'I was thirsty ...'
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has said the administration will fight challenges by states' attorneys general to overturn health reform.
Sebelius said Tuesday the suits are nothing more than conservatives trying to advance their political careers within the Republican Party. Later in the day, she filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss the suit filed in Virginia.
Virginia's Republican attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Richmond less than eight hours after Congress enacted the law. His suit contends that that requiring people to buy health coverage or pay a fee exceeds federal powers limited by the Constitution's 10th Amendment, according to the Associated Press.
Cuccinelli, a conservative, based his suit ion a Virginia law enacted this winter that exempts state residents from having to have health coverage.
In her motion, Sebelius argues that Virginia lacks the standing to sue.
"A state cannot ... manufacture its own standing to challenge a federal law by simple expedient of passing a statute purporting to nullify it," read the motion. "Otherwise, a state could import almost any political or policy dispute into federal court by enacting its side of the argument into state law."
Health reform shouldn't be about Democrats versus Republicans. This is a moral issue. It's about preventing 45,000 needless deaths every year. Republicans have tried to stop it at every turn, even though most Americans want reform.
Surveys have shown a majority of people who were against passage of the bill opposed it because it didn't go far enough.
It's part of what's fueling the anti-incumbent movement, even though the conservatives would have you believe the Tea Party is the power behind it.
Vitamin D? Really?
I went to the doctor a couple weeks ago for my allergies (a relatively new thing to me) and told her I've been feeling fatigued. I'm exercising and eating well, even losing weight, but I feel lousy.
She tested me for a vitamin D deficiency. Then yesterday, I read an item on Huffington Post by Dr. Mark Hyman. The article said up to 80 percent of Americans may be deficient.
Vitamin D is manufactured by the body through exposure to sunlight. Most people don't get enough sun anymore. Our use of sunscreen also minimizes the making of vitamin D. In fact, according to Hyman, it blocks 97 percent of vitamin D production.
So most of us need supplements of D3, the type that's best absorbed by the body.
Vitamin D deficiency is more serious than I thought. In addition to fatigue, a lack of vitamin D also leaves the body more vulnerable to several types of cancers (colon prostate, breast and ovarian) and auto-immune disorders such as type 1 diabetes, lupus and multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.
It also helps boost mood and helps prevent osteoporosis.
Most people should get 2,000-4,000 IUs of vitamin D3 a day. That's just for maintenance, Hyman said. He believes the current USDA recommended levels are too low.
So, I'm taking extra vitamin D to build my levels up to where they should be. If Dr. Hyman is right, I'll feel a lot better in just a few weeks.
More people understand health reform
This month's poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation (http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/upload/8075-F.pdf) finds more people saying they understand the health reform law.
That's good because once you understand the law, you're more likely to understand its benefits and your rights.
More than 40 percent still say they're confused about the law, though, down from 55 percent in April, and about one-third say they don't know how the law will affect them personally.
People are still divided along political lines with their approval, with those who approve citing increased coverage and those who disapprove citing reasons such as wariness of government oversight and the cost.
Here's what one person said when asked why he or she held an unfavorable view of the law:
“Because I paid for my health care for the last 30 years, and now you are giving it for free. That is unfair. I don’t want to pay for anybody else’s health care. Why can’t everybody else be responsible for paying for their own health care like I did?”
My answer is that I pay for your children's education, even though I don't have children in school; I help pay for the wars in Iraq and Asghanistan even though I opposed them. My son was paying state and federal taxes when he got sick and no one -- NO ONE -- helped him until it was too late. He deserved health care as much as anyone else, but because of a birth defect -- something that was not the result of laziness or bad choices, as so many opponents of health care for all say -- he was unable to get coverage or care, and he died.
Another point is that health care is not being given away to most Americans. Children who need care will still get it under the State Children's Health Insurance Plans; Medicare recipients will still get it; the military will still get it; and now adults with incomes lower than 133 percent of the federal poverty level will get it. Keep in mind that studies have shown it takes more than double the federal poverty level to survive in most places in America.
Everyone else will buy care, either through an employer or a state exhcange.
What has changed is that people who can't afford insurance will get help buying it. I don't have a problem with that. In fact, I'd rather see my tax money go to help people get access to health care than to war.
Understandably, the survey found Americans with lower incomes and without insurance more likely to understand the law and how it will affect them. That's because the lower the income, the less likely a person is to have access to care.
There are ways to understand what's in the law and how you will be affected. Most people surveyed said they get most of their information about the law from cable news. Television news doesn't have time to get into the details of the law. To do that, you have to do a little work. Lots of nonpartisan Web sites have detailed information.
Check out the Kaiser Family Foundation, www.kff.org, for more information. It's all there; you only have to look.
No more denials
The new health reform law makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition, to charge you more or to exclude certain benefits from your policy -- such as treatment of the pre-existing condition.
I never thought of a birth defect as a pre-existing condition until Mike came along.
I can't say he made all the right choices as a teenager -- he made some damn stupid ones.
He left college at age 19. He got into drugs and alcohol.
But he sobered up at 22, and he worked hard as a chef.
Problem is, most chefs work for small businesses that can't afford to offer health insurance. He had insurance briefly, which is how he discovered he wouldn't be able to get it on his own, at least not affordable insurance.
In New York, companies have to sell you a policy, although the law doesn't say they can't charge whatever they want.
Georgia, where Mike and Janet moved to go back to school, has no such law. Nor was there a law saying patients with life-threatening conditions had to be treated except for in the emergency room, which doesn't have to do anything beyond stabilize a patient.
In the end, Mike's death wasn't about his bad choices when he was 18 or 19; it was about a system that would allow him to suffer alone. He was the victim of a broken, immoral system.
A new report from Families USA (http://www.familiesusa.org/assets/pdfs/health-reform/pre-existing-conditions.pdfdetails ) details how the new law will prevent deaths like Mike's.
The study looked at serious medical conditions that commonly cause denials and found 57.2 million non-elderly Americams have a condition that could lead to denial of coverage in the individual insurance market. Thet translates to more than one out of every five people under age 65, or 22.4 percent.
The analysis isn't perfect; it does't include every condition that could lead to a denial of coverage, nor does it count every person with a pre-existing condition that likely would cause higher premiums or excluded benefits. Plus, this analysis can't capture the uninsured and underinsured Americans who, lacking a way to pay for care, don't even seek treatment and whose conditions remain undiagnosed. Because people with low incomes and racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented among the uninsured and underinsured, they're likely undercounted in the study.
When looked at by age, the chances of having a pre-existing condition increase. In children under age 18, the percentage is low -- 6.5 percent. But by the time someone reaches age 55-64 he or she has a 45.5 percent chance of having a pre-existing condition. The new law offers us the peace of mind of knowing that we'll be able to get insurance at a fair price, even if we have asthma, a heart condition or a birth defect.
Insurers' profits are up again
Real food vs. crap
Still discovering Mike's impact
I haven't watched the video of Mike's memorial service, but tonight I pulled out the tape and noticed a piece of paper inside the sleeve.
It was a note from Matt T., the friend who made the tape.
He said that when he finally made his first year sober, his brain started to de-fog. Still, he didn't have much desire to socialize until Mike reached out to include him in the post-meeting gatherings.
"Mike helped guide me back to communicating with others," Matt wrote. "I used to call him Dave a lot and he wouldn't even say anything about it. I will always remember the positivity he projected."
Mike made me promise to stay positive. With his usual twisted sense of humor, he asked me to play the "dead kid card." It's hard to do that in a positive way, believe me. I struggle every day.
But when I die, I want people to say they remember that I was positive in my grief for Mike, that I did something good in his memory.
It's what gets me up in the morning and through the day.
He touched and improved a lot of lives. I should be so lucky.
"Two things combined that Mike loved ... and so wrong together."
Star Trek and Monty Python: