Talking Turkey and Healthcare

Maybe there won’t be any awkward moments at your house this Thanksgiving. Stores will be open before the table is even set much less cleared. No need to sit around before or after dinner trying to figure out how to avoid getting into difficult discussions. Between shopping and watching football, maybe you won’t need to say much of anything.

However, for those brave souls who aren’t completely afraid of topics that might get folks animated, here’s a tutorial on talking about the new healthcare marketplaces where everyone can buy health insurance. “It’s Time to Have the Talk”

Need information specific to Washington state? The Washington Health Plan Finder website has had glitches (miscalculating subsidies early on, for example), but it works, and people are successfully using it to enroll in new health plans. Practice clicking through it even if you don’t need a new health plan just so you can learn how it works. Then you can help a friend or family member if you find that someone is afraid to try the online system. Of course, people don’t have to apply online. They can contact individual health plans via the website or find brokers or navigators who can assist them. 

You might not be searching for new health insurance for yourself this year, but if you learn more about how the new exchanges or marketplaces are working, you might be able to answer questions or help someone else who really does need insurance and is confused by all the crazy stories that are on the news. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!


Being Wrong: A Book Review

Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz is fun. Right now, I need fun, so even though I read this ages ago, I’m re-reading it. A Washington Post reviewer described Being Wrong as “an erudite, playful … Continue reading


Want to write a book? a poem? a blog?

Many people want to write; some just get on with it and write. Some want to write, but something holds them back. If there’s a hidden writer inside of you, there are a variety of things that might move you … Continue reading

Huge Breakthrough in Skagit Negotiations

My sources close to the headwaters have informed me that the Skagit River has agreed to stop flooding at the beginning of the new water year, October 1. Recent flood watches have reminded officials connected with Skagit County and local cities, the Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle City Light, and Puget Sound Energy of their lack of any agreement on flood plain management or flood control strategies. Remarkably, the River has taken pity on the humans in its valley and unilaterally agreed to stop flooding.

Farmers, residents and business owners have long had a desire for a flood agreement. People have talked about flood control options for over a century, but clearly there is no consensus on which options to implement. Dike districts are each pursuing their own projects that are likely to push more water into neighboring jurisdictions during a flood. In any event, inability to agree about the height of past and future floods makes any agreement about ways to protect against floods impossible.

Watching people constantly try and fail to find agreement on flood control options simply got to be tiresome for the River. In a statement to be released soon, the River reiterates its desire to gather and distribute rainfall, meander at will through its wild and scenic stretches, and provide habitat, power, and water to all creatures in the watershed. “Clearly, the task of agreeing on flood control measures is beyond the ability of human beings, or at least those living in my watershed. So, in order to free myself to attend to natural riverly pursuits without being tied up in constant meetings, I unilaterally agree to stop flooding.”

In a footnote, the River states that it retains the prerogative to tease people by inching ever so close to the tops of levees now and then.

Time to Decide: “e” or “u”?

Defend Obamacare? Or defund Obamacare? Hard to believe that Republicans in Congress are still trying to derail health care reform, but hey. If they don’t succeed this fall, people who haven’t been able to get insurance will start enrolling in health plans through the exchanges, subsidies will go to low income families, people will learn that there really are no death panels, and it will become much, much harder to scare people about the changes. 

Right now, it’s easy to scare people. Only a few provisions of the new law have been implemented to date. The real implementation happens this fall as people explore the new health plans and subsidies beginning October 1. We will learn how much the various bronze, silver, and gold plans will cost, what they will cover, and who will pay more or less for insurance.  

We have paid 100% of our health insurance premiums since 1999. We enjoyed a modest subsidy during our pre-Medicare years by virtue of being lumped into a group that included many younger people. Over the years, our premiums have risen steadily, but much less than they have for some; we will see a tiny increase in 2014. Our out-of-pocket costs have risen dramatically, mostly for prescription drugs. We consider ourselves fortunate because we have always had access to employer-sponsored insurance; we’ve watched as friends have dropped insurance because of huge rate increases.

The articles and commercials that try to scare people about reform don’t talk much about the fact that health plans will no longer be able to refuse to enroll people with pre-existing conditions or cover everything except those conditions that people most need coverage for. It’s that simple fact that necessitates the individual mandate to buy insurance. If you want to keep private health plans rather than switch to a Canadian system or a British system, that’s the trade-off we make. Personally, I don’t know why people love their health insurance companies, but that attachment seems as American as apple pie and baseball. A true mystery to me.

So, are you looking forward to Obamacare, cowering in fear, or taking to the streets in protest?