Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I love Sundays

I think I love them because there's only one of them in a week. And that's the only one I get off of work. Sometimes, I don't get that whole day off from thinking about office stuff either, cause someone having an 'emergency' is banging on my door or wailing on the 'call manager' button on the keypad. Usually, it's because they haven't paid their bill and the computer won't let them through the gate. Occasionally, just rarely, it's my fault they can't get into their unit for some reason. Like, they paid their fees for the month AFTER the last time my Superman walked through and made sure all those paid up weren't overlocked.

I'm posting a few pics of the last couple of Sundays to share with you the bliss they give me. There's also an update at the end about Dori and Maggie, if you are following along.
OK, I'm usually up during the weeking between 6:30 and 7am, even on the Sundays because it's a hard habit to break sometimes. While I'm getting ready for the day, I like to watch CBS Sunday Morning, it seems to me the most pleasant news report at anytime. After that we like to go the the nearby State Park.

There are four little ponds there with a path that we like to walk around, like this one.

Here's my handsome man and my pretty girls. That's Maggie doing her own thing on the left, Dori waits impatiently there on the right with the leash.
It's very scenic there and peaceful. Not a lot of people to run into before 9am on a Sunday morning.
This particular day was misty, so the bridge looked so sweet.

Sometimes, when we get back, Daddy likes to make us a big breakfast. Occasionally, we go get breakfast out, but we like having ourselves to ourselves more.

See, he is my Superman.

Sundays for us mean a day of rest, too. We might take naps, or just relax. Maggie found the one sunnyspot we ever have on the dining room floor.

This last Sunday, we watched the Mariner's kick Yankee butt, I knitted while we watched the game.

This is merino wool I bought at the Sock Summit in August. More on this later.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the pictures.

We have been working with Dori, to be calm and bring out the natural dog in her. We have been walking with her tied to my belt loop, which has worked wonders for her on the granola path, not so well on asphalt. Very calm and relaxing walks, this last weekend especially. I am carrying a stick now also. Now when I say that, for some reason everybody gets alarmed, so let me explain. I am not carrying a stick to beat my dogs with. It's more like a shephard's staff. It has been helpful with Dori, because she is not pulling ahead of me, as if to escape from me anymore. She is reminded by the stick to walk WITH me, as an extension of my hand, for protection and security. She seems a little more trusting of us on the walks, the tail is coming up a little more as are the ears. We are keeping Maggie on the leash more now too, and both the girls are walking with us, between us mostly with the stick. Neither girl is running ahead and on the leash Maggie is keeping up with us, where before she lagged behind.

We watch 'Dog Whisperer' pretty much daily, we find a lot of helpful tidbits there. That was where the tied to the belt idea came from and the stick. Cesar Milan's advice was actually to boost the confidence of the human, but we are finding it is boosting the confidence of little lady shy girl, too.

Earlier I mentioned that I like to watch CBS Sunday Morning. This last weekend Bill Geist did an article about adopting a dog, his first, and all that he is learning about dog, dog culture and all. I really identified with what he's going thru and it appears his Daphne is working out for him very well. Check that out too.


I loved it. Looks like he's learning a lot and having fun, too.

Anyway, I hope you have peaceful days, at least once in a while.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What it means to take care of yourself

A few years ago, I found myself completely alone and vulnerable. I was subject to every thing that could befall me and did. They say that most people today are one event away from utter destitution, whether illness, accident, or some other catastrophe. I had no resources to fall back on and no friends to advise me. What to do?

I guess you could say I got some great education. I read and sought out information that everybody needs and yet few are taught. I want to share with you two things I found that were of invaluable help and that work together very well.

The first is Prepaid Legal. You may have heard of this and thought, that's only for people who are bad and need legal help. Believe me when I tell you, EVERYBODY needs help. Bad things happen to good people everyday. In my situation, I found I could really use the advice of someone who knew a lot more than me. Bills that did not belong to me or I was being unfairly billed for, I needed help with. Contracts and other fine print documents I appreciated being englishified for me. Issues with DMV, wills, taxes, anything that came along, having a group of wise people at my fingertips was huge.

They also offer an Identity Theft protection, which even with all the products that have come along since this has become such a huge issue in the media, is still by far a better product in my experience. This is not the protection your credit card company offered, which amounted to 'if you found an issue, you could call them and they would tell you how to fix it' and pretty much limited to their card, but rather this plan watches you, your name, and anything attached with it, like your Social Security number and DMV record, and contacts you to clarify and if there is an issue, they clear it up for you. Plus monthly alerts letting you know that things are OK, or sudden alerts if something is popping up.

The other thing I studied about was credit. Your credit isn't a concern only when you are making a major purchase anymore. It affects your insurability, your employability and thus your quality of life. It also affects the credit accounts you have opened. Did you know that an late payment on your utility bills will close your credit card account? I had accounts in my credit report that were many years old that were overdue for falling off my reports. I was also afraid to use credit and with what I was able to learn, found ways to use it as a tool to clean and build my credit.

All of this information took away any misapprehension as far as what is happening now with the fears about this economy. I know where the pitfalls are and how to avoid them. I know there are methods to help myself and how much work I need to put into it and where to get help when I need it.

The first step is to ask. Not just ask the brother-in-law on the sofa with a beer watching football. Ask people who know. If you can't trust me or someone you don't know, trust my experience.

I have used the Prepaid Legal now for a few years, for reviewing documents like my divorce papers a few years ago, for help with traffic tickets, setting up a will. The biggest instance of saving me money was this: I had a car that had some issue, so I took it to a mechanic, who said there was nothing wrong with it and sent it home. A day or so later, I'd find myself on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck again. This lasted over six months, the car would be in the shop, I'd get it home and have to take it back again within a couple of days. Finally, I bought another used car and gave this one away. A few months later, the repair shop sent me a bill. The next day, I got a bill from a collection agency, with extra fees attached. So, I called in my membership with Prepaid Legal, was assigned an attorney, who wrote a letter to both the repair shop and the collection agency, stating the vehicle wasn't fixed and to cease and desist pursuing me for any amount of money. That was more than three years ago, and I have not yet heard from them again. With the credit knowledge I have, I have watched my credit reports and it never did appear there either.

Because I have marketed this product, which is a business opportunity I saw as representing a product that everyone needed and could use daily, which are the best kinds of products to have as a business, I hear many other stories. One of my favorites happened to a young woman, who was physically impaired, when she moved out of a rental property in the winter. Her landlord sued her for not clearing snow off the back patio in Small Claims Court. Now, lawyers do not represent anyone in Small Claims Court, but she needed advice and received it as to what not to say and what should be said. If that was you, wouldn't you have appreciated that good advice as well? So, what happened for her was this: The Judge found in her favor, awarded her the judgement that would have covered her rental deposit and denied the other party's claims for cleaning, to travel here from another state and other trivial costs. Another favorite story was this: A family had two daughters, one of them was considered mentally retarded. The school district wanted the two girls to ride to the same school on two different buses, which the parents knew would not benefit either girl to be so separated for no good reason. Are not the rights of our children important too? With their membership, they were able to get that changed, and both are happy to have their sister with them to and from school.

Credit reporting is delicate business. Did you know you can try to have something corrected on your report yourself and accidentally permanently embed it there? Did you know you actually have to use credit to have credit? Many people think that longtime married spouses credit reports must match, because they've had the same bills for years and are surprised when one of them dies that they don't have the credit they need to survive alone. I used to work for a credit repair company and it was amazing to me how much misinformation is out there. One piece of advice of heard told to people is that to build credit, get the card, charge one thing on it and pay off the balance when the bill comes and never use it again. Guess what, that doesn't help. I learned you actually have to maintain a little balance for anyone looking to offer you credit to see you are responsible enough to handle it.

The information that I learned in these two places give me the sense of protection that you can't get otherwise. I can actually say, 'I'll have my attorney contact you' and mean it. If I have something come up and need some money, I don't have to pay high interest rates for a little bit of money and not have it help my credit score when I pay it back. When information about me is mishandled, I have a team to fight it for me and their fight is respected, where me by myself may not have been.

Which means, not only am I taking good care of myself, but I am a woman EMPOWERED!

Wouldn't you like to be a person empowered?

To see what all is involved, you can check out these two websites:


Or, you can ask me. Yeah. You know where I am.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Marbles Roll Loose

Lots of stuff in my head, rolling around.

1. I am very happy I got to see my mom yesterday and I bonused because I got to see my sister, her oldest son and his two boys. I hadn't met the newest little one and hadn't seen the older one since he was born. It was a very short visit, but I feel like, wow, that was a good day.

2. Knitting. I had a migraine for about eight days, then I was OK for about three days. I say OK, because I was feeling kinda dazed about the headache being gone. Then I had about three days of fighting something, I think. I hurt everywhere, then I would have severe chills for about a half hour. I am feeling pretty good now, but Superman is out of it.

With all of that, knitting has gone pfbtttt! I got to the bottom of a sweater I'm making for my nephew, nearly finished with the sleeves of a sweater for my step-daughter, but not finding any motivation. I have a package for my purple swap overdue because of not feeling it. I couldn't get out of the house to find things to put together for it. So, yesterday, I stopped and picked up a couple of skeins of eyelash yarn and nearly finished a scarf to send. I have knitting at the library today, wondering what to take.

3. Work. While I was not feeling it, the first of the month came and went. I thought a lot about how I label people, not like I'm being judgemental, I mean that I have name labels for people rather than remember their names. I have a few firefighters, one policeman, a couple of dentists, the realtors have all moved out (hmmm, is that a comment on the economy?), lots of elderly that I love, a woman pro baseball player whose in her off season now, a landscaper, a construction company, a furniture retailer. . . . Another thing I have is deadbeats and tweakers. I've been feeling bad because of the way I treat them in my head. Because of the way they pay their bills, I can't treat them any better to make up for it. I offer all the help I can, but unless the word FREE figures in my offers, they almost never take me up on what I can do. That makes me feel bad too. I sigh to myself and think, 'there's just some who won't be helped.' When I get to that point, I go turn the on happy music in my stero. It just takes me a while to get there.

4. Privacy. I am really missing this quality in my life. Of course, I live where I work, which has greatly diminished this commodity in my world. People don't seem to have a concept that I have sat at my desk waiting all day for them, have to lock the door at closing time to go and take care of everything else I put off all day, which is a really limited period of time. With daylight gettting shorter, I have less and less time to get dinner done and the dishes washed, the dogs to the park, finish the laundry or whatever chores I have been sporadically working on all day. I don't try to do any errands during the week, when I lock the office up on Saturday, I need to focus on all I can't get to the rest of the week. I need to go to the store, I need to see my family (them that will see me), I have big projects I can't work on during the week that I save for the weekend and if people are knocking on my doors or calling the office line, I may answer them but I will be irratible or even just not able to focus on their issues. I feel they go away put off. I crave the feeling that I have somehow made someone's day a little better, and when people walk away from me discontented my sense of good in the world gets diminished.

Another things that knocks it low is not having a yard for the dogs. I'm trying to work with my shy girl and having to do it in a park or the public pathway where anybody could see me is a bit stressful. People don't have any consideration for what a dog may be going through, they think they can just walk up to any dog and start making un-calming conversations with them. I have always when I see a new dog, asked the people if I may say hello, and a few have said no, so I will just tell the people it's OK maybe another time. I wish that more people appreciated that it takes a community to raise a child, to train a dog, to make the world go round, and to think before they do.

4. Lots of conversations lately about healthcare. I posted President Obama's speech the other day, but it seems to come up a lot. My mom went to a new doctor, who put her on a new perscription and (yeah!) her blood sugar levels are down nearer to normal, probably normal than they have ever been. The thing that bugs me is that it took so long. She's getting medicare but has no information about using it, so she hesitated. How many people hesitate because of financial issues? It's seems a huge problem to me. A tenant this morning was telling me about her son who has been suffering with a concussion and back injury for over a year and has been near death for most of that time, whose care was paused for financial issues. My own situation, I have health care through my job, but I don't use it because there is not much paid for as far as preventative care. It will be helpful, well more than having no healthcare, when and if I have an immediate or catastrophic problem, but I am struggling to deal with my diabetes on my own. My husband has no healthcare. He fell out of his truck almost two years ago and injured his back. He sought help but was told he can't be helped because he smokes. He had a heart attack a year ago in October and received some financial assistance through the hospital, but we are still having to make payments on some of the other bills, like the doctor's bill and the ambulance. None of that is helping with the back problem. He sleeps very little at night like maybe hour and a half or two hours per night, he is having lower digestive problems where he doesn't have bowel movements but once a week, maybe.

It just seems that Obama's point about how prosperous our nation is on the worldwide scale, it is shameful how unhealthy, the lack of medical care our people have access to or how unfair the insurance companies are treating their customers. I understand he is trying to fix that, and I know that the opposition, who are financed by corporations, including the big business of medical insurance, will fight him rather than find solutions to the issues they are having with his plan.

In the meantime, Superman applies for Social Security Disability Benefits.

ETA: I just heard something really stupid. Somebody was protesting the healthcare plan because they don't want their choices taken away. OK. Then let the health care costs continue to rise so you can keep your choices and let the big corporate giant insurance companies continue to make it about business as usual. When your choices are gone, you'll be hoping someone has a plan for you like the rest of us. Besides, I have only heard that everybody will get to keep their choices except from 'THEM' who want to scare you into not supporting anything Your President proposes and 'THEM' is the same as those who support Business as Usual. Just saying. Why wouldn't you make the sacrifice so that those also deserving get the same as you?

5. I think a lot about my nephew, who is in basic training for the Army. I have written a few letters back and forth with him. I am not a proponent for military either, but I am a proponent for my nephew. In fact, I feel much love and admiration for all my next generation. My daughter, my step-daughter, my nephews, my nieces, and their next generation. I have so much admiration for how smart they are, how hard they struggle, what they are able to accomplish, what they are willing to learn and that they seem less likely to sit back and wait but more likely to stand up for themselves and THINK for themselves. I'm not saying any of what they do is better than or worse than what I went through, but it seems there are a lot of lazy dumb asses in my generation and they make me admire the next so ever much more. (PS. I hope calling them 'lazy dumb asses' doesn't offend anybody, but I have been giving it a lot of thought and there doesn't seem to be a term that adequately or succinctly describes these individuals better than that.) This makes me think about school being back in session and wondering what kids are learning. It makes me wonder if they are gaining the sense that they can do all and be all they can be, that they can save themselves, someone else, the world, if they like because they have a power, even a superpower all their own. That thought makes me excited and wishes I was a teacher or a librarian, I want to be closer to them so I can see what they do. I want to bring a book, get out my colored pencils, go for a walk, listen to what they think, spend some time. Apparently, that is either too expensive, takes too long, boring, because it doesn't happen often enough. I get it. I'm also getting old.

There's actually lots of little marbles rolling around in there, loose. These are just the few I could catch to show you.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The President's Health Care Speech

Hey, it's me. I am posting the speech because I think he said some interesting things. Aside from that I don't personally have any opinion about this. Health care is a major concern for me and for those I love, but I don't have any faith that polititions can do all they want or think others expect of them. As a diabetic, with a health care plan that does not pay for any of my monitoring supplies, married to a hardworking Superman whose back has been injured and has no health care to fix it PLUS had a heart attack almost a year ago and without the generosity of those with whom we have bills reducing the bills or eliminating them altogether, leaving us a small percentage to make payments on, we suffer without an adequate health care system as well as many people we know, so, I admit some of what he said appeals to me and I would like to see some of what he said take place. For that reason, I post this. I don't have a political agenda, I don't have a position on policy, and I am not interested in what may not occur. I only hope that something might.

Here's the full text of President Obama's address on health care to the Joint Session of Congress:
Madame Speaker, Vice President Biden, Members of Congress, and the American people:
When I spoke here last winter, this nation was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month. Credit was frozen. And our financial system was on the verge of collapse.
As any American who is still looking for work or a way to pay their bills will tell you, we are by no means out of the woods. A full and vibrant recovery is many months away. And I will not let up until those Americans who seek jobs can find them; until those businesses that seek capital and credit can thrive; until all responsible homeowners can stay in their homes. That is our ultimate goal. But thanks to the bold and decisive action we have taken since January, I can stand here with confidence and say that we have pulled this economy back from the brink.
I want to thank the members of this body for your efforts and your support in these last several months, and especially those who have taken the difficult votes that have put us on a path to recovery. I also want to thank the American people for their patience and resolve during this trying time for our nation.
But we did not come here just to clean up crises. We came to build a future. So tonight, I return to speak to all of you about an issue that is central to that future - and that is the issue of health care.
I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way. A bill for comprehensive health reform was first introduced by John Dingell Sr. in 1943. Sixty-five years later, his son continues to introduce that same bill at the beginning of each session.
Our collective failure to meet this challenge - year after year, decade after decade - has led us to a breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can't get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can't afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or expensive to cover.
We are the only advanced democracy on Earth - the only wealthy nation - that allows such hardships for millions of its people. There are now more than thirty million American citizens who cannot get coverage. In just a two year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point. And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage. In other words, it can happen to anyone.
But the problem that plagues the health care system is not just a problem of the uninsured. Those who do have insurance have never had less security and stability than they do today. More and more Americans worry that if you move, lose your job, or change your job, you'll lose your health insurance too. More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won't pay the full cost of care. It happens every day.
One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn't reported gallstones that he didn't even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it. Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer more than doubled in size. That is heart-breaking, it is wrong, and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America.
Then there's the problem of rising costs. We spend one-and-a-half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren't any healthier for it. This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages. It's why so many employers - especially small businesses - are forcing their employees to pay more for insurance, or are dropping their coverage entirely. It's why so many aspiring entrepreneurs cannot afford to open a business in the first place, and why American businesses that compete internationally - like our automakers - are at a huge disadvantage. And it's why those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it - about $1000 per year that pays for somebody else's emergency room and charitable care.
Finally, our health care system is placing an unsustainable burden on taxpayers. When health care costs grow at the rate they have, it puts greater pressure on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. If we do nothing to slow these skyrocketing costs, we will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined. Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close.
These are the facts. Nobody disputes them. We know we must reform this system. The question is how.
There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada's, where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everyone. On the right, there are those who argue that we should end the employer-based system and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.
I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both approaches. But either one would represent a radical shift that would disrupt the health care most people currently have. Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn't, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch. And that is precisely what those of you in Congress have tried to do over the past several months.
During that time, we have seen Washington at its best and its worst.
We have seen many in this chamber work tirelessly for the better part of this year to offer thoughtful ideas about how to achieve reform. Of the five committees asked to develop bills, four have completed their work, and the Senate Finance Committee announced today that it will move forward next week. That has never happened before. Our overall efforts have been supported by an unprecedented coalition of doctors and nurses; hospitals, seniors' groups and even drug companies - many of whom opposed reform in the past. And there is agreement in this chamber on about eighty percent of what needs to be done, putting us closer to the goal of reform than we have ever been.
But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.
Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.The plan I'm announcing tonight would meet three basic goals:
It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don't. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government. It's a plan that asks everyone to take responsibility for meeting this challenge - not just government and insurance companies, but employers and individuals. And it's a plan that incorporates ideas from Senators and Congressmen; from Democrats and Republicans - and yes, from some of my opponents in both the primary and general election.
Here are the details that every American needs to know about this plan:
First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.
What this plan will do is to make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies - because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.
That's what Americans who have health insurance can expect from this plan - more security and stability.
Now, if you're one of the tens of millions of Americans who don't currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer you quality, affordable choices. If you lose your job or change your job, you will be able to get coverage. If you strike out on your own and start a small business, you will be able to get coverage. We will do this by creating a new insurance exchange - a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices. Insurance companies will have an incentive to participate in this exchange because it lets them compete for millions of new customers. As one big group, these customers will have greater leverage to bargain with the insurance companies for better prices and quality coverage. This is how large companies and government employees get affordable insurance. It's how everyone in this Congress gets affordable insurance. And it's time to give every American the same opportunity that we've given ourselves.
For those individuals and small businesses who still cannot afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange, we will provide tax credits, the size of which will be based on your need. And all insurance companies that want access to this new marketplace will have to abide by the consumer protections I already mentioned. This exchange will take effect in four years, which will give us time to do it right. In the meantime, for those Americans who can't get insurance today because they have pre-existing medical conditions, we will immediately offer low-cost coverage that will protect you against financial ruin if you become seriously ill. This was a good idea when Senator John McCain proposed it in the campaign, it's a good idea now, and we should embrace it.
Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those - particularly the young and healthy - who still want to take the risk and go without coverage. There may still be companies that refuse to do right by their workers. The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money. If there are affordable options and people still don't sign up for health insurance, it means we pay for those people's expensive emergency room visits. If some businesses don't provide workers health care, it forces the rest of us to pick up the tab when their workers get sick, and gives those businesses an unfair advantage over their competitors. And unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek - especially requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions - just can't be achieved.
That's why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance - just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. Likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers. There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still cannot afford coverage, and 95% of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements. But we cannot have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees. Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part.
While there remain some significant details to be ironed out, I believe a broad consensus exists for the aspects of the plan I just outlined: consumer protections for those with insurance, an exchange that allows individuals and small businesses to purchase affordable coverage, and a requirement that people who can afford insurance get insurance.
And I have no doubt that these reforms would greatly benefit Americans from all walks of life, as well as the economy as a whole. Still, given all the misinformation that's been spread over the past few months, I realize that many Americans have grown nervous about reform. So tonight I'd like to address some of the key controversies that are still out there.
Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple. There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false - the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally. And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up - under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.
My health care proposal has also been attacked by some who oppose reform as a "government takeover" of the entire health care system. As proof, critics point to a provision in our plan that allows the uninsured and small businesses to choose a publicly-sponsored insurance option, administered by the government just like Medicaid or Medicare.
So let me set the record straight. My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75% of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90% is controlled by just one company. Without competition, the price of insurance goes up and the quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly - by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest; by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage; and by jacking up rates.
Insurance executives don't do this because they are bad people. They do it because it's profitable. As one former insurance executive testified before Congress, insurance companies are not only encouraged to find reasons to drop the seriously ill; they are rewarded for it. All of this is in service of meeting what this former executive called "Wall Street's relentless profit expectations."
Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business. They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable. The insurance reforms that I've already mentioned would do just that. But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear - it would only be an option for those who don't have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5% of Americans would sign up.
Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies don't like this idea. They argue that these private companies can't fairly compete with the government. And they'd be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won't be. I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects. But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers. It would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better, the same way public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students without in any way inhibiting a vibrant system of private colleges and universities.
It's worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I've proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn't be exaggerated - by the left, the right, or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and should not be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles. To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end - and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have.
For example, some have suggested that that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies. Others propose a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring. But I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice. And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need.
Finally, let me discuss an issue that is a great concern to me, to members of this chamber, and to the public - and that is how we pay for this plan.
Here's what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits - either now or in the future. Period. And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize. Part of the reason I faced a trillion dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for - from the Iraq War to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make that same mistake with health care.
Second, we've estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system - a system that is currently full of waste and abuse. Right now, too much of the hard-earned savings and tax dollars we spend on health care doesn't make us healthier. That's not my judgment - it's the judgment of medical professionals across this country. And this is also true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid.
In fact, I want to speak directly to America's seniors for a moment, because Medicare is another issue that's been subjected to demagoguery and distortion during the course of this debate.
More than four decades ago, this nation stood up for the principle that after a lifetime of hard work, our seniors should not be left to struggle with a pile of medical bills in their later years. That is how Medicare was born. And it remains a sacred trust that must be passed down from one generation to the next. That is why not a dollar of the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for this plan.
The only thing this plan would eliminate is the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies - subsidies that do everything to pad their profits and nothing to improve your care. And we will also create an independent commission of doctors and medical experts charged with identifying more waste in the years ahead.
These steps will ensure that you - America's seniors - get the benefits you've been promised. They will ensure that Medicare is there for future generations. And we can use some of the savings to fill the gap in coverage that forces too many seniors to pay thousands of dollars a year out of their own pocket for prescription drugs. That's what this plan will do for you. So don't pay attention to those scary stories about how your benefits will be cut - especially since some of the same folks who are spreading these tall tales have fought against Medicare in the past, and just this year supported a budget that would have essentially turned Medicare into a privatized voucher program. That will never happen on my watch. I will protect Medicare.
Now, because Medicare is such a big part of the health care system, making the program more efficient can help usher in changes in the way we deliver health care that can reduce costs for everybody. We have long known that some places, like the Intermountain Healthcare in Utah or the Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania, offer high-quality care at costs below average. The commission can help encourage the adoption of these common-sense best practices by doctors and medical professionals throughout the system - everything from reducing hospital infection rates to encouraging better coordination between teams of doctors.
Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan. Much of the rest would be paid for with revenues from the very same drug and insurance companies that stand to benefit from tens of millions of new customers. This reform will charge insurance companies a fee for their most expensive policies, which will encourage them to provide greater value for the money - an idea which has the support of Democratic and Republican experts. And according to these same experts, this modest change could help hold down the cost of health care for all of us in the long-run.
Finally, many in this chamber - particularly on the Republican side of the aisle - have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. I know that the Bush Administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues. It's a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today.
Add it all up, and the plan I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over ten years - less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration. Most of these costs will be paid for with money already being spent - but spent badly - in the existing health care system. The plan will not add to our deficit. The middle-class will realize greater security, not higher taxes. And if we are able to slow the growth of health care costs by just one-tenth of one percent each year, it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.
This is the plan I'm proposing. It's a plan that incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight - Democrats and Republicans. And I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.
But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.
Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true.
That is why we cannot fail. Because there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed - the ones who suffer silently, and the ones who shared their stories with us at town hall meetings, in emails, and in letters.
I received one of those letters a few days ago. It was from our beloved friend and colleague, Ted Kennedy. He had written it back in May, shortly after he was told that his illness was terminal. He asked that it be delivered upon his death.
In it, he spoke about what a happy time his last months were, thanks to the love and support of family and friends, his wife, Vicki, and his children, who are here tonight . And he expressed confidence that this would be the year that health care reform - "that great unfinished business of our society," he called it - would finally pass. He repeated the truth that health care is decisive for our future prosperity, but he also reminded me that "it concerns more than material things." "What we face," he wrote, "is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country."
I've thought about that phrase quite a bit in recent days - the character of our country. One of the unique and wonderful things about America has always been our self-reliance, our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government. And figuring out the appropriate size and role of government has always been a source of rigorous and sometimes angry debate.
For some of Ted Kennedy's critics, his brand of liberalism represented an affront to American liberty. In their mind, his passion for universal health care was nothing more than a passion for big government.
But those of us who knew Teddy and worked with him here - people of both parties - know that what drove him was something more. His friend, Orrin Hatch, knows that. They worked together to provide children with health insurance. His friend John McCain knows that. They worked together on a Patient's Bill of Rights. His friend Chuck Grassley knows that. They worked together to provide health care to children with disabilities.
On issues like these, Ted Kennedy's passion was born not of some rigid ideology, but of his own experience. It was the experience of having two children stricken with cancer. He never forgot the sheer terror and helplessness that any parent feels when a child is badly sick; and he was able to imagine what it must be like for those without insurance; what it would be like to have to say to a wife or a child or an aging parent - there is something that could make you better, but I just can't afford it.
That large-heartedness - that concern and regard for the plight of others - is not a partisan feeling. It is not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character. Our ability to stand in other people's shoes. A recognition that we are all in this together; that when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand. A belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgement that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.
This has always been the history of our progress. In 1933, when over half of our seniors could not support themselves and millions had seen their savings wiped away, there were those who argued that Social Security would lead to socialism. But the men and women of Congress stood fast, and we are all the better for it. In 1965, when some argued that Medicare represented a government takeover of health care, members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, did not back down. They joined together so that all of us could enter our golden years with some basic peace of mind.
You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter - that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.
What was true then remains true today. I understand how difficult this health care debate has been. I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them. I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road - to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.
But that's not what the moment calls for. That's not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test.
Because that is who we are. That is our calling. That is our character. Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's a dogs life

So, how about a little update on the dog situation in our home, hmmmm?

We think we may have made a little progress with Dori, the new dog from the rescue. The other day we decided we were all going to go upstairs and take a nap. We wanted to see if she would go upstairs and lay down without the kennel. Wonder of Wonders! She did! We thought we would continue on that. So, we are no longer carrying the kennel upstairs at night or downstairs in the morning. She won't lay down till we do, but she stays upstairs until we are all coming downstairs. She seems to need a signal to move, we haven't discovered what that is yet, but we are looking for more ways to get her to trust us, be part of our family and do things on her own.

We continue to walk in the park. Last weekend, we went to walk in the park in the early afternoon. I could hear Maggie behind my seat, so I took this over my shoulder.

When I saw the shot I got I busted up and laughed for about five minutes. It looks like she's saying 'I can smell the forest!'

I thought I would get a new shot of Dori in the park, this was walking with Dad. I had hoped to get one showing how relaxed she gets in the park. Hard to get one because I'm usually behind them.

Here is me with both of them. You can see how thick our park is. It's a challenge getting a good shot of terriers, too. Although Dori looks good, you can't see Maggie very well.

Those were all from last weekend.

This one I took this morning. We have taken the tops off the kennels. We hope that this will promote Dori's interest in what's happening in the house and want to become more involved. Yesterday, I trimmed Maggie's nails while she was laying in her kennel with our pet nail trimmer (the one they advertise on tv ~ not the clipper kind) and Dori watched me. I let her feel the vibrations of it on the top of her paw and all, but as she still is not comfortable with us touching her, I won't be able to do her nails for a while.

They look like bookends don't they. I think they are listening to the 'Dog Whisperer' program.