Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday: Culture, Pop

As the Goddess of Eclectica, I reserve the right to cross genres, mix metaphors and make playlists that confuse the hell out of the listener until they've absorbed the whole. You wanna make somethin' of it? No? I didn't think so. I've got high-low tastes in a stratified, cliqued-up world. Clive Barker sits cheek by jowl with The Bard in my pantheon of literary greats, John Mayer and Eric Clapton nestle alongside Jimi Hendrix and Robert Cray. My thought for the day is this: why do we get stuck in ruts like we never left high school?

I don't actually have an answer, other than: Most people's intellectual and emotional development seem to freeze around sophomore year, as far as I'm concerned. (I didn't say I wasn't a snob. I despise intellectual laziness and apathy. Get over it and read a book, m'kay?)

Most of the people I love, are incredibly passionate consumers of art and information. The ones I really, really treasure have no filter that says, "I can't like this, it's uncool." When we stop being sheep engaging in reflexive snobbery, I think we'll be a lot happier. We'll also get better entertainment and culture. Mix it up friends, read silly things, read high art, (for fuck's sake: READ, will ya?) Listen to pop and classical and rock 'n' roll. Share your tastes with your friends and don't worry if they think something's a little kitschy. Maybe they'll find something they've never heard of and love. Maybe they'll share something you never knew existed. Cultural show and tell, it's about freakin' time. It's the 21st century, the old rules don't apply. Start acting like it. After all, you're not in high school anymore.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Health Care reform and the politics of fear

I spent more than 8 years working in the Health Insurance industry. Ask me anything, I'll tell you the truth. 1997, the year when privatized Medicaid came into vogue. States were hemmoraghing red ink from their budgets. HMO's seemed like a reasonable alternative. It worked for the general public, after all. When I started working for Company X, I was young, broke, stupid and the head of a household that was barely holding on. We'd just barely managed to keep the house after my grandmother died. $7.50 an hour, plus commission seemed like a good deal. It was, actually. I doubled the value of my annual wages inside of 10 months. I also felt like I was serving a purpose. I was helping people. In the beginning, the benefits were actually far better than what Medicaid offered. A win-win scenario: Save the state money and help people.
Over the course of the next 8 years, it became more about maximizing profits and less about serving either of our clients. Irony of ironies, my health insurance was worse than the plan's members. Eventually, Company X had contracts in 3 states, about 500k members and was making 20 million dollars a quarter as a privately held company.
I was making 36k a year, and I was miserable.
Here's why:
1. If you're on Medicaid, chances are you're either desperately poor or you have a debilitating health condition. (There are a lot of nuns on Medicaid, btw. Seems that priests get taken care of by the diocese and nuns are left to fend for themselves.) We're talking about people who are mostly in vulnerable economic strata and often don't know how to advocate for themselves. Add profound illness on top of that and you've got a member pool already hanging by a thread.
2. Doctors. Yes we've all got to wait too long and finding the right doctor is a pain, but if a doctor provides services, they deserve to be paid in a timely fashion, without dispute. This does not happen with HMO's.
3. Red tape. Covered physicians, referrals, out of network authorizations, authorizations for procedures, drug formularies, brand-name authorizations, non-formulary letters of medical necessity...(I could go on, but it's endless.) Providers spend more time dealing with beauracracy than patients. Tell me that's not compromising patient care. Ha.
4. Routine denial of care. Everything that's not a covered service or routine diagnostic test is denied pro forma. So are non-formulary drugs. Period. In the hopes that either your provider will do something that is covered or that you'll be too sick, too helpless or too stupid to fight.
5. HMO's make money based on the number of members they have. Each member = x number of dollars per month whether you get services or not. The fewer services you have, the more of that money goes towards bulking up the profit margin.
All of the things the right-wing chorus of, "No," is saying will happen with a Govt-run plan are exactly what's happening every day in this country. Only, we're paying for it and we can't even afford to use it. Health care is a basic human right and it contributes to the public good. It's also economically smart. A national health care system would force commercial plans to become more competitive and actually provide what their members pay for. It would relieve the pressure small business owners are bearing the brunt of and we'd have a healthier populace.
Does anyone have any questions?

Things that matter

In the scheme of things, most of daily life has no consequence. A lot comes down to, "My problems are more important than yours because they're mine." It's perspective. Relative to someone who's homeless, I'm pretty comfortable. I accept being mostly broke because I can't stomach corporate whoredom.

That said, what we do and say matters. We can live in an attitude of bitterness and vitriol or we can live in an attitude of love. (Caveat: the author frequently declaims, "I hate people," and has profound misanthropic tendencies.) The daily reality is the ritual of the habitual. We drive, we shop, we work, we eat, we sleep it all over again. The opportunities for greatness in, "The American Dream," are thin on the ground. We're selfish creatures with such a capacity for grace that it will knock me to the floor sometimes. Many nights I sign off of twitter with things I think are important: Be gentle with each other. Hug someone who needs it. Do something kind for a stranger. Tell someone you love them. Why? It matters. We can be so much more than we expect of ourselves. We just need to remember it.

I'm all over the map, but there are so many threads connecting all of us that we never stop to examine. I wonder that there is such a dearth of compassion in so many who call themselves, "Christians." Peace and love, generosity and the realisation of the human spirit... these ought not to be things Christian folk need lessons in. Yet, many do. Judge someone by what they do, not by what they call themselves. If you live in an attitude of love and service, that's self explanatory. Who we are is evident every day.Think on that, will you?

Testing, testing...mic check 1,2...1,2 check, check?

I'm trying to have a blog that's searchable without having to be logged into, or a member of any particular site. Content must be available to have any value at all.