My Dinner with Newt

October 16, 2008

Newt Gingrich was the keynote speaker at last night’s BioMed Upstate conference hosted by the Foundation for Healthy Living.  The moderately well-attended (but overly long) conference focused on the barriers our state imposes on the Life Sciences economy and solutions to overcoming those barriers to accelerate growth in Life Sciences.

The sessions drifted off-topic to the various ways the New York stifles economic growth in general and to the great divide between Upstate and Downstate, to which the attendees agreed “Change is needed“.   As to what that meant and who should take responsibility for leading it, those answers were not so clear.  Not so clear at all.  And the conference was pretty dry – academic in nature, almost dispassionate really, and IMHO was very poorly attended by industry representatives who are ultimately the ones who create jobs and/or leave the state.  Numerous academics and government officials were in attendance, but the one group that could really make a difference was way under-represented.

Anyway, Newt was pretty interesting.  He made a point about how poorly the Federal Government doesn’t understand the difference between investment and expense.  He cited that the Baby Boomer generation alone will cost the U.S. $1.6 trillion in health care costs just for treatment of Alzheimer’s patients.  But if treatments could be found that delayed the onset of severe symptoms for just 5 years, the costs would drop $600 billion.  Then he challenged the audience:  If you could save $600 billion over the next 20 years, how much would you spend today?  Newt’s implication was that far too often the government won’t budget for that kind of savings – they won’t make the investment – because today it’s just an expense with no short-term benefit.

Conferences like these raise important questions but rarely do the spawn that passionate white knight who can lead the charge to a new way of thinking, and actually persist long enough to stimulate real change.  How do we convince our political leaders to reach beyond the policies of the past 50 years to something that bears future fruit?  At the conference, we were at a loss to answer that question.


Slammed Upside the Head During a Celebration

April 6, 2008

The University at Buffalo Alumni Association Achievement Awards banquet was held this past Saturday at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in downtown Buffalo.  This year, 19 students, faculty and alumni were honored for their past and present support to the University and to education and science.  My cousin, Michael Buckley, was one of the awardees for excellence in teaching as well as his work with the handicapped.

Dr. Irene Snow, an alumnus and medical director of the Buffalo Medical Group, was also honored.  She was introduced by Susan Banks, who made the most surreal comment when she stated that one of Dr. Snow’s hardest jobs has been to recruit MDs to the Buffalo area at a time when medical reimbursements in Western New York are at an all-time low.

Yet just this past Wednesday my health insurance agent notified me that my company’s rates will be going up a staggering 32% in June, and for the first time our average family health insurance premiums will exceed $10,000 per year.  That doesn’t include the co-pays but, ironically, does include lousy prescription coverage.

I think I’m going to be sick.  On second thought:  I can’t afford to be sick.

The stress brought on by trying to figure out how to pay future health insurance premiums is certain to shorten the lives of many.