Friday, February 29, 2008

That's okay, John -

Via Raw Story:
"I'm a proud conservative, liberal Repub -- uh, conservative Republican," McCain said, trying to stuff his Freudian slip back into his mouth.


The "proud ... liberal" slip wasn't McCain's only brush with what Freud might say was an inadvertent revelation of his subconscious thoughts. Early in the speech, railing against negative campaign ads, McCain said the following:

"I want to assure you that ... I will conduct a respectful debate. Now, it'll be dispirited -- it'll be spirited -- because there are stark differences."
That's okay. I understand.

My mother does the same thing.

She has Alzheimer's.

The way it should be

She is a breast cancer survivor of ten years standing, and I was glad to sit down with her to hear of her experiences and share some of the anxieties.

She is an employee of many years with a large company; one that offers health insurance and many other benefits to it's employees.

Over the years, the deductibles have risen dramatically, the co-pays have increasing along with it, the premiums have risen to the breaking point, the coverage has become more limited and much more expensive.

And she bemoaned the fact that I am without insurance.

She's wrong...as a cancer patient, health insurance is one 'blessing' I can do without.

Nearly every step of her journey was scrutinized by her health insurer; bean counters pored over every procedure, every treatment, every diagnostic test. Precious time was wasted when she had to get a second, and on one occasion, a third opinion on a type of medication.

She had to wait extra, gut-wrenching, dry-heaving weeks for the approval on anti-nausea medication. And she never did qualify for reduced pricing on some of the other medications.

Ten years later, she is still repaying debts that piled up with several physicians. In most cases, the insurer paid on average about 70% of her bills, but 70% is like a thimbleful of water from the ocean when you're talking about battling cancer.

In the middle of the battle, her employer changed health insurers. It wasn't the first time, but with the new insurer her medical team was 'out of network'. She was required to switch from her trusted physicians to a different set of physicians and facilities with all the attendant delays, paperwork duplication, and medical record nightmares.

And now her employer has gone through a rigorous 'restructuring'. New management is making her life hell and her fondest wish is to quit her job and find employment elsewhere.

That's not an option for a cancer survivor in these days and times. Their group health insurance, as twisted and venal and frustrating and expensive as it is - has to be held onto at all costs.

And yet - she bemoans the fact that I am not armed with health insurance as I sally forth to do my own battle.

From moment one, when I entered the emergency room with chest pain and shortness of breath - gasping to the desk clerk that I was uninsured - I have never in one moment of time been denied any diagnostic procedure, any treatment.

There has never at any time been a delay. Not one precious moment has been wasted. When I needed an outrageously expensive medication for a side-issue, I only had to wait twelve hours while the hospital pharmacy ordered it (they didn't keep it in stock). When it arrived, it was given to me with no hesitation and no second-guessing the doctor who prescribed it.

I've been referred to various specialists, and always dread the ordeal of facing their financial office first. But when I tell them I have applied for Social Security Disability and Adult Medicaid - there are no questions, no signing my life away on debt repayment plans, and no waiting for approval from Mr. Insurance Company.

There may be some mouthbreathers who grumble about people like me 'taking advantage' or leeching off the taxpayer...but I have been working and paying taxes to Mr. FICA longer than most of them, as does Mr. Andante, Andantette, my father before me, and legions of other law-abiding, tax-paying heroes.

When and if those mouthbreathers face their own catastrophic, epic health battle - they will know the truth.

And the truth is - this is the way it should be.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Good enough for me - the Collective Sigh endorsement

Can we have a little sanity in the Obama vs. Clinton health insurance debate?

Look - both plans are vague; neither delivers everything progressives could wish for.

Neither are finished products.

I am happy that whichever candidate prevails, there will be a focus on creating something along the lines of universal health insurance.

And it really doesn't matter that much what they say NOW...what matters is how Congress will fiddle with the plan, who is a mover and shaker behind which elements, and so forth. Chances are we won't see a final product for many moons.

I was fully prepared to enthusiastically support John Edwards as the 2008 Democratic presidential candidate - but because of the health insurance plan, I was equally fully prepared to enthusiastically support Chris Dodd.

In fact, I believe Dodd's plan was/is superior to Edwards'.

Check out the comparison chart (best viewed in Internet Explorer).

Note that Dodd's plan included an automatic enrollment "for those who fail or are unable to directly enroll and choose plans".

Yes, I know - single-payer is the first-best choice, but we're being pragmatic here.

Note also that Dodd's plan PROHIBITED 'medical underwriting' - the nefarious 'pre-existing conditions'. Not just discouraged...prohibited.

Note that Dodd's plan encompassed ONE 'Universal Health Mart' rather than regional plans, making it more affordable and more portable.

Note the definite timeline for implementation in Dodd's plan.

This was good stuff from Dodd. Good, progressive thinking towards a progressive solution.

And now that Sen. Dodd endorses former rival Obama, I feel quite satisfied to throw my support - such as it is - to Barack Obama.

With Senator Chris Dodd to nip at his heels, I believe Obama can use the presidential bully pulpit to move this country toward a more humane, sensible, and affordable health care climate.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday's profound observation

Ordering a patient to FAST from midnight until a 1:00 pm procedure is cruel and inhumane punishment.

Here it is, 7:00 a.m. and I'm already climbing the walls.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Gotta love Drudge

I love that big, honkin' screaming headline I saw today - "NOW THAT HE'S SECURED NOMINATION: NYT DOWNLOADS ON MCCAIN"

...all together now - "you've got to wonder at the timing..."

Yessir - too bad the NYT didn't do their downloading back a couple months ago; we might have had the Mittster or Grandpa Fred or Huckster or Mr. Over $50 Million For One Delegate as the Republican nominee.

Would Republicans be any happier?

Crybabies. They should be down on their knees in prayer, thanking the weeding out process for leaving only the marginally least deranged.

And that ain't sayin' much.

I still sort of long for the spectacle we would have been treated to if Giuliani had the spotlight turned on his past.

The universal health insurance quandry

Very interesting Walter Shapiro piece in Salon on universal health insurance.

Yes - I do agree that in order to achieve a universal plan, it must be mandated. But it must also be affordable.
Both candidates find it in vogue to be vague when it comes to detailing how their subsidy plans would work. Obama promises, "Individuals and families who do not qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP [State Children's Health Insurance Program] but still need assistance will receive income-related federal subsidies to keep health insurance premiums affordable." How large a subsidy and precisely what "affordable" means are puzzles presumably to be worked out after the election.

Clinton does a bit better with her pledge to offer a refundable tax credit "to prevent [health insurance] premiums from exceeding a percentage of family income." Asked what percentage of family income, Neera Tanden, the policy director for the Clinton campaign, said, "There are numbers on the order of 5-to-10 percent. Obviously, we would like it to be at the lower end. But that's the kind of thing that you work on with Congress."
The question is - what is 'affordable'? Speaking for our personal situation, we would find that 10% out of our range, certainly if it included high deductibles, co-pays, etc.

And probably even more pertinent - how would we hold private insurers to any 'affordable' standard? Good luck with that one.

Single-payer is still the best thing going. It galls me that Americans may have to settle for less, but realistically speaking - the nibble-around-the-edges and deal-with-the-devil of private insurers may be the only choice for the near future.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Interesting-to-only-me "Vacation" blogging

I am in the midst of one of my brief chemotherapy "vacation", and so far all is going well or at least better. No side effects...YET...they normally don't make their ugly appearance until after the three day treatments are over. I've had two - the next one (tomorrow) is outpatient. But I've also been able to eat some solid food, and I am hoping that will help with the fatigue.

I have completed and submitted the exhaustive application for Adult Disability. What an ordeal - as it should be. They leave no stone unturned, trust me. Telephone interviews to follow, and some more forms to be submitted. Due to my diagnosis, my application is supposed to be expedited. After which Medicaid kicks in, which will be a considerable relief.

My crowning glory, such as it is, is indeed coming out by the handful. At the moment, I've stocked up on some nice turbans and bandanas, including one that has little sparkly beads all over. Wigs are way to $$$ for the decent kind, ditto hats. I may stick a big red feather into a turban, just for fun.

I'm investigating some wacky scarves that I shall wear with big hoop earrings. Maybe I'll hang a sign around my neck that says "Your fortune told - $10".

Hey, it might work as well as all those bake sales & hamburger supper benefits that pass for our Amurikan Health Insurance System, right?

But losing hair to chemo is a sign that the chemo is killing SOMETHING, and that's a good thing.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Real life experience

I'll define 'real life' for the moment and for my own purposes as "those experiences common to the average American citizen".

I don't consider it essential that a presidential candidate have all sort of real life experiences, but it would sway my thinking if they did.

After all, we have wealthy candidates who had a true feel for hardship - Franklin D. Roosevelt comes to mind immediately - and took steps to alleviate it in the face of intense pressure.

Carl has a brilliant take on the experience question that pertains to foreign policy experience:
Perhaps by asking a candidate how he or she thinks they will do in foreign policy, one is really asking, "When you do have to interact with leaders of other countries, can you climb down off your normal master-slave attitudes long enough to behave with the same decency, humility, and respect for others that you would show during your neighbor's backyard barbecue -- that is, before you start tossing back a few?"
And it set me thinking on a few others.

***Have you ever been one of the Great Unwashed & Uninsured Masses? Did you ever have to apply for private health insurance? Or have you been insured by the government or military or your parents or not had that financial worry?

***Have you ever had to 'rob Peter to pay Paul', as in 'have you ever had to skip paying one monthly bill in order to pay another?

***Did you have to work in order to at least partially pay for your college education?

***Have you ever sat in an emergency room waiting area with a sick child at midnight on a Saturday night?

***How many consecutive weeks have you done the family grocery shopping with a limited amount of money available?

***Have you ever racked up debts no related to politics?

Just askin'.

But I'd love to know.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sooper-dooper delegates

Unless you cast your support according to the will of the voters, you ain't so super in my book.

In fact, I'd call you arrogant, anti-democratic, election-stealing pigs.
Clinton advisers rejected the notion that the candidate -- and the party -- would be badly wounded in the general election if the nominee were essentially selected by a group of party insiders.
Much in the same way the electorate won't be royally pissed if the candidate is essentially selected by the Supreme Court?

Not that I have a great voice or a lot of dough - but whichever candidate pulls that stunt has lost me.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

From the horse's mouth

A buddy in Northern Virginia has voted in the primary before the morning rush hour. Lines are huge. Polling places inadequate. Sentiment is overwhelmingly Obama.

It may be an entirely different story in the southern part of the state where the ghost of Falwell still haunts and the undead Pat Robertson still rules.


Monday, February 11, 2008

The Bill comes in

Got the bill today for what was, without a doubt, the most expensive "vacation" I'll ever take.

Just a tad under $32,000.00

We paid at least that much in about four years of premiums; payments to insurance companies that never had to pay a claim as our yearly deductible was so high.

We wuz robbed.

They were never 'insuring' us for a damned thing - just gambling that we wouldn't use a yearly deductible's-worth of health care.

I really HATE being taken for a sucker, but that's what the American public is to the insurance sharks.

A stolen CAUCUS????

Did the Washington state Republican party really try to steal the caucus and throw it to McCain?

Huck has lawyered up. Gawd, I love it.

I may even send a Buck to Huck; just as a little sympathy offering.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

I am a single-issue voter

I was laid up AGAIN in the hospital for a night, which is a long boring story including a 9-1-1- call, a joyride with the mighty EMT's, a stress test, and not much else. Not the best way to celebrate my One-Year-Closer-To-Medicare Day.

I'm Home-Sweet-Home again and hope to avoid such forays in the future.

I had my new toy - a relatively inexpensive laptop - so didn't rely but once on Mr. Teevee for entertainment. But that one time provided this jewel of information - the majority of American people consider 1) the economy, 2) health care, and 3) Iraq as the three top campaign issues.

Pardon me, but - what's the difference?

Get out of Iraq, spend the money on health care (insurance), and therefore improve the economy.

The issue is inseparable. It's a single issue.


Oh..here's an "OY", which in my neck of the wood is "Oh, Yeah..." or "P.S.". My bone scan was excellent. I had braced myself to hear that the cancer had spread, but it hasn't. It may yet, but for today - Victory!


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Thank you, sir - may I have another?

If your mind is still open to any possible goodness in Dubya's "heart", this should slam the door closed:
Bush takes aim at Medicare, Medicaid

Budget Would Freeze Medicare Payments for Most Health Care Providers

President Bush took his proposals to slow Medicare and Medicaid spending to a new scale in his proposed 2009 budget even though previous, more modest efforts to trim the entitlement programs went nowhere.

Over the next five years, the president would reduce by $196 billion the two entitlement programs that provide most of the medical care for the nation's elderly and poor. He would achieve most of the savings in the budget blueprint he submitted Monday by freezing the rates Medicare pays for hospital, nursing home and hospice services for the next three years.
In the meantime, Dubya wants $515.4 billion dollars for the defense department that doesn't even include war expenses in Iraq or Afghanistan.

I know it's getting boring, but I HAVE spent some time recently intimately involved with the health care system and can speak from some first-hand experience.

Despite the fact we have no health insurance, I have not been turned away ONCE from the hospital, the ER, or the Cancer Clinic. When the time comes, I know Hospice will accept me with no financial questions.

I know it's the law the hospital has to treat me - but I have never once been made to feel like a second-class citizen. Step right up, no questions asked, where does it hurt?

As I lay in the Cancer Center, I had ample time to talk to anyone willing to listen - and ample time to listen to anyone who would talk.

The clinic administrator told me himself that while physicians ALWAYS got paid, by hook or by crook, the hospitals and clinics often went unpaid by insurance, private pay, or government programs. They are LAST on the list.

I intend no disrespect to the fine physicians who have tended me - but as I attempt to pay off some bills, the hospital and clinic WILL be first on my list.

I hope I'm getting my panties in a twist over nothing - Dubya talks a lot of sh$t, and surely...SURELY he won't be allowed to gut Medicare and Medicaid further.

But just the idea of doing so should qualify him - and all the other Republicans and Democrat-Lites who brung him - as cold-hearted bastards that deserve nothing less than being tossed out of office.


Monday, February 04, 2008

An extraordinary departure

Another man with a bit o' military experience speaks...

Prince Andrew rebukes America over Iraq
The Duke of York has launched an unprecedented attack on President George W Bush's White House administration for failing to listen more to the advice of the British Government over the Iraq war.

On the eve of a 10-day mission to America in his role as British trade envoy, he told the newspaper that there were "occasions when people in the UK would wish that those in responsible positions in the US might listen and learn from our experiences".

He said that because of Britain's imperial history, it had experience of many of the foreign policy challenges now facing the US.

"If you are looking at colonialism, if you are looking at operations on an international scale, if you are looking at understanding each other's culture, understanding how to operate in a military insurgency campaign - we have been through them all," Prince Andrew said.

"We've won some, lost some, drawn some. The fact is there is quite a lot of experience over here which is valid and should be listened to."

The aftermath of the Iraq conflict fuelled a "healthy scepticism" towards what is said in Washington, and a feeling of "why didn't anyone listen to what was said and the advice that was given".


Recalling his days in the Navy, the Duke said: "I was the glamorous one dressed in a uniform who flew his helicopter and I was there to defend, to be an instrument of Her Majesty's Government whenever and wherever they so chose. And I thought it was frightfully glamorous."

Prince Andrew, who suffered a lengthy spell in the public spotlight over claims of “playboy” activities, said the Falklands War was a formative experience and one that, he says, changed him “out of all recognition” and left “a different view of life”.

Since then he has been to Argentina, visited the country's navy and found himself at a memorial to the Belgrano, an Argentinian warship sunk by the British, which resulted in the loss of 368 lives.
And in another extraordinary departure -
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said last night that the duke’s views had been accurately reported by the International Herald Tribune.
Unlike our Boy King, Buckingham Palace doesn't just shoot from the hip. They have centuries of experience with words that have meaning and they parse them extraordinarily carefully.

In other words, quoth the Palace - "right on, bro"

Indecision 2008

I'm completely undecided between Obama and Clinton, but I won't be voting on Super Tuesday anyway. The North Carolina powers-that-be have made the decision for me by scheduling our primary in May.

By May, I confidently expect the media will be going into orgasmic rhapsodies over Old Man McCain's 'maverick' staight-talkin' jive and praising his longevity as a model for all human beings.

...and treating the Democratic candidate like that crazy aunt who in an earlier day would have been confined to the attic.

Still, I sort of wish someone would take Paul Krugman in one hand and Frank Rich in the other and knock the two together several times.

Just when Rich makes a good case for Obama, along comes Krugman with a good case for Clinton (or more accurately, a good case against Obama).

Krugman is completely right - there can be NO universal health insurance unless everyone is in the pool. Participation MUST be mandated.

Social Security, Medicare - neither of these would work if citizens were allowed to opt out (see Social Safety Net, Republican Dismantling Thereof).

Obama is totally off base by suggesting universal coverage could be achieved without a mandate. Sadly, not everyone is responsible or smart enough to opt in if the Good Fairy of Affordability lands on their nose.

Republicans can huff and puff all they want about "personal responsibility", but there are just as many personally irresponsible Republicans floating around as there are Democrats.

And I find it a bit irresponsible on the Obama campaign's part to be slamming the idea of mandates - it could come back to give them a serious bite in the butt some day soon.

And yet...

As Krugman says "the legislation presidents actually manage to get enacted often bears little resemblance to their campaign proposals".

THAT can work two ways. You could get legislation that is toothless - or you could get an improved version.

After eight years of blatant law-breaking on the BushCo front, I wouldn't be upset at all if a President Obama addressed the mandate issue with an "Oops....my bad".

If enough sensible progressive voices nip at his heels (do you hear me, John Edwards? Chris Dodd?) it's not impossible that a proposal could change.

And my admittedly faulty sense is that Obama would gather together enough goodwill amongst the Circular Firing Squad to get something actually passed.

The Circular Firing Squad would place Clinton squarely in the middle. Bad vibe coming through, I fear.

Then there's Frank Rich and Sunday's "Ask Not What J.F.K. Can Do for Obama".

Oh. My. God.

Am I simply a starry-eyed old 60's fogey who remembers how JFK inspired a generation of activists?

I couldn't even vote back then (you had to be 21), but I doubt LBJ could have crammed through civil rights legislation without the inspiration of JFK before him.

That famous picture - a young Bill Clinton transformed by a handshake from JFK - still speaks loud and clear to me.

The prospect of inspiring a generation to work for the good of the country is something I just can't ignore.

Ah, well - the decision is totally out of my North Carolina hands. I will be sauntering to Ye Olde Polling Place in May, flipping a coin between Kucinich or Edwards, if either should be on the ballot, and letting the Super Tuesdayians make the decision for me.

Do me a favor...make it a good one.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Back to the future

As I get a wee bit of appetite & energy back after my "winter vacation", it's finally time to refocus on something more important than my own health concerns - politics.

And especially - why the hell has it taken the Pro Football Hall of Fame seven long years to admit Redskins wide receiver Art Monk to their hallowed halls?

ABOUT TIME, you jerks. And congratulations to Darryl Green, 20-year premier Redskin cornerback, who made it easily first time around.

Next up - my summary of John McCain's health care reform program -


With that astute analysis out of the way, let me add that I actually agree with all or at least most of his ideas about reforming the system.

We most certainly DO need to streamline paperwork, apply new technology, cut costs, yada-yada - but I really don't know which planet these people live on.

It's a lovely idea - somewhere, there is a land where all people are covered by the VA or the federal plan, work for a benevolent corporation with it's employees health and welfare foremost in it's little mind, or make so much money that health care insurance isn't a concern.

Back on earth - at least in the good old USA - that's just not the case

In the whole dang issue statement, there is only one bare sentence taking a brief nod toward insurance industry avarice and deceit -
" Protect the health care consumer through vigorous enforcement of federal protections against collusion, unfair business actions, and deceptive consumer practices."
Do tell, Grandpa John - which "federal protections" would those be?

I'm no lawyer or legislator, but the only "federal protections" on the books these days seem to be those that protect the insurance companies against loss of profits.

I'd be quite happy to be proven wrong.

In the meantime, I'm taking a long, hard look at the Clinton versus Obama health care initiatives.

Having spent some time immersed in the belly of the beast, let me state categorically that the problem is NOT with health CARE - it's health insurance that needs to be the focus of any reforms.

Yes - cost-saving measures are prudent to any system and any reform. But until you cut away the evil, soul-destroying bacterial greed of the insurance companies - you got squat.

I am morally committed to casting my presidential vote to anything with a (D) next to the name, but if Obama or Clinton want my time, energy, and a few bucks - show me some grit.

Tell the bastards to take their ill-gotten gains and invest them somewhere else. We can and MUST do health care coverage better.


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