Health Insurance Rip-Off Saga Continues

December 31, 2007

By Karen

After my health insurer hit me with an unconscionable 18% rate hike for 2008, I asked my agent to explore alternatives. Going into this, I knew I’d end up with less coverage. My agent believed that staying with the same company and simply switching to one of their lousier plans could be accomplished with minimal hassle.

That sounded good to me. After all, my present policy, which is considered “really good,” might as well be a lousy policy. This insurer denies claims so I never meet my $750 deductible. In addition to collecting their premium, which is reaching mortgage-size proportions, they stick me with the bulk of all my routine healthcare expenses.

We found a plan for about $110 a month less that’s quite up-front about sticking me with the out-of-pocket bills. What’s weird about it is that the dental portion is TRIPLE what I pay now ($27 a month vs. $9). But what the heck, I’d still save $1,320 a year. Where do I sign?

Not so fast! Today I found out I must “go through underwriting” again. Like I just walked in off the street.

Like they don’t already have a file on me dating back to 1992. (They required 10 years of medical history when I first applied in 2002). Like they don’t have a stack of “Explanations of Benefits” denying some payment on every doctor visit I’ve had since.

They want ANOTHER nine-page application. WHY???!!!

It’s one way they keep the cost of insurance sky-high and discourage all but the heartiest (those with the highest genetic tolerance for bullshit paperwork) out of the risk pool. It’s a significant operating expense to pay underwriters to scrutinize a person’s multiple applications for inconsistencies or omissions. The objective is to find some tiny reason to decline coverage altogether or to bump us into higher risk brackets so we’ll continue paying through the nose for less and less insurance.

This fight has just begun. Stay tuned…

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Cats Can’t Bear Trespassers

December 30, 2007

By Adele

We’ve been bragging here lately how fierce cats are with rodents, but how about a housecat who took on a BLACK BEAR – and won? My new American Idol is a feisty, territorial tabby in West Milford, New Jersey, named Jack who doesn’t consider being declawed a handicap.

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This happened back in June 2006 when Jack was 10 years old, but I just heard about it.

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(Photo by neighbor Suzanne Giovanetti. That small orange spot at the bottom of the photo is Jack, all 15 hissing pounds of him.)

It seems this bear was foolhardy enough to wander onto Jack’s turf in the ‘burbs, so Jack did what he had to do. He chased the bear up a tree. When the bear got up enough nerve to climb back down after 10 or 15 minutes, Jack chased him up another tree.

The bear avoided becoming cat chow only after Jack’s owners called Jack inside. Otherwise, it might have become the first bear skeleton ever found in a tree with a terrified look on its skull.

I’m guessing Jack’s house never has mice, either.


New York’s Between a Rat and a Hard Place

December 28, 2007

By Fred

It’s legend that two of my predecessors, Coco and Cleo, both declawed, once tag-teamed a mouse at the kitchen sink. Their kill was so meticulous, the mouse looked like it had died in its sleep.

In 14 years I’ve been on the job here, ably assisted by Yul and Adele, I’m proud to say nothing bigger than a bug has ever infiltrated our happy home.

Rodents know instinctively that anywhere with a cat… or three… is no place to settle down and raise a family.

After Rats Gone Wild in a Greenwich Village KFC/Taco Bell on YouTube highlighted serious vermin issues, deli and bodega owners in New York welcomed cats into their establishments.

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But here’s the rub. Local health codes and state law ban all animals from stores serving human food or beverages. The fines are $300 for a first offense and $2K+ for subsequent offenses.

Which would you rather see, a fastidiously groomed cat sitting on the counter, or rodent footprints and “raisins” on your cheesecake?

Cats make more humane pest controllers than professional exterminators because our methods don’t let our victims have slow, agonizing deaths in inaccessible places where they rot and stink up the joint. We believe nothing says “I love you” more eloquently than the gift of a dead rat at our owners’ feet.

So I hope the bureaucrats in NYC will get real and give the cats a break. They’re hard-working and they need homes. It’s possibly the only front in the war on terror we can win. Thanks to cats, these rat bastards are definitely going down.


Who Needs Stinking Elections? Just Form a New Country!

December 21, 2007

By Fred

I had a WTF moment when I sat on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s face – as Person of the Year on Time magazine’s cover. Apparently, I wasn’t alone, because Time has been swearing it’s no honor, just recognition of his… uh… “influence.”

 

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When George W. Bush looked into Putin’s eyes, he saw his soul. When I look into Putin’s eyes, I’m reminded of the shark Robert Shaw described in Jaws: “…he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes.”

Putin latest scheme to hold onto power is to merge Russia with Belarus so he can be president of a bigger, better country. The only turd in the water bowl is that Belarus already has a ruthless dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, who isn’t about to give up his own job security.

I’m worried that Dick Cheney will hear about this and start telling George, “Let’s invade Mexico and form a ‘new’ country. We could slip some fine print into the Constitution that says Congress can’t run a new country, so they’d be toast and you and I can rule as long as my pacemaker lasts.”

If that doesn’t tempt George, Cheney could add, “We’d be killing three birds with one stone. Once we’re running Mexico, all their illegal immigrants automatically become citizens and an unlimited source of cheap labor. What’s not to love about that?”

It takes a while for Bush to grasp concepts, but once he gets it, he’ll probably say, “Why stop at Mexico? Hell, let’s invade Canada! Our boys could whip those woosies in a week. Then we can say we have universal healthcare to shut up all the crybabies who think they’re too good to go to the emergency room when they get sick. Bring it on! My legacy’s looking better already!”

They’d make Genghis Khan and Atila the Hun proud.


We Need HR 676 Passed Now

December 20, 2007

By Karen

When my health insurance company refused to admit pure greed as the reason my premium’s going up 18% in 2008, I vowed to get even. My first step was to vent my disgust here.

Yesterday, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published my letter to the editor calling for private insurers to be eliminated through a universal single-payer system.

That letter earned me a phone call from Dr. W. Ferguson Reid, a distinguished retired surgeon who was the first African American since Reconstruction to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly. Dr. Reid put me on to Physicians for a National Health Program, which supports HR 676, a bill to establish national health insurance (NHI) that has languished in Congress since February 2005. One of its sponsors is presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

HR 676 would create a Medicare-type program for all Americans that includes health, dental, mental, prescription, and long-term care. It would eliminate private insurers and revamp for-profit healthcare facilities. We would all pay into the system on a sliding scale based on income, but never receive a bill for healthcare services, prescriptions, or medical supplies. Because it would squelch the pure avarice prevalent in today’s system, virtually everyone except insurance and pharmaceutical CEOs and their lobbyists would come out ahead in the long run.

Finally, our healthcare system would measure up to those of every other industrialized nation in the world. Who knows? Over time our life span might even catch up because we’d stop ending up in early graves thanks to unaffordable or denied care.

Unless you work in health insurance, pharmaceuticals, a parasitic side industry that feeds off the bureaucracy, or you generally think mankind should just go to hell, you have no reason NOT to support universal healthcare.

If you agree with me, read up on HR 676 and start spreading the word. Add your name to the petitions of grassroots groups like Healthcare-Now and filmmaker Michael Moore.

Guaranteed Healthcare, a project of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, and patients and community groups around the country, is another source of information.

The next item on my To-Do list is to find out which Virginia politicians are obstructionists, enjoying great free healthcare with my taxes while I pay through the nose for it. I’m going to let them know they won’t get my vote until they pass HR 676.


Giant Rats Aren’t Your Pals

December 18, 2007

By Fred

Just when you think it’s safe to go back into the jungles of Papua, Indonesian New Guinea, you’re greeted by a giant, cuddly rat that lets you pick it up and pet it.

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Well, this cat’s got news for the crazy humans who think this critter makes an interesting science project: There’s no such thing as a friendly rat. Or even an honest rat. This guy is just pretending to like you to win a free ticket off Gilligan’s Island so it can become a pet. Once it’s settled in and getting three squares a day, there’s going to be trouble.

It could even be female and pregnant. Before you can say “Mickey Mouse,” you’ll be up to your neck in 3-pound vermin with tails like broomsticks.

Cats are closely watching this story because it seems that those who didn’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Back in the Middle Ages, somebody probably gave a rat a break, and then Europe got practically wiped out with Black Plague.

Cats came to the rescue then, and we’re ready to do it again if we have to. We’re willing to protect the humans that feed us, brush us, and let us shed all over them. Anyway, it’s high time we reminded rodents who’s still king of the jungle.

All the news stories mention only one giant rat being found, but they never live alone. It’s undoubtedly got friends waiting to make their move. When they do, we’re ready…


The White House Goes to the Dogs

December 16, 2007

By Yul

Those publicity-hungry First Dogs, Barney and Miss Beazley Bush, have struck again. Their “Barney Cam” on the White House’s Web site just premiered another Christmas video. It features the whole Bush clan, touting George’s intention to blow $1 billion of other people’s money on the nation’s national parks over the next decade.

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(White House photo of Miss Beazley and Barney by Shealah Craighead)

I don’t think that’s a bad idea. It’s just that any time Bush hatches a scheme that sounds unselfish, most of the money ends up in his friends’ pockets.

In the video, the dogs even had Tony Blair talking to them, which just goes to show the pathetic lengths some former prime ministers will go to get their faces on camera.

The obsessively reclusive cat India, aka “Willie,” managed to snag a two-second walk-through cameo. In the closing credits, they billed her only as “kitty,” without even a capital “K.” It’s no surprise that Barney Cam’s operators have no idea what her name is, since Laura and the twins carried on like those two dogs are their only pets.

As media personalities, Barney and Miss Beazley look like a pair of sooty dust mops without handles. The most entertaining thing Barney did was run away when Bush called the White House grounds a national park. He was probably scared of being fined for lifting his leg on protected trees.

The dogs want to become junior park rangers when they leave Washington, and they’ve already got khaki jackets to wear on the job.

India’s plans are anybody’s guess.

With two wars dragging on, the economy poised on a banana peel, and Republican skeletons falling out of every closet, it’s no surprise to find out that the White House has gone to the dogs.


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