Monday, January 28, 2013


The New York Times has a story today about problems in an oil boomtown, Watford City, North Dakota. Can you spot what's wrong with this picture? I'll give you a hint:
The patients come with burns from hot water, with hands and fingers crushed by steel tongs, with injuries from chains that have whipsawed them off their feet. Ambulances carry mangled, bloodied bodies from accidents on roads packed with trucks and heavy-footed drivers.

The furious pace of oil exploration that has made North Dakota one of the healthiest economies in the country has had the opposite effect on the region's health care providers. Swamped by uninsured laborers flocking to dangerous jobs, medical facilities in the area are sinking under skyrocketing debt, a flood of gruesome injuries and bloated business costs from the inflated economy.
Seriously? The oil business is making money hand over fist in North Dakota, the state has America's lowest unemployment rate? -- 3.2% -- and the companies employing these guys to do dangerous jobs generating big profits can't even give them health insurance?

Or maybe I'm just an East Coast lib who doesn't understand a culture where men are men and benefits are nonexistent.

In any case, this is putting a strain on the system:
The problems have been acute at McKenzie County Hospital here. Largely because of unpaid bills, the hospital's debt has climbed more than 2,000 percent over the past four years to $1.2 million, according to Daniel Kelly, the hospital's chief executive....

The 12 medical facilities in western North Dakota saw their combined debt rise by 46 percent over the course of the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years, according to Darrold Bertsch, the president of the state's Rural Health Association....

Mr. Kelly has pushed for the state, which has a surplus of more than $1 billion, to allocate money intended for the oil region specifically to health care facilities in the area. He has also asked for the state to grant low-interest loans so hospitals can borrow money for facility improvements and for the governor to convene a task force to study health care issues in the oil patch.
Yeah, those'd be good ideas.

Here's another proposal:
Hospital executives are hoping to get the local government to approve a 1-cent sales tax increase so they can build a $55 million medical facility that would triple the size of the clinic, expand the emergency room, maintain the 24-bed hospital and increase space for other outpatient services like physical therapy.
Right. Of course. Gotta be a sales tax, right? The most regressive of all taxes, because the greater the percentage of your income that you have to spend just to get by, the higher your effective tax rate is?

Still, it would be something. But, hey, no rush -- after all, why should a society take care of the people who are generating all of its wealth through dangerous, backbreaking labor? This is America, dammit!


Buford said...

They should sent the bill to the Koch brothers...

Steve M. said...

Works for me.

aimai said...

This goes hand in hand with every other kind of social ill. These jobs are brutal, high intensity,and don't permit or encourage the formation of real communities--if you take the job you are probably leaving your family somewhere else. If they came to North Dakota they are essentially squatting in substandard housing because housing is at a premium, if they brought their kids with them those kids are going to schools which don't have enough property tax money behind them to expand for the new demand etc...etc...etc...

Victor said...

John Galt don't hand out no bandaids for boo-boo's!

"Suck it up, reattach that torn-off leg, and get the feck back to work, you Slacker!!! Time is money."

Conservativism, is a mental disease.
And Conservatives, are sociopaths.

If not all of them, then most of them!
Scratch that! ALL OF THEM!!!

Bulworth said...

They should wait for the free market to provide common sense freedom capitalist private solutions based on private free market principles.

Lit3Bolt said...

Re: aimai's comment,

That's why all Randian superheros were basically square-jawed orphans with an utter disdain for any kind of human companionship and a pathological lack of understanding of society, religion, and any culture except the one that gave them the most privileges. In the Republican paradigm, community and familial ties to a region are treated with disdain with regards to job seeking, but there's also a paradoxical fixation on the "perfect" model family, with one breadwinner who's word under his roof is law, one stay at home mom who is supposed to seek fulfillment in arranging beds all day, and any number of children who need no healthcare, supervision, and are expecting to be beaming go-getters from the exit of the womb.

This is yet another cognitive dissonant thought process, where men and women are supposedly delighted to seek jobs thousands of miles away in desolate wastelands, yet no allowances can be made for familes, parents, children, or survival beyond the most basic of needs.

The New York Crank said...

If Republicans made any sense they wouldn't be Republicans any more.

Crankily yours,
The New York Crank

Examinator said...

But America is the land of 'entrepreneurialism', the 'free market' and 'libertarianism' (triple sic) if you're rich and don't have to do the actual dirty work!
Occupational Health and Safety/ Workers Compensation ...are all nightmarish communistic/terrorist apparition.
In other countries the "communistic/ socialist" left like Sweden/Norway,UK, Australia and NZ any worker(s) on the job injury's medical expenses are paid for by workers compensation an insurance system paid for by industries and the government. They also have forms of universal healthcare and most have Fire arm controls AND in the case of Australia their banks are among the tightest regulated (liquid assets/bonds to debt ratio) and they even weathered the GFC the best in the Western world. And...You want more ? well their banks are among the most profitable in the world! And there is even more , I know it's incredible value but they are throwing in one of the worlds most profitable extraction industries....(socialist dogs!)
Good thing the USA isn't dealing in those industries....ooops they are and very profitably too! crap so much for that argument.
So why can't we get our shit together? Beats me!
I suspect it's the brain washed voters.

Glennis said...

One would certainly hope that any gruesome workplace injuries should at least be covered by Worker's Comp, but even so...

It makes one wonder, are these uninsured laborers also being hired as "independent contractors" so that companies can avoid even that?