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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Gettysburg Address, Your Personal Priorities and Sid's Venture into Entomology

This week marked the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.  Never in our history has so much been said in so few words.  Read it over a few times and try to relate it to the United States in 2013.  Its ideas are ageless.
Jack Lippman

Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg
Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

The only known photograph of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. 

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 

Sid's Corner

CIRCLE OF LIFE            

Sid Bolotin

The worm-like creature inched slowly along the branch of the bush until it reached the green leaves. It settled down and began to munch.

Looking around it could see others of its kind doing the same. Hundreds had invaded the bush and were busily devouring the greenery.

Suddenly his neighbor disappeared into the maw of a lizard whose sticky tongue had flashed outward, stuck to the creature, and snapped it back into the lizard’s mouth.

In the next instant another neighbor was swallowed up by a sparrow that had swooped down from a tree. In short order there was a feeding frenzy as more birds and lizards collected around the bush for the feast.

After slaking their hunger the predators departed, and the creature was one of the few survivors that continued their instinctive chomping on the leaves. This was part of their innate life cycle that had begun from their beginnings as tiny eggs some days earlier.

As more time passed, a foreboding enveloped the creature…a sense that its life was coming to an end. Its companions were fewer and fewer, and a dread of its own demise darkened its days.

Then one day it received a signal from within its very nature that it was time for it to join the rest of its kind. As much as it tried to resist this calling, it could not prevent what must be. It began its preparation for what it knew to be its own demise.

As it reluctantly completed the final wrapping of itself in its self-made shroud, and quietly waited for the finality of its life, it sensed a curious question. What is a butterfly? 



Where does health care stand in your personal hierarchy of priorities?  If you are of Medicare age, or perhaps within a decade or so of that point in your life, it probably is pretty high.  Those are the ages where cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, strokes, cancer and expensive orthopedic procedures start to creep up on you.  And that is why you carry health insurance.  Not doing so puts you in jeopardy of losing everything you own since medical bills, especially for the uninsured, often hit  five and six figure numbers for these impairments. 

But if you are younger, and juggling priorities which may include rent or mortgage payments, grocery bills, saving for retirement, and college fund planning for your children among other things, health care planning may “temporarily” take a back seat.  You may be reluctant to put it back there but it might appear reasonable to do so because of the generally good health younger people enjoy.  If your employer provides a health insurance plan, the problem is solved (although not necessarily for your whole family), but these days, it seems no job is a permanent career position, and who knows what health plan your next job will offer, if any, and therefore, employer-based benefits are no longer a given.

When younger people give health care funding that lower priority, they are gambling.  Young people can have accidents and they do get sick.  Sometimes they get seriously and expensively sick. Not so often as older people get sick, but youth does not guarantee immunity from disease.  For those who lose this gamble and their families, it can be financially disastrous.  Medical costs are the leading cause of personal bankruptcies in this country.

The real cost of health insurance, whether it is from a single payer (the government) plan such as Medicare or from a group or individual insurance policy, is prohibitive at older ages, when frequent visits to doctors becomes the rule rather than the exception.  The cost of a terminal illness is usually very, very high.  If the premium to purchase such insurance, via taxes or otherwise, were to be entirely age-based, older people just could not afford it.

That’s why everyone on Medicare pays essentially the same premium, although there are some adjustments based not on age, but on income.  And that is why private insurance company plans for those too young for Medicare cannot be entirely based on age either.  Those in their fifties would find it very, very expensive if those in their thirties were not paying  an artificially higher premium for their insurance.  The younger participants subsidize the older ones, but eventually, they become older and then end up being subsidized, paying less than the real cost of coverage at that point.  That's the way it is with the Affordable Care Act too.

But the key is to make sure the younger risks participate in any insurance program, be it a private plan or one found through the ACA.  They cannot walk away from it. That is why the Affordable Care Act includes a “mandate” requiring that everyone below Medicare age participate in it.  If they do not, they have to pay a “tax,” as approved by the Supreme Court.  Without such pressure, the entire program would not be adequately funded.  

Let's get something straight.  Liberal Democrats have always wanted a single payer plan for everyone, as we have with traditional Medicare.  Other Democrats have wanted regulated private insurance company plans, as we have with the the Affordable Care Act, but supplemented by a "public" (government as the payer) option as well.  Republicans have always wanted a health plan for everyone using private insurance companies exclusively, but with coverage mandated for everyone.  That's what the Democrats have given us in the Affordable Care Act, basically the Republican plan.  This leaves the G.O.P. with no alternative but to complain and obstruct what would have been their alternative plan if the more liberal Democratic single payer or public option ideas had prevailed. Each day the G.O.P. and its mouthpieces on Fox News reach new heights of hypocrisy.

Plans meeting ACA minimum standards provide families with real coverage
This country spends more on health care today, including Medicare, than it will spend once the Affordable Care Act is fully operational.  And then, over 30,000,000 presently uninsured Americans will have health coverage! The ACA will, in the final analysis, ultimately lower the nation’s total health care costs because of its built-in cost control measures and a healthier population, where everyone has health care, with its stress on preventative care catching many serious health problems in their earliest stages.

(But returning to the ideas I dwelt on two postings ago, if the Affordable Care Act is to succeed in enrolling millions of people, a much greater emphasis should have been put on non-internet pathways to enrollment.  Purchasing health insurance "on line" is a pipe dream the "techies" have sold the government.  Just as you have purchased your life, automobile, homeowners or rental insurance from a person, over a desk or table, so MUST it be with the ACA Mr. President: When was the last time you purchased insurance of any kind exclusively through a web site?)

The only really "sincere" opposition to this program comes from those in and out of government dedicated to reducing all government spending so that additional tax revenues will not be needed.  It cannot be denied that the Affordable Care Act may involve some tax increases, primarily on the very wealthy in the highest tax brackets.     
That is the crux of any and all opposition to it. 

So the anti-Obamacare furor you hear these days isn’t about health care or health insurance.  It isn’t about Americans losing their liberty or freedom of choice. It’s all about perpetuating the tax-protected status of the wealthy.  Check that out with Grover Norquist or Jim DeMint.  They know.


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Jack Lippman

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