What’s happened to us?

What’s happened to us?

I don’t know what’s happened to the human race over the past few decades. They don’t seem to have the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. What has happened to the human capacity for compassion? Are we, as a species devolving? Are some of us losing some of our mental capacity to apply emotion to situations that don’t involve us personally?

Think about your last doctor’s appointment. Did your doctor tell you that you have to start doing anything differently? Did he tell you to start getting more exercise? To cut out salt or sugar from your diet? Did he tell you that you have to stop smoking and/or drinking? Did he change or prescribe medication to help treat health conditions you have? Are you able to pay for those medications? Have you ever looked into what a medication costs through your insurance company vs not having insurance? Could you afford them without insurance? Do you feel justified in judging someone for their inability to pay for prescribed medications? Are you willing to sentence them to death for the inability to afford prescribed medications?

Do you have any chronic illness that requires you to take regular medication? Asthma, heart disease, Diabetes? Have you ever become immune to the benefits of the medications you were prescribed and had to have the dose increased or the medication changed? Have you ever had a bad reaction to a medication? Have you ever had no improvement with a prescribed medication? Do you think people should be denied healthcare coverage for “not following doctor’s instructions?” How would you know if they didn’t? Is it even possible for you to know if you didn’t know that person personally? Would you want someone you didn’t know making that kind of decisions about your healthcare?

Have you ever lost a job? Have you ever worked a job that required special skills that eventually became obsolete? When utilizing said special skills, did it make your wages higher? When those skills became obsolete, did your pay plummet? Was the job outsourced? Or was that job eliminated through the use of automation machines? When you lost that job, did you receive unemployment benefits? Did your bills get behind? Did you struggle to put enough food on the table for your family? Would your kids have gone hungry without unemployment checks? Would you deny your neighbor that assistance if he or she were in the same situation? Would you refuse them for yourself and your family? Do you realize that unemployment benefits are among the entitlements you have supported being eliminated?

Have you ever been injured on the job? Did you have to be out of work for an extended period of time? While you were out, did your bills get behind? Did you struggle to put food on the table? Did you receive temporary disability during that time? In either of these situations, would you consider yourself and your family living beyond your means? Do you believe people should be punished for living beyond their means? Do you realize that these benefits are also considered entitlements?

The thing is, we as a species tend to judge by what we see and base it on personal experiences. The problem is that past experiences vary widely. So what you judge someone else for is not the same as your experience. You don’t know what they’ve been through any more than they know what you’ve been through. So no matter how you judge them, you do so unfairly because of your ignorance to what got them where they are. We all come from different places and different experiences and perceptions.

Bottom line is that we need to go back to live and let live. We need to fully educate our children in public schools, funding those schools fully with our tax dollars and providing all necessary tools and resources to do so. Then we need to trust that those who have been through that public educational system to have the knowledge and resources to make suitable decisions for their own lives and quit assuming they are either stupid or immoral. Because to make such assumptions says more about you than it does about them. And you know how you judge others. Try and imagine what they’d say about you. Do Unto others as you would have them do unto you.


Doomed to Collapse

It frustrates me to sit and listen to people who don’t make enough to live decently argue against a minimum wage hike. For people who make less than $15.00/hour to argue against raising it to that level is a shame because they don’t see that it not only helps people out of poverty but actually helps them too and that they’re arguing against their own best interests. But in my experience, when asked why they don’t think it should be raised, they say something along the lines of “why should someone who just started working here make as much as I do when I’ve been here 5 years”? I understand that they’re saying seniority should mean something. But what they don’t realize they’re saying is “I’m not worth $15/hr if it means someone who has been here less time does too.” How does this make sense?

Then there’s the age old argument of “if they raise the minimum wage, prices on everything else goes up too.” This is a ridiculous argument too, considering that the minimum wage hasn’t gone up since 2009 when it was raised from $6.55/hr. to $7.25/hr. Before 2007 it was stuck at $5.15 for 10 years. (http://www.raisetheminimumwage.com/pages/qanda) However, just from 2000 – 2012, the cost of childcare, housing, higher education, healthcare and retirement have gone up by more than $10,000/yr. (https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/report/2014/09/24/96903/the-middle-class-squeeze/) Household income, however has been stagnant. And even in instances where income was raised, it was countered by costs increasing so that it did not help to meet expenses. I have even personally known people whose income did not go up over the past 5 years yet their insurance costs have gone up each year, giving them less in their budget to meet other expenses. So how does arguing that raising the minimum wage will cause everything else to go up make sense when everything else is going up WITHOUT raising the minimum wage? Do you want to continually be left behind making it increasingly more difficult just to meet living expenses? And if you consider yourself ‘doing okay’, where is your compassion for those who are not? Do you call yourself Christian with this belief that those who don’t make enough to survive ‘deserve’ to struggle because they’re not doing enough? Do you know how many of those people work two jobs? What happened to “Judge not lest ye be judged?”

Let’s look at healthcare for a moment. In 2009, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Acts were passed, looking to regulate the healthcare industry to protect the people. However, that was not before the acts were manipulated to the point where we could still be abused in some ways. For instance, certain groups of Senators insisted on an extended grace period for insurers and businesses (i.e. employers) to conform to the law. This was, in my opinion, included so as to circumvent another part of the law which kept insurers from jacking up premium prices too fast. It gave them more time to increase premiums to the maximum allowed for each time period. As an example, when I started working in the healthcare business, the average deductible amount was $250-$300/yr. Now, its $2000.00. That is just the deductibles. The actual premiums were not something I had access to from the part of the business I was working in at the time, but I know what I paid and I pay at least 3X what I paid back then for my family of 4. Only now, I’m paying only for myself. The majority of that increase happened since the passage of the ACA. Now I know some of you will automatically jump to the conclusion that the government or President Obama is to blame, but who do you think had a hand in forcing these changes in the ACA to allow for such increases? Why lobbyists for the industry itself of course…..and the congressional representatives that supported these changes are the very representatives that still are outspoken against the ACA….their reasoning? The very things they forced; that the cost is too great. Only it’s not the average citizen’s cost their complaining about. It’s the cost to the businesses that are paying the lobbyists to manipulate the laws in their favor. Of course they want you to believe that it’s you they’re more concerned with. But if that were true, they’d have passed bills to grow the economy by creating jobs to improve infrastructure and clean energy and clean environment thereby improving the general welfare of all. But no, they’re stagnant.

The first house I rented in 1988 was a 3 bedroom house at $280/month. At the time, my pay was 4.95/hr and I did have a full time job. That calculates to about 35% of my gross income. Now, granted, I was making a little more than minimum wage at the time. So while it was 35% of my gross income, it would have translated to 52% of the gross income for someone working minimum wage in 1988. If we look at the cost of the same size house in 2015, we’re looking at something drastically different. The average rent for a 3 bedroom house today is about $1112.00 on average, which translates to 95% of the gross income for someone making minimum wage and working full time hours. Even the low side of the rental range for this area presents a problem. The low side of rental costs for a 3 bedroom house in the area is $700/month. That figure still translates to 60% of the gross income for someone working minimum wage full time. Keep in mind that these figures are on the gross income. But when you take taxes and insurance costs from that income, it doesn’t leave much to pay utilities or groceries, much less if there are daycare expenses or diapers. So it’s just not feasible to think a minimum wage is enough to survive on.

Now the first argument that comes to the surface when this information is generally presented, is that they should get an education and a better job. This isn’t reasonable either. The reason I say this is that after what use to be a 4 year degree; though with today’s requirements, it takes 5 years as a full time student costs anywhere between $40K to $120K just for initial student loan costs. And this is at public colleges for a Bachelor’s Degree. This is not advanced degrees or private colleges which run into much higher debt. We all know this translates to much more considering how much the interest has increased on student loans over the years.

According to http://www.thesimpledollar.com/best-student-loans/ :

“Federal student loan interest rates
Interest rates on undergraduate Direct Loans recently fell from 4.66% for the 2014-2015 school year to 4.29% for the 2015-2016 school year. Rates are higher for graduate Direct Loans (5.84%) and Direct PLUS Loans (6.84%). These rates are locked in for loans first disbursed between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016. Remember, even though rates can reset each year, the rate you receive when your loan is first disbursed remains your rate for the life of the loan.”

In a small city like mine, most of the job growth over the past ten years has been in the restaurant or retail industries. We’re talking hundreds and maybe even thousands of jobs, more than 2/3 of which pay minimum wage. These are NEW jobs now. And considering the jobs available that pay better than minimum wage are few and far between, there are not enough jobs that do pay better than minimum wage to employ all college graduates at a decent rate. Many of them find themselves working two jobs just to make ends meet and aren’t able to make enough to pay their student loans and afford to survive with the basic necessities even then. There simply are not enough jobs that pay well enough to survive comfortably so its illogical to assume a college education is going to solve the problem; illogical, and unreasonable. This is not a problem that only exists only in my small Georgia city. It’s rampant in smaller cities across the country. For more student loan data, check out https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/higher-education/report/2013/06/27/68237/a-comprehensive-analysis-of-the-student-loan-interest-rate-changes-that-are-being-considered-by-congress/ .

With all this taken into consideration, anyone that isn’t born into the elite families is doomed to fail. No matter what they try to do to move out of poverty or stay in what they consider to be the middle class, everything going on in the US economy is working against them. And the middle and lower classes make up at least 98 to 99% of the citizenry. So why do so many of them continue to believe that raising the minimum wage is a bad idea?
All of this just scratches the surface. This is not taking into account the rising costs of food, clothing, utilities etc. And its seems every attempt to lower energy costs are met with attempts to thwart the success of clean energy by heavily taxing purchases of solar panels or charging people for selling power back to the power company (how insane is that?) Utility companies are even going so far as to lobby for laws against going “off grid”. (http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/the-stream/the-stream-officialblog/2014/2/25/florida-court-challengesoffthegridliving.html ) Now granted my search turned up only progressive and/or liberal publications, but there is a good reason for that. Right wing media doesn’t want you to know these things. But it’s as easy as looking into local public records to verify that it happened. Not only do they want you to pay outrageous cost of living expenses, they try to make it impossible to lower your cost. Doomed to fail.

Expand or be Damned

From the time the first bill presented to Congress by President Barack Obama for Affordable Healthcare was released for public perusal, I have been reading and researching on it. Not as a constant of course, but as questions come up, I refer back to it and give the correct answers to these questions as not only my passion but also as part of my job. That being said, I have been very aware and very disgusted by the misinformation out there about the law.

I have yet to address Medicaid Expansion in this blog because I do work in the field and could not afford to lose my job over a comment that could possibly be taken the wrong way. However, I am proceeding with caution, as I think it’s time I did speak up. Georgia needs Medicaid Expansion. Hospitals are folding without the funding Medicaid Expansion would provide.

The biggest arguments against Medicaid Expansion are monetary related. They involve reimbursement rates and the cost of the program. The fact is, we’re already paying into the program; we’re just not getting any of the benefits. It would not cost Georgia any more than we’re already paying to accept the expansion package. So we have to ask ourselves, who is gaining what by not participating in Medicaid Expansion? Because millions of us are losing by not taking it; not just the uninsured, but those who lost their jobs when facilities closed and those who have to go a lot further to seek healthcare as a result of those closings.

I’ve heard the argument that Medicaid has a low reimbursement rate. I understand the concerns on this subject. However, due to the EMTALA laws, any person who presents to the Emergency Department of any hospital must be seen and treated by federal law, regardless of ability to pay or whether or not they have insurance. (This law was signed by Saint Ronnie of Reagan- https://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Legislation/EMTALA/index.html?redirect=/emtala/ ) If the patient does not have the means to pay, the hospital absorbs the cost of their treatment which results in prices going up for everyone else. (you’ve seen people get upset that illegal aliens get free healthcare….so does everyone else that doesn’t have insurance and you’ve already been paying for it for years) This is part of the reason for closures of rural hospitals, because they’re not meeting operating costs. Sure, Medicaid only reimburses at between 40% and 50% of costs, but it’s better than 0%, wouldn’t you say? And consider that those costs are inflated by uninsured patients….if they were insured, those costs could come down and the percentage would go up. The bills created by uninsured people don’t just go away when they’re ‘written off’; they are recouped by inflation of healthcare costs. And those costs go up across the board. One facility sees another facility get more for a test they’re doing or for a supply they’re using, their prices go up too. Why did you think the cost of an aspirin in the ER is about what you’d pay in a grocery store for a whole bottle?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that’s just greedy doctors etc, but hospitals have overhead to meet too. They have to pay doctors, nurses and staff, but they also have to pay power bills, water bills, gas bills, phone bills, internet etc. What do they need internet for, you ask? Because when you come to a hospital for the first time, and have no medic al records on file, they can now reach out to your doctor via internet stored medical records and find out your medical history so they know how best to treat you. Is this something you’re willing to sacrifice for the sake of cost? I didn’t think so. Why do you think they ask for all your personal information? It’s not JUST for billing you.

And don’t look down on your housekeeping staff in a hospital. Their job isn’t just to wipe down and mop. They have to change your infection ridden bed sheets in the best way to avoid giving your infection to the next occupant of the room. Their own health is just as much at risk as the doctors’ nurses’ and techs’ health. And they must be paid as well, though they are often very much underappreciated. They are not there to be your servants. They are there to protect you from yourself and the infections that are possible in a hospital environment as well as everyone else. And yes, I say yourself because you can contaminate your own wounds by not properly cleaning up after yourself. Just going to the bathroom and not washing your hands and touching an open or exposed injury or wound could give you a staph infection, so many of those law suits over staph infections could very well be self-inflicted. Think on that for a while.


Without proper funding, we are opened up not only to lack of healthcare in some rural areas, but also substandard care that could lead to disaster health wise and community wise. So when supporters of Medicaid Expansion say without it, lives are at risk, they’re not just being drama queens. They aren’t pulling fear out of their hats to scare you into supporting their cause. They’re stating the facts. Infection and illness are no small matter and must be taken seriously. And yes, Medicaid expansion is solely about caring for those who are sick or helping prevent sickness or the spread of it. It’s not just a political issue; it’s a public health issue.

Private doctors have more of a reason to not want to accept Medicaid expansion plans because while hospitals have other means to provide services, doctors’ offices are more limited. However, if doctors’ offices and clinics would take Medicaid patients, costs would also go down because there’d be less people seeking treatment in the emergency room because they could obtain preventive care. Preventive care is paid at 100% of the allowed amount. Whether or not that allowed amount is 40% or 50% or what have you, its overall impact on the cost of healthcare still makes it well worth the sacrifice. If a patient seeks preventive care, more expensive care can be avoided because expensive illnesses can be caught early.

Early on in my life, I thought doctors and medical professionals were respectable simply because they cared about people. I have learned the hard way that many get in it for the money. It makes me sad that the Hippocratic Oath means so little to so many medical professionals that they would deny a human being healthcare over money. Can’t we get behind Medicaid Expansion for the greater good at least?

And you can’t convince me it doesn’t work. It’s working in the many states that accepted Medicaid Expansion at the onset of the ACA. The only thing standing in the way is politicians and their lobbyists. Go to https://www.healthcare.gov/ to read for yourself.