Oct 142017
 

10/14/2017 — Earlier this week, the President of the United States signed an executive order to cut subsidies to insurance companies through the ACA (Obamacare.)  45 said, “[I am instructing the government] to take action to increase competition, increase choice and increase access to lower-priced, high-quality health care options.” 

These payments are subsidies required by law and will affect, according to Slate, more than seven million people in the United States.  Premiums are expected to rise 20 percent by 2018, and 25 percent by 2020, said Slate.

What is so distressing is that many people will buy the snake oil of “lower-priced, high-quality health care options.”

I’m not an economist or an actuarial, but isn’t the point of insurance  to spread risk over a population? If the community is diluted from those without illness or disease, won’t the usage go way up and thus the price?  If the price goes up, won’t people pay the $600 fee penalty for not having insurance, and use the emergency room?

Image result for morton plant hospital clearwater floridaI’ve worked for more than three decades in healthcare.  Whether you agree politically with it or not, the Affordable Care Act has allowed individuals who lacked insurance coverage access to non-emergency health care.  I’ve witnessed many people getting care at my hospital who would not have had the opportunity before this legislation.  I work in a psychiatric and addiction treatment center.  You can hear about the need for these services nationwide by listening to any radio or tv news show for about ten minutes. You’ll hear about the opioid epidemic in our country. If this executive order is allowed to stand, more people will die of drug overdoses, among other things.

In my job, my team and I visit area emergency departments frequently.  Over the past four years, there’s not an emergency room within 100 miles in every direction that I’ve not visited.  We talk with clinical staff about their needs for psychiatric and addiction treatment, as well as educate on and facilitate direct admits.  Most of the time, the emergency rooms are crowded.  Can you imagine the demand for these services when 7 million people find their health insurance unaffordable?  The mother whose child has strep, the Little Leaguer with the broken bone and the asthmatic will jam the emergency rooms because they don’t have access to private practitioners. Those clinics which provide low-income care and struggle for funding with a patchwork quilt of government funding, grants, and philanthropy will also be more overwhelmed.

The premiums for Obamacare have gone up drastically, and in many locations, are non-existent.  In my county, there is only one provider, and the rates are expensive. There are other ways to address this, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  The result of the new order is that hundreds of policies that don’t address the real need of insurance, pre-existing conditions, will pull younger, healthier people from the group, thus diluting the risk pool.

And there is no need for this.  Despite all its flaws (which are apparent and have been discussed at length) the ACA provided access to a needed population. Letting the air out of this balloon will only force more people to choose care or food and heat, or sit for hours in overcrowded emergency rooms.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have an excellent, well-run provider network in Medicare, which is a single-payer using market providers.  Why not lower the eligibility age for Medicare to fifty?  The risk pool for the entire Medicare population will be lessened, with healthier people fifteen years and under the current enrollment age.  The risk pool for people under fifty would also be enhanced with healthier people.

I’m not smart enough to know the answers, but what I do know is that we are the only country in the western world that doesn’t ensure that all citizens are covered.  We think it is a right for every citizen to have unlimited firearms and ammunition, yet we cannot guarantee a flu shot.  And if you don’t think a flu shot is essential, check out our history for one hundred years ago in 1918 when the Spanish flu killed more people than World War I.

 

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Oct 062017
 

October 6, 2017 — This piece is from my first book, “The Luxury of Daydreams,” )2011).

Mature corn, ready for harvest, stands in neat, geometric rows in Indiana fields. The Hoosier sky has gray clouds outlined in an almost black line etched against a blue-green sky. Sometimes the clouds look surreal as if painted with oil tempura on an elegant and forgiving canvas.

I am born again every October. The tenth month of the year is my month. Some find the season of autumn depressing as annual vegetation withers and die.

October’s sights and sounds fill my senses and soul.

In northern Indiana where I grew up, the seasons are more sharply defined than southern Indiana, which is now my home. Harvest is in full force in October if not completed. Beans and corn are picked, winter wheat is planted.

By early October, front porch evenings are waning. As a child, I loved sitting between my grandparents on their front porch swing at Homeland Farm. Our low-tech activity was looking down the country road for headlights appearing at the ridge of the hill toward the state highway.

Late October evenings were too cold for the front porch. Nearing Halloween, we might have a fire in the home’s fireplace, under the mantel of custom-made tiles that depicted family history in Washington Township. My ancestors came to Indiana in 1830. A Hoosier cabinet, a spinning wheel, the old farm bell that now occupies my brother’s backyard, a plow, and an Aberdeen Angus adorned the blue and white tiles on the fireplace.

October was also a glorious month for outdoor activities. Occasionally, the church youth hosted a bonfire in a farm field, with spires of lighter-fluid induced flames lapping at the autumn sky. We seared our Eckrich hot dogs and ate sticky, s’mores made of Hershey bars, marsh mellows, and graham crackers. The best ones were cold in the middle and burned on the edge.
* * *

When I attended college in central Indiana, the old campus was vibrant with color–like a preschooler’s new Crayola eight-pack–throughout October.

I lock my bicycle in front of my dormitory.  Every weekday I pedal through the central campus to the journalism building.  The west campus bloomed with trees and featured old stone buildings from the 1930s.

Riding my bike on a crisp autumn day, I enter the old campus.  I ride into a central green space with paths worn in every direction by generations of students. My bicycle tires crackle through red, maroon, and gold leaves spent from walnut, sycamore, maple, and oak trees, and the breeze gently licks my face.

I ride slowly, hoping the trip never ends.

* * *

Betraying my love of Indiana and October, I move to Florida after college. Every October in the Sunshine State makes me sad. The first autumn away from Indiana my friend Doris sends me an envelope full of dried leaves. The pleasant scent of lovely, crunchy pieces of home is a beautiful gift.

My beloved and I come home to Indiana in October for our wedding. We marry at the same 100-year-old country church I attended as a child. My parents married in this same tiny church more than half a century ago.

An elm tree with limbs that reach prayerfully to the sky in every direction stands in front of the old church. Our wedding afternoon is a perfect Hallmark card cover. The mighty elm shimmers with copper and bronze leaves, still falling.

As the church bell tolls the call for worship, the picture-perfect day fills every sense.

After my husband finished graduate school, we feel the pull of home. We return, with a new life in southern Indiana.  Northern and southern Indiana are almost different states. I do not know anything south of the Old National Road.

While I treasure the symmetry of central and northern Indiana farmland, I love the curves of southern Indiana. My favorite place in southern Indiana is Lincoln State Park in Gentryville, near where Abraham Lincoln lived as a boy. A ribbon of heavily wooded state highway slices through the state park and the Lincoln Boyhood Home National Monument in Spencer County.

Within the park is a pine forest, which as my father told me, is not indigenous to Indiana. Planted in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the trees now rise above the park and offer permanent shade.

We stayed in the cabins many times in October, spending several days in paradise, first when our son was five. The cabins are simple, with furniture like my $100 a month graduate student apartment.

On our visits to Lincoln State Park, we arrive with bags of books, board games, and food for grilling meals outdoors., even breakfast. The beds are uncomfortable, the living room furniture is wooden and stiff, and the kitchen features orange plastic stack chairs. It is not the Ritz Carlton.

Does the Ritz Carlton have a screened-in front porch, and the combined scent of pine trees, dying cottonwood, sycamore, and maple leaves? Can you hike on a quiet October morning around a deep blue-green lake, which reflects the trees and disappearing autumn sun?

Today is October 1st. The month lies before me, rich with unknown experiences. Time to find my favorite sweatshirt.

Updated 2017.

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Sep 272017
 

September 27, 2017 — I woke up this morning thinking about events at Kent State University in 1970. I was 13 years old, a late Baby Boomer, a child in the sixties. (If you don’t remember, read about it here.)

My father taught high school in northeastern Indiana. Some members of the senior class wore black armbands to school in protest of the deaths of four KSU students at the hand of the National Guard. Several, maybe two or three, of these students belonged to the National Honor Society.  The MHS sponsors decided members who wore the black armbands must relinquish their membership. At graduation a few weeks later, the students were not given the NHS cord, nor were their names in the commencement program as members.

My parents felt the students were wrong and should be denied NHS honors at graduation.

Our family watched the bloody horror of the Vietnam War “in living color,” since 1967 when we received a color television for Christmas. Every night on the Huntley/Brinkley news show, we saw death and destruction.

Now four students lay dead on a campus four hours away. Kent State University was similar to many Indiana universities in size and scope, and the four students who died might have been from my hometown. The KSU students did not die half a world away in combat with an enemy in a steamy jungle; they were shot during the day on an Ohio college campus.

Even at age 13, I understood what was happening.  Supporting the protesters felt like we weren’t supporting our soldiers. In our town, we supported our troops. But all over the country, soldiers returned from Vietnam with no support, no recognition of their sacrifice.  Soldiers who were injured mentally and physically were treated terribly by almost the entire country.  Many people could not understand why we were fighting and protested on college campuses and at the White House.  Remember the chant, “Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many boys did you kill today?”  LBJ’s daughters Lucy and Lynda heard that chant from the White House as their husbands, and the President’s sons-in-law served in Vietnam.

The long arc of history does indeed bend toward justice, as Martin Luther King Jr. said.  Today we understand that the Vietnam era was more complicated than the Allies versus the Axis Powers, good versus evil.  We likely should not have been in Vietnam, and most historians espouse that view. Still, we lost 55,000 young Americans in defense of something few can explain.

The act of protest is at the foundation of our country.  The Boston Tea Party was perhaps the first act of protest even before our Constitution and Bill of Rights spelled out the freedoms most of us enjoy.

Despite enormous national tragedy in Houston, Florida, USVI, and Puerto Rico, despite worries with North Korea, despite American healthcare imploding, our country debates whether members of the National Football League who knelt during the National Anthem should be fired.  In my opinion, our precious flag represents the freedoms outlining in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I could understand people being upset if it was a Marine flag, but it is not. Your idea of disrespect may be another’s idea of peaceful protest.

It is the American flag, and it stands for all of us.

It stands for those who fight today in Afghanistan in the new surge, including my second cousin.

It stands for my first cousins who have Turkish names and were called “Dirty Arabs” on a Massachusetts playground as children.

It stands for my second cousin who recently completed a four year tour of duty and now is getting a graduate degree. He wants to serve in USAID. His father told me his son has witnessed evil in the world and now seeks to do good.

It stands for my co-worker who shared she may not have children because she is afraid her children of color may be persecuted.

It stands for my sister-in-law’s father, a Japanese American, who wasn’t recognized for his service in World War II in Italy until President Obama invited him and others from his Japanese-American unit to the White House several years ago.

It stands for the 55,000 men and women killed in the Vietnam war, and the protesters who died at Kent State.

It stands for the ex-soldier and player who stood with his hand across his heart at a game Sunday and for the rest of his team in the locker room.

I believe I will see the arc of history bend toward justice in this situation. I believe that those who feel kneeling opposes the flag don’t fully understand the position started by Colin Kaepernick, a mixed-race NFL player, who also is a Christian.  Justice and equality are what our soldiers fought and fight to preserve; justice and equality are what these players seek for their brothers and sisters of color.  People of color are 2.5 times more likely to be shot by law enforcement than those who are white, reports the Washington Post.

Many, many years after Kent State, my family toured the monuments the weekend of my son’s college graduation in Washington D.C.  My dad wanted to go to the Vietnam Memorial to find the names of three students who died in Vietnam.  For a town of 1400 people, three deaths were three too many. All three of them were in Dad’s classes.

At the wall, a veteran covered with patches representing his service to our country was helpful in finding the three names.  I strolled behind Dad as he touched each name etched in black marble with his left hand and wiped tears with his right hand.  In 2012, he was 82 years old.  He had lived through WWII, Korea, and the Vietnam War.  With the perspective of a lifetime, he had softened his views on the Vietnam War.  Now Dad just felt the loss.

Anyone who visits the Wall immediately feels it.  Maya Lin’s beautiful wall rests in the curve of a hillside, surrounded by beautiful, sturdy hardwood trees. The simplicity of the design overwhelms the viewer with a sense of loss beyond words.

As we think of those who peacefully protest injustice and inequality, let’s open our minds and hearts to the meaning of the American flag, as a symbol of freedom for all Americans.

 

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Charlottesville, Many Sides?

Charlottesville, Many Sides?

August 12, 2017 — Something terrible happened today in our country, in the university town of Charlottesville, Virginia.  In times like these, we await our leaders for comfort, direction, explanation and possible condemnation. George W. Bush stood in the middle of “The Pile” after 9/11 and shouted to the world. Ronald Reagan eloquently read the poem […]

And They Said it Wouldn't Last

And They Said it Wouldn’t Last

August 6, 2017 — My husband and I disagree on the exact date we met. In my enhanced version, it was August 16, 1977, the day Elvis died. Makes for a better tale. My Beloved says it was ten days earlier because I anticipated my bridesmaid role in an August 13 wedding.  I like my version better. Either […]

Breathing, Part Two

Breathing, Part Two

Cross-posted on Medium — Every morning when I check the bird feeders, I see a plume from the factories on the river. What’s going into the air we breathe? Will our President’s willful rejection of the Paris Climate Accord make our environment worse? I’ve contemplated this for years, like most people I’m fond of the elements, […]

Remembering Carl Shepherd

Remarks from Carl Shepherd’s wake, May 14, 2017– Maureen asked me to share a few words tonight. My name is Amy Abbott, and I’ve known Carl for about ten years and known Maureen for nearly thirty years. The day that Carl and Maureen married was a happy day. I think everyone can agree they each […]

A Flooded Basement

Published on Medium, May 5, 2017 — A friend and her husband traveled on a cruise ship to celebrate their April birthdays. A week ago my friend’s husband died near the Bahamas. I do not wish this horror on anyone. Not do I speculate on the whys and wherefores. For the record, I don’t think things […]

On Not Being Milton and Auntie Mame

On Not Being Milton and Auntie Mame

We’ve known about the three family weddings for a year.  Three of our nephews are getting married this spring, each blessed day six weeks apart.  The first wedding is a week from today. Somehow, it evaded me that I might need to have something to wear to these special family events.  My Beloved bought new Florsheim’s […]

Meeting Elton John

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March 25, 2017 — Today is Elton John’s 70th birthday.  I’ve been a fan since I was a young teenager and am still a fan.  Randy and I have been fortunate to attend two Elton John concerts, one in Tampa, and the other at the old Roberts Stadium in Evansville. Early in my career when most […]

A 1967 Christmas

This is an old but goodie from my book, “Whitley County Kid,” (available on Amazon).  The time and some descriptions have been changed to protect identity, but the gist of the story from my childhood is true.  And bears retelling every year. In the 1960s, I was an elementary school student. My primary concern each […]

A Democratic Endorsement from a Former Republican

A Democratic Endorsement from a Former Republican

I’ve loved politics since I was a small child.  I am a Baby Boomer, born in 1957, smack dab in the middle of the Boom after World War II, during the Eisenhower administration. My parents were “cloth-coat” Republicans, moderate in all things. (The term cloth coat Republicans came from Pat Nixon’s trip to China, where […]

These Winter Months, An Anthology

These Winter Months, An Anthology

Every life experiences loss.  Those with two parents for much of adulthood are blessed. Writer Anne Born pulled together a collection of essays about the loss of a parent during  adulthood. I am fortunate to have an article included, which I’m reprinting below. If you have lost a parent in your adulthood or have a […]

Jim Cantore, Hurricane Elena,  and the Stuff of Nightmares

Jim Cantore, Hurricane Elena, and the Stuff of Nightmares

August 31, 2016 — I rarely take a vacation by myself.  After a visit to a writer’s conference last spring, I experienced the benefits of a retreat. Getting away alone to read and write for a few days recharged my batteries.  It’s been a long, hot summer and I need a break.  On a whim, I […]

Lowered Standards

Lowered Standards

August 26, 2016 — I don’t like to cook.  Yes, I sincerely mean it.  Being in a partnership means I have my share of responsibility for our food. Frankly, I have about one miserable failure a month. I learned the hard way early in life that you shouldn’t put Saran Wrap in the oven. The […]

My mother's wedding rings

My mother’s wedding rings

August 14, 2016 — My mother’s hands intrigued me.  While she had long, slender fingers, Mom’s hands were smaller than mine and much smaller than her mother’s. My dad gave her a small diamond engagement ring at Christmastime 1954.  She wore it until her 2012 death, and I don’t remember her ever removing it. She […]

Lost Again, But This Time in Comfort

Lost Again, But This Time in Comfort

Last weekend, without any forethought, I recreated the day my husband and I met nearly forty years ago. We met on an early, sticky August 1977 morning in the parking lost of the West Quad building at Ball State University. Both of us had partied with friends the night before; we were both mourning break-ups. […]

Perspective

Perspective

July 6, 2016 — Over the weekend, we watched a TV show that features people hunting for a perfect private island. A couple, Larry and Lubya, toured three islands near Fiji, with a realtor.  Each island had fantastic views. Who can imagine purchasing an island for several million dollars? No wonder these shows are popular; most of […]

Gays and Guns and Grief

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June 15, 2016 — I  have not been this angry and sad in a long time. The events of early Sunday morning in the Orlando nightclub Pulse stay right with me, in my heart and mind. I can’t stop thinking about the 49 dead young people and their grieving families, who are forever changed. I […]

3 Hackneyed Pieces of Advice for New Grads

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So I’ve grabbed you with my pithy headline. Not so much? Likely I’ve attracted your 50-plus mother. She’s reading with pink rhinestone readers she bought at Costco. She sat next to me — stifling hot in a black mortarboard and gown — on a humid May day in 1979. Like your mom, I’ll never give a […]