NEWS DAY | Joe Wilson and Tim Pawlenty / MN swine flu update / Uninsured in MN

© nicolasjoseschirado -

© nicolasjoseschirado -

What happens when you call the president a liar? You get a bully platform, and equal time with the president. That, at any rate, is what happened to Joe Wilson, an otherwise little-noticed representative from South Carolina. Since he shouted out “You lie!” during President Obama’s health care speech, he has been interviewed over and over and his anti-health care reform and anti-immigrant views splashed across the front pages and radio waves, getting the kind of serious attention and debate that they otherwise would not have had and do not deserve.

And then there’s Tim Pawlenty, invoking “state’s rights” as a rationale for protecting Minnesota from health care reform, in the best tradition of segregationist southern governors resisting the encroachment of the federal government in enforcing civil rights and desegregation laws. Taking his place in the long line of governors like Orval Faubus and George Wallace, Pawlenty told MPR that he and other governors may get more assertive about making states rights claims:

“I think we can see hopefully see a resurgence in claims and maybe even bring up lawsuits if need be,” he added.

MN swine flu update Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, had dire warnings yesterday of what the next few weeks could bring, reports MPR:

“I actually have the data from just as late as last night in the emergency departments of Atlanta and I’m telling you they are in free fall,” Osterholm said. “As we speak today, they tripled the highest number of in-patient visits they’d ever had, even dating into June and July time period, for kids with influenza-like illness. They have virtually run out of liquid Tamiflu.

“That is a harbinger of things to come that we’re going to see here because we’re off by about two to three weeks,” he said.

The most important news is still prevention. Most of the prevention advice is the same: wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes and nose, stay home if you have the flu.

The “new” news is that the swine flu vaccine is on the way, probably arriving in October, and possibly effective after only a single shot.

Some of the regular flu vaccines are in now, but not for all clinics. (My clinic won’t get their shipment until October 15, and won’t get the swine flu vaccine at all.) Call around to see where this vaccine is available – maybe local drug stores or grocery stores. The swine flu vaccine should arrive in the state some time in October.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the swine flu vaccine will be available at some pharmacies and local public health departments. They say they have a website that will help you find a flu shot location near you – for regular flu shots now, and for swine flu shots once they become available. The website is, but as of this morning, it is not working.

Uninsured in Minnesota Continuing the health care theme of this morning’s posts … About 450,000 people are uninsured in Minnesota, according to the latest Census Bureau report. That’s great, says AP, noting that Minnesota’s 8.7 percent uninsured rate, while up from previous years, is still among the lowest in the country. Not so fast, says David Brauer at MinnPost:

Another way to put it: if the state’s nearly half a million uninsured gathered in one spot, they would comprise Minnesota’s largest city … with enough left over to fill the Metrodome for a Vikings game.

Also notable is the source of people’s health insurance, as reported by the Census Bureau:

Between 2007 and 2008, the number of people covered by private health insurance decreased from 202.0 million to 201.0 million, while the number covered by government health insurance climbed from 83.0 million to 87.4 million. The number covered by employment-based health insurance declined from 177.4 million to 176.3 million.

Other news from the Census Bureau report:

[R]eal median household income in the United States fell 3.6 percent between 2007 and 2008, from $52,163 to $50,303. This breaks a string of three years of annual income increases and coincides with the recession that started in December 2007.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2008 was 13.2 percent, up from 12.5 percent in 2007. There were 39.8 million people in poverty in 2008, up from 37.3 million in 2007.

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