Saturday, July 28, 2012


So far this year, 26 billionaires have donated more than $61 million to super PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And that’s only what has been publicly disclosed.” That didn’t include “about $100 million that Sheldon Adelson has said that he is willing to spend to defeat President Obama; or the $400 million that the Koch brothers have pledged to spend during the 2012 election season.”

What the Supreme court has done through their Citizens United decision is establish an oligarchy....they have made it possible for money to speak so loud that, if we are not careful, drown out the vote of the common man. Now more than at any time in our history one party is attempting to replace "one man, one vote" with "one dollar, one vote." 

During a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Bernie Sanders put it this way: “What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United is to say to these same billionaires and the corporations they control: ‘You own and control the economy; you own Wall Street; you own the coal companies; you own the oil companies. Now, for a very small percentage of your wealth, we’re going to give you the opportunity to own the United States government.’ ”

Sunday, July 22, 2012


 In the wake of the barbaric acts of atrocity planned for months and perpetrated by a deeply disturbed doctoral candidate, we must look back, yes. But we must also look forward and ask ourselves how we can prevent these instances that have become all too prevelent in our country. Colombine, Virginia Tech and now Aurora, our youth in America are acting out in unspeakable ways, namely the taking of multiple lives in order to gain fame and seeking the help they so despirately need.

He wasn't born to do this. He had every advantage in life...a loving middle class home, a nuclear family with conservative parents and a superior intellect that resulted in degrees and recognition with honors.
So while the question being asked across the country and the world is WHY? My question is WHO KNEW? Someone knew this young man needed help. Someone knew there was something going desperately wrong in his life. A Phd. candidate who suddenly quits school, goes online and orders enough weapons to carry out a personal war....someone knew he was in trouble.

There are so many people out there amongst us who desperately need help. We need an anonymous National Mental Health tip line so that these people can get the help they need before another tragedy like this unfolds. I don't know what this would look like, or how this could be enforced or investigated, but doing nothing will ultimately cost more innocent lives.

The real tragedy is that someone knew this guy needed help. Someone could see the signs.....friends, family, an educator, a healthcare provider, an employer....someone knew this guy needed help. But they didn't know who to call, or what to do, or were afraid to get involved.

A national helpline would be a first step. A data base of names of people who may need help, of people whose lives were going sideways. A data base of names to check before selling someone a roll magazine bulk ammo accessory that would allow someone to fire off 100 rounds per minute. A data base to check before selling someone thousands of bullets online, and bullet proof vests, and a gas mask and all the accoutrements this disturbed young man acquired in order to commit this atrocity.

We cannot remain silent any longer. Someone knew......and the cost of their silence(s) can be seen in Aurora and Columbine and Virginia Tech and on and on.... We cannot afford to stay silent any longer.

God bless all those who personally experienced this horrific event...may they find peace. God bless the victims who will recover and God bless the ultimate victims, the unfortunate people who through no fault of there own died at the hands of this troubled soul (some pictured above). Good people who died...because someone least someone should have known...and either didn't know what to do, or chose to do nothing. Someone knew what we all know now. This man was a time bomb waiting to go off....and he did...and hundreds of lives have been inextricably altered because of it in a horrific and brutal way.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012



 If you are an Aaron Sorkin devotee like I am, you have been watching the first two episodes of a new series on HBO called "The Newsroom."
In its first episode, Jeff Daniels, who plays a veteran newscaster named Will McEvoy, is on the speaking circuit, this time as part of the usual college debate, with McEvoy flanked by the usual talking heads, one ultra right wing, and one ultra liberal. 
During a Q & A session, one of the college students in the audience asks ‘What makes America the greatest country in the world?’
McEvoy pauses for a few seconds, then goes on an almighty (factually accurate, statistically) rant about why America is NOT the world’s greatest country, a concept that would be horrifyingly alien to 99.99 per cent of Americans I know:
"There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that America is the greatest country on earth.....we’re seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, fourth in labor force and fourth in exports. 
We lead the world in only three categories – number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of which are our allies… So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the f*** you’re talking about....Yosemite?
As the students look on, stunned, he adds, ‘We sure used to be… We stood up for what was right, we fought for moral reasons, we waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and acted like men…we aspired to intelligence and didn't belittle it, it didn't make us feel inferior, we didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election.... and we didn't scare so easy."  
We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed, by great men… The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one – America is not the greatest country in the world any more.’
Sobering dialogue to be sure, but factually accurate...we are no longer the greatest country in the world.......but what McEvoy didn't say...and desperately needed to say was, "but we can be again."
Now I'm not going to go off on a rant of my own (which would pale in comparison to Sorkin's incredible writing flair), except to say that we lost something generations ago. We lost something and we never even knew it...I guess we were so busy beating our chests in a sense of false pride we didn't even notice it was slipping away from us.
During World War II this country came together as in no other time in our history...ration books became necessary for staples like coffee, sugar and petroleum, goods normally made of rubber and scrap metal were scarce as they were used to produce ammunition, gas masks and explosives. 
A call came down from our leaders to save scrap metal in order to bolster our sorely lacking production of airplanes. While recent historical studies indicate that the scrap drives were more important as morale boosters than in providing essential products for the war effort. But, the general public did get caught up in the patriotic enthusiasm — some saved tin foil from gum wrappers, making a tin foil ball until it reached a size large enough to be accepted by the collection site. Scrap paper was more easily collected and was used to package armaments. Grease was saved and recycled to make ammunition. 
They came together and along with the adoption of assembly line production techniques from Henry Ford, this great nation far exceeded its goals and produced enough planes...enough planes to form an armada that blanketed the skies....and victory was ours...and democracy continued to live on in Europe as a result.
We came together. I don't know what it would take for this once great nation to come together again. Many would say we never will again....we are too fragmented, too engaged in class warfare to ever come together as a people. It is the haves and have nots. It's me and it's's never "us" anymore.
And that is a shame...because when this nation comes together, there is nothing we can't do. During his term, President Kennedy set the goal of going to the moon, an absurd notion. We were in the middle of racial tensions, riots in our streets not to mention the technology simply did not exsist....there was no reason to possibly think this goal was achievable....but he / we made it happen. Many of you will remember JFK's great speech he gave that historic day in Houston....
"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
But you may not remember this speech...the speech he gave to Congress upon his return to Washington after making such a bold statement and after challenging the nation to "go where no man had gone before...."
"I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshalled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment."
That's leadership....he challenged the nation, he harnessed out energies, he challenged this nation like other great leaders had in WWII and before....because leaders give us vision, they challenge us to achieve and most of all they lead.  And as long as Washington fails to come together themselves and actually lead.....we may never come together for one sole purpose again. 
"America is not the greatest nation on earth any more."
But we can be...if only our leaders could lead....and bring us together towards common goals...and stop identifying us (and dividing us) by social and political labels...because the day after an election, we used to stop being Democrats and Republicans, and went back to being what we took so much pride in being...Americans. One great nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.
I envy the youth of America today...because they are too young to remember what it felt like to be an American generations ago. They don't know the shame in what we have become....and what we may never be again.
And that is the world..."The World According to Kimba." 
God bless you......and God bless the United States of America.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Under the new law, young adults are allowed to stay on their parent’s plan until they turn 26 years old. (In the case of existing group health plans, this right does not apply if the young adult is offered insurance at work.) Check with your insurance company or employer to see if you qualify.
All new plans must cover certain preventive services such as mammograms and colonoscopies without charging a deductible, co-pay or coinsurance.
 In the past, insurance companies could search for an error, or other technical mistake, on a customer’s application and use this error to deny payment for services when he or she got sick. The new law makes this illegal. After media reports cited incidents of breast cancer patients losing coverage, insurance companies agreed to end this practice immediately.
The law provides consumers with a way to appeal coverage determinations or claims to their insurance company, and establishes an external review process.
 Under the new law, insurance companies are prohibited from imposing lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits, like hospital stays.
 Under the new law, insurance companies’ use of annual dollar limits on the amount of insurance coverage a patient may receive is restricted for new plans in the individual market and all group plans. In 2014, the use of annual dollar limits on essential benefits like hospital stays will be banned for new plans in the individual market and all group plans.
 The new law includes new rules to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to children under the age of 19 due to a pre-existing condition.
 The law allows states that have, or plan to implement, measures that require insurance companies to justify their premium increases to be eligible for $250 million in new grants. Insurance companies with excessive or unjustified premium increases may not be able to participate in the new Affordable Insurance Exchanges in 2014.
 To strengthen the availability of primary care, there are new incentives in the law to expand the number of primary care doctors, nurses and physician assistants, including funding for scholarships and loan repayments for primary care doctors and nurses working in under served areas.  Doctors and nurses receiving payments made under any state loan repayment or loan forgiveness program intended to increase the availability of health care services in under served or health professional shortage areas will not have to pay taxes on those payments.
 Under the new law, states that apply receive federal grants to help set up or expand independent offices to help consumers navigate the private health insurance system. These programs help consumers file complaints and appeals; enroll in health coverage; and get educated about their rights and responsibilities in group health plans or individual health insurance policies. The programs also collect data on the types of problems consumers have, and file reports with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to identify trouble spots that need further oversight.
 A new $15 billion Prevention and Public Health Fund invests in proven prevention and public health programs that can help keep Americans healthy – from smoking cessation to combating obesity.
 The law includes new funding to support the construction of and expansion of services at community health centers, allowing these centers to serve some 20 million new patients across the country.
 Today, 68% of medically underserved communities across the nation are in rural areas, and these communities often have trouble attracting and retaining medical professionals. The law provides increased payment to rural health care providers to help them continue to serve their communities.
 In 2011, seniors who reach the coverage gap will receive a 50 percent discount when buying Medicare Part D covered brand-name prescription drugs. Over the next ten years, seniors will receive additional savings on brand-name and generic drugs until the coverage gap is closed in 2020.
 The law provides certain free preventive services, such as annual wellness visits and personalized prevention plans, for seniors on Medicare.
To ensure premium dollars are spent primarily on health care, the new law generally requires that at least 85% of all premium dollars collected by insurance companies for large employer plans are spent on health care services and health care quality improvement.  For plans sold to individuals and small employers, at least 80% of the premium must be spent on benefits and quality improvement. If insurance companies do not meet these goals because their administrative costs or profits are too high, they must provide rebates to consumers.
 Today, Medicare pays Medicare Advantage insurance companies over $1,000 more per person on average than is spent per person in Original Medicare. This results in increased premiums for all Medicare beneficiaries, including the 77% of beneficiaries who are not currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. The new law levels the playing field by gradually eliminating this discrepancy.  People enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan will still receive all guaranteed Medicare benefits, and the law provides bonus payments to Medicare Advantage plans that provide high quality care. 
Health care remains one of the few industries that relies on paper records. The new law institutes a series of changes to standardize billing and requires health plans to begin adopting and implementing rules for the secure, confidential, electronic exchange of health information. Using electronic health records will reduce paperwork and administrative burdens, cut costs, reduce medical errors and, most importantly, improve the quality of care.
As Medicaid programs and providers prepare to cover more patients in 2014, the Act requires states to pay primary care physicians no less than 100% of Medicare payment rates in 2013 and 2014 for primary care services. The increase is fully funded by the federal government.
 Under the new law, states will receive two more years of funding to continue coverage for children not eligible for Medicaid.
Starting in 2014 if your employer doesn’t offer insurance, you will be able to buy it directly in an Affordable Insurance Exchange. An Exchange is a new transparent and competitive insurance marketplace where individuals and small businesses can buy affordable and qualified health benefit plans.  Exchanges will offer you a choice of health plans that meet certain benefits and cost standards.  Starting in 2014, Members of Congress will be getting their health care insurance through Exchanges, and you will be able buy your insurance through Exchanges too.
 Under the new law, most individuals who can afford it will be required to obtain basic health insurance coverage or pay a fee to help offset the costs of caring for uninsured Americans.  If affordable coverage is not available to an individual, he or she will be eligible for an exemption.
 Workers meeting certain requirements who cannot afford the coverage provided by their employer may take whatever funds their employer might have contributed to their insurance and use these resources to help purchase a more affordable plan in the new Affordable Insurance Exchanges. These new competitive marketplaces will allow individuals and small businesses to buy qualified health benefit plans.
Americans who earn less than 133% of the poverty level (approximately $14,000 for an individual and $29,000 for a family of four) will be eligible to enroll in Medicaid. States will receive 100% federal funding for the first three years to support this expanded coverage, phasing to 90% federal funding in subsequent years.
 Tax credits to help the middle class afford insurance will become available for those with income between 100% and 400% of the poverty line who are not eligible for other affordable coverage. (In 2010, 400% of the poverty line comes out to about $43,000 for an individual or $88,000 for a family of four.) The tax credit is advanceable, so it can lower your premium payments each month, rather than making you wait for tax time. It’s also refundable, so even moderate income families can receive the full benefit of the credit.  These individuals may also qualify for reduced cost-sharing (copayments, co-insurance, and deductibles).
 The law implements strong reforms that prohibit insurance companies from refusing to sell coverage or renew policies because of an individual’s pre-existing conditions. Also, in the individual and small group market, it eliminates the ability of insurance companies to charge higher rates due to gender or health status.
 The law prohibits new plans and existing group plans from imposing annual dollar limits on the amount of coverage an individual may receive.
 The law implements the second phase of the small business tax credit for qualified small businesses and small non-profit organizations. In this phase, the credit is up to 50% of the employer’s contribution to provide health insurance for employees.  There is also up to a 35% credit for small non-profit organizations.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


I want to know what is so terrible about:
  1. Keeping your kids on your policy until they reach the age of 26.
  2. Eliminating the lifetime cap on benefits.
  3. Stopping insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick.
  4. Lowering the cost of care and medication for Medicare recipients.
  5. Covering preventative care at no charge.
  6. Strengthening fraud protections by increasing penalties.
  7. Stopping insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.
  8. Stopping insurance companies from arbitrarily jacking up rates.
  9. Getting a rebate if your insurance company spent too much on ads and CEO bonuses.
  10. Tax credits to small businesses so they can afford quality health coverage for their employees.
  11. Building and improving community health centers.
  12. Giving working Americans a tax credit so they can afford insurance (begins in 2014).
  13. Also in 2014, ending discrimination against adults with pre-exiting conditions.
  14. Preventing insurance companies from charging higher prices to women based solely on their gender (2014).
  15. Creating insurance exchanges where people can shop and compare and get the most for their health insurance dollars (2014).