When? When did it happen?

For close to eight (8) years the Republicans have been telling us how bad the Affordable Care Act (ACA or also known as Obamacare) is and how it is exploding and going under.  Really!  Well tell that to the millions of Americans that did not have healthcare before the ACA and do now.  Tell that to those who because of Pre-existing conditions were denied coverage, even for having acne as a teenager, or to the women who gave birth and were then denied coverage because of pregnancies.  How about those who were not denied but because of the amount the insurance companies charged effectively denied them coverage.

Insurance companies really do not want to provide anyone coverage unless they are young and healthy and have never been sick or injured in their life, other than minor ailments.  That effectively eliminates a lot of folks.  There are a few ways to get around this – 1) is to be covered under an employer’s healthcare plan, 2) join the military (they have great coverage), 3) (this goes with #2) go to war, get injured and be covered by the VA (great benefit and care, but not everybody qualifies and this is probably the least desirable way to become eligible).  Now what are Health Insurance Companies, really?  They do not see patients, nor do they prescribe medications, do surgery or any other form of medical procedure.  They are bankers, they move money around, they collect your premium, pay themselves an incredibly high salary, then they nickle and dime the doctors and hospitals to accept lower payments for a procedure.  Even worse are those (especially doctors) who are not in NETWORK, boy do they get the shaft.

Now the Republicans in the Senate (and later in the House) plan to vote on a Repeal and Replace bill before the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2017).  So what does this new bill do?  It will allow insurance companies complete control over who will or will not be covered.  Over the next several years it will eliminate Federal Medicaid, coverage that millions of our citizens (especially children) need and turn it over to the state who will decide what to use the funds for.  It will change how states will receive Medicaid funds by changing them into block grants.  It also changes the formulation that affects distribution of funds to the states.  Under the ACA states were encouraged to expand Medicaid, the federal government would pay 100% the first three years and 90% thereafter.  Some so called blue states including California, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Washington, to name a few, will be penalized for following the rules and expanding their Medicaid programs.  So called red states such as Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and others will benefit because they decided not to expand Medicaid.  Because California and New York are such large states and they had the audacity to expand Medicaid and they will not be allowed to go to a single payer health care system.

This bill, which has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), will eliminate millions of our citizens from being able to afford, let alone qualify, for health insurance.  What does this really mean?  It means that people are going to DIE.  Die because they could not afford to see a doctor or if they do see a doctor it will be at an emergency room where we, who are insured, will eventually pay the costs.

Now to answer the question “When did it happen?”  I believe that we really started this downhill slide to this point of our country’s history in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan told us “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”  I have always found this statement to be absolutely absurd.  Why you might ask, because under our form of government WE are the government.  We ask people, that we think that we can trust, to represent us, therefore a representative type of government.  The more you ridicule and distrust those who are elected only means that you ridicule and distrust yourself.  If they pass laws that are contrary to what you want, it only means that you were not paying attention and keeping your elected officials in check.

How do we stop this madness?  How do we regain control over our government?  It is by taking charge and stop being so cynical.  Step up and declare yourself to be a candidate for an office.  It does not matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican as long as you do the job with honesty and integrity.  Run for office be it for dog catcher, for a position on the school board, or any number of offices that can use a fresh face and new ideas that help rather than hurt our fellow citizens.  After a couple of years at this level try running for the city or county council, from here and at high levels of office, you have an impact on state and federal legislation and regulatory decisions.  If you are young enough, and age is not necessarily an obstacle,  step up to state offices, positions in the State legislature, House and Senate (most are part-time positions and in some states your regular job, by law, must be held for you), are just as powerful and rewarding as on the Federal level.

On the Federal level positions in the US House of Representatives and the Senate are not as plentiful, but this is prestige and strut time.  This is where you make a name for yourself, by being a leader or a follower.  It is what some people want, they like the cheers, the music, the glad-handing, and the speeches.  This is where the big boys and girls live, work and play, many will not have the stomach for such high power living and others seek even more.

Okay, are you in – as a voter or as a candidate?  But most importantly be an active, charged up citizen that is ready to take on the idea that – if you are from the government and you are ready help – it is not used in a negative way.  We are Americans, we stand up and take charge and do what is right.  Let us stop sitting on our hands and continue to gripe about how the government is no good and they do not listen to the people.  You and your fellow citizens can and must join together to change this country to again be caring and compassionate.

Will He or Won’t He

The most important question every Senior needs to ask

Well here we are stuck in limbo not knowing if Mr. Trump will protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as he promised.  All through the campaign he said that these programs would not be changed but should be made stronger. 

Then came the transition and he nominated Tom Price, a Congressman from Georgia and a Physician to be the secretary of Health and Human Services, he also nominated Mick Mulvaney, a Congressman from South Carolina to head the Office of Management and Budget.  Mr. Price and Mr. Mulvaney are outspoken critics of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  They do not think that the government should have anything to do with these programs and calls them “Entitlements” which we all know is shorthand for “Welfare”. 

I don’t know about you but after working over 50 years I think that I am entitled to the “Earned Benefits” that I paid into for all those years.  Ok, I know the story, I paid for those who were already retired and the next generation would pay for mine, but wait they say there are not enough in that generation to keep Social Security afloat.  That was true until the early 1980’s when President Reagan and the Speaker of the House Tip O’Neal came up with the idea that the Baby Boomers would pay double the payroll tax.  That way they not only paid for those who had already retired, but would also pay for their own retirement, and then the tax would revert to its previous level.  That way the working generation would take care of those who had gone before as the law was originally intended.  Now the story is Social Security and Medicare is going broke, They have been saying that ever since I can remember in the 1950’s.  How can a program that people are still paying into go broke?  I remember an old quote my father use to say that “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure”.  When it comes to a politician I don’t trust them doing the figuring.

As if Mr. Price and Mr. Mulvaney were not bad enough, the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan wants to privatize Social Security have you seen the fluctuations in the stock market since 2008?  Mr. Ryan, Mr. Price and Mr. Mulvaney want to change Medicare to a voucher system.  This is where the government gives you a voucher for a set amount of money and you go out and purchase your own insurance and if the voucher does not cover the amount of the insurance then tough luck.  I do not know many seniors that have extra money lying around to cover the extra cost of health insurance.

Ok, so Mr. Ryan, Mr. Price and Mr. Mulvaney want to privatize Social Security, change Medicare to a voucher system and make Medicaid into a block grant.  What in the devil is a block grant you ask?  Well a block grant is a set amount of money the federal government gives to the states and the states decide how much of that money is used for health care for the poor, or if it is to be used for other projects.

I just turned 68 and have been retired for four years.  I am enjoying retirement with my wife, even with the major surprise that occurred with her health.  A year and half ago my wife was diagnoses with Parkinson’s disease.  For her it has been a major change in her life, she no longer drives, nor does she go for the long walks she used to do, her energy level depletes rapidly, and one of the side effects of the Parkinson’s is that she falls asleep very easily.  Parkinson’s is a very strange disease, no two people have the same symptoms or severity.  It has also changed my life, I am now responsible for taking care of her, walking the dog, and chauffeuring my wife to and from appointments.  My biking has come to a sudden halt and my golf game has also suffered a major hit. 

Now back to the question at hand “Will He or Won’t He”?  I am quite concerned with what will happen to Social Security and Medicare.  My military retirement supplements my Social Security.  Kathy and I could not live on what we get from Social Security alone.  The military retiree medical program is my supplement to Medicare. 

If Social Security is privatized will my benefits be reduced or increased, will the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) still be applied?  What about Medicare?  Will the military retiree supplement still be available (retirees were promised medical care for life) relocation to be closer to a military base is not an option, on top of that will the military facilities be able to handle the increase of retirees?  Besides it will be telling military retirees where they must live when they retire, my wife and I have returned to where our families lived when we retired.  Will the insurance that we buy with the voucher accept the retiree supplement?  How about pre-existing conditions, Parkinson’s definitely is a pre-existing condition and like most conditions such as these are very expensive to treat, will the insurance cover that?

Too many questions and not enough answers.  The main reason that answers are slow in coming or even non-existent, in my humble opinion, because those who want to change all of this don’t know the answers themselves.  Playing it by ear is not good enough.