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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
Presidents v. The Supreme Court

The recent political chatter about “Obamacare” before the Supreme Court of the United States got a great deal of media attention.  President Obama added fuel to the fire when he declared, “Ultimately, I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

For someone who was a law professor those words were absurd.  Even if a bill passed unanimously in the house and senate, it could still be overturned – if the law was in violation of the Constitution.


Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller
1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing

Nelson Rockefeller’s nomination for Governor in 1958 was partly an upstate revolt against the continued domination of party affairs by the Nassau Republican organization. Rockefeller was a man who always had bigger fish to fry, and throughout his almost 15 years as governor, he often went out of his way not to step on the toes of the touchy Nassau GOP. That’s why Nassau is the only large New York county without a state office building. Respect the turf.

Just before taking office, Rockefeller announced that State Senator William Hults would be Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, but not until the end of the 1959 legislative session, so that Glen Cove, North Hempstead, Oyster Bay and a sliver of Hempstead wouldn’t lose their Senate representation until 1960.


Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’

The Nassau County district attorney’s (DA) office makes a cameo appearance in Empty Mansions, an incredible book about Huguette Clark (1906-2011), the Manhattan-raised heiress whose generosity and eccentricities were legendary.

Now that Ryan Murphy, a creator of television’s “Glee,” has optioned Empty Mansions’ film rights, I imagine a scrum of top actresses are vying to play Clark.


End of Life Care

With all the debate over “Obamacare,” Medicare, the economics of healthcare and taxes, take a look with me at some of the issues, which will become front and center over the next five years.

First, examine some of the statistics with me. In the United States – Medicare and private insurance spend some $60 billion each year on hospital bills during the last two months of a dying patient’s life! For example, one day in an intensive care hospital bed costs around $10,000.

The challenge we face is that some of the medical procedures used in the end of life care may very well have no meaningful impact on the life of dying patients. At the same time, some modern day medical treatments do prolong life. Some people are now asking whether prolonging life is too expensive. And that turns into both a moral and economic question, just like whether every American is entitled to health insurance.

With the costs for medical treatment skyrocketing – healthcare expenditures are four times the size of the Department of Defense’s yearly budget. Last year healthcare expenditures in the United States were some $2.6 trillion. All of this reminds me of a comment made by the head of a Florida hospital a few months ago. The hospital administrator was in England and reviewing hospital administration there compared to the United States. As the tour of the English hospital was underway, they came to the intensive care unit. There were only 12 beds. The Florida administrator asked “Why, when you have twice as many regular beds as my hospital, do you have only 12 beds in intensive care?” The English administrator said, “Death is an option.”

With Medicare in deep financial difficulty, and the Administration looking for ways to trim Medicare spending, is “death an option” in the United States?

All of this leads to one area where the new healthcare law is gaining more scrutiny. That is the Payment Advisory Board. There is growing medical opposition to that board, because doctors feel medical decisions should be left to doctors and their patients. Doctors are concerned that government bureaucrats will determine a general standard of care when doctors feel each patient should be dealt with individually.

In the final analysis, as I said before, this all boils down to a moral vs. economic debate. We cannot stop caring for people as they begin to die; yet, the sums of money being spent on end of life care are growing to staggering amounts. Is there any moral middle ground between “dying is an option” and spending is growing out of sight?

Whatever happens in June when the Supreme Court decides Obamacare, we have not heard the end to the issues discussed in this piece. And as more of the nation ages and more spending is at the end of life, the debate could become very fierce.