Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Friday, July 31, 2009

What’s Behind the Push for National Health Care?

Representative Michelle Bachman (R-MN) exposes the agenda of President Obama and his advisors. Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel, Health Policy Advisor to the Administration, admits the need to ration care for the elderly and disabled. Is this what you want for your parents? Your family? Yourself?

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Caring for Our Parents: Inspiring Stories of Families Seeking new Solutions to America’s Most Urgent Health Crisis – Part 2

Gleckmen says that the challenges facing Boomers are even worse than for today’s elderly. Boomers’ futures will be defined by three factors:
1) the vast number of those born between 1946 and 1964,
2) their rapidly increasingly life expectancy, and
3) profound changes in the nature of families.

Let’s look at that latter point. He says that we Boomers will begin to need assistance in a nation where half of women are unmarried, a third of children are born out of wedlock, and millions of adult children live far from their parents. In such a society, who will meet the unprecedented demand for the informal unpaid care that has been the bedrock of our long-term-care system? And if that free assistance is not available, who will pay for the care of these Boomers?

Gleckman says that Boomers have made more money than other generation in history, but have spent nearly all of it. Largely abandoned by the traditional pension system that supported their parents, yet unwilling to save for their own old age, the postwar generation will simply not have the economic resources to pay for both healthy retirement and ever more costly long-term care. This in the midst of an economy that is growing more slowly than before. As Boomers retire there will be fewer people to replace us, so the total number of Americans working will barely increase.

By 2030, more than 71 million Americans will be sixty-five-plus—almost twice as many as today. By mid-century, nearly 90 million (one in five) will reach that age. And the old-old will be the nation’s fastest growing age group. Today fewer than 6 million Americans are 85-plus, but by mid-century, 21 million will reach that age. As many will be 85 in 2050 as were 65 in 1930. Statistically, 85 will be the new 65. As a result more than 20 million seniors will need some long-term care by 2050, twice as many as in 2000. Six million of them will suffer severe disabilities. And, to add injury to insult, family caregivers will be older. Many 70-year olds will be caring for 95-year-old parents.

More than 14 percent of the postwar generation is divorced and almost that many never married. Therefore, more than one in four are heading into their sixties with no spouse to assist them in their old age. It’s also less likely that our kids will be there for us, partially because we have had fewer children. The typical Boomer mom averaged fewer than two children, compared with nearly three for her mom. And 40 percent of children born in 2007 were delivered to unwed mothers. What are the chances that, as adults, they will care for fathers or grandfathers they barely know? And even if these adult children have the inclination to help, will they be able to? Today nearly two-thirds of our children have jobs outside of the home and experts expect the number of working women to continue to grow. For them, caring for parents will be an even greater financial burden than it is for us today. Yet by mid-century, the elderly and disabled will need at least twice as many direct-care workers as they have today.

As much as I enjoyed this book, I was left with a profound sense of “now what?” Gleckman effectively points out the problems. He offers few solutions. Probably because there are few. If anything, this book points out the need for outstanding research and many small pilot programs before we attempt to change the entire American health care system in one fell swoop. We also need a good chunk of Reagan patriotism and responsibility. The naked truth is that government will not be able to solve this problem. It will take individuals, families, communities, and churches to assume more responsibility and demand less nanny care. Can we do it? Will we?

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Caring for Our Parents: Inspiring Stories of Families Seeking new Solutions to America’s Most Urgent Health Crisis – Part 1

Howard Gleckman has written a captivating book that will challenge, inspire, and disappoint those of us caring for our aging parents, especially those of us who are Boomers. The book is readable and enjoyable, while at the same time providing lots of statistics and data in a very readable form.

The first half of the book tells compelling stories of how a variety of families are coping with eldercare needs using nursing homes, home care, family care, hospice, adult day care, and other solutions. He discusses the financial and practical challenges they face, including compromises that are forced by government rules and reimbursement. The thing that struck me the most in these chapters is the incredible lack of creativity and flexibility in all government reimbursement systems. Despite personal preference or financial common sense, the government has rules and people without personal resources are stuck. It’s a perfect reminder of what we’ll face if the government takes over even more of our care. The stories also point out what most of us doing eldercare already know: the ideas of the Boomers are not necessarily the ideas or preferences of the elder generation. What makes sense to me isn’t how my mom wants to live out her life. It’s not just me….

The second half of the book is chock full of statistics. Gleckman’s data is well documented in endnotes, but his style is conversational, even when discussing complex information, so even if you don’t like numbers, you’ll appreciate his interpretations. The net effect of these data was to make me realize how very serious our eldercare problems are and are becoming. And there really isn’t an answer. As an example, he notes:

“In 2005, America spent more than $200 billion for nursing home care, and other long term-care services. About half of that, or more than $100 billion was paid by the government, through our tax dollars. Most of the rest was financed by individual families, out of their own pockets. A small amount – less than ten cents out of every dollar – was covered by private insurance…. How much is $200 billion? Nearly $2,000 for every household in the nation.”

But the needs aren’t evenly distributed. “Three out of ten seniors will never require [eldercare]… “…two out of every three will need some period of personal assistance in their old age. About 17 percent will require help for a year or less, and many of them will get by with relatively little aid from family members or friends. However, more than half will need care for at least a year, and one our of every five will need help for five years or longer. Women are far more likely to need long-term care than men and the odds are nearly twice as high that they’ll need it for five years or more.”

Researchers estimated that 42 percent of sixty-five-year-olds will have no long-term care costs before they die and about 20 percent will have less than $10,000. However, about one out of every six will generate costs in excess of $100,000 and about one in twenty will incur expenses of more than $250,000.”

The cost of a nursing homes averages “$78,000 a year and home health agencies charge close to $20 an hour for aides.”

“Fewer than 7 million people have private long-term-care insurance…. Americans seem unable—or unwilling—to build up a financial reserve for their old age… Before the real estate and stock market collapses of 2008, the median net worth of all those over sixty-five, including their home, was somewhere between $110,000 and $150,000.”

He evaluates Medicare, Medicaid, pensions, retirement, long term care insurance, reverse mortgages and concludes – sadly – that there really are few good answers for today’s elderly. And the challenges are even worse for Boomers, whose future will be defined by three factors:
1) the vast number of those born between 1946 and 1964,
2) their rapidly increasingly life expectancy, and
3) profound changes in the nature of families.

Tomorrow we’ll look at his assessment of the Baby Boomer generation.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thankful for American Health Care

A beam scale with a dollar sign on one side and a medical symbol on the other side

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been repeatedly appreciated the medical care system we enjoy in America. My husband has not been feeling well for a long time and finally a couple of weeks ago, went to his doctor. Meanwhile, I drove over to Mom’s and managed her medical appointments, including a minor surgery. I realized how much I rely on Hubby to drive. Having to do both the drive and the medical care, I came home utterly exhausted and didn’t recover for nearly a week.

While I was gone, Hubby had a stomach CT – the day after it was prescribed. The stomach was clear, but they caught the lower portion of his lung and saw a nodule. His doctor ordered a chest CT, which he had the next day and which showed the nodule more clearly. We called my pulmonologist and she ordered a PET scan and a lung biopsy. He had the PET scan the next day, which showed the lung nodule and a thyroid nodule. He could have had the lung biopsy the following day, except that they forgot to tell him to stop taking aspirin. He had that a couple of days later and a thyroid scan the following day. So within a week, he had all the diagnostic tests he needed. It was amazing. What we learned was that the nodules seem to be benign, although at least the one on the lung will probably need to be removed due to its size.

The thing that struck me in all of this was how worried we were, even having to wait from Wednesday until Monday for the biopsy and even knowing that he was having literally a test a day. Within one week, he had all of the diagnostic tests needed to let us rest a bit easier. I was reminded over and over of how in Canada, England, and other countries with socialized medicine, people wait months to get even one diagnostic test. I don’t know how they live with the suspense. Certainly it has to exacerbate the patient’s medical condition, making it more difficult and expensive to treat, and adding stress illnesses to family members. It also has to affect productivity of both the patient and family members. We were pretty useless until we knew that it wasn’t malignant. I can’t imagine why our lawmakers think socializing our medical care can be a good thing.

I ran across this video yesterday. I think it speaks for itself. It’s long, but well worth the time. Watch it, and then make your voice heard in Washington. Congress is considering health care “reform” already and hope to pass it by the end of August--another huge, unaffordable bill that most legislators won’t read before voting. If you care about health care for your parents, yourself, and your family, you need to make your opinions heard now. Yes, we need health care reform, but imposing CanadaCare isn’t the answer!

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

For Boomers, Recession is Redefining Retirement

A USA Today article sums up the current situation for many Boomers, especially GenSandwichers. In my last post, I lamented my opinions of the current conditions we are facing. Today I heard of another friend –a high level exec – who faces either a lay off or wage cut this month. The retirements many of us had planned for, hoped for, seem to be fading each day.

If you’re a Boomer, what stresses are you facing and are you doing to cope? Lets share our struggles and ideas.

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Remember, It’s Independence Day!

I want to wish all of my readers a very blessed Independence Day and use this opportunity to write a post I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I hope you’ll bear with me as I rant. And forgive the length of this post. You’ll see that I feel rather strongly…

It seems that lately I’ve been just plain mad. All the time. Everywhere I turn, I see our country and our way of life being upended. While I’m not a fan of the present administration, this isn’t necessarily partisan. Rumblings started even while President Bush was in office. Some of that, I’m convinced, was anticipation of doom once the two presidential candidates were determined. Some of it was linked to Congressional incumbents who seem to have lifetime appointments no matter what they do. Nonetheless, we’ve been hit, and hit hard. I’m sure many of you have been as well.

My husband and I have worked hard all our lives. Before marriage, after marriage. We’ve lived most of our 30 years of married life on one income, and that not a big one. My husband was a mid-level government employee and never made much. But we were committed to my staying home and raising our son, so we made do. We live in an older three-bedroom, one bath home that we paid off as soon as we could. Sure, we could have taken our equity, which until last year was quite substantial, and moved to a bigger home. But that would have required a mortgage we weren’t sure we could afford, so we stayed put and made do with what we had. Now we’re being asked to bail out people who didn’t make the responsible decision. People who took on mortgages they couldn’t afford and shouldn’t have been given. Why?

We’ve always driven our cars until they died, saving for the next one and paying cash. Right now our cars are a 1996 and 1998, both with over 100,000 miles on them. Yet every day I hear ads from auto companies promising to make your car payment if you get laid off. What happened to good old-fashioned personal responsibility?

We use our credit cards to rack up miles and dollars. But we pay them off monthly and never spend more than we know we can afford. Yet every day I hear ads for credit counseling and consolidation saying, “Credit card debt? It’s not your fault?” Well, if it isn’t your fault, whose is it? We didn’t use their credit card and run up thousands of dollars debt. And frankly, we don’t want to pay for it. Yet Congress is now passing legislation to make credit easier for those who don’t pay and harder for me. (I understand that some people use credit during a layoff, but most I know continue spending at a level that makes hubby and I shake our heads. Hard times call for drastic measures. I know. We’ve been there several times over the years.)

Meanwhile, the President and Congress are pushing bill after bill to increase debt, bail out deadbeats, bail out businesses that should be allowed to fail, and build bridges to nowhere. They’re voting on bills to increase our energy costs based on junk science and bills to confiscate the decent health care coverage most of us have in order to cover a few more people who have made other choices or are in our country illegally.

This administration has increased the national debt exponentially. If President Obama's budget is implemented, CBO projects the national debt to reach an unprecedented and unsustainable 82.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product by 2019.

To add injury to insult, lawmakers don’t even pretend to read the bills or hold appropriate hearings anymore. Everything is an emergency that must be voted on without delay. Lawmakers seem to be controlled by some higher power, changing their vote on a dime. My dime, BTW.

We now have 31—count’em 31—czars running every aspect of government. These Czars are 1) not accountable to Congress, 2) paid what ever Obama decides to pay them, at our expense, 3) can claim executive privilege if called to testify before Congress, 4) set policy for the cabinet secretaries, and 5) are so radical they would never have received Senate approval. What happened to our representative republic?

So what does this have to do with being a GenSandwicher? Here’s the deal. We worked hard all our lives. Lived within our means. Paid our bills. Now because of monumental failed policies and failed consumer confidence, with a little corruption thrown in here and there, we’ve lost about half of our net worth. That’s the net worth we were counting on for retirement. After being responsible all our lives, we expected to be able to retire comfortably, travel, and perhaps even leave a little nest egg to our son. At a minimum, not be a burden on him. Now we wonder if we’ll have enough to live out our lives or if we’ll be working at WalMart when we’re 80. No one is bailing us out because we’re responsible. Our taxes and expenses are increasing, lowering our standard of living. We didn’t even benefit from the most recent stimulus package because we aren’t working and aren’t collecting Social Security. And now we’re being warned of inflation on the level of the Jimmy Carter years.

To add injury to insult, in the process of confiscating the wealth of our generation and the next, this administration and the Congress are rushing headlong into Socialism, nationalizing private industries at will. In previous downturns, we’ve been able to assume that what goes down will go back up and even invest while stocks are on sale. But this time, it seems that the rules have changed and continue to change, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty. When bondholders holders at GM can arbitrarily be subordinated to the unions which caused the problem in the first place, how can anyone invest in confidence? When profitable auto dealers who contributed to Republican politicians are summarily closed by the Car Czar while failing dealerships that contributed to Democrats remain open, how can small business owners make confident decisions? We are turning into a third world country and no longer know what rules are, so we sit in fear, knowing that even under the best circumstances, we wouldn’t live long enough to recover what we’ve lost. And these aren’t the best circumstances…

Folks, I’m concerned for our nation. Our freedoms. Our independence. And I’m concerned for our personal lives. The nation the founders created, our forefathers fought for, and we’ve worked for is being dismantled. I love this country. I love the life and the freedom and the prosperity we enjoy. I came up out of abject poverty because of the opportunities I had in this nation. I pray that Americans will wake up and do whatever it takes to defend our liberties and our way of life. Before it’s too late. Remember, it’s INDEPENDENCE DAY. What do you think?

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