Friday, June 26, 2009

Other peoples' stories

My story pales in comparison.

Health Care Stories for America


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ohhh ... Argentina. Of course.

(Mark Sanford (D) ?? i don't think so.)

Well, the mystery is solved. Governor Mark Sanford was in Argentina with a lady-friend. What a surprise.

Apparently, at least according to Fox News, he was also switching parties. Note the (D) after his name on the screen shot above.

Oops. Well, anybody can make a little mistake.

It was a fluke.

It was a simple error. That's all.

An innocent, harmless mistake.

It'll never happen again.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Story

Everyone has a health care story these days. Some are very dramatic. Some are tragic. Some are happy, upbeat and hunky-dory. (Those are the people who believe that President Obama wants to stand in your hospital room so he can unplug your life support as soon as you hit the age of 80. They are also the ones who have lifelong health care with dental, vision, and a $5 drug co-pay and they assume that everyone else does, too. Except the illegal immigrants, who need to die immediately.)

Anyway, my story is not terribly dramatic. But it does illustrate some of the problems of our current system.

It's a very long story, so if you want to skip to The Point at the end, that's fine. I'll understand.


Hubby and I are both 55 years old. We're in pretty good health. We don't take any prescriptions. We don't smoke. We exercise.

Up until a couple of years ago, we were both self-employed. We finagled ways to find health insurance, and paid hefty premiums for very little coverage.

The Finagling: How to get health insurance if you are sneaky and self-employed
Several years ago, I took an office job for a while. I qualified for their health plan after 90 days. After another month or so, I quit and converted to a group conversion plan (this was in Michigan, where the insurance companies have to let you convert).

The Down-side:
By 2005 we were paying nearly $1000 a month, with no prescription, dental or vision coverage. The premiums went up by a very predictable 10% every year.

I thought perhaps we should switch to a cheaper policy. The insurance companies said no. They wouldn't cover Hubby because he has a history of high cholesterol.

The Move to Texas:
When we decided to move to Texas to be near the grandbaby, we were in a quandry. Our insurance was a Michigan policy. We could not bring it along. We also could not buy our own policy. Hubby's company came to the rescue. They put him on the payroll and put us on their insurance. They were wonderful. They gave him a new territory, which requires traveling 2 weeks out of every month. But they made it possible for us to move. I am very grateful.

The Frustration:
Even with good health insurance, there are plenty of frustrations. Take my last check-up for example. The doctor recommended a bone density test and a mammogram. So I checked to make sure the hospital was 'in network' and scheduled the tests.

On the day of the test, the technician told me that a bone density test costs $1500. I hadn't met my deductible yet, so it would cost me $500 out of pocket. Payable immediately. I told her forget it.

I went ahead with the mammogram, and soon received a bill in the mail for several hundred dollars, because the doctor who read the results was 'out of network.' How the heck was I supposed to know that? I called the insurance company and they said, well, I needed to check ahead of time. So I'm supposed to check on every medical person who might be involved in my care? How do I even know who that would be? I called the hospital and they said, well, it's impossible to really know who will read the films. Some are in network and others are out. Tough luck.

Please don't put me in charge!
This is why it makes me crazy to hear the Republicans say they want "the consumer" to be in control. The consumer is never in control. The insurance companies are. I don't want to have to check on the price of every q-tip ahead of time. I want reasonable price controls, and flexible access to care. Is that so much to ask?

Back to my story ... the New Quandry:
In the past year, Hubby's work has slowed down (he works for an automotive supply company). We are not sure how much longer his job will last.

If his job goes, our insurance goes. We don't live in Michigan any more, so we can't convert the policy. We also can't buy a policy. We'd be stuck. Hubby would need to find a job, any job, with benefits. He'd probably end up in retail. Or we could go without insurance, and roll the dice. One car accident or major illness, and our savings could easily be wiped out.

The New Down-Side:
At this point, even though we have health insurance, we are afraid to use it. When I went to the clinic recently and my blood pressure reading was high, my first thought was NOT "Oh dear, what should I do about that?" ... it was "Oh dear, do you have to write that on my chart?" Any little thing could make us even more uninsurable. So we are not getting checkups, and not pursuing warning signs that we really should pursue. We can't.

If we had access to affordable health insurance, with no exclusion for pre-existing conditions and a lifetime cap so we would not go bankrupt from medical bills:

1. We could be much more pro-active about our health. We might even get health CARE instead of just health insurance.

2. Hubby could retire and work on charitable projects. Or he could take a meaningful, low-paying job without benefits instead of taking a retail job away from someone who really needs it.

3. We could be more generous with our money. Our retirement funds would be more secure, so we could help the kids, donate to our church, and find other worthwhile causes to support.

There are probably other benefits, as well. Let me know if you think of some, and I'll add them! Meanwhile, I need to go find out what Mark Sanford was doing in Argentina.

Talk to you later. Thanks for listening.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Where oh where was Mark Sanford?

(which way did he go?)

When the legislative session ended in South Carolina, Governor Mark Sanford disappeared. For four days, including Father's Day, nobody knew where he might be. Not even his wife.

Turns out he was supposedly hiking the Appalachian Trail. All alone. To "clear his head."

I can understand why he would want to take a little breather. His legislature had just finished over-riding a bunch of vetoes, fighting against, among other things, Sanford's heated objections to accepting federal stimulus money.

That evil stimulus money will now flow into his state, helping teachers keep their jobs and, ironically, funding improvements along the Appalachian Trail. What a calamity.

I'm not so sure I buy the story that Sanford was out hiking. I mean, why wouldn't he explain his plans to his staffers or his wife or at the very least his four sons, who had probably already bought a new tie and a nice card for him?

So where was he? Here are my top ten guesses:

1. He was in detention, writing "I will accept the stimulus money" a thousand times on the blackboard.

2. He was laying down new mulch along the Trail to prove the stimulus funds are unnecessary.

3. He was having an affair with Kate Gosselin.

4. He was in Canada, getting an operation that his U.S. insurance company denied.

5. He was looking for the Republican Party. The wilderness was a logical place to start.

6. He was finalizing the design for his "Sanford 2012" t-shirts.

7. He was working out so he'd have Barack-solid abs.

8. He was showing the world how Americans celebrate Father's Day - by abandoning his four sons.

9. He was making headlines, which is not always a good thing for a politician to do.

10. The legislature told him to "Take a hike." He was just following directions.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Problem solved.

(by jove, i've got it!!)

Wait! Wait! Breaking news alert! The Republicans have health care reform all figured out.

Michael Steele hosted a radio show yesterday, and insisted that the health care crisis is "not that complicated."

Here is a quote from the show:

STEELE: So if it’s a cost problem, it’s easy: Get the people in a room who have the most and the most direct impact on cost, and do the deal. Do the deal. It’s not that complicated.

If it’s an access question, people don’t have access to health care, then figure out who they are, and give them access! Hello?! Am I missing something here? If my friend Trevor has access to health care, and I don’t, why do I need to overhaul the entire system so I can get access he already has? why don’t you just focus on me and get me access?


Here is my ranting:

Mr. Steele, I hate to tell you but you ARE missing something here. Hello ... our current system is controlled by the health insurance companies. And the health insurance companies are not eager to provide affordable access to health care for you, Trevor, or anyone else on the planet. That is not their job. Their job is to make a profit.

So ... if we want everyone to have access to health care, like your fortunate friend Trevor, we need to get the insurance companies out of the picture. Which means, yes, we need to overhaul the entire system.

You're right. It's not that complicated. Let's do the deal.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bunny Lady Behind Bars

(what's not to love?)

And now, for the lighter side of the news ...

An Oregon woman who was apparently obsessed with bunnies was arrested at a hotel on Wednesday, "after an employee reported finding rabbits hopping around in her room."

According to a report on yahoo, the woman had hundreds of rabbits in her home at one point. I will spare you the details. Let's just say they were not all hopping around. She "was sentenced in April 2007 to five years probation and ... was told not to go within 100 yards of a rabbit."

Shortly thereafter, her probation officer became suspicious when the woman would not allow her past the front door. The officer "said she found no rabbits when she finally got inside but did find a half-empty 10-pound bag of carrots."

Ok, now I'm sure this is a serious situation. But can you imagine the conversation between the police and this woman?

Police: Ma'am, please open the door.

Bunny Lady: What's up, doc?

Police: Very funny. We can hear those hopping noises.

BL: Uh... it's just me! (hopping up and down)

Police: There's fur all over your t-shirt.

BL: It's dandruff. The hopping makes it fall faster.

Police: What's that 10-pound bag of carrots for?

BL: What, it's against the law to eat carrots?

Police: Ma'am, please. Stop hopping, and put down the carrots. Just hand over the bunnies and nobody will get hurt. (talking into the walkie-talkie) Need some backup here. Send Elmer. Don't ask.


Friday, June 19, 2009

What can we do?

(any other ideas? let me know!)

I do a lot of ranting. Especially about health care. But to be honest, that doesn't really help the situation. So, in response to a great question ("what can we do?") from MzzLily, I thought I would provide some ideas on things we can do (those of us who favor at LEAST a public option, if not single-payer) to make our opinions heard.

Here are some things you can do;

1. Call or email your representatives. Just google your state and the word "representatives" and you should get a list of who represents which districts.

2. Call or email Chris Dodd, a senior member of the HELP (Health, Education, Labor & Pensions) Committee: Tel: (202) 224-2823 | Fax: (202) 224-1083 or email him here.

3. Sign a petition, or two, or three. You can find one by clicking here, and another here, and another here. If you find more, let me know and I will add them.

4. Get as informed as possible. It's a complex issue, and as the Democrats, Republicans, and bipartisan groups come out with one plan after another, it's only getting more complex. Here is a good place to start, and here is Howard Dean's site that gives a lot of information and action steps.

5. Talk to your friends and family. A lot of people are frightened of the single-payer system because they have heard about "a friend's cousin's aunt" in England who had to wait three excruciating weeks for her gall bladder surgery. But hello ... the health insurance companies are in business to deny coverage, generate profits for fat cats, and shuffle papers while Americans choose between medical care and bankruptcy. If you have a personal story about the problems of the U.S. system, share it. If you have trouble remembering all the statistics (like I do), choose a website such as and simply refer people there.

6. Watch closely. Take note of which politicians stand up for your best interests, and which ones oppose true reform or come out with useless compromises. Then vote accordingly.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Villain Of The Day

(see dick. see dick embezzle. embezzle dick, embezzle.)

What is WRONG with people?? And what is wrong with health care in our country? These 2 questions might be related. Let's see ...

First, let me introduce my Villain Of The Day. His name is Richard Scrushy. Never heard of him? Me neither. Till I saw a story about him on

Richard is the former CEO of HealthSouth, a rehabilitation chain which proudly proclaims on its website that it is "one of the nation's largest healthcare services providers." The company's mission statement includes many lofty ideals including "providing high-quality health care in an innovative, yet cost-effective manner, managing our resources wisely."

Richard was recently ordered by a judge to pay HealthSouth shareholders $2.8 billion dollars because while he was CEO, he found all sorts of innovative ways to "manage" the company's resources. According to the article, his shenanigans "nearly sent the company into bankruptcy."

Here is just one example of Richard's exploits:
HealthSouth purchased 19 acres of land next to Scrushy's suburban Birmingham estate for $1.9 million. Three years later the company gave the land to Richard. Lucky him! Scrushy said he got the land instead of a bonus.

When questioned about his talent for "earning" mucho money for himself while apparently ignoring his company's mission statement altogether, Scrushy replied, "That's the way it works in America."

Ok, first of all, I would love to disagree with Scrushy's statement. But unfortunately, he is right. Just look at the health insurance CEO salaries I listed a few days ago. There is big, big money to be made in health care. So why shouldn't every CEO take his fair share? That's the way it works.

Second of all, we may all agree that corporate profits are the "American way." But holy cow - how much extra cash did this company have lying around, if $2.8 billion worth of scheming NEARLY sends them into bankruptcy??? What the heck would it take to actually HURT their bottom line? Is it possible that perhaps, maybe, somewhere along the line someone is paying too much for their services?

Just asking.

Richard, I am glad the judge is making you pay. And I am delighted to name you my first official Villain Of The Day. Congratulations. You earned it.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Your turn, Sarah

(pick one.)

I'm sure you have already heard about David Letterman's inappropriate joke and the ensuing furor from the Palin family. Just in case you have been comatose for the past week, here is a link. After initially trying to defend the joke, Letterman apologized yesterday.

Now, I am not going to defend the joke. It was clearly out of line. If I was the mom of the daughter in question (regardless of which daughter he was talking about) I would have been livid.


If I was a politician with ambitions on a national (if not global) scale, I would have responded differently. A simple, strong comment would have been sufficient, without comparing the issue to the rape of a child or invoking the U.S. military for a touch of flag-waving:

"Letterman certainly has the right to 'joke' about whatever he wants to, and thankfully we have the right to express our reaction," said Palin in a statement to Fox News, one of many, many statements she made on the issue. "This is all thanks to our U.S. Military women and men putting their lives on the line for us to secure America's Right to Free Speech."

Oh please. This is all thanks to the unabashed political ambitions of a woman who seeks the warm glow of any spotlight, any time, for any reason.

David Letterman apologized. That's good. Now, Sarah, would you like to apologize for ignoring the hatred of the crowds you so effectively whipped up during the campaign? or for insinuating that our President is a terrorist?

Would you care to apologize to the women in Wasilla who were forced to pay for their own rape kits?

At the very least, could you apologize to that poor turkey whose beheading provided a gruesome backdrop to your peppy interview about pardoning the other turkeys, who I guess must have been Republicans?

No. I didn't think so.


Monday, June 15, 2009

On $econd thought ...

(let's charge for health insurance on a sliding scale.
here is the formula: add up your bank balance ... then send it in)

Maybe we don't need health care reform after all. I mean, why should we have a public insurance plan? Surely a government plan would have a lot of fraud and waste. The private sector is better at staying competitive.

Take these "competitive" CEO salaries, for example. Clearly the private insurance companies are watching every penny so they can serve their customers' best interests.

(2008 compensation - from

* Ron Williams - Aetna - Total Compensation: $24,300,112.
* H. Edward Hanway - CIGNA - Total Compensation: $12,236,740.
* Angela Braly - WellPoint - Total Compensation: $9,844,212.
* Dale Wolf - Coventry Health Care - Total Compensation: $9,047,469.
* Michael Neidorff - Centene - Total Compensation: $8,774,483.
* James Carlson - AMERIGROUP - Total Compensation: $5,292,546.
* Michael McCallister - Humana - Total Compensation: $4,764,309.
* Jay Gellert - Health Net - Total Compensation: $4,425,355.
* Richard Barasch - Universal American - Total Compensation: $3,503,702.
* Stephen Hemsley - UnitedHealth Group - Total Compensation: $3,241,042.

No comment. No ranting. Just wow.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Health Care Reform ... Truth or Consequences

(hmmm ... who should we kill today?)

As you may have noticed, health care reform is my 'hot button' issue. I'm not really a worrier, but for most of my adult life I have worried about my health insurance.

- When I have health insurance, I worry about losing it.

- If I am paying my own premiums, I worry about the ridiculous price increases every year.

- Right now I am worried about my husband losing his job - mostly because it would mean we would lose our health insurance.

Even when I'm worried about a health issue such as, say, hypothetically, high blood pressure, my REAL worry is "Will my health insurance company find out?" This is why my primary care physician at the moment is the self-serve blood pressure machine at WalMart.

I have been trying to follow the health care debate in Congress. I have even been trying to be impartial. It's not easy to uncover the facts.

Of course, Congress is trying to be helpful. Just recently:
  • The Democrats in the Senate released a proposed bill. It is 615 pages long.
  • Fortunately, they also provided a summary.
  • Ditto for the House.
  • The Republicans came out with an outline of their own.

I will give you a few minutes to peruse these links. I'll just be over here, eating some potato chips - er, I mean low-sodium Triscuits.

All done?

Ok. Now here's what has me ranting today:

John Boehner, the House Republican Leader, published a list on his website entitled Top 10 Facts About House Democrats' Health Care "Reform" Legislation. Most of his Top 10 Facts are highly debatable. Let's look at the first three. My ranting will follow each point, in red.


1. A Government Takeover of Health Care. The House Democrats’ plan will create a new government-run program, will make health care more expensive, limit treatments and ration care, and put bureaucrats in charge of medical decisions rather than patients and doctors. Translation: higher costs, lower quality, and fewer choices for patients.

The boogey-man is here! Government participation is bad, bad, bad. Let's keep the control in the hands of the insurance companies, where it belongs.

2. Forcing More than 100 Million Out of their Health Care. The House Democrats’ plan will force more than 100 million Americans out of their current health care plan and onto the government rolls. A Lewin Group study confirms that under a new government-run health plan millions will lose their current health care coverage.

The link does not take you to the study. It takes you to another Boehner page. If you follow the bouncing links long enough, you will find that the study says that millions of Americans will lose their coverage because the government plan will put the insurance companies out of business.

Now, think about this -
1. The Republicans say the government is big and clumsy and cannot be trusted to set up a workable program.
2. But on the other hand, the government's program will be so attractive and wonderful, millions will flock to it and the poor little insurance companies will be unable to compete.
3. Hmm

3. Rationing Health Care Treatments. The House Democrats’ plan establishes an “advisory committee” that will put bureaucrats and politicians in charge of deciding patient treatments and cures. Translation: The government will make health care treatment decisions rather than doctors and patients.

Ok, this is the one that really made me mad. I searched all bazillion pages of proposals for information on this "advisory committee" that supposedly will tell your dying grandmother she is too old for dialysis and the kidney transplant is going to a young Democrat instead.

Feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but the way I read it, the advisory committee will simply establish a baseline of essential services that every health insurance policy will be required to cover.

A board of government-appointed evil scientists (or, even worse, bureaucrats!) eager to ration our health care and make life or death decisions ... it's a frightening thought. It's a great scare tactic. The only problem is - it's simply not true.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hellooooo out there

A few days ago, I discovered a blog on my congressman's website. He is a doctor, and he is involved in Republican healthcare reform, which is in my opinion an oxymoron.

Anyway - I was browsing his website looking for details on what, exactly, Republican healthcare reform would look like. I didn't have much luck, but I did find a Congressional Health Care Caucus blog.


Maybe I could find a link to their plan. (nope)
Or read some comments from other interested persons. (nope)
Or post a comment and get a response. (nope)

So far I have posted two comments. Neither one has been published on the blog. Neither one has been answered. I'm thinking I will post a comment every day until I finally get a response. Or my email is blocked by the CIA. Either one.

I'll let you know.


Saturday, June 6, 2009


This week, two events happened almost simultaneously.

First, Osama Bin Laden released another tape, accusing President Obama of "sowing the seeds of hatred" around the world.

And second, my husband received an email.

Ha! You probably thought I was going to talk about the president's speech in Egypt, and how he is clearly reaching out to the Muslim world and making Bin Laden's vitriole sound ridiculous, unlike another president whose endless, bumbling saber-rattling made even some Americans think about releasing tapes of their own.

Nope. That would be too easy. Let's talk about my husband's email instead.

The email was supposedly from a Chrysler dealer in Michigan, whose franchise has been terminated. I am always suspicious about this type of email, mostly because they tend to be very well written. Let's face it, there are not that many eloquent writers among the average supposed American car dealers, or soldiers supposedly stationed in Iraq, or businessmen supposedly going out of business because they are being taxed to death by Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.

But my husband has received forwarded emails from all these and more. All very well written.

Anyway, let's assume it really was a car dealer writing. Fine. The email was complaining about Obama taking over GM and Chrysler, which I suppose is true. I don't think his ambition is really to run a couple of over-sized, out-dated car companies, but in an attempt to save their butts, the government did take them over.

The dealer was upset about losing his franchise. Fine. Totally understandable. He stands to lose a great deal of money. But if the "free market" had its way, GM and Chrysler would already be under. So the result would have been the same. At least the way it all unfolded, he should have had some inkling that trouble was on the horizon. I mean, he should have been running a clearance sale for months, right?

Ok. Now we get into the ranting part. The email ended by comparing the government's take-over of Chrysler with the Nazi's "Crystal Night," a violent pogrom against Jews in which glass was shattered, synagogues were destroyed, homes were ransacked and thousands of men, women and children were arrested and deported to concentration camps.

The comparison, to me, is not only offensive - it is dangerous.

The conservative fringe-ers love to insinuate that Obama is a communist, a fascist, a radical Muslim, a Nazi, or even the anti-Christ. They don't usually use those words. But the insinuation is there. And their eloquent emails, editorials and "news" stories have the power to inflame and convince otherwise sane, compassionate people.

Think about it. If Americans read these emails and get all up in arms and react with the outrage that was exactly the author's intent, we are validating Osama bin Laden's words.

We are making it perfectly reasonable for young, impressionable middle-eastern men to consider becoming martyrs. After all, if we think our country is The Great Satan, why shouldn't they?

We are "emboldening the enemy" as someone whose middle name begins with W used to say.

We are missing a chance to lead the world (including our own wonderful-but-not-perfect country) in a new, better direction.

Let's not miss it. Please.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Goofiness is bigger in Texas

(as you can see, Texas has way too many roads already)

And you thought YOUR state was weird.

The Texas state legislature has adjourned for the summer. But oops, they forgot to handle some little business before they left. I think they were too busy having a Good Ol Texas Brawl or a Shootout At The OK Corral or something.

While our fine upstanding lawmen were puttin' up their dukes about a voter ID law, they ran out of time to pass a resolution to keep 5 major state agencies up and running, including the Transportation Department.

Oh well.

Once we secede from the union, we won't need all those pesky roads anyway. We'll just saddle up and ride off into the sunset. I'm hoping Governor Perry will lead the way.

Yee haw.