How Sweet It Is, or Viewer Discretion Advised

By Martin Harris

Martin Harris

It isn’t often that a local Fourth Estate enterprise scoops one of the national pro’s, but that happened last week when the Denton Publication’s Eagle was, after a gap of several weeks, followed by the Murdoch Empire’s Wall Street Journal on the subject of health care plans designed to reward healthy consumer behaviors. Both op-ed writers were amateurs with non-Fourth-Estate day jobs; one is your Humble Scribe, writing several weeks back on the Safeway Health Care Plan and its applicability to Vermont; and the other is one David Gratzer, MD, who was accorded more than 24-column-inches on the op-ed page of the Journal’s 21-22 May edition to discuss Vermont’s embrace of the “public option” or single-payer health care strategy. Towards the end he argues, as had your HS earlier, that Vermont would have been a particularly fertile field for a plan with a “wellness-reward” component, and that “it’s a pity” that Vermont chose not to. Clearly, he’s quite right, even if he didn’t first get his argument from the pages of the Eagle. Nevertheless, as Ralph Kramden (your college drama-studies undergraduate won’t recognize the name) often said on such salutary occasions, “how sweet it is”.

Dr. Gratzer recites all the usual reasons why Vermonters, in the State which scores #1 in the nation, health-wise, according to the United Health Foundation, using various wellness measures, “…could receive incentives to prevent diseases caused by obesity, tobacco, and other life-style choices…” but then, recognizing Vermont’s political disposition, closes with “…but don’t expect Vermont…to test it any time soon. Not while the public-option itch is still out there waiting to be scratched.” Exactly. But, unlike your Humble Scribe, he addressed zero column-inches to “why is Vermont #1?”. The answer is in some readily available statistical rankings. Warning: some viewers will find these statistics displeasing to the point of requiring censorship.

We start with the recognized positive correlation between citizen health and citizen IQ. This subject has been broached, cautiously, in a number of domestic general-readership publications, but, knowing that they would be dismissed by a majority of County Eagle readers as identifiably infected with a conservative bias, you HS chose to cite a pair of academic publications instead. One is a collaborative effort between the Universities of Delaware and Edinburgh, in which authors Gottfedson and Deary document the epidemiological fact that “Intelligence Predicts Health and Longevity”. The second is similarly respectably European in origin: the February issue of the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation. It’s on the Web here at, where you can read that “IQ is among the strongest [negative] predictors of cardio-vascular disease…” and “…lower IQ scores could elevate cardiovascular disease risk, notably the application of intelligence to healthy behavior [choices…” and (viewer discretion advised) “…IQ may well be one important factor behind the place of social class as a fundamental determinant of inequalities in health…more so than access to[health-care] resources …a low IQ…as suggested in this study, may be a further independent explanation.” In layman’s language, smarter people are statistically predictable to make smarter personal life-style and wellness choices than not-so-smart people. So, inquiring minds want to know, what’s the correlation between smartness and wellness, not just at the individual statistical level, but at the State level? After all, it’s now the States which, as “laboratories of democracy” in the famous words of the Progressively-politically-oriented Mr. Justice Louis Brandeis, are designing and adopting a variety of health-care plans. Such State smartness rankings are readily available.

You’ll see one such ranking on the Website of “The Audacious Epigone” (test your college classics major on definition) where you’ll see MA, NJ, and VT in the top three, with IQ’s in the 101-102 range, and NM, MI, and DC in the bottom three, with IQ’s in the 91-94 range. VT is the nation’s healthiest state, according to UHF rankings; bottom-ranking IQ MI is the unhealthiest. From another source, Estimating State IQ (Intelligence Magazine), M.A. McDaniel, 2006, we learn that the highest IQ’s are in MA (104.3), NH (104.2), and VT (103.8) while “…IQ’s are lowest in the Southeastern States.” The three lowest are in MI (94.2), Louisiana (95.3) and AL (95.7) and you can read McDaniel’s summary (viewer discretion strongly advised) as follows: “…these differences in State IQ’s are associated with differences in average earnings, with per capita Gross State Product, with violent crime and health.” His IQ calculations come from analysis of public-school NAEP scores for achievement (or not) in the several basic literacy and numeracy subjects. To prevent additional viewer distress, your HS has redacted certain other demographic rankings totally, and will just briefly refer back to an earlier Safeway Plan discussion wherein the City of Memphis is found to be one of the unhealthiest jurisdictions in TN, while adjacent rural counties in TN and MI score much higher. Overall (urban-plus-rural) TN scores #47 in the UHF health rankings of States and its healthiest counties are mostly in rural Appalachia, with socio-economic structures and development patterns not unlike Vermont’s.

From a University of North Carolina study (Reeves and Basalik, 2010) we can read that “…more mothers in States with high IQ’s breast-feed their babies, ensure that infants are immunized, take better care of their teeth, get more exercise, and refrain from smoking. At the same time, high-IQ States have lower infant mortality, lower rates of HIV infection and AIDS, lower overall mortality, lower rates of heart disease, and lower rates of adult and child obesity.”

Both your Humble Scribe and the WSJ’s distinguished op-ed contributor draw the same conclusion: Vermont would have been an ideal venue for a trial run of a State Health Plan with incentives-for-wellness components. Heck, VT is already the healthiest State. Why, then, did the Golden Domers and the Guv reject such an obvious quality-up/cost-down element? The answer was offered long ago by Prez #32 FDR (test your high school history student on full name) in his observation that “nothing in politics happen by accident”. He knew. First-hand.


One thought on “How Sweet It Is, or Viewer Discretion Advised

  1. REALITY!!

    ( )

    ( Gov. Peter Shumlin: Real Healthcare reform — )

    ( Health Care Budget Deficit Calculator — )

    ( Briefing: Dean Baker on Boosting the Economy by Saving Healthcare )


    As you all know. Had congress passed a single-payer or government-run robust Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one, our economy and jobs would have taken off like a rocket. And still will. Single-payer would be best. But a government-run robust Public Option CHOICE! that can lead to a single-payer system is the least you can accept. It’s not about competing with for-profit healthcare and for-profit health insurance. It’s about replacing it with Universal Healthcare Assurance. Everyone knows this now.

    The message from the midterm elections was clear. The American people want real healthcare reform. They want that individual mandate requiring them to buy private health insurance abolished. And they want a government-run robust public option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one. And they want it now.

    They want Drug re-importation, and abolishment, or strong restrictions on patents for biologic and prescription drugs. And government controlled and negotiated drug and medical cost. They want back control of their healthcare system from the Medical Industrial Complex. And they want it NOW!


    For profit health insurance is extremely unethical, and morally repugnant. It’s as morally repugnant as slavery was. And few if any decent Americans are going to allow them-self to be compelled to support such an unethical and immoral crime against humanity.

    This is a matter of National and Global security. There can be NO MORE EXCUSES.

    Further, we want that corrupt, undemocratic filibuster abolished. Whats the point of an election if one corrupt member of congress can block the will of the people, and any legislation the majority wants. And do it in secret. Give me a break people.

    Also, unemployment healthcare benefits are critically needed. But they should be provided through the Medicare program at cost, less the 65% government premium subsidy provided now to private for profit health insurance.

    Congress should stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money on private for profit health insurance subsidies. Subsidies that cost the taxpayer 10x as much or more than Medicare does. Private for profit health insurance plans cost more. But provide dangerous and poorer quality patient care.



    This is what the American people are shouting at you. Both parties have just enough power now to do what the American people want. GET! IT! DONE! NOW!

    If congress does not abolish the individual mandate. And establish a government-run public option CHOICE! before the end of 2011. EVERY! member of congress up for reelection in 2012 will face strong progressive pro public option, and anti-individual mandate replacement candidates.

    Strong progressive pro “PUBLIC OPTION” CHOICE! and anti-individual mandate volunteer candidates should begin now. And start the process of replacing any and all members of congress that obstruct, or fail to add a government-run robust PUBLIC OPTION CHOICE! before the end of 2011.

    We need two or three very strong progressive volunteer candidates for every member of congress that will be up for reelection in 2012. You should be fully prepared to politically EVISCERATE EVERY INCUMBENT that fails or obstructs “THE PUBLIC OPTION”. And you should be willing to step aside and support the strongest pro “PUBLIC OPTION” candidate if the need arises.

    ASSUME CONGRESS WILL FAIL and SELLOUT again. So start preparing now to CUT THEIR POLITICAL THROATS. You can always step aside if they succeed. But only if they succeed. We didn’t have much time to prepare before these past midterm elections. So the American people had to use a political shotgun approach. But by 2012 you will have a scalpel.

    Congress could have pass a robust government-run public option during it’s lame duck session. They knew what the American people wanted. They already had several bills on record. And the house had already passed a public option. Departing members could have left with a truly great accomplishment. And the rest of you could have solidified your job before the 2012 elections.

    President Obama, you promised the American people a strong public option available to everyone. And the American people overwhelmingly supported you for it. Maybe it just wasn’t possible before. But it is now.

    Knock heads. Threaten people. Or do whatever you have to. We will support you. But get us that robust public option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one before the end of 2011. Or We The People Of The United States will make the past midterm election look like a cake walk in 2012. And it will include you.

    We still have a healthcare crisis in America. With hundreds of thousands dieing needlessly every year in America. And a for profit medical industrial complex that threatens the security and health of the entire world. They have already attacked the world with H1N1 killing thousands, and injuring millions. And more attacks are planned for profit, and to feed their greed.

    Spread the word people.

    Progressives, prepare the American peoples scalpels. It’s time to remove some politically diseased tissues.

    God Bless You my fellow human beings. I’m proud to be one of you. You did good.

    See you on the battle field.


    jacksmith – WorkingClass 🙂

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