Well, I need to talk about a kitchen table issue that so many families face here in Congressional District 8. My daughter had surgery. It was an out patient surgery procedure, and everything is fine, so please don't worry. This was a minor blip on the health radar.
However, I found myself contemplating putting off her procedure, because of the costs. I'm still grappling with the costs. We already pay through the nose every month for the insurance premium- why is it still so expensive? Now, granted, we haven't met the deductible yet. But on top of the insurance premium we pay monthly- $1,000- that’s roughly equivalent to a mortgage payment on a $200,000 house- we have to meet a $1,250 per person per year deductible before the insurance kicks in at all. That’s nuts!
Then after we pay the $1,250 deductible, we have to pay a $400 hospital copay. Then, and only then, the health insurance we could be buying a second home at the beach for what we pay monthly to have the privilege of participating in this racket, finally kicks in.
Now you’d think that after all of that, they’d pay for the rest of it, and in fact, it used to be more common that health insurance did pay for the rest of it after you hit the deductible. But then some genius came up with this idea to shift the standard to something called “coinsurance,” meaning, after all of that, the insurance still only covers 80% of what’s left, leaving us stuck with the last 20%. The 20% determined to be our coinsurance bill is $2,690.00 !!!
And no, don’t get your hopes up: that $2,690 -which is slightly more than the deductible for the next 2 members of this family- it can’t be applied toward the deductible for the family as a whole. Nope. Each individual covered has an individual $1,250 deductible to meet before this insurance is worth anything. God help you if you get sick in December and need surgery in January, because you’ll be paying that deductible twice, because insurance always goes by the calendar year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, y’all.
Our total out of pocket expense for this minor outpatient surgery that lasted a scant 30 minutes and produced zero complications = $4,340.00. The total cost, when you add in what insurance paid out = $13,450.00. It is mind-boggling to me that a medical procedure that simple could cost as much as buying my daughter a pretty nice used car.
My family is lucky. We have coverage. Because of Republicans’ flat out refusal to expand Medicaid, there's over 634,000 North Carolinian's who don't have coverage at all, and everyone in that boat doesn’t have the choice of whether to put off something that isn’t actively killing them.
Everyone pearl clutches about possible “healthcare rationing” in the event of a Medicare-For-All system, but there’s at least 634,000 people here in North Carolina who are doing exactly that right now- it’s death panels by default. It’s worse though, because there’s no waiting list or even a preliminary visit when you are uninsured. There’s just the emergency room and the doctor telling you it’s too late. And then a bill so big it means certain financial ruination for you and your family. Because guess who gets billed the most of all in this system for the same services? The uninsured who can afford it least. If Medicaid pays out X, insurance patients typically get billed 3X, and uninsured patients get billed 5X. I might be a little off with those ratios, but it’s pretty standard that the people getting gouged the worst are the uninsured. I think that’s wrong and sets people up for both financial ruination and higher mortality rates.
How many people are out there who have just quietly made the decision to die untreated rather than create that financial ruination from medical debt for their families? You might even know one of them.
We need to fix this broken system by repairing the cracks and building a new infrastructure that works better than this one. You can’t shop for stroke and heart attack treatment like you can a car loan.
Every layer of this system is full of excessive bureaucracy and profiteering. We need to simplify and streamline the system from top to bottom.
One big solution I see is in the billing itself: all medical billing needs to be set to a standard price-controlled rate that is fair to the providers and fair to the patients. We already have this infrastructure for Medicare and Medicaid billing. I’m sure that we could probably stand to improve those payout rates, but to get a firm handle on the runaway costs in the system, standardizing the billing and making it easy for everyone to figure out how much something will cost because it’s the same everywhere, will go a long way toward getting the train back on the tracks.
We also need to at least create a grown-ups’ version of the S-CHIP low cost health insurance program for kids. This is resurrecting the “public option” that the lobbyists managed to kill for Obamacare with false promises of “bipartisan support,” and it was probably the most important piece of that puzzle to keep insurance costs from continuing to spiral upwards, unfortunately. But if we really care about fixing this system, if we are really serious about reducing the bloated costs, we have to do the work to reduce them, and that means every layer of profiteering in the system has to take a hit and accept that their days of price gouging a captive market are over.
I suggest that we offer a Medicare buy-in premium, or an S-CHIP expansion buy-in, to anyone under 65 who wants it, that is a flat 5% payroll tax that gets taken out with the rest of payroll taxes. No cap. Just a flat 5%, and if you are married, no kids, 7% jointly (3.5% per spouse on their individual check) but families with kids get everyone covered at the flat 5% of gross household income. Then from there, you pay modest but affordable copays, and there are no deductibles or coinsurance, to make sure you can easily use this coverage because the point here is to resolve public health crises, not rake in gigantic profits for shareholders and CEOs.
This isn’t the complete solution and I don’t have time here to get into every nook and cranny detail on what’s obviously a very arcane and convoluted subject, but it’s a good start toward making this system better, and I look forward to sharing more of these ideas with y’all as 2020 approaches. In the meantime, I have got bills to pay, so I better get back to work!
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This regime- because to call it just another “administration” pretends a civility it hasn’t earned- is full of so many shameful sins, it’s easy to forget one horrible act after another.
After all, this regime has brought us to an era of caged babies ripped from the arms of their parents, and they’ve caged the parents too. I’m still struggling to get my head around how we ended up with a for-profit gulag system in 21st century America.
But this past week, in Greenville, the current occupant of the People’s House left an indelible stain on our state. History will record in infamy the thirteen seconds of hateful, racist chanting that it appears Mr. Trump’s campaign may have led and engineered. Clearly, he wanted to test the limits to which he could push the racist envelope in Dixie.
I’m beyond saddened to see how some of my fellow citizens of this great state were so easily swayed by the charms of this rabid demagogue. It has weighed heavily on my heart this week as I searched for the words to address this tawdry spectacle. I pray that they all become reacquainted with the most central commandment that Christ gave: to love thy neighbor.
I’ve heard this “go back where you came from” racism as a Southerner, over the years, but until recently, it was something that was becoming less and less common. Even the proverbial bigoted cousin you only see every other Thanksgiving was less vocal about his disdain for everyone not like himself, because even he knew that nonsense wasn’t acceptable anymore.
Until Trump made racism fashionable again.
Leadership always sets the tone, and while tax cuts to the rich might never trickle down to the rest of us, the tone at the top always trickles down to the streets. We have already seen how Trump’s tacit, winking approval of bigoted bullying translates into an epidemic of hate crimes and random xenophobic harassment of people who were just trying to pay for gas or buy their groceries like anybody else.
Maybe this rally will be lost in the swirling vortex of Trumpian chaos. It’s possible that North Carolina may be forgotten as the stage for this racist chant. You know they’ll have their plants in the crowd to get it started again in the next rally.
I hope we don't see this Trumpian chaos in Charlotte during the 2020 Republican National Convention.
But North Carolina shouldn’t forget. I know we are better than this, North Carolina. We are better than this. We will be better than this. North Carolina is a leader in so much that is good, that we have to be better than this.
What happened to working together for the common good? Why can’t we seem to just come to any agreement to make this union more perfect, anymore?
My opponent in the 8th, the current Republican incumbent, was smiling, clapping and cheering on this spectacle from the VIP section. Apparently, the Republican VIPs at this hate rally are only concerned with representing a very narrow, white slice of their constituents, but I plan to work hard for ALL of my constituents, not just a select few.
That is what I am offering through my run for Congress over in North Carolina’s 8th district: a new path forward out of these dark ages we’re currently living through.
America’s survival depends on a future where we may not always agree on everything, but that doesn’t stop us from working together to make life better for all of us. It feels to me like my opponent has forgotten that’s the whole point of going to Washington. It will be an uphill battle to take our country back to decency, humility and respect, but I’m willing to fight for it and I hope y’all are too.
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This morning, I was enjoying my coffee and watching one of my favorite TV shows on the Discovery Science Channel: “How It’s Made.”
One of the episodes was about refurbishing a huge machine. It was big as a bus, with all kinds of hydraulics, electronics, and huge moving parts.
According to the narrator, it had taken several months to overhaul this massive machine. This piece of equipment was a “continuous miner.” This machine is used to mine underground and only needs to be operated by one man. It's used to mine coal.
At that moment, I thought about all those coal mining jobs lost to automation. Then I was angry all over again about the false promises Trump made that those coal jobs would return.
Those jobs did not return. They will not return. Automation is taking those jobs and many more. Coal has been a dying industry for decades, and the entire coal industry has less jobs than Whole Foods has employees, to give you some perspective.
It’s a cruel joke to pretend to coal miners that they don’t need to do anything but vote Republican and the good paychecks their parents and grandparents made (thanks to the tireless work of unions to get them fair pay for dangerous work) will continue to provide for them today, or even next year.
This same phenomenon holds true here in the 8th district with the death of the factory jobs that have moved overseas because CEOs wanted to cash in on selling out America. I’m sure y’all remember the golden parachutes at Pillowtex that gave soft landings to their executives but left the rest of their employees’ families here nothing but the hard reality of being outsourced.
We can’t just sit around and play pretend when people’s livelihoods are at stake. The old platitudes about bootstraps are meaningless when you have a mortgage to make and you need a living wage job to make it.
What can we do to create jobs? Not just McJobs that pay wages nobody can realistically live on, but living wage jobs a person can raise a family on?
One thing that seems pretty obvious to me: We need to re-train our work force. Let’s provide greater incentives and grants to business to hire and *retrain* workers to prepare for 21st century jobs. There is a much bigger future for clean energy jobs in solar, wind, and micro-hydroelectric power generation. Also, absurd Trump lies about “windmill cancer” to the contrary aside, these clean energy jobs won’t give the workers black lung disease like coal mining jobs do.
However, businesses can't create those jobs when 25 to 30٪ tariffs are applied. Many clean energy projects in #NC were either scaled back or put on indefinite hold when Trump announced this latest arbitrary blow to rig the markets in favor of the craven coal barons writing him checks.
Where was our current Representative? Nowhere, silent as usual that #workingclass jobs were affected in this district he doesn’t even live in.
Moving away from fossil fuel coal jobs to clean energy jobs is great for the environment & planet. Plus, it ensures we have a viable future to leave to our children.
We can’t afford to prop up dying, toxic industries by screwing the future. Fossil fuels are a 19th century solution to 21st century problems and we can’t remain competitive with our global rivals by insisting on remaining 200 years behind the times.
Let’s embrace the future with open arms and open eyes.
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"If you don't like it you can leave."
People say this a lot on the internet, and it’s usually when they’re defending horrible injustices happening in our country. I actually find the statement very telling of those who make it.
They ignore the issues that are affecting their fellow Americans, whether it's racism, immigration, LGBTQ rights, poverty etc. If it’s not personally affecting them, they don’t care.
Let's face it, people can be dangerously selfish. We’ve even got detailed political ideologies dedicated to enshrining this exact kind of selfishness. It’s a sad irony that often this selfish worldview is to their own detriment.
But where would America be if every generation before us would have said, I have mine, screw you?
We have independence because the founding generation of the Revolution fought to make sure we’d never have to kneel to kings again.
We held this country together in the civil war, despite the rending forces of this same selfishness that said it was ok to hold fellow humans in lifelong bondage.
We survived the Great Depression because we said “enough” to the runaway excesses of casino capitalism and stabilized the economy with the New Deal, which modernized our infrastructure and lifted millions of Americans out of desperation into dignity.
We defeated the Axis Powers in WW2 because everyone sacrificed something so we wouldn’t be ground under the cruel boot of fascism.
Our history is full of examples of how our nation was preserved and made greater, not by selfishness but by the generosity of spirit of Americans who didn’t like the status quo but didn’t just “leave,” as that tired cliché would recommend. They stayed and fought for a better and more fair America.
I don’t like the status quo. But I’m not leaving.
I’m sticking around to fight for America and the promise of the American Dream, that conscientious hard work can pay off here, for the person working, not the corporate billionaire heirs and heiresses who won the birth lottery.
I believe we are stronger together, and that everybody does better when EVERYBODY does better. “If you don’t like it, leave” is a cop out and this nation didn’t get anywhere by copping out.
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