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photo by Sheri Dixon

Friday, December 11, 2015

It's All Going According to the Plan

Hang onto your hats, kids. Come the first of the year, we're gonna see the ACA do some fine imploding. Oh, there are several fronts this will happen on, but lemme share the one that'll get me up close and personal.

I'm for the ACA and what it stands for. I was and still am thrilled that millions of people who were considered 'uninsurable' before are now covered. I understand that this is a big country and some compromise had to be worked into it in order for it to pass.

At the time, I was really squidgy about two things that were compromised away---

-The lack of a public OPTION

-The lack of comprehensive regulations against the insurance companies

The ACA, AS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN, would have had a public option- open enrollment Medicare for all who wanted it. Not FORCED to get it- anyone who wanted it INSTEAD of private insurers. This would have given the private insurance companies true competition instead of handing them a lovely gift of millions of customers who wouldn't pay for insurance unless they were compelled to- say by a tax penalty if they didn't. That part stayed in, and the new customers were handed to the private insurers like the Best Christmas Ever.

But they took out the public option to the wailing of the GOP who said it smacked of socialism, communism, fascism, every ism you can throw at something to make it look bad when it's really an outstandingly good idea. Ya- both parties now work for their corporate owners, but the GOP is hands-down much more open and serious about it. The insurance companies didn't WANT true competition, and certainly not from MEDICARE, which is the BIGGEST INSURER IN THE NATION and runs on a lean 4% margin instead of their cushy and profitable 35%. Because while Medicare is not a BUSINESS, they are- it's their job to make money for their investors and stock holders and to do that you have- large margins and profits which are made when you- take in way more than you pay out which happens when- you raise premiums and deny claims- which they do ALL THE TIME- nothing personal- it's just BUSINESS.

This is why something like people's lives should NEVER be at the mercy of the free market. Ever. Nothing personal- it's just business.

Now, there WERE some regulations that stayed intact and they have been very good for people- millions of people.

- you cannot be denied insurance due to pre-existing conditions. (You can, however, be charged out the ass for it)

- you can stay on your parents' insurance till you're 26 (as long as you're also in college, which is a whole NUTHER huge expense)

- insurance companies MUST spend 80% of the premiums you pay them on your actual medical care or refund the difference. We actually do get back a check from BCBS every year in the neighborhood of about $30. WHEEEEEEE doggies.

No regulations against the insurance companies becoming monolithic giants who would corner individual markets. No regulations against how high premiums could go. Those were gutted out of there because you cannot hamper and hobble the free market- just give them all those new customers and they'll do the right thing by them. *wink wink*

When the healthcare.gov marketplace opened up, Texas had three different insurers you could choose from.

***Because remember, kids- there's no such thing as 'Obamacare insurance'. You can't buy Obamacare brand insurance any more than you can buy a Travelocity brand hotel room. You go to to Healthcare.gov and choose from PRIVATE INSURANCE COMPANIES- Blue Cross, Humana, Aetna...like you go to Travelocity and choose from Marriott, Motel 6 or LaQuinta.

Last year there were two in Texas and this year? One. Blue Cross has the entire Texas market for individuals buying off the marketplace. That's not a marketplace- it's a corner on the market.

So individuals can 'choose' from one provider.

Also new this year---individual plans do NOT include any PPO's. None. Zip. Zero.

Also new this year---Blue Cross is discontinuing some individual plans already in existence and those people have to choose from one of the marketplace HMO's. Unsurprisingly- the discontinued plans are PPO's. Unsurprisingly- they are targeting the people most likely to, yanno, use insurance.

Alec's individual plan? Good to go- he can keep his PPO.

Myself and a friend of mine? Discontinued. Choose a new HMO.

Alec is young, male, and healthy. I'm over 55 and female and my friend is female in 'child-bearing years'. Not difficult to figure that out.

The reason given is that all the new people they were FORCED to take have driven up costs and they just can't afford to, you know, provide health care for people anymore the way they had been doing. Which is ridiculous considering every national health care company logged RECORD PROFITS LAST YEAR BECAUSE OF ALL THE NEW HEALTHY PEOPLE WHO SIGNED UP AND WHO ARE OBVIOUSLY COVERING THE COSTS OF THE PRE-EXISTING CROWD AND THEN SOME.

So it's bullshit. They are raising premiums and cutting plans just because they can- just because it's good for their bottom line and that's not because they are evil, selfish rat bastard weasels, it's because we TRUSTED PRIVATE BUSINESS TO TAKE CARE OF PUBLIC INTERESTS, and it's their job---by definition---to make money.

It's a business' job to take in more than they pay out. Period. What that looks like in this case, in real life, is that thousands of people can no longer access places like MD Anderson, who will be out of network for them.

Every single person of a 'risk group' age who buys insurance individually will no longer be able to choose their doctor and that ain't the fault of 'Obamacare'- that's the dictate from your precious PRIVATE INSURERS.

If you are covered by a LARGE business' insurance plan---you can still have a PPO. If you're on Medicare or Medicaid---you're golden anywhere.

So Alec, Ward and Joe (who has both Medicare and VA) are good. If I get anything 'bad' between now and when I turn 62 and can access Medicare, I'm screwed.

So...

When the ACA implodes after the first of the year, you'll hear it broadcast far, wide and loud from the Right that 'THEY KNEW IT- THEY'VE BEEN WARNING US- THEY SHOULD'VE BEEN ALLOWED TO OVERTURN IT AND NOW LOOKIT THE BIG OL' MESS IT IS AND SEE HOW RIGHT THEY WERE!'

Just remember, it was THEM who made damn sure it would never work.

It was the GOP governors in EVERY RED STATE that made damn sure their own constituents suffered by rejecting the Medicaid expansion that would have covered anyone not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but not rich enough to pay the outrageous private insurance company premiums.

We live in a corporatocracy, folks. They're not people and they don't give a rat's ass about individuals.

People die. Corporations don't die- they change leadership and go on. And on. And on.

We're being told that the insurance companies 'have to' cut plans because there are too many sick people they were forced to take care of. That's bullshit.

We're being told that social security and every single social safety net program will have to be cut or eliminated because our deficit is too high and they're unsustainable. That's bullshit.

We're being told we need 'austerity' to bring our country back to greatness. That's true.

The austerity should NOT be coming from the bottom, though- taking from those (US, people- they're talking about US) who can ill-afford to lose more, taken under the guise of , "Think of your children and grandchildren- sure, you'll feel the pinch a little, but it's going to be so much better for THEM!" THAT'S BULLSHIT. The only ones, ONLY ONES that'll be better for is those at the top.

Trickle down is a scam of the highest order.

HAS ANYONE YET SEEN ONE DAMN DROP OF IT??? No. And you won't.

They'll keep feinting throwing the ball and we keep running after it eagerly, joyfully, tongues lolling, looking confused while they laugh and bank our money. Over and over and over again.

No more.

I will NOT let them kill me, or my husband, or my son. Fuck that.

I'm not being dramatic- hundreds of thousands of people die in the US every year of TREATABLE THINGS. No one has to round us up and execute us. All they have to do is deny us access to health care.

If a Republican, ANY REPUBLICAN gains the presidency, we WILL see the dismantling of every social program including Social Security and Medicare. If that happens, my family will be gone. I've never stated or thought of leaving this country of my birth. I love America. I love my home with a fierce and abiding fervor. I love the IDEA of America as it can be.

But I will not let it kill us. Will not.

Oh, I know it'll look like we're 'just like' those Republicans who hollered, "If that Obama gets elected I'm OUTTA HERE! This ain't MY idea of America!!!" but it won't be anything like that at all. They were pissed that a black man had the balls to live in the White House. I'll be pissed that my husband won't be able to get the medical care he needs to stay alive and my son will be ripe for their fucking cannon fodder and I will not let either thing happen.

America needs to get its collective head out of its ass. Stop being so 'exceptionally' proud and ignorant and look around. We are increasingly violent at our own hands- not some foreign enemy that's mostly ginned up fear. And since when is it American to be so damn AFRAID? Our income disparity in this country is worse than in any other industrialized nation, bar none and we're celebrating that by giving those at the top our government, our money, our lives (both in our willingness to work for low pay in awful conditions for long hours thanks to Right to Work laws, and our willingness to accept less and less in the way of health care access, thanks to the flaws in the ACA) and happily doing so because 'some day, I could be rich, too!'

We need to stop being so stupid. Our government isn't working for us and that's not because it's 'too big' or 'Obama's a tyrant who shreds the constitution!'

NAME ME ONE THING HE'S DONE THAT'S UNCONSTITUTIONAL. ONE. NAME ME ONE THING THIS ADMINISTRATION HAS DONE THAT KILLS ANYONE OR HINDERS YOUR FREEDOM TO PURCHASE STUFF THAT CAN KILL OTHER PEOPLE. ONE.

Helpful hint---GETTING GAY MARRIED HASN'T KILLED ANYONE YET.

If our government isn't working anymore, it's because it's being run by those who don't care about it working for the masses (that's us). We don't need to 'take it back!' from the libruls/libtards/any other clever ignorant hate-mongering name for those currently in charge---we need to take it back from the corporations and banks who OWN IT.

The ACA is imploding by design. Not the original design, or the design that SHOULD HAVE passed- design by the corporate entities (that's the private insurance companies) who owned the politicians who hacked it to pieces and are now fixin' to get even richer off of the suffering and death of Americans.

And anyone who says, "Well, that's the way it is now and there's nothing I can do about it" can just kiss my ass and get out of the way.

Because I don't WANT to move, and I'll do everything in my power to make sure I don't have to in order to keep my family alive.









Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Blink of An Eye

My son and his friends are looking at Denmark. Or the Netherlands.

Not for a visit, but to move there.

I'd say, "I don't know how I feel about that" but it'd be a lie. I know exactly how I feel about that.

I'm excited at the youth and strength behind such a plan- I remember (not that I'm that old)having much the same thoughts as they do, albeit less farther-focused. My main thought was to get the hell out of Wisconsin. Took me a while, but I did it and have never looked back. Actually crossing the US border and staying across never occurred to me.

I'm proud that we've raised a human with such an independent bent. A free-thinker who knows more about current events and social issues, politics and world events than most adults do. Someone who loves his country but is not brainwashed to believe that the US is #1, that the US must remain #1 and that everyone on earth wants to be us and all other places are backwards shitholes. I'm proud as hell of that. He doesn't HATE America---there's a big ol' middle ground between screaming "We're #1!" while wearing a flag t-shirt and clutching an eagle by the throat... and yelling "Death to America!". Big. Ol'. Middle ground.

I'm terrified that once he boards a plane and is out of my Mama Bear reach, our economy and society will continue on the ungracious, unattractive and (unless something changes RADICALLY QUICKLY) inevitable sliding into the social squalor that is the morning after for all societies that become 'too big for their britches' and I'll never see him again. I do not believe we are in danger of a Mad Max No Food Zombie Apocalypse. But we're NOT #1 anymore, we never WERE the gloriousness of a Leave It to Beaver fictitious utopia, and we're looking like a B-film starlet after one too many cosmetic procedures in a frantic attempt to still look 21 at age 51 instead of...Katherine Hepburn at age 81- gorgeous and not giving a shit, just going about living life.

So it scares the hell out of me.

But then I realize...if we are (and we are)headed for an age of disgruntled frumpiness and depressed economics, still steered by bullheaded backwards financial initiatives and punitive social agendas...where does that put my son, as an American in America?

If he can get college-educated and come out of it with zero debt (and he can in Europe), if he can get a job that can support him and won't kill him with low pay and dangerous workplace conditions as well as short work weeks and hours (and he can in Europe), if he can have access to health care without paying almost 20% of his gross pay in premiums (you see where this is going...), then that's where he needs to be. That's where I WANT him to be.

Until the US gets its head out of its far-right, pseudo-religious, egotistical ass, the only place my son and others like him will have even a marginal shot at having a life that is the Norman Rockwell American Dream...is outside these borders.

And that's a fucking shame.

Last night my son was looking for a 'new' book to read- he'd just finished up the last of the Game of Thrones series and like his parents he HAS to have a book in front of him at all times. He was going through all the shelves in the house that hold a total of about a thousand books- very few fiction other than the 'classics'. He found a medical guide (huge old tome) that was 'new and revised' in 1905. He found a little book of PHOTOGRAPHS (it was capitalized just like that because PHOTOGRAPHS were such a new thing) from a 1800's World's Fair. He found a box of crystals and yak hair that'd been sent to him for his birthday half a dozen birthdays ago.

He looked around this log cabin and said, "Our house is full of weird shit." And he smiled.

The world is full of weird shit, son. Most of it delightful, intoxicating and smile-inducing. I'm so happy we've taught you that, and I hope you never forget it.

Step across the borders and grab the American Human Dream wherever you find it- for yourself, your friends, and all humans.

A blink of an eye ago, I was fifteen and eager to find my spot in the world. Now I'm watching my son do the same. My great-grandparents came to this country looking for a better life and the next two generations stayed put in Southern Wisconsin. I left and came to Texas and now my Texas-born is looking even farther afield.

He has his roots here in a log cabin in East Texas full of weird shit.

No telling where his wings will take him.



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