that people complain about with government. Add on the facts that their interests are diametrically opposed to mine and part of every dollar I pay them is funding the fight against reform, and we have a very difficult situation.

So I say it's time to move Highmark's cheese. If that puts some people out of work, that's fine because they should be doing something more productive for America anyway. Unnecessary jobs are not real jobs, and they are bad for America whether they are government bureaucrats or Highmark executives.

August 25, 2009 12:58 PM  
Anonymous Dave Franklin said...

Tom:

Your points underscore the argument that I was making about how a private education system would eventually become a system of haves and have nots, such that after a decade or three those in the latter group would be demanding an equal public education system for everyone. Sound familiar?

And the circle is complete . . .

August 25, 2009 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To answer Bob's question, I've included a letter I wrote the day after I met with President Obama

"Hello Friends and Family: Most of you have heard that I had the amazing opportunity to shake hands with President Barack Obama (TWICE) yesterday... I firmly believe through my experience of having two preemies that our health care system needs to change. Families should be spending time together in the dire moments of having a critically ill child and not worrying about working and possibly losing health insurance. As President said yesterday, he supports affordable health insurance that anyone can purchase whether you have a job or not. If this would have been possible 8 years ago, James would have been able to leave his job in DC and be with Taylor and I in Chicago (she was born unexpectedly while I was visiting my parents). We wouldn't have had to make incredibly difficult decisions over the phone, James wouldn't have had to take emergency flights that cost hundreds of dollars for only one way, and we wouldn't have had to borrow money from family and friends. However more importantly, I wouldn't have had to worry each and everyday about the possibility of Taylor passing away without her father at her bedside for four months. We also found that even though we had good health insurance, we fought with our health insurance company for years over various loop holes and pre-existing conditions. Financially we were devastated and still reap the financial debt from Taylor's birth after 8 years. We hope to one day be caught up before she would end up responsible for our financial debt. So between wanting to spend time with our children, we became focused on the bills and insurance paperwork. All of this was especially hard on our marriage and our young family as we fought to survive. We were very fortune in 2004 to make a huge change and move to PA in order to afford a home and have some financial relief. President Obama addressed the concerns about preexisting conditions and certain loop holes that we fell into would no longer be possible, according to the principles that he has outlined.
We started to see some relief with Taylor's health issues when she was two years old. Her trach and oxygen were no longer required, her vision was improving (she was blind for her first year or so) and she was beginning to hit some milestones. By her third birthday I was worried that she would no longer qualify for a drug under our insurance company. I begged with them for weeks that she needed to be covered. With all of her great progress it would be a shame to watch it thrown away with a life threatening illness from the lack of having this particular vaccine. We were still denied and once again faced with the hardship of paying for the drug that was nearly $2000.00 a month for 5 months. We made a decision that no parent should have to make and we simply could not afford it. She nearly lost her life just three months later, and it nearly destroyed us all.
How can we live in a system that allowed for this to happen? Saving just $2000.00 a month, cost our insurance company two and a half months of ICU care and other long-term specialty care to get Taylor back on track. As a mother, I will never forgive myself for the suffering Taylor endured those months and know that I am not alone in this country for making such difficult decisions. Yesterday we didn't hear specifics on medication coverage except for Seniors, but I think this is a good example of health care gone wrong. Plus the many expenses that could be avoided if our health care would become more focused on prevention rather intervention..."
I think with some changes to our health care system, specifically when it comes to medically fragile children, that we could give families the relief they need to focus on the child that needs them. That is why I am supporting health care reform.
Kelly Fraasch

August 25, 2009 3:01 PM  
Anonymous Bob Reich, Jr. said...

Kelly (& James), thank you for posting your reply and closing the loop. I am so happy that things are working out for Taylor and your family and I have no doubt you have said many a prayer for all your blessings over these past eight years!

It is overwhelmingly terrible that you have had to go through this situation. But what you are asking, on behalf of so many millions of others across the country, is exactly what has so many millions of the rest of us fed up. You want the system (in this case health care but it applies to any and all) to cater to the "few" vs. the "many". It is the same in the education system. When I was a child in Ohio we had new students come into our school from other countries. Rather than accomodate them (the way we do now) by teaching them in their own language and custom, they simply put them into the class and its related day to day activity until they "got it". The two students are now some of the more successful people I know.

It all goes to a bigger point that I am not going to get into here, but life is inherently unfair. I wish I had George Clooney's looks and Bill Gate's pocketbook but I don't. You simply have to perservere with the gift's God has given you, try and do the right thing, realize that our time on earth is but a vapor compared to that which we hope to spend in heaven, and keep on moving on.

Given your choice between the wonderful family you now have and the bills you still have to pay, I have no doubt that you wouldn't trade any of it. But it is not the responsibility of the government, via their power to enact, collect and distribute tax dollars, to look over and care for 320 million Americans. It simply isn't. (And, I'd hazard a guess that if they weren't as involved in screwing up things as badly as they already have, that your bill wouldn't be nearly as big as it was. Same goes for a certain subset of attorneys that think it is OK to sue a municipality if a rock on the road causes a motorcycle to crash, but that's for another day.)

August 25, 2009 5:45 PM  
Anonymous Tim Nolan said...

Bob Reich Jr;

I thought your first post was clumsy and insensitive at best. After reading Kelly's (and James') response I find your second post craven, despite your attempts to couch it in the language of religion.

The Fraasch's health insurance company denied vital medicine to their daughter, so some bureacrat could show good numbers on a profitability report. And your response is "Oh well, we can't cater to everyone's individual needs"????

You are defending someone's right to make a buck over a child's right to life saving medicine. In what twisted bizarro world do these sort of priorities come from?

Mr. Reich: Find me the passage in the Bible or ANY book of faith that says, "Make money off of the sick, before you ensure that the least among you is cared for."

August 25, 2009 10:44 PM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...

Dave Franklin wrote, "[Tom Moertel's] points underscore the argument that I was making about how private education system would eventually become a system of haves and have nots, such that after a decade or three those in the latter group would be demanding an equal public education system for everyone."

Dave, my points underscore exactly the opposite argument. The introduction of taxpayer-funded public schools is what causes, not prevents, the separation of families into educational haves and have-nots. Under the public system, every family is forced to pay for public schooling, even if they don't use it. Once the taxes have been collected, public schooling is "free." How are private schools supposed to compete with free? They can't, at least not on the affordable end of the pricing spectrum. Thus they are foced into the market for elite education, leaving the have-nots without low-cost private options, at the mercy of whatever their public schools deliver.

To see it another way, imagine that we abolished public schools and that all we had left were today's high-priced private schools, schools that only the "haves" could afford. The "have-nots" would still desire an education and, their school taxes now returned, they would have money to spend, creating a new market for lower-cost private education. In Mt. Lebanon, for example, this market would be worth about $72 million per year (what we pay for our public schools now). Don't you think that new private schools would crop up to claim that money? If not, what makes you think that $72 million per year would be left on the table? Within that new market, we would have options across the pricing spectrum, and people could choose the educations that best met their preferences and budgets.

Now, if what you're saying is that in an education market with a wide spectrum of pricing options, some people could afford to buy better educations than others, that's certainly true. And if you're saying that people who couldn't afford the better options would want something more, that's probably true, also. It doesn't necessarily follow, however, that the solution to this imbalance is "an equal public education system for everyone." Another option, for example, would be to tax the better-off citizens and offer vouchers to the poorer citizens, who could then afford a better education. And, unlike today's public education, this taxpayer-funded education would be provided by schools in a market where we could expect competition to drive out inefficiencies, ensuring a better, more-affordable education for everyone – rich, poor, and in between.

Cheers,
Tom

August 25, 2009 11:26 PM  
Anonymous Bob Reich, Jr. said...

Tim, you're so off the deep end there isn't much more to add but I'll finish with this.

In any other country at any other time in human history babies born as premature as Taylor wouldn't even be alive to enjoy the life she is enjoying today. You are so commited to pointing out the inequities and supposed unfairness of the current system that THE FACT THAT SHE IS ALIVE AND THRIVING is lost on you.

That said, you are welcome to join me and thousands of others of the former silent majority in Washington, DC on September 12. The tide has turned. Enough is enough.

August 26, 2009 8:15 PM  
Blogger Mike Madison said...

Enough is enough indeed, but not at all in the sense that Bob seems to mean.

Dramatic differences of political philosophy are one thing; one member of this blogging community characterizing another as "craven" or "off the deep end" is quite another. I hope Tim and Bob and others will understand if I declare a cease fire.

The problem is partly that we're on the edge of some uglier name-calling, which neither Joe nor I want to see, and it is partly that the "debate" here over government involvement in health care and health insurance has ceased being a respectful, fact-based argument about the merits and started to adopt the unthinking rhetoric that now characterizes both sides of the wider, national debate. The demonization of insurance carriers on the one side and phrases like "The tide has turned" and "Enough is enough" aren't parts of a dialogue. They are parts of a fistfight. If you want to have a fistfight, then take it outside or, as some already plan to do, take the Tea Party to DC (if you're with Bob) or take Ted Kennedy's memory somewhere - perhaps to Congress (if you're with Tim). No more comments will be permitted on this thread.

August 26, 2009 9:52 PM  

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