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Archive for August, 2009

The Obama administration is going out of their way to tell us that we’ve turned the corner on the recession. That by all indicators it’s over and the economy is on the rebound. And there are signs of that, the Stock Market has been steadily climbing for several months. Last week a housing report came out showing the home sales were up 9% from last year. Well 9% from an abysmal low is nothing to rave about, but they are up. So if all of this is true and we have only spent about 10-12% of the $780 billion dollar stimulus fund, then why not do the fiscally responsible thing and not spend the other 88%.

Just last week the administration said they agreed with the CBO or Congressional Budget Office that our national debt was heading towards a record $9 Trillion instead of the $7 Trillion the administration had held to. And while announcing one spending plan after another, the latest being “Cash for Refrigerators”, President Obama says he Will reduce the deficit. So why not show us he is serious about that and put the brakes on the Stimulus spending. The majority of the spending in there was pork to win over new voters or thank those who put him and the congress in power. But the President has said time after time he wants to work with both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans. so here is a chance to win over the 50% who no longer support him. He could really make some points with those of us who are fiscally responsible and not spend money he / we don’t have for projects not really needed. After all isn’t that what all rational people do in tough times, tighten their financial belts, not open their wallets and break out those credit cards? In the Spiney household we have a budget and we stick to it, no matter how much we are tempted by Cash for my Clunker, a 91 Ford Ranger Pick-up, or Cash for my 25 year old refrigerator. In tough times I’d much rather have Cash in my Savings Account.  That’s Spiney’s view, what’s yours?

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Thought I’d jump back in here since there has been so much national debate on this in the past few weeks.  Here is my take on the subject. I truly believe there needs to be some changes. I think the many citizens who are interviewed by the media who say there needs to change but I don’t know what are either taking a cop out or not really thinking about it. I believe that both the left and the right have taken extreme stances that will hurt us. The right by wanting to keep the status quo, the left by wanting to change everything about our system. I get so sick of it has to be either Black or White. no one sees the gray, or is it grey I never know which is correct.  Either way. Something needs to be done to curtail the massive increases in cost every year. If you must pay for your own health insurance, or you are a small business like many of us and have to pay for it, you know the cost are incredible and go up at least 20% every year. When Laurie and I owned our studio it was our single highest expense. In March of 2005 we were paying about $11-1200 a month for Blue Cross for just Laurie and I. Our daughter was covered by my ex-wife’s health insurance. On top of that we had sizable co-pays. We usually had to pay 100% up front and then turn the bill in to our insurer. We also had to pay up front for all of our meds, which were many for my back and then we got reimbursed about 70%. And we paid 100% for dental and Eye care. I had many teeth pulled because it was $45 to pull or $1000 to root canal. With both my and my wife’s health issues I feel the cost of health insurance would have driven us out of business by now. We looked elsewhere and because of “Pre-existing conditions”, no one would touch us. So we kept paying Blue Cross and didn’t dare miss a payment. We would get behind on our Studio and Apartment rent in the slow times of the season because the very first thing we paid was health insurance. If we were late, that was it, they cut us off. So yes Health insurance companies can be the boogy man. On the other hand they did pay over $250K for my back & neck operations plus follow ups. They NEVER refused any treatments that the doctors requested. My Wife had health issues and so did I. Between us, we used much more than we ever paid in. They would have loved to drop us!
There are areas where cost could be cut. #1 tort reform. Yes if your doctor did something horrible and harmed you or a loved one, they need to pay for that mistake. But is that worth $100K, $1 million, $20 million, $50 million? Some payouts are ridiculous and the majority of the money goes to the lawyers, not the person who is harmed.  The doctor who operated on my back almost closed down his whole practice wish had several neurosurgeons and other specialist. They employed probably a total of 25 well paid professionals. They were going to move from PA to MD because the cost of malpractice insurance in PA was off the scale due to our lack of any tort reform. They  and many other doctors only stayed after our Governor, Ed Rendell jumped in at the last minute and said the state would pick up 50% of the cost of the malpractice insurance. I’ve been told that putting caps on liabilities would greatly reduce the cost of health care. Another area I see, which I may be wrong on is the cost of all the advertising. Here in PA Blue Cross has an animated spokesman called Blueman. Well as our rates soared I saw Blueman on billboards literally every mile, he was constantly on TV, the Radio, and the newspaper. I felt like a large percentage of my money was going into advertising. and it was ridiculous because here in PA, Blue Cross is virtually a monopoly. I don’t know who there were advertising to. They did manage to crush all of the HMO’s.  So to have a single payer system in my mind in not the answer, because when there is no competition the cost only goes one way,up.
Next there are people who Choose not to have health insurance. I say this because I know some, I’m related to some. They are young and would rather have the extra money in there paycheck than pay for insurance. My Wife has great insurance through her work, but we still pay about $375 a month. After having paid $1200 we think it is a bargain. Yet I hear people complain because they have to pay $20 per paycheck for insurance. The ones I know who Choose not to have it tell the same old story. I’m young, I’ll tough it out, I don’t get sick and if I do, I’ll go to the ER, they Can’t refuse me. And they are right. They can’t and don’t. and those of us who pay for our health insurance we pay for them. If you ever go to the ER for something it is a prelude for what’s to come. You wait and you wait and you wait. The place is filled with humanity from kids with colds to stabbings, to people like my wife in agony with a Migraine. Our average visit to the ER with a migraine was 8-10 hours. We generally waited 2-3 hours before they saw us. Then they put you in a room or the hallway and forget about you for another 2 hours. Then they treat you and you wait and wait to be checked and released. It’s not their fault, they are understaffed and over run with patients. So when everybody has health care there will be even more people there in line. And less doctors because the big incentive of devoting 10 years of your life just to be a doctor won’t be there. Your salary will be capped. Why work hard or see as many patients as you can, you will get a flat rate or some reduced fee that the Government sees fit for you to earn. So we need to limit the amount of people using the ER as their primary care. I guess, I’m no expert there needs to be more low cost or free clinics in the cities and the rural areas. Somewhere where people can go before it’s too late. Or when it’s a minor issue like a cold, flu or fever. That is not what the ER is for. The ER should be for Trauma only. My Wife only went there for her Migraines because her primary wouldn’t dispense morphine. One we convinced him that is the only thing that can kick her migraines, he started doing it. It really reduced our cost and that to our insurance. We used to go to the ER, huge wait, $1800 and a co-pay of $150.  Just today we went to the primary. $230 to insurance, $20 co-pay and 1 hour. The best part, after she suffered all night we called the doctors office at 8:30am. They took us in at 11:00 am. I doubt that will happen under government health care. The only reason we will need to go to the ER anymore is if we are out of town or the middle of the night is our only option. and even that varies. My Wife gets debilitating migraines often. We have been in ER’s in every state we have visited. NJ, VA, MD. VA was the best. We were in Williamsburg. We had a wonderful understanding female physician who was a migraine sufferer herself. We waited very little. She gave my wife her favorite special mix of migraine pain relief and we were out in 3 hours. total cost $800. $1000 less than in PA.  On the other hand we were in NJ. Horrible experience. We told the doctor a man that morphine is all that works. He all but accused my wife of being an addict looking for a fix. Even after we begged him to call her doctor back home. He gave her some under powered placebo and sent us home after being there, on Vacation, all night. It didn’t work at all. We had to come back the next night. By know my Wife’s in a wheelchair, holding her head in her hands, crying in agony. We tell the story, different doctor. He gives he what she needed, and she gets relief. We loose 3 days of a 6 day vacation. We pay for the ER twice. We fought it, but lost and ended up paying about $500 co-pay.  This is an area where cost could be saved and more efficiency. If my Wife’s records were encoded on a card, or in a national health database, a lot of the issues could have been avoided. But we had to fill out all of the paperwork, 2 days in a row, including having her information Faxed from home 2X. What a waste of time and money. So having health records in a transparent portable data base is a no brainer in the year 2009.  Up until last year our Primary care, a wonderful practice was all paper and pen. They just now in 2009 went to computers. In their words, in order to be more efficient and to serve us better. It’s been a learning curve but they are getting better. They are country doctors one step above Mennonites.  So there could be BIG savings here in time and money.

Duplication of Tests: With my back operations and follow up I had many thousands of dollars worth of test. X-rays, Cat-Scans, MRI’s, EMG’s, Milograms (sp?), you name it. And some of them several times over such as pre-op, post-op, and further post-op to see the healing.  When It finally became apparent that I could no longer work I filed for disability. By this time we were really financially strapped. They told me I needed medical proof. No problem I had reams of paperwork, large enveloped full of X-rays, File Folders full of test results. None of it was acceptable. It was all pre me applying for SSDI. I had to have all of the test done over. I couldn’t believe it. Thank God my insurance company didn’t balk, nor did my Doctor. I had to have all of the test over again. I had to go through all of the Physical Therapy and Pain Management Doctors to get current paperwork that said I was disabled. We were talking probably $25K worth of costs. Plus my time, Doctors time, Doctors who couldn’t understand why I was back, and over $1500 of co-pay. This was when I was on food stamps at the time. So there is some major waste.  So some common sense rules and regulations would have saved that money. The end result of all of those test were nothing had changed. They still couldn’t cure me, Yes I was still in pain, and Yes several doctors put in writing that they felt I was no longer able to work.  Before all of this there was great waste on the behalf of the insurance companies. I was re injured in Jan 5 2000. Having had previous back surgeries I knew I needed another. The Neurologist agreed, and it was our slow time. Get an operation be rehabilitated long before Senior Season, no brainer. But… the insurance company policy now states all non-invasive treatment must be tried before surgery. In the past, The Doc said I needed surgery, he called the hospital and I was on the table in 3 day. Now I had to go through a battery of tests. months of physical therapy, which only caused further injury and delay. I got my surgery on May 7th. Right before Senior Season. Totally screwed up our business. We were on a roll to have our best year ever. I came home, I was supposed to be off work for 10-12 weeks.  We had other photographers jump in and try to help, but they had their own work to shoot, and they didn’t shoot our style and were as careful as me. Our work suffered, our sales suffered, and I was getting frantic phone calls all the time from my wife. 7 days later I was back shooting. It was hell, but the sales were there. I would shoot, then go behind a tree and throw up because I was in 90 degree sun on a ton of narcotics, and was in incredible pain. It certainly didn’t help my recovery. So Insurance delayed my needed surgery, cost an extra $20-30K in PT and test before the surgery, and I ended up getting the surgery anyway. Plus they screwed up my business and probably my recovery because I had to go right back to work. Doctors, Insurance Companies, and the Government Welfare and Social Security DO NOT understand the needs of the Self Employed. I sure learned that.

Another thing, I know this will be a hot button, but we need to stop giving away the store to illegal aliens.  I’m all for Legal Aliens. But Free health care, Free Education, Welfare to Illegal Immigrants just invites more over our porous borders. My Understanding, and I have not read the whole 1000 page plus of the health care bill is that it guarantees health care coverage to All including Illegal Immigrants. That is just wrong.  I have nothing against legal immigrants. In my travels I see many immigrants as the hardest working people I’ve ever seen. They are here to make a better life for themselves and their families.

More emphasis needs to be placed on Health Care Prevention. We are an unhealthy nation. I will be the first to say, I am overweight. I am 6’0″ and currently 206 lbs. Just got weighed at the doctors office today. I am down from a high of probably 228 or more. I do watch what I eat. I try to walk as much as possible, and I have no vices other than DPP. I never smoked, rarely drank, and now can’t because of my pain meds, and I’m no longer a risk taker. As I go anywhere in my daily travels I see a nation of obese, and morbidly obese people. and what’s scary is many children. My own daughter is pre-diabetic because she drinks tons of caffeinated soda to stay awake for work. She wasn’t generally heavy, in fact in college she was in great shape. Then she went to work as an EMT.  They are a lot who in general are in poor health. They sit around and wait for a call. They have tons of pizza, doughnuts, soda at the House. They do this to stay awake and to grab a quick bite. And they work 16-24 hour shifts where they try to sleep until the alarm goes off. She no longer works there, and has been losing some wait. I lovingly read her the riot act about diabetes being preventable and not something she wants to get.  We are a country of fast food and now worse Energy Drinks. These things are high caloric and filled with caffeine. And they are so prevalent. It kills me to see mothers in the grocery store buying them for their young children.  Many weight, smoking, and drinking related health issues are so preventable. Yet our government creates a catch 22 by basing so much of how it is going to pay for health care on sin taxes. It Needs and Wants people to drink and smoke! I think that there needs to be a carrot and stick approach. People who watch what they eat, exercise, and don’t drink in excess or smoke should be rewarded with lower health care premiums or cash / tax bonuses for being healthy. Those on the other side of the scale should pay a penalty, a higher premium if they choose to live that way.

We  need to get a handle on young people and unwed mothers having babies. As I drive around or go to the park the number of extremely young girls with babies is heartbreaking. The future for the girls is bleak, the future for the child is probably worse and yet it continues. We need to address this as a nation. We are a practicing Christian family. When we all lived together we were very active in the church. Our daughter was very active in the youth group. Both her and I played in the praise band, we all belonged to Sunday school I taught the youth group. We did all we could to provide a loving stable home and community for ourselves and our daughter. We were also very involved in her school. But we were also realistic. At age 13 like a light switch our daughter became boy crazy. And she was an early developer and quite attractive. As soon as we saw the signs of her going to be sexually active we made a trip as a family to planned parenthood. We didn’t say here you go, now go out and have sex. But the last thing we all needed was an unplanned pregnancy. We talked and interacted and loved all we could as a family, but we couldn’t be there 24×7. Teenagers even those in good homes, in Sunday School groups, with celibacy pledges don’t think with their heads all the time. We don’t agree with many things that planned parenthood stands for, we are a pro-life family. But they were a good source to avoid teenage pregnancy and STD’s. As a Senior Studio we saw many Good Girls from Good homes who between their session and picking up their final portraits started showing they were pregnant. And I’m  sure there were many abortions we never heard of.

I’m running out of steam here guys and girls.  One other area where  strides can be made is allowing small businesses or like trades such as photographers, mechanics, plumbers etc to band together and purchase health insurance at group rates.  My understanding was PPA couldn’t offer group health insurance because of rules that didn’t allow businesses to band together and insurance companies to work across state lines. That’s just insane. We could have save so much on our premiums if we could have bought as a group with other photographers.

And finally when the Government gets involved it just doesn’t work well. So many of the bureaucrats in Washington have No Idea how to run a business or what it’s like to make a payroll. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Postal Service, and Amtrak all are either bankrupt or heading that way. So what makes anyone thing the can handle something as large as National Healthcare.  It’s not an area they should be involved in.  They can make changes that will help or make independent Insurance Companies and Health Care Providers work more efficiently and justly. They can enforce portability so you don’t lose health insurance if you change or lose your job. They can come up with away to cover pre-existing conditions. But for them to run a National Insurance Company or Program would be a BIG Mistake.  That’s my opinion.  What is yours.  Thanks,  Spiney

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Very Un-Proud to be Scottish since yesterday. I can’t believe they let out the Lockerbie Bomber yesterday. Set’s a bad precedent. Today’s politicians and many citizens have no stones. If WWII were today there wouldn’t be the Nuremberg trials. There are people who are evil and deserve to be punished. Did they show compassion to William Wallace? I think not. Wake up people. We are going to go down like the Roman Empire and the dinosaurs.

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