Category Archives: Health Care

Hyperventilating

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
Mass Backwards
www.thedailyshow.com
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
The First 364 Days 23 Hours
www.thedailyshow.com
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) marybakerart.com.

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
Newburyport

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.

Wow.

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
Newburyport

Massachusetts Health Care Reform, NOT Helping the Middle Class

You didn’t really think I was going to stop blogging on this topic did you?

MA_health_care_reform.jpgAnd much to my surprise, my “scribbles” concerning my frustration with folks’ lack of involvement with things like local elections, democracy and poverty seemed to “confuse” a lot of people.

Stubborn and willful blogger that I am, I did another “scribble” on how the Massachusetts Health Care Reform is NOT exactly helping the Massachusetts “Middle Class” or small businesses.

I was talking to yet another small business last week. They felt it was necessary for their economic survival, for the business to go to a health insurance plan with a $2,000 deductible (that is probably a $4,000 deductible per family at least), hoping that none of their employees got too sick.

Yes, I’m getting the vapors all over again.

This is from an Opinion piece in the Boston Globe, September 17, 2007 “Health reform failure” by Steffie Woolhandler and David U. Himmelstein.

“…But this time, most of the uninsured are neither poor nor elderly…”

The middle class is being priced out of healthcare. Virtually all of this year’s increase was among families with incomes above $50,000; in fact, two-thirds of the newly uncovered were in the above-$75,000 group. And full-time workers accounted for 56 percent of the increase, with their children making up much of the rest….”

“Why has progress been so meager? Because most of the promised new coverage is of the “buy it yourself” variety, with scant help offered to the struggling middle class.”

“And 244,000 of Massachusetts uninsured get zero assistance – just a stiff fine if they don’t buy coverage. A couple in their late 50s faces a minimum premium of $8,638 annually, for a policy with no drug coverage at all and a $2,000 deductible per person before insurance even kicks in. Such skimpy yet costly coverage is, in many cases, worse than no coverage at all. Illness will still bring crippling medical bills – but the $8,638 annual premium will empty their bank accounts even before the bills start arriving. Little wonder that barely 2 percent of those required to buy such coverage have thus far signed up…” (Boston Globe, September 17, 2007).

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Irony and Political Cartoons

I guess the fact that I said that I was “whining” in an earlier entry, resonated with at least some readers of the Newburyport Blog.

On one of my “walks” last week, someone asked me if I was “whining.”

Sigh.

One cannot “whine” about a 43.7% rate hike on one’s health insurance. One’s blood pressure can go through the roof (making one need health insurance more) and one can feel outraged, betrayed, terrified, etc., etc., etc., but “whining”–no.

This is called “irony.” Irony is “using words to suggest the opposite of their literal meaning.” (Thesaurus, Microsoft Word)

For the record, I’m one of the least “whiny” people I know.

Being from New York, I’ve always been very big on “irony.” “Irony” in the last 6 years or so, seems to have gone out of fashion.

Sigh.

I like “irony” a lot.

It was one of the reasons that after I Googled the political cartoonist I met (see previous post), and eventually stopped feeling like a “dope,” that I found myself just downright fascinated, because I like the “edgy” political cartoons that I have found so far.

I have a feeling that I (and the readers of the Newburyport Blog, who feel like it) might now learn a whole lot more about political cartoons. (Another major learning curve for moi.)

This is from “The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists” (AAEC) on the Herblock Prize (see previous post).

(Already I’m feeling “enlightened” throwing around stuff like “AAEC.”)

“The Herblock Prize was created by the Herb Block Foundation to encourage editorial cartooning as an essential journalistic tool in preserving the rights of the American people.

Or, as Herb Block himself once put it: ‘Cartooning is an irreverent form of expression, and one particularly suited to scoffing at the high and mighty. If the prime role of a free press is to serve as critic of government, cartooning is often the cutting edge of that criticism.’ ”

“…the judges selected Auth’s work because his cartoons ‘not only pointed out the flaws, ironies and injustices in the system and its leaders, but simultaneously offered a playful sense of hope. This was truly a ‘Herblokian’ collection of work.’ ” (The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, May 10, 2005)

See, there is that delightful word, “irony.”

In my complete brazen, chattering to Mr. Auth, I actually had the very true audacity to suggest that blogging has something in common with political cartoons. (I can hardly believe I said that. Geesh.)

Because, in part, gently, sometimes, the Newburyport Blog does try and point out the ironies and silliness and flaws of civics and government, and also (one tries) to suggest the possibility that there might be a slight chance that things could get better.

(And don’t forget, I have a political consultant called “George”. It’s just not the “other” George.)

I am really fascinated by Tony Auth’s political cartoons, the ones so far that I have discovered (although I realize that not all the readers of the Newburyport Blog might be as “fascinated” as I am… they might even be offended…). And this is a whole new medium that I know absolutely nothing about, and I’m looking forward to learning a whole lot more about it.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Futility of Writing to Politicians

Note to self:

Writing to politicians (with the exception of the “bald guy,” see earlier entry) about how the new Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act might have a few “flaws,” apparently is a giant waste of time.

Letter(s) back…

A) Obviously didn’t read my letter(s) because it/them never addressed the issue that I was talking about…. i.e. wild health care expense for self-employed and small businesses, nifty new health insurance act, NOT working.

B) Attitude… we worked on this thing like crazy and really don’t want to hear that anything is wrong with it. So would you please “shut up.” (Letter(s) actually much more subtle than that.)

C) Staff at politician’s place seem to have “stock” letter for each political issue. And who in the world would think of using turquoise colored ink for the automatic signature thing. Gesh.

D) Attitude by Democratic responder to moi, the respondee… a lot like Bush’s attitude towards the war in Iraq. In too deep to even question whether the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act is actually working or not. “Ouch.” Yes, hope that one hurt, it was meant to.

E) Obviously, responder(s) had not read Alice Dembner’s article in the Boston Globe, August 17, 2007 “Older residents feel insurance law pinch, Age-based prices too high for some.” (Please press here to read the article), or decided to ignore it.

F) Obviously responder(s) did not empathize with woman in the article who (in an obvious desperate attempt) to save money to pay for the “new” health care (which is “less comprehensive” than her old health insurance policy) eats popcorn some nights for dinner.

G) Responder(s) either seemed unaware, or chose to ignore the statement in the article by Alice Dembner, that actually health insurance under the new law is NOT “affordable” for all, but to the contrary, “insurance is unaffordable for some.”

Note to self:

Remember politician(s) who were “out to lunch” on my impassioned letters to them.

Remember politician(s) who appear to think the new Massachusetts Health Care Reform act is the “bees’ knees.” (The “bees’ knees” was an expression of my mother’s from either the 1930′s or 1940′s. This would have dated my mother big time, or made her really “cool,” take your pick.)

Just because politician(s) has/have a good head of hair (i.e. not bald–see earlier entry) and may be “easy on the eyes,” (see earlier entry) doesn’t necessarily mean they give a flying leap about moi (or you, the Newburyport Blog reader, either, for that matter).

And especially remember that a certain Republican politician who is running for president, used to be the Massachusetts governor, and is touting the Massachusetts Health Reform Act as the savior for American health insurance woes, really could care less if this particular blogger is trying to scream so loud that “god pees.” (Yes, see earlier entry again.)

That human being really does NOT want to know that the beloved “Act” could use a little “tweaking.”

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

An Unworkable and Unaffordable Health Care Reform Act in Massachusetts

Let me whine a little bit more about how this new Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act may not exactly be nifty.

If you are working hard and making a certain amount of money, but what you are making is not all not all that much–No help for you buddy.

And if you have a small business, and have contributed to the economy in Massachusetts all these years (like so many of the people I have talked to have), make an “Ok” living, but aren’t exactly getting rich, what you now get to shell out for health insurance for your small business seems to give every small business person that I talked to the “vapors.”

Even the response I got talking with small businesses that are doing pretty well, is that the monthly health insurance bill is the most dreaded bill of the month.

The rational behind the huge jumps that insurance takes for the self-employed and small businesses for folks at ages 50, 55 and 60, to reference the article in the Boston Globe article, August 17, 2007, by Alice Dembner, “Older residents feel insurance law pinch, Age-based prices too high for some,” (Please press here to read the article) is the assumption that as people get older, they are at the peak of their earning power and can afford huge premiums. But, as the article points out, that is not exactly always the case.

And obsessive researcher that I might be, I’ve been taking a look at some of the “new” plans that health insurance companies are offering in response to the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act.

This is an example of a PPO. There is a $3,000-$6,000 deductible “In Network,” “$6,000-$9,000″ deductible “Out of Network,” and an annual out of pocket maximum per family, “Out of Network”– $18,000 (“In Network would only be $10,000). That does not include the monthly payment that whoever has this plan, pays on top of it.

It’s more complicated than that, but you get the idea, this is an astronomical amount of money for any individual or family to pay.

And this is going to go up every year.

Have the “vapors” yet?

The health insurance companies are responding to the new Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act. What they have been forced to do by this new act is push families to either come up with the money somehow if they are ill, or skip getting health care all together. (Sound familiar… only this time it’s the self-employed, small business Middle Class.)

Guess what families are going to do if they happen to have the plan above or one similar to it? They are NOT going to go to the doctor when they are afraid something is wrong. Because they get to pay 20%-40% of the doctor’s bill, lab bill, any thing that the health insurance company does NOT consider “Preventive Care,” i.e. any diagnosis or illness.

So it is my “scream” (see earlier entry), that the Massachusetts whatever (legislature, governor, state representatives) go way, way back to the drawing board, because on all kinds of levels, as far as I’m concerned, this new law is one sick joke. (And should never, ever be used in any way shape or form for a national model of what to do about the health insurance crisis in the United States of America.)

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Unaffordable Health Insurance in Massachusetts

“my mother releases a scream so loud
god pees…”

This is actually a quote from a (one person) play that my son has written. Parts of it have been performed (by him) in NYC. The whole production is about to get a “run through” in Providence R.I. (Should the whole thing get put on in NYC, you can be sure you all would know.)

Remember that 43.7% health insurance rate hike that I was whining about a while ago. Well my inclination is to “scream so loud god pees…” and it certainly gave me a real live case of the “vapors.”

There is an outstanding article in the Boston Globe, August 17, 2007, by Alice Dembner, “Older residents feel insurance law pinch, Age-based prices too high for some.” (Please press here to read the article.)

God bless Alice Dembner. I guess other folks are “screaming so loud that god pees” too.

I know, I know, it is my choice to be self-employed, to pay my own health insurance lo these many decades. But I don’t think any of the small businesses and self-employed people expected this kind of “hit.” And as the article points out:

“Older people shopping for health insurance through the state’s new initiative are discovering a sobering reality: Prices for unsubsidized plans are twice as expensive if you’re 60 than if you’re 27, making insurance unaffordable or barely affordable for many in their later years.”

The article talks about one woman living paycheck to paycheck and that health insurance is 13.6% of her income (and for some, the percentage is a whole lot higher than that, promise).

I have been wandering around Newburyport, MA talking to small business folks and self-employed folks, and the story I keep hearing over and over again is that health insurance is their biggest expense, outweighing housing costs, and their biggest worry.

And to quote the Boston Globe article on one woman’s plight, ” ‘I haven’t been on a vacation for years. Plenty of nights I have popcorn for dinner.’ ”

I don’t think she is alone by any means.

We here in Newburyport, MA have been wringing out hands, quite rightly, about how much we as tax payers pay for municipal health insurance. But, there are a lot of folks who work for the city who don’t make big bucks.

Take the “young lady” who runs the Newburyport Council on Aging, and spends hours, with no overtime, helping folks in need. My recollection is that she doesn’t get paid a whole lot of dough.

And take your friendly average librarian, who works hard, is delightful and isn’t exactly raking it in.

I wouldn’t want any of these folks to have to suddenly absorb 1,000′s of extra dollars, that they could not possibly afford.

I do not have any idea what the answer is, on a municipal level or a small business level. But I think, by all means, I may do my darnedness to continue to “scream so loud” about all this craziness that “god pees…”

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

5 Bald Newburyport Guys and a Barber and An Outrageous Health Insurance Hike

Mike Costello, Ed Cameron and Tom Jones have my unwavering political support.

Why you should ask? “Five Bald Guys and a Barber,” that’s why.

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“5 Bald Guys and a Barber”
For large photo please press here.
Courtesy of Susanne Cameron

Thursday, in my completely ditzy way, I forgot all about the Newburyport Bed Race (Yankee Homcoming).

After writing Mike Costello (no kidding, really) an email wailing about how the new state Health Reform Act could not possibly be working, because the new rate hike for my health insurance was a whopping 43.7%. (Now “low” double digit inflation is bad enough, but mid-range double digit inflation. Good grief. I figured maybe the health insurers were hoping for the self-employed and small business owners of a certain age, just to pass into the word-work from shock, when they found out what the plans for their new health insurance premiums were going to be.) Possibly more whining about the dubiousness of this new Health Insurance Act for all?? from moi, on the Newburyport Blog.

So here I am wandering the neighborhood, wondering where everyone is (it’s sweltering hot, I figure everyone’s getting cool in front of the AC or a fan), and low and behold, a whole lot of the neighborhood and a whole lot of people (Federal Street looked like a hopping block party, lots of fun) were watching the “Bed Race.”

And seeing Mike Costello, Ed Cameron and Tom Jones running and sweating down Federal Street as “5 Bald Guys and a Barber,” (I’m not sure what the male version of “ditzy” would be, maybe “wild and crazy guy?”) made me stop thinking about the 43.7% health insurance rate hike, and actually cheered me up and calmed me down a whole lot.

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“5 Bald Guys and a Barber”
Left right—Ed Cameron, Peter Bart, Rich Herman, Mike Costello, Tom Jones, Foreground—Esther Sayer
Courtesy of Susanne Cameron

With that kind of sense of humor and, let’s face it, a certain amount of chutzpa, how could anyone not get all kinds of things done in the political arena. Right?

I even decided that I wanted Tom Jones to be the new Newburyport City Council president (I’m assuming he is going to win as one of the Newburyport City Councilors at Large) (Sorry Tom O’Brien, you didn’t run in the bed race, I don’t think), provided that he always wears a tee-shirt as Newburyport City Council president that says “5 Bald Guys and a Barber, and I’m proud.” (The design of course is up to him.)

Ed Cameron has got to beat Erford Fowler in a tight Ward 4 race and Federal Street is in the wrong ward (Ward 2). Oh well. But hey, this counts as major political points/stuff in my book. (And then he’s got to wear the same tee-shirt too.)

And Esther Sayer looked pretty cute pretending to be a bald person in the middle of the bed. I don’t know who cooked this one up, but I LOVED it.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport