Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wrapping up the Week, 10/10/09

I've not posted much lately because so much has been the same thing over and over, especially on health care.  But this week was a little different and I'll give brief mention to a few items today.

Being on the East Coast was a bonus on Friday, permitting me before heading to work to watch NASA launch twin rockets into the Moon surface in the search for water.  The experiment was designed to capture and analyze the plume of debris from the rocket impacts.  The debris, once ejected from the moon's dark side and exposed to the sun, will begin to break down into its basic components before vaporizing; any water-ice, hydrocarbon, or organic materials will be exposed to NASA's collection instruments.  It will be several weeks before NASA has all the data coordinated from the many sources collecting it and can state whether or not they found water.

If you've never explored NASA's website, here's a chance to do so.  There is a ton of "neat stuff" for all ages.

Health Care Indignities by CIGNA Just Keep on Coming
Cigna is a major health insurer with some major press issues.  Of course, that's not why I'm writing about them.  I'm writing because they do a terrific job of making the case for health care reform! 

Example 1:  Cigna is still experiencing fallout from a protest over the 2007 death of Nataline Sarkisyan who died needing a liver transplant that Cigna deemed too experimental.  After protests in 2007, Cigna reversed its decision, but Sarkisyan died hours later.  In 2008, Sarkisyan's mother and supporters from the California Nurses Association went to Cigna headquarters to confront the CEO and demand an apology.  Angry protestors were heckled by Cigna employees, with one employee literally "flipping off" (giving the "bird" or middle finger) to them.   Sarkisyan's mother left, feeling defeated and stunned by the employees' actions.  She also did not get to meet with CEO Edward Hanway.  Read the article on Huffington Post or this article on Los Angeles Times

Read more at:

Example 2: Cigna has another battle on its front lawn and this fight is being supported by and its supporters.  Dawn Smith is trying to fight a treatable brain tumor, but with Cigna as her insurer, it's not a battle with the disease that has Dawn in a fight - it's been a 2-year battle with Cigna which won't even tell her why they won't cover her treatment.  Cigna recently reversed its decision and says it will cover treatment, but they won't tell her why they denied it for 2 years or why it will treat her now.

Cigna only reversed its decision after the public spotlight was thrown on it; does this mean everyone has to go public with their medical conditions to get appropriate treatment?

Health Care Reform is Still a Political Game that Ignores What Americans Want
The above are just 2 examples of why our public health care system needs reform.  The large health insurers are the major voice that seems to get the attention of the Senate Finance Committee.  They continue to ignore the huge numbers of Americans who have signed petitions calling for a "public option" in health  care.  And my previous posts on health care tell that story pretty well. 

Current proposals to include the public option but permit states to opt out show that legislators are not listening; they are playing politics as usual.  They want to be able to say they support the public option and voted for it, so voted for this proposal to get the bill passed.  Others will say they didn't support it but voted for it because it will then be up to each state to adopt or not adopt it.  This is how Congress has its cake and eats it too.

On the Local Front...
Here's something I learned about this week.  Last month, a Massachusetts senior received notice that her October Social Security check was going to reduced by almost $200 (for that month only) and then subsequent checks would be reduced by almost $100.

How many of you can afford to have $200 taken from one month's income, and following that it would be reduced by $100/month?  Now answer that question again knowing that your monthly income was only around $1,100 in the first place!

You probably agree with me that this is a lot of money.  Seniors depend on Social Security for rent, food, medical bills, clothing, and more.  Getting a 10% cut like that hurts.  And getting 20% in one month hurts even more.  The senior was advised to ask Social Security about it, who informed her that MassHealth was taking the money out to cover her Medicare premiums.  Interestingly, the senior had received a letter from MassHealth in August stating that MassHealth was paying her Medicare premiums and that she should not have any money taken out of her Social Security check for it!

A phone call to MassHealth confirmed that the August notice was correct, so the senior brought the caseworker's notes on that call back to Social Security.  The person at Social Security again said they were taking out the Medicare premiums, but the senior argued back, showed her the notes from the previous day's conversation, and insisted that the worker check again.  A little further checking, going farther back into her Social Security computer record, showed that MassHealth was correct and Social Security was wrong.

This senior will get her money back and we hope this is resolved.  But it demonstrates how easily an agency can get something wrong, insist on maintaining what is wrong by not taking a look beyond the initial computer screen, and severely affect someone's life.

For anyone who is having this sort of difficulty, and for the advocates who assist them, documenting every phone call, getting the name of the person you speak with (& confirmation # of calls when they're available), and being politely persistent can make a difference.  We all have the right to question decisions that are made like this.  We also have the right to file an appeal.  Be sure to read notices to determine your rights to appeal and follow those instructions carefully and to the letter.  Meet those deadlines, even if you file a very brief appeal and then follow it up more details later.

Obama Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

People have mixed reactions to the news that the Nobel Committee has selected President Obama as the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Peace.  I'm pleased.  I think many people have not given Obama the respect he deserves for what he has accomplished and tried to accomplish in his first year in office.  Some talk as if he's been in office several years and cannot seem to get everyone behind his programs.  Some are seriously trying to derail anything he supports.  The Nobel Committee reflected on what he has done and is doing to stimulate peaceful talks and negotiations between and among several world communities and also what he's doing to try to reduce nuclear arms.

The award is recognition of the immediacy with which he tackled these tough world issues and has tried to lead by example in bringing people together to effect change on such important world issues.

Congratulations, Mr. President, and continue this important work.

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