ACA Probably Not Affordable – But Who Knows?

October 24, 2013

By Karen

I’ve been writing about the ongoing agony of being individually insured by Anthem for years now, so I should follow up with my 2 cents on the debacle called the Affordable Care Act.

I’m not surprised that we couldn’t get a working website after 4 years. Government bureaucrats are good at discussing problems, never solving them.

Virginia’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, is among those who turned his back on any responsibility to help citizens get health insurance in favor of the federal exchange.

I first tried to log on to healthcare.gov Oct. 4 and couldn’t get in. I tried again Oct. 23 and it seemed to work better. I didn’t have to create an account to browse the plans — for all the good that did.

Apparently, the quoted premiums are garbage unless you’re exactly 20 or 50, so I accomplished nothing but to upset myself.

Currently, my Anthem policy has an 80/20 split, a $2,500 annual deductible, and includes dental. I pay $392 a month.

Anthem has been cheerily reminding me that I’m “grandfathered” in and can keep this plan. Since it’s outside the exchange, I suspect that means Anthem can continue to stick it to me good with rate hikes, so they don’t want me defecting to the exchange.

I learned that my 80/20 plan is considered “gold” on the exchange. A silver 70/30 plan without dental runs a 50-year-old roughly what I pay now. So, at 59, I assume my coverage will be considerably higher.

I suspect I’m royally screwed no matter what, but I’ll get my insurance agent to confirm that later in November. Hopefully, by then there will be accurate pricing available SOMEWHERE.

It’s exactly as I’ve predicted. With insurance company profits still a factor, and Republicans offering NO alternative but to go backward, it’s going to take more employers dropping health insurance as a benefit, and more Americans going broke trying to pay for insurance before we get serious about single-payer.

Amazing, I find myself agreeing with Ken “Cuckoo” Cuccinelli, our Republican attorney general who wants McDonnell’s job as governor this year. We both think Kathleen Sebelius needs to go.

Her utter inability on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Oct. 7 to make a clear, compelling case for the ACA, or to give the slightest reassurance it’s going to get better, was shocking.

Lady, you’ve had FOUR YEARS!!

Where was she while the cost of that catastrophic mess of a website TRIPLED and went into the pockets of Canadian software developers? How many hundreds of millions must be squandered to get it right now?

Obama should kick asses and hand out pink slips. Everyone responsible for this disaster deserves to lose their cushy government healthcare and end up on the exchange they couldn’t set up.

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Do Cruise Ships Need Lifeguards?

October 15, 2013

By Karen

Carnival Cruise Line just can’t catch a break but, this time, being Carnival had nothing to do with it.

On Oct. 13, a 6-year-old Florida boy traveling with his parents and 10-year-old brother drowned in the pool of Carnival Victory, on the last day of a 4-day cruise.

The boy’s brother was in the water with him, but it was the DJ working nearby who noticed the child struggling. Another passenger jumped in and pulled the boy out, and a crew member tried to revive him.

Today CBS This Morning had some maritime ambulance-chaser on, railing against cruise lines for not having lifeguards. There’s also some of that in the CNN report.

Carnival responded that this was the first child to drown on one of their ships, and pointed out that most hotels and land-based resorts don’t have lifeguards either.

If you could get your hands on the statistics, you’d probably find that fewer children have died on all cruise ships combined than anywhere else their families might vacation.

Drowning happens fast, and I’ve read that most sink quietly, without screaming and thrashing for attention.

Back when I was 13 or 14, I was walking beside a crowded public pool, a few steps behind my 4-year-old cousin, when she stepped over the edge into 5 feet of water. I immediately jumped in and pulled this struggling bundle from the bottom and heaved her out of the pool.

NOBODY in or out of the pool noticed what I was doing. Had I not seen her go in, my cousin would have drowned.

I feel certain it was the same scene on Victory, but 2 crew members DID try to help.

What I have seen on many cruise ships is that parents abdicate their responsibility for their kids, and don’t even bother to get them into ship-supervised programs where crew is dedicated to watching them. But I’m not saying this boy’s parents were at fault; I don’t know how they were handling childcare.

But you will see kids of all ages roaming ships in packs at all hours, doing disgusting things at the buffet, tying up the elevators, yelling, running, and being a total nuisance, while their parents are nowhere to be found.

I don’t think a lifeguard could have prevented the tragedy on Victory, nor do I think that cruise ships are ever the place for young children. They’re loaded with strangers, they have myriad trip and fall hazards, not to mention the possibility of going overboard.

What I question is the judgment of adults who think bringing young kids on a cruise is ever a good idea. And I fault cruise lines who promote the notion that their ships are amusement parks that happen to float. It gives people the wrong idea.


Would Bourdain Call Frito Pie a Manly Meal?

October 7, 2013

By Karen

My new DVR has changed my TV viewing dramatically, but somehow I always come back to Anthony Bourdain, who still surprises me after all these years.

Last night, I binge-rewatched the first 3 episodes of Parts Unknown Season 2, with Season 1 “Prime Cuts.” After his visit to Israel, I’m still trying to wrap my head around Tony’s claim that he grew up totally without religion.

None of his books have a freaking index, and I’ve been unable to find where I KNOW I read that he was once an altar boy. Tony the innocent little Catholic kid is part of his persona to me, and I know it’s not backstory I dreamed up. I was as surprised to read he was that deep into Catholicism as I was to just learn he’s half-Jewish.

Not that his religion matters either way, but he’s been accused by various drive-by commenters at Cats Working of periodically reinventing himself, and I’m wondering if we’re seeing some of that now.

Google didn’t help, but I did find this one-liner Eater quoted from No Reservations: Naples in 2011…

“I’m not exactly a good Catholic. I do have the paperwork to suggest that I might be.”

Not exactly a good Catholic? Those don’t sound like the words of an atheist, or even an agnostic, as he proudly claims to be now.

Anybody else out there remember anything?

And then he went and ate Frito pie in New Mexico. Ever since, my Bourdain Google alerts have been filled with outrage — even though Tony said the disgusting mess was “delicious.”

The butt-hurt sprang from his snarky voiceover that Frito pies are made with “canned Hormel chili and a Day-Glo orange cheese-like substance.” If you haven’t seen it, here’s the offending scene…

The fallout was immediate and widespread. A blogger for Houston Chron asked if Bourdain is a “mindless cretin” or “culinary fraud.”

Note: Check the comment under that post from Oct. 2. Hmmm… any guesses on who the mysterious Texan-baiting “B” might be?

Frito pie chili is homemade and the cheese real. Bourdain has apologized for intimating otherwise.

I tried to imagine a dish as gross, and came up with a dessert…

  • Take one bag of unopened Oreos and smash it.
  • Slit the bag open down the side.
  • Warm a jar of peanut butter to soften, then put two big scoops onto the broken Oreos.
  • Douse the whole thing liberally in Hershey’s chocolate syrup.
  • Dig in and enjoy!

I recently read Bourdain’s new short story, “The Ten Manliest Meals in America,” in the Summer 2013 edition of Lucky Peach. Yes, I actually shelled out $12 to read 4 pages.

I wouldn’t call it a short story, but an 1,800-word character sketch of an unnamed 65-year-old, twice-divorced New-York-based food writer at a men’s magazine who drinks and ruminates on writing the article that constitutes the story’s title.

Perhaps there’s a nod to Ottavia in the character’s first wife who, he recalls, ordered a T-bone for two, then…

“Polished it off in ten minutes flat, picked the bone up with manicured fingers and gnawed the thing down to a shine. The Serbian waiters masquerading as Italians had clapped admiringly and cried ‘Bravissima!’ She’d never looked so beautiful. He’d never felt so in love.”

And was Tony waxing autobiographical when he wrote…

“His mother had been the strength of the family. He’d loved and been loved by two magnificent women in his time.”

For me, the piece was Bourdain’s vision of his future self had he not met and married Ottavia.

But was it a glimpse into the novel he’s been writing, or discarded pages? Or just a one-off for his buddy, David Chang?

I guess time will tell. But even if it’s a throwaway, I still love his dead-on eye for detail, which shines in his description of the perfect manly meal…

“Chicken wings at a no-name strip club, blacked-out windows, meth-head bouncer, the bar lined with flabby, middle-aged men like him, most of them neutered by diabetes, gout, and high blood pressure, pawing at cold-eyed girls who despised them and their hot-sauce stained fingers.”

BONUS: Tony talked to The Guardian about his family values, with more on his late father than I’ve ever seen anywhere.


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