Category: Health Reform and Health Care

For a woman who doesn’t have health insurance through my employer, is past childbearing, hasn’t met a sperm in person for about 30 years, and isn’t much affected by religious organizations, employment-based or otherwise, I sure can get my shorts in a bunch when it comes to the “should a religiously affiliated organization cover contraception” debate.

First of all, YES! they should. And their whining about offending their religious sensibilities really doesn’t track with me.

My main reason? that health insurance coverage? that’s not some gift bestowed by the company on the employee. That’s part of their pay, their compensation for the job they do.  It makes no more sense to me that the church (or church affiliated group) can dictate how a woman can use her health insurance than how she spends her paycheck once it lands in her very own hands.  Are they going to restrict her from buying contraception with her pay? of course not. Well, I suppose they might WANT to, but they basically can’t, and shouldn’t be able to.  Health insurance, being compensation for work done, should be exactly the same: if the coverage is offered in the plan (which it would be under the ACA provisions), the employer has no right to draw back on that compensation.

Second, plenty of religious organizations have no spiritual or dogmatic issue with contraception coverage.  Are we supposed to treat some religions different than others?

And third… well… seriously? This is the line in the sand these organizations are going to draw? With all the threats around the world, and even here in this Christian-friendly nation,* of actual harm to actual people, you’d think the churches might find something a little more meaningful to focus on. I’ll throw out a liberal handful: hunger, poverty, education and war spring easily to mind, but there are plenty of other things that would seem to trump the faux outrage over shelling out some bucks for health coverage that women will just use their paychecks for anyway.


This is why I don’t “do” religion.  Oh yes, there’s that problem where I don’t believe in deities, but the big one is the silly fits some believers wind themselves up in trying to defend silly extrapolations of religious fervor.  Once again, I am reminded of Woody Allen’s line from “Hannah and Her Sisters” – if Jesus came back right now and saw what was being done in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.


*yes, I do not believe in the war on Christianity. Big surprise, huh?  I don’t know, what with it being the most common religious affiliation, and what with all of DC going Christmas-crazy every year, and the whole economic cycle being tied to the Christmas celebration cycle, and churches getting tax breaks, and prayers over congress, inaugurations, and what have you… well, I’m just not convinced somehow.


When Todd Akin first scoffed at the notion that rape victims can get pregnant, he defended himself by pointing to the medical judgment of someone named Dr. John Willke, former president of the National Right to Life Committee, who has been pushing this argument for many years.

Indeed, just this week, Willke told the New York Times rapists don’t impregnate their victims because, “This is a traumatic thing — she’s, shall we say, she’s uptight. She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic.”

via Romney and Mr. ‘Spastic Tubes’ – The Maddow Blog.

[Insert BIG HEAD-SLAP here]

Ohhhh…kaaaaay….. so does Mr Spastic Tubes (love it!) think human women pop out an egg when we have “legitimate” sex? And how big does he think a little sperm is, that our “tight tubes” could keep them out? Or does he have that Fallopian tube and vagina thing mixed up? Is it possible he has never actually investigated the arrangement of the female pelvis?

This is why we can’t have nice things. Or even shabby functional things.

Ta-Nehisi Coates put out a short and thoughtful post on Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments on how women magically destroy sperm during “legitimate rape” (vs. ???) – and TNC nails the attitude that makes trying to have logical discussions with these folks nigh to impossible:

At any rate, I think what’s interesting here is the assumed power. I have the right to objectively define pregnancy from rape as rare. I have the right to determine separate legitimate rape from all those instances when you were in need of encouragement, wearing a red dress or otherwise asking for it. I have the right to manufacture scientific theories about your body — theories which reinforce my power. If the body doesn’t “shut that whole thing down” then clearly you weren’t raped, and there’s no need to talk about an abortion. And even if I am wrong on every count, I still have the right to dictate the terms of your body and the remaining days of your life.

via Rape, Abortion, and the Privilege of Magical Thinking – Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic.

TNC writes about his own response to this redefining of rape, and how it relates to the use of abortion:

Whatever qualms I have about abortion (and increasingly I think it isn’t even my right to have qualms) the idea of putting medicine in the hands of people who think that, in the instance of rape, the female body can “shut that whole thing down” or “secrete a certain secretion” to prevent pregnancy is utterly terrifying. [emphasis mine]

Couldn’t agree more, even while possessing a difference experience than TNC.
And about what I bolded in that quote: Mr. Coates, you ABSOLUTELY have every right to feel qualms. You probably can’t even stop those feelings if they crop up – you can counter them, test them, explore them, but you can’t very well stop that kind of thing.

But you can refrain from imposing rule, regulation and condemnation based on those qualms. And that’s a major difference.

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish blog, an angle on Social Security and Medicare which I hadn’t considered for a long, long time:

A reader writes:

Many analysts assume there will be a war between the generations regarding who benefits and who pays for social programs like medicare and social security, both programs open to the vast majority of elderly, retired, or disabled Americans.

This misses a key point of both programs.

My own case as an example. I get both medicare and social security now that I’m 67 years old. But my first benefit from the programs came when I was 19. My parents sent me off to college, and sent my sister the next year. This would not have been possible without social security and medicare, which were available to my grandparents – the first generation to come of age under these programs. Without these programs, my family’s money would not have stretched to cover my college costs. It would have gone, as it did in countless generations before, to taking care of elderly parents and grandparents.

via The Coming Generation Wars, Ctd – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast.

The future years for my mother – and for me, as a potential caregiver, or at minimum, a sort of family overseer – have been weighing on my mind. She’s 77, still working about 30 hours or more a week. Thank goodness for Medicare, for Social Security, for all the things that got her to a relatively healthy, and definitely active seventh decade.

But if all of that wasn’t there, could I take care of her? Certainly not in the style to which she as managed to accustom herself. The modern manifestation of the New Deal and the Great Society have affected me, not so much as a direct recipient, but as the child of those who did, and who are now reaping the benefits of the bargain they made:  Work hard, let us take some out of your earnings toward your future, and you will be taken care of, and not be a burden to the next generation.

Also, for some reason, I keep thinking of The Grandfather and The Grandmother in the sickly sweet but fascinating children’s novel, Heidi. There’s more to that story than would appear, below its surface. Family is almost always willing to sacrifice. The question is, how much do they actually have to give? And for some, it’s precious little, though they’d willingly give it all.

Jamelle Bouie, at The Plum Line, offers a compelling case for why THIS election actually matters more than most, and a common take on Medicare changes proposed from the right:

a complete overhaul of Medicare that would end its promise of guaranteed health care for seniors, and move it to a system where — ultimately — you get the care you can pay for.

via Yes, this campaign is negative and nasty — and that’s a good thing .

… which is not news, just a jumping off point for MY rage, as in:

If I don’t get the Medicare I’ve promised my entire working life, can I sue for benefits I worked for but never received?

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that I will have to cough up another $6,500 bucks a year that would have been otherwise covered by Medicare.  Say I start collecting Medicare at age 65.  Let’s assume that I live a long time, like most in my family, and that I make it to 90 years old, a somewhat pessimistic estimate given the rather large number of my relatives who’ve lived into their late 90s or even early 100s.  That puts me at about 25 years on Medicare.

Okay, I understand that with the “premium support” (aka Lousy Voucher) program covering less and less each year, I’d likely have to put out more that $6,500 as the years went by, but for this discussion, let’s say it stays at about $6,500 for the duration.

That’s $162,500.

That’s a wompin’ butt-load of money for most people.  It certainly is for me. And so, dearest Government of mine, I’m puttin’ you on notice:  I might just be coming after those lost benefits, should Medicare-as-we-know-it fall to the wayside.  And guess what, I bet I can get a whole lot of my fellow citizens to join in.  Because, you know, we worked for it.  We paid into the pool. We contributed to our future, on the understanding that we’d be taken care of.  And you know what? I expect to get the benefits I was promised.

Another reason that the reassurances to “those 55 and older” read like betrayals to those of us 54 and under, and generally just piss me off.

[edited 8/22/12 for clarity in first paragraph]

…while “pluralism” depends on mutual respect, it does not require deference to other people’s private authority figures.

via Political Animal – The Liberal Catholic Complaint, by Ed Kilgore

The contraception fight is in full swing: will the Bishops box the government into carving out special considerations for the Catholic church? What line are the Bishops asking the Obama administration to step across? And how will crossing that line affect people who, while they might respect the Bishops, grant to special authority to them, let alone cede the authority of the U.S. government to them.

I think Kilgore’s quote draws the line quite nicely.

22 October 2009

Okay, I confess, I’m not so fond of all those LOL cat sites, but the lingo sticks, ya know?  … for sheer relief, I must post my latest goofy mantra.  It really does run around my head, repeatedly, annoyingly, persistently and yet heart-felt-edly (??), and it has ever since Jason Linkins introduced me to the plea in his Sunday Talking Heads Roundup back on September 13th.  With help from my kitty Sophie, we proudly echo the appeal:


Sophie wants the public option because she has constantly goopy eyes and is living with kitty dwarfism.  She hopes that by the time she develops the heart and spine issues related to kitty dwarfism, maybe the public option will extend to pets.  I want the public option because I believe it’s the only way I will ever have a chance at affording health insurance,. and because I believe it has the best chance of breaking the profit-motivated stranglehold on health care in our country.  Plz, o buddeez n Congress, make this happen!

By the way, if you are (1) curious about the Sunday political talk shows, but (2) can’t wake up that early due to work schedule, or (3) can’t drag yourself through the weird pontificating they promote, or (4) know that you will throw a brick strait through your TV if you are subjected to the voices of John McCain, Liz Cheney or David Brooks for long stretches of time, you can rely on Mr. Linkins for a weekly roundup of at least two or three of the shows.  A bit snarky, naturally, given that it’s Jason Linkins, but wonderfully summarized none-the-less.  Advised reading for all who tear their hair out when trying to wade through the oddity that IS the array of Sunday morning political talk shows.

16 September 2009

Representative Joe Wilson (SC) is quite the household word this week, at least in political households.  His cry of “You Lie!” during Obama’s health care speech to a joint Congressional audience has sparked furor on both sides, as well as what is, these days, a sizeable middle:  He’s Out of Line! vs. He’s a Hero! vs. He’s kind of a schmuck, but whatever, can we turn the page now?

As I see it, the facts of the situation lay out like this:  Obama made what I interpret as an accurate depiction of the health bill not paying for services for illegal immigrants, Wilson yelled “You Lie!” amid a rather noisy group of grumbling Republicans, imageNancy Pelosi delivered a most excellent death stare,  the bulk of our Senators and Representatives vented their displeasure via more loud grumbling, Wilson started doing HealthReformSpeech-9Sep2009-Obama,Pelosi,Biden-YouLieMoment-800x537something with his Blackberry (or whatever), and the speech moved on.  Later, Obama accepted an apology from Wilson, Pelosi agreed that this was sufficient, other members of Congress pressured Wilson to apologize to Congress, the Republicans rose to Wilson’s defense (both of his point of view, and of his right to vent his spleen during a speech by his President), and then the House of Representatives voted 240 to 179 to formally reprimand Mr. Wilson, in the following form (this is from Thomas, Library of Congress):


H. Res. 744

In the House of Representatives, U. S.,
September 15, 2009.


Whereas on September 9, 2009, during the joint session of Congress convened pursuant to House Concurrent Resolution 179, the President of the United States, speaking at the invitation of the House and Senate, had his remarks interrupted by the Representative from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson; and

Whereas the conduct of the Representative from South Carolina was a breach of decorum and degraded the proceedings of the joint session, to the discredit of the House: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives disapproves of the behavior of the Representative from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson, during the joint session of Congress held on September 9, 2009.

Now, there is a flurry of upset on the right wing, protesting that Mr. Wilson was just speaking the truth, that after all, he was just calling a spade a spade, as my dad used to say.  Except for the FACT that Wilson is calling a heart a spade… but I digress.  The flurry is all about how the supposed rightness of Wilson’s accusation excuses his lousy behavior.  Or that he was criticized by members of congress and the press because they don’t like what he said.

Myself, I don’t like how he said it.  I think Wilson is wrong – the bill does prohibit funding health care for illegal aliens – but I defend his right to spout whatever nonsense he likes.  He has to put up with the likes of journalists telling him he has the facts wrong, but he has every right to say what he thinks.

But I don’t support his right to spout nonsense just anywhere.  For instance, during a gathering of both houses of Congress, in attendance at a formal presentation by the President of the United States.  I’m all for dissent, and free speech, and voicing one’s mind, but honestly, there are some situations in which it’s just bad form.

I don’t support, for instance, loud noisy protests about gay marriage or abortion in or around anti-gay or anti-abortion churches.  I don’t think screaming at minimum-wage employees is a valid way to attack corporate greed.  I don’t support the wisdom, however it may fall under free speech rules, of the Westboro Baptists who protest at funerals of fallen soldiers because they think God is angry at the US for being so warm and fuzzy toward gay people.

All of these kinds of protests may or may not be legal, but they are certainly rude and inappropriate.   And so I support the House in their on-record displeasure with Representative Wilson’s out-of-line behavior, because the House has every right to maintain somewhat harmonious debates within its walls.

After all, with all of the brouhaha this past summer during the Town Hall health care meetings, often rising to minor physical violence and some extreme verbal sparring, it’s no wonder the House wants to set the boundary:  that went too far, back it off, settle down, and start behaving like grownups instead of school yard bullies.

Mr. Wilson should be ashamed, not of his point of view, but his incredibly rude display of it.  I suspect his self-righteousness will prevent him from ever truly understanding what he did wrong.

1 September 2009

Related to the effects of rationing are the effects of high-cost medical care. After discussing the impact on family finances and stability when a member becomes severely ill, Steve Benen notes:

No other industrialized democracy on earth allows its citizens to endure such nightmares. […] an American Journal of Medicine study that found 62% of all American bankruptcies are linked to medical bills — and more than three out of four of those bankruptcies occurred among those with insurance. Again, every citizen of every other industrialized democracy on the planet need not worry about such a scenario. [emphasis mine]

He offers this as a suggested appeal to the Republican sense of cost consciousness.  You’d think this would work.  It probably won’t.

30 August 2009

Steve Benen, at the Washington Monthly blog, once again tipped me and other readers off to a couple of good articles by Ezra Klein and David Leonhardt, concerning health care reform and the issue of rationing.  Leonhardt sums it up:

The choice isn’t between rationing and not rationing. It’s between rationing well and rationing badly.

One of the more clear discords between What Is and What Is Imagined in the health care debates seems to be rationing. Some seem to fear that the Government will institute rationing of health care.  But it seems clear to me that we’ve had rationing since health insurance was invented. Choices are made to restrict or deny care by people above our nurses and doctors, folks who routinely limit care from their desks at insurance companies.  Unlike most of the health reform issue (elsewhere, I described the confusion of issues as spaghetti), the issue of rationing seems very obvious to me. 

Leonhardt is right.  It’s not a question of whether we get rationing or not.  We currently have it.  It’s done by folks we have absolutely no control over – we are customers (or not) of private companies, not shareholders.  If we had government involvement, we’d be like shareholders, with some right to have a say over what goes on.  We can elect leaders who are able to shape the system.  There’s a significant chance that what rationing must inevitably occur in any system will at least be meted out fairly, and not because of profit incentive.  And we, as citizens have standing to complain if things go badly.

As Leonhardt says, the choice is between good and bad rationing. We can’t be perfect, all things to all health consumers.  But certainly we can do better than what is happening right now.

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