Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The not so affordable Affordable Care Act

After weeks of anticipation and anxiety, we finally received our health insurance options for next year. And by options, I really mean, limited forced changes that I didn't want. I need to start with a disclaimer that I am not a fan of our current costs and plan. I don't like the high premiums and high deductible. I don't like that ALL of our costs are out-of-pocket until the deductible is met each year. And I don't like that we had about a 30% increase in our premiums last year "in anticipation" of the Affordable Care Act's implementation. 

Lie number 1: 
"At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Aug. 11, 2009, President Barack Obama repeated a line he's used many times in describing his health care proposal: 'If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.' " 
Our family insurance has been moved from a policy that we purchase through the insurance company, to a limited number of options within The Exchange.

Lie number 2:
In this YouTube video from Obama's first presidential campaign, he claims that premiums will go down for the average family. Not true for our family. Our premiums are higher. 

Lie number 3: 
In this speech to the American Medical Association, Obama says that "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor." Not true for us. We are forced into a PPO, preferred provider organization. The insurance company is not sure at this time which doctors or hospitals are going to be in our provider "network." 

So let's talk about networks for a moment. Did anyone consider the effect on parents with college students? If the only option given to our family in The Exchange is an "in network" and "out of network" PPO, where does your out-of-town or out-of-state adult child go for their care? So, what's the solution? I am so glad you asked! Either you insure your child with the understanding that the maximum out-of-pocket is UNLIMITED. Or every adult child that is out-of-network needs to get their own policy (costs more). And if they do not do it (or parents do not do it for them), guess who gets the tax penalty? 

Adult children under 26 even if they are married, even if their employer offers a plan, and even if they are not dependent can be/will be on a parent's policy. 

Our health savings account will be cut from $6450 per year maximum contribution to $2500 per year. 

There is a Medicare tax increase for self-employed. Can I direct this money to go to my parents? Their premiums were doubled. It might help them a little bit. 

To get a subsidy, I must be poor or a member of Congress. The income used to determine subsidies is gross income of ALL household members combined (1040 Line 22), not AGI (1040 Line 37) or any other income level. So, let's pause for the math lesson. If I have a business that makes $1000 per year. It costs me $900 to run that business. My health insurance subsidy is figured on $1000, not the actual $100 that I make after expenses. And if I have adult working children in my household, I must include their income as well. 

For those of you rejoicing that there are differing rates for smoker v. nonsmoker, I would bet that the fat v. skinny table is coming soon. 

For those of you who voted for this, I don't hate you. You were lied to as well. I was just savvy enough to realize it. But when I told you this would hurt me, hurt millions of people, and not help the situation, you made fun of me. You told me I was an extremist. And you mocked me by saying "death panels" and "conspiracy theorist" and "racist." If anyone would like to publicly apologize to the same extent that you publicly ridiculed me... GO

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Month 10 of Gluten-Free Living

Good news... I have discovered I am gluten-intolerant.
Bad news... I miss Krispie Kreme, but I don't miss pasta or bread at all.
Good news... I feel soooo much better.
Bad news... I have to plan food, and I hate that.
Good news... I greatly reduced my nausea and inflammation.
Bad news... I eliminated other foods and found that I am also dairy intolerant.
Good news... I am sleeping better than ever.
Bad news...
on balance, there is mostly good news!

My next elimination test has been going on for three weeks... eggs, peanuts, and soy.
I am afraid to reintroduce them. The dairy reintroduction went horribly wrong...

My next addition is mangosteen juice to reduce inflammation even more and reduce my dependence on arthritis medication.
$36 per bottle is still cheaper than $5 per day for Celebrex.

It's been so humid. I miss my bike.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sometimes Reality Bites

Dear Tre and Juicy,
I have been a fan of the Real Housewives franchise for years. And I have watched you from your debut. Reality TV may have made you semi-famous, but your actions and excessiveness on television made you a target. Pulling cash out of your purse and paying tens of thousands of dollars for furniture is what made you a target. In all "reality", it's probably when the investigation began. The alleged illegitimate success actually spawned legitimate success, but all that means is that you now have enough money to pay fines and attorneys.

Dear Journalists,
Kim D is not a reliable source of ANYTHING! She is a shit-stirrer. And if she is talking to the press, it's not likely that there is anything substantive. She can't spell it and doesn't have it.

Dear Friends and Extended Family of Tre and Juicy,
You are true friends for NOT commenting to the press. No tweets. No blog posts. No digs. I hope that Teresa notices that about each of you.

Dear Fans of Tre and Juicy,
I suppose now you are rethinking all happened these last few years. Stress, particularly hidden stress and secrets, makes people act a little crazy. Now some of the jabs by others are understood a bit more.

Dear Joe and Melissa,
I think that the two of you have hearts of gold. I believe you love your four nieces. And you may have the upcoming challenge of a lifetime to prove it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sick people in my office, and other work-at-home discoveries...

As it becomes more common for people to work at home, I wonder if there will be a revolutionizing effect at the office. I have been a freelance writer and editor for about 20 years. There are many reasons that I chose this work. The appeal of no pumps and no pantyhose was near the top. But the primary reason was to be home with my children and "do more work in less time." Efficiency and organization are part of my daily world, and I don't recommend this type of work environment for those easily distracted or disorganized.

Recently I talked to a colleague who used to work in corporate America and now works at home. The first thing she said was, "I have never been more productive."That was quickly followed up with, "I didn't realize how much time was wasted in meetings." It's clear that the meetings, lunched out, trips to the snack machine and the coffee pot are giant time-sucks. If corporations counted up minutes wasted getting ready for a meeting, finding the room, waiting for folks to assemble, and listening to that one guy who just won't shut up, perhaps meetings would be treated as wasted time much like the dreaded hours spent in traffic.

I often hear, "I am a better multi-tasker than I was before." I think that happened to me when my home office wasn't so quiet during certain times of day (or all summer). I learned to balance children, errands, and chores like a well-run machine. It was amazing how much more time I had when I discovered that Target Tuesday was so much quicker than Target Saturday. The grocery is pretty quiet at 7 am on a Monday. I was able to cut the errand time by half just going when other people were not. I will admit, it is tough to have a sick child and accomplish anything. However, there is nothing more important than a mommy or daddy snuggle when you don't feel well.

When some of these stay-at-home workers transition back to offices, I wonder if they will carry with them the lessons learned. Will employers even listen? Flexible hours can be much more productive than static hours. A good set of headphones is essential. Meetings should be infrequent and quick, possibly even requiring all to stand rather than sit. And sick people in the office are annoying, unlike the little sick ones at home who love you and just want a hug.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Pillars of Progressivism and Common Core

When the Progressive Movement started to manifest in this country in the early nineteen teens, I am sure there was a plan... a well-organized plan. In order for progressives to succeed, they need to have a few key areas under their control. People need to be dumbed down. The federal powers need to be expanded. Religion and morality need to be marginalized. And property rights need to be eroded.

I am not an historian. And I am not a keeper of all of the facts and trends of history. However, I am an American, wife, mother, and small-government libertarian who has been increasingly discouraged by the bloat of government. The progressive movement seemed to start with incremental political change. And that change has been creeping for more than my 48-year lifetime. 

As our society has been transformed into an entitlement society with an erosion of fathers, we are too tired and busy trying to make it to the end of every month to care about the larger picture. With moms at work instead of at home, no one is guarding the educational changes at the school. There was a purpose to all of the fencepost gossip among the moms on the block. They kept track. They rallied around. And they talked about the implementation of some new-fangled-thing at the school, and often turned it around. But when feminism lied to us and told women that we could have it all, we believed it. We can't have it all. And our children pay the price.

Common Core has been working its tentacles into our schools for four years. Who was paying attention? Educational publishing companies have been balking and squawking since 2008. But we had a recession/almost depression to worry about. People lost homes. Jobs evaporated. And what better way to distract the moms of America than to force them into flight or flight mode over basic living. New ideas come and go, but the Founding Fathers wanted our educational system to operate at the local level with parents and communities making crucial decisions. National curriculum is the antithesis of that principle. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Does the class reunion have to be like high school?

I guess it's an age-old question... can someone like me go to a high school class reunion and not feel like there is still a "cool kids" table? It might be the top reason why people don't even think about attending. Who would want to relive being ostracized? There were enough wall-flower dances and exclusions for a lifetime all within the time span of high school.

One of my goals in past reunions was to attempt to reach out to all of our 465 classmates. I never really had a group where I fit. I attempted to just be a nice girl on the fringes of many groups. For past reunions, I looked at phone books, mailed notes to parents still in town, and asked friends to round up their friends. I worked for hours trying to locate and communicate with people who had never been to a reunion. The Class of 83 has many members who never felt like members.

So imagine my disappointment that my reunion this year was planned exclusively via Facebook, with invites sent to friends of the popular kids, and to the exclusion of hundreds of my classmates. To attend the reunion, you not only had to have a Facebook account, but you had to pay through Facebook, too. The reunion was not on the typical weekend of past reunions. And three of four events were heavily themed with drinking (bar night, wine tasting, bar night). It's not too sensitive to our classmates in recovery.

Even at almost 50 years old, the cool kids table seems to have been replaced by Facebook Friends of certain friends. Even though I am on Facebook and knew about the event, I didn't attend-- having a little mini-protest. It might not have even been a protest (since I didn't tell anyone). Maybe it was a solidarity move to stand with the "not quite invited" among us.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Michael Douglas is confused or am I?

Within a day of Michael Douglas stated that he had throat cancer as a result of HPV from oral sex, he retracted his statement and said that his throat cancer was not caused by oral sex. So before much interesting discussion could take place, it was squashed. But there is a great learning opportunity in this blip in the news.

Here is the interesting discussion point... if it's true medically (and research shows that it is) that men can contract HPV from oral sex with women, then it might even be possible to go back to the discussion that oral sex IS sex. And viruses can be spread in this manner. Those of you who are Bill Clinton fans might wince at this news flash, but most of us already believe that any contact that can cause an STD is sexual contact. Sorry to spoil your fun.

The Lancet recently studied these infection rates and estimated that approximately 50% of men carry the virus. Perhaps I am missing something, but why are only girls immunized?

And I think it's time to talk about STDs and cancer rates with "real facts", "real numbers", "real photos", and stop attaching a political agenda to it and stop pretending that free love is free.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Yankee Candle Estimations

Dear Yankee Candle,
I have been surprised that my recent candles of the last year have burned for less time than my candles of prior years. I did a little experiment.

I burned a tall jar candle that I had purchased a decade ago. It was in a cabinet, never burned, and I recently burned for 13 ten-hour days... almost 130 hours.

Now for the newest candles that I purchased...

Short jar candle-- label says approximately 65-90 hours burn time.
Actual = 32 hours

Tall jar candle-- label says approximately 110-150 hours burn time.
Actual = 65 hours


Looking for a new brand...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dear Asshat...

Today I wrote another Dear Asshat letter because yesterday I was frustrated by someone's driving.

I don't tend toward road rage. I usually just mind my own business in the right lane AKA the old folks lane. I have never had a car accident. I have never even had a ticket. I did have a close call in Oregon in a rental car when I was speeding (35 in a 25) on a road during a Native American holiday celebration... true story. But I am a very careful driver. And I want to come home every night. I do not understand the mentality of reckless driving.

My way to handle the people who are impatient, passing me, and generally believing that if I am slowing down, it MUST BE because I am an idiot... not that there is a funeral procession that I am yielding to or a mom with a stroller in the street or a biker on the side of the road... I write a Dear Asshat letter. When someone disrespects me, I take up my pen and get busy.

I write down the license plate. I go to the public records sites. And I look for them. Remember, Asshats have always been Asshats, and have always been getting tickets, citations, and court appearances. Just sayin...

I write a little note. I tell them that my family loves me. And I scold them. I feel better. So, dear Asshat, thanks for almost rear-ending me (and being completely irrational) while I yielded to a funeral procession. I enjoyed your arm flailing. I am sure that you spoke words that were lovely. But that letter in the mail will let you know (anonymously of course) that I am not a speedbump in your day.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hillary Speaks

Finally our Secretary of State showed up for the Congressional hearings on Benghazi. I was not sure what to expect from the 5-hour session. Neither Clinton is friendly with the truth. Bill and Hillary aren't even honest with each other, so I didn't exactly expect her to be honest with the American people. 

She did say that she takes responsibility (in terms of the-buck-stops-here), but then she dodged each question that would have called for her to actually take responsibility. As I listened to her answers, I thought I was hearing the slippery answers of a teenager. I do however think she was sincere when she recalled greeting the families and the caskets. 

I am confused about something she said. When she said that the State Department received 1.4 million letters/cables/communications per year and they are all addressed to her, I could understand that. But what is the hierarchy? If a message comes from an ambassador to the Secretary of State, would that be a higher priority than a message from an underling? And doesn't she have staff that read, prioritize, and summarize communiques for her? Wouldn't she receive daily briefings about developing situations that would have alerted her to the problems in the region in the prior months? There are still too many answered questions. 

The rant was surprising to me. She is not prone to outbursts. I guess she thinks that it's not that important how the attack happened, but that the attack happened. I disagree. If my teenager takes my car and then calls to tell me it's totaled, I want to know how. All the more important to know how the attack happened and how these Americans were killed so as to not have it happen again. There is something to be learned here. Policies or procedures were either not followed or need to be reviewed. Communication channels were either broken or something serious is wrong. I would like to think that Mrs. Clinton did not know about the problem ahead of time, but that means that she was not properly informed. If Mrs. Clinton knew of the problem and did nothing, that is a serious issue. Whether she knew or whether no one told her, both are failings. And both need fixed.

The other discouraging thing to me is that most people don't really care and aren't paying attention. They will only hear her testimony when it's a sound bite in a 2016 commercial in her run for president. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Father of the year? You're kidding, right?

Just this week the National Father's Day Committee announced that one of their choices for their 2013 Father of the Year Award is Bill Clinton. WHAT? I thought I must have misheard that. Great politician. Sure. Great humanitarian. Sure. More deserving of a Nobel Prize than Al Gore or Barack Obama, but I digress. This called for an investigation.

Promptly, I looked at the reasons for choosing Clinton as father of the year. It's odd. The journalists talked about his foundation, his humanitarian work, barely mentioning his doting on his daughter, but I am still waiting for how this qualifies. I lived through the 90s... the women procurement... Monica... the public news conferences and hearings on whether oral sex is sex. Of course, my sons were quick to point out that this award is not for "husband of the year".

I started looking at former winners, of which there are many. In 2009 George Stephanopoulos won. Maybe he is a great dad, but his oldest child at the time was about 7. The award should surely go to someone who has parented teens and survived! The 2005 list included Donald Trump, so maybe the list isn't about how many baby mommas, but how many of your children you can employ. (They all seem well-adjusted, so I probably shouldn't comment too much). The most glaring name was in 2007... John Edwards. Good heavens! I think this was just about the time that there were rumblings of a girlfriend followed by a love child while his wife was dying. No more talk about these men who are doing wrong. Let me mention one that is doing right... and has always done right.

My father is the hardworking family man that most of us are familiar with because we had our own similar dad at home. No sacrifice is too great for the purposes of supporting his family. My dad is amazing. He worked his first job for 40 years while working a second job for almost as long while riding his bike 10 miles every day (one way) so that my mom could have the car for us. He is 72 and still works. I think there is something to be admired about a man who quietly but strongly does the right things. He is faithful, honest, and will make you laugh in a minute. There are so many things I learned about from my dad, but probably most importantly, I learned that I am valuable and unique and important. Dads impart lessons in many ways, but one of the most crucial lessons that my dad imparted daily is that my mom is to be respected, admired, and loved. That, folks, is Father-of-the-Year material!