Friday, January 22, 2010

The Corporate States of America

Listen to Grayson talk about the Citizens United decision. It is the equivalent of the Dred Scott decision from 1857. Those are might words.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Corporate Coakley and the Corporate Democrats

Another reason the dems are losing in Massachusetts is that well, Democrats are a bunch of corporate hacks. Proof positive below:

Coakley in the political fight of her life took time out to attend a Washington, DC fundraiser at $10,000 a plate. See the list for yourself. It is quite disgusting that Democrats are in bed with the likes of Pfizer, Merck, Brystol Myers, etc. Is there any wonder that Democrats cut a deal with Big Pharma about the reimportation of drugs to the United States that keeps their deal in tact and Americans out of the loop.

Is there any wonder really that Massachusetts might elect a Republican to Ted Kennedy's seat? Really, what is the difference between Martha Coakley and Scott Brown? One tells you he hates healthcare reform and that we should protect the lobbyists. The other one tells you we should pass healthcare reform and then gets in bed with all the lobbyists who want to kill it. It is truly disgusting and I could care less anymore whether Martha Coakley wins or not. There is no party that protects and represents the people anymore. Who can tell the difference between corporate parties?

The Massachusetts Senate Race: Shame on the Democrats

All of a sudden there is a groundswell of Republicanism in Massachusetts seems to be the media slogan. This liberal bastion of Massachusetts is going to vote in a Republican. Oh, my God!!! This is of course, a pile of shit. Yes, it is true the position of Senator has been dominated by Kennedy and Kerry for quite a while and democrats actually since 1979. But, what most of the pundits fail to understand, Massachusetts is not a so-called liberal state. Boston is quite liberal and Cambridge is a bastion of left wingedness (a beautiful place, like Portland, Oregon and San Francisco). It is not etched in stone, however that Ma. will elect a statewide Democrat.

Ted Kennedy had the fight of his life in 1994 against Mitt Romney and nearly lost. Ted Kennedy had a conflicted relationship with Massachusetts, he was our favored son, but one we rebuked often and scorned, but always we decided he should represent us, instead of that fortunate son, Mitt Romney, the guy who was partly from Michigan and Utah, but certainly not Massachusetts. He is after all a carpetbagger, through and through. But, we accept that too, that is part of the political landscape. Even Kerry had a tough fight in his first re-election bid against Miles Rappaport and against Weld.

And up until Deval Patrick was elected the Governor of Massachusetts, it was dominated by Republicans, from 1990 to 2007. Campaigning statewide has never been a given for Democrats, even in Senate races. I grew up in Massachusetts and actually lived there for the majority of my first 28 years of life. I have viewed politics as an observer and as an activist. Massachusetts is not liberal, at all. Where I grew up, it is full of working class people who as Jimmy Barnes said: "Working hard to make a living...They believe in God and Elvis...have denim in their veins." Northeastern Massachusetts is similar to parts of the midwest, patriotic (which means "we fight and the limousine liberals complain"), socially conservative (abortion, divorce, gay marriage very much frowned upon), not many college graduates ("those lily livered, latte drinking Ivy leaguers won't tell me what to do!") and conventionally economically liberal (pro-union, think the rich get away with murder, etc.).

These voters voted heavily for Obama on his populist message, but also voted for Bush twice, probably voted for Clinton and gave Reagan his mandate, though the state decidedly went Democrat in those elections. But, these voters sway. And these voters get more conservative as you go out West toward New York. They also don't like when you lie to them as it is easily argued Obama lied about healthcare, Wall St, etc. These voters are weary of government, but also believe it is government's job to help, unlike say in Texas where the same voters would probably call this socialism. In Ma., it is not like that, the working class folks want relief from the government and healthcare reform (as in a public option, not the current bill that is designed to piss everyone off). So, they are pissed and in my opinion, rightly so. The democrats, though I hope win don't deserve this, at all.

Martha Coakley seems to be a bad candidate. She thought the seat was hers, didn't really want to work hard and Brown populism took over. He just may have enough in his tank. He is a good looking candidate, who doesn't have to say much, can contradict himself all over the place and not have to answer for it because he is riding a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment. But, Brown also has a ceiling. The democratic registration far outweighs a lot of the anti-incumbency. If the Dems get the vote out , they can win, period. If they don't it is going to be a nail biter.

I would have predicted Coakley a day or so ago, but it seems like a perfect storm and if I were a guessing man, I might lean Brown right now. Shame on the Democrats.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Healthcare Crisis Part II: The "Benefits" of Health Insurance

On Thursday, St. Vincent’s who “accepts” both insurances requested Juliette bring the films as soon as possible. Since I work from home I volunteered. The UMDNJ is a typical hospital, white floors, white walls and white ceilings, however friendly medical staff dressed in blue pajamas smile at you and ask, “can I help you find something?” This is the same hospital I attended Physical and Occupational therapy for my hip and elbow. Memories. I picked up Juliette’s films from UMDNJ, paid a bored cashier and waited for the films. Directed to a waiting room, I sat and watched Rachel Ray as she made eggplant balls for Thanksgiving. “Do people actually watch this?” I said out loud. Seven pairs of eyes stared at me as my name was called. Clemency.

I arrived in the city at St. Vincent’s, a beautiful facility on the west side not far from the structure on Seventh Avenue. The first thing I noticed as I walked in was a cappuccino maker, various teas and thousands of magazines. Not bad I thought. I can wait here in peace. The walls were bright, the office neat, it felt like a children’s hospital. A beautiful young looking Chinese American woman, nervous stood before me, Juliette’s age, waiting to speak to a Secretary. We both hemmed and hawed for 10 minutes as they stood just outside our vision talking. Not a good sign, I thought. Though, quickly after we caught their attention, they attended to us and I was on my way back to Jersey City. They gave me a date of November 17th for an appointment. Everything we could possibly do done, we took a sigh of relief and settled in for the week’s wait.

Juliette and I spoke about the procedure, what this means. Everyone we spoke to seemed to know some relative, aunt, mother, sister who had a similar procedure. “It will be fine” we were told. Except sometimes it wasn’t fine, which scared us a bit and our luck ran with the Irish. Non-existent. We decided to not discuss it and muddle through until the 17th, after all this is something thousands of Americans are experiencing at the same time, right? We need to wait and see and breathe.

On the Saturday before the procedure we received a letter in the mail from St. Vincent’s. “No need to come in for an appointment.” Juliette continued to read. “Wait six months. Probably benign, come back for a new mammogram in six months,” with a bill for $50 tucked in for all the work the medical staff perfromed. “We’re still going to the appointment I announced to Juliette.” “What are you talking about? They just cancelled the appointment!” “They can’t do that” I argued. “Well, they just fucking did!” Juliette said angrily. We pumped ourselves up for the appointment and now it is not to be. “Fuck!” I yelled. “What do we do?” I asked. “Is this reliable? Is this a good thing?”

The fifty dollars was a bill for their services. Juliette called them and said her insurance should cover it. “Well, you didn’t meet your deductible.” “What deductible? I have insurance.” “Right, but this is 'an out of network' claim.” Perplexed Juliette asked them “what the fuck are you talking about. I thought you said you accept healthnet?” “Technically we do “accept” healthnet, but only out of network benefits.” She connivingly said. In "out of network benefits" she explained, “You pay.” So, basically as long as they get their money? No need to tell the patient they will be paying the first $500 or $1000 in deductible instead of simply a “co-pay,” or “in network benefits.” Thank god, we didn't have them perform the procedure, I said.

We weighed our options. Some told us to wait the six months. Juliette would receive another mammogram, and eventually have the biopsy anyway” was the advice. What is the point of that? Juliette asked her personal physician, “what should I do?” “If it were me,” she said. “I just don’t know.” Helpful. Juliette did not want to have her boobs shoved in a machine again, just to be told you need to have a biopsy, “what is the point of that?” she repeated. I agreed and encouraged her to seek a second opinion, though she was not happy about it.

Like controversy was made for us, new mammogram guidelines were released on November 17th, the day we were supposed to be attending an appointment with St. Vincent’s. These new guidelines sparked immediate controversy. A government advisory board made up of medical professionals said women should not be receiving mammograms until the age of 50. Our eyes perked. The guidelines written by a government panel essentially said that getting screened for breast cancerso early and so often leads to too many false alarms and unneeded biopsies without substantially improving women's odds of survival.” That sounds about right actually. They sparked outrageous controversy and fear, the media talked about them for a while especially the Rethuglicans who thought it was a good way to derail healthcare reform.

Still, what if? What if Juliette is in that category of women that have no warning signs, could she afford to wait until she was 50? We decided that because she was already screened we would receive a second opinion. We wanted to see what an actual surgeon who examined her would indicate.

We arrived at the doctor’s office at 5:00 PM, right on time. We needed to be buzzed in, "come on this is Hoboken, are we afraid of robberies now?" I said. Not a seat in the house as Juliette checked in with the receptionist. Also, not a white face in the room, all low-income, primarily Latino clientèle. “What is this guy doing,” I thought to myself and intimated to Juliette. "Scheduling everyone he can before healthcare reform passes?" Juliette rolled her eyes with abandon and scoffed the first seat available. After about an hour of waiting and several chapters read in “the Last of her kind” I looked at Juliette and said, “what the fuck?” He comes recommended Juliette said. Dr. B, her personal physician that operates as a community clinic recommended him.

We were called in, he was young, our age actually, he just turned 40. Is that still young? He was Latino, good looking and competent, and calming. He immediately told us “you should have the procedure done.” He explained the procedure and why he thought Juliette might benefit. "Most likely, in six months you will be right back here anyway." he said. "Plus, it is probably benign, but there is no way of telling unless the procedure is actually done." Juliette felt comfortable with him, so we scheduled the procedure for December 23rd. Done. The scheduler seemed nice, but she told us “I can’t schedule you at Hoboken Medical Center. I am having problems there and the Radiologist there is not on the schedule.” So, she scheduled us for an "ambulatory center" in North Bergen. Only two weeks to wait.

A week flashed by and we still hadn’t heard from the office, she informed us she would call to approve the procedure with Oxford, Juliette’s insurance company and then call us back. We started to worry. Five days before the procedure we started to panic. Juliette called her insurance company. “You are not covered at the ambulatory facility” she was told. "You will pay upwards of 2,000 dollars if the procedure is performed there." "You have not been approved, nor will you be approved.” "No one has called you from Dr. Costa’s office?” Nicole asked. “Nope.” And she intimated, "It sounds like they want you to use "out of network benefits."