HEALTHCARE.GOV WORKS!… Warning: May Cause Ruminations on Mortality

by Kevin

When I succeeded in securing health insurance on line at  healthcare.gov, the thought fluttered through my mind that now, with REAL health insurance, I would live forever in good health.

When I succeeded in securing health insurance on line at healthcare.gov, the thought fluttered through my mind that now, with REAL health insurance, I would live forever in good health.

Virtually all the news commentators throughout the known media universe have been screaming for months about how the Affordable Care Act enrollment website, healthcare.gov, has not been working perfectly. As a 64-year-old man with an analog brain, who NEVER manages to get electronic technology to work the first time, I was not surprised or alarmed that the website wasn’t working well in October.

Even though I am one of the millions of Americans whose health insurance companies deliberately downgraded our insurance to junk status so that it would be cancelled for not meeting ACA standards (scroll down several posts to read the whole story,) I figured I had until January 1 to secure REAL insurance through the Affordable Care Act, and if the website did not work for me, then enrollment by phone or an actual person-to-person interview would certainly do the trick. What was all the fuss about anyway? Smells like sour grapes to me.

The administration said that most of the website glitches would be resolved by the end of November, so I waited until the day before Thanksgiving to make my first attempt at starting to secure REAL health insurance on line. After only three hours I had managed to create my profile and my account, provide my financial information, and study the details of some of my early leading candidates for health insurance. No problems whatsoever. I was impressed. And, by the way, if an old technophobe like me can do this without any difficulty, then the website is extremely user friendly, and most people will succeed in a fraction of the time I invested.

The day after Thanksgiving, while others were shoving and punching each other to gain an advantage in the Black Friday super-consumer frenzy, I quietly resumed my online health insurance quest and was once again very pleased with the experience. I spent a grand total of about seven hours on healthcare.gov, mainly reading about the scores of possible insurance programs I could consider. During that time I probably logged on and off about seven times without any difficulty.

Between sessions I made two calls to the Affordable Care Act phone line: 1 800-318-2596, to ask some basic questions. They were very helpful. I also called several insurance providers to clarify their options and make sure my local doctor and hospitals accepted their coverage. I ended up getting in my car and driving to my doctor’s office to talk face-to-face with his receptionist. I really like Dr. Carl Brango, and I wanted to be extra sure that the plans I was considering were okay with him.

I was sorry to see that dental and eye care insurance did not seem to be offered by any of the plans, but finally, I made my choice, triple checked it, and clicked on “ENROLL.” A message immediately flashed on my screen – something like, “Are you aware that you are eligible to select very similar group plans that are more affordable?” Well… no… I had missed that part of the information, because I had just assumed that the more expensive policies would be more comprehensive. Not so. I voided my first choice and did more research, discovering a very similar plan for $110 less per month than the one I had originally selected, offered by the very same company! But the best news of all is that after many years of paying over $550 per month for fake health insurance that could be cancelled or changed at the whim of the insurance company, as it was recently, I will now have much better health insurance for half that price.

Icing on the cake: After I made my final health insurance selection, healthcare.gov delighted me with an option to buy affordable dental insurance as well. I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t been to a dentist in years, despite some pretty serious dental problems. Now for less than $23/ month, I will be able to see a dentist as often as I wish.

I clicked “CONFIRM” to activate all my choices and received congratulations from healthcare.gov, telling me that I had successfully enrolled in health insurance and dental insurance that would begin January first. Ironically, on January 15th I will begin researching my healthcare options all over again, because I will be eligible for Medicare starting March first, since I will turn 65 in March, and they recommend beginning the process of applying, choosing a plan and securing supplemental insurance, six weeks before the program starts.

I don’t mind. I am just so relieved to have REAL health insurance after decades of paying high prices for fake insurance in the individual market. I will no longer have to lie about my family health history or hide my own pre-existing conditions from my health insurance provider. I won’t have to go to free clinics or university health studies or pay for secret medical services out of my own pocket to prevent my health insurance provider from finding out about a condition and potentially canceling or changing my policy. I will have REAL health insurance that I can use without fear of cancellation or policy change for two months through the Affordable Care Act. Thank you President Obama! And then I will be covered by Medicare for the rest of my life. Thank you President Johnson!

When the congratulatory statement from healthcare.gov appeared on my screen, I was elated, and for just a brief instant I felt the invincibility of youth again. I sensed just a hint of a taste from the Fountain of Youth. The thought fluttered through my mind that now with REAL health insurance I would live forever in good health. After all… that is certainly what REAL health insurance would do for us, right? It would insure that we’d live from now on in a state of perfect health. Alas, the fantasy lasted only an instant before reality closed in around me again – mortality.

An old monk once told me, “The body has to find some excuse to go.” And besides, the science of medicine may be doing some wonderful things, but it is still in its infancy. Too often today’s cures are as lethal as our diseases. Sadly, health insurance does not insure our health yet. But at least it may finally begin to insure that we can all get the basic healthcare we deserve as a human right, when we are physically ill or injured. This tremendous benefit has been a long time coming. From my point of view it was well worth the short wait while a few website bugs were resolved. Check it out… healthcare.gov works!

 

OBAMA CARES ENOUGH TO FIGHT FOR “OBAMACARE”

by Kevin
 
President Obama’s strategy behind his news conference yesterday, Nov 14, 2013, was brilliant. The untold story of this botched “Obamacare” role-out is the opportunistic actions of the health insurance companies who created the cancelled policies part of the problem. They lunged at the opportunity to purge undesirables from their client ranks by simply rewriting their policies to levels below Affordable Care Act compliance, so that those policies had to be cancelled.  This is exactly what they did to me and many others. I think I will frame my cancellation letter as proof that we in the individual market have never had real insurance, because our health insurance companies could change or cancel our policies any time they wanted to. That’s not insurance… it’s a scam!
 
Mr. Obama is smart enough to know that he could not just directly expose the health insurance industry as the culprits behind this part of the ACA role-out debacle without creating a booming outcry about sour grapes and buck-passing. So, instead, he very wisely took all the blame on himself, appearing and sounding more contrite than any other president in my lifetime, even though almost every single one of them had many more reasons for sincere contrition than the current president.

President Obama’s self-effacing and self-sacrificing platform of humble contrition allowed him to say that if the insurance companies wanted to reinstate us — the 2 or 3% of self-insured Americans whose policies they have cancelled — and if the state healthcare commissioners will approve it, then he is all for it. In one deft move Mr. Obama shifted the blame for these cancellations from himself back to their rightful source, the insurance providers, and he did so without appearing to try to pass the buck or deny his responsibility for this mess.
 
Of course the health insurance industry began screaming bloody murder within minutes of the president’s statements. They thought they had gamed the system to get rid of old farts like me, who are bad risks, without taking a public relations hit. Now the onus is back on them, where it has always belonged, and they don’t like it. They thought they had found a free windfall, but now they are whining that they may need to raise everyone’s rates if they have to keep people like me on their roles, again trying to blame the president for their own greed.
 
Well, I have good news for them. I have no intention whatsoever of remaining a client of Blue Cross, who sent this old fart a cancellation letter. I will plunge into the ACA open market and find a new provider, even if I have to pay more. Why? Well, first and foremost, because I want real insurance that cannot be cancelled or changed at the profit-mongering whim of an insurance company. If I were to remain with the grandfathered fake insurance policy, I would not have the ACA protections. I would still be in the old healthcare system, which was a lie. I would have to hide any serious conditions from them for fear of cancellation.
 
I am healthy now, but for 17 years I struggled with chronic Hepatitis B, and I hid it from my health insurance companies in the independent market, because I didn’t want to be cancelled and denied insurance, which is exactly what would have happened if I had let them know of my condition. Instead I paid for healthcare out of my own pocket on top of my health insurance premiums, and I sought the secret services of free clinics and university medical studies. I know many independent contractors who can tell this same story. That wasn’t insurance. I wasn’t really insured. It was a lie.
 
And besides, now that these virtuous and altruistic health insurance companies (sarcasm) have downgraded policies for old farts like me, it would be dangerous to keep them, because they wouldn’t provide sufficient coverage in the event of hospitalization. We need real insurance and they aren’t providing it now, even though I am paying $7,000 per year for it and I am in good health approaching age 65.

In fact, health insurance companies have never provided real insurance to the American public as a whole, while they were denying people coverage for pre-existing conditions, charging women more for the same coverage, cancelling policies when people became sick, and raising premiums 10 or 20% every year so that 40,000,000 Americans could not afford coverage. That was shameful! No civilized society behaves that way.
 
The only sin President Obama has committed in regard to this healthcare debacle was deciding not to direct the role-out of the ACA website personally. He thought he should delegate that responsibility to Internet experts, because he had a few other things to do — chief among them, making sure that real healthcare insurance for all Americans survived its journey through the legislative swamp of Capitol Hill. But no good deed goes unpunished, they say, and President Obama is living proof of that axiom.
 
I predict, however, that a year or two from now, only the most hardened right-wing ideologues will want to return to the days when nobody had real health insurance and the whole system was a lie. The Affordable Care Act will become as cherished and untouchable as Social Security and Medicare, because it will provide a pathway to health and higher quality longevity for scores of millions of middle and lower class Americans who would not otherwise be able to provide it for themselves.

 

Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry — 1st Letter from Kevin

Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry,

I have voted for both of you collectively three times for the Presidency, and I thank you for your steadfast service to our country in a time of peril. I also attended the Feb 17, 2013 “Forward on Climate” Washington D.C. rally with 40,000 concerned citizens, sponsored by the Sierra Club and 350.org, to ask you not to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. The world is now in a state of severe climate change crisis caused by human activity. We need your leadership to preserve the Earth as a habitable home for future generations of all life.

Some have said that Canada will exploit the double-carbon, bitumen-saturated tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do.” That may be true, but is it moral and ethical for the U.S. to be complicit in this tar sands crime against the Earth and future generations? Famed NASA climatologist James Hansen has said, “If Canada proceeds and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.” When he was asked to articulate three reasons why you, Mr. President, should reject the tar sands Keystone XL Pipeline, he replied, “Our children, our grandchildren; the other species on the planet; and Creation.”

Scientists all over the world and your own supporters are asking you to do everything in your power to stop the KXL Pipeline. Read the Potsdam Report commissioned by the World Bank. Time Magazine on March 3, 2013 said, “There are many climate problems a President can’t solve, but Keystone XL isn’t one of them. It’s a choice between Big Oil and a more sustainable planet.” As 350.org founder Bill McKibben says, authorizing the KXL would be like approving an 800,000 barrel/day fuse to one of the planet’s biggest carbon bombs. Please come down on the right side of history and stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.

2OL The Corn is Dead... Whats Next ART

Here’s my own art for one of my many blog articles about what is happening to the Earth, “The Corn Is Dead… What’s Next?” – July 23, 2012 at http://TwoOldLiberals.com . Read it at http://TwoOldLiberals.WordPress.com/2012/07/23/the-corn-is-dead-whats-next-4/

Your supporter and deeply concerned citizen,
Kevin
co-founder, “HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity,” Lancaster, PA. See our FaceBook page.

 

Join us in DC Feb 17 to MAKE the President Move “Forward on Climate Change”

  • climate change, rally in D.C. environmentalism, 350.org, Sierra Club

    This poster is about the bus from Lancaster to D.C. on Feb 17. Scroll down to see the poster about the bus from York to D.C. the same day

 JOIN 20,000 CITIZENS IN WASHINGTON D.C. ON PRESIDENTS DAY — FEB 17, 2013, FOR CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION

Robert and I will be on one of two big buses Presidents Day, Feb 17, 2013, traveling from York and Lancaster, PA to Washington D.C. We will join 20,000 or more concerned citizens to move “Forward on Climate Change,” sponsored by Bill McKibben and 350.org in conjunction with the Sierra Club. Presidents Day seems like a good time to tell President Obama, Congress, and all fossil fuel companies that we insist on urgent action to halt and reverse climate change so that future generations will inherit a safe, healthy planetary home. We hope you will join us in this peaceful demonstration.

HOW TO JOIN US FOR THE 1-DAY OUTING TO D.C.:

Jerry Lee Miller, climate change, D.C. Forward on Climate Change rally Feb 17, 2013, Presidents Day

Above, The Rev. Jerry Lee Miller, Co-Founder of “HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity” in Lancaster and York, PA (check us out on FaceBook) is never happier than when he is organizing busloads of people to save the planet. Thank you, Jerry, for making this Feb 17 DC trip possible for everyone in South-Central PA!

Please join us on one of the two buses from Lancaster and York. The fare is $35 per person (or $45 angel fare) or pay what you can. Just COME! Bus #1 will leave at 8:30 am SHARP from Lancaster Shopping Center (near Giant between Lititz and Oregon Pikes.) Bus #2 will leave at 9:00 am SHARP from Giant Store Parking Lot, 275 Pauline Drive, York, PA. We will return around 7-9 pm. Make bus fare checks to “HIVE of Planet Loving Activity,” and mail them to The Rev. Jerry Lee Miller, 1140 Louise Ave., Lancaster, PA 17601. Call him for info at 717-519-9166. More info is available at the “HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity” FaceBook page.

Above is the poster for the bus from York, PA to D.C. Feb 17, 2013

Above is the poster for the bus from York, PA to D.C. Feb 17, 2013

MOTIVATION — Why It Is Important to Make a Statement NOW:

1. On July 19, 2012, “Rolling Stone Magazine” published Bill McKibben’s article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” and it went viral. It featured three very sobering numbers:

A. 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees F.) is internationally recognized as the maximum global warming the planet can sustain. The earth has already warmed almost 1 degree Celsius, and there is another 1 degree of inertial warming built into the system even if we halt emissions now.

B. 565 Gigatons of C02 (a gigaton is a million tons) is the maximum sustainable emission permitted by 2050. At current rates of emission, unfortunately, we will reach that level of C02 in the atmoshpere in 15 years, by 2028.

C. 2,750 Gigatons of C02 (5 times the sustainable limit) represents the emissions that will result from the proven reserves of coal and oil and natural gas that fossil fuel companies have promised shareholders they will extract and burn. If this happens, the results will be apocalyptic.

2. Also on July 19, 2012, Reuters confirmed one of the worst droughts in U.S. history, which destroyed crops across the Midwest and exacerbated massive wildfires.

3. On July 24, 2012 NASA’s Godard Space Flight Center released satellite photos of unprecedented Greenland ice sheet melt that occurred from July 8-12, 2012. In the past several years two huge chunks of the Greenland ice sheet have broken off and floated away — both of them much larger than the size of Manhattan.

4. In early November 1000-mile wide mega-storm Sandy wrought $50 billion of damage on the U.S. East Coast. Aside from the loss of property and lives, many people lost businesses, homes and livelihoods. Thousands are still suffering.

5. Recently NOAA announced that 2012 was the hottest year on record for the U.S.

6. In 2012 arctic ice melt encompassed an area larger than the U.S.

7. The oceans are now 30% more acidic, causing sustainability issues of many kinds. The atmosphere is 5% wetter, making more hurricanes and mega-storms like Katrina and Sandy inevitable.

SO… Think About Actions YOU Could Take:

For those of us who understand the apocalyptic implications of these developments for all life on earth, let alone for our daily health and wellbeing, there is a moral imperative to do something. Ask yourself three questions:

A. What can I do?

B. What am I willing to do?

C. What am I qualified to do?

Then decide what you WILL do to help call attention to this global climate emergency and to persuade governments and fossil fuel companies to stop greenhouse gas emissions and switch to safe, sustainable, clean energy.

Most Americans were thrilled to hear President Obama pledge action on climate change in his second inaugural address earlier this week. But the old story about FDR and Social Security applies. When his supporters came to him describing the urgent need for Social Security, FDR is reported to have said something like, “I agree with you. This is the right thing to do. Now… Make me do it!” President Obama needs massive public pressure to support his commitment to respond urgently to climate change. Let’s make him do it!

The time is NOW! If you can stand with 20,000 concerned citizens on President’s Day in Washington D.C. we will join hands and affirm survival strategies for all life forms living on Planet Earth — our only home.

Robert and I and all our friends hope to see you there! — Kevin

THE VALUE OF VALUES: WHY I’M RIGHT AND YOU’RE WRONG (OR YOU’RE RIGHT AND I’M WRONG!)

By Paul

The word “values” is a term that you hear thrown around a lot these days.  When it’s used in the singular we seem mostly to be referencing its more or less literal meaning, having to do with the worth of something, as in the expression, “the value of a dollar,” or something (some thing) being of great (or of little) value.    But what I’m more interested in is the symbolic or metaphorical meaning of the term.  That may at first sound a little abstract, but the application of our values generally in life, and in the political sphere particularly, and the ultimate concrete results of that application in the real world, is anything but abstract.

Let’s begin by agreeing that everybody has values.  You cannot live in human society and not have values.  I don’t care who you are, even the worst, the most hardened, criminal has values.  His (or her) values may not be your values, or my values, but they are values all the same.  So what exactly are we talking about when we use the term values? They are an internalized system often unconsciously, if tenaciously, held, whereby each individual makes judgments about the world, how it works, or how it ought to work, and about people or things in the world.  Most of the time, our values are automatic, that is, we don’t stop and think about them.  We don’t have to.  We know them; we recognize them immediately. They are powerful and they are visceral, as if somehow coming from the profundity of our inner selves.  They are a system, essentially a kind of internalized ruler against which we measure things.  In so doing, we make important decisions about whether an action, a thing, or a person is good or bad, right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate, proper or improper, acceptable or unacceptable, advisable or inadvisable, some may even say sinful or virtuous.  They constitute one of the most important aspects of our lives, because it is essentially by and in accordance with our value system that we make decisions about how to lead our lives.   

Let’s take a simple, if admittedly mundane, example to begin with.  The other day, I was driving to the gym, when a guy cut me off on the freeway, weaving in front of me without so much as a flicker of a directional signal, so much so that I had to slam on my brakes in order to avoid him.  When, a few minutes later, traffic slowed enough that it allowed me to pull up beside him, I saw that he was texting something on his cell phone.  I was furious, and wanted to scream out the window at the guy, telling him what a jerk he was.  I didn’t have to stop and think, “Well, what are my values in this instance?  Am I in favor of following the law when it comes to driving, or do I feel as though it’s OK to ‘multitask’ by driving (more or less), while texting your boss, or you girlfriend, or your damn lawyer, for that matter?”  I knew immediately that he was wrong.  And, aha, as soon as you hear yourself use that word “wrong” (or of course its counterpart, “right”), you know instantly that you have entered into the majestic and hallowed halls of your own value system.  Even in such an innocuous example as this we see two important things about values.  One is that we recognize in an instant what they are and how we feel about them, and two, we often react with emotion.  I knew right away, without thinking, that this guy was wrong; and he really pissed me off!  So, there you have it: immediacy and emotion.  My values are such that I think it’s right, it is proper, it is appropriate for everybody’s safety to follow traffic laws while you’re driving around at 65 miles an hour, and his (apparently) were that it is perfectly proper, appropriate, and acceptable to send an “important message” as soon as the thought strikes, no matter where you are. 

Now, if such a small thing as being cut off on the freeway (it happens all the time, right?) causes such a reaction, what about the bigger issues?  Without getting into where our values come from (a topic of its own for another essay, or a book, or a whole library of books), what values do we hold related to the enormous questions that are facing our country right now?  It seems to me that the political conventions we have seen of late are very good indicators of the things that are valued by each of the parties.  Mitt Romney, for example, mocked the very idea of climate change.  He also spoke of letting people alone and allowing them to exercise their own creativity and make their own way in the world.  Americans act best when they act alone, and we don’t need any help from big government.  At most, we might accept some level of assistance from family, or from church, but government is almost always and everywhere a bad thing.  It was the classic “bootstrap” speech in modern guise.  As Mark Shields cogently remarked on the PBS coverage of the convention, using a baseball metaphor, “Mitt was born on third base, and thought he hit a triple!”  Michelle Obama, on the other hand, in her brilliant and human and very humane speech, and the President, himself, in his, espoused what I thought of as what is best about American society.  They both came out loud and clear for helping those in need (especially when those people don’t have a millionaire daddy, or if they don’t belong to a church that requires everyone to tithe 10% of their income).  They were for justice, for compassion, for service, for mutual assistance, and for inclusion.  In a word (and according to my value system anyway), the Obamas were absolutely right on, and Mitt Romney was dead wrong.  The President even went so far as to mention global warming, and said that climate change was not a hoax.  Most of  the speeches at the DNC may have been about jobs and the economy first of all, and then the so-called social issues secondarily, mainly women’s rights generally, reproductive rights specifically, and allowing (or not allowing) people to marry whomever they may love.  Still, any mention of human-induced changes to the environment has to be a very welcome (and very politically risky) thing.    

So I hail the Democrats for their values.  I also understand that you get elected mostly because you’ve talked believably about the things that people want you to talk about (i.e., what people value).  And I may think that climate change ought to have been front and center in the president’s speech, not merely mentioned.  Still, I get it that no parent is going to spend much time worrying about the future of the world’s climate, if tonight what is most pressing is whether or not there will be enough food on the table for the kids to eat.  I understand that this is a huge problem, and a very human one, and that there are lots of other enormous problems facing this country right now.  Maybe there always have been, but they somehow seem even more numerous and more ominous these days.  Everything from jobs for the millions of the unemployed, to healthcare for those without it, to a staggeringly burdensome public debt that will sooner or later weigh down the entire economy and grind it to a halt, to overpopulation of the globe, to – finally, once again – the warming of the planet to such an extent that it may someday extinguish life in its entirety. 

It’s all so huge, in fact, that it may sound like a job for God, or at least for some kind of superhero, but for the moment I’m afraid all we have to deal with these problems are fallible human beings, and their attendant values.  As such, I for one am in favor of people taking a close look at those values because, believe it or not, it is possible to change them.  You shouldn’t do so without a great deal of self-scrutiny, and some very serious introspection, but it can be done.  I’ve known people who have done so, as no doubt we all do. 

I only hope that whatever changes people make will be for the good. After all, I know that my values are proper and advisable and appropriate, and that those who disagree with me for the most part have values that are improper and inadvisable and completely inappropriate.  I know this because I know it.  I feel it deep inside.  And don’t tell me that I’m wrong either, because, damn it, I know that I’m right!  But then, so do you.  And that’s the problem with values.