Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Selling of Obamacare

Stand firm, President Obama—don’t blink. You’re doing the right thing, but since you don’t have to fit negotiating into your busy schedule, this might be a good time to meet with your team, the Democratic National Committee, Democrats in the House and Senate and find out where you went wrong; because, if implementation of The Affordable Care Act was the goal, the Democratic Party dropped the ball and the Tea Party and fellow travelers were not only allowed to pick it up, but to run the field without interference.

For more than 3 years, hard right politicians have run ads, written opeds, given interviews, traveled the country spreading the gospel: Obamacare will not work; Obamacare is bad for you and your family; Obamacare will make your insurance rates go up; Obamacare will cause businesses to close; Obamacare will add to the deficit. In the last year alone, more than 100 million dollars have been spent in the campaign to overthrow the Affordable Care Act. In a Congress that has not passed any meaningful legislation since the current members were elected, representatives have been asked more than 40 times to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act to no avail. The law has been upheld.

In those same three years, the Democrats have been so busy rejoicing at having passed the most comprehensive  health care act since Medicare and Medicaid in 1965,  (and indeed it was worth celebrating) they seem to have forgotten there was a second act: describing the provisions of the bill to the people. This almost 2000 page Act was not easily accessible, either physically or intellectually, even to Members of the House and Senate, no less the average citizen trying to understand what this new historical law was going to mean to him/her. By not synthesizing, simplifying, explaining the new law,  Democrats allowed a huge information vacuum to develop—a void that Republicans were only too willing to fill with all the creative misinformation at their disposal--the health care law will ration care-- it provides for “death panels”-- you won’t be able to keep your own doctor. Republicans know how to “waterboard,” –turn positives to negatives without losing a drop of water. And “waterboard” they did, filling the minds of viewers, readers and audiences with doubt and misunderstanding.

This didn’t have to happen. While the radical right was waging war against Obamacare with the expressed purpose of destroying it before it began, the government, (after all, a law is administered by the government) might have issued a pamphlet similar to the one I receive very year from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; . “Medicare and You,” In this booklet is all the information a 65 or older person needs to understand the coverage provided under the Medicare/Medicaid Act of 1965. There is also a number to call for counseling and assistance, where the phone is manned by functioning human beings..

Workshops, town hall meetings, seminars should have been held in every state of the union instructing people about the actual choices they will have, how the registries will work,  and what coverage they can expect. Gratifying as it was to have millions of people jamming the lines and internet connections on October 1 to learn about the Affordable Health Care Act, wouldn’t it have been better to have millions of people calling to register because they were already informed about how the system would work?

If I am ever again to press the “Donate” button when asked by the Democratic National Committee, they are going to have to show me just where my money’s going—because, from what I’ve seen in the last four years, I’m thinking of asking for a refund.






Monday, January 21, 2013

Violence 101

While the country is apparently as divided over the issue of gun control and any legislation limiting the types of guns that can be sold and/or the oversized magazine clips that have been used in the recent massacre of innocents, even the NRA agrees, if we are to have any chance of identifying and treating those among us who are now, or have potential for becoming,  emotionally unstable, we have to have a much stronger mental health system in our country and particularly in our schools.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic there were 174,000 school psychologists in the U S in 2010, but the ratio of students to psychologists is 457-1,  twice the number recommended by the National Association of School Psychologists. Instead of the 22% increase previously predicted to take place in 2010 through 2020, the budget for mental health professionals has been cut or is in danger of being cut in almost every town and city in the country.

If we had early detection in our schools—grades K-12, teachers trained to better recognize signs of emotional distress among students, and a mechanism in place to keep psychologists or social workers actively involved with the follow up care and treatment, we might not only reduce the possibility of a known mentally disturbed individual committing the horrendous massacre of December 14, but also prevent at least some of the teenage suicides which have been increasing at an alarming rate. A teacher’s recorded observations could lead to uncovering cases of child molestation or abuse and timely intervention or treatment for the victims.

What we need is an emotional report card for every student with the information on it afforded the same importance as his/her academic progress. We need more  resources dedicated to identifying deeply troubled children including those with early and persistent tendencies toward violence.

Wouldn’t we rather have our children remember the important dates in the history of the United States, rather than the gruesome dates of the latest school massacres?