We the people…suck.

We the people…suck. We are easily offended. We are easily tricked by the media and politicians. We attack people based on sound bites. We call each other names based on a few words taken out of context. We demand certain words be banned. We demean others if their belief is not aligned to ours. We launch unwarranted attacks via social media. We demand “free” things from the government. We talk about anonymous sources to scare people about the other side. We ignore the fact the politicians and media rarely give us all the facts. We jump to conclusions without doing any research of our own. We could go on and on and on.

Yep, we pretty much suck now.

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Shades of gray – life is not black and white

Nothing to do with a book, if you want that…move along nothing to see here.

If life was easy there would be clear lines of black and white in all things. Right and wrong. Good and bad. Left and right. Stop and go. Near and far (sorry, had to link to it!).

In some things there is the clear distinction and in some things there is not. Some people want to make it black and white in everything and really to probably cause controversy, advanced their own political agenda or to try and ostracize & label people.

Not voting for President Obama does not mean you are a racist. Not supporting ObamaCare does not mean you want people to die and die quickly. Not supporting gay marriage does not mean you are homophobic. Not supporting illegal immigration or blanket amnesty does not mean you hate Mexicans or other immigrants. Not supporting Jerry Jones does not mean you don’t like the Cowboys…okay had to try and throw a small curve-ball there.

Part of what got me thinking on this topic is the current gay marriage debate before the SOTUS this week. I think this article by Dana Loesch sums up a lot of what I think on this topic: The Argument For “Marriage Equality” Is Not A Conservative One.

Obamacare – you can keep you healthcare except that you can’t always

I have debated telling this story. Some will say it’s not true as you will see I will not give the real name of my friend. But it is a true story.

President Obama campaigned for his signature healthcare legislature partially on the promise of keeping the healthcare plan you have if you like it. Here is some of what was said:

“Under the plan, if you like your current health insurance, nothing changes, except your costs will go down by as much as $2,500 per year.”
via http://change.gov/agenda/health_care_agenda/

“No matter what you have heard, if you like your doctor or you healthcare plan you can keep it.”
via http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXqKp5B0ZLE

In my opinion, this was misleading, perhaps deception and at worst and outright known lie.

For me personally, my premium costs have gone up every year since the law was passed. Some will say the cost benefits don’t really kick in until the law if fully implemented. Well, unfortunately for many the costs may go up more than $2,500 before they come down.

As for my friend

For this story, I will call my friend Jane. I have worked with Jane for about 10 years.

Early in 2012, some of us were meeting and we were told the unfortunate news that Jane’s breast cancer had returned. Jane beat it once back in the 1990s.

First and most important, Jane is still with us and is back in remission.

Jane was able to still work some during her chemo treatments which means when she could she came to the office. I got to see the slow effects on her and it saddened me. For instance, I shave my head…I watched Jane cut her hair shorter and shorter as she went through the treatments to the day she came in saying we had the same haircut…none.

Then I was there the day she got the call of an “all clear” diagnosis and she came up behind me at my desk and just hugged me and then broke down in tears of joy. If that does not move you, you lack basic human emotions.

Another day she came into work and told me she finally had more hair than me. A good day.

Now, Jane is not on our company’s healthcare plan, but her husband’s as it provided better overall coverage for the cost and likely would be considered one of those “Cadillac” plans. She has been on that plan for years.

Jane told me that her cancer treatment costs were very minimal and covered almost everything 100% after reaching the deductible. This includes the surgery to remove the tumors, the 6+ months of chemo treatments, the ~10 months of drug infusions, the doctor visits, the MRIs, the follow-ups, etc. Great plan for her. It was a true benefit that her husbands company provided for it’s employees.

Jane does not have that plan anymore. Her husband still works for the same company. The company told them due to the healthcare law changes from ObamaCare they could not continue to afford to provide it to the employees. Why? Well, recall that ObamaCare will tax these health plans.

Jane no longer has the coverage she once had, she was lucky in a sad sense that the cancer returned last year when she had the full plan. Now, she has higher out-of-pocket costs and not as much coverage.

So, Jane did not get to keep her healthcare plan and believe me she liked it. She and her husband lost out.

We have to remember that while there are sometimes positive effects to new laws, there are also negative effects. My friend no longer has the coverage she once had, some will say that is fair. Honestly…I am getting tired of this “fair” concept about as much as I am starting to dislike the word free. Life is not fair, there are winners and there are losers. Life throws everybody lumps. One persons definition of fairness is someone’s unfairness and many want the government to impose fairness.

As for President Obama’s statements on keeping your plan, well that was only if you company and health insurance company was willing to keep it the same. I believe his statements were misleading.

As for me?

For me, my coverage has not changed, still the same plan as last few year, but my premiums have gone up a little every year since  2009.

Given the “fines” companies of a certain size will pay for not providing coverage for their employees…I expect some day in the future my company (given I am still there!) will pay those fines versus providing the coverage. Will they be the first or just follow suit after another major company does it? I don’t know. Of course, I may be wrong.

I admit I don’t fully understand all the details of the law (I doubt many do), but a $2K-3K fine is cheaper than paying $4K plus for a healthcare plan. Do the math, it potentially saves large companies millions in healthcare costs.

I do know from a purely financial point-of-view it makes sense to dump the employees into the medical exchanges. Which I personally think was a unwritten goal of ObamaCare…to entice companies to actually dump coverage and let the government take it over for them.

As for others

There is no doubt some will benefit from ObamaCare, I know someone who probably already has now that they can get coverage.  The other friend had some pre-existing conditions and could not get coverage. Yes, there probably should have been plans made for these people before, but yes they should also have been more expensive than a normal plan. Sorry, but let’s deal in reality people…people that require more healthcare, cost the system more and that entire burden should not be put on others to subsidize. Is that fair to the healthy people?

I find this Reason.com article a refreshing change and advocate the direction some doctors are taking against nationalized healthcare. The Obamacare Revolt: Physicians Fight Back Against the Bureaucratization of Health Care.

I know many will disagree with me and that is fine, I respect your opinions even if I disagree with them. The majority of of us will never be 100% happy with whatever plans our government forces on us, just a fact of life.

Nothing is free, not lunch, not healthcare, not education

It seems to me more and more that some segments of our population, be it politicians or media, tend to try and frame certain services as free. This is a complete disservice to we the people as a whole. Nothing is free, except your free will. It misleads people. People who receive these services need to know someone is paying for them.

So, first I am not saying certain goods and services should not be provided, but…

Schools

Some want to tell you that public education (K to 12th grade) is free. It is not. I know from personal experience as I go down to the school district’s tax office each year and hand over a check. Yes, there is no direct cost for that 5 year old to attend the public school system. But we need to remember, everyday people are paying for that schooling.

Teachers, buildings, and books just don’t appear out of nowhere. People are working and some of their hard-earned wages go to paying for that education. Way too many people take for granted that public education is “free.”

There are also some that think college/higher education should be free, but who is going to pay for that?

Healthcare

There is no free healthcare, no free health checkups, no free dental cleanings, no free contraceptives, no free emergency care. They are all paid for by we the people or a segment of the population.

Our government, our employers, our health insurance providers tell us we get a free annual checkup. NO, we don’t…my monthly premiums pay for it. Despite the current administration saying birth control should be provided for free at no cost, that is a lie. The monthly premiums paid for by policy holders bare the burden of  the cost.

Personally, I think we need to move away from this model. When the insurance company (or Medicare/Medicaid) “covers” the cost and we do nothing more than sign a piece of paper or pay small small fee ($10 co-pay) we lose sight of the real costs. We think it is not that big of burden.

Certain healthcare expenditures, should carry a higher out-of-pocket cost. I think of my car. I pay for the gas, the oil changes, the tires, the brakes. But when and if there is a accident or the windshield shatters from a flying rock, insurance is there to help with the cost. Healthcare services should be the same, I should know the true cost of a doctor’s office visit or a flu shot (which btw, I do not take, never have, never will).

<rant status=”on”>

A personal experience with the so-called free yearly check-up, physical or whatever you want to call it…it took money from my account. I received the statement about a month after the appointment, it is supposed to be all “free” right?… to cover the costs of the blood work and the 15 minutes with the doctor (different story for another day). Not exactly. The paperwork showed miss-billings of account numbers of something so it took a few dollars from my account after several back-and-forth’s between the doc office and insurance company. My policy says all costs will be covered, but reality is they were not. And you know what? I did not fight it. It was not worth my time to get on the phone, to be put on hold, to be transferred to endless departments, to be told to file for an appeal, etc. all for a few dollars. But sadly, when it is a few dollars happening to millions of people that means millions of dollars.

<rant status=”off”>

…And Lunch

There is no free lunch. My boss may on occasion pay for a lunch at work, but it is not free. That cost may reduce a potential raise for me or a co-worker. It may prevent supplies being bought. I do appreciate it, but I have the smarts to realize that something else will be forfeited for me to not directly pay for that burger.

I just think we as a society would be better off knowing that nothing is truly free (not even our freedom) and to stop portraying it as such. Someone is paying higher taxes or receiving lower wages or, if lucky, donating more of what they have to help pay for goods and services. More importantly, we need to remember that some are sacrificing their time and some instances their life for certain freedoms. Our government, our media and we the people all bare some of the responsibility to help educate the masses on this topic.


Related note: I even realize that this blog is not free. Somewhere, someone is paying a cost to host servers and storage to allow me to take advantage of it to have the…dare I say freedom…ability to freely write these thoughts down on the interwebs.

Dreams of my father

Nope, nothing to do with our President’s famous book. But might be more about sayings from my own father.

This is about some things my dad told me over the years. These are not the exact words because few of us can remember the exact words of some thing that was said years ago.

  • “Son, isn’t all of this beautiful.” — This relates to the backpacking trips and fishing trip me and my dad took to the Colorado mountains…some with church youth groups or just me and him. My dad loves nature, especially the mountains, whether it was backpacking through them for a week or hunting. Take in all that nature and God provided in the wondrous landscapes of this country. Great times.
  • “Son, I wish you never would have had to see something like this in your lifetime.” — This was a couple of days after September 11th. This is one time where I remember exactly where I was when I first heard of the plane crash and when I saw the towers collapse on TV. This is when for some reason, I realized the dangers of this world. Sad time.
  • “Son, don’t depend on social security it is likely not to be there when you reach retirement.” — This was back when I was in high school, early 1990s. Yes, I just dated myself to some degree. But seems my dad had some foresight into what was coming down the pipeline. Without major change SS will be worthless when I reach that retirement age. Finance educational time.
  • “Son, just try your best.” — This was when playing sports. I was not the best athlete in the world (or I might be rich!), but I tried and dad was always there for encouragement. While dad was self-employed, he always tried to make it to my basketball or baseball games from little league through high school no matter how far away the games were. He did not make all of them, but it was a rare sight not to see him in the stands. Encouraging times.

Was life perfect with dad? No, there were always the strains and stresses of growing up. But when looking back it is good to think that the good times out weigh the bad times.

Rent movies for free at…

Your local library.

If you are lucky to have a good old fashion city library, you might see if they have movies. My city library has DVDs and limited Blu-Rays.

I have been reserving movies for the last few years and pick them up when it is my turn. Some movies I get within a week or two others may take several weeks if reserve it late. But since I have anywhere from 5-10 movies on reserve at a time, it works out.

Reserve a movie…get notified…pick it up. Given I check out books there too (to me nothing like reading a real book) I pick up the movies at same time as latest book.

These are movies that are a few weeks behind from the local movie store or Netflix. But they are free (well, rent free, my tax dollars help the library purchase them).

They don’t always have every movie, but they do have most popular movies that have been released. And limited TV series sets are available too.

So check out your local library.