Archive for May, 2010

Thoughts for Memorial Day

May 30, 2010

I wrote this in July of 2007 while waiting for a flight – and thought it was perfect for Memorial Day weekend.

I am in the Jacksonville Airport. Now as far as airports go, JAX is not bad – it has a Starbucks on both sides of security and free wireless, a pretty good place to spend an afternoon because of overbooked flights when trying to fly standby.

I got here about 10:00, my flight leaves about 5:00 so I’ve been doing some people watching. People began to gather at the exit from Terminal A with balloons and banners. The excitement of the giggling little ones caught my attention and I stopped working on trying to fix my father’s e-mail (very long story) and watched. Approximately 8 kids, about 3-6, hopped, jumped and were acting crazy. As exhausted as I am, I thought, a .10th of an ounce of that energy and I can feel better.

One of the t-shirts caught my eye. Unmistakably Carolina Blue, I giggled a bit silently at the bravery of wearing that color in Florida given the Gators’ status as 2-time defending champion and all. I twisted back to see what the shirt said. “My Daddy Comes Home Today!” The little boy turned around and the front of the shirt was his father’s picture with the background that was most certainly Iraq.

I took a closer look at the people gathered. All walks. All types. The children were the uniting factor that had deceived me into thinking that this was one big group waiting for one person. The adults stood apart from each other. All fidgeting, glancing at the arrivals board, counting down the minutes until they could expect to see that first glance of a loved one.

People started to tell their kids to come back over as the first people made their way down into the terminal from the Atlanta flight. The adults protectively put their arms around the little ones: or, was it the little ones who provided the reminder that yes, a loved one really, really was coming home today. The kids, all post 9/11 children, knew not to run down into the terminal. I did not know anybody in this gathering but found myself wishing the process would just hurry up. You could feel the range of emotions. How much has changed forever? To simply the jumping jack wearing the t-shirt “My Daddy Comes Home Today”.

I felt this stupid lump in my throat and felt my eyes tear up. I have seen soldiers walking through airports but never seen a combat deployed solider reunited with a loved one. One by one, they appeared. All looked exhausted, proud and very glad to be standing among friends, family and loved ones. The Daddy of the jumping jack bent over the stroller – and picked up a baby. He is more beautiful in person, he said. I lost it. Tears streaming down my face, I felt like a voyeur, this was supposed to be a private moment, a parent seeing a child for the first time should not happen in the middle of the airport. He kissed his forehead. I glanced over at his wife. Her hands over her mouth and tears pouring out of her eyes, she shook, as if every prayer ever uttered from her mind was answered in that moment. It probably was.

What I know about being pregnant, I’ve learned from my siblings and friends. You pray for a healthy, happy child to be born. 10 fingers and 10 toes, but really in the end, it is the healthy and happy baby is more important than which side of the family can claim the nose.

All I know about being deployed into combat, I’ve learned from my parents. My mother told me, she prayed every day that my father safely returned from Vietnam. It’s never been said, but I would wager, my father had the same prayer.

I hate this war. It is stupid and dumb. Those are my political beliefs. I’m proud (?) of my generation for not taking it out on the soldiers when they come home. For recognizing the lessons of who is to blame (stupid president) and who is not to blame (the father of the jumping jack).

Every once in awhile, I see a welcome home sign hanging from an overpass on the Pike or on 128. But there was something much more tangible today. There were faces of relief, joy, pride and something that I never should have seen. He was a beautiful baby, big, big eyes and the sweetest smile. His father should have met him about 8 months ago. Not today, in an airport.

I started to wipe out my eyes and looked up. The person sitting across from me was doing the same. It never gets old, he said. But, I wish it did, I added.

We nodded went back to our computers and didn’t make eye contact again.

I hate this war. I really, really hate it.

A simple experiment amongst the health care debate

May 20, 2010

I recently had a prescription that could not be refilled on-line or over the telephone.  I decided to conduct a simple experiment on the cost paid  by my insurance carrier to three different pharmacies located within a 1.2 mile radius of my home for the exact prescription.  My co-payment of $5.00 remained the same.  The prescription: exactly the same.  Pharmacy #1: Walgreens.  Walgreens “charged” me $8.99 for the medication.  Of which, I paid $5.00.  Pharmacy #2:  CVS  $7.99.  Again, I paid $5.00.  Pharmacy #3 Hannaford Pharmacy (a regional grocery store): $6.25.  I paid $5.00.  As all of these are located in the same zip code, *and* the regional business has the lower charge back to the insurance company, I am perplexed. 

Health care reform has been one of, if not, the single most divisive issues of domestic policy that I can remember.  Amongst the back and forth on both sides of the aisle (and both sides are to blame), I went back to my experiment.  When I go to purchase a Diet Coke, I *know* how much it will cost.  There is not a hidden charge back to my ATM card or the bottom of my purse.  Yet, for many people who have insurance, the insurance companies to do not post how *much* the original charge, “waived off charged”, insurance covered charges and out-of-pocket charge incurred were to the consumer. 

How can an average consumer, concerned about the rising costs of medical care, hope to help to contain costs if we cannot find out how much a pharmacy will charge our insurance company?  I am pointing to pharmaceuticals and pharmacies (please note not pharmacists because they are employees!) specifically because they provide a fixed cost of goods.  A 5/500 Vicodin pill costs x to produce.  The fact that the lowest charge back to my insurance company was the regional chain demonstrates several pressing issues that can easily aid in health care reform.

1) Start with a full audit of prescription medication reform including the cost of goods.  Unlike food items, they are not dependent on crop issues.  A pill should have the exact same cost cross-country.  While pharmaceutical companies deserve to make a fair profit as that funds research and development, insurance companies do not deserve to profit off of prescription medication to off set other costs.

2) Grocery stores, drug stores need to end promotions such as “free antibiotics”, gift cards for transferring prescriptions.  This only encourages pharmacy hopping and increases paperwork for the pharmacists and doctors offices.  Both of these practices are then passed along to the medical consumer through increased health care cost.  Hannaford’s? They do not participate in such schemes.

Is health care reform necessary? Yes. Do individuals have a responsiblity use health care wisely? Completely. *And* It is up to the consumers to demand from our insurance companies, our legislatures at both the state and federal level an accountability system which demonstrates just exactly how much our medication is really costing us.  We are paying far more than the copays: and we have the right to know which companies are abusing the system that is in place.  And if you can get a free chicken with your new prescription for antibiotics? Chances are your insurance company is being over-billed.

Betty White

May 9, 2010

Like millions of people last night, I turned on Saturday Night Live to watch the iconic Betty White host a show I haven’t seen on a regular basis in years.  I laughed until I cried and then I laughed some more.  From her opening monologue where she chided the social networkers with almost a grandmotherly love (How many of us have gotten on Facebook for 5 minutes to discover it is 2 hours later?) to mocking the census/immigration process at the end and the tragic renaming that did occur at Ellis Island (and I’ll pick Pacific Islander as well!), Betty White reminded us that age is a construct.  Yes, the show was laced with hysterical double entendres, yes Betty White said lesbian and yes Betty White even dropped the f-bomb and there was so, so much more.

An 88 and a half year old woman hosted Saturday Night Live.  The returning cast members, all women, stood in tribute almost to those who came before them, more cracks to the glass ceiling that Secretary of State Clinton declared at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.  It was feminism at its very best. There wasn’t an overt declaration of a tribute to women: there was an outpouring of love that started because of a crazy Facebook movement out of a Super Bowl ad for Snickers (poor Abe Vigoda – I’ve lost count if he is actually alive or dead.).  But at the end of the show, you saw it: surrounded by a mostly female cast, you saw the results of Title IX, the Pill being 50, the granddaughters of those who burned bras paying tribute to a ground breaking woman who at one point was one of the few women in television.  And it was funny.  It wasn’t “I am woman hear me roar”: It was I am a woman and your point is? I can host SNL at 88 (and a half), can you?

Ageism, sexism, xenophobia be dammed.  Last night, we were treated to a rarity.  A woman who could make fun of herself, make fun of us and we all seemed to enjoy it.  But I know I’ll never eat a muffin the same way again.  And once again, there are a few more cracks in the ceiling, this time, by a woman who put a few of the first ones there.  And she reminded us, ever so gently, as a grandmother would, to keep pushing forward and keep putting those cracks in the ceiling.