Healthcare, Pre-Existing Conditions, the Republican Repeal and Replace Plan, their Terrible Idea of High Risk Pools and Repeal Effects Everyone

For a while now, I’ve kept The Newburyport Blog very local, but after watching the Republican Senate vote against all matters of healthcare including the ban on pre-existing conditions and the ability to keep one’s child on your health insurance until they are 26, proposals that the American people overwhelmingly support, that’s definitely changed, at least with this post.

27% of Americans have pre-exisisting conditions.

(If you want your heart completely broken click on the Twitter hashtag #the27percent)

What the Republicans are proposing instead of a ban on pre-existing conditions  that exists now in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is something called “high risk pools.” This is an abominable idea.

Obamacare: The dirty little Secret of “repeal and replace, by Walecia Konrad, CBS News, January 12, 2017

“For sick patients who cannot continue coverage, (Paul) Ryan’s plan calls for a return to state-run high-risk pools. These pools allow sick people to buy insurance separately, while states, insurers and the federal government help subsidize the cost. The president-elect’s website says he supports risk pools.

“Risk pools have a long and controversial past. Before the ACA was passed, 35 states ran risk pools for people with preexisting conditions ranging from cancer and diabetes to more minor afflictions such as arthritis or eczema. Premiums for risk pool coverage were as much as 250 percent more than a healthy person would pay for individual insurance, and some states, overwhelmed with sick patients, had wait lists for coverage or imposed other restrictions, said Fish-Parcham (Cheryl Fish-Parcham).

“Going back to risk pools is going back to the bad old days,” she said.

Expense wasn’t the only problem. Even when the few patients who could afford it paid ultrahigh premiums, coverage was often lacking. It wasn’t unusual for people with a preexisting condition to wait six months to a year before coverage for that condition would kick in, Fish-Parcham  explained.

Or there might be a lifetime maximum on the benefit related to a preexisting condition, she added. So, if you had a stroke and needed a year of rehab, your insurance might not have covered the entire bill.

Ryan’s plan would ban wait lists and put a cap on risk pool premiums. In addition, he’s calling for $25 billion in federal funding to help states pay for risk pools. But many health care experts wonder if that’s enough to cover the number of estimated people with preexisting conditions.

“High-risk pools served only 1 percent of the population back in 2008,” said Fish-Parcham. That wasn’t anywhere near the number of people who needed coverage but couldn’t afford it, she noted, adding: “Risk pools simply didn’t work.”

The link to the article can be found here.

The other thing is the Repeal of the ACA effects everyone.

Andy Slavitt who has been the Acting Administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid put out this astounding bullet-point “document” on his Twitter feed the other day. It’s called the “Am I impacted by ACA repeal?” Checklist, the link can be found here.

Here is the “Am I impacted by the ACA repeal?” Checklist that went up on Twitter

The Impact of Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
The Impact of Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Here is the checklist with links, that went up on Twitter.  A document with the links can be found here.

The Impact of Repealing the ACA with links
The Impact of Repealing the ACA with links

And here is the transcription of the checklist. And yes, everyone will be impacted by the Republican Replace and Repeal of the ACA.

“Am I impacted by the ACA repeal?” Checklist

Repealing ACA means:

* Small businesses, farms, self-employed (20% of exchange coverage, several million)

* 127 million Americans with pre-existing conditions

* Seniors — medicare beneficiaries have saved $2000/year on RX drugs from ACA

* 55-64 year olds who will see rates increase dramatically, even if healthy by up to 10x

* Estimated 30 million with individual policies/Medicaid will lose them

* 2.8 million Americans with drug disorders will lose coverage

* 1.25 million with mental health disorders will lose coverage

* Vets: the 42% reduction in uninsured rate will be reversed

* Employer based coverage– 1/2 had lifetime caps before ACA (do NOT have a premature baby!)

* Bad debt will go up by $1.1 trillion. Health care bills will again lead in cause of personal bankruptcy

* Medicare Trust Fund, which was extended a decade, will have several years reduced from its expected life

* Taxpayers will lose $350 billion added to deficit, 9 trillion added to debt (but incomes > $1 million will see a TAX BREAK of $57K)

* 2.6 million lost jobs (health care service and construction jobs in small communities)

* Families who will have a baby

* Anyone who likes free preventive services like mammograms better than cancer treatment

* Young adults (31 million on parents’ plan). 18-26 YO in most states will be kicked off

* Anyone who loses their job and think COBRA is too expensive with limited options

* Women who want to buy health insurance will pay more than men in premiums

* 105 million had lifetime limits on what insurance companies pay

There are a few clear winners…

* Insurance companies will no longer have to devote at least 80% of premiums to
medical claims

* Debt collectors will have more business

* BIG tax break to high earners

Source: Andy Slavitt on Twitter

And here is a list of Pre-Existing Conditions before the ACA for which you were denied coverage (this is only a partial list).

Pre-Existing Condition Rejection List before the ACA
Pre-Existing Condition Rejection List before the ACA

VOTE — Tuesday, March 1, 2016 — the Presidential Primary

Where to Vote
Where to Vote

Don’t forget to VOTE next Tuesday, March 1, 2016  in the presidential primary. This is a great link that tells you where to go and what the ballot will look like, whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, United-Independent or Green-Rainbow party member.

Healthcare Insurance and being an Artist and the Affordable Care Act

The Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act
The Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act

I’ve bought my own health insurance, as an artist, before there was such a thing  “managed care,” i.e. HMOs… so we’re talking multiple decades of buying health insurance as an artist.

And in various years, on those often frosty February days, when I might daydream of moving to a warmer climate, even to a “red” state (I am talking daydreaming here–I do love my blue to purplish Massachusetts),  I came to realize, before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), that moving to anyplace except Massachusetts, might not be possible.

My father used to say, “Mary, after 40, it’s just patch, patch, patch.” And what he meant by that, is that everyone, if one is lucky,  gets older, no matter who you are.  And when you get older, the parts wear out, and things can go wrong, to slightly misguided, to very amiss (the buzz word for that is “pre-existing conditions”).

And what I began to realize was, that even though I might like to, in a daydreaming sort of way, move to a warmer, less blizzard-prone, red state, because of the “patch, patch, patch” thing, health insurance people might not cover me, really.

So, along comes the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and in 2014, I would/could have the choice, if I wanted to, of living in any state in the United States of America, no matter what condition my health might be–the “patch, patch, patch thing.”

BUT, in November 2014 all of that was put into jeopardy, the Supreme Court decided to take up a case that could send the Affordable Care Act into a death spiral. Now, I probably would like to stay right here in Newburyport, Massachusetts, but you never know.  And no Affordable Care Act (ACA) means that the mobility for artists, like me, would be severely hampered.  And I don’t like that.

But yesterday, on June 25, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled for the Affordable Care Act in a 6-3 decision. And I did a pretty weepy happy dance in the end zone of my choice, because, people like me, artists, now have the choice to live in any state in the United State of America. And I am a very glad about that.

Health Professionals Alarmed about Removing Fluoride from Newburyport’s Water System


I had someone in the medical field call me up last night and they were besides themselves about the possibility of taking fluoride out of Newburyport’s water system, because of what it would do to the health and welfare of our children and residents.

What I told them that it is really, really important for all the pediatricians, family doctors, internists, general practitioners, and yes, even all specialists in Newburyport and the surrounding areas, to speak up ASAP and contact everyone of our Newburyport city councilors. Apparently, dentists no longer count as doctors who have a valid opinion (which is that fluoride is essential to dental health) because they have been marginalized by the anti-fluoride folks for looking out for their own self interest, and being (I’m not kidding here) in the pockets of the chemical companies.

Our doctors have incredibly busy lives (and this is a vast understatement, and who knows if they can take the time to be proactive).  And this is only my opinion, but I am mystified that Daniel Enyink of Dr. Dan’s Natural Healing Center has the time, not only to aid in the mobilization of anti-fluoride folks in Newburyport (see earlier post), but to give testimony at other communities as well. I know how busy my doctors are.

I have read Enyink’s testimony in the minutes of other communities, and it is very convincing, but again this is my opinion, as one local health professional said to me it is “irresponsible,” and in my opinion, just plain old crazy.

An article by Dr. John Colquhoun (now deceased), written in 1997, is one of the pieces of literature that the anti-fluoride folks point to.

There was a response written in 1999 in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, by Dr. Ernest Newbrun and Dr. Herschel Horowitz, a short excerpt is below, and the whole article can be read here.

…”Colquhoun presented no new data. His paper rehashed earlier criticisms of water fluoridation, using selective and highly biased citations of the scientific and nonscientific literature [2-10]”…

…”Opponents of fluoridation like nothing more than to have public debates on the radio, television, or in the press because it makes fluoridation seem a “controversial ” issue and gives them free publicity. In such debates with an equal number of speakers pro and contra, it appears as if the health science community is evenly divided on this issue. In fact, the overwhelming majority, probably well over 90%, of scientists, physicians, dentists, nurses, veterinarians and public health professionals fully support community water fluoridation.”

Again, the entire article which address the issue of how dangerous and crazy it would be to take fluoride out of Newburyport’s drinking water can be read here.

And as a PS, I never knew I would end up thinking about, much less researching and knowing as much as I now know about fluoride. Who knew? Who would have ever imagined?

You Can go to Jail in Florida for Buying Hearing Aids Online

You can go to jail in Florida for buying a hearing aide online. How do I know this obscure and weird piece of information, one might ask? circuitous research that has oddly led me to pass on some very helpful information to other people–so, why not pass this information on, on The Newburyport Blog?

Behind the ear hearing aids are becoming stylish and are the size of a dime.

Back in my 30’s (oh, so long ago) I was told that I had some hearing loss. I was told this along the way by an astute physician. I did nothing for decades. And yes, eventually it became obvious that something needed to be looked into.

Very short version. If you go to an audiologist, hearing aids (and yes, those of us who are “younger” sometimes need them) can cost between $4,000-$6,000 and up for a pair. And insurance doesn’t pay for them. Whoowza. The price of a number of brand spanking new laptops or a used car. Good grief.

However, several things have conspired to help those whom, “You’ve gotta be kidding,” is their fist and final remark.

First, the internet happened. Second, the FDA did something (which I really don’t understand) that makes it possible to sell hearing aids through folks other than audiologists. Third, some very bright young men were horrified that either their family members or patients were forced to do without, or take out a loan to buy hearing aids, and they went and did something about it (creating hearing aids that vary from $500 to $1,400 a pair). Fourth, Costco, of all places, has gotten into the business of selling hearing aids in bulk big time (for around $2,000 for a pair).

What I went looking for was a first step version of a hearing aid. The equivalent of going to CVS and buying a pair of reading glasses, before eventually making the big leap and going for the more expensive prescription version.

After copious amount of research I found a young Otolaryngologist (a hearing doctor) based in Chicago who was upset that so many of his patients couldn’t afford, and therefore didn’t get the hearing aids that they needed. Dr. Cherukuri came up with a generic, “one size fits most,” that are  apparently not cheap in quality, hearing aid for his patients and now for anyone who wants to buy them. MDHearingAids–starting at $360 a pair to $600 a pair to $1,000 a pair, with a 45 day trial period. Unbelievable rave reviews. Sounded good to me.

Reading a New York Times article on this same dilemma, I found out about Audicus. You send in a copy of your hearing test, that insurance does pay for, and then they customize your hearing aide to fit the prescription, and then mail it to you for $1,200-$1,300-$1,400 a pair, with a 45 day trial period. They are also trying to take away the stigma of having a hearing aid by making them look sexier (not your grandpa’s hearing aid any more).

And then there is Costco, rave review everywhere. They do the hearing test right there, they work with major hearing aid manufactures, they have their own line, and pair goes for around $2,000, with a 90 day trial period.

And you can imagine that audiologists all over the place are having a fit about this. And that’s how I found out that some are having such a fit that in a state like Florida, buying a hearing aid online is a second degree misdemeanor and you can get up to 6 months in jail (although apparently that has never happened to anyone). Who knew that the editor of The Newburyport Blog would discover such an amazing tidbit of information. It makes me wish that I had the talents of someone like Carl Hiaasen because, Whowza, what a fun satire on all sorts of things someone could make out of that small little soupcon of information.

In Support of Fluoride

Some research in support of fluoride in Newburyport’s drinking water (see earlier post here).

National and International Organizations That Recognize the Public Health Benefits of Community Water Fluoridation for Preventing Dental Decay

Academy of Dentistry International
Academy of General Dentistry
Academy for Sports Dentistry
Alzheimer’s Association
America’s Health Insurance Plans
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
American Academy of Periodontology
American Academy of Physician Assistants
American Association for Community Dental Programs
American Association for Dental Research
American Association for Health Education
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association of Endodontists
American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
American Association of Orthodontists
American Association of Public Health Dentistry
American Association of Women Dentists
American Cancer Society
American College of Dentists
American College of Physicians–American Society of Internal Medicine
American College of Preventive Medicine
American College of Prosthodontists
American Council on Science and Health
American Dental Assistants Association
American Dental Association
American Dental Education Association
American Dental Hygienists’ Association
American Dietetic Association
American Federation of Labor and Congress
of Industrial Organizations
American Hospital Association
American Legislative Exchange Council
American Medical Association
American Nurses Association
American Osteopathic Association
American Pharmacists Association
American Public Health Association
American School Health Association
American Society for Clinical Nutrition
American Society for Nutritional Sciences
American Student Dental Association
American Water Works Association
Association for Academic Health Centers
Association of American Medical Colleges
Association of Clinicians for the Underserved
Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
Association of State and Territorial Public Health
Nutrition Directors
British Fluoridation Society
Canadian Dental Association
Canadian Dental Hygienists Association
Canadian Medical Association
Canadian Nurses Association
Canadian Paediatric Society
Canadian Public Health Association
Child Welfare League of America
Children’s Dental Health Project
Chocolate Manufacturers Association
Consumer Federation of America
Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists
Delta Dental Plans Association
FDI World Dental Federation
Federation of American Hospitals
Hispanic Dental Association
Indian Dental Association (U.S.A.)
Institute of Medicine
International Association for Dental Research
International Association for Orthodontics
International College of Dentists
March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
National Association of Community Health Centers
National Association of County and City Health Officials
National Association of Dental Assistants
National Association of Local Boards of Health
National Association of Social Workers
National Confectioners Association
National Dental Assistants Association
National Dental Association
National Dental Hygienists’ Association
National Down Syndrome Congress
National Down Syndrome Society
National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped
National Head Start Association
National Health Law Program
National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition
Oral Health America
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Society for Public Health Education
Society of American Indian Dentists
Special Care Dentistry
Academy of Dentistry for Persons with Disabilities
American Association of Hospital Dentists
American Society for Geriatric Dentistry
The Children’s Health Fund
The Dental Health Foundation (of California)
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
U.S. Public Health Service
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
World Federation of Orthodontists
World Health Organization

From  the Society of Toxicology:

“The impact of fluoridated water has been so dramatic that the Centers for Disease Control lists it as one of the 10 great health achievements of the 20th century. Despite this, serious opposition exists against fluoridated water, and attacks by these groups usually ignore the concept of dose. As a result, less than 60% of the U.S. water supply is fluoridated. This discussion can be adapted for people ranging from 80 yrs old to 8 years of age, and possibly younger. Be sure to emphasize the benefits of fluoride and reemphasize this, particularly with younger students, so that they go home understanding that it is okay to use fluoridated toothpaste and drink fluoridated water.”

A link recommended by the American Academy of Diabetes:

“For starters, get rid of plaque by brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste”

From the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology:

“I know of no scientifically validated effect of fluoride on food allergy of any sort, including peanut and tree nut allergy. Also, I could not find any reference to such in a search of the medical literature.

Thank you again for your inquiry.


Phil Lieberman, M.D.”

From the American Cancer Society:

“The general consensus among the reviews done to date is that there is no strong evidence of a link between water fluoridation and cancer.”

From the National Kidney Foundation:

“There is no evidence that consumption of optimally fluoridated drinking water increases the risk of developing CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease)”

The Fluoride Wars Come to Newburyport


On Monday night outside Newburyport’s City Hall, there were protesters with anti-fluoride signs and people screaming “poison.”

Inside City Hall were there were a stream of people, from all over the region (a couple who actually lived in Newburyport) speaking about the evils of fluoride in Newburyport’s drinking water.

Daniel Eyink of Dr. Dan’s Natural Healing Center on High Street, is a leader of the anti-fluoride opponents. Dr. Dan worked as an internist and primary care doctor in Newburyport starting in 1998 and started his healing center in 2009.

Dr. Dan probably has the best bedside manner of any doctor around. If all doctors followed his example on his bedside manner, the medical profession would be a far better place. My understanding is that Dr. Dan is often the person of last resort when medical professionals cannot figure out how to help a patient. And Dr. Dan is well loved and respected by many people in the community. However, if my doctor helped lead a movement against something that every world health organization enthusiastically endorses, I wouldn’t even say a peep, I’d just find another doctor.

The American Medical Association (AMA), the American Dental Association (ADA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), American Academy of Family Physicians, and  the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which named the measure one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century–all of these organizations are in agreement that fluoride in the water supply is not only safe, but also extremely effective and important in preventing tooth decay. For the anti-fluoride folks, this does not matter. Fluoride is “poison.” And for me this point of view is not unlike some people not getting vaccinated for measles, mumps and chickenpox, and thereby putting a whole new population at risk.

Newburyport City Councilors Meghan Kinsey and Ari Herzog have put a proposal to the Newburyport City Council to put banning fluoride on this November ballot. If the Newburyport City Council decides to put this issue on the ballot, it will make the 50 year fight over Newburyport’s Waterfront, and the fight over the Local Historic District look positively civilized.

Slate documented what happened in Portland when this issue came to a vote. The anti-fluoride folks went for a black and white, no holds barred approach based on fear, hysteria and faulty science, and successfully persuaded the people of Portland to vote against having fluoride in the water system–fear and doubt, out did reason and good medical science (the article can be read here).

Newburyport City Councilors Meghan Kinsey and Ari Herzog have put the rest of the City Council between a rock and a hard place. Does the City Council let the people of Newburyport vote, democracy and all, or do they say this is absolutely ridiculous, we are not subjecting the city of Newburyport to voting on such nonsense, and dividing the community over hysteria, fear and misguided science.

If they do decide to put it on the ballot, judging by Monday night–Wow.


Ever since Governor Romney announced his VP pick, (late Friday night during the Olympics??) Paul Ryan, I’ve been hyperventilating.  Really (unfortunately).

The issue, Medicare.  If Romney/Ryan squeak by in November, I’d squeak by under their Medicare radar before it turns into a voucher payment plan, but I’m still hyperventilating. Why?  I’ve paid my own health care cost as an artist from way back in the dark ages (“in the day,” maybe not quite that long), and to say I don’t trust the healthcare private insurance folks to do anything but look after their bottom line, without state and federal regulation, would be a vast, vast understatement.

(In 1990, I paid $340 a month for my son and myself, for GREAT health insurance. Today, here in Massachusetts, that kind of health insurance that we had, doesn’t exist for any price (that I know of). Something similar, but not really, would go for $2,165 (a month). For a family $3,545 (a month).  In New York State for a parent and child, a similar, but not really, insurance exists for $3,176 (a month). For a family, it’s a whopping $5,294.  How about those apples? And people think Massachusetts is bad!)

As an artist, I’ve been waiting for the day when I am relieved of the onerous burden of crazy individual $1,000 a month and rising health insurance premiums (and that’s cheap compared to a state like New York State, demonstration above), and having an offspring that has fallen right next to the preverbial artistic tree, I’ve always wanted that for him and his family as well – some sort of safety net, you betch’a.

Private Health insurance industry to regulate itself, no, no, no – dream land.

Medicare vouchers to keep up with health insurance cost, please, dream on.

That’s my main hyperventilation.  But the other, Mitt Romney was an old fashion Republican moderate  in Massachusetts (I know, I know, you know).  But with Paul Ryan, darling of the hijacked Tea Party, as his running mate, has he sold his soul? or was he lying way back “in the day?”  Not good either way.  To have someone so ideologically extreme on the ticket, unsettling and telling.

“…the only way for Ryan’s numbers to work would be to effectively eliminate nearly all non-defense discretionary spending, including not just much of the social safety net but infrastructure spending, R. & D. investment, federal support for education, air-traffic control, regulatory and public safety spending, and so on (editor’s note, moi – let’s not forget NPR and The National Endowment for the Arts). This would be, needless to say, a radical remaking of the federal government.  …it would basically return the federal government to something like its nineteenth-century role—and early nineteenth-century at that.” The New Yorker,  August 12, 2012, “Paul Ryan’s Budget Games.”

“More than three-fifths of the cuts proposed by Mr. Ryan, and eagerly accepted by the Tea Party-driven House, come from programs for low-income Americans. That means billions of dollars lost for job training for the displaced, Pell grants for students and food stamps for the hungry. These cuts are so severe that the nation’s Catholic bishops raised their voices in protest at the shredding of the nation’s moral obligations.

Mr. Ryan’s budget “will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment,” the bishops wrote in an April letter to the House. “These cuts are unjustified and wrong.”

It (the federal government) will not be there when the unemployed need job training, or when a struggling student needs help to get into college. It will not be there when a miner needs more than a hardhat for protection, or when a city is unable to replace a crumbling bridge (editor’s note, moi – or sidewalk).

And it will be silent when the elderly cannot keep up with the costs of M.R.I.’s or prescription medicines, or when the poor and uninsured become increasingly sick through lack of preventive care.  New York Times, August 11, 2012, “Mr Ryan’s Cramped Vision.”

So I’m hyperventilating for my offspring and his family’s future, much less my old age, should I get to live that long, should this pair get elected in November.

“..the Ryan budget is a plan that forfeits the future and global leadership to China.” Steve Clemens, The Atlantic, August 13, 2012.

Newburyport and Governing

One of my huge questions about President Obama, was yes, this is an intelligent man, yes, he could run one remarkable campaign, but, when push comes to shove (pun intended), could he govern?

And after Sunday’s historic vote on Health Care Reform, love it or hate it, the answer is in my mind, most definitely, “Yes.”

I was concerned that as a nation we had done something so historic by electing our first black president, that just that accomplishment alone would paralyze us from going forward. That after (and yes, probably during) the election of President Obama, there seems to me to be a blistering undercurrent of often collective unconscious racism, and could President Obama and the country move forward with this added obstacle.

And after our own Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown’s election, would President Obama still be as unrelenting in his quest of Health Insurance Reform?

I am moved and inspired by this remarkable and persistent accomplishment.

And one of the things that also concerned me, was that expectations for our new president were so high and unrealistic, that there was no way anyone could live up to those hopes and anticipations. It was a very long fall from the exceedingly high pedestal that he had been placed on.

Conversely, in Newburyport, MA what I have heard since the November election for Mayor of Newburyport, is that the expectations for Mayor Donna Holaday were low if non-existent. This perplexed me, but it has also worked in her favor, big time.

So many people have said to me that they are “surprisingly” impressed with our new mayor Donna Holaday. My response is always one of surprise, and I am delighted to not only reassure people that Donna Holaday, in my mind, is already one terrific mayor, but also to fill in some of the details in why I would think that.

And the question with any new mayor is for me, “Can they govern?” And my hope is that, yes, Donna Holaday would be able to govern Newburyport, MA in a remarkable way.

Newburyport, Massachusetts Election Postmortem

Oy Vey.

I still haven’t calmed down. But Jon Stewart pretty much nails it for me in the segment the day before the “historic” Massachusetts senate race (a few things I disagree with, maybe more thoughts on that later).

The Massachusetts Election
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Mass Backwards
January 19, 2010

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

And with all scathing criticism leveled at President Obama from the Right, Middle and Left, Jon Stewart also pretty much nails it for me on that subject as well.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Barack Obama is Not a Magic Negro

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

Newburyport–Finding Out Where to Vote

People are trying to find out where to vote in Newburyport.

If you live in Newburyport and do not know where you go to vote, the Newburyport City Clerk has this link. Press HERE.

You just put in your street number, city/town, state and zip code.

It works for everyone in Massachusetts. It is from Secretary Galvin’s Office.

And vote for Martha Coakley, the Democrat (D).

Gluten Free, Newburyport and the North Shore

I will admit that I was hoping that I would turn up some fellow Newburyport and Massachusetts North Shore gluten free/Celiacs (see earlier entries) by writing about the subject on the Newburyport Blog.

And voila, so far someone local who makes gluten free cookies and a fellow Newburyport Celiac has contacted me. Thank you! But according to the statistics, 1 in 133 people have Celiac disease, there have to be a whole lot more folks out there–and I could sure use your help.

One of the things that I have discovered, is that although gluten free awareness is spreading by leaps and bounds, my experience of being told to go on a gluten free diet (no wheat, barley or rye) immediately, which is life altering and overwhelming, and then pretty much left hanging with no recommended support system, is by and large the norm.

From what I can make out, Beth Israel Hospital has a research and Celiac center in Boston, and Children’s Hospital in Boston has support for families with Celiac disease, but Massachusetts appears to be lacking behind many, many states in Celiac support. (And for a state full of cutting edge medical stuff, this seems odd.)

And I think our health care system doesn’t help much either. In researching why in the world my health insurance could possibly go up 37% in one year, I discovered that doctors will only be paid for office visits, not phone calls, much less emails. One of my doctors that I have known for years, recently told me that he now has to become a “businessman,” seeing as many patients as possible in a day, instead of spending the time talking with them, making sure that he knows them, and helping them with individual problem solving approaches, because otherwise he will go out of business. Discouraging to say the least.

And because Celiac is just beginning to be researched, it appears that a person would be “lucky” just to be diagnosed, but having a “Celiac team” to help figure out how to adjust to this weird thing, in most cases seems elusive.

I’m all for having a Newburyport or Massachusetts North Shore Gluten Free/Celiac support group. I’m sure there are a whole lot of people beside me who could use one too. And although there are no “comments” on the Newburyport Blog (see many earlier entries), I do have a contact email–info (AT)

Crazy Health Insurance Rate Hike

My health insurance this year goes up a whopping 37%. It is so high I weirdly feel embarrassed, instead of angry and outraged.

I am one of those people who basically gets to buy their health insurance “retail,” no bargaining power for moi.

Ed Cameron graciously tells me who to email on the Massachusetts State level, and I send Representative Harriett Stanley, the co-chair of the state’s Joint Committee on Health Care Financing an email and Cc it to Representative Mike Costello and State Senator Steven Baddour, my own Massachusetts state representatives. From the article in the
Newburyport Daily News, it is quite evident that Harriett Stanley is well aware of my predicament and others like me, and is doing her dardest to do everything that she can to address the issue. But 37% ??

And, thank goodness one can no longer say that nobody is paying attention to the issue when the top guy, the President of the United States, is all over the place, talking about my exact problem. If President Barack Obama can’t pull this off, I am beyond sunk.

My health insurance sales rep has been great. She and I have worked together for almost a decade to try and get the best possible deal possible. We are now, after all these years, on a first name basis.

Two years ago a “deductible” health insurance plan was the answer. The deductible was high enough, however, that I didn’t go to the doctor (which may be the point of a high deductible??). Could Celiac/gluten free (see earlier entries) have been diagnosed sooner? Who knows. Last (health insurance calendar) year I said “To Hell with it, I’ll pay the stupid deductible,” and it turns out it was a good thing that I did.

This year to bring down the monthly cost, the deductible would be so off the charts that I would basically be paying for everything aside from very large medical bills. And the monthly premiums would not have been that much lower. The health insurance rep could think of nothing else to come up with, so 37%… beyond “Ouch.” And she was embarrassed about not being able to come up with anything except “pretty unacceptable.”

But, as I said to my health insurance rep, when my son will no longer be able to be on my health insurance plan, which is soon, in New York City he would pay roughly two and two-thirds (almost 3 times) more for the same quality of insurance that he is now getting in Massachusetts. My vow to my son is that I would make sure that he would always have health insurance. So, after much research, he will get a lesser product in the state of New York for “only” twice what he would pay in Massachusetts for a much better product. Triple “Ouch.” (This weirdly makes Massachusetts look not so bad.) One could only imagine how badly I would like health insurance reform to pass on the Federal level? Please, please, please.

Gluten Free–What?? in Newburyport

I open my mailbox, weeks ago, possibly now months ago, checking on when my last posting would be on the Newburyport Blog. There is a fat letter from my doctor. I cannot imagine what it could possibly be. Results from a lab test long since forgotten by moi. Apparently my body is silently destroying itself, ironically because of “comfort foods,” bread, cookies, pasta, crackers–stuff that contains something called “gluten.” I am immediately to go on something called a “gluten free diet.” Accompanying the lab results is a xeroxed list of all the things that are now “verboten.”

I, who always thought I was lucky enough to be born with the “skinny gene,” (see previous post on “shapewear”) actually have something called Celiac, a very unfortunate version of the “skinny gene.” And I who have never had to go on a diet in my life, now get to go on the diet from hell, from this point forth and forevermore, as long as I get to live. Apparently it is the only “cure” for Celiac disease, something that is nowhere close to being on my radar screen.

I immediately sit down to my trusty computer and look up “gluten free” and “Celiac.” Viola, it turns out that one of the grocery stores in Newburyport, MA carries a whole “gluten free” section. I immediately drive North from my abode, and low and behold, there it is, gluten free bread, cookies–I say to myself, “I’ll start with those.” One taste of these gluten free “treats,” out they go, $$ down the garbage hole. (Apparently I am far from alone in this initial outing and response.) I cannot bring myself to go from soft, fluffy bread and crunchy crackers to stuff that has the consistency of sand.

The Newburyport Blog has taught me how to research, and research I do, for weeks, now going on months. My initial research shows that gluten appears to be everywhere, chicken broth, soy sauce, liquorish, cereals, sunscreen, make-up, toothpaste, pudding, gravy, hot cocoa, just to name a few. And I am overwhelmed.

However, it also appears that I not only have a “wicked smart” doctor who has picked up this once possibility, but there is also now a budding gluten free awareness in the USA, and the beginnings of a huge gluten free industry, even as hospitals madly do research in this under-researched item.

And weeks, yes, maybe months after receiving “the letter,” I am not only grateful that this weird thing is not something much, much worse, like a “three months to live” sort of thing, and I am coming out of shock enough to once again post something on the Newburyport Blog.

Primary Care Physicians and Bye-Bye Doctors

I have a very conscientious GP aka primary care physician, which I gather from looking at the news lately is actually pretty hard to come by these days.

Apparently there’s a vast GP shortage.

I guess to go all the way through medical school and only become a GP could be kind of a letdown. I can’t imagine even going to medical school in the first place, much less spending lots more time and money in medical school, and becoming a specialist, which medical insurance companies now are not so found of paying. Sort of a catch-22 for folks going to medical school, if you ask me.

I don’t like going to specialists, it means something could possibly be wrong. I’d rather just go to a GP.

Once, a while back, I was feeling particularly hypochondriac like, and mentioned an “ailment” to my very conscientious GP. Bad move on my part, let me tell you.

My very conscientious GP tested me for every terrifying thing in the book. You name it, if it was terrifying, we found out whether I had it or not. This could also be called CYA, but I’m not sure. Thankfully, I didn’t have any of the terrifying, life threatening or fatal ailments that I was tested for.

Showed me. Now the when my very conscientious GP asks me if anything is “wrong,” I think about it for a mila-moment and then say, “Nope, everything’s just fine.” I don’t care what possible ailment, that I’ve conjured up in my brain, that I think I might have. No more terrifying tests for me, thank you very much.

And insurance companies should learn from this. Instead of saying, “No, we’re not going to test you for x, y or z.” Take a different approach. A person comes in and complains of burping, you scare the shit out them, and then they never ask for anything ever again. Sort of like dealing with a wayward two year old or difficult teenager. You know, reverse psychology.

But, no, as I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve gotten very, very used to getting missives (if not just down right taking them from granted, anticipating them even), disguised as expensive looking brochures, informing me that, nope, guess what, we said that you were covered for x out of x, y and z, but guess what.. x is now out. Lucky you.

In fact, last week I get a long letter from my medical insurance agency letting me know that, oops, some patients thought that their doctors were part of this insurance company’s insurance plan. But guess what, in 3 long weeks, bye-bye doctors. Got to go find some other folks. Not that this is the medical insurance agency’s fault. Oh no. The doctors want to be paid an actual living wage, and that is too much to ask of the medical insurance agency. You got to give these medical agency people a break, come on.

So I’m hoping that my very competent GP, aka primary care physician doesn’t get deluged with all those patients, betrayed by their greedy doctors, wanting to actually get paid something decent for a visit to the physician, GP, specialist or whatever.

I still like having the option of saying, “Nope, everything’s just fine,” but knowing that if something actual isn’t “just fine,” there is someone out there who will scare the shit out of me, trying to find out what the hell might be going on.

Insurance, My House is Worth Tons

I get my new home insurance policy and it seems high.

On one of the few transverseable Newburyport winter wonderland days, I wander into my insurance company, introduce myself to the new young lady in charge of insuring my stuff, and declare that the new premium seems “high.”

I also tell her that I haven’t read through the darn thing, I have no idea what’s in it, but promise that indeed I will peruse the document in question.

Also, somehow the subject of “Minnesota” (see previous post) comes up, and a declaration is made that my new young lady insurance person would never think of leaving good old New England. I, of course, think that this is downright dandy, and feel that we have a bond (a good thing to feel that you have with your new insurance lady, which, of course may or may not be true).

A few days later I actually do read the document in question. I find out, that it appears among other things that I am insured for a golf cart that I don’t own, and a boat, that I don’t own either. The insurance company also seems to think that the price of my house has actually gone up. Were that that would be actually true, in these lousy and scary financial times.

So I chat with my new insurance lady and explain that I don’t want to be insured for a golf cart or a boat that I don’t own. I’m told that this is standard policy, but I zone out during the explanation of why this is “standard” stuff.

I’m sitting there wondering, because I haven’t perused the document in question that carefully, what else might I be paying to be insured for. A flock of sheep? An island in the Bahamas? The possibilities are endless.

Also, I’m so used to getting statements from my medical insurance telling me all the things that I’m not insured for, that I’m just not used to being insured for a golf cart that I’m never planning to use, much less never planning to buy.

After the explanation, that I’ve paid absolutely no attention to, because I’ve been wondering what else I could be insured for, I also inform my new insurance lady, that in these times when houses, on a whole, are worth less than they were, let’s say a year ago (woe is me), that there is no way I’m paying what the insurance company thinks my house might be worth.

Silence, the insurance company might not agree.

So, instead of saying something tactful like, “I’m sure you can convince them to come to another conclusion,” I say the sort of thing that makes people wish they worked somewhere else. The sort of thing that instead of putting a smile on a person’s face, they grip their desk when they see you or hear the sound of your voice, and say to their family when they get home, “You would not believe the day that I’ve had!”

Maybe it was reading about being insured for the golf cart thing, but I slipped and pulled what my son would call a “New Yawker.” Lots of explanations on my part, but no excuse.

MA Health Care, It Pays to Scream

It’s that time of year when I get the invoice from my health care insurer, telling exactly how much my healthcare would go up this year.

Most years I brace myself for a 10-15% mark-up. Last year, the first year of the Massachusetts (infamous) Health Care Reform, the premium hike was (I kid you not) 47%.

This year, when I called my health care insurer to brace myself for the always horrific news, I couldn’t believe it, it was “good” news. My health care premiums actually went down. And in fact they offered me a better plan for less.

I kept saying, “What?” “Are you sure?”

And finally when I asked “Why?” (because in all the decades this has never happened before) the answer was that it was too expensive for people and they could not pay.

No kidding.

So maybe someone in MA, got the message that the (infamous) Massachusetts Health Care Reform has the potential for bankrupting the middleclass and putting small businesses out of business of (see earlier post).

(And as a btw, from the responses from my various public representatives concerning my horror to premium hike-ups last year, Senator Steven Baddour got an F-. I still have his response from August 20, 2007 on my desk. And I glare at it, still.)

My premiums are more affordable. But are my premiums actually really and truly affordable? No.

It is a step in the right direction. But there are a whole lot more steps to go.

Thank you, particularly the Boston Globe, for writing very courageous articles on how the new (infamous) Massachusetts Health Care Reform would be causing so much anguish for small businesses, middle aged folks (the article about the woman eating popcorn for dinner, so that she could pay for her mandated heath care premiums) and the middle class.

Thank you to all those people who spoke up and continue to speak up. May this “downward spiral” be just the beginning of affordable and quality health care for everyone.

Newburyport Political Junkie and the National Primary

Being a political junkie, I’ve been following the National Primary very, very closely.

Ok, I am thrilled that Barack Obama won in Newburyport, MA. I’m a huge fan. Have been from the moment I heard him open his mouth at the Democratic Convention in 2004, giving the keynote address (you can watch it on YouTube). He seemed to me to be the next Democratic rising star. And as of Super Tuesday, he’s still with us, and I hope surging.

And as for Mitt Romney. Bleh. Even though he won in Massachusetts, well, I’m glad he’s struggling. His, what I consider, really lousy Massachusetts, state health care plan, that creates havoc for the middle class, sticks in my craw, let me tell you.

Plus the flip-flop thing on the social issues. Excuse me. I’m sorry the rest of Massachusetts, but what are you thinking. Come on.

And although I don’t agree with Senator McCain on tons of stuff, like the Iraq war, at least, to me he appears to have integrity. He’s going to show up and tell people, not what they want to hear, but what he thinks would be true (like in Michigan, where they apparently didn’t agree, he lost).

And as for Mrs. Clinton. Ok, I desperately want a Democrat in the White House (plus my father is a huge fan, we are a divided family on this one).

And for the first time in a long, long time, the national political landscape is enjoyable. I love this. And it appears that the candidates have broken away from the present resident of the White House. And as a nation we finally are able to speak out. And I love Tony Auth’s political cartoon of February 6, 2008. Amen.

Mary Eaton

Municipal Jobs Well Done

It must have been about 4 or 5 years ago during one of the winters from Hell that we had, I called the DPW (Department of Public Works) and asked if there could be anyway that they could send a plow to re-plow our small street.

In a very short time a big plow appeared and did one heck of a spectacular job.

I wrote the DPW a thank you note, saying how much I appreciated their extra care and consideration.

When I talked to whoever at the then DPW a little bit later, they said, I believe, that my “thank you” note was the only one that they had ever received, and that they put it up on the bulletin board as a morale booster for the folks that had been working so hard.


Apparently, Newburyport city employees often do not get thanked for a job well done.

And recently I got a very kind email from our Newburyport City Clerk, Richard Jones, thanking me for my “kind words” about the excellent job that the Newburyport City Clerk’s office did on election night, that was briefly mentioned on the Newburyport Blog. (See earlier entry.)

To be able to witness that process unfold was an incredibly moving and inspiring experience for me. It was a privilege for me to watch “Democracy” in action on election night at Newburyport City Hall.

That night, I couldn’t help thinking back to a national election that had gotten pretty muddled over election stuff. And I thought that we in Newburyport, MA, were so lucky to have such a professional and thoughtful approach by the Newburyport City Clerk’s office, that I wanted the readers of the Newburyport Blog to know just how luck we are.

And I know I’m not going to be real popular with this next thought. But there have been a lot of folks who are upset with the Newburyport City Unions, that they did not embrace the “new” health insurance plan (right away) and thereby saving the City of Newburyport, MA some major dough.

My take on the salaries of the folks that work for Newburyport, MA, is that with a few exceptions, they are pretty low, but the benefits have been good.

And that it is my understanding (and I can’t site the exact source for this one) that it is getting harder and harder to get folks (especially younger folks) to work on a municipal level.

And it takes a lot of money just to live to get by these days.

And as a city, I think we need to take a long look to make sure people might be inspired to work for municipalities. And appreciation for a job well done, in my book, always seems to go a long way.

Mary Eaton