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July 23, 2009

Summer musings, Personal and Political

Patricia A. Kelly

I've reached the stage in life where I have the good fortune of several friends and relatives who own vacation homes. Nothing could be better except for having the master bedroom and private bath, than having a virtually free vacation among friends and family.


Just imagine sitting under the pine trees of Chincoteague eating gigantic, fresh, not-farm-raised, grilled shrimp along with grill-roasted summer vegetables. My mouth still waters.


How about swimming, floating weightless, in a cool, clean pool – completely alone.


Kayaking, swimming, grandchild hugs, girl talk, Delaware outlet shopping, summer food, beach breezes – I've had it all.


I think I might have had swine flu, too. I had been feeling really tired and achy before my fever spiked last Wednesday, just before my return from Ocean City. I'm still spiking fevers whenever my medications wear off. Headache, fever, chills, clamminess, severe body aches, a cough that rocks my little cat Tinker Belle right off my belly.


She has been a marvelous companion, valiantly outsleeping me no matter how many hours I stay in bed. Here in my isolation ward, I delight in looking beside me on the bed and finding her small body, keeping vigil.


Although it's disquieting for me to be ill at all, blessed with good health as I am, I think I'm improving, and I've had a really quiet week alone in a peaceful house, with only occasional sojourns to my garden. Too sick to be restless, as minimal self care was all I could manage, I've slept and read and watched detective shows and an occasional movie on television. All with Tinky at my side.


During my time at home, I've given some thought to current events, especially to health care reform and the push for quick passage of a bill to make change. There's no question that we need it. I see why President Barack Obama wants it done now, but hasty, ill-thought-out action could make things worse than they are.


President Obama has a huge task on his hands, if he really intends to change the status quo of our government. Just the other day I read that the Social Security Administration spent $700,000 to send staff to Arizona for a stress reduction vacation. That will be a habit that's hard to break.


The trick for President Obama will be to find out before the money is actually spent. Just imagine the battle if he actually dares to try to change the culture of Washington. Or the massively profit-driven culture of our medical system. I wish him good luck with either of those. He'll need it.


While he's at that, I wish him really good luck with the transparency thing he's been promising. If we actually could tell what bills were about, we might write our congressmen and tell them how we want them to vote.


As for the medical system, I recently contracted with a health-related organization to have some screening lab tests done at a local commercial lab at a cost of $225. A friend of mine came to work the other day and told me that her medical insurance no longer covered preventive screenings, so she had been charged $600 at a local commercial lab for fewer tests than I am getting.


Here's another good one. We pay 51% to 94% more for generic drugs than they would cost in a free market due to convoluted Food and Drug Administration regulations which require a company wanting to make generics to apply as if they were making a new drug. That is, in order to make an already approved drug, they have to offer proof, not only that their drug is the same as the original, but that the drug works. The result is a reduction in competition, and protection of high prices. I wonder what the people choosing between buying food and filling their prescriptions would think about this.


There's a mess to clean up, all right.


Sen. Ted Kennedy, long an advocate of health care reform, says that we need to end the disgrace of being the only major industrialized nation that doesn’t guarantee all citizens health care. He says that a public plan will foster competition in pricing and services.


I wish I could feel comfortable with that, but I keep remembering what Sen. Mitch McConnell said on Sunday talk radio. He said the president of Ford Motor Company, a friend of his, told him that things were going pretty well for Ford, except that the federal government was undercutting them on financing, since it controls financing for the other major auto dealers. So Ford, which did not take the bailout, is being directly penalized by our government for operating independently.


I wonder what will be different if we have a government medical insurance program.


It's a good thing that President Obama gets plenty of exercise, or he wouldn't even be able to sleep at night with all these nefarious schemes to root out. I wish him luck, not to mention us. We're going to need it.


As for me, I hope to forget about all this for at least a few more days this summer, or I won't be able to sleep, either.


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