OBAMACARE WAKE UP CALL

Americans are about to have a rude awakening with respect to the (un) Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Over the past year or so, many, including me, have warned of the many inadequacies, inefficiencies, inequities and unintended consequences of this law. There is no need to rehash them here, but virtually all of those predictions are or will be coming to pass.

The Obamacare website one is supposed to use to sign up became available on October 1. To date, it has been an unmitigated disaster. The overwhelming majority of applicants have been locked out, and the site has crashed repeatedly. The situation is so dire that Kathleen Sabelius, the Cabinet Secretary in charge, has been heavily criticized by the public and the press and has been compelled to testify before Congress. Her responses to questions have been inadequate to say the least. Bad as this is, it is only the appetizer. The main course will be served on January 1, 2014, when the law becomes effective. Suffice to say that the apathetic, inattentive populace is about to receive a giant wake up call. It is one thing to ignore previous scandals, such as Fast and Furious, Benghazi and the IRS politically-motivated investigations; it is quite another to expect people to ignore Obamacare, which affects their finances and healthcare directly.

Below please find some of the highlights (or, if you prefer, lowlights):

1. A recent CBS News poll reported that 12% of people surveyed thought the sign up process was “going well” compared to 49% who thought it was not and 38% who didn’t know.

2. A NY Medical Society survey of 414 NY doctors reported that 44% stated they will not participate in OB care, 33% reported that they “may,” and only 23% reported that they will. An increasing number of doctors have been or plan to establish boutique (cash only) practices. This will mean that you may not be able to afford to continue seeing your current doctor and/or the waiting time for a visit or tests will increase substantially. Since the advent of “Romneycare,” the waiting time to see a doctor in Massachusetts has doubled. In addition, one must wait up to 50 days, on average, to see an Internist. The Boston Herald has reported that healthcare costs consumed approximately 41% of Massachuusetts’ budget in 2013 compared to 23% in 2000. This can be viewed as a forerunner of life in the US under OB care.

3. Many individuals and families have had their private insurance cancelled. California-Kaiser Permanente has cancelled 50% of its policies with individuals. Blue Shield (CA) has cancelled 60%. Independence Blue Cross (PA) has cancelled 45%. Florida Blue Cross has cancelled 80%. The Director of Health Policy at UCLA estimates that overall 50% will be eliminated.

4. I have warned that it was simple common sense and simple mathematics that those who work and who currently have insurance will be paying for those who don’t. Well, it is estimated that the Medicare payroll tax will be increased from 2.9% to 3.8% on wages and business profits of up to $200,000. This will be a significant hit on middle class workers and small businesses with all the attendant economic and social consequences. Healthcare insurers will be assessed an annual fee of $100 billion over the next 10 years. Any company with over 50 employees that does not provide healthcare insurance for its employees will have to pay a “tax” of $2,000 per employee every year. These fees/taxes, like all other business costs, will be passed on the people in the form of higher premiums and/or prices.

5. Many have seen higher premiums already. To date, they are up approximately 17% for individuals and 19% for families. In addition, since January 2013 Medicare has been charging a new fee called IRMAA to wealthy recipients. This is for Part D (prescriptions) coverage. One is required to pay the fee, which is $50 and up per person per month even if one has his prescription coverage with another carrier.

6. The CBO has estimated that in order to fund Obamacare there will be $1 trillion in new or higher taxes over the next 10 years. When all is said and done, that estimate will likely prove to be on the low side.

7. IT contractors have warned that the personal data one supplies to the Obamacare website is not subject to protection under HIPA laws, and it can easily be accessed by unauthorized persons.

8. President Obama has personally misled, if not outright lied, to the American people as follows:

a. He promised that Americans would be able to keep their present healthcare plans if they wanted to do so. In a speech on 6/15/09 he said “If you like your healthcare plan you will be able to keep your healthcare plan. Period.” That statement is at odds with all the cancellations mentioned above.

b. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period.” Not true, as many doctors have or plan to set up boutique practices.

c. On 9/20/09: “This is absolutely not a tax increase.” The Supreme Court ruled otherwise, thus paving the way for the law’s passage.

d. And, my favorite: On four occasions during 2008 he stated insurance premiums would be lowered for individuals an average of $2,500. Instead, the Heritage Foundation estimates that they will increase an average of $16,500 per family. Furthermore, this does not take into account the higher deductibles we can expect.

PREDICTION AND CONCLUSION

Obamacare is not just about providing healthcare. Simply put, it is another element of President Obama’s desire for income and wealth redistribution and government control over Americans’ lives. Take from the achievers and give to the non-achievers, and have the government control the process. Karl Marx would be proud.

Hopefully, Americans will now wake up and express their dissatisfaction at the polls in 2014 and 2016. Otherwise, all I can say is “you get the government you deserve.”

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HAIL TO THE REDSKINS

What’s in a name? Apparently, quite a lot. The Washington D. C. National Football League franchise has been called the “Redskins” since its inception 81 years ago. Now, a small, but vocal minority of people are pushing to have the name “Redskins” changed. This issue has arisen on and off since the 1980s, but it seems to have gathered fresh momentum recently.

Other sports teams have bowed to similar activist pressure. In recent years St. Johns changed its name from “Red Men” to “Red Storm;” Stanford University changed its name from “Indians” to “Cardinal;” and Miami of Ohio changed its name from “Redskins” to “Redhawks.” Others, such as the Atlanta Braves and Florida State Seminoles, have resisted.

Not surprisingly, many, if not most, of those advocating change or at least the “consideration” of change,are NOT Native Americans. Such prominent personages as President Obama, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and sports commentators Bob Costos and Mike Francessa come to mind. They claim that the name is offensive on its face, a racial slur against Native Americans, a reference to the history of violence and hatred of whites toward Native Americans. On the other hand, others view the name as a tribute to the honor and bravery of Native Americans. Indeed, the theme song, “Hail to the Redskins,” is played and sung by fans in the stadium to celebrate a score by the home team.

So, what do every day people think? All the polls denote that the vast majority of Americans, native or not, see no problem with the moniker and see no need to change it. A recent USA Today poll reported 79% of Americans are in favor of keeping the name; a 2002 poll commissioned by Sports Illustrated showed that 75% of NATIVE AMERICANS surveyed had no objection to the name. Daniel Snyder, the team’s owner, citing these and other polls as well as the team’s 81 year history is “adamant” that the name will not be changed. Technically, his is the only opinion that matters.

What do most Native Americans think? Aside from the abovementioned poll, listen to Rick Riley, perhaps the most respected sports writer in the country. He quotes his father-in-law, a member of the Blackfeet tribe. “The name just doesn’t bother me much. It’s an issue that shouldn’t be an issue, not with all the problems we’ve got in this country.” Want more? Wellpinit (Washington) High School, with a 91% Native American student body is nicknamed the “Redskins.” The superintendent of the school district states he has discussed the matter with both students and parents in the community The overwhelming majority consider it an “honorable name” that they “wear with pride.” Kingston (Oklahoma) High School has used the name for over 100 years and, to them, it is a source of pride. In fact, the very name “Oklahoma” is Choctaw for “red people.”

PREDICTION AND CONCLUSION

My view is that this is another attempt by the PC crowd to decide what is appropriate for the rest of us and impose their will. Aren’t you tired of other people intruding on your life, telling you what to do, think and say, deciding what is “appropriate,” what is “good for you.” I sure am. These protesters should drop it and move on with their lives. As I stated, by overwhelming numbers, Native Americans, whose opinion should matter the most, are not offended. Let’s focus on the really important issues facing us – the economy, the deficit, Iran, North Korea, Russia, the Middle East, terrorism. My hope and expectation is that this non-issue will die out.

CHILD CYBER BULLYING

A 13 year old girl who had sent a nude photo of herself to a boy she liked commits suicide after said photo was circulated in cyber space. A 17 year old girl commits suicide after receiving threats in her “My Space” account. An 18 year old college student jumps off the GW Bridge. A 16 year old high school student commits suicide after being cyber bullied even after she had transferred to another school. These are but a few recent examples of the devastating affect of cyber bullying on our kids.

Surveys conducted by the I-SAFE Foundation and the Cyber Bullying Research Center both report that approximately 50% of teens have been the victim of cyber bullying. Only a small percentage of them reported the bullying to a parent. The most common method for bullying was the cell phone, which was used in approximately 80% of the cases, but other favorite methods include texting, emails, identity theft, and creating false web pages, among others. Shocking? You bet!

Kids have always bullied other kids. Why? Because they can. To be sure, some bullies are being malicious or vindictive, but others do it because they’re bored or they think it is funny. They don’t always realize the consequences. Often, the victims have a low self-esteem to begin with. Consequently, even victims that don’t commit suicide may be scarred for life by the experience.

Anyone who is different in any way, short, fat, ugly, shy, by race, religion, sexual orientation or by any other countless ways can and will be victimized. In my school days it was simpler to deal with. There was no email, no texting, no facebook. Bullying was generally face-to-face. If one was being bullied, belittled or teased he was able to deal with his accuser directly (not unlike in a court of law, where the accused is entitled to confront his accuser). Bullies and their victims settled the matter man to man, as it were, either physically or by other direct means. But, it was all out in the open. In addition, often, teachers and school administrators interceded to resolve the matter before it went too far.

Now, bullies are able to hide in cyber space behind their emails, tweets and facebook account often with devastating results. It’s a lot easier to bully, belittle or tease someone when you don’t have to have the courage face them directly. Sometimes bullies remain anonymous. Also, they can disseminate their poison to an infinite audience.

CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION

Cyber bullying is a pervasive problem among our youth. Every parent strives to keep their children safe and to provide them with a secure and nurturing environment. Most responsible parents do a good job in the physical sense, but many fail to realize the need to protect their children from cyber bullying.

So, what can parents do? (1) Convey unconditional support. Be a source of strength and maturity. Let your child know that you will always be there for him or her. Be aware of your childrens’ cyber activities. If necessary, limit or restrict them. (2) Tell school officials. (3) If you know the identity of the bully, contact the parents. They may not be aware of what’s happening, and, once informed, responsible parents will act to put an end to it. (4) Consider contacting the police. The bullying in question may very well be illegal.

These suggestions may seem overly obvious or simplistic, but, as stated above, part of the problem is that parents are not involved. They are not cognizant of their kids’ cyber activities, both bullies and victims.

Schools have a responsibility here too, although many of them do not acknowledge it. Their responsibilities are education and discipline. Even though the cyber bullying may have occurred outside the school physically, the bullies may be other students, and the school has an obligation to provide education and promulgate and enforce guidelines. As a preventative, they should make students cognizant of the devastating affects of cyber bullying, for example, as part of the curriculum in technology class and/or by promulgating a written policy. Moreover, when they have been notified of an instance, they should discipline the bully, particularly if the school’s equipment was used and/or the information was disseminated at school. Afterall, someone who bullies another student physically is suspended; why not a cyber bully?

Unfortunately, child cyber bullying has been in the news a lot lately. It is on the rise. Adults, including parents, school officials and law enforcement are playing catch-up. Hopefully, they will join forces to get the problem under control. After all, our children are our most precious asset.

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN

We have seen this movie before. We didn’t like the original or the previous sequels, and the current sequel, like most of them, is tiresome, predictable and unnecessary. Yes, we are in the midst of another government shutdown and are heading toward another crisis over the extension of the debt ceiling. As that noted 20th Century philosopher, Yogi Berra, is reputed to have said “Deja Vu all over again.”

Some people have commented that the current crisis is all about the defunding of Obamacare. Not true. Obamacare is a sideshow, an appetizer, the undercard. Even most Republicans know that any measure to repeal or defund Obamacare is DOA. The Senate Dems would block it, and President Obama would veto it. So, continuing to focus on it is a big waste of time. Senator Cruz and his cohorts have made their point. They have now reached the point of political diminishing returns. Polls show that most Americans agree that Obmacare is a seriously flawed law that simply will not work. I have delineated these flaws in previous blogs, and there is no need to repeat them here. I say, let it go. Once the (Un)Affordable Healthcare Act, AKA Obamacare, is fully functional, Americans will experience its flaws firsthand. They will then express their dissatisfaction at the polls in 2014 and 2016.

It is time to focus on the real issue, the debt ceiling, which is scheduled for extension on October 17. The debt ceiling extension is part of an ongoing battle between the supporters of big government, big spending, and entitlements expansion and those of small government, spending reduction, and control over entitlements. Depending on your political point of view, one can blame the GOP, the Dems, the Congress as a whole and/or the President or any combination of the above.

I choose to blame all of the above. This situation is yet another example of the dysfunctional Congressional leadership with which we have been saddled in recent years. These leaders of both parties simply cannot control the fringe elements in their own parties. They are incapable of building a consensus in order to get anything done. Instead of Ted Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Tip O’Neill, Everett Dirksen and Bob Dole, we have Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and John Boehner. Need I say more?

Lack of leadership is, by no means, limited to the Congress. President Obama, rather than trying to build a consensus through the bully pulpit of his office, has, instead, chosen to engage in partisan politics. It seems he is more amenable to negotiating with and granting concessions to Russia or Iran than Congressional Republicans. Can you imagine Lyndon Johnson or Ronald Reagan, among other presidents of recent vintage, acting this way?

CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION

I think we all know how this will end. Obamacare will stand, and there is will be a last minute deal to avert a default. Even Wall Street believes there will be a deal. Otherwise, the stock market would have declined substantially by now. The alternative is simply unfathomable. Perhaps, Obama will agree to delay the full implementation of Obamacare for individuals for a year like he did for businesses in order to work out some of the kinks, but that is as far as he appears willing to go. In the meantime, try not to be too bored as you watch the latest sequel unfold.