The Age of Medicare

Last week I visited with my contact at the Social Security Administration. All very nice, as long as you follow the script. But, no sense of humor. The young woman I met with was very polite and intent on doing her job as defined in some obscure employee manual. She was most concerned that I understood that not telling her the truth was a federal crime. She explained that point to me three times: at the outset of the appointment, just prior to starting her set of standard questions and then again at the end of the interview. I hope I told the truth at all times. Being almost 65 makes my ability to remember all facts slightly suspect. I came armed with proof of my birth. (Certificate of Live Birth, being suspect these days, I was a little worried about that. Needlessly, as it turned out.) I also brought my marriage certificate, my Social Security Card and my latest statement from the SSA itself. But, all she really required was my drivers license! She did deign to review my birth certificate because I gave it to her in response to her questions about my place of birth. But as she reviewed that document, she still had to ask me what city I was born in as if to test my ability to read my own history.

The most amazing thing was the fact that the government knows more about me than I can remember: when I worked and did not work, my ex-husband’s retirement status, my own status, dates I married and divorced, and so forth. I was amazed. Whoever says their life is not an open book, has not sat down with a SSA agent recently!

I declined to “file a claim” for SSI as I am still working and do not have a retirement date in mind. I was interested in enrolling in Medicare however as my own health care provider is intent on moving over to the single payer provider it seems. That is so that they can get my high-risk aged self off their books and then offer me the “supplemental” health care where the government takes the major risk and they come along for the ride and collect their pound of flesh. Ah, well. I decided to enroll in Parts A and B. I then found out I have to find my own carrier for Part D as it is optional and is not managed by Medicare itself.

As luck would have it, when I returned home, the USPS had delivered a package from our health care broker (yes, everyone gets a little piece of that medical care premium you pay every month.) which weighed in at least 2 pounds! I have not yet found the courage or time to plow through that bundle page by page. However, I did see immediately, that for some obscure reason Blue Shield does not offer Medicare Part D in the region in which I reside! I will never understand all the mumbo-jumbo surrounding health care. I swear.

I will be contacting our agent for a more thorough explanation, of course. But it will not change the facts.

The thing is: how did I get so old as to qualify for single-payer health care in America?

Tightening the Belt

Here I sit, Sunday morning, enjoying the view from my kitchen table…


And, I do mean ENJOYING. I would have to be an ingrate to not appreciate such a view.

But underneath all this comfort, all this security and warmth, there is an unease. This feeling is deep in the dark, lurking, smirking at me. Why am I being haunted? Is it the fact that I am looking at working until I am 70 instead of retiring at 66 as I had planned? Is it because my children are all struggling to keep financially afloat in perilous economic times? Is it because I see so much hatred expressed everyday in every way in the press, on website comment sections especially? I look at the coverage regarding health care reform and see the people most frightened by any change are people of my own age or more. They are scared of some bogey man coming in the night to euthanize them. I, on the other hand, am afraid of the people who are telling these lies and crippling any small chance we have of reform. I am afraid of the corporate oligarchs who are pulling the strings and making us all dance in varying degrees of frenzied craziness.

The fledgling bills in Congress are amorphous entities, not yet fully realized. And, if the lobbyists have their way, they will be aborted and thrown out before any chance of change is hinted at. All of the fear, all of the hatred, all of the ugly cries of fascism, hitler-comparisons, the strident screeching is designed to kill any attempt to change the health care industry in America. And, by the way, if it kills the ability of the Black President to govern, well, that would be an added benefit. (Despite the fact that contrary to his campaign promises, he appears to be as much in the pocket of the oligarchs as his predecessors.)

In the waning years of my life, all that I have worked for, all that I have dreamed would be my “golden years”, is turning out to be for naught. It is as if the bottom will open up and swallow all that I love and care about. We have had to cut back our salaries to keep from laying off staffers we need to have to provide service to our customers and stay in business. I have had to forego any thoughts of vacation or rest until we are out of the red. And lest, you think that is not so bad – it has been almost five years since my husband and I allowed ourselves any vacation time at all! According to economic prognosticators, the current estimates for recovery is 2013! (If we are lucky!)

So, what else can I do, but enjoy my own backyard. Try to focus on keeping my own small business afloat. Take a minute here or there to reflect on how fortunate our lives continue to be: our house is paid for, we have enough put by to maintain a loss position without closing the company for at least another year, our health is above average for our age group, we are on loving terms with our children, they are all healthy, we are not broke, and we do find lots to laugh about.

So, long story short: many many many people have a truly tough time in this world. We are NOT among them! And, for that I am exceedingly grateful.

Now, if I could only get rid of these recurring nightmares about China foreclosing on America!

Civil Discourse

I am trying to get my arms around this concept:

  • Health care costs are skyrocketing – our own company’s monthly premiums have increased 50% since 2005!
  • Millions of families are unable to afford any health insurance at all.
  • A former employee of ours who worked with us to support her way through nurses training, was given a $75,000 signing bonus when she was hired by Kaiser-Permanente! She is a capable and caring person, but was this a fair amount to pay for a “greenhorn” nurse? Now Kaiser is laying off thousands of support staff. How will that affect the quality of health care provided?
  • Nobel prize winning economists are predicting that premiums for companies will continue to escalate over the next decade to the point of being 50% of the employee’s income!
  • Americans with individual coverage (not through their employers) are being deprived of coverage when they fall ill or the insurance company executives refuse to change their rescission policies as demonstrated during the Congressional hearings. Those same executives receive millions annually in bonuses based on denial of coverage!
  • Meanwhile, Republican and conservative legislators act as if this is okay. They do not feel citizens are entitled to any guarantee of health care, or worse, feel that all Americans already enjoy health care by simply going to the emergency room when they need care! (The most expensive venue for providing medical treatment.) But what about preventive health care, the kind of care that saves lives AND money? They do not have access to that level of care, as they do not have insurance and cannot pay for physical exams and expensive diagnostic procedures. Even with my own health insurance, a colonoscopy costs me more than $700 co-pay! (We won’t go into the resultant punctured colon and emergency bowel resection required to clean up the mess.)
  • Town Hall meetings convened to discuss the health care issues are being disrupted and cancelled because some not-so-grassroots organizations do not want this problem to be talked about. In effect, they are attempting to shut down democracy.
  • And, the only thing the right is offering is something called “co-ops” instead of the public option. For more interesting information on the history of co-op health care, look here: The Blue Cross Story . Nothing new under the sun… Sounds like a bad idea to me.
  • Euthanasia, denial of health care, death camps even! These are the scary things being promulgated by the Fox media noise, astroturf organizers and health care providers’ PR firms. This last group all the while touting their willingness to reform their systems without government oversight and promises to the Administration they will work to bring down costs – no need for reform!

I tell you it is enough to make one’s head spin right off and spiral far off into the Andromeda galaxy! It is going to be a very long, hot August, you betcha.

So, then, conservative friends, where is a plan we can all live with? I have heard nothing from the Right, from Republicans, from Conservatives that resembles an answer to the question of how do we fix our health care crisis. Other than the aforementioned co-op plan. Does this mean, health care in America isn’t broken and does not need to be fixed?

You Betcha! (my goodness, that phrase is useful)

Up Side Down In Side Out?

Well now, isn’t this just the perfect pickle? Ms Taitz has magically been presented with a Kenyan birth certificate for our President. The certificate is stamped as being certified by the Republic of Kenya on February 17, 1964. However, the fact stands that the Republic of Kenya did not exist until December 12, 1964. Hmmmm. Discrepancy, anyone?

To what lengths will these people traverse? Of course, the source of this document cannot be revealed due to threats against the source’s life.

Kenya has never tried to scam anyone in America with documents purporting to be verifiable and legal. And, Hawaii’s state government is well-known for falsifying birth documents.

Is this an inverse reality show?

Sunday Morning

Quiet. Sunny. And, fresh coffee.

No newspaper this morning.

Don’t really miss it anyway as most news comes to me via the Net these days. I would seriously consider dropping the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle altogether except that the Husband enjoys reading the Sporting Green. (We stopped getting the daily issues years ago when the suburban delivery failed to arrive before we had to leave for our commute.)

It is not that we no longer support news organizations and expect to get our information for “free.” We both have paid subscriptions to the WSJ. I also pay for digital subscriptions to The Nation and I have at least 40 sources of free news in my bookmarks that I peruse every morning over coffee. Everything from Google to Politico to AlterNet as well as many professional blogs. I think I am more informed than ever. When I see an article that brings up something I am not familiar with, I can do a quick “background check” to get up to speed. Sometimes it can feel like almost too much information. But I would not go back to the “old” way willingly.

Most television news is unwatchable and inaccurate IMO. The days of watching Walter Cronkite and knowing you were informed are long gone. And, now with his death, there is no one living who will tell it like it is on that particular medium. Which is why I head over to the nearest browser to read people like Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan and sites like Media Matters and for clarification of the headlines and the secrets behind them.

Yes, there are days I cannot bear to see one more headline regarding the darling Ms Sarah. There does seem to be this tendency to excess on the Web, no excuses there. Still it is difficult seeing the newspaper and television news sources ever being more than they have become: mouthpieces for corporate America. (Or is that Corporate america?)

Searching the Net for Sanity

This was a futile exercise! I can find crazies on the left, crazies on the right, crazies claiming to be neither left or right but just plain extreme (think they call themselves libertarian). Surprisingly, I found little calm and considered discourse. A lot of name calling, figurative jumping up and down, obfuscation, errors, misinformation, conspiracy theories, fanaticism, and just plain idiocy.

Not much to brighten one’s Saturday. Perhaps my biggest error was starting all this by searching Google for “who owns the news?” and getting pages and pages and pages of hits with the strangest collection of web sites. Talk about a “he said/he said” world!

I guess it has all come down to this: he who shouts the loudest and longest and gets the most page hits, is the one telling the truth.

Long live truth.


Rite of Passage 1957

Remember when you studied so hard, so vehemently
to win the heart of god hidden in Luther’s words.

You and other middle schoolers huddled around the pastor every Saturday morning.
Scrambling for understanding, searching for truth.

Then, sitting in front of the Congregation. Holding your breath.

What will he ask of you? Will your answer be true?
13 and on trial for your soul.

Somehow, you survive the test. And let out a sigh.

Anticipation of your first taking of the Host, your initiation into the Mystery.

Unleavened bread sticking to the top of your dry mouth and vinegary wine choking your straining throat.

And, then, what is all the fuss?
Transformation should feel like something, right?

Parents hug you, smile and welcome you into the Way.

Was this when you knew? Was this when you grew up? When you realized you could never belong?