Posts Tagged ‘Healthcare’

A lot of conservatives/Trump voters are confused as to why Liberals are saying that the tax bill Congress passed today will be bad for entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.  Below is a brief explanation as to why, but first let’s stop calling them “entitlements” because they aren’t.  It’s not like welfare, which you are “entitled to” if you meet certain criteria and into which you don’t have to contribute.  Call Social Security “deferred payments” or a “pension”.  For that matter call Medicare “pre-payed health insurance”.  But they’re not entitlements because you paid into them!  Okay, got that off my chest.

Social Security has always been a “partially reserved” fund.  In other words, like many pension funds, it was never “fully funded” 100%.  Simply put, every penny we have put in isn’t there for a lot of very complicated reasons I won’t get into here (see Note 1).  For the most part how much the fund contains at any given point depends on how well the economy has been doing and each generation pretty much pays for the next generation.  That’s why we hear stories like “Social Security only funded until 2034”.  That year could be later if the economy has a good run or it could come sooner if we have another recession/depression.  Medicare works similarly.

Since the health of those two “deferred payment” programs depends on the economy and the Deficit (see Note 2 at bottom) is one of the leading indicators and factors that affects the health of the economy, any increase in the Deficit forces the US to borrow more, which in turn increases our Debt.  The Tax Bill passed today (see Note 3) will decrease Revenue and Congress has not offset that decrease in Revenue by reducing how much we spend.  So the GOP, who used to accuse the Democratic party as being “Tax and Spend Liberals” has now officially become the party of “Taxes for Thee but not for Me and My Wealthy Friends”–a tried and true method to destroying any economy.

In the past one of the most important ways the GOP has tried to bring the deficit down is to make changes to Social Security and Medicare.  They can try to push back the age at which we can start receiving Social Security–this is called “full retirement age” (see Note 4).    The GOP will say they can save millions by just pushing back that age for you and I and it is true, it will save money.  But it will make our lives infinitely harder.  Maybe I won’t be able to continue working when I’m 67.  Last I heard they are talking about pushing it back to 70.  My grandparents died at 75. What if I pass away then?  That means I’ve been working since I was 14 and contributing to Social Security all those years and if I’m lucky I might get 5 years of benefits out of it.  That’s nuts and patently unfair.

Not only can they do that, they can change the formula for how much you can receive if you remain employed.  For now, if you try to get Social Security early, you can only collect a certain amount.  For example in 2015  your benefits would have been temporarily reduced by $1 for every $2 you earned above $15,720.   This “earning limit” gets changed every year.   So the GOP could say that your benefit is reduced by $1.50 for every $2 or say that the earning limit doesn’t increase (and therefore won’t help you keep up with Cost of Living Increases).

In regards to Medicare, they could start “means-testing” (again this is a GOP proposal that’s been around for a while).  This would mean the government would check to see how much you make and say that anyone making above a certain level must pay a greater percentage of Medicare costs.  On the surface this sounds fair.  But the fairness of it depends on what that “income level” is determined to be.  For example, the 2015 poverty threshold for a single individual was $12,082 / year.  Can you imagine living on that?  If you make more than that, the government doesn’t consider you poor.  The same principle will be applied to Medicare means-testing.  The GOP will push for a very low “means” and the already struggling Middle Class will be hit very hard.  If the Middle Class is dependent upon Social Security for retirement (and we have a good idea that they are, see Note 5 ) and the GOP plans on reducing those benefits along with Medicare benefits, then there is going to be a lot of elderly people really struggling.  In fact, an elderly care crisis has already begun.  The timing of this deficit increase, in order to give the wealthy more tax breaks, could not have been worse for the average American.

To sum it up, there are lots of ways that the GOP can affect these two programs that will hurt not only the Poor but the Middle Class, and they’ve been making noises for years that they can’t wait to get their grubby hands on them (Speaker Ryan has said he’s been dreaming of cutting them since college). By passing this tax bill they have essentially created a budgetary crisis for which they will now claim is the reason why they have to change the rules for these two programs. Anyone who voted for Trump and is happy about this Tax Bill better enjoy the pennies they get back in April because they’re not going to be happy further down the road when they have to resort to eating cat food.  Unfortunately it won’t be just Trump voters who will be eating kitty kibble–we all will.

NOTES:

  1. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/08/18/5-facts-about-social-security/  Just Google history of social security and you can drown in the details if you so desire
  2. Do NOT conflate Debt and Deficit.  They are NOT the same thing.  In simple terms, a budget deficit is the difference between what the federal government spends (called outlays) and what it takes in (called revenue or receipts). The national debt, also known as the public debt, is the result of the federal government borrowing money to cover years and years of budget deficits.
  3. “The plan would permanently drop the corporate tax from 35 percent to 21 percent, while also rewriting the individual tax rules to lower rates and restructure deductions. The plan would cut taxes in 2018 for the vast majority of households, with by far the largest benefits going to the wealthy. Many of the tax breaks are set to expire at the end of 2025, leaving a large section of the middle class to pay more in taxes. But Republicans promise a future Congress will intervene to prevent that tax hike from happening.”  from the https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/gop-tax-bill-passes-congress-as-trump-prepares-to-sign-it-into-law/2017/12/20/0ba2fd98-e597-11e7-9ec2-518810e7d44d_story.html?utm_term=.7cfa59492113
  4. I was born in 1970 so right now that means I can’t start collecting until I’m 67 years old.    Follow the link to find out what your full retirement age is.   https://www.thebalance.com/when-can-i-start-receiving-social-security-benefits-2894602
  5. https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickwwatson/2017/10/12/boomers-are-not-saving-enough-for-retirement-neither-is-the-government/#5624b5d81a4d
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I haven’t ranted in quite a while so I guess I’m overdue.  My spleen cup overfloweth and thus I must vent.  I signed up for health insurance through the online marketplace (yes, I mean Obamacare, but technically it’s called the ACA….but you can also call it Romneycare mainly because it tickles the shit out of me that it was a Republican idea to begin with and they have been calling it the “Eeek!  Soshulizm!” plan).  But I digress.

I signed up the first year it was available for myself and my son.  For a year I paid our Healthnet insurance premium every month.  I don’t qualify for a subsidy to help pay for it.   In addition to the monthly premiums I paid full price for everything.  This included my prescriptions that I HAVE to have and the medical care for when I totaled my car, which included an ambulance ride that cost more than the fucking ER bill and full price for the crutches that are gathering dust in a closet as we speak.  Welcome to the Middle Class in America where you have enough to live in Suburbia and not receive any help from anyone ever but you’re always one disaster away from homelessness.

I got married in late October 2014 and the plan was for me to go on my husband’s health insurance and that I continue to buy my son’s plan through the Marketplace.  My husband, though I love him dearly, has one massive flaw.  He is a procrastinator of the worst kind. Since I also do this (but nowhere near to the same degree) it can cause problems.  But I didn’t procrastinate this time.  I bugged the ever livin bejeebers out of my husband to get the form, fill it out and take it in to work.  Well, he didn’t get it done until late Nov or early Dec.  AFTER the 30 day window.  The 30 day window we knew nothing about.  To say that I wanted to strangle him would be an understatement.

By December 2014 I said to myself, “Self, why am I paying Healthnet money?”  Then I received a letter saying that the shitty plan I had was going away and that I would have to pay Healthnet even more money for a worse plan.  The only other equivalent plan through the marketplace was also with Healthnet and it would cost $100 more per month AND they raised the annual individual deductible from $3,500 to $10,000.  If I didn’t meet the deductible the year before with ALL my son’s and my out of pocket expenses, I estimated that I  would have to get terminal cancer to meet the new deductible.

So I said “Self, let’s not do this any more”.  I cancelled my health insurance and prayed that nothing would happen to me before my husband’s employer has open enrollment in the Fall of 2015 and I kept the Healthnet plan for my son.  I called Healthnet up in December to set this all up. They made it VERY difficult to keep my son on his own plan.  Apparently the concept of insuring a child without an adult on the plan is hard for their very tiny brains to process.  They also made me wait until open enrollment for the Marketplace which was in January.

The communication between Healthnet and the Marketplace sucked balls.  Neither side really knew where the other stood.  They Marketplace kept telling Healthnet that I was on the plan even though I repeatedly corrected this with both parties.  I had to use the 800 number to communicate with the Marketplace, which took many hours to accomplish, because it wouldn’t let me log in for over a month, so I couldn’t even review my plan’s set up or other choices online even if I wanted to.   While I was doing this open enrollment thing I started getting letters from Healthnet that they were terminating our coverage for non-payment.

I called them up, explained to them again that I was not paying because I had cancelled my plan and I had been paying for my son who I was currently trying to enroll in a new plan.  February came along and it seemed to get straightened out for my son but not for me.  I was still getting letters that my plan had been cancelled from lack of payment.  I gave up telling them that I had cancelled with them back in December.  Clearly they had a problem and I had only so much energy for outrage.  Nevertheless, my son was taken care of.  He had the new plan–even received his card in the mail.

Then on March 1st, unbeknownst to me, they cancelled my son’s health insurance for lack of payment.  Except I had paid for February and I had until March 31st to pay for March before they could legally cancel his plan.  I didn’t even know anything was going on until they sent me an invoice in late March demanding payment.  Why?  If you’ve already cancelled it, why ask for money?  Well, ultimately I’m glad that I got the notice and I immediately paid for March and April online.  So, as of that point I was totally caught up.

Well Healthnet took my money and never updated my son’s eligibility.    Apparently the Billing Department is in East Timbuktu and the troglodytes there only speak Swahili and the Eligibility Department is on the moon and the miscreants there only communicate via clicks and glottal stops.    I was given further proof of their complete inability to internally communicate on even the most basic level a couple of days ago.  I got another letter saying that my son’s coverage had been cancelled for lack of payment.

So I called them.  Here is how the conversation went:

Me: “Why have you cancelled my son’s plan?”

Lady: “Oh we cancelled it on March 1st.”

Me:  “Yes, I have a letter in my angry, clenched hands here that says exactly that.  Why was it cancelled then when I had the entire month of March to pay and I had already paid for the month before?”

Lady: “I don’t know. I do see the payment for February”

Me:  “Good.  Do you see that I made a payment which covers March and April?”

Lady: “Yes, in the amount of $—-.”

Me:  “So I’m paid up to date?”

Lady:  “Yes”

Me:  “So my four year old son is without healthcare coverage because ‘you don’t know’.  Do you have any idea how frightening that feeling is for a mother?  If something were to happen to him, you know and I know that the quality of the care that he receives is directly proportional to how much I and his healthcare plan, which he no longer has, can pay.”

Lady:  “M’am, I don’t know why they cancelled it. Please hold.”

Me:  [silently fuming]

Lady:  “I’ve sent an urgent notice to the Eligibility Department to re-instate him today.”

Me:  “Okay, thank you.  Can you have them call me once it’s done.”

Lady:  “They don’t call customers.  They will mail you a letter.”

(Guess the clicks and glottal stops don’t translate well over the phone)

Me:  “No, that would take too long and who knows what could happen in the meantime.  I want to know right away.  Can they email me?”

Lady:  “Maybe, I will ask them to email you. But it will either be a letter in the mail or email.”

Then this was followed by my thank you’s and her have a nice days–all that polite bullshit we say but don’t mean in any way shape or form.  Who knows what will happen now.  I’m betting I’ll get another termination letter before the end of the month, even though the bill for May has yet to arrive.    Fuckers.

Some quickies for you:

  • Dinesh D’Souza, asshat extraordinaire, is a big whiny child.  Those evil prosecutors are doing their job and trying to put him in prison.  How dare they?!  He’ll get probation and we’ll probably still have to see his idiocy on Bill Maher.
  • Conservatives are freaking out because the President saluted with a coffee cup in his hand.  I would rather have a latte in the middle of my salute than a Scottish Terrier.  And never mind about the real problems this country has because the paranoid, desperate, white, male base eats up this shit up.
  • Can I just say how much I admire Gabby Giffords?  She is absolutely amazing to have come back from that horrible tragedy in Tucson AND launch a PAC to fight against NRA extremism.  What’s even better?  It’s working.
  • If I hear one more liberal complain that the President isn’t liberal enough, is ineffectual and that Congress sucks, I’m going to go nuclear and remind them that it’s probably because they didn’t vote in the f*%!ing 2010 mid-terms.  Here’s just one very good example of how that has hurt and will continue to hurt us for years to come.
  • How effed up is that Emma Watson, of Harry Potter fame, gave a speech to the U.N. on feminism and as a result was threatened with sexual violence and having nude photos of her posted online. This kind of terrorizing online is getting worse, not better.  I don’t know the solution but I really feel for any woman who is harrassed and terrorized because she speaks her mind on the Intertoobs.
  • Love the fact that big tech companies are divesting themselves of ALEC.  If you don’t know who they are, they’re what’s wrong with America.  A group of corporate representatives and conservatives who draft “model” legislation that they then push using vast resources in multiple states.  Their laws which include gems like SB1070, Stand your Ground,  Voter ID, and many more are nightmares and they’re making headway in many state legislatures because people aren’t paying attention to what’s happening on the state level. They’re too busy hating the President (see “Coffeegate” above and Congress (lowest approval ratings ever) on the national level and worrying about things that aren’t immediate threats (Ebola, Isis, etc).
  • And speaking of ISIS, don’t you just love that we’ve gone to war and there was absolutely no debate in Congress?!  They’d rather have yet another vote on appealing Obamacare.  Never mind that the rising cost of healthcare has actually slowed down as a direct result of the law, which was one of the main points of it in the first damn place.  Who needs facts….right?

I’d better stop while I’m ahead.  Methinks I’m getting my mojo for political blogging back and it’s about damn time!

The following news stories actually make me not only wonder if our species will survive for much longer but also if we deserve to survive our own stupidity and neglect.

  • The City of Detroit found 11,000 rape kits that were abandoned and never tested.  After testing less than 7% of them they identified 100 serial rapists and 10 convicted rapists.  So if that pattern holds and they test the rest of them, they can expect to discover several hundred more of these scumbag.  ht mistermix at Balloon Juice
  • The AZ legislature is pushing a bill that would allow people to carry guns into building even if it’s forbidden (if they don’t have lockers available you can ignore the ban).  They’ve also advanced the idea that some gun owners can carry even if there are lockers and ban.  And to make it truly impossible for local governments to forbid guns in their government buildings, they’ve approved and forwarded a bill that says any local government who enforces local ordinance over state law can be fined.  This is like the trifecta of stupid.  They’re begging for someone to go into government buildings and commit mass murder.  I certainly will be avoiding those buildings like the plague if this crap passes.  ht JM Ashby at Bob Cesca
  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, back when he was a prosecutor, let a child slaver off easy so that he could take down a political rival.
  • Pat Robertson, TV Evangelist, told a woman that having cancer was her own fault for not forgiving her abusive father.  Okaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy
  • A new law went into effect in Michigan that says businesses and individuals who purchase private insurance must take out a separate rider to cover abortion care.  Essentially, if a woman needs an abortion for ANY reason and if she doesn’t have  a separate rider for it, she will have to pay out of pocket for the cost of that care.  So if I lived there, had a miscarriage and needed a D&C to shorten the process  and suffering so I could get back on my feet sooner, I would have to pay completely out of pocket for it.  Likewise for women who have become pregnant as a result of incest and rape.  That’s insane.  The real kicker is that there is not a single private insurance provider in the marketplace that provides this insurance.  This could not only bankrupt women and their families, it in effect nullifies Roe v. Wade, and will force women to seek out cheaper and more dangerous care for such things.  I hope the women in Michigan enjoy being second class citizens because it looks like the state is on target to vote the same politicians who’ve created these laws back into office.
  • Billionaires in the 1% are getting their panties in a twist and crying lots of salty tears because the rest of us are tired of having the economy manipulated while they gamble with our money and take what little wealth Americans have managed to accumulate over the last few decades.  The 99% have had the temerity to exercise their Freedom of Speech and the Right to Vote in more progressive candidates.  However, so far as I know there have been no lynch mobs or guillotine lines nor any proposed by anyone of significance in any “likely to happen” fashion.  The 99% are simply using the peaceful system of governance and the wonderful mechanisms given to us by the Founding Fathers.  However, reading some of the recent comments by the 1% (here’s a few examples here and here) might make one think that we are in the midst of a communist peasant uprising (or fascist style takeover depending on which historical example they erroneously choose).  Truth is, if we were in such a state, their heads would already be on pikes.  In reality nothing is happening to them and that’s the stupid thing.  We should be curtailing their almost godlike power over our economy and our elected officials. Their message gets broadcast loud and clear.  We hear about their perspective 24/7 on Fox News, read their whining on major websites and news sources (in addition to reading about their phenomenally ignorant take on history), and suffer under the vagaries of the worldwide economy which they essentially control.  As Jon Stewart said the other day, they make money regardless of how the economy fares.  So why should they give a crap about us? They don’t and the majority of Americans haven’t yet grasped this fact and what it will mean for this country, and indeed the world, in the long run.  Until Americans decide to stand up and pull up our pants, they’ll be back there having their way with us and complaining that its hard, nay dangerous, to be a billionaire.

“To be ill adjusted to a deranged world is not a breakdown.”
― Jeanette Winterson

A news report out of Mississippi indicates that they’ve discovered a mass grave with thousands of bodies when trying to build a new parking garage.  That’s how we treated the mentally ill not that long ago.  We’ve stopped warehousing them and ignoring them until they died alone and end up in unmarked graves.  I mean, we still ignore them, just right under our noses.  Until, of course, we can’t ignore them any more.  When their illness explodes into our public awareness through horrendous tragedy.  Now we either keep them at home until they totally lose it hurting innocents and others (see Loughner, Lanza, Holmes, etc, etc, etc) or keep them in “the system” in a round robin of jail/prison, streets and shelters, back to jail, etc, etc, etc.  We can do better.  We should do better.

One of the most nightmarish books I ever read was Margaret Atwood’s “Handmaid’s Tale”.  Unfortunately, I’ve been seeing incremental steps toward that nightmare in reality occurring across this country in recent years.  Well, Michigan just took a leap toward such a dystopia by proposing to ban abortion coverage in private health insurance plans and forcing women to purchase a separate rider.  And it has a good chance of becoming law.  It has become law.

I’m so flabbergasted that I’m speechless.

  • 99% of the time I don’t believe in deities, however ironic little news stories like this make me thankful to any god or goddess that might have brought it to my attention.

    Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., pleaded guilty Wednesday to possession of cocaine and was sentenced to one year of supervised probation. [snip] As a member of Congress, Radel has co-sponsored legislation to change the nation’s mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws and voted for a bill that called for states to drug test people who receive food stamps.

    PS: Drug testing people on welfare finds few positives, contributes to state deficits and does no one any good.

  • Yet another sad tale illustrative of the horrible state of affairs for Mental Health treatment in the U.S.

    State Senator R. Creigh Deeds, a leading Virginia political figure who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2009, was stabbed repeatedly on Tuesday at his home during an altercation with his son, who then apparently took his own life, the authorities said. [snip] On Monday, state mental health officials unsuccessfully sought to find a bed in a hospital psychiatric ward for Gus Deeds, who had undergone an evaluation…

    PS: All those junk insurance plans getting dropped by health insurance companies in the U.S. did not cover Mental Health services as mandated by Obamacare. Making treatment available at the same rate as physical illnesses is the right first step to fix our Mental Health system.

  • If you are Pro-Choice then you may have noticed that since the Pro-Life movement had failed to force their religious beliefs on the rest of us via Federal measures, they’ve resorted to trying to do it at the state level with some success.  Well, now they are also trying it out at the City level with a measure that would ban abortions after week 20.  Fortunately the voters of Albuquerque rejected the measure.  So the fight goes on, just a little closer to home now.
  • 37 states settled a lawsuit with Google for privacy violations and the amount to be split amongst the states is $17 million.  Arizona’s share will be $355,000.  Now let’s see how long it takes for this money to line some crony’s pocket.
  • The weather in Phoenix is FINALLY starting to cool down.  We’ve reached the mid to upper 70’s this week which is about average.  The weather has been crazy…we would hit the 90’s and then plummet into the 70’s.  On Nov. 12th we got up to 92, which is 15 degrees above average.  While everyone in cold dark places is dreaming of being in 90 degree weather, I’m exactly the opposite.  Oh what I wouldn’t give to be able to wear a sweater!
  • The City of Phoenix received a perfect score on the inclusiveness of  lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in city government.  That makes Phoenix one of only 25 in the nation to receive a perfect score from The Human Rights Campaign.  It’s nice to know I’m not always correct when I say there has been no progress in Arizona–we’re doing it, just teeny-tiny step at a time.
  • Our infamous Sheriff Joe was the subject of “Roast” last weekend for Charity.  I’m sure they went pretty easy on him as good ‘ol Joe has pretty thin skin.  Here’s some jokes that liberals everywhere WISH had been used.  From what I heard via a radio interview on 97.9 KUPD the organizers asked one of the best roast hosts in the business, Jeffrey Ross, and he turned the gig down.  Can you blame him?