Friday, May 16, 2014

Obamacare... again

As I understood it, the Republicans were afraid that once Obamacare really got going, there would be no turning back.  Well, it has taken hold.  Clearly there have been problems and there are some folk, a small percentage in my understanding, who were truly impacted in a negative way by the program.  One might even argue that it was not the best solution for the problems or that some of the biggest problems in our healthcare system were not even addressed as directly as they could have been. 

Still, the ACA accomplished a number of things that I believe we as a nation needed to accomplish.  It removed pre-existing conditions as a barrier to getting health insurance.  It expanded the pool on which rates are based to include the entire community rather than a small slice or individual family.  It removed the lifetime cap that insurance would be responsible to cover.  It made insurance available and affordable to everyone (except in those states which have refused to expand Medicaid and continue to exclude the poorest folk from health insurance) and procvided health insurance to millions who did not have it before.  And it standardized what an insurance policy must cover.

My family were serious beneficiaries of the ACA.  For a whole variety of reasons my medical insurance, which was paid by my church, was insanely expensive.  It was one of the largest line items in the church budget and was getting to the point that it was becoming unaffordable.  A pre-existing condition made it impossible to get any other coverage at any price.  Under the ACA, the church was  able to get another policy with roughly the same coverage and save some $15K a year.  My 25 year old son, working at a just above minimum wage job,  had not had insurance for 4 years.  He has it again.  My daughter, son-in-law, and grandson were on an absolutely unaffordable COBRA plan after Christian lost his job, 2 months before the baby was expected.  They couldn't get any other plan because of a pre-existing condition - pregnancy.  To make things even more complicated, the company he had worked for changed their insurance 1 month before he lost his job.  Simply put, the ACA saved their butts and things would have been even better had it been available 6 months earlier.  I can tell multiple other stories of church members, friends, and acquaintances who were saved by the ACA.  I can also tell stories of folk who suffered significantly and some who even died because of lack of insurance. 

Of course there are the two big complaints... that everyone must purchase insurance and that some folk are having to purchase insurance for things they either will not use or even have some moral objection to using.  The entire system falls apart without those two criteria though... so it becomes a choice between the keeping the positives or disposing of the negatives.  As a country, I cannot see how we can morally even consider the latter.  Indeed, that will kill people.  I guess there are a small number of folk who actually do believe that poor people do not deserve health insurance and that the current system of going to the emergency room when things are dire is enough for them.  I don't think that viewpoint is even worth discussing it is so immoral.

Here's the surprise.  Over the past few weeks I've seen advertisements for two local politicians running for the House and promising to work to repeal Obamacare.  Invariably, they always back-pedal when asked and say they only want to repeal the mandate and the government requirements for what an insurance policy will cover... but given the current system, that literally cannot work.  Those two features cannot be removed without causing the rest to be unworkable. What they are really saying is that the poor need to be kicked off Medicaid, those with pre-existing conditions are on their own, and that any company can decide what it will or will not pay for via insurance for any reason they want and that if that happens to be the way you get your health insurance... too bad for you.  And we cannot forget that in '09 a study showed that 45,000 people died annually in the US due to lack of insurance.  I cannot imagine how anyone can think that is a good idea to repeal the ACA and I cannot imagine how anyone with a conscience would ever vote for a representative with that as a significant part of their agenda.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Red, red wine...

The first wine club that we joined after moving to Santa Barbara county was Beckmen Winery.  They make some very nice Rhone varietals and have even had one of their grenaches chosen as a wine for a white house dinner.   We discontinued our wine club membership a few years ago - not because the wines aren't wonderful but because there are so many wonderful wineries here in the Santa Ynez Valley.  We still have a number of their wines in our "cellar."  They produce some wonderful syrahs and grenaches in their biodynamic vineyards.  They do grow some white varietals and a few other reds as well but are known for the Rhone reds.   If you're ever in the Santa Ynez Valley, their tasting room is well worth a visit.

Tonight for Mother's Day, I made a nice dinner for Cheryl - filet mignon and zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, and Romano cheese.  For desert I made cannoli (I purchased the shells and made the filling). We opened a bottle of 2005 Beckmen Purisima, their flagship wine which is a blend of grenache and syrah from their best grapes, and is only made in the best of vintages.  What a wonderful wine!  It reminded me why we joined their wine club.  We have another '05, two '07s, and 2 '08s.  I expect that each bottle will be wonderful too. 

Neither of our children were with us for dinner as both have partners and they needed to be with their families.  They were all in church this morning though - Alexis, her husband Christian and my favorite person in the whole world, my grandson Corwin, and John and Monique (who is due in September with my second grandchild - a girl who will also be my favorite person in the whole world).  I'm concerned about the future, especially for John, Monique, and Khloe, but I am feeling so blessed to see my family and to know everything we share.  More than anything I am thankful for Cheryl, for all that she does for her children, and most of all just for who she is.  The Purisima is an expensive bottle of wine (at least for us) but it was more than worth it to drink it in celebration of Cheryl and the family she has birthed.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

SCOTUS Got It Wrong (again)

It's no suprise that I'm not a fan of the current SCOTUS.  Indeed, I think they've made one bad decision after another.  As a Baptist, their latest one really irked me.  The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty had filed a friend of the court brief opposing the town of Greece, NY's practice of beginning municipal meetings with prayer, almost exclusively with Christian content. 

I have to admit that I'm more than a little surprised at the support the ruling has received from many right of center Christians.  Justice Kennedy in his opinion repeatedly refers to the prayers as "ceremonial." As a person of faith, my prayers are never ceremonial.  To make them such is to denigrate them and lessen their importance.  On the other hand, to allow me to pray as I truly believe and to give that prayer the place I believe it deserves must by definition offend the conscience of some people.  Also, as a Baptist who believes in Soul Liberty, I believe it is never the place of government to endorse any particular religious belief whether I believe it or not.  All this ruling does is domesticate real faith and force it into the service of civil religion.  For what it is worth, I do not believe that the meetings of Congress should begin with a prayer either.

Back in '07 a Hindu priest, Rajan Zed, offered a prayer in the Senate and this is what happened...

I have to say that I found Zed's prayer less offensive than the prayers shouted by the protestors but I do agree that he should not have been praying publicly.  Of course, they should not either.  And that leads to the second point.  The government cannot stop them or me from praying silently any time or any place we choose including government buildings or meetings.  Those prayers that I have spoken silently at city council meetings were real prayers about real issues and not merely ceremonial ones.