Tag Archives: Affordable Care Act

Death Is Not All That It’s Cracked Up To Be

2 Feb

Judging from the title of the article, one might guess I am going to reflect and write about what feels like the death of a nation — the death of the United States. It certainly feels as though we are witnessing the demise of a nation– I thought we were so much better than this — I thought we were a nation that was working to eradicate racism, homophobia, misogyny, and hate. While there maybe some overlap, I am actually writing, reflecting, and processing my own death.

I need to record this because I am still processing all of what happened and I am afraid the current political climate of the United States has hurt, delayed, and undermined my ability to recover. At the same time, I have never experienced such unconditional love and caring: a love that has carried me through all of this, a love that makes me cry even while writing this. I have learned and witnessed how human beings step up or sadly step back during a health crisis. Fortunately for me, the number of people who have stepped up with such enormous love is too many for me to list. The people in my family of origin who have stepped back and have been completely absent has hurt me in such a profound way, I hardly have words to share or express the hurt, so I shall focus on the love I am able to bask in instead.

Yes, I have been quite busy in the past four months. I was diagnosed with cancer in September and then had cancer surgery in November. By December, I was recovering from cancer and finally reached a space of reflection of “I’m grateful the surgery went well. I don’t want to do the chemo. I hope the cancer does not come back.” Quite unfortunately, on Wednesday, December 20 at around 5:30 in the morning, I had the first of two massive heart attacks. The night before I had enormous pain through out my right leg but thought nothing of it. Now I suspect, it was the blood clots that moved from my leg into my lungs and caused the heart attacks.

My husband Robert found me on the bathroom floor. According to the paramedics and an amazing and wonderful team of doctors at OHSU in Portland, this was the first time I was dead. I know was resuscitated at some point because I heard a man’s voice ask my husband: “Was he like that or did you throw a bucket of water on him?” I honestly remember thinking what a stupid question. Yes, as is typical protocol, my husband threw a bucket of water on me when he thought, “Hmm, Michael seems to have had a heart attack. I shall throw a bucket of water on him and see if that does the trick.”  The next thing I heard was a man’s voice saying: “Okay, he has turned blue.” Honestly, I really did think to myself, “Well, that can’t be good.”

At this point, I truly thought this is it and I’m going to die. All I could think of was that I needed for my husband Robert to know and to hear how much I loved him. I needed for my last words to be, “I love you very much, Robert.” Thankfully, he heard me. I remember maybe all of 10 seconds in the ambulance and apparently my heart stopped again. In the short ride to OHSU hospital on Pill Hill, apparently they were able to resuscitate me again. Rather sadly, as I was told by the doctors and nurses, my heart stopped yet again before reaching the hospital. The rest is what was reported to me by the amazing medical team at OHSU.

Apparently, I was dead for 30 minutes. The team and the social worker told my husband Robert that I continued to have no heartbeat and continued to be unresponsive. They intubated me at some point. They were going to try a machine that basically does CPR, which they did for 30 minutes. During this whole process, unfortunately, six of my ribs were broken and my sternum was broken. Yes, I will just say an emphatic OUCH! As a side note: we just received the bill for just the emergency room and the bill is for $72,000 — yes, almost as much as my first home cost in Atlanta. Now reader, I ask you this: Does it not seem like I need to ask for a rebate for the 30 minutes I was dead? Why should I pay for services if I was dead? Or, can they at least pro-rate the amount owed?

Being Dead: I must admit that I have always been one of those people that was quite skeptical when hearing stories from various people or reading stories about people’s experiences when they were dead and before coming back to life. Now I have my own narrative about dying and coming back to life. I know it to be true and I can only ask that you make of it what you will.  I do know that I was dead. I was processing it while it happened. My exact thoughts, if one wants to call them thoughts, were: “Well, that did not work out.” I know I left my body and I remember knowing, well I am dead. I also remember I did not seem to have a name, nor did I have a body. Strangely, I felt very safe with no anxiety, no fear, and no worry. I was quite at peace. Yes, I did see the proverbial “white light.” I would not have described it as a Heavenly light, but it was quite intense and it was all I could see. The light did seem to have a center and I remember walking towards the center of the light despite the fact that I did not have a body. Once I reached the center of the light, I knew intuitively that I had two options. I could go to the right or go to the left. At this point, I could sense Robert to the left. I did not hear him saying anything, nor could I see him but I knew his name and the sensation was so strong, I knew I needed to go to the left towards Robert. The next thing I remember was that I was in the ICU.

One of the gifts I received from coming back to life was the ability to witness human beings doing their jobs in ways that for me seemed magical, and I reflected and shared with all of the people who were amazing how magical they are. For example, the first nurse I remember in the ICU was named Anna. She was so lovely and sensitive with me. Anna and everyone I encountered in the hospital remarked how lucky I was and how absolutely amazing it was that I was actually alive. At some point, Anna was on the phone and I heard her say: “No, no, he is here. I am here with him right now. I am talking to him.” Anna shared with me that the paramedics who came to my home to try and save me had called the hospital to offer that they did the best they could do and they were sorry. When she told me this, I remember saying please thank them for me! Later, Anna shared with me they thought I was dead, as I was dead when they dropped me off at the hospital.

Another person who made such a huge difference was Dr. Kathy Wonderly — how appropriately named, as she is a true wonder. Dr. Wonderly came in and asked if she could sit on my bed with me and rubbed my legs and echoed (this seems to have been the chorus in a Greek play, as everyone human being I encountered in the hospital kept saying) how lucky I was to be alive. She then touched my hand and asked if there was anything she could do to to be helpful. I cracked a political joke and she laughed and said she would do her best. I have to underscore the power of touch here. Dr. Wonderly’s empathic ability to touch my legs and touch my hand had a profound impact on me. I am certain it helped me heal and made me feel safe.

My friends Janet and Sara were also with me every day in the hospital and would hold my hand (honestly, I think Janet was also searching me for spare change, for I have seen her search through my cupboards and steal my good china) which also helped me heal. I also have to share that my colon surgeon Dr. Herzig is nothing less than a gift to the world. He made a special visit to say hi to me and offer his well wishes and his sadness about the heart attacks. As an aside, I typically do not like surgeons. However, Dr. Herzig made me fall in love shortly after my cancer surgery. He came to check on me the day after he performed the surgery and asked if I was okay and if I needed anything. I replied that I was actually quite upset with him and said: “Dr. Herzig, I am really quite upset with you. I came in for a face lift, eye lift, and neck lift, and it is clear that you focused all of your energy on my stomach.” To which he immediately replied: “No, that’s right. We are just working our way up.” How many surgeons do you know that are that witty? I was so exceedingly lucky to experience so many people who just do their jobs everyday but they are quite remarkable and so exceedingly compassionate, at least that was my experience.

Love Fest: When I was finally discharged and was allowed to return home, it was clear that I was not allowed to be alone and would need a great deal of care. Robert had already taken so much time off for my cancer stay and heart attacks stay at the hospital, he could not take any more time off. Family of origin not only did not bother to call me, there was no way they were going to offer to come and help Robert and me. Sadly, my birth dad, whom I shall refer to as the sperm donor, for that is as generous as I can be toward him, was completely absent when he found out I had cancer. His absence continued when my baby brother let him know about the two heart attacks. Strangely, his girlfriend, who is quite lovely, called almost every day to check on me and on Robert. She also made apologies for the sperm donor’s horrific behavior. (The sperm donor had his feelings hurt two years ago when I called to wish him a happy thanks giving and my in-laws called in while I was on the phone. I explained that I had to take the call so that I could talk to my in-laws. The sperm donor went into a rage and said how dare I take their call, for they are not my blood and he is my blood. One should note that the sperm donor had no contact with me for decades. He was a very physically abusive man to me and to my mom when I was a little boy.) I explained to his girlfriend that if he could not set aside his narcissistic injury when his son was dealing with cancer and two heart attacks, I have no use for his abusive self. She just kept apologizing. I honestly feel quite bad for her, as it must be awful to see the true character or lack of character of your partner in life.

Enough bad energy, I have been able to also witness how people step up during a crisis and show up no matter what and are available with love, patience, food, books, and just sitting with me. All my friends in Portland have been amazing gifts and I am forever in their debt. All my friends that flew in from all over the country to help take care of me, I am forever in their debt. I am able to truly live and walk in gratitude.  I am also in awe of my husband Robert. I have a life partner who not only saved my life twice, but has been so supportive all while trying to deal with his own trauma around the past four months.

Healing: While trying to heal and with extraordinary physical limitations, I knew I had to stop listening and watching the news. Trump and the GOP represent all that is the worst of humanity and the daily assaults from these sociopaths was too much. The racism, the misogyny, the homophobia it was too much for me, to the point I wondered if perhaps I should not have come back to life. One particular assault by Trump and supported by the GOP was the Religious Freedom Act: that health care workers could deny LGBT/queer people like me services based on their religious beliefs. I am so grateful I live in Oregon and that this act has not passed yet. Thus I had to do something else and try as best I could to stop exposing myself to Fascist America.

Because reading has been hard while on pain meds, what I found extraordinarily healing was I watched Netflix’ seasons one and two of The Crown at least 30 times. I love Claire Foy. I also watched Netflix’ Latinx reboot of One Day at a Time season one at least 30 times. I am in love with Justina Machado and Isabella Gomez.  I have to say that I am now watching season two of the Latinx One Day at a Time and it gives me hope! Season two, for me, is what the United States can really be. We can be a country that works to tap into shared humanity, a country that works to encourage and support all people, that we can be a country that can lead the movement for social justice — to expand civil liberties. We can resist hate; we can resist fascism.

Finally, I will conclude with a simple thank you to all of the human beings who have touched my life for the better. When I die, and I will, I want there to be people who will reflect and say I touched their lives for the better — that I helped to make the world a better place for all human beings. I now challenge all of us to work to be our best selves, to be engaged in making the world a better place and to not engage in hate, or talk of building walls, or justifying “there were some good Nazis.” We can do so much better than this. Let us work in community to make some huge changes in 2018. I implore you to vote during the midterm elections in November of 2018! I also need to share how grateful I am to my husband Robert! This song from Emile Sandé is for Robert.

With great love and affection,

Michael

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GOP Tax Plan: A Complete Social Restructuring of the United States

4 Dec

Welcome to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, 500 pages of far-right dreams smashed together in two weeks and rushed to a vote in the middle of the night. While there is an enormous amount of this plan that we should all be mortified about — specifically how it hoards wealth for the top 20% of Americans and steals money from the poor and middle class — there is far more going on here, much of which has little to do with tax “reform.”  I worry that most people are not paying attention to everything it does over time, as evidenced by the fact that most of the people who voted to rush this through have not even read the whole plan, nor have there been any substantive hearings or analysis provided. This massive document is also difficult to read because much of the marginalia is hand written scribbles, eliminating even concerned senators’ ability to read and understand the implication of the entire document before voting on it.

In addition to the sociopathic maldistribution of wealth this plan secures, the social ramifications are profound and are antithetical to what we have worked so hard to accomplish in the ways of equity in the past 100 years.  For example, this plan includes Medicare reductions that will end cancer treatment for people on Medicare. Yes, you read that correctly. This sounds like a death panel to me, and it should not come as a surprise, given that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have been working to dismantle Medicare for years now. Oh, and as an added bonus it eliminates the Individual Mandate from the Affordable Care Act, basically robbing 13 MILLION Americans of coverage.

As outlined in the Chronicle of Higher Education, this bill creates even more barriers for people who are not in the top 20% of Americans to afford a college education. For example, this bill puts additional taxes on charitable donations to colleges that allow for financial aid. Small liberal arts colleges are heavily dependent on charitable gifts to survive. The message is quite clear, the GOP does not value education, as further evidence that Betsy DeVos is the secretary of Education. People do your homework here! Obviously, the lack of access to eduction benefits the GOP, as it encourages ignorance and precludes critical thinking skills: skills that would allow people to ask questions of the government, the people that are supposed to be public servants.

Another alarming part of this bill — so alarming I needed to get my smelling salts just to be able to write this — is the reversal of The Johnson Amendment. Yes, this is part of the Religious Freedom Act (specifically Christian agenda freedom) coming from the far right wing, which now controls our government. The Johnson Amendment, created by LBJ in 1954, prohibits all non-profits, or what is called a 501 (c) (3) from making any type of political endorsement or stand to lose their tax exempt status. Trump and his henchmen are now about to reverse this in this tax plan, but ONLY for churches, allowing them to become tax-free lobbying organizations. So much for separation of church and state.

The bill slashes the corporate tax rate, eliminates the bulk of the estate tax, and changes “pass-through” business taxation in a way that benefits only the wealthiest of business owners. These changes are PERMANENT. The tweaks that MIGHT make a small change for poor and middle class taxpayers expire within the first three years. At the end of ten years, the vast majority of households making $75,000 or less will see their taxes rise, often by 20% or more.

Many deductions are eliminated or severely curtailed including bike-to-work incentives, moving expenses, most mortgage and home sale deductions, tax preparation deductions, and disaster relief deductions. State and local tax deductions are greatly reduced, penalizing blue states that fund federal programs for red states.

The bill will increase the deficit by at LEAST $1 TRILLION. So much for the party of fiscal responsibility. Deficit hawks like Sen. Flake and Sen McCain (the Arizona Stooges) believe that wealth will trickle down as businesses have more revenue, even though EVERY major corporation interviewed has indicated that the vast majority of this revenue will be used to pay bonuses and reward stockholders, giving no benefit to the average American. Sen. Murkowski sold out her constituents in exchange for getting drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Yeah, that’s a tax issue… Sen. Collins accepted a fig leaf promise for a vote someday on an ACA bill that won’t come close to solving the problems caused by the loss of the individual mandate. Sens. Johnson and Daines pretended that minor changes to the pass-through rules would help small business owners. Overall, over 20% of Republican Senators had major objections to the bill but voted for it with vague changes and vaguer promises.

The most nefarious impact is yet to come. As that big deficit hole comes into reality, Republicans will certainly use it to insist on austerity measures. This is a feature, not a bug. As the deficit grows, they will insist that Social Security, medicaid, and medicare be slashed to balance the budget.

Our only hope for derailing this monstrosity is putting pressure on the conference process that will reconcile the House bill (awful in many different ways) with the Senate abomination. Getting the House to accept all the little tweaks and odditities may be difficult, and losing them may make the final bill impossible to pass again in the Senate.

TAKE ACTION: Contact your Representative and Senators and demand that they stop this horrible bill. It’s not tax “reform”, it won’t serve the middle class, it crushes the poor, and it includes elements that will reshape the social network and basic protections that we rely on today into something mean, nasty, and unrecognizable.

Cancer During the Trump Era

9 Oct

I was just recently diagnosed with cancer, specifically colon cancer. I am still processing what this means and how it will impact me and my family. A good bit of me says “fuck cancer,” but a large part of me is just simply terrified. As my friends and family are gathering around me to support me, they insist that”I have the strength to beat cancer,” which keeps being echoed. I’m not sure I believe this–and I have serious doubts I can beat cancer during 45’s administration. I need to let everyone know that that the artwork shown at the end of the article was done by some former students, now friends/colleagues of mine–thank you Erin and Nick. I love you both!

In the context of living in the US during 45’s reign of terror, being diagnosed with cancer is making me wonder if perhaps this is my time to go. Being barraged everyday with another assault on human rights by a narcissistic autocrat is quite wearing on one’s emotional (and obviously physical) health. The intense racism, homophobia, misogyny, and classism have been more than just revolting: they speak to the very worst in humans. I must confess, this is not the world I want to live in and the fatigue of 45 is real. I also constantly worry I do not know how to adequately take care of those whom I love and love me. I know people that love me are scared and I struggle with how to care for all of these wonderful amazing people.

While hurricane Maria wreaks havoc on Puerto Rico (an American Territory), 45 has the chutzpah to blame the country and even worse, to blame the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz. (How dare you be a strong and smart woman!) On a side note, one should mention that Trump helped to contribute to the debt of Puerto Rico when he abandoned his golf course there and left the people of Puerto Rico with the 33 million dollar debt he created. To further push his racist agenda, 45 thinks he is on a television show again and wants NFL owners to fire the black athletes who kneel in protest of the racism people of color experience daily in the United States. 45’s exact words: “Fire the Son of a Bitch”–my how presidential. It is very difficult for me not to hear this as: Hey, all you white owners, you need to tell all of these black people how lucky they have it to work on the field.

More discouraging news which does not encourage one to fight any type of cancer: Gollum, I mean AG Jeff Session just found a way to allow employers not to cover the cost of birth control for women, but will continue to cover the cost of medication for men to have an erection. This all falls in alignment with what misogynist and homophobe Mike Pence has been promising around Religious Freedom, a.k.a the justification to hate and deny people their civil rights. In an effort to spread more hate and venom, on October 6, Sessions issued a 25 page memo that outlines how all business can now legally discriminate against people in the LGBTQ community under “religious freedom,” meaning Christianity. Who would Jesus Hate? This memo supported by 45 is one of the most significant bills of hate. Of course, the insane Spin Doctor 45 responded to this proposed bill with: “his administration will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.” Wow! I have no words on how to address this twisting of power and the ability to sustain a white supremacist, homophobic, misogynistic power structure. If you are not actively resisting this mishigas, you are NOT an ally to targeted communities. Here is where I will agree with Rex Tillerson: “Trump is a fucking moron.” I have to also agree with GOP Bob Corker referring to the  “Whitehouse as an adult day care center.” Wow! I just agreed with two Republicans.

Yes, as you can see, there is not a great deal of motivation to fight cancer given the overwhelming amount of power that normalizes HATE, normalizes homophobia, normalizes racism, normalizes misogyny, and vilifies any type of journalism that tries to hold 45 and his white robed cabinet accountable. It’s so hard to believe that all of this has happened in just one week, the week since I received my diagnosis.

And yet! And yet I am going to fight in ways that people better be scared of me! I am 50 years old and I don’t believe I have said “Fuck You” to enough people. I have not shown enough active resistance to tyranny. Now is my time. I shall call this cancer “45,” and I shall fight it until I kick its ass and defeat it. My ability to defeat this cancer will signify that communities all over the country can use our power to love each other and embolden targeted communities–we can tap into our shared humanity and refuse to live in fear. “I ain’t dead yet.” Stay tuned!

I Hear America Weeping

11 Nov

libertyweepsI hear America weeping today, November 9, 2016. No, this is not Walt Whitman’s poem, I Hear America Singing. This is a song of woe, a song of anguish, a song of despair.

How is it possible that a person who sold nothing but pure hate could be elected President of the United States? A man’s whose venom reached Muslims, Latinos, the entire LGBTQ community, and all women is now President Elect? How? When Gollum’s understudy, James Comey, released his red herring of Hillary’s emails (which of course was NOTHING) days before the election, it managed to turn the conversation away from the dozen of women who have been sexually assaulted by Donald Trump. A man who admitted to cheating the government out of paying taxes — taxes that people in poverty and middle class people have to pay. For his loyalty, Comey will not lose his job.

I understand people wanting to break a system. What I do not understand is how you chose to anoint such a homophobic, racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic piece of hell to do this. How? This man is a clear threat to me and my family and to all women, to all people of color.

Today, I hear children afraid to go to school. I hear adults and children of color afraid to live in the United States. I am afraid and ashamed to live here now.

I hear LGBT people young and old afraid to leave their homes — afraid that all of the successes made in the past eight years will now be turned back.

I hear women crying and fearful that the government will have even more control over their bodies — that the culture of rape has now been sanctioned by a misogynistic predator who has been elected as the leader of this nation.

I hear Native voices peacefully asking for us not to trespass on their sacred land and cry a cry centuries old in protest of colonization.

I hear the voices of our Muslim family quiver at the thought of what this now world “leader” will do to them.

I hear the Black Lives Movement tapping into strength and resiliency in the face of sanctioned, sustained racism.

I hear the choir of over 20 million voices (mine included) that now have health insurance thanks to Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act) scared that we will now go uninsured because of Trump.

I hear parents asking, “how do I explain this to my children?” How do we explain how we have rewarded this bully and his white supremacy?

How do we heal a nation that is divided by hate versus love. Trump has managed to normalize wicked and categorically unacceptable behavior. His supporters have sent a clear message that the only people safe and wanted in this country are white, heterosexual, cisgender men — and you better not have a disability! And you are welcome to treat women as chattel.

For those of you who voted for Trump who are in poverty, poor, and or unemployed, you have screwed yourself over yet again! But worse, you threw all of your neighbors under the bus because of your white anger.

As I am very quickly approaching 50 years old, I am exceedingly sad. This is not the country I hoped we would be in 2016.

Yet, I will not give into despair. Rather, I will challenge myself and all of America to take action! We need to organize, support each other, and change this system. Let us make every effort to mitigate the destruction he has laid out, the shredding of rights he has promised. Stay mobilized and passionate! There are anti-Trump rallies taking place all over the country — people are organizing and taking action. In fact, I was caught up in traffic last night because our anti-Trump rally managed to shut down I5.  I must confess, I did a little happy dance in the car. While I was inconvenienced, I was elated to learn that people are protesting. My only sadness, was that I did not get to attend this rally.

Well, my other sadness was that I later learned there were one or two people in the rally that were ill behaved. Please, I do hope all of us who are a part of these rallies do so peacefully–I don’t want us behaving in the same way Trump does. I implore all of you, please don’t despair, take action! Yes, I am also speaking to you, my white heterosexual allies. WE NEED YOU! Now is an opportunity for white heterosexual allies to step up to the plate and make your voices heard!

Boehner’s Ill-Fitting Suit

18 Jul

BoehnerYet again the people of the United States are witnessing an enormous waste of tax-payer money and political grandstanding, as the third most powerful man in the country is filing a lawsuit against President Obama regarding the Affordable Care Act. We saw this waste of money and grandstanding before when Boehner hired a legal team to defend DOMA — that was a colossal waste of money and time to promote bigotry.

With the success that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is enjoying, what do Boehner and his cronies have planned? Will they be making home visits to revoke health insurance from families that now are insured? What is the purpose of this frivolous lawsuit? I wonder why Boehner and his GOP House of Shame can’t work on creating jobs and repairing infrastructure, as President Obama has urged and the American people have demanded.  Sadly, for me, this feels like a great deal of racism being stirred up again.  I suspect Boehner must not have a single gay/black/female, or any minority friend given where he spends his negative energy as the Speaker of the House.

Boehner claims that the root of the lawsuit is an effort to curb executive abuse of power. That doesn’t make any sense. Congress — specifically the HOUSE which Boehner hypothetically leads — has a tool to deal with such abuse. It’s called impeachment. Despite many GOP claims that such action would be justified (and a deep tide of Tainted Tea encouraging it), it’s pretty clear that there is no way impeachment could succeed and polls indicate that it might backfire in November’s mid-terms.

So Boehner is trying an ironic, hypocritical, unprecedented Legislative power grab. Curiously, his claim of “abuse of power” which he links to Obama’s executive orders and signing statements, is an outright lie. Relative to every president of the last 50 years, President Obama is the least frequent implementor of these two LEGITIMATE tools of executive authority. Even Gerald Ford issued more executive orders in barely 1/3 the time in office. Curiously, the king of executive orders is Saint Ronald the Addled. The all-time champ of signing statements is George W. Bush aka Cheney’s Sock Puppet. So it’s fine when conservative white guys do it, but when a legitimately elected man of color facing the most obstructionist Congress in modern history tries to actually govern…

It’s also curious that Boehner singled out the ACA’s mandate for the lawsuit. Irony #1 – President Sock Puppet issued an executive order delaying Medicare sign-up penalties. Sounds a lot like what President Obama did with the ACA; that is, he established executive policy to smoothly implement a complicated law. Irony #2 – Boehner ignores the primary area where most Americans feel the administration may have overreached: NSA spying and tapping. I guess even unpopular strong executive action is fine if the Speaker AGREES with it.

CALL TO ACTION: Draw attention to this sham. Have every member of the House who supports it dragged into the light come election time. This lawsuit is frivolous, wasteful, vindictive, and hypocritical. Let’s make it cost Boehner and his rabid base come November.

Affordable Care Act Rollout (Obamacare): Disaster or Distortion?

19 Nov

ACAFactsI know I talk at length about the dominant culture and discourse (the structural and institutional power source) and how targeted populations (folks that are not white, heterosexual, male, wealthy, and Christian) should unite and engage the dominate culture in a way that works towards creating equity across the board. This means a re-distribution of wealth and health insurance for all human beings. Today I want to talk about how tired I am about all this mishigas over the Affordable Care Act.

Sadly, all we hear from 99% of the media is the crash of the Affordable Care Act and has President Obama lost credibility? Really? This the question? Why are we not asking how many people are already enrolled and are still trying desperately to enroll? Why are we not asking how we can create a more equitable way of taking care of all of our citizens regardless of party lines? Why are we not asking where were all the critics when Mitt Romney had trouble rolling out the exact same health plan in Massachusetts? Why are we not asking about the cost of the government shutdown and how much of that money could have gone to health insurance? Why are we still tying employment to health insurance?

Of course, I have to bring up race and class again.  Those that are not part of the dominant culture (as defined above) suffer disproportionately as far as employment, health care, and poverty.  Do we just discard human beings in the United States if they don’t fit in to the boxes we assign them? Let’s look at a simple fact: at least 20 Million people in this country are uninsured and will have the ability to be insured thanks to the ACA. No amount of GOP whining, media distraction, website downtime, or pundit bloviating changes the fact that this is a simply good thing.

The constant barrage of criticism uses words like “debacle” and “disaster.” Are these accurate? Objectively, NO! Let’s explore the three basic criticisms of the ACA: website, signups, and cancellations.

First, the most legitimate criticism: the website doesn’t work very well. That appears to be true. The deliverable product is very complex. It needs to interact with multiple government agencies, multiple private companies, and the fundamental operations of the ACA. At the same time, it needs to protect privacy and pass along a significant amount of information. Yes, the government should have focused on making this rollout a success. On the other hand, nearly 20 MILLION visitors have started come to the site, providing a great deal of stress. GOP governors repeatedly rejected state exchanges, forcing their citizens to the federal site, contributing to overload. Many of the federal employees  responsible for making the website a success were either furloughed during the shutdown or bogged down answering questions from GOP House members. Objectively, the website needs serious improvement, but the loudest complainers (are you listening, Boehner and company?) are the biggest obstacles to its viable completion.

Pundits and so-called journalists are also bemoaning the sign-up levels. The number 27,000 is used a lot lately. Yes, that number is lower than the initial estimates. Given that nearly half of America lives in cities smaller than 25,000 , however, that means the typical U.S. citizen is seeing their entire town given health care. The dire figure also ignores a significant number of other factors. Nearly 100,000 people have signed up through state exchanges, proving that the “states rights” option that should have appealed to the GOP is a big success. Medicaid enrollment, a major element of the ACA, is up by nearly 400,000.  People under 26 can stay on family plans under the ACA, leading to a large (but so far uncalculated) number of younger Americans having coverage they would not have had. So the real number  easily 20 times larger than the pessimistic reports.

How about those cancellations? Anyone on an employer plan should remember that the plans change every year or two. That’s right, those cancellation notices that the media are saying prove the ACA doesn’t work are business as usual for insurance companies. Sadly, the cancellations that make the news ignore two other very important facts. First, many of these plans were at best cheap, ineffectual coverage. Second, many of the people who need to look for new plans qualify for much better insurance for little or no increase in payments through state or federal exchange programs.

Yes, there are legitimate frustrations. Certainly the website should have been better stress tested. At the end of the day, however, what matters is CARE. Thousands, leading to millions, of US citizens will have better coverage — or the first coverage in years (or ever) — as a result of this law. Could it be smoother or simpler? YES. But the GOP refused to pass that kind of law. The ACA is a strong step in the right direction and must be given time to succeed. Millions of Americans need that. The media need to focus on facts and benefits and stop the senseless, sensational reality-show shenanigans–all in the name of profits for the top 20% of the country.   What would it be like if each citizen was guaranteed the same health care package that all 535 congress people receive?  What is getting in the way of accomplishing this?

Hero of the Week Award, November 1: Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey

1 Nov
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Democrats in Congress have been demonstrating some real leadership for a change. Ever since the GOP/TeaParty overplayed its hand and forced a painful and unpopular government shutdown, Democrats have been holding together as a caucus and demanding that GOP obstruction and game-playing be called out.

This week’s GOP circus was the hearings on the rollout of Healthcare.gov, the federal portal to get insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Since they weren’t able to defund the ACA, the GOP are trying to hide its benefits by highlighting the current bugs in the website. Fed up with the hypocrisy and obstruction, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D – NJ) called the GOP out on its bad behavior.

Despite Democrats opposition to Part D ten years ago we committed to making the best of the program. … We lost the policy fight. And what did we do? We went back to our districts. And we told our seniors although we voted no, we personally believe and would work with the Bush administration to make it work.

He’s exactly right. When the Democrats lost the fight on Medicare Part D, they worked to make the law better and more effective. They did not waste millions of taxpayer dollars trying to repeal it. That’s good governance.

Rep. Tim Griffin (R – AR) responded with typical Republican talking points about alternative plans, trying to duck the issue. Pascrell would not allow it. He stood up from his seat and held the GOP accountable.

Are you really serious; after what we have gone through over the last three and a half years? You can sit there and say that you had a legitimate alternative after these years? We’ve gone through 44 votes, 48 votes now of you trying to dismantle this legislation. You call that cooperation? I don’t.

Let’s talk. Let’s not water the wine here. Let’s say it like it is. You refuse to expand many of these governors’ Medicaid, they refuse to set up state marketplaces.

He called out all the obstruction and asked what Griffin and his ilk propose. Sadly, Griffin and most of the GOP/TeaParty need a loud strong reminder that they are civil servants–they are to serve all Americans, not just the 1%.

What are you going to do about the approximately 17 million children with preexisting conditions who can no longer be denied health insurance coverage? You wanna go back? You wanna say ‘you are no longer covered any longer?’  You going to tell the parents of those kids? Which one of you is going to stand up and tell the parents of those children the game is over, sorry that was just a phase.

Nicely done, Rep. Pascrell. Thank you for standing up to the ridiculous and harmful games the GOP is playing. Let’s hope the American people are listening.

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