Category Archives: In the news


Stat of the day:

Nearly half of all U.S. children and 90 percent of black youngsters will be on food stamps at some point during childhood, and fallout from the current recession could push those numbers even higher, researchers say. . . .

The authors say it’s a medical issue pediatricians need to be aware of because children on food stamps are at risk for malnutrition and other ills linked with poverty. . . .

The analysis is in line with other recent research suggesting that more than 40 percent of U.S. children will live in poverty or near-poverty by age 17; and that half will live at some point in a single-parent family. Also, other researchers have estimated that slightly more than half of adults will use food stamps at some point by age 65.

Source: AP/San Francisco Chronicle

In a sense this isn’t surprising, and I’m glad the safety net of food stamps even exists, but the 90 caught my attention. What are we doing? Will we ever close these gaps?

Hoekstra Health Care Town Hall (A Semi-Serious Report)

Or: Pete and Repeats (of Misinformation)

In my first foray into the political since moving back into the red zone, last night I attended a health care town hall with our House Representative (and would-be future governor) Pete Hoekstra. I would characterize it as largely boring with flashes of drama and frustrating fudging of the facts. And warm–probably a thousand people in the room.

I was against the back wall between a woman who seemed to be unsure what to think and young man whose shiny red tie led me to believe he was running for president of the Young Republicans’ Chess Club. I got out my papers and he said, “You look well researched” (which sounded a lot less like a pick-up line when he said it than it does to me as I type it). I was. I’d spent time comparing what Rep. Hoekstra said about HR3200 (the bill in question) on his website with what I already knew and could verify from other sources. And I thought some of his material could use a smackdown.

For instance, he had this chart displayed up front:


This chart means NOTHING. It is not “the plan”; it is some staffer’s list of a bunch of random government offices/functions in the form of the world’s worse graphic design job. It has been widely ridiculed as total bullarky. I don’t know why Hoekstra would continue using it–except of course that it looks ooooooh complicated and scary.

The crowd was definitely warm to their hometown hero, but there also seemed to be literally tens of liberals in the audience–just kidding; actually quite a few questioners voiced support for the Democrat-proposed bill (HR3200) and/or ideas behind it. And I think the majority of people were supportive of health care reform in general, although agreeing on legislation to do that kind of breaks down and goes nowhere if you believe your Representative is all goodness and light but apparently not one other single person in government can be trusted at all to do anything right. Sadly, a few seemed to feel that way.

I would have to say that the Boo-O-Meter did indicate that Big Government (BOOOO!) wins the least trusted award around here, followed closely of course by The Media (BOO!) with the exception of Fox News (yaaaay!), the “Democrat” Congress (boo!), the IRS (eek!), ACORN and Apollo (boo!), Mark Lloyd (boo? Don’t know who he is but sounds scary), and Ezekiel Emmanuel and His Death Panels (wait, is that a band?).

Popular: tax credits, tort reform, not spending, going slow, the Constitution, freedom, and (at least we can all agree) covering preexisting conditions.

I am being somewhat facetious here, but in all seriousness, I heard a fair amount of misinformation repeated–sometimes stated as fact, sometimes asked about in good faith, sometimes refuted (and I thank you Rep. Hoekstra for the times that you did), and sometimes left hanging. (One attendee rebuked the Representative for not more clearly denying the suicide encouraged/death panels idea, and the Rep. lost his cool at the guy, deeply disappointing Mr. Young Republicans beside me.) Although I would say the meeting was civil, if occasionally tense, and few seemed to believe (or at least no one said) anything too extremely far out, I was sad to hear some of what seems to have taken hold.

I am sad that people can be made to worry so much about such minor differences and obscure possibilities that they lose sight of the big picture of what we are talking about here: how to make a system that affects us all work better for us all.

I am sad that even when we come together, we still seem so divided.

I am sad that opportunities to talk and to listen are so few and far between, because I still believe that when we dare, we can always learn something from each other. Even if we don’t agree, even if we take sides, even if we can’t resist pontificating instead of asking questions, we can still learn something about each other–about ourselves.

I know I did. I encourage you to try.


What’s one thing you’d like your representatives to know about your feelings about health care/insurance reform?

What’s one question you’d like answered?

46 Million Plus 3

The number of Americans without health insurance is 46 million—and three.

We do not have health insurance.*

My husband has a fairly serious medical condition called Marfan Syndrome. He’s had eye surgeries. He’s had heart surgery. He’s part mechanical, and he’s on blood thinners that have to be checked by a lab regularly.

We have a child. She loves the playground. There’s wood chips, sure, but I’m just sayin’—she’s two and a half. Things happen.

We need health insurance. We want health insurance. We have been trying to get health insurance—but we have not been able to get it.

This has been the biggest obstacle, frustration, and fear relating to our move and Aaron going back to school. We knew he should do it and honestly, the church couldn’t keep him on much longer—our health insurance costs were breaking them—but as soon as he left his job, we would be without insurance. We could not get COBRA because he was essentially a one-man group policy. And the “market” does not want you when you have a preexisting condition; they will turn you down.

I determined that we had only one choice (well, it really isn’t a choice when there’s just one, is it?) in Michigan, the “insurer of last resort,” as some states call it, which has to take everyone regardless of health. So weeks ago I called Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and confirmed that we would be lucky enough to pay them hundreds of dollars a month so that after we pay thousands of dollars out of pocket, they will help us out if anything really terrible happens. They said we could get coverage starting July 1 and that in place of Michigan driver’s licenses, since we couldn’t get those until we got to Michigan and we couldn’t go to Michigan until after Aaron’s job and insurance ended, a letter from the seminary confirming enrollment and lease would do.

Can you guess?

Three business days before our Oregon coverage ended, we got a letter saying our BCBS application was rejected due to the lack of Michigan driver’s licenses. Yeah, there’s a B.S. in BCBS—you said you would take the letter! And also, thanks for letting me know at the last possible moment before I am totally screwed and for keeping your underwriting people under a cone of silence ensconced in a fortress of solitude behind an impenetrable wall of unhelpful peons so I can’t even find out if they even got the letter they supposedly asked for.

Finally I was able to reach the helpful person I’d originally talked to, but it was a no go; underwriting would not cooperate. All we could do was get our Michigan driver’s licenses the first day possible, get them the numbers to restart our application, and hope they’d retroactivate our coverage back to the 15th (Aaron had to get one blood draw done without insurance anyway because he couldn’t wait any longer).  As far as I can tell, unless you have a job waiting, there is literally no way to move across state lines without a gap in insurance coverage.

This is not right. We are trying to do the right thing and stay insured. We are willing to pay, even though we can’t really afford it. The system wouldn’t let us, because it’s not really a system—it’s a hodgepodge, and it doesn’t work.

I have been hoping and praying and campaigning and harassing my representatives for health reform since I found out firsthand in 2006 that the reason this system doesn’t work is that it doesn’t work for usit’s not on our side. As soon as you need health care, you become the enemy of health insurance. Never confuse the two.

I have been following the legislative battles over health care reform closely and oh yes, my senators have heard from me (they actually do work for us, you know). I hope it will not be long until the tears of frustration I’ve shed over this issue can be replaced with tears of relief that a fair, affordable public plan is available to me, and my precious daughter, and my bionic husband whose health so greatly depends on it. If you can tell me what I could have done differently in my quest for insurance in 2006 when my husband’s vision hung by a few stretching tissues or this year when I did everything asked and still got nothing, you can tell me we don’t need a national public insurance option that’s open to all. If not, I hope you’ll either be pleased that we’re resorting to Medicaid or join me in pushing for major health care reform as soon as possible.

46,000,003 people are waiting.


* It’s possible we just got insurance, since I got a huge bill from BCBS today, but it didn’t come with anything helpful like a card or contract number or letter saying hey, we’re insuring you now. And until I see that, it’s just a bill. A bill too huge to pay. *Sigh*