Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Facebooking of America

Watching the health care debate play out on Facebook is terrifying. It seems people are getting all their info on important issues from this site now. We now debate important stuff in pithy 100 word or less postings. So much inaccuracy and misunderstanding.

Sooo, welcome to my Health Insurance Reform Blog Series!

I have too much to write about so I am going to go topic by topic over a few days. I’m going to go on for more than 100 pithy words – so pay attention this is important.

Just like Congress, I can't say that I have read the bill - its 2000 pages. But I have read as much as I can from both sides of the media

Disclaimer- the info out there is terrible and very biased depending on what source you go to and the bill in written in bureaucratese, but I tried to understand as much as I could and this is what I will write about.

Let me first say this - I believe we have the best health care in the world – it’s the way we pay for it - health insurance - that is messed up. Second, I do believe that everyone needs the same access to affordable health care no matter what state they live in.

But the bill doesn’t fix the cost, payment or disparate access issues. Though there are a few good things in bill - the removal of the pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps and maybe some others hidden in the 2000 pages.

Just to be clear - Obama didn’t magically wave his wand and grant everyone free health care. About 40% of Facebook posters seem to think this. Nope.

So onto Today’s Topic: Mandating the Purchase of Insurance
From what I understand (see disclaimer above), essentially what the bill does is force 32 million people to become customers of the same insurance companies Obama has been calling evil for a year.

Now, I’m a Republican because I believe that the free market (when left alone) is better at solving most problems because the market has incentives built into it the government doesn’t (have you ever seen a government program cost less as time goes on? Government departments are incented to spend their budgets every year so that can ask for more of our money the next year etc…and have you ever been to the DMV??)

So, I would never have supported a government health plan, not because I do not think people should have health care but because I don’t believe the government is the best provider of this service.

BUT I would have supported an overhaul and major reform of the national INDIVIDUAL insurance market - ie where people can buy insurance outside of their employer. This needed to be NATIONAL in scope not state based. Actually the House had this in the bill but the Senate kept it to the states. This is silly - if we had a national health care market then companies would compete and free market principles could apply driving down costs of insurance.

When I lived in Key West I was 28 and healthy - I bought a very low cost catastrophic plan for health care. I could go the Dr for an annual check up and had prescription coverage but also had a high deductible. It was the right plan for me at the time and it was my choice. But I couldn’t get this same plan in NY State. Why not? Because of silly government rules confining health insurance to state lines.

Personally I’d rather pick my own insurance coverage on the individual market rather than one based at my employer (cost scenarios being equal – individual insurance is usually much more than group employer based coverage). But this option and this choice to do what is best for you as an individual is not a viable option under our system.

And the bill doesn’t change that - the new insurance exchanges where people can buy insurance are state based.

So, to sum up today's topic, everyone is now mandated to buy into an insurance system that is still broken. Nothing has been fixed. The costs are still outrageous and the choice of who can purchase your insurance from is still limited by stupid regulations.

Yes you have more freedom to buy toilet paper than to make an informed decision about your health insurance.

Yes, what I just wrote about was a complicated issue that our elected COngressCreatures would never think we were smart enough to handle (or more truthfully, THEY weren't smart enough to understand) and the media thinks is too boring to report on. During the debate it was easier to talk in soundbites and try to yell over each other. Which is why we got the flawed bill we got...

Tomorrow's Topic - why we have this effed up system in the first place and why major reform is needed but didn't happen.

I'd welcome feedback - but please post comments on this blog and not on Facebook if you have a gmail account....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

We get what we deserve

In the end we get the government we deserve. Everyone just go back to watching LOST and Idol...it’s not important to actually vote on important stuff anymore...Oh you mean you haven’t noticed what is going on in Washington? I mean its March Madness AND St. Patrick’s Day…

Why would you care anyway? At this point you are either for or against the bill depending on whether you watch MSNBC or FOXNews without really being able to explain 3 highlights of the bill.

Says the Speaker of the House about NOT ACTUALLY HAVING A VOTE ON THE HEALTH CARE BILL: "I like it," the Speaker said, "because people don't have to vote on the Senate bill."

This is politics at its absolute worst.

Destroying a 230+ year old process (I think it’s called Democracy and balance of powers) and ending up with a bad solution to a 50 year old problem of employee based health insurance doesn't seem like the best idea...(recall that the government actually caused this problem...see the end of this post: Why we have Employer based Insurance)

You see, if they don’t have to vote - they won't be held accountable for anything in the November elections. This is pure politics. During the campaign they Democrats can respond to those on the left who didn’t think the bill went far enough with "Well, I didn't vote for it". And they can respond to those on the right who are still wondering what the heck is in those 2500 pages "Well, I didn't actually vote for it you see..."

They think we are stupid enough to let them get away with it. Personally, I'd like to see every incumbent leader of BOTH parties tossed out of office in November. They are not fit to be leaders. If they can't work in a process that has been proven to work over 230+ years, we should not bend the process to their ineptitude. Its the process that is important, not the supposed leaders.

This has nothing to do with fixing health insurance anymore. This is purely a black and white war between three groups:

Republicans and Democrats
The House and the Senate
The White House and Congress

And it's appalling...but more appalling is that there is so little outrage about it.

If we screw it up because this set of 434 Congress-people can't figure out how to pass a bi-partisan bill on a serious issue that needs attention, we will be left with irreparable damage to our Democracy.

But that doesn't sound sexy in a 30 second sound bite.

Though I was being too hard on people for not caring…I think we do care but the problem is we feel powerless to do anything so it’s best to just ignore it. I mean I certainly feel that way but I find it hard to ignore so I write tirades on this blog and hope I educate 1-2 people on what’s going on.

That’s the saddest part of all this for me – the powerless feeling. We are going to get a bad bill to fix a serious problem, we will have lost faith in our foundation of a Democratic process, and because no one really cares anymore and is fed up, we will probably be stuck with the same leadership come November.

"House may try to pass Senate health-care bill without voting on it"

Monday, March 15, 2010

Don't worry...

I am still dutifully NOT reading the news but I did see this headline pop up on my Yahoo page...

Obama seeks to reassure seniors on health care

That should be one of his easiest pitches:

O: "Don't worry...all you seniors will be long dead and gone before we figure out how to pay for this or even implement it..."

Sorry, i just cant trust policy from the guy who said his $75 Billion mortgage program would help "millions" of borrowers (his words) and a year later is at only 170,000.

Good intentions do not make good policy. Doing the right thing the wrong way, is not good policy.

I couldn't resist. Ok, back to reading only entertainment news...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My most Controversial post - EVER

2010 is a World Cup year! I've already washed and pressed my 3 Italian soccer jerseys and 1 USA Jersey and they are ready to go. It's in June.

Someone asked me who I would cheer for if it came down to USA v Italy in the World Cup Final. Now I haven't examined the brackets to see if this is even possible but let's talk theoretically here...

Country of my birth versus country of origin (1st generation)? Hmm.

First of all, this was in a bar. In Raleigh. So the NASCAR fan who asked me doesn’t know soccer from bocce. But I did give it some thought. For all of 30 seconds.

Italy. Of course.

Here is why:

There are 300 million Americans, roughly. Maybe 10% will notice there is a World Cup this summer. Well, a lot more will notice if it’s on network TV and pre-empts the Bachelor or Desperate Housewives of Onondaga County. Maybe 5% can name a player on the US Men’s National Soccer Team (50% of which will say Tony Meola) and maybe 1% of can name all 12 starters*.

There are 60 million Italians. 100% care about the fate of the Italian National Team. And by care I mean enough that a loss ruins their day, their week and maybe their month. Even the old shrunken Nonnas with their socks bunched around their ankles and their black shawls raise a gnarled fist of joy when the Azzurri win a national team game.

Why am I a traitor to the country of my birth? Knowing full well that if my parents didn't leave Calabria I'd be living above them in the same house with my 3rd-cousin husband and 3 kids in the village I was born in and will never leave? I should bemore grateful.

Because maybe 10 million or so Americans will even notice a USA World Cup Victory for all of 5 minutes. Maybe 1 million will dance around like idiots for a few hours dumping beer on their USA jerseys (barring meeting Italy in the final, I’d be one of those). Then on Monday, it’d all be forgotten except for a dull headache…

It would mean more to more people for a longer period of time in Italy then it would here - national hero stuff for them. While for us Americans, even die-hard fans need to admit, it’s the 5th sport or even 6th or 7th if you throw in golf and NASCAR (which now that I live in NC, I think it may be ranked higher than that).

In Italy, 60 million Italians are still celebrating the 2006 victory.

Case in point - my earliest memory. I'm 6 years old. We were visiting Hamilton, Ontario - a very Italian town and it was a world cup year - 1982. I remember the adults all being very excited but very tense about something. I was 6, I didn’t care, I wanted to go play outside. It was eerily quiet. Then the neighborhood exploded. A guy came running out of his house waving a huge Italian flag screaming ITALIA! ITALIA! I was terrified. I thought Italy had declared war on Canada. What actually happened is that Italy had just won the World Cup. Whatever it was, the joy was infectious and I caught the soccer bug right then and there.

Fast forward to 1994 – my nose is an inch from the screen watching as Roberto Baggio misses a penalty kick and loses the Cup for Italy to Brazil. I was mentally and physically exhausted. I felt like I had played in that game.

Now to 2006. I’m AT the World Cup in Germany - USA v Italy game. Tie 1-1. The cosmos aligned. I was neither happy nor sad but disappointed in both my teams. All around - a typical soccer fan mood.

Watching soccer is emotional. Most people don’t get the game. Its 90 minutes of pent up energy broken up by a goal or two or 3 or 4 if you are really lucky. Each team can only substitute a couple of players. It’s a HUGE field, a football field fits inside. No time outs. One short halftime. Refereeing is still pretty subjective thanks to the way the laws are written (yes, soccer has laws not rules). It’s grueling to play, and when the World Cup is on the line, grueling to watch your team.

I can’t wait till June. Go Ameritaly!

*That was a trick, you see...there are 11 players on a soccer team. Outside of soccer crazy lands of DC, Boston, LA or places where there are lots of immigrants, I still hold to my premise that most American’s don’t have a clue about soccer past their own or their kid’s house league days.