Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Why I Love St. Patrick's Day

I have no Irish heritage.  Zero.  Zip.  Zilch.    But I absolutely love St. Patrick’s Day.

In 2002, my daughter and I visited Ireland.  She was 16. I was, well, a bit older.  The trip was arranged by her high school French teacher.  When Lisa approached her father and me about going on the trip in the early fall of 2001, I told her that I thought it would be a marvelous opportunity.  Did they need any adult chaperons?

Shortly after the trip was announced, the unthinkable tragedy that we now refer to as 9/11 occurred.  People were afraid to fly – for good reason.  But reason prevailed and the trip would go on – albeit a little more sparsely attended than planned.  My seat was secured; my presence was welcomed.

After flying all night, we landed in Shannon on June 6, 2002.  From there we boarded the bus that would take us throughout Ireland.  We fought sleep as we toured a beach, viewed the amazing Irish countryside, visited a castle, and took photos of the fabulous Cliffs of Moher. 

We stopped for lunch at a small restaurant and gift shop.  As we ate and shopped, we noticed that a single song played over and over.
My heart is in Ireland; ‘tis there I long to be
Her hills and her valleys are calling to me
Though born here in this land, my heart is in Ireland
The land of the old folk is calling to me.

Annoying as it was at the time, we found we couldn’t get the song out of our heads.  We grew to love it, and my daughter and another teenager from the trip sang it frequently – usually with an audience.  It became the theme song of the trip; even as we went on to visit Wales, England, Scotland, and finally, France.

I chatted with my daughter’s French teacher on one of the long bus rides that bound our adventures.  He commented that I would always cherish this trip, as this would likely be the most time I would ever get to spend one-on-one with my daughter.  His wise words have proven true. 

She is now 29.  I am now even older.  But every year we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  We drink Irish coffee and Guinness stout.  We play Irish music.  We wear matching green socks with shamrocks.  And every year on St. Patrick’s Day our hearts go back to Ireland.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

That's Life

Many years ago, when I was a young teenager, I had a dream.  In my dream I was standing on a stage, wearing a black evening gown, standing in front of a microphone singing Frank Sinatra’s hit, That’s Life.  In my dream, I had known all the words, and as I reflected on the dream I found that I still do.

That’s Life – that’s what all the people say
You’re ridin’ high in April; shot down in May       
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top – back on top in June…

Pretty impressive when I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday.  But I digress…

Have you ever had a dream where you were you – only you weren't?  In this dream I had red hair, done in a short flip popular in the ‘60s.  I was Midge.  Remember Midge?  Barbie’s ordinary looking best friend?  Yeah, that was me. 

So when I read about the AARP Boomer Superstar contest, the dream came back to me and I knew I would enter the contest using that song.  I uploaded a background track from i-Tunes and recorded myself using my smart phone.  Wow – gotta love technology!

I played back the first recording.  Ughhh – I was flat on a couple of the notes.  But more than that, I had the irrefutable evidence in front of me that my voice had changed.  The glow in my voice was gone.  And sadly, it was not replaced by the warmth I've heard in other “mature” voices.  Mine was not the voice they were looking for.

There is a truth we boomers are loathe to face:  some abilities and talents fade as we age.  I entered the contest anyway, knowing my superstar days were behind me.  Oh, well.  That’s life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Why Everybody Should Have Health Insurance

Last week I wrote about the Affordable Care Act and its impact on filing your federal income taxes.  Was this the most efficient way to implement affordable health care?  Probably not, but in the end it doesn't matter.  The fact that we have a law that is helping so many people get health care is in my mind a good thing.  And in my less-than-expert opinion, here’s why:  Everybody loses when people are uninsured. 

When a patient doesn't have health insurance, the patient loses.  Preventative care frequently catches disease in an early enough stage for treatment to be both faster and cheaper.  By the time an emergency room visit is warranted, the cost, time to cure, and potential prognosis are all far worse.

Emergency rooms can’t turn anyone away for lack of ability to pay.  But all hospitals, for-profit and non-profit alike, will make every attempt to collect for the services.  This means the patients will be billed, and when they do not pay, they will be called and repeatedly asked for payment.  When the hospital finally turns the account over to collections, a new set of calls will begin, with increasing pressure or threat levels.  All the while their credit reports will reflect outstanding bills, collections, and a much lower credit score.  They will be unable to get loans, be subject to higher interest rates, and in many cases will not qualify to rent an apartment.  The patient loses again.

The hospitals and doctors lose revenue for patient care.  After turning these delinquent accounts over to collection, they write off the loss as charity care and deduct it from their expenses, reducing their taxable income.  Federal, state, and local governments lose.

Hospitals and doctors then increase their prices to make up for lost revenue.  Insurance companies have to pay higher costs.  Insurance companies lose.  Insurance companies raise their rates to make up for increased expenses.  The consumer loses.

How do we turn all this losing into winning?  We pay it forward by providing health insurance – and health care – for everyone.  Let’s take the leap of faith and pay up front.  Let’s fix what’s broken in the Affordable Care Act and make health care available to everyone.