Recently I pulled into the drive-thru at McDonald’s and in front of me was a car with two teenage boys. They weren’t paying attention and keeping up with the line. So, expecting a flock of angry birds I honked my horn. It woke them and from then on they mostly paid attention.
What I noticed, when their heads weren’t bobbing to something I wouldn’t recognize as music, was that both were either smoking cigarettes or vaping. I could fault them for that but at their age, I was on my way to becoming totally nicotine addicted and working my way towards two or more packs a day. The brief experience made me reflect back on my own experiences.
I guess that I began smoking around age twelve, if not younger. That would have been 1954 and I continued smoking until 1982 at age forty when I attended a smoking cessation class and six weeks later snuffed out my devil weed. So, I smoked 28 years and have been smoke-free for 36 years.
In 1954 a pack of cigarettes in New York was .23 cents and I was smoking one or two a day. By 1960, the year I graduated from high school the price was .26 cents and I was consuming a pack a day. In 1982 cigarettes were .82 cents a pack and I was smoking three packs a day and if I went bar hopping on Friday night it would be another two packs for a total of five.
I’ve taken Ambien for years to help me go to sleep. Sleep was never a problem until a couple of back to back surgeries about ten years ago. As many of you know, Ambien has side effects that include sleep walking. We’ve talked about this before and many of you Ambien users have such stories to share.
Anyway, couple of months ago I decided to try something different and my doctor wrote me a script for Lunesta. While it did put me to sleep it left such a horrible aftertaste in my mouth that I just had to give it up and go back to Ambien. So here’s my latest Ambien story.
By whatever name they’re called there are 3,142 counties in the United States. Every single county in the U.S. registered an increase in drug-related mortality between 1980 and 2014. And that rise was statistically significant in 99.8 percent of counties.
The tragedy of these facts and figures is that the obvious failure of what has become known as the War on Drugs can be traced at least back to the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914. The war got heated in 1971 under Nixon and again in the 1980s with Reagan.
RISING DRUG COSTS: Californians have been notified that the cost of generic glaucoma drugs will rise by 64% and one asthma med will increase 50% on May 1. How can such increases be justified and explained?
They say a person is never too old to learn something new and that happens to me often. A couple of months ago I learned that there is an entire world-wide subculture that enjoys videos of people getting their pimples and blackheads extracted by dermatologists. There’s even a dermatologist in California who has become world-renowned by the title, Dr. Pimplepopper. It’s been rumored that there is discussion about her hosting a reality TV show on one of the major cable networks.
A lot of laid off coal miners voted for Trump because he got them to believe in the lie that coal was coming back to Eastern Kentucky and Trump would be driving the lead truck. Well that’s just not going to happen if you believe in reality. There is not a single indicator lending evidence that coal is in out future.
While coal consumption has been dying in America the same has occurred in other nations. China just cancelled the construction of 103 coal-fired generating plants in favor of natural gas. China has stopped importing coal and has laid off tens of thousands of their own miners due to lack of demand.
During the years I taught government another teacher and myself would invite state politicians to discuss our classes about the realities of being a politician. We had both a Democrat and a Republican and they always did a wonderful job.
One question always asked by students was some form of, “How’s come you guys don’t do thus and thus?” The standard answer was always, “OK, I’ll do that, just give me the money.” People want to believe government functions on air and politicians can just wave their hands and things happen. Of course, the reality is that everything takes money and the most common source of money for government is taxes.
I love it when ignorance comes home to bite people on the butt cheek. Such is becoming a frequent reality as the truth of the Trump campaign promises unfold. One example is that 35% of Americans don’t know that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Obamacare are the exact same things. Same thing, different names. Ironically lots of those who supported the conservative right favored the ACA but were dead set opposed to Obamacare.
FACTOID: As the new Congress feverishly works to undo Obamacare a recent study strongly suggest that the majority of Americans know little about the law. That is even more true of those who oppose it. The post-information era at its best.
OPIOIDS: A truly ridiculous amount of prescription opiates have been sent to West Virginia from 2007 to 2012: 555,808,292 doses of hydrocodone and 224,260,980 doses of oxycodone. That’s 433 pills for every person in the state over that time span.
Not that there is any less but, back in the early days of the Obama administration there was lots of controversy regarding America’s health care system. In trying to sort through all the claims and myths about how other nations approached it I read a book by a researcher who had been hired by some institution to visit certain countries and evaluate their systems.
I don’t recall many details but I do remember that Canada and Taiwan were near the top of the best ten list. Some of the other countries he investigated were Germany, England, France, and the US. At no surprise the US ranked at the bottom of the list. Not because of poor health services and facilities but because it was too expensive for too many Americans.
Given the announced increases in Obamacare premiums it’s important that people have accurate information about what it means and how you may be affected. I found this article in the New York Times and it’s certainly worth your time. Pay special attention to the roll a “functioning” Congress needs to play in the fix.
Figuring out how Obamacare is faring has always been hard.
It’s been hard because many Republicans are rooting for the law to fail and try to make any flaw sound existential. And it’s been hard because we in the media haven’t always done a good job covering the law. We tend to sensationalize its problems, rather than distinguishing between routine ones and truly worrisome ones.
The recent spike in premiums — raising the cost of many insurance plans — is a real problem. But it’s also contained to the smaller part of Obamacare’s coverage expansion, and it’s a problem that could be easily solved by a functioning Congress.
First, some context: The 260 million or so Americans who receive health insurance through their employer, Medicare or Medicaid (including through Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion) are unaffected by the prices increases. The increases instead apply to the 10 million people who buy coverage on one of the private-insurance exchanges established by the law. Even among those 10 million, the vast majority receives government subsidies that will largely or partly cancel out the price increase.
So why do I say the price increases are a real problem? Because those insurance exchanges are vital to the idea of universal coverage in this country. Without them, many people who don’t qualify for government insurance or aren’t covered through their job will be stuck without good medical care.
The spike in premiums is a sign that not enough healthy people are signing up for the exchanges. Without healthy people to balance out the sick, insurance stops being insurance and becomes terribly expensive.
The basic solution is straightforward. It involves increasing the subsidies for lower-income families — while also increasing the penalties for people who refuse to sign up for health insurance. The overall cost of this fix would be modest, and a better functioning Republican Party would have no problem agreeing to a compromise. It would preserve a robust role for the private market, after all.
The more boldly liberal solution is to create a so-called public option on the exchanges — a government insurance plan anyone could buy. In a Times Op-Edtoday, Jacob Hacker — one of the architects of the public option — makes the case for it.
I’ll confess to being torn about whether the public option is a more complex solution than the current problem requires. I encourage you to read Hacker’s piece – and also this recent Times piece raising questions about the public option. If you have thoughts after doing so, send me an email, at Leonhardt@nytimes.com.
I’ve heard that life is a series of hurdles. While there may be truth in that it is also a series of probes and pokes and as you age the frequency of probes and pokes increases. Someone is always wanting to put something someplace.
I don’t know how old I was when a doctor first suggested I allow him to stick a finger in my anus but it wasn’t too long after that instead of a finger it was a 6′ colonoscopy tube.