Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Day I went Blind, a few more thoughts.

Yesterday after revisiting my hour of going blind, I thought about it off and on all day. I think one of the reasons I didn’t panic was, even though I was self-employed at the time. I had good insurance. My plan paid 80% of all costs up to 300k. My bill was 80 thousand plus for the 4 days.

How would I felt if I hadn’t any insurance at all? How would I have done if I knew I could have lost my job because I couldn’t get to work? What if I knew I wasn’t getting any pay because I worked for a company without any sick leave policy? How would I felt the day I left the hospital with a 17k bill hanging over my head if I made the median household income of (In Mass) of just over 60k? It would have been a third of my income in that scenario? How would I have paid it?

A few years ago there was a new bankruptcy law passed, typical of congress the hearings heard from the corporate side and not ordinary people who were affected by the laws changes. We heard the same old folderol about; people ducking their bills, running up huge credit card balances and walking away laughing, the picture painted was one of everyday folks taking advantage of American businesses. When the bill passed the credit card companies, the banks got what they wanted and the public was screwed in the deal.

Elizabeth Warren, the Mass Senator, was teaching at Harvard law School at the time. Warren was surprised to find that an objective study of the causes of bankruptcy had never been done. All of the info was from the corporate world. Warren headed up a study that looked at the real world of bankruptcy and found a completely different picture than the one painted during the hearings. One of the things that stood out was 54% of all individual bankruptcies are caused by illness, leading to massive medical bills forcing families to make choices on whether to eat or pay bills. Huge amounts of credit card debt was run up by these families and when the bills were finally looked at in detail, the purchases were for food, gasoline and other necessities of life. When things got worse for these families, they paid car payments, rent and mortgages and utilities on credit. With the new law, the credit card debt wasn’t dischargeable, you may be bankrupt but you still owe Visa and Mastercard.

Bankruptcy in the corporate world is an entirely different story; ask my wife she went through it twice when she flew for US Airways. US Air got pay concessions, a huge piece of the employee’s retirement fund invested back into the company so the executives could “save” the company. When they got through it with the help of the tens of thousands of employees, they re-organized and as soon as they could bankrupted the company again and got rid of pension obligations completely, cut insurance and pay again, closed bases and gave the CEO a big raise and bonus. The pensions are now operated by the feds (that’s you and I, by the way) Jan’s retirement is less than half of what she signed on for and paid into for over20 years.

People in our country are more interested in Dancing with the Stars than the real issues we face.

My hospital bill was 80k for just over 4 days; did I get better care than I would have gotten in Toronto, London, Paris or Oslo? No I didn’t.

We need to pay attention and not be distracted by shiny objects and stupid social issues that lead us away from real solutions. The answer in my mind is to stop chanting USA! USA! USA! and get our representatives to pay attention to what we want and need.

The gun lobby has won on the bodies of dead children, 90% of Americans including a majority of gun owners, republicans and NRA members want tough background checks, we aren’t going to get them. We aren’t going to get them because congress pays attention to lobbyists and business, the game is rigged and we are the losers, but hey USA! USA! USA!


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