The U.S. Senate is reportedly considering a healthcare bill, although few will admit to seeing it or knowing its contents. Rumors indicate it will not, as hoped, be a “kinder, gentler” version of the House bill. There’s been a great deal of criticism of the direct effects of the House bill including, but not limited to, tens of millions without insurance, astronomical cost increases for seniors and those with pre-existing conditions, inability to get coverage for preexisting conditions, watered-down coverage (with many standard situations not covered) and loss of support for those in nursing homes. However, I’ve heard little regarding the effects on those not included above.
Please note the following is not deeply researched, but largely the product of my own logical process and as such could be far from accurate. I’d love feedback from those more deeply-informed than I.
Let’s imagine an employed head of family with a spouse and two children. Insurance for this family is provided by his/her employer and deducted from his/her paycheck. In fact, both spouses enjoy this benefit, so if one loses his/her job, there’s a back-up plan. This happy family is probably laboring under the illusion that they have nothing to fear. I believe this is far from the truth!
The disappearance of billions of dollars from medical payments will impact clinics and hospitals. Personnel will be laid off and programs will be cut. Wait-time for all services will be longer and some “frills” will disappear. If you need a class on dealing with your child’s juvenile diabetes, for instance, it may no longer be offered as often or not at all. If it takes you a month to get an appointment with your doctor now, that wait may double. If you child falls off the playground equipment and breaks an arm, the emergency room visit may stretch to eight hours as opposed to four.
Ted Chan, founder of Care Dash, an online site for feedback on doctors, (yeah, I did some research!) was quoted in Becker’s Hospital Review on March 9, 2017, as saying:
“Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without clear guidelines for replacing coverage will drive up costs across the board for patients, employers, and hospitals. Without requiring all to be insured, hospitals will be the insurers of last resort and will absorb the costs of uninsured patients seeking care. One recent study found that half of hospital bills go unpaid and that will only likely increase without an individual mandate….
When hospital bills go unpaid, taxpayers and local governments are often forced to pick up the tab. The question is not whether healthcare coverage should be paid for, it’s who pays.”
If you live in a rural area, the impact may be even greater, as rural medical services are economically tenuous. With fewer patients to serve and more low-income individuals, tight budgets are a constant. Under the ACA, there were supposed to be provisions to help rural medical programs, but many of these provisions were revised or never implemented.
Our happy fictional family may find their medical costs increase despite their insured status. When a family isn’t insured, that doesn’t mean they don’t get sick! They do, however, wait longer to seek treatment, present as sicker when they do go to the doctor, and their treatment is therefore more expensive. Since the bill is less likely to be paid, the hospital must recoup as much as possible in the form of increased costs for those WITH insurance. When insurance companies pay more, they’re going to raise the cost of their policies. Our fictional family will pay in increased insurance costs.
People who don’t have insurance are more costly employees. Since they can’t afford preventive care, they’re more likely to be sicker and miss additional time at work. (I’d prefer they NOT work, since someone coughing over my fast-food order is not something I relish!) I suspect this was one original motivation for employer-sponsored healthcare coverage.
Therefore, Fictional Family will be affected directly by the proposed healthcare bill. The medical services they need may well become harder to access, their health insurance costs increase, and their communities become a less pleasant and welcoming place to live.
PERHAPS WE SHOULD BE SHARING THIS MESSAGE FOR THOSE WHO MISTAKENLY ASSUME THEY’LL NOT BE AFFECTED BY THIS [“REPEAL AND REPLACE”] LEGISLATION.
Deborah G. Hankins is a retired “worker” who lives with her husband Milt and their little chihuahua Jose in Ashland, Kentucky. She is a leader in the local “Indivisible” group and is seriously concerned about our future under the present administration.
[James Merritt is a master of short fiction. He is especially talented at weaving a story from almost any subject–from horror to humor. Following are four stories we think you’ll enjoy–or, at least get a “kick” out of!]
With each balloon that popped, his future died a little more. His dreams of hearing, changing, and expressing the world through music ending with each dart thrown. With the air escaping a million unknown futures falling behind him. Once he was a young child whose mother daily forced him to practice singing, violin, and piano.
When he turned twelve, he found his talents multiplying daily. On the same day his mother discovered heroin.
By fourteen, he simply had to escape the destruction of what was left of his home. He ran off to a carnival and worked, thinking he would only stay until he was old enough to escape as an adult. Working the balloon pop station for four years destroyed his hearing–ending what was the great hope of humanity. He had had the potential to put all other musicians past and present to shame. Potential to save humanity from war through the purest beauty in the universe. Now, humanity would be lost–the world’s destruction due to a balloon pop.
FLY AND HIS LOVER
The fly found its soulmate from its previous life and buzzed around his head. Landing on the human, he shared his coffee, lightly caressed his hand.
The fly was driving the man nuts! It was buzzing around his head, landing on his coffee cup, and crawling up and down his arm.
The man picked up the bright green tool of death and swatted the fly, not quite killing it with the first blow–realizing only after the first attack of his loves true form. So, he hit it again and again, destroying his love in hopes of it coming back in a more pleasant form. Perhaps they could be together in another life.
Huzzah! One less fly in the world.
Well below the deepest hidden basement of the forgotten Smithsonian lies a cavern filled with artifacts from distant galaxies–hidden there by those who do not want mankind to know of alien life.
In the darkest corner of the dusty cavern, lit by a single bulb, on a stand sits a pair of beautifully engraved leather shoes. Swirling over the old skin are flowers carved, mixed with maps of the infinite universe. These shoes outshine the most beautiful ever created.
The shoes found their way here after the death of their creator. The majestic shoes were created by an alien named Herschel. Herschel came from a distant world of creatures that look very much like me and you. A major difference is, in his world, each individual spends their life on a singular project–perfecting it to mastery. Herschel had traveled the stars in search of his medium–to create his life’s majesty. He crash landed on a roof in New York City and spent his short lifetime in the same building; although long for his species of five earth years. During this time he only befriended one person–an old Jewish leather worker named Takhash. Takhash taught Herschel his skill.
At the end of Herschel’s life, he presented the shoes to Takhash who discovered, unlike humans, Herschel and his people had hooves instead of feet. As Herschel had only seen people with shoes on, he assumed they were just a strange earth-style. Due to this, his one-of- a-kind shoes insides were made for a hoof.
The next day, Takhash found Herschel dead outside his door. When he called the police, men in black came and took the body and shoes away. After being studied, the shoes were hidden away from humanity. The glorious work of Hershel’s existence were never against seen by the living, but by spiders and dust mites. When the earth’s end came in the final moments, the spirits of the earth sought out the most beautiful sights. The earth itself paused its shakes and volcanoes for a moment in awe of a pair of beautiful, intricately-designed shoes.
He woke screaming from his nightmare, and realizing it was only a dream, got out of bed. He went to his kitchen–being extra quiet so the monsters did not hear him. The giant flying monster killed his mom, and his father was shot and killed, leaving him alone in the high rise with all of his noisy neighbors. He grabbed a handful of nuts and found a comfortable seat while he chewed his morning dinner.
All of a sudden his house shook, and he knew it was the end when he heard timber as the terrorist monsters toppled the high rise, not even giving warning to evacuate. As he tumbled and fell to the ground, the smash of his home hitting the ground was deafening. Hobbling outside on his broken leg he looked up at the monsters just in time to see the forest descend on the beasts.
The flying monsters attacked their eyes while spiders bit any uncovered skin. He crawled up a leg of the thing and bit it where its legs came together. The thing let out a piercing scream as a bear came in and clawed out its throat. When other forests lost their spirit protectors they became fearful of the two-legged monsters. Not this forest, for the creatures in it were trained to kill. When left alone, they only killed each other for meat, but when a man-beast entered they never left alive. The entire crew of monsters were dead within minutes, their bodies devoured within two days and their metal buried with berry bushes planted on top.
Next time you need a tree, ask its inhabitants first. Make sure to give thirty days notice of eviction; otherwise, your nuts may become chips!
[James Merritt lives in Maryland. He is a teacher, entrepreneur, story-teller and writer. We are pleased to have published several of James’s stories in Columnist with a View, so you can search the Archives for other short-shorts. He has published a small collection which is available on Amazon.com.]
I’m not saying every white man in the Trump Administration, or every white male pastor in the country is intentionally working against women’s rights.
But here’s the thing.
Because they are white and hold positions of power, when white men in government, and white male pastors in the United States (and even in the United Church of Christ) are not intentionally and loudly advocating for all women’s rights, then they are effectively being complicit in silencing women and their health care needs in our country.
The pervasiveness of issues that disproportionately affect women in our country is staggering and deserves outrage and advocacy, not silence.
Consider that approximately half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. In women under 20 that statistic rockets to 4 out of 5. Women of color and poor women experience even higher rates. Women do not get pregnant by themselves. Where is the outrage about this very preventable condition, and where is the overarching support for services to prevent it?
Almost 20% of women in America report experiencing rape in their lifetime, and over 40% of them were first raped before age 18. Higher percentages of students of color report having been raped than white students.
Nearly twice as many American women were murdered by current or ex male partners between 2001 and 2012 than American troops were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq during the same time period. African American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white women).
The prevalence of these issues means they are all too alive and well in our congregations. Every Sunday, families affected by unintended pregnancy, by sexual violence, and by domestic abuse walk into churches. Using the above statistics, one in two children who come to church weren’t planned. One in five women in your congregation has been raped. And one in four women in your church have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
Politicians attend church and speak about upholding Christian values–but then vote against funding agencies that provide family planning and birth control services to people at low or no cost. They applaud themselves for voting to enact health care revisions that provide less coverage to families who have chosen to have those unintended babies and are having trouble caring for them on limited budgets. And they create loopholes, which can make it more difficult to access medical care and mental health services when someone experiences intimate partner violence.
That doesn’t seem very Christian to me.
So I ask you. Are you talking about these issues in church? Are you designing faith formation lesson plans to give an alternate message to violence in relationships? Are you having Bible studies to lift up faith-based messages of equity and hope? Are you providing outreach programs imbued with justice-filled actions?
I admonish you to:
Stop blaming women, overtly or by your silence, for unintended pregnancies.
Use your power to create a culture where relationship equity is the expectation–instead of double standards regarding sexual activity, financial and emotional burdens for contraception falling to female-bodied people, and social stigma being born [sic] by the person with a uterus. Advocate for community agencies to maintain government funding for health care and family planning services.
Stop blaming women, overtly or by your silence, for being sexually assaulted.
Stop spending money trying to teach them how not to be assaulted. Instead, use those funds and your privilege and power to loudly educate yourselves and your brothers on the gender roles, stereotypes and privilege that lead to attitudes condoning women being raped. Work to make consent the norm and expection. Advocate for funding for health care services to survivors, regardless of when the assault occurred.
Stop blaming women, overtly or by your silence, for domestic abuse.
Instead, work to dismantle the culture of male violence, to cultivate norms that revere men for being peaceful problem solvers and healthy partners. End stigma about discussing these issues, and advocate for funding for health care services for those who have survived violence in relationships.
The question is, what are you NOT doing? What are you not talking about? What are you not actively advocating for? And why?
Find your voice and use it loudly. Lives are depending on it.
[Amy Johnson, MSW, CSE is on national staff as the United Church of Christ Our Whole Lives Coordinator. She is co-author of Homegrown Faith and Justice and Our Whole Lives for Grades 4-6, 2nd Ed. She is passionate about promoting safe and healthy sexuality education and culture in faith communities. This article first appeared in NEW SACRED]
I’ve started noticing that the conversation around Alzheimer’s disease is always so heavy. Like, dead weight heavy. It’s about time we started changing that tone–especially for the folks and families doing the caregiving.
There’s some funny “shit-ake mushrooms” being said and done while experiencing this bizarre world of dementia, so I figure that until we cure this dumb disease, we have to learn coping strategies, like how to laugh. Swearing is another one…which you’ve already figured out.
For those of you who are still reading, here re some coping strategies and stories that I’ve either heard about from a family caregiver or a facility caregiver, or that I have experienced firsthand in my own adventures as the daughter to a mom with Alzheimer’s. I’m also a public policy advocate/ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Association and a professional in the geriatric healthcare world. So, I have seen A LOT. Most names shall be “made up” for the simple fact of privacy, but these stories are just too darn funny.
ALZHUMOR COPING STRATEGY NO. 1: MEET THEM WHERE THEY ARE.
First and foremost, as a family member or caregiver, this is the most important thing to understand about this disease: you HAVE to meet your person where they are, figuratively speaking. If they think it’s 1953 today, then you better get out your poodle skirt and American bandstand records. If they think it’s 1973, same thing! Hot pants and Brady Bunch episodes…but stay away from the fish bowl, if ya know what I mean.
So, my friend and fellow advocate “Laurie,” in her home with her mother, takes care of her grandmother with dementia. They are the only caregivers for this delightful old gal, and one day, after doing exercises with her, her grandmother started cracking up out of nowhere. Laurie asked, “Nana, what’s so funny?” Her Nana finally stopped laughing and shouted “I’m getting married!” Laurie said “To who?” and Nana replied “I HAVE NO IDEA!” and kept cracking up! So, they both just sat their laughing their guts out. Laurie didn’t correct her or get upset. She’s way beyond that. Instead she just enjoyed a humorous moment with her Nana.
ALZHUMOR COPING STRATEGY NO. 2: THEIR REALITY IS YOUR REALITY.
You never know where they might take you with this one, so just go with it every single time. Literally.
I used to work in a nursing and rehab center, and there was one resident “Marilyn” who was slightly ornery, but always had a perplexed smile on her face. She had a lot of kids and grandkids, so with her dementia, she found comfort in baby dolls. Her daughters would bring in clean baby doll clothes and bonnets for this doll of Marilyn’s and it was pretty cute. One day, I was helping staff get everyone down to the dining room for lunch and told Marilyn “Come on! I’m gonna give you a ride!” (She was in a wheelchair.) As we went down the hall, she was rocking and singing to her “baby” and it was a very sweet moment. I stopped and asked her quietly, “How’s your baby today, Marilyn?” She looked up at me and without missing a beat, said “It’s just a doll, you idiot!” She was lucid for just a brief moment, clearly. We both started laughing so hard. By that point, she had no idea why she was laughing, but that just solidified why I do what I do!
ALZHUMOR COPING STRATEGY NO. 3: HALLUCINATIONS ARE NORMAL. DON’T ARGUE.
“Ted” was a pig farmer all of his life in Southwest Michigan and ended up with Alzheimer’s. He still lived at home in the family farmhouse. HIs adult children were stressed out by his hallucinations and sought counsel from the local Alzheimer’s Association in Kalamazoo with the program coordinator and social worker, Barb. One day, they called her completely distraught because Dad was running around saying that there were pigs and children running through the house. They kept trying to calm him down by telling him that there WERE NOT pigs and children running through the house. This only agitated him more. Barb calmly told them to acknowledge this. So, one day when Ted started screaming again about the pigs, his son quickly picked up a broom and started yelling “SUEEEEY!” and sweeping the pigs to the door. His sister opened the door and out the front door he swept those pigs! They slammed the door and turned around. Dad went and sat down in his Lazy Boy and said very matter of fact “Bout damned time somebody listened to me!” and was quiet for the rest of the evening.
My biggest takeaway here is to just keep it light as much as possible. If it’s funny, LAUGH! If it’s not funny, LAUGH. There isn’t a damn thing that you can do to control this disease and its tentacles. “Dr. Octopus ain’t got nuthin’ on Alzheimer’s.” I’m certainly not trying to “make light” of the horrors of this disease, but to encourage you to “be light” when going through your day. Next week, I’ll share three more stories to make you smile.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Maria (Martini) Deneau is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio and is the only daughter of four children born to Bernard and Evelyn Martini. She is a graduate of The University of Cincinnati and is currently employed by Kindred Healthcare in Southwest Michigan as a Home Health Specialist (Account Liaison) and has worked in senior healthcare since 2007. Maria serves as a Board Member for Fund Development at Senior Services of Kalamazoo County and also serves as a Networking Board Member of Professionals Focused on Aging in Kalamazoo, MI. She has also been recognized by the state of Ohio Senate for Outstanding Achievement and exemplary service to the community and its youth while living in Cincinnati, Ohio.
This article first appeared in The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement publication. Previous articles on the subject of Alzheimer’s have also appeared in Columnist with a View (columnistwithaview.com).