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Medical bills tied to 60 percent of bankruptcies

Health Care 2009

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#1 Cait

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 05:44 PM

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31103572/

Quote

WASHINGTON - Medical bills are involved in more than 60 percent of U.S. personal bankruptcies, an increase of 50 percent in just six years, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.

More than 75 percent of these bankrupt families had health insurance but still were overwhelmed by their medical debts, the team at Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and Ohio University reported in the American Journal of Medicine.

"Using a conservative definition, 62.1 percent of all bankruptcies in 2007 were medical; 92 percent of these medical debtors had medical debts over $5,000, or 10 percent of pretax family income," the researchers wrote.

[...]

Quote

The researchers surveyed 2,134 random families who filed for bankruptcy between January and April in 2007, before the current recession began.

They used public bankruptcy court records and survey 1,032 respondents by telephone.

While only 29 percent directly blamed medical bills for their bankruptcy, 62 percent had medical bills that totaled more than 10 percent of family income, said an illness was responsible, had lost income due to illness or some other medical factor.

"Among common diagnoses, nonstroke neurologic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis were associated with the highest out-of-pocket expenditures (mean $34,167), followed by diabetes ($26,971), injuries ($25,096), stroke ($23,380), mental illnesses ($23,178), and heart disease ($21,955)," the researchers wrote.

Rules for surviving an Autocracy:

Rule#1: Believe the Autocrat.
Rule#2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule#3: Institutions will not save you.
Rule#4: Be outraged.
Rule#5: Don't make compromises.
Rule#6: Remember the future.

Source:
http://www2.nybooks....r-survival.html


#2 Palisades

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 05:53 PM

The solution is for people to live within their means, regardless of how painful that may be.

Having the U.S. government pick up the tab will only ensure that the entire country goes broke.

(To those who look hopefully towards reducing medical costs, I say, "Good luck.")
"When the Fed is the bartender everybody drinks until they fall down." —Paul McCulley

"In truth, 'too big to fail' is not the worst thing we should fear – our financial institutions are now on their way to becoming 'too big to save'." —Simon Johnson

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#3 Vapor Trails

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 06:02 PM

View PostPalisade, on Jun 4 2009, 05:53 PM, said:

The solution is for people to live within their means, regardless of how painful that may be.

Having the U.S. government pick up the tab will only ensure that the entire country goes broke.

(To those who look hopefully towards reducing medical costs, I say, "Good luck.")


Actually, the first thing is to try and stay as healthy as possible. Exercise and don't over-eat/watch what you eat.  I'm not saying this is a guarantee against illness-because there isn't one. But it certainly helps.

I have a friend who's 45-who had a quintuple-bypass last year. And I'm trying to lose weight.

Edited by Ghost Rider, 04 June 2009 - 06:02 PM.

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#4 Atavus

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 06:18 PM

Also, don't get any of those pesky terminal or expensive diseases you can't do anything against.

My Dad was diagnosed with cancer 2 1/2 years ago. Now, while he is now fine, he was fortunate enough to have all of his chemo paid for by his local health trust. In the UK, the quality of care you get does vary from Trust to Trust, but all of them would have paid for his treatment, which could have otherwise caused some serious debt (combined with the fact that he was off work for almost a year).

So, yes, live within your means may help when you have a broken leg, but when something unpredictable and expensive comes along, you better hope that the medical insurance lives up to its job.
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#5 Rhea

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 06:26 PM

View PostPalisade, on Jun 4 2009, 03:53 PM, said:

The solution is for people to live within their means, regardless of how painful that may be.

You're really funny, you know that?

I've had medical insurance all my life. I've already been through one medical-related bankruptcy and I'm just damn lucky I have good insurance. I was just hospitalized with meningitis, and just the hospital bill alone was $160,000 (not counting the many doctors, ambulance, etc.)! If I'd gotten the PPO instead of the HMO like a lot of my fellow employees I would have owed a $500 co-pay plus $32,000! There's no living within your means to it. And guess what? We're moving to Chico and I have to switch to the PPO, because Health Net doesn't have HMO up there. Glad I got sick before we moved.

You haven't got the faintest clue what it could cost you, even with insurance, if you were unlucky enough to have cancer or some other illness that would require ongoing treatment.

All your remarks tell me is that you've been lucky enough so far not to experience a catastrophic accident or illness. It can happen to anybody.

Living within your means, my ass.

Edited by Rhea, 04 June 2009 - 06:28 PM.

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#6 Lin731

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 06:38 PM

Quote

The solution is for people to live within their means, regardless of how painful that may be.

Or die within them....
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#7 Palisades

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 06:42 PM

^ That's one possibility. However, in the end, what's unaffordable cannot be purchased.

The rate of medical price inflation per year has a long-established trend of exceeding the (nominal) rate at which our economy is growing. Thus, even in the IMO unlikely event that our economy returns to pre-2008 growth rates within the next two years, medical spending will still consume ever larger portions of the GDP, even if people only consume the same amount of medical services. When you couple the medical price inflation with an aging population rapidly increasing its consumption of medical care, you get explosive growth in medical spending if that spending is not constrained. The U.S. medical system seems to me to be optimized to devour any and all money it can get its tentacles on. Giving it even greater access to the sovereign balance sheet seems to me a very bad idea.


ETA:

Ghost Rider said:

Actually, the first thing is to try and stay as healthy as possible. Exercise and don't over-eat/watch what you eat.  I'm not saying this is a guarantee against illness-because there isn't one. But it certainly helps.
I tend to take a long-term outlook and thus consider doing one's best to keep healthy to be an integral part of living within one's means, but it bears being pointed out specifically.

Edited by Palisade, 04 June 2009 - 07:17 PM.

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"In truth, 'too big to fail' is not the worst thing we should fear – our financial institutions are now on their way to becoming 'too big to save'." —Simon Johnson

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#8 Palisades

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 06:44 PM

View PostRhea, on Jun 4 2009, 05:26 PM, said:

View PostPalisade, on Jun 4 2009, 03:53 PM, said:

The solution is for people to live within their means, regardless of how painful that may be.

You're really funny, you know that?

It's the only solution, in the end.
"When the Fed is the bartender everybody drinks until they fall down." —Paul McCulley

"In truth, 'too big to fail' is not the worst thing we should fear – our financial institutions are now on their way to becoming 'too big to save'." —Simon Johnson

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#9 Balderdash

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 07:31 PM

View PostLin731, on Jun 4 2009, 04:38 PM, said:

Quote

The solution is for people to live within their means, regardless of how painful that may be.

Or die within them....


I somehow get the idea that that won't be a problem.  :suspect:

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#10 Cait

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 08:26 PM

View PostPalisade, on Jun 4 2009, 03:53 PM, said:

The solution is for people to live within their means, regardless of how painful that may be.

I took the article to be addressing the fact that bankruptcies had been heavily influenced by medical expenses, not by living beyond individual means.  Serious illness and medical expenses can suck your savings down the drain even with good insurance.  But regardless, it was interesting to note this study because all we've been hearing is that people bought houses they couldn't afford and they caused all the problems with the economy.  Instead it appears that medical expenses were the tipping point, not mortgages.

Quote

Having the U.S. government pick up the tab will only ensure that the entire country goes broke.

This thread wasn't even about government health care, but thanks for reminding us all what your opinion is on the subject.

Quote

(To those who look hopefully towards reducing medical costs, I say, "Good luck.")

I have to agree.  I say "Good luck" too.  It'll never happen.

Rules for surviving an Autocracy:

Rule#1: Believe the Autocrat.
Rule#2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule#3: Institutions will not save you.
Rule#4: Be outraged.
Rule#5: Don't make compromises.
Rule#6: Remember the future.

Source:
http://www2.nybooks....r-survival.html


#11 Cait

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 08:38 PM

View PostRhea, on Jun 4 2009, 04:26 PM, said:

All your remarks tell me is that you've been lucky enough so far not to experience a catastrophic accident or illness. It can happen to anybody.

I agree.  Although I don't think that lack of experience is something we can wish on people.  You know what I mean?  

Healthy people don't understand what an illness or accident can do to your life.  My sister is healthy as a horse and has never been in an accident.  She has absolutely no comprehension regarding what my life has been [given one catastrophic accident [hit by a drunk driving a truck] and cancer].  She wants to be empathetic, but ultimately she only has her own experiences to inform her opinions.  She has no idea what it is like to lose a job due to illness, and have your insurance cancelled mid-chemotherapy.  I wish she understood better, but then again, I certainly wouldn't wish the experience on anyone.

That said, not all illnesses are the same.  Some can be prevented, and some are a product of living beyond your means and not taking care of your health.  It's all so boring to see to good health after all, and many can get a feeling of immortality and let their health take a second chair to more immediate pursuits of gratification.

I hate to see the all black and all white absolutes that can occur on both sides of this debate.  Some illness can be avoided with good care, and good care can come about by living within your means.  Other illnesses have nothing to do with means at all.  That's just a red herring.  Nothing about health is black and white.  I wish it were, we'd all do what needed to be done and be blessed with longevity.  Life just isn't that way.

Rules for surviving an Autocracy:

Rule#1: Believe the Autocrat.
Rule#2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule#3: Institutions will not save you.
Rule#4: Be outraged.
Rule#5: Don't make compromises.
Rule#6: Remember the future.

Source:
http://www2.nybooks....r-survival.html


#12 Vapor Trails

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 09:08 PM

View PostRhea, on Jun 4 2009, 07:26 PM, said:

I've had medical insurance all my life. I've already been through one medical-related bankruptcy and I'm just damn lucky I have good insurance. I was just hospitalized with meningitis, and just the hospital bill alone was $160,000 (not counting the many doctors, ambulance, etc.)! If I'd gotten the PPO instead of the HMO like a lot of my fellow employees I would have owed a $500 co-pay plus $32,000! There's no living within your means to it. And guess what? We're moving to Chico and I have to switch to the PPO, because Health Net doesn't have HMO up there. Glad I got sick before we moved.

First...

{{{{{{{{Rhea}}}}}}}

As to my friend, he worked as a sys admin for Bear Sterns, then he ended up working for the people who took over when Bear Sterns went belly-up. (Chase? I don't remember.) He recently bought a house, and is paying $1,800 a month on his mortgage. To have a quintuple-bypass at his age is pretty frakking scary. I'm guessing such a surgery is around $100,000. :eek3: I wonder if his insurance covered that... :whatsthat:

I have another friend who got operated on for a hernia, and though he had insurance through his wife's job (she also works with computers), it didn't cover everything, and I think he has to pay $15,000 out-of-pocket. He also runs an auto-mechanic's shop. He told me there's a good chance his business may go under, and he may have to go back to work as a security guard. He lost most of the vision in one eye due to an accident. (Some idiot at another job accidentally sprayed transmission fluid into that eye.  :headshake: )
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#13 Palisades

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 09:17 PM

View PostCertifiably Cait, on Jun 4 2009, 07:26 PM, said:

View PostPalisade, on Jun 4 2009, 03:53 PM, said:

The solution is for people to live within their means, regardless of how painful that may be.

I took the article to be addressing the fact that bankruptcies had been heavily influenced by medical expenses, not by living beyond individual means.

And I note that the article describes the relationship by saying that medical bills are "involved" with the bankruptcies and that medical bills "could be blamed" for the bankruptcies. What else could be blamed for the bankruptcies?


Quote

Serious illness and medical expenses can suck your savings down the drain even with good insurance.
They can. As I said, the medical system will devour any and all money that you throw at it.


Quote

But regardless, it was interesting to note this study because all we've been hearing is that people bought houses they couldn't afford and they caused all the problems with the economy.  Instead it appears that medical expenses were the tipping point, not mortgages.
The housing market peaked in 2005. It simply took a while for the fallout to snowball to the point that we saw last October. However, all bubbles eventually end with the bubble popping and causing significant damage. Given that home prices were increasing (much) faster than family incomes, it was inevitable that the bubble would eventually burst. I suppose it's possible that medical expenses could be what pushed families defaulting on their mortgages past the critical point, but I suspect it had more to do with the high price of gasoline in the months preceding the financial meltdown. Or September just happened to be the month that Lehman lost control of all the plates it had spinning in the air. When you run leverage ratios as high as Lehman did, you're asking for trouble.


Quote

Quote

Having the U.S. government pick up the tab will only ensure that the entire country goes broke.

This thread wasn't even about government health care, but thanks for reminding us all what your opinion is on the subject.
The article you quote in the OP devotes a lot of column space to quotes advocating a single-payer health system and claiming it can make comprehensive insurance affordable. Also, pray tell, why is the press plastering sob stories about America's medical system everywhere one looks? Surely it couldn't have anything to do with Obama's initiative involving government health care.


Quote

Quote

(To those who look hopefully towards reducing medical costs, I say, "Good luck.")

I have to agree.  I say "Good luck" too.  It'll never happen.

Nice to end on a note of agreement.

Edited by Palisade, 04 June 2009 - 09:27 PM.

"When the Fed is the bartender everybody drinks until they fall down." —Paul McCulley

"In truth, 'too big to fail' is not the worst thing we should fear – our financial institutions are now on their way to becoming 'too big to save'." —Simon Johnson

FKA:
TWP / An Affirming Flame / Solar Wind / Palisade

#14 Vapor Trails

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 09:17 PM

View PostBalderdash, on Jun 4 2009, 08:31 PM, said:

View PostLin731, on Jun 4 2009, 04:38 PM, said:

Quote

The solution is for people to live within their means, regardless of how painful that may be.

Or die within them....


I somehow get the idea that that won't be a problem.  :suspect:

I somehow get the idea that's EXACTLY what some people want. As those people see it-Life didn't treat you fair, and you're in the poorhouse and sick despite your best efforts? Too bad, so sad. It's better off that you drop dead, so that you won't be a drain on our society. Survival of the fittest, and all that. If that rule is good enough for the animals in the jungle, it's good enough for humans.

Frankly, if that's how these people feel, I'd wish they'd come out and say it-instead of fake sympathy for people they really don't give a f**k about to begin with.
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Politicians are like bananas; they hang together, they're all yellow, and there's not a straight one among them.

"We're relevant for $ and a vote once every two years. Beyond that, we're completely irrelevant, except of course to consume, and preach the gospel according to [insert political demigod here]."--Cait

#15 Cait

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 09:29 PM

View PostPalisade, on Jun 4 2009, 07:17 PM, said:

Nice to end on a note of agreement.

Yes, it is.  While we often disagree [vehemently?], I do enjoy the discussions with you, and feel points of agreement should be noted along with disagreements. :)

Rules for surviving an Autocracy:

Rule#1: Believe the Autocrat.
Rule#2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule#3: Institutions will not save you.
Rule#4: Be outraged.
Rule#5: Don't make compromises.
Rule#6: Remember the future.

Source:
http://www2.nybooks....r-survival.html


#16 Rhea

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 09:59 PM

View PostCertifiably Cait, on Jun 4 2009, 06:38 PM, said:

View PostRhea, on Jun 4 2009, 04:26 PM, said:

All your remarks tell me is that you've been lucky enough so far not to experience a catastrophic accident or illness. It can happen to anybody.

I agree.  Although I don't think that lack of experience is something we can wish on people.  You know what I mean?  

Healthy people don't understand what an illness or accident can do to your life.  My sister is healthy as a horse and has never been in an accident.  She has absolutely no comprehension regarding what my life has been [given one catastrophic accident [hit by a drunk driving a truck] and cancer].  She wants to be empathetic, but ultimately she only has her own experiences to inform her opinions.  She has no idea what it is like to lose a job due to illness, and have your insurance cancelled mid-chemotherapy.  I wish she understood better, but then again, I certainly wouldn't wish the experience on anyone.

I was hit by a drunk driver on the Golden Gate bridge in 1974. My shoulders and spine were damaged (this was back in the days before shoulder harnesses, I was driving a VW bug at a sedate pace and the other guy was driving a Cadillac at 85 mph). I was lucky not to be a smear on the pavement.

In my 50's, the old damage has caused massive problems. I had shoulder surgery and two 10-hour back surgeries within a 4-year period. I managed to scrape by during the first two (the shoulder surgery was no biggie) but by the third one I was, simply, broke from a combination of medical bills and time missed from work. That's what precipitated my bankruptcy. And while I can have another surgery to fix further deterioation to the same shoulder and biceps tendon, there is absolutely nothing more than can be done for my spine. I'm losing function in my legs, and have tremors and numbness in both feet and hands, and live in excruciating pain. I can no longer work at a job I absolutely loved with all my heart. All because some idiot drunk decided to celebrate St. Paddy's day.

As you know better than most, sometimes the unexpected happens in life,as it has to both of us.

What I was reacting to was Palisade's mini-sermon about living within your means, as though that has anything to do with people drowning in medical bills.

The guy ahead of me in bankruptcy court was a man who makes far too much money, was living beyond his means, didn't pay his child support, and then expected the court to bail him out - without going into details, the judge was dumbfounded and pissed off, and the guy never did get the point. THAT'S what irks me, not folks who get buried in medical bills. It's people like that who need to live within their means, but the article wasn't about that 40%.

Edited by Rhea, 04 June 2009 - 10:01 PM.

The future is better than the past. Despite the crepehangers, romanticists, and anti-intellectuals, the world steadily grows better because the human mind, applying itself to environment, makes it better. With hands...with tools...with horse sense and science and engineering.
- Robert A. Heinlein

When I don’t understand, I have an unbearable itch to know why. - RAH


Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done. One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.  - RAH

#17 Palisades

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 10:14 PM

^ You seem to think that long-term, America does not have to live within its means with regard to health care.
"When the Fed is the bartender everybody drinks until they fall down." —Paul McCulley

"In truth, 'too big to fail' is not the worst thing we should fear – our financial institutions are now on their way to becoming 'too big to save'." —Simon Johnson

FKA:
TWP / An Affirming Flame / Solar Wind / Palisade

#18 Vapor Trails

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 10:30 PM

{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{Rhea}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

:hugs: :hugs: :hugs: :hugs:

I wish I could give you a hug FOR REAL!!

:down: :down: :down:
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Politicians are like bananas; they hang together, they're all yellow, and there's not a straight one among them.

"We're relevant for $ and a vote once every two years. Beyond that, we're completely irrelevant, except of course to consume, and preach the gospel according to [insert political demigod here]."--Cait

#19 Cait

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 11:09 PM

View PostRhea, on Jun 4 2009, 07:59 PM, said:

As you know better than most, sometimes the unexpected happens in life,as it has to both of us.

Yes, we do share a very specific experience.  Most people don't even know what kind of long term damage can be done.  They see you recovered after such an accident and from then on out, forget it ever happened.  You and I know that no one can get "hit" like that and not pay the price in illness and pain down the road.  As my doctor put it at the time, the skeletal system wasn't meant to take that kind of abuse.  You can recover, but your long term health will suffer.  It's just the way it is.

Additionally, you have a pre-existing that ALL insurance companies count when it comes to coverage.  I've had some pre-existing since I was 18.  That's a long time to go without any coverage on certain things.  They all like to say it is from a pre-existing, and I can't prove it isn't.

{{{{{{{{Rhea }}}}}}}}}  Just because you can never be hugged enough in my opinion.

Edited by Certifiably Cait, 04 June 2009 - 11:11 PM.

Rules for surviving an Autocracy:

Rule#1: Believe the Autocrat.
Rule#2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule#3: Institutions will not save you.
Rule#4: Be outraged.
Rule#5: Don't make compromises.
Rule#6: Remember the future.

Source:
http://www2.nybooks....r-survival.html


#20 Bad Wolf

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 11:13 PM

Palisade I'm all for living within ones' means when it comes to material things.  Health is another matter entirely.  I'm not talking about luxury things like laser surgery on the eyes or plastic surgery.  I'm talking about HEALTH.  sh*t happens.  People get hit by cars, or get cancer or heart attacks or pneumonia.  The cost of medical care hasn't a THING to do with them living within their means.  It's simply necessary.  I know people who ended up in bankruptcy after being in an accident that was someone ELSE'S fault, being driven to a hospital unconscious and having emergency surgery performed.  All because they couldn't afford health insurance or for whatever reason couldn't get approved.  You might say, well yeah, but they can sue the other guy.  But that takes years and there are no guarantees and in the mean time they're stuck with the bills with absolutely no recourse.

America SHOULD provide health care.  They can start by regulating the fat fat FAT profits these health care providers get.  They can start by forcing insurance companies to lower their rates.  They can start by making it easier to qualify for insurance.  They can start by cleaning up existing subsidized health care by making it hard for people to abuse the system.  They can certainly stop guaranteeing health care to illegal immigrants while letting its own citizens languish.  There's all manner of things that can be done.  But no one is willing to take on the powerful lobbies that are hell bent on profit above all.  It's disgusting.
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