Panelists: Separate immediate and long-term debt issues

Kay Hagan Debt Crisis Roundtable

Yesterday I attended Senator Kay Hagan’s debt crisis round table at Kenan-Flagler Business at UNC School moderated By Charlie Rose. The meeting had many important aspects I wish to write about over time. With the importance of the debt ceiling crisis I wish to briefly summarize it now.

The main point made by the panelists was the separation of the debt ceiling from the debt crisis. The debt ceiling crisis needs to be solved immediately and the debt crisis in the near future. There is no reason for the two to be linked. Senator Hagan says the Senate needs to have the bill by Wednesday due to procedural problems which may be encountered such as cloture. Read more


Our Exchanges are Being Hijacked!

I have not written in awhile. I am totally sick at the prospect of BCBSNC taking over the last vestige of hope for those can not afford health insurance. I knew when I sat in the Press Conference in which Mr. Wilson was giving a one time rebate to certain BCBSNC customers something was fishy. When he talked about 2014 and the Exchanges he looked like the cat who swallowed the canary. Yes the Affordable Care Act did turn out to be great for BCBSNC. In writing HB115 BCBSNC basically hijacked Health Care Reform in NC. Some people may not care. They may have good insurance and think Health care Reform should be repealed.

I do care. I am a spouse on the State Workers Health Plan. This year we will no longer be able to afford BCBSNC’s no bid, sealed contract. You might say get other insurance. I can not I have MS and I can not get Medicare either. I am stuck.

My premiums this next fiscal year will be twice our house payment. We are already cutting out my MS treatment. I figure we will only be able to afford the premium and nothing else. I will drop primary care and medicine. I am on twelve generic drugs with MS and Asthma.

Other people who may care are my friend who lost her husband and health care. I also have a friend whose husband’s company just closed. They had great insurance. He just had major heart surgery. I have a friend who is self employed who dropped her insurance because the premiums were $1000 a month and the deductible was $20,000. Health Insurance is not a given in this country.

The exchanges were supposed to give folks like us a fighting chance. With the biggest Insurer in the State taking over them it is steamroller over the playing field.

In the end it will not be good for BCBSNC. When Big Business gets everything they want they self destruct. They can’t help themselves. The banks did it. The automaker did it. In the end the taxpayers of NC will be called in to clean up the mess.

Who is going to be able to afford BCBSNC Plans as more and more hard working folks have to drop their plans? Senator Orrin Hatch says we should all use the ER for our primary care. How long will that last?

When the Government bailed out Bank of America I switched my account to a Credit Union. I do not have that option with health insurance. The Exchanges were the closest we would have to options. If HB115 goes through next week BCBSNC will be the Biggest Winner and NC will be the Biggest Loser.


Tis the Season

Every day I get calls from charities needing money. Everyday I have the same response “I am really sorry I have no money to give you. I have Multiple Sclerosis and hospital bills to pay off”. They still ask for money, I realize they are just telemarketers.

The truth is it is a lean Christmas. Which is fine because material is not the meaning of this time of year it is being with those you care about. I feel a terrible guilt for having this disease. I have always paid my credit card off monthly. Now I am not able to do so. I will be making monthly payments on medical bills for years. I have no real income coming in so my husband has to be the total bread winner. When we married I worked more hours than he did, for less pay. There is nothing worse than feeling like a financial burden. I am going to have this disease for the rest of my life and I am only in my 40’s. My first reaction when the Doctor said I had MS was I can’t afford it. Not I may go blind or end up in a wheelchair. This is so unfair to my husband to take on all the medical bills.

The bills are mounting and my credit limit is decreasing. I do not fit  any criteria for federal or state help. My savings are almost gone. The savings for when the furnace goes out and has to be replaced is my next option.

In December 7, 2001 my husband was laid off. I was not diagnosed with MS. For those two years I did not go to a doctor, except when I got pneumonia with asthma. The Carrboro clinic turned me away. I found a Doctor who treated those without insurance, who just happened to be on the News that night. I could only blow 40 on a peak flow meter, normal is 400, and 250 is bad.

I have insurance with the State Workers Health Plan am glad to have it. But on our income which is half of what it was ten years ago the out of pocket costs and my premiums as a spouse are high.

Vacations have been few in our thirteen years and mostly camping. Every dollar we spend, even at the grocery store is thought out. We do not even make it paycheck to paycheck.

Our family is mystified as to why we are not buying each other gifts. “Why are you not going out for Black Friday and catching all the Deals?”. At our ages we really do not need much.

We are happy to be able to pay the mortgage on our fifty year old house. We have to cars which are paid for.

I know there are many people worse off than we are. For those not in my shoes it is easy to blame me somehow or to think this could never happen to you. It can happen to anyone. My Doctor said at my last visit, “It is so unfair you have so many illnesses you can not help, most of my patient’s illnesses are caused by over eating, smoking, or alcohol and you do none of these things”.

The lesson for this holiday is that without the help of Bob Cratchit’s employer, Scrooge’s help, Tiny Tim would have had a much different fate. “God Bless Us Everyone”.


Being There

I was in Washington D.C. for the Rally to Restore Sanity. As soon as I heard about it on the Daily Show I knew I was going. It was awesome in the true sense of the word.

I knew it would be hard for me with a slight disability. I have double vision, can’t turn to the left, am unsteady when I walk and, my legs are weak. So the idea of a crowd that big could be scary. I knew the crowds would be large but kind.

I got separated from my group, never found those I was supposed to meet, and had trouble squeezing through the crowd to the ADA section. Then I saw a Conga line of those with wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches and grabbed on the back.

Once I was settled I found myself in the moment. Actually being there. Not focusing on the people I had lost. Not thinking about other things. I made friends quickly with folks from all over.

When the music started it was amazing. I am not sure how they got Yusuf Islam, a.k.a. Cat Stevens, in the country but to hear him sing “Peace Train” was sublime. All the music was great. As were all the guests.

Jon Stewart’s 12 minute Speech hit home for me. “If we amplify everything we hear nothing” and “These are hard times not end times”. His describing everyday Americans with differences solving problems in their communities as the norm.

I do not think of myself as a leftest though I am called that. We are lower middle class. have seen our income reduced by more than half in the last decade. We have a modest home we are happy to be able to make mortgage payments on. I have voted in every election since I came of age. I pay my bills and taxes. I am a good neighbor. I live by Christian Values but do not go to church.

We got wake up calls in two ways. In 2001 my husband, who is a veteran and has had an excellent work history lost his job before Christmas with no severance. He got up at 4:30 AM every morning to open a gym and went back to school. We learned what the difference between wants and needs. I told him we were lucky to go through that experience because I saw that in the near future many Americans would be going through the same thing in greater numbers and we would have learned to live on less.

I have always been pretty healthy. We went through that two years of underemployment without health insurance and we only went to a doctor we could pay cash. No Emergency Care even when I have asthma and pneumonia.

The second wake up call was being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis a disease which is expensive and does not generally shorten your life. I found myself in my forties with a disease I may have for forty more years. My Doctor recently said you do all the right things for your health and you have diseases you just can’t help.

Both of these things could happen to any of us.I am not the type of person who can just vetch about things I have to get involved. I found myself as a volunteer activist.

The Rally to Restore Sanity was perfect for me. I chance to say “I care about this country and I am not a left wing nut”. I am a person who loves my country and is proud of it. I like Stewart, think we are stereotyping on both sides of the political spectrum. I believe we are more alike than different and that most folk fall closer to the middle.

Two things happened to me at this rally. First I am drawing from the amazing solidarity. To be in a mass of humanity which was so agreeable with each other was amazing. Second I was dope slapped. I realize I am guilty of stereotyping. I may not want to let the person in traffic because they have a big SUV and wanted to pass me on the right. I had a mirror held up to myself and I was not afraid to look at what needs changing.

So what was this Rally about? It was about the most amazing entertainment including an 86 year old Tony Bennett singing “America the Beautiful”. It was about humor, if we can’t laugh at ourselves we are in trouble. Most of all it included a powerful speech by Jon Stewart which showed us the media constantly distorting the truth and that in reality we are all simple Americans with our own problems trying to get through our days.

My solemn wish after November 2, 2010 is that whoever is elected will not care about power but will care about those of us with everyday problems such as paying ever increasing medical bills. Those in power will not stay grid locked but will be like the traffic and will work together to compromise and do what is best for main stream America not just special interests.


An Evening of Candor with Diane Rehm

This evening I attended an awesome book signing and heartfelt sharing by Diane Rehm of National Public Radio. The evening was hosted by Quail Ridge Books and the Friends of NCSU’s Library.

She started by telling humorous tails about Maxie, her long haired Chihuahua, and her husband John.

During the question and answer period she talked about a situation in her career where she told the truth and people became really angry with her. She said she was no hero it was the right thing to do.I wish more people could do the right thing, because it is the right thing and not worry who will get angry with them.

Then she got really honest with the audience. Some got up and left at that time, I am not sure if it was a coincidence. She said she had never seen our government in such gridlock. She said that we had become complacent as Americans thinking everything would always be so good. She said that the jobs had left this country because of our love for cheap products. Mrs. Rehm was angriest at was how few Americans vote.

I have to say I echo her dismay at how few Americans vote. I was born in a facist country, Spain, to American parents. I could choose either citizenship at eighteen. I chose America. I have voted in every election national and local since my eighteenth birthday. I do not take this right for granted. To not vote is the same as allowing someone to take my voice.

Diane Rehm implored the audience to vote for ever you think will do the best job for the country. Election day is coming up not only get out and vote but offer to drive a friend or a neighbor to vote.