Repealing The Affordable Care Act (i.e., ObamaCare)

July 19, 2017

Just two short months ago, House members were dancing in the Rose Garden, having been invited by the president to celebrate their huge victory after passing legislation repealing The Affordable Care Act (i.e., ObamaCare), forgetting that in order for their legislation to become law it must also pass the Senate. Low and behold, news broke late Monday evening that the Senate cannot muster the fifty-one votes required to pass their version of a new health care bill.

How is it the Republican Party, who tried repealing ObamaCare nearly seventy times during the Obama presidency, has now failed for the third time in the past six months, despite controlling both Houses of Congress and the presidency? Imagine what Congress could actually accomplish if only they worked on something other than trying to repeal The Affordable Care Act. And yet Republicans are already wasting time trying to devise one more plan to repeal the act. All the while the president’s solution is to “let ObamaCare fail,” resulting in as many as fifty million Americans losing health care benefits. Is this leadership?

I’m no journalist, but if one, I would ask every Republican member of Congress and the president why they are so set in repealing The Affordable Care Act. Why not just fix what is wrong with it? The only rationale for their repeated failed attempts to repeal President Obama’s landmark legislation giving any American who wanted it health insurance is to diminish his legacy.

No other possible explanation has ever been given.

Steven H. Spring
Earth

Veterans Are Dying Left And Right, Or Are They?

April 26, 2017

If one were only to get their information about the Veterans Administration’s treatment of America’s military veterans solely via television, one would think the VA is performing a terrible disservice to those who served this nation, that veterans are dying at an alarming rate due to lack of adequate, or timely treatment. However, relying solely on the VA the past ten years for all my medical issues, I have been treated with the utmost care by the Dayton Medical Center, located in Dayton, Ohio.

A couple of months ago, I had a panic attack episode, however this one was much different from most because I blacked out. Two sisters (they are sisters, though not to me, but are like family) stopped by to help pick out some mats for a picture I was putting together for one of my Navy brothers, as I am colorblind. I was talking to one about the fish in one of my aquariums while logging online to my framing store with the other when the next thing I knew they kept asking if I were alright. I thought they were teasing me, as both like to do, but when I noticed my next door neighbor was standing beside them I knew something was wrong.

The sisters are aware of my panic attacks, but one went for my neighbor because she had not seen me black out before, which I had done, I believe only one other time, that being twenty years ago. After somewhat gaining my senses, I then went into one of my more “typical” panic attacks. I have been experiencing these attacks for the past twenty years due to a very serious mid-life crisis in which I lost everything of importance, including my health. When I lost my job as an audit supervisor with the Auditor of State of Ohio, I was taking 400mg of Zoloft daily, an amount entirely too excessive. Losing my benefits, I was forced to withdrawal cold-turkey from the anti-depressants, which caused several serious side effects that still linger with me to this day.

Ten years ago, I was kicked off of Medicaid because my state retirement, of which I have yet to receive any benefits, now counts as an asset because I can cash it in at any time, and my retirement account puts me over their income eligibility threshold. Thankfully, my four years of duty as a weatherman aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-61) has provided all my medical coverage via the VA. Without this coverage, I do not know where I would be this day.

When I had the blackout episode, I sent an email to my prime care doctor to let him know what happened, as I was not scheduled to see him for another six months. I sent my doctor (whom I consider the best doctor I have ever had) my message on a Friday. The following Monday morning, I received a reply telling me he wants to see me right away.

The next week, I was at the Dayton Medical Center for my appointment, at which time they did an EKG test. Within three months, I had the following tests performed; ZIO Patch (monitoring my heart for two weeks), Echo-cardiogram and a CT scan of my brain. After each test, I met with the appropriate doctors to discuss the results, all of which indicated no problem signs.

I could have had an even shorter time frame to have had all of these procedures and follow-up appointments performed, however I ride with my local Veterans Service Commission as I have no transportation (my truck did not survive my mid-life crisis, it was either my truck or I, and thankfully the truck lost). Riding with the Veterans Service Commission, I always ask for an early afternoon appointment, which does not guarantee the quickest available appointment, so that my fellow riders will not have to wait for me for our long ride home.

Granted, one veteran dying from lack of proper medical treatment is a travesty. However, the VA system is this country’s largest medical system, and as such there are bound to be some problems. My guess is that the VA has become swamped by the enormous number of veterans it treats. In addition to all the aging vets it cares for, as a country currently involved in three wars (Iraq, Afghanistan & Syria), plus another four countries we are bombing on a semi-regular basis (Libya, Pakistan, Somalia & Yemen), the system has become overloaded with vets injured in battle facing serious, life-long injuries.

The Dayton Medical Center and my local Veterans Service Commission have been a life saver for me. I could not be more happier with the medical services they provide. My only complaint is that I wish the VA provided dental service.

Steven H. Spring
Earth

 

Why Do So Many Intelligent People Say So Many Stupid Things?

Why do so many seemly intelligent people say so many stupid things?  Granted, I myself have been known over the years to make both stupid comments and remarks I have later regretted saying, not that I am implying I’m a smart person, however, the latest example of such foolishness occurred in an article that appeared in my local newspaper this past week by New York Times columnist David Brooks.  In his article concerning federal government revenue, spending and the proverbial fiscal cliff near economic disaster, Mr. Brooks stated that the typical American couple pays $109,000 into Medicare yet receive $343,000 in health benefits, thus in his words the hypothetical couple receives “free money.”  Many other commentators have made similar comments in the past regarding Social Security taxes paid versus retirement benefits received as well.

Just looking at the numbers that Mr. Brooks presented, one would tend to think this is why Social Security and Medicare are both nearly bankrupt.  However, two words completely repudiate Brooks and every other commentator who makes similar assertions: compound interest.  Maybe it’s my mathematical background with a degree in accounting from Ohio State University; however ask any homeowner how much they borrowed from a bank to finance their dream house versus how much they actually paid back.  As a general rule of thumb, a homeowner usually pays back three times what they borrowed during the course of a thirty-year mortgage.  If, for example a person borrows $150,000 to buy a home, they would eventually pay back $450,000, if not more during the course of thirty years worth of mortgage payments.  Granted, the term of the loan and interest rate applied greatly affects this example, but this assumption is generally true over thirty years.

The real reason why Social Security and Medicare are both going bankrupt is that Congress has routinely spent all surplus revenue it takes in every year in the form of FICA taxes instead of investing these funds in very conservative investments such as U.S. Treasury bonds.  With the average American working nearly fifty years before reaching retirement age, if the federal government had invested their payroll taxes paid in treasury bonds or similar investments, both Social Security and Medicare would be solvent for decades to come, if not forever.

Compound interest is a great thing if you are on the receiving end of the debt; however, if it is you who are paying it, interest greatly increases what you eventually pay back.  Compound interest earned on FICA taxes paid, if properly invested during the past seventy-seven years that Social Security has been in existence would have eliminated the financial dilemma now facing Congress.

Steven H. Spring

 

 

 

Veterans Day In America

As America celebrates its veterans tomorrow, I find much irony in the fact that this country is so quick to start a war or two but cannot find the necessary funds to provide adequate health care to its wounded military personnel.  Every time I see the commercial of Trace Adkins asking donors to pledge nineteen dollars a month to help provide much needed medical benefits to the wounded warriors project, it make me cringe in anger.  This is a national embarrassment for which our government should be mortified, a dishonor to those men and women who proudly serve this nation and especially a disgrace to those who gave their life or occurred any type of injury in the line of duty to their country.

Coming of age during the height of the Vietnam War, watching Walter Cronkite report the causality statistics each week along with the numerous anti-war protests, I would have thought this nation would never engage in another destructive conflict during my lifetime.  However, it seems that we have been perpetually at war now for the past twenty years, going back to the first Gulf War in the early 1990s.  With an annual defense budget of nearly $900 billion, we spend nearly as much on our military as the rest of the world combined.  When combined with intelligence, we spend nearly $1.5 trillion on defense and intelligence related expenditures every year.  Moreover, this does not include America’s new ultra top-secret intelligence budget.  Since September 11th, our defense budget has nearly doubled, and in addition, our government has since built up such a top-secret network of intelligence agencies that no one knows how much it cost, how many it employs or how many agencies it runs.

We currently have troops stationed in approximately one hundred and fifty countries.  Granted, in many of these countries it might be just a few soldiers guarding our embassies, however, why do we have seventy-five thousand troops stationed in Germany, nearly seventy-five years after World War II ended?  We still have fifty thousand troops stationed along the 38th parallel in Korea, sixty years after that war ended.  It is long past time to bring all our troops home from foreign shores.  It is this rapid buildup of our military over the past decade, along with a seemingly endless procession of military endeavors that is bankrupting this nation.  We are following down the very same destructive financial path that caused the collapse of the former Soviet Union during the 1980s.

The sad aspect of America heavily arming itself is the fact that we are also arming nearly every other country as well.  As U.S. arms sales hit a record high this past year, at more than $66 billion, we sell more than seventy-five percent of the total global arms market, far out-selling second place Russia at a mere $4.8 billion.  We must not forget that many times these very same military weapons come back to haunt us.  Have we forgotten that it was America who armed Osama bin Laden when he was in Afghanistan fighting the former Soviet Union or that we armed Saddam Hussein when Iraq was at war with Iran?

In my writings over the past decade, I often quote President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who in his January 17, 1961 farewell address to the nation, warned the country to beware of the mighty military-industrial complex.  President Eisenhower stated “…we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”  Coming from a five-star general, many who credit for winning World War II, America should have listened.  As a business model, the military-industrial complex remains in business and profitable only via the costly aspects of war.  For every action, there is a reaction.  Heavily arming our entire planet might be great for the American military-industrial complex bottom line, however, in the long run, it greatly impedes world peace.

Steven H. Spring
United States Navy, Aerographer’s Mate 2nd Class, 1975-1979

Health Care Services

While reading the April 26th Columbus (Ohio, USA) Dispatch op-ed column “Sweden weathered a storm, and it’s doing just fine now” by the Washington Post’s Robert J. Samuelson, I was dumbfounded by his comment that Sweden has relied on higher patient co-payments to discourage people from overusing health care services.  So many Swedes were going to the doctor when they weren’t sick was the primary cause of that country’s runaway health care costs?  Really?

I do not know about most people, but as a middle-aged man the only time I go to my doctors are routine bi-annual visits to get refills for my life-saving meds.  I do not know of any person who schedules a doctor’s appointment without just cause.  Granted, health care costs have risen drastically the past several decades but I seriously doubt that the reason is due to people overusing their benefits.  Most likely, the real culprit is runaway health care fees for doctor visits, tests and prescriptions.

A large part of the problem is that it seems most hospitals now days are for-profit.  Another cause centers on the fact that many of the clinics that patients are referred to for various tests are owned by the very doctors that are sending their patients to.  Then there is the pharmaceutical industry, which is the most profitable industry in America.  And remember, President George W. Bush made it a law that the U.S. Department of Human Services cannot bargain with Big Pharma over the price of the meds it buys.

Our television airwaves are saturated with commercials for pharmaceuticals, most of which it seems are for Viagra or some other erectile dysfunction drug.  If anyone is overusing health care services, it is all those old men getting their sex-inducing drugs just so they can have intercourse all night long.  Charging people a higher fee to visit their doctor would result in many people being unable to pay their co-pay for an office visit when they are sick.  Other than an occasional hypochondriac, I seriously doubt that there are large numbers of people who visit their doctor when they have no need to do so.

Steven H. Spring