Friday, June 29, 2012

Obamacare is upheld

I was listening to an NPR report this morning, about a health insurance agency impacted by the health care law. (I urge readers to play the audio in the link, which is more complete than the transcript). The company in question sells health insurance to private individuals, and based on the pre-reform system, denies coverage to anyone deemed to have a pre-existing condition, or who doesn’t otherwise fit into their narrowly defined parameters. But the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, upheld by the Supreme Court yesterday, outlaws denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions – including a lack of previous insurance. It allows those without insurance to buy into an online health exchange, which means companies like the one in the article will soon be obsolete.

Frankly, I have little sympathy for these people. These are the middlemen of health care, a prime factor in driving costs through the roof. In most advanced countries, the middlemen have been removed from the healthcare equation, helping keep costs down. Fully 5% of our GDP goes to administrative costs in health care – not health care delivery – just pushing paper or the electronic equivalent. That’s one reason why health care costs a lot less in Canada even though life expectancy is three years longer there than in the United States.

As someone who’s held a Property and Casualty license in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, I’ve come to some conclusions about private insurance – its benefits and its limitations. In my opinion, private insurance is a necessary and beneficent safeguard for those wanting to protect their homes or vehicles in the event of a loss. After all, if your home or vehicle is destroyed, the insurance can provide a reasonable replacement. But it’s not the best solution for protecting one’s body - which cannot be replaced. That’s why I’ve long favored a single-payer system and have been lukewarm about Obamacare. Unfortunately, single-payer is not going to happen anytime soon, so a reform of the existing system is the best we can get for now. Within the parameters of the present system, Obamacare gets the most people covered, which means more people paying into the coverage pool and more people getting preventative care, which is less expensive than uninsured people showing up at emergency rooms and winding up financially devastated - often unable to pay the bill and raising the costs for everyone else.

I have had experience with needing health care while being uninsured. It was on July 4, 1987. A very hot morning in Haverhill, Massachusetts, I awakened bathed in perspiration. Groggily, I went to open the window when suddenly my sweaty hand slipped off the wooden frame and went through the glass, opening a bloody wound on my wrist and damaging a tendon. I was rushed to the hospital by my brother-in-law, where the first question asked was about my health insurance coverage. I had none. While in the administrator’s office, I started to go into shock and was taken to an operating room. The very able surgeon repaired the damage to my tendon, closed my wound, and immobilized my wrist in a splint. I was also given his card as I would need therapy afterwards. And there were the medications to pay for. All told, the bill was several thousand dollars – a hefty sum for a young person earning little above minimum wage. (For the record, I paid that bill in its entirety, although it took several years.)

The fact that I didn’t have insurance can be laid on the fact that I had two part time jobs – neither of which afforded me coverage. Also, I can blame my youth and naiveté for not buying my own coverage – hardly uncommon for a 20 year old.

In the aftermath of this crisis, I began to realize that I needed health insurance – and that is when the salesman showed up. He pulled out his three-ring binder, handed me his pamphlets, and explained how the insurance offered by his company offered such great benefits and such a reasonable cost. All I had to do was allow a nurse to visit and administer a routine health exam. We set up the appointment, the nurse visited, and I was examined. As she left, she smiled “you’ll be receiving the results in a few weeks.”

A few weeks later I received a letter, noting that the results of my medical exam indicated that I really needed to get coverage and I should contact that company “right away”. I did, and when I was quoted the cost (which was higher than quoted due to some health condition they wouldn’t discuss with me) I nearly experienced another health crisis. It follows that I did not purchase their coverage – I simply couldn’t afford it. Instead, I experienced anxiety worrying about this mysterious medical condition that no doctor since has been able to confirm. (In retrospect, it was obviously a fabrication designed to frighten me into buying overpriced coverage.) But my anxiety was short lived as I became a full time employee at one of my jobs, and was afforded health insurance as part of the benefits package.

With the confirmation of the health care law by the Supreme Court, people like this travelling scam artist will need to find new jobs. Perhaps they can become televangelists.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Obama: while others spoke, he acted.

I can't imagine any other president, in addition to pushing for the many advances the LGBT community has seen over the last three years and advocating for same sex marriage, also devoting an ad to it. You know the Republicans are going to use this for fundraising fodder among the religious extremists. I'm sure the President knows that as well, and decided to run the ad anyway. Just because President Obama doesn't rant and scream like the extremists of the left or right doesn't mean he hasn't been a forceful advocate for people like us.

To paraphrase Harry Truman: Any LGBT person who votes for Romney should go to Hell.

Obama/Biden 2012.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Romney: Tonal Moderate, Political Reactionary

People are so easily fooled.

I’ve met many Republicans who’ve told me they don’t agree with the way religious extremists have taken over their party over the past few decades. My stock response of “Well, what are you doing to change that?” has usually been met with a blank stare. Truth is, moderate Republicans (who used to be mainstream Republicans a generation ago) are averse to confrontation. They are willing to offer Tea & Sympathy, but unwilling to rock the boat. One rarely hears a moderate Republican - whether federal, state, or local - challenge their party’s stance on a host of social issues from birth control, to separation of church and state, to LGBT rights. One may cite Ron Paul, but judging by the repugnant newsletters that were published under his name, his recent conversion as the “tolerant” Republican seems insincere at best. One prominent Republican to make such a stand was Massachusetts Governor William Weld, who was roundly booed at the 1996 Republican National Convention when he stated that the government should stay “out of... your bedroom”.

Every election cycle has at least one candidate who wants to bring the joys of the Dark Ages to modern America: 1988 had Pat Robertson, 1992 and 1996 had Pat Buchanan (1996 also had B-1 Bob Dornan), 2000 had Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer. The Democrats are not immune to this phenomenon either. Anyone remember when David Duke ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1988? Then there’s Lyndon LaRouche. Fortunately, none of these people ever got the nomination.

The last year certainly showed some extremism from the Party “faithful” (pun intended). Has either party ever seen a nuttier group of candidates than Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, or Rick Perry? By contrast, Romney looked relatively sane even when trying to explain away the Seamus controversy. Then there were their supporters. There’s very little of the “kind and gentle” in the current incarnation of the Republican Party.

Even the two openly gay Republican groups, Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud have not made significant leeway in making their party more tolerant. I’ve met some of these characters, and I can assure you, they are not on the side of the average LGBT working person. They’re largely trust-fund babies with soft hands. I won’t hurl the common invective referring to gay Republicans as Jewish Nazis – that’s offensive to history and the memories of the many – including gay men – who perished in Nazi death camps. But gay Republicans can certainly be compared to “collaborators” – people who may or may not have been Nazis in their hearts, but who went along with the Party for personal gain. They may not have operated the showers in the camps, but they were enablers at best. The same is true for gay Republicans. Nearly every gay Republican I’ve met has been motivated by either greed or the most virulent racism. But their endorsement of Mitt Romney as someone who would be softer on LGBT issues than Rick Santorum or Michele Bachman has given Romney a veneer of acceptability to those who are looking for an excuse to vote for him.

There is no substantial difference between Romney and Santorum on social issues – particularly with regard to LGBT rights. They both favor passage of a Constitutional Amendment that would forbid states from recognizing same-sex marriage and would nullify existing same-sex marriages – including mine. For Romney to support such an amendment limiting marriage to “one man and one woman” is particularly ironic as his own ancestors were polygamists. Romney is as hateful as the worst of them, but he doesn’t stamp shout and scream about it, so some don’t pick up on it. The difference is tonal, but not substantial. Bigotry spoken with a smile and soft tone is still bigotry.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fitness Quest: Losing weight for the wrong reason

I have been blessed with a resilient digestive system. It’s a mixed blessing, however. When one can eat nearly anything without being adversely affected, one usually does. Prior to last weekend, the last time I had a bout with intestinal illness was in the middle 1990s – the last time before that was 1986.

Then last Friday night, I started to feel unwell. By 2am Saturday, the sweat started pouring, that green feeling started, and I was bent over the commode while my engines reversed. That’s as graphic as I’m going to get. But my engines reversed three times over the course of that Saturday, and I didn’t feel better until Monday afternoon. Naturally, all my weekend workouts were cancelled – as was a planned trip to Parade the Circle and Gordon Square.
I did a half workout Tuesday before feeling dizzy and stopping. I resumed my normal workout schedule Friday and now feel in the peak of health.

6/17/2012 208 1/2 #

The GOP Plan

Make no mistake, this has been the GOP's plan since at least the 1990s. It amounts to a redistribution of wealth, from the middle class to the 1% - a reversal of the policies that created the middle class - with the end point being a modern version of feudalism, in which the Corporations are Lords. If Mitt Romney is elected, the GOP will be able to bring that plan to fruition.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Goodbye Bally

I’ve been health club shopping lately. The local health club landscape has seen significant alteration over the last few months. Planet Fitness has moved into the former Barnes & Noble space at Richmond Town Square. 24 Hour Fitness is on Mayfield Road near Lander. Last week, I tried Urban Active at Legacy Village. A vast array of equipment, all well-maintained; cardio movie theater; scrupulously clean locker room, pool, sauna & steam. But something about that place rubbed me the wrong way, beyond the price – there was a testosterone fused meat-headedness about the place that I found very off putting. The staff reeked of attitude and cheap cologne, and much of the clientele was there more to be seen than to workout.

This points to the question of whether I need a membership beyond what I already have at Progressive’s Fitness Center. As it is, I’m already at the location four days a week (I work from home one day per week), and it’s just a short drive on the weekends. True, there is neither a swimming facility, hot tub, nor track – but I don’t often swim and if I want to walk there are lovely outdoor paths. Truthfully, the only reason I worked out elsewhere was to psychologically separate myself from work concerns.

I recently ended a years’ long association with Bally Total Fitness. The nearest location, at Severance Town Center, had been closed for a week before I even knew of it. There was a time when BTF was virtually the only game in town besides the “Y”, and the most challenging thing about going there was finding a time to beat the crowds. But BTF has been going downhill for at least a decade. The company filed for bankruptcy reorganization at least twice during past decade. The Severance BTF, despite being the newest locally, was in especially sorry shape. Equipment was often in need of repair, weights were not properly racked or missing, and the place was often dirty. Don't get me started on the locker room - rusted lockers with the bottoms falling out, stopped up sinks, puddles in the lavatories, filthy showers, and detritus on the floors. Unacceptable by any first world standards. Add to this the fact that the Severance location didn't have a running track or swimming pool (just a little whirlpool that was often closed). The weekend staff was usually late to open the club and invariably surly. The nearest locations are in Beachwood, Willoughby, and Maple Heights (the latter two have many of the same problems as Severance), thus it was a no brainer for me to cancel my membership.

So for now, I go to work in order to work – or to workout.