23 August 2009

I'm outahere.

No, no, I'm not going to stop blogging. I like blogging. But I've moved Blue Wren over to WordPress, so I humbly as you to click over to me there. I made the move because I wanted a little more flexibility regarding the look of the blog, using my own photos for the header, etc. I hope you'll put my new address, www.bluwren.wordpress.com in your favorites and visit soon.

18 August 2009

Showing 'em how to do it

Senator Barney Frank speaks truth to a wingnut.

Finally. I hope the rest of our Congressional Democratic leaders took notes.

16 August 2009


13 August 2009

The right to decide

Right now one of the big “issues” surrounding health insurance reform is that by putting a mandate for coverage of “end-of-life counseling” costs into the bill, we’ll be condemning the sick, the disabled, the injured and the elderly to euthanasia.

This is ridiculous.

I recently had that counseling myself. I had a routine quarterly appointment with my VA rheumatologist a few weeks ago. During the pre-appointment check-up (weight, temperature, blood pressure, “how are you feeling today?” questions), the nurse surprised me by asking, “Have you thought about doing an advance health care directive?”

Caught off guard, I stammered that I had, indeed, thought of it, but hadn’t followed through.

So she explained exactly what it was and went on, saying gently that while this sort of thing is uncomfortable to think about when we’re relatively young and healthy, we never really know what tomorrow might bring. By filling out an AHCD, the nurse explained, I can make it clear how I wish my family and doctors to care for me should I ever become so severely ill or injured that I’m unable to make that decision myself.

This is both sane and sensible. I wouldn’t want to be a living vegetable, kept alive indefinitely by machines, running up horrendous, impossible hospital and doctor bills that would certainly bankrupt and impoverish my family. What a horror! I don’t know anyone who would want that, personally, but I realize that there are some people who feel that as long as there’s life, there’s hope for recovery. I respect their feelings, even if I don’t agree.

The thing is, by having an advance health care directive available, people who do want heroic measures taken to keep them alive can make that perfectly clear, in writing, in the directive. And it’s a binding document.

The AHCD takes that horrible decision out of the hands of my grieving family members and makes it my decision, no matter what.

The VA nurse at my appointment was doing exactly the “end-of-life counseling” that would be covered by every health care insurance plan if the bill passes. All it means is that rather than having to pay for that counseling, the individual would get it for no cost. I don’t know about you, but I think arguing against free counseling is pretty silly.

The VA nurse didn’t force me to do anything. She simply informed me of the potential importance of such a directive, filled out voluntarily by myself. She told me how to get the paperwork through the VA should I wish to go ahead. She also explained that I could change that directive at any time after it was made. I’d simply submit a new one if I changed my mind regarding what sort of care I wanted at the end of my life.

And that was it. Sure, it was a surprise to find myself talking about my inevitable death in such a routine way. None of us really wants to think about that. But I left that appointment knowing more than I had before I walked in. I left with something to think about. And I’ve decided that I will, indeed, fill out that paperwork and take the simple steps necessary to make it legal and binding. Instead of frightening me, the idea gives me a sense of peace, knowing that when the time comes for me to die, I’ll die. That event will be hard enough on my family without bankrupting them by dragging it out indefinitely.

Want to learn more? Click on this link for a good explanation of what an advance health care directive is.

Update: Well, so much for having your health care provider cover "end-of-life counseling."

"... it appears, according to the Wall Street Journal, that the Senate Finance Committee will not be including a provision to reimburse Medicare doctors who provide end-of-life counseling to dying patients in its bill."

Hooray, health care insurance reform opponents. Your malign misinformation and propaganda campaign won one for the Gipper.

10 August 2009

Inspiration in odd places

After zipping down-mountain to take my daughter’s fiancĂ© to the doctor following his shoulder surgery, we stopped at Wal-Mart for a prescription. As we were leaving, we passed an elderly woman with a little dog.

“What a cute dog,” I said.

“I walk him a mile every day,” she beamed. “And I just turned 90!”

“No! Really?”

“Yes!” she laughed. “I stay  real busy. That’s how I do it.”

“Well, happy birthday!” I said. “That’s wonderful!”

A second elderly lady joined us. “I just turned 90, too,”she grinned. They were obviously friends.

“Happy birthday to you, too!”

Now that’s inspiring.

06 August 2009

Why do they want to kill Grandma?

Well, they don't. Proponents of health care insurance reform want your insurance to cover end-of-life counseling. Think "living will." It's so you can decide what you want done if you're terminally ill. Pull the plug, or don't pull the plug? It's up to you.

In addition, the ugliness we've been seeing at town hall meetings about health insurance reform isn't a "grassroots" movement. It's an orchestrated attempt, by big corporations and the Republican party, to keep Americans like you and I uninformed, terrified, and angry. They're manipulating us into acting against our own best interests, gang.

Here -- watch Rachel. She's just about the only one on TV these days telling the truth.

02 August 2009

Put up or shut up

House Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) challenges House Republicans to put up or shut up regarding government run health care, which they vehemently oppose, by introducing legislation to repeal Medicare, here and now:

"In the end, despite Wiener’s “double-dare”, all the Republicans voted no (how often do you see a unanimous “no” vote?), thus proving on the 44th anniversary of the signing of the Medicare Act that nobody’s going to mess with Medicare anytime soon."
--Matt Yglesias


01 August 2009

It’s personal

Health care reform, with a single payer system like that in Great Britain and Canada – or at least, a public option for health care that’s affordable for all Americans regardless of income – is vital.

Fifty million Americans are without medical insurance in this country. Many millions more are a mere paycheck or layoff away from losing their health insurance. Individual insurance is so inordinately expensive that many people simply can’t afford to buy it. Many of those who can are denied because of pre-existing conditions.

This really has got to change.

As some of you already know, I’ve had rheumatoid arthritis since I was 28 years old. For almost 15 years I suffered frequent, painful flare-ups of the disease that often rendered me temporarily disabled. One day it would be my hands; the next an ankle; the one after that a hip. I even had it in my jaw. Each flare lasted anywhere from 24 hours to five days. Sometimes there would be a brief reprieve between flares; more often there was no reprieve at all.

For a great portion of that time I was under the care of an internal medicine doctor – the nearest rheumatologist was a four-hour drive away. We tried just about everything available to the Army medical system at the time – NSAIDs, injected gold, malarial drugs, aspirin and Tylenol. None of them had any effect at all on the RA, though a lot of them came with bad side-effects. To ease the pain when the flares were unbearable, I was given opiate painkillers in limited amounts. I was even hospitalized once. Eventually, no longer believing that modern medicine could do anything to help me, and fearful of adverse side-effects, I stopped taking any RA drugs – except the opiate painkillers, which were the only ones that worked even a little. They had no effect on the disease, but at least they muffled the pain.

Eventually the RA flares became less frequent. Then they stopped. I was normal again. I could walk without limping and gimping. I could use my arms freely, twist caps off jars and open doors without first steeling myself against the inevitable pain. And oh, I was glad. The RA was in “remission.” I went backpacking, fishing and camping. I hiked. I lived without wondering each morning when I got up which of my joints would plague me that day. And after a while, I started forgetting how it had been.

But rheumatoid arthritis is incurable. For its own mysterious reasons, it sometimes does go into remission, often for many years. It’s a disease of the autoimmune system – the body actually turns against itself, attacking the synovial fluid between the joints and causing inflammation and pain. And it attacks different individuals in different ways. One person might have it for years and years with only minor pain and little or no disability. Another will contract it and be wheelchair-bound, unable to walk, within a couple of years. Some people end up with twisted, gnarled wrists, hands and fingers. RA can also attack the body’s internal organs, like the lungs, the heart, or the vascular system. It can cause blindness.

I lived flare-free for almost ten more years. Then, in 2007, my hands started flaring again.

I was unemployed. I couldn’t afford individual health insurance. Fortunately, I’m a veteran, and although I had to wait nearly a year before I was destitute enough to qualify, I was able to get medical care through the Veterans Administration.

Today I’m being treated for RA by a VA rheumatologist. I’m back on RA meds. I’ve been lucky so far – while my hands ache and twinge nearly every day, they’ve not got so bad I couldn’t use them. Not yet. And so far, beyond a few, thankfully transient twinges here and there, no other joints have been affected.

There are new drugs available now that weren’t the first time I went through a period of “active” RA. The ones I’m taking can slow the progression of the disease, which at least buys me some time. But there is still no cure. It means that I’ll be taking these drugs under the care of rheumatologist for the rest of my life. In time I may, even with the drugs, become permanently disabled because of it.

I have a dear friend who’s been very ill for some years now, plagued by a cascading series of serious ailments, from diabetes to uterine cancer. She’s survived, but she’s bed-bound, no longer able to walk. Her days are spent fighting over the phone with employees of the health insurance company that continues to cover her only reluctantly and which frequently denies care ordered by her doctors. She’s constantly having to appeal the insurance company’s decisions; the appeals take weeks and months, and her condition worsens before resolution can be achieved. She lives in mortal fear of being dropped from their insurance roles – and she is covered by her husband’s medical insurance. He’s a doctor.

In today’s society, with so many pre-existing conditions, my friend could never find new insurance, even for the highest of premiums. Her care has depleted their life savings already; they couldn’t afford individual care for her now, anyway.

And here’s the worst of it. If her insurance company drops her, without affordable care she’ll probably die within a year.

We need to reform health care in this country. Not just for me and my friend, but for the millions of Americans who face potential devastation or catastrophe simply because they fall ill. Please write or call your Congressperson and tell them that Americans must have a public option for health care. That without it, we condemn millions of our fellow citizens to bankruptcy, poverty, untreated illness and even death.

It’s that important.

Note: Jonathan Alter of Newsweek asks "What's Not to Like?" about America's health care status quo. Do read.

h/t: Lance

Mr. Potter gets a clue

Surfing the ‘net over coffee this morning as per my usual habit, I clicked on a link posted by Duncan Black of Eschaton for a Bill Moyers’ Journal video.

I didn’t watch the video, but instead read the transcript, which is conveniently placed directly below the video. And as I read, my blood began to boil.

Moyers was interviewing Wendell Potter, who until he retired recently, was the head of corporate communications for CIGNA, the gigantic health care insurer. Potter, during the course of the interview, proceeded to blow the top off what’s behind the current opposition to health care reform in both American political parties.

We all know that health insurance companies are in the business for profit. What we may not know (or perhaps would rather not believe) is that they’re in the business for profit even if it means bankrupting us with catastrophic health care bills, denying us coverage for vital treatments and care, or even dropping us and allowing us to die. Their bottom line is profit. If you or I get too sick, despite faithfully paying premiums year after year, then to hell with us. Will we die without treatment? Who cares? That’s our problem if we start costing our health insurance provider more than they want to pay. If we start cutting into their profit margin, we’re dead weight.

This didn’t come as huge surprise to me. What did was Potter’s candor. Apparently he’s afraid of going to hell if he continues to sit by, complicit, while the health insurance company he worked for and all the others profit from American illnesses and death. Potter, on a whim, visited a health care expo in Wise, Virginia. There he saw hundreds of uninsured Americans lined up to see doctors who’d volunteered their time and expertise in an attempt to bring some sort of health care to those who couldn’t afford it. Potter was stunned. He went back to his job shaken and unsure about what he and his company were doing to those who relied on them for, in many cases, their very lives.

“And it was hard to just figure out. How do I step away from this? What do I do? And this was one of those things that made me decide, "Okay, I can't do this. I can't keep-- I can't." One of the books I read as I was trying to make up my mind here was President Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage."

And in the forward, Robert Kennedy said that one of the president's, one of his favorite quotes was a Dante quote that, "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of moral crisis, maintain a neutrality." And when I read that, I said, "Oh, jeez, I-- you know. I'm headed for that hottest place in hell, unless I say something."

Mr. Potter finally got a clue. He testified before Congress in support of a public option that will allow all Americans to get quality health care, regardless of income or health, and in support of health care reform.

Most of us know of someone who’s had medical procedures or medications denied because their health care provider refuses to pay for it, even with a co-pay. Some of us know people who've had their provider drop them entirely. And some of us know people who cannot get health care insurance at all –or who face huge monthly premiums that are beyond their means – because they’re already sick. It would cost the provider way too much to help them, improve their quality of life or even save their lives.

This is a horror.

It is vital that health care reform includes, at the very least, a public option. Please watch the Moyers video or read the transcript. Then call or write your representatives in Congress and tell them to make fair, affordable, quality health care available to all Americans, not just to those who can afford to feed the profits of the health care industry while praying that they never, ever get really sick.

22 July 2009

100 Words – Day 11: Nightfall

Sun’s down. Stars prickle the blueblack sky. There is no city light here to dim the view of sparkling red Mars, low on the horizon. The air is soft, a caress of fleeting coolness in harsh mid-summer. A cricket chirrups in chorus with the tree frogs. The robins have gone to sleep in spite of the crazy hilarity of one or 12 coyotes downhill, a cacophony of laughter rippling the still night air like whale songs in deep water. The fan whirls while the dog sighs, sleepy at the foot of the bed. The cat rumbles, snug against my hip.