Ending with a bang and a rant

I’m pretty sure that tomorrow is the last day you can vote to put Zoe in a Cheerios box (until 11:59pm Central Time). It’s not looking so good for our girl, but the whole thing has been a lot of fun. I realized yesterday that all this blogging and thinking about Zoe has led me to dream up a number of new story ideas for her, and that might be the best prize of all.

I leave in a little bit for the airport because I’ll be speaking In Newark, DE tonight at 6pm. Can you come and see me?

If you can’t, be sure to tune in to the streaming, live video feed of the event, courtesy of Penguin’s Point Of View website!

I’ll be talking about Wintergirls tonight (a BIG change from Zoe), which makes it appropriate to point out this Book Recommendation Theme I Never Considered for Wintergirls.


I haven’t had a political rant in while, so I hope you’ll indulge me.

There was a time in America when education was totally private: people who wanted their children to go to school paid for it. Eventually, Americans decided that public education was such an incredible public good, i.e., something everyone benefits from, that we moved to a taxpayer-funded system of education, open to all. And, of course, there are still private schools for families who want to make that choice.

There was a time in America when clean water and electricity were available only to the wealthy. The poor pulled up water from wells or dipped buckets into dirty rivers, and lit their homes with candles and lanterns because they had no choice. (My father-in-law, who died in July, did not have electricity on his street until he was 10 years old.)

Our fellow citizens argued and grumbled, but eventually decided that it was a benefit to the entire nation if all Americans had access to water and electricity. So programs were put in place, funded in part by taxpayers and in part by consumers, to make that happen.

Now the debate has turned to health insurance. My grandparents did not have it when they were young. In the middle of the last century, it became a widespread job benefit, and programs were put in place to insure the vulnerable; elderly, poor and disabled people.

There has been a shift. In the past three generations, insurance has moved from the privilege of the rich to something that most Americans consider a basic part of life, like education, electricity, and water.

(Please let me know if you disagree with that.)

But I am confused. Why is it proving so hard to craft and pass legislation that will accomplish this? I think it’s because the chuckleheads in Congress – on both sides of the aisle – are puppets and the insurance companies are pulling the strings. Don’t get me wrong – I am all about capitalism. I love capitalism. I am a small business owner and so is my husband and it’s working for us. Almost.

The Fat Cats have made the playing field uneven. BH and I cannot join any kind of group insurance plan. (We’ve spent countless hours examining this.) We pay almost $20,000 a year in insurance premiums just for the two of us. I’ve thought about canceling the policy and setting that money aside for medical emergencies, but I’m a cancer survivor. If I had a recurrence of cancer without insurance, we would lose our house and retirement savings.

Am I pissed? Damn straight. One of my three adult kids doesn’t have insurance. My friends who have been out of work for too long have no insurance. People who might take the plunge into small business ownership don’t because they are afraid to leave their job and give up their health insurance. Americans die and suffer needlessly every day because health care in this country has become a trip to the roulette wheel.

The time has come for us to agree that all Americans deserve basic health care coverage – the same for all people in all states. If you want a fancier program with bells and whistles, you can pay extra. The insurance companies have to buck up. When your service is considered a public good – a public necessity – you have to trade in outrageous short-term profits for long-term secure cash flow.

If you have decent health coverage through your job, or your parents’ or spouse’s job, please stop and think. What would happen to your life if you had to pay 20 – 40% of your income for your insurance? How is that fair?

::wipes spittle from face:: I will rant about the evil doings of health insurance companies – denying coverage that people have paid for – another day.

What do you think about this? Is health care coverage the new rural electrification? Do we have a right to health care?

And now for the last beating of the drum to get Zoe in a Cheerios box:

You only have a day and a half or so to vote!!


2. In the bottom right corner, click on MORE BOOKS twice. (Yes, this is the tricky part. No, I don’t know why Zoe is buried at the absolute back of the pack. Kind of makes you feel sorry for her, huh?) That will take you to ZOE.

3. Click on the yellow box that says VOTE!

4. Notify every person you have ever met in your entire life to PLEASE VOTE FOR ZOE. I seriously mean that.

5. Do this every day until 11:59 pm Central Time, October 30. It’s almost over and then I will stop grovelling and pleading, I promise!

25 Replies to “Ending with a bang and a rant”

  1. Insurance rant

    You go, girl! I definitely agree with you! However, I think some of the blame for our ridiculous health care costs also rests on the shoulders of the pharmaceutical companies. Why should they spend so much on advertising? If prescription costs were more reasonable it wouldn’t be so impossible for people to pay for their own!

    In fact, the whole medical profession plays into this. I recently was making arrangements for some minor surgery, and as they were going over costs with me they said casually, “Oh, and the cost for the use of our facility is $2000, but if your insurance doesn’t cover it, we will charge you $300.” What’s THAT about?

    I’m with you, Laurie. It MUST change! Grumble…

  2. *thumbs up*

    I love Penguins Point of View program. I was able to watch Gayle Forman in Flemington NJ from my home in NY and I will certainly tune in for you.

    As far as health insurance, I haven’t seen it put quite like that but I could not agree more.

  3. Re: *thumbs up*

    That is my comment above (I’m a live journal newbie) and it is bothering me that I said “Penguins” rather than “Penguin’s” so, at the risk of looking like more of a goober, I’m correcting that now >_<
    And now I can sleep tonight.

  4. Health insurance

    Couldn’t agree more. The difference in cost (and just plain access!) to health insurance for the self-employed and the small/family business owner, compared to access/cost for corporations, is shocking.

    It seems as if the new legislation will fix the horrible pre-existing condition and the portability of insurance problems, as well as forbid denial of coverage. That’s progress. But it’s not looking like there is going to be any help yet for small business cost equity.

    -Nancy Werlin

  5. Laurie, I have not had health insurance in 18 months. Not a long time by some people’s standards, but still kind of scary. But it’s too expensive. To get insurance through the creative agency I get the most work from, I’d have to pay $118 a week just for me, not including Adam or Aidan.

    I do my yearly at Planned Parenthood. $126 a visit. My family doctor charges me $80 a visit and does what she can to make the cost easier on me because she knows I don’t have insurance. When I can get it that way, why SHOULD I shell out hundreds of dollars a month, plus co-pays and a $5000 deductible for insurance? Of course, I do know that if I get a serious illness I am screwed, but right now, all I can do is try my best to stay healthy and go from there.

    It blows my mind that people out there feel they have the right to determine who is allowed basic health care. Those are usually the same people screaming “pro-life!” So it’s their business when it comes to someone’s unborn baby, but once that baby is born, the mom and kid are on their own, right?

    I like capitalism too, Laurie. But this health insurance debate is more about greed than honestly earning money.

  6. It’s against the law in Massachusetts not to have medical insurance. Really. You have to pay extra on your taxes if you don’t have it. Once this law was put into place, they created a public option for people–like me–who simply cannot afford health insurance. Unfortunately, more than half of the doctors will not accept the public plans. The ones who do aren’t accepting new patients. I still can’t see a doctor. My usual doctor refuses to accept the plan. I cannot get the prescriptions I need because I do not have a PCP on the plan. Trying to find an eye doctor who accepts the plan is like pulling teeth. And, speaking of pulling teeth, I can’t find a dentist in my immediate area who accepts the plan. It may be better in the bigger cities, but now where I live. It’s a nightmare that has caused more than a few tears this week alone. I hope the national plan is better than the ridiculousness I’ve had to deal with. Because the public option is in place, but I’m still not getting the care I need and deserve.

  7. I can’t say I ever thought Wintergirls would end up on a list like this. It’s a different kind of scary altogether – not spooky Halloween scary, more like this-is-a-nightmare-but-I’m-awake scary.

  8. Laurie, my husband and I are in the same boat–only the two of us but self-employed and paying $12,000 a year for minimal coverage ($2500 deductible/$7000 out of pocket costs)for what really amounts to catastrophic coverage. But at least we have something.

    Like you, I am appalled that we are still in the dark ages as a nation when it comes to affordable health care. But look at the health care of our Congressman:


    I imagine if we cut their insurance, there would be a whole lot more motivation on their part to get something passed.

  9. As a nurse I would like to say that we are pissed off too! And it’s really frustrating to have to spend half of my day dealing with health insurance companies instead of working with the patient. I have had multiple patients where I had to spend the majority of the day figuring out how they could stay longer at the hospital instead of having to go home when they obviously weren’t ready. So when everyone gets mad about health insurance, please don’t take it out on the healthcare staff. Because as much as nurses may seem cold and doctors may seem like they’re just in it for the money, we too are all trying to survive. Please band together and fight with us instead of blaming us for how the system is.

  10. Just wanted to say two things: Wintergirls–a great story, poetic and edgy at the same time.

    And health care–yes, everyone deserves to have access to basic health care!

  11. Re: Insurance rant

    Or a better question: why are drugs being advertised at all? Shouldn’t this be something one’s doctor suggests, rather than a campaign agency?

  12. Total agreement on the health insurance front

    I just wanted to pop in and say THANK YOU for posting this. I also wanted to mention a problem that myself and several of my local friends have….many of us *do* have health insurance through our employers, however even with this insurance we are having to pay several thousand dollars every year for health related costs. For example, I am having to pay 1/4 of my income this year to cover health care costs for a congenital heart problem, as our out-of-pocket copays are *that* high. And we do NOT have an option to pay extra for a more comprehensive plan, this is the only program that’s available for us. My friends report a similar set up at their employers, too.

    I’ve looked into self funded health insurance plans, however no one will take me due to the high costs associated with my sort of heart problems. As long as I remain with this employer I will have to pay at least 1/4 of my income, if not more, every year just for basic coverage. I’m starting to apply around for jobs with different employers NOT because I am dissatisfied with my job, but because I need better health insurance, and that is incredibly sad.

  13. I agree with all of this! The health care situation is ridiculous. I had a full time job with full benefits and STILL paid almost 30% of my salary for health care. I’m fortunate in my new job that they pay for my insurance, but I could barely survive at my old job because of how little I made after insurance. I had only $1485 a month for a full time job teaching high school math! Isn’t that awful? It would have been at least a little closer to a normal salary range without the ridiculous health care prices.

    I can’t even imagine how it would be if I hadn’t been on a group plan. I can’t even get an individual plan because of a blood disorder I had 5 years ago that shouldn’t ever repeat. If I apply for an individual plan, they put me in the “high risk pool” for something that won’t even happen again! It’s ridiculous, and there has to be a change. Not giving someone health insurance because they’ve been sick before is insane. That’s exactly why they need it.

    Your argument about education and electricity is really good. Perhaps congress needs to remember history so that they can learn from it. Or at least not repeat previous mistakes.

  14. Re: Insurance rant

    Direct-to-consumer advertising of drugs was illegal until 1997. Manufacturers advertised to doctors, but they weren’t buying TV ads in prime time. I suppose it’s impossible to put those worms back in the can, but it would be a good idea.


  15. Slightly off-topic, but this does remind me (as mentioned above) of the pro-life movement and how far off-base it has gotten. Working at a Catholic school, we have the opportunity for many of our students to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. in January. But we have made sure to talk with them about all aspects of life. Being pro-life should include an end to abortion, an end to the death penalty, an end to euthanasia, an end to war, and health care coverage for all. It needs to be an end to any institutionalized demeaning of a human life. And the whole health care debate just reminds me that the government will always view us as numbers, not as lives.


  16. Women’s health care, to be specific…

    I saw this video on CNN the other day:


    A rape victim lost her health insurance (that she paid for) because she had to take anti-HIV medication and attend therapy after her rape. She only has coverage now because she’s gone three years without therapy and doesn’t have HIV as a result of her rape. At the end, she mentioned a website I meandered on over to:


    I know your rant was more general with relation to gender, but this website really got me angry about healthcare too. I don’t know how much of it is true and how much is meant to be inflammatory, but it really made me aware of what could happen to me if, God forbid, I get diagnosed with cancer, or if I am a rape victim, or all manner of other things, just because I’m a woman!

  17. health insurance

    I’m with you self-employed sister. A lot of America doesn’t know what it feels like to have a $7,500 deductible–like me and a $5,250 deductible for my husband for which we pay $700. a month. We self-employed in the arts and construction have been in a recession for two years now. Who can fund a HSA? We can’t. And if we were to get depressed about it, there’s zero mental health coverage on individual plans. The brain doesn’t seem to exist for people with these polices. And if you worry, and grind and clench your teeth at night like I do, there isn’t dental coverage that is affordable or helpful. And when you’ve been denied health coverage or you have to choose between your business, or your home,(my husband and I’ve been thru all of this)and you drop your insurance, then you face a death panel each and everyday. Insurance companies operate like cartels. They operate outside of the anti-trust laws. Something has got to give. Too much money (GDP) goes for health care or the lack of it in this country. Technology is supposed to make goods and services cheaper, but not with health care. I think the extreme personalities get all the media time and attention, but I truly believe that there are millions of people out there who feel uncertain about there health care future. I’m still whistling, “you say you want a revolution”, and I’m still waiting.
    BTW, my mom was a nurse and they are the backbone of health care.

  18. Sorry about not winning, but I have voted every chance I could get for Zoe. I plan on buying this book for my neices for Christmas, so keep them coming!!

  19. I am right there with you. I have insurance at my job now (and it’s a great plan) but I’ve only had insurance for the past 3 years. In the years after I graduated until 3 years ago, I couldn’t afford insurance. My job offered it, but my portion of the plan would have cost a third of my paycheck and I couldn’t afford that. My brother and his girlfriend both have jobs but neither can afford insurance. They go to the emergency room when they have to and then scramble to find the funds to pay for that.
    Health insurance shouldn’t be something that only people who can afford it can get. That’s a ridiculous idea and it hurts us all.

  20. Re: Insurance rant

    Every time I see those commercials I get angrier. How much does it cost to air an ad for a depression medication that’s a full 90 seconds long? A very good friend of mine is on that medication and she had to move back in with her parents because she couldn’t afford it and her rent, but it was the only med that made her feel well enough to actually go to work.

  21. I hope you know that not all pro-lifers are like that. I’m pro-life and I totally agree with Laurie’s post. (I don’t identify with the mainstream pro-life movement though, I identify with Nonviolent Choice – you can google it if you’re interested, I don’t want to spam Laurie’s blog with links.) And I see posted a similar comment below, too. 🙂

  22. Oh I’m pro-life myself, but I believe in choice, if that makes sense. I think the Nonviolent Choice thing is something I will definitely be Googling–sounds like my cup of tea.

  23. I tend to think things are structural. The government puts the bones in place with laws, and things grow up around them. And the problems with the health insurance debate are 1.) many people have a lot of investment in the way things have grown to be, and 2.) there’s a strong disconnect between the structure and the populist face of the debate– the surface of the vegetation, in this little metaphor.

    Point being? It’s not sustainable to solve structural problems with populist solutions. This is a statement which applies equally well to the populism of both Right and Left– the clamoring of both Right and Left to “achieve X result, NOW.” (The example of right-wing populism in this vein that comes first to mind is school prayer, by the way, intended to use governmental power to impose a simple surface result on a complex situation.)

    So what should they do? Get rid of the antitrust exemption for insurance companies, for one thing, as they have been talking about. The more insurance companies there are, the cheaper it will all be. Ban TV advertising– by far the most expensive kind– by health-care and pharmaceutical companies. End the entrepreneurial model for most doctors, but in compensation cap medical-malpractice judgments so their medical malpractice insurance premiums are affordable. (Doctors were actually leaving Pennsylvania altogether recently until the legislature acted– that’s how bad the premiums were getting.)

    The bad thing about this approach is that it’s hard to convince people of the truth of the more complex relationships so they’ll support solutions based on them; the good thing is that when your enemies also don’t realize the truth of it they don’t gear up and prevent you. 🙂

  24. When I collected signatures for Obama’s health reform initiative, I was shocked at the number of people who didn’t consider this to be an issue, or weren’t even aware that there was an issue. I assumed that everyone was just as furious as we are. Some of the people I spoke with had relatively inexpensive insurance through their jobs or relatives. Others who didn’t have insurance weren’t particularly bothered. As a community of human beings, we are all responsible for educating ourselves about the dire need for quality, equitable, affordable health insurance in this country. Information like your blog post will help to eliminate ignorance. But supporting this crucial legislation is the responsibility of those chuckleheads who are neglecting the people they represent. The way people are dying from medical issues that could easily be treated with proper health care is inhumane.

    As self-employed workers, I’m wondering why you and BH are not eligible for insurance coverage through the Freelancers Union. My insurance with them is currently about $235 per month. I checked your zip code on their website and it looks like the individual plus spouse plans range from about $300 to $900 per month. If there’s some stupid reason they won’t cover you guys, I will add them to the long list of chuckleheads.

  25. Health Insurance

    First time commenter here all the way from New York City. So I read your rant and I do agree with you. Health coverage is something we should all have and your historical evidence backs up that this is just another hurdle like having running water and electricity for everyone. My only problem with the package is that it’ll cost about 900B US Dollars over the next 10 years to completely overhaul and reform the system. Where is that money coming from number one? And number two, who’ll be paying the bulk of it? These are purely rhetorical. I think we all deserve a universal healthcare system. It works for Canadians and other countries, so why don’t we have this system in place yet. Otherwise, very nice blog. It made me want to actually comment and not just lurk here like I tend to do periodically. Happy Halloween!

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