More AETNA Health Care Hijinks

August 19, 2016

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Let me tell you why I hate AETNA and believe that a dick move like this is totally in character for them.

I made a job change last year, and I ended up having a gap between the expiration of my coverage from my prior employer and the beginning of coverage from my new employer; the gap period was a month. And I blame my prior employer; when I’d done this in the past, a long time ago I’ll admit, my prior employer would pick up my coverage for that month plus the next month – the excuse I got was that I’d given notice before the 15th of the departing month, so by the end of that month I was on my own.

So I contacted the PA Exchange to inquire into coverage. And do you know what happened? I told the person at the exchange (the “navigator,” I think) what I was looking for in the way of coverage, who would be covered, the duration of coverage, etc. And the navigator connected me right away with AETNA, and I was told that a major medical plan would give me what I needed, and they gave me a quote. So the navigator connected me to someone from AETNA who got the process started.

Well, it took a few days to process. A few days turned into a week. And a few more days. And another week, with repeated calls from yours truly all the while to AETNA Customer Service; you would think that, as opposed to inquiring into the state of what year I would actually be receiving my insurance cards, I was asking about whether or not I could purchase the Hope Diamond at Walmart.

So, after about 2 ½ weeks (with my family and I on pins and needles over coverage and having to reschedule appointments like crazy while this was going on…and what about people with lousy or even NO coverage having to try and deal with this, I thought to myself), I called AETNA again and somehow landed with the billing department, which ended up being fortuitous. The very helpful person I spoke with said that all I needed was the Group Number, ID Number and RX Number (I’m pretty sure that was it), and I could make my own insurance and prescription cards to present to our pharmacy and health care providers. So that’s what I did, and everything ended up processing OK.

Oh, and I FINALLY received my AETNA insurance cards with about five days to go in the lapsed month where I needed coverage.

So, to sum up, the PA health care exchange worked like clockwork (for the benefit of you wingnuts out there tempted to yell, “See, that gol’ danged Obama and his big gumint health care takeover did it again!”). However, AETNA moved slower than shit through a straw.

In my experience with employer-based coverage, AETNA is absolutely fine. However, based on this, you’re absolutely hosed if you have to deal with them yourself.

And to me, that speaks volumes about how screwed up our health care is in this country and why letting bad corporate actors like AETNA pursue a merger to become nothing but a bigger and even worse corporate actor is the very last thing we should consider.

Update 8/21/16: Curiouser and curiouser (here)…

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Donald Trump’s First Foreign Policy Briefing

August 18, 2016

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It is supposed to take place tomorrow, from what I hear – details were just leaked a few minutes ago.

Apparently, these are the priority talking points:

  • Lil’ Kim is the Secretary of State for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once signed Ivory Joe Hunter to Atlantic Records, a label run by Erdogan’s distant cousin, Ahmet Ertegun.
  • The U.S. recently supported the government of Yemen when it apprehended Black Lives Matter protestors at a Dow Chemical plant in that country; protestors alleged that the company carried out attacks against female insects of color in its gardening products, accusing Dow of “herbicide.”
  • British Prime Minister Theresa May is a very distant relative of former baseball player and Cincinnati Reds star Lee May, and she prefers to be reminded of that family connection at state functions.
  • The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was passed resoundingly by both houses of Congress in 2008 and proclaimed to be the law of the land by Secretary of the Interior Sarah Palin.
  • Argentina recently dedicated a statue of former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for his support of leftist insurgencies in that country and across the globe.
  • A tribe of Kalahari Desert Bushmen recently fashioned an interstellar missile made out of a massive collection of Coke soda bottles and launched it into space where it presently orbits the Earth; scientists dubbed the craft “The Gods Must Be Crazy” rocket.
  • Former President George W. Bush is currently vacationing with his family on their yacht, dubbed “Mission Accomplished 2.0,” in the South China Sea.

Stay tuned for more on this developing story (smile).


Exuent “Dr. McLaughlin’s Gong Show”

August 17, 2016

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(The reference in the title comes from a quote by former ABC News reporter/anchor Sam Donaldson, by the way.)

I suppose I should say something about the passage of this guy, not because I have anything particularly brilliant to add, but maybe just to vent ultimately (hey, if I can’t vent at my own blog, where can I do it, right?).

I wouldn’t say that I started to become politically aware thanks to his program – that’s a stretch, I’ll admit. For what it’s worth, I started to learn more and more about the con that was being played out as part of the ruinous conservative ascendancy in this country in the ‘80s under The Sainted Ronne R, and that is when I tried to consume more from newspapers, TV news casts and “opinion” programs (to go back even further, I suppose that the murder of John Lennon made me pay attention to the issue of gun control in a way that I never had before, though I admit that I should have before then).

I guess, in my naiveté, I sought out objective and responsible media as much as I could in response to what I believed was the wholesale abandonment of the middle class as a result of the flight of capital offshore, the craven and disastrously irresponsible codification of the thoroughly not proven mantra of perpetuating crony capitalism and the “ownership society” via something relatively new to that time called “trickle-down economics,” fanning the flames of hostility against unions, minorities, women, and working families overall (which, among other things, spawned the phrase “Reagan Democrat,” something that STILL requires me to suppress a gag reflex after all this time), and the demonization of anyone with a political opinion other than what passed for movement conservative thought.

And with all of that going on, I found myself watching “The McLaughlin Group” starting in the early ‘90s, and probably until later during that decade.

I know it seems quaint to admit now, but I watched that show with the hope of being informed on the issues that actually mattered. What I eventually came to realize, though, was that the intent of that show (intended as far as I’m concerned), first and foremost, was to elevate the “cult of personality” of the Beltway journos who appeared on the program.

Don’t get me wrong – there were some moments of actual substantive discussion. However, it became more and more clear that what mattered above all else was self-promotion.

Oh sure, there were moments when I actually learned a thing or two; I guess the main reason I kept tuning in was to watch Jack Germond, someone more professionally accomplished than everyone else on that panel put together. I give Eleanor Clift points for tolerance and endurance and frequently carrying the banner of the lefties/Democrats and, truth be told, the reality-based community. Morton Kondracke also had some worthwhile input on occasion, though it was obvious that he wanted to be part of the club, and that came through in almost everything he said. And Chris Matthews was pretty much the same thing you see now. And as far as Clarence Page goes, he became another reason to watch after Germond started drifting away from the show.

On the other side, it’s hard to describe how utterly loathsome Pat Buchanan was, again, then as now. Fred Barnes (again, then as now) was nothing but a lickspittle blathering whatever conservative talking points were handed to him before the cameras rolled. Mortimer Zuckerman occasionally crossed over into the realm of common sense, but that never lasted for too long. And I couldn’t keep track of the other assorted right-wing meat sacks who posed for the cameras, dutifully volleying back and forth with the host.

And as for McLaughlin himself, I got it that he realized he was the ringleader of all of this and occasionally had fun with it (which he was entitled to), but after watching that program, I found myself no more informed or educated in the way I thought I needed to be than I was before I started watching. And I guess this had the happily unintended consequence of making me seek out writers like Joe Conason, David Sirota, and in particular The Eternal Molly Ivins in order to find a proverbial clue.

So yeah, I suppose I should give McLaughlin a bit of credit in that he motivated me to seek out better media than what I was consuming at that time in order to learn more about the issues that impacted my life and the lives of those around me and what I should think, say and ultimately do in response. But I think he ended up blowing a golden opportunity, given his profile and that of his show, to practice actual quality journalism for the sake of perpetuating his own peculiar version of a carnival tent show that dovetailed nicely with the emergence of all-out-attack conservative media during the Bill Clinton years (and oh yeah, his show had enough of a profile to get parodied in the movie “Watchmen” as well as earning a nod in “Dave” and other topical films).

I guess there are worse legacies to be had. But I can think of a lot better ones too.

Update 8/18/16: Uh huh – not sure how I forgot about “dark Lord” Robert Novak, but somehow I did…facepalm.

Update 8/20/16: I also forgot about Bob Maynard who appeared on the “lefty” side; aside from being a true pro, I admired the fact that he never lost his cool despite all of the often-idiotic banter on that show.


The Repugs’ Deadly Game Of “Hidin’ Zika” (Updates)

August 4, 2016

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Huffpo tells us the following from here

WASHINGTON ― Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell delivered a letter to key lawmakers on Wednesday that explained exactly how their underfunded response to the Zika virus is screwing Americans over.

President Barack Obama asked Congress for $1.9 billion in February to deal with the impending outbreak of Zika in the United States. Congress finally began working on the request in May, with the Senate passing a bipartisan compromise that was about $800 million short.

The bill got tanked in a partisan squabble last month after Republicans decided to add in contraception restrictions, a pro-Confederate flag provision, extra cuts to Obamacare, and a measure to exempt pesticides from the Clean Water Act, even though those pesticides don’t target Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

They then departed for a seven-week break while sending a sternly worded letter to Obama, saying he should take aggressive action to battle Zika using the $589 million the administration transferred from other programs, taken primarily from the ongoing Ebola response. GOP lawmakers have also complained recently that the money is not being spent quickly enough, with nearly two-thirds still available.

Wednesday, Burwell detailed how that money is being spent, and how key programs actually will run dry this month if Congress does not act.

“Now that the United States is in the height of mosquito season and with the progress in developing a Zika vaccine, the need for additional resources is critical,” she wrote to the top members of the appropriations committees in the House and Senate. “Without additional funding as requested in the President’s request for an emergency supplemental, our nation’s ability to effectively respond to Zika will be impaired.”

Yeah, I think that about says it. And because of political nonsense from the “party of Lincoln” (here)…

Another apparently locally grown Zika virus case has been added to the list in Florida, state health officials said Tuesday, raising the number to 15 — all of them in the Miami area.

“Active transmission” of the mosquito-borne virus, which causes microcephaly and other birth defects, is still going on in a 1-square-mile area of the Wynwood arts neighborhood north of downtown Miami, said health officials, who advised pregnant women to stay away.

Overall, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 351 Zika cases in Florida, 336 of them involving people who traveled to the state from elsewhere, the state Health Department said.

“We’re not seeing the number of mosquitoes come down as rapidly as we would have liked,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, told The Associated Press.

The difficulty controlling the mosquitoes is “a reflection of the fact that, in this country, we really dismantled the mosquito monitoring and control infrastructure over the past few decades,” Frieden said.

“We have blind spots where we don’t know where the mosquito populations are and what the susceptibility is to different insecticides,” he said.

And how exactly did we get to this point? I think this post from the American Mosquito Control Association (yes, there actually is such a group, luckily for us) from some years ago clarifies things a bit…

A recent (2013) AMCA nationwide survey found for 22 out of 25 (88%) state public health departments that responded that the current level of (Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) grants from the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD)) funding compared to peak funding several years ago is no longer adequate to support their state’s non-human arbovirus testing efforts in the lab, significantly jeopardizing their state’s ability to cope with arbovirus diseases. Furthermore, this funding shortfall cannot support arbovirus surveillance-and-monitoring activities in the field, where 100% of all respondents felt such information was critical for conducting mosquito control operations.

Any economic savings provided by eliminating this funding will be insignificant compared to the potential healthcare costs to be incurred and, more importantly, the loss of life – both human and animal – if populations of mosquitoes that spread WNV and other exotic diseases are not monitored and suppressed in a timely manner.

I would tend to agree (by the way, the post was written in response to the outbreak of West Nile Virus, though you can just as easily apply it to Zika also – basically, we’ve been behind the proverbial curve on this for a little while as far as I’m concerned).

This is part and parcel of underfunding the CDC by congressional Republicans, as noted here; their cheapskate approach to funding for disease prevention helped give rise to an Ebola crisis in West Africa, as well as “the serious emerging viral infections in the US like Enterovirus-D68, chikungunya and dengue, as well as overseas MERS and bird flus, and natural disasters,” as documented in the 2014 post.

To return to Zika, though, for a minute, I just want to emphasize that, for the sake of trying to rob money for women’s contraception through (wait for it…) Planned Parenthood, ignore a bipartisan resolution banning Confederate flrags at U.S. cemeteries, and exempt pesticides from the Clean Water Act, we are currently in a position where at least one area of this country has to be quarantined from a Zika outbreak, and more are likely to follow.

And by the way, I’ve wondered how all of the “pro-lifers” out there are reacting to Zika. With that in mind, Dana Milbank of the WaPo penned this recent column in which he told us the following (Florida Repug U.S. House Rep Vern Buchanan stands out as a commendable exception, though)…

..there’s quiet from the antiabortion lobby. Groups I checked with haven’t taken a position on the Zika response, other than a few that have said laws against abortion should not be loosened in Latin American countries because of the virus.

National Right to Life published an argument in March questioning whether Zika causes birth defects and citing a study that said only 1 percent of babies born to mothers with the infection have the brain condition called microcephaly. “Abortion advocates would have had us believe the risk of microcephaly was much higher,” it said.

Typical for those disgusting hypocrites (of course, as noted here, all the evidence they would need about that already existed “south of the border”)…

But Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Post editorial board meeting Tuesday that “I can almost guarantee you” that the rate of birth defects is higher than 1 percent; another study puts it as high as 29 percent.

You know what? I think it’s time for a little “shock therapy” for those NRL cretins; get a load of this (here)…

At least 12 babies in the United States have already been born with the heartbreaking brain damage caused by the Zika virus. And with that number expected to multiply, public health and pediatric specialists are scrambling as they have rarely done to prepare for the lifelong implications of each case.

For children born with the worst of the brain defects caused by Zika, there will never be any miracle stories. No “the doctors said she would never walk, but … ” scenarios. These children will never walk. Never talk. Never laugh. Never play with a toy. Never feed themselves. Never even know that they are loved. They will only cry, and never be comforted.

They heard ophthalmologist Camila Ventura of Brazil, the epicenter of Zika in the Americas, describe how extremely irritable, even inconsolable, the newborns with microcephaly are.

“The babies cannot stop crying,” she said.

The parents of these children face not only day after day after day of bleak despair, but also crushing financial burdens.

Many of Zika’s littlest victims, diagnosed with microcephaly and other serious birth defects that might not immediately be apparent, could require care estimated at more than $10 million through adulthood.

“National Right to Life,” huh? Whose “life,” I wonder?

At least one voice of sanity on this is here (kudos to Dem VP Nominee Tim Kaine).

And by the way, if this isn’t a reason to vote out the Republicans in Congress responsible for this funding mess, among others (and elect Democrats like this guy), then I don’t know what is.

Update: Do you think this is “yuge”? I do.

Update 1 8/5/16: This amplifies some of what I’ve pointed out, but it definitely bears repeating.

Update 2 8/5/16: And of course, Heaven forbid that Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao would pull his thumb out and do something (here).

Update 8/6/16: And I had a feeling that this wasn’t helping one bit either.

Update 8/7/16: This garbage must play well in “the Sunshine State” because, last I checked, Rubio was still leading in the polls (more here).

Update 8/9/16: And I would say that this is the loudest voice yet.

Update 8/11/12: At least that “Kenyan Muslim Socialist” gets it (here – h/t Daily Kos).


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