Tag Archives: Medicare

How a Medicare health maintenance organization (HMO) works. The premium is smaller, but it includes Part D prescription coverage. What’s the catch? Read all about it.

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September 18, 2014 · 11:59 am

Dwindling Jobs, College Debt, Clueless Politicians (With Extended Discussion in Comments)

Economic and political difficulties — especially issues of justice — are on my mind, as always. Guess I’ve been reading too many scary books about economics and the jobs outlook.

What is the outlook? In developing countries, manufacturing that’s always on the move, stalking the cheapest labor. In Western countries, an abundance of jobs for machines, robots and computers; for human beings, not so much. Continue reading

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Thinking About Retirement (What To Do With The Rest Of My Life)

retirement

(Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

The Super Bowl has come and gone, and Groundhog Day as well. And what do I have to show for the winter?

It’s been, first of all, a lazy winter. That would be an objective report.

However, I prefer to look at it as a winter of reading, thinking, planning. I haven’t done as much blogging as I’d like. On the other hand, I’ve finally joined Twitter, and  I’m even beginning to see its usefulness. Feel  free to follow along on Twitter @BJohnHayden.

I’ve  joined the local gym, and I’m showing up on a regular basis. That’s important, because I’m now beyond denial. I recognize that if I want to do any useful work in the years I have remaining, it’s imperative that I exercise and conserve my health.

Mostly, I’ve been thinking about and preparing for retirement,  Continue reading

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Returning Now To Our Regular Program, “The Fiscal Cliff”

Photo by John Hayden

It’s 10 days since I last posted on Work In Progress. The Earth continues to spin. Gen. John Petraeus and Paula Broadwell, et al., were pushed from the front pages by a deadly rocket battle between Israelis in Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.

Full-out war appeared imminent, according to cable TV news. But a ceasefire was called in time for Thanksgiving.  (Appropriate that it’s an American holiday. We have so much to be thankful for, compared to the rest of the world. And we take it all for granted.)

The waning of the Middle East crisis made room for a seasonal story: Walmart employees threatening to disrupt kickoff of the Christmas shopping frenzy. (Starting time for the frenzy advanced from Black Friday to Thanksgiving Day, henceforth to be known as Black Thursday.)

The Walmart protests fizzled, naturally. They had as much impact as Y2K. Walmart workers stand exposed as powerless against the energy of American consumerism.

Now we return to the dreaded “Fiscal Cliff,” at least until the next distraction. Be not faint-hearted! In the grand scheme of things, the fiscal cliff is a bump in the road.

Most importantly, the fiscal cliff provides a unique opportunity to put the brakes on the runaway military-industrial defense complex.  Seize the day!    Continue reading

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The Great ‘Culture-War’ Election of 2012

A map of the United States of America, showing...

Image via Wikipedia

Will the next election be a “culture war?” Looks like. Please read Jon Taplin’s latest post, “Bring On The Culture War.”

“Bring on this culture war to end all culture wars. We need a real clear decision. Do we (all the people, not some of the people) want to move towards Rick Perry’s vision on the future or Barack Obama’s vision of the future. Down Perry’s road lies a world where gays stay in the closet, women are submissive, where Social Security is abandoned to the care of Wall Street (for a big fee), and where we keep trying to play the role of policeman of the world.

Pretty much the opposite would be what Obama believes. So let’s choose as a country.”  — Jon Taplin

At stake in the 2012 culture-war election, of course, is nothing less than the future of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Will America be a democracy of the people, or an aristocracy of the wealthy and powerful? Will we have a middle-class in America, or a deep divide between wealth and poverty?

Are people willing to give President Obama a fair hearing, or are they predisposed to hate the man?

— John Hayden

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Debt Madness Was Always About Killing Social Security (via roger hollander)

Below is a commentary worth reading. Conservative ideologues have hated Social Security from the beginning, in 1934.

Social Security is not the cause of the U.S. public debt, and neither is Medicare. To blame Social Security and Medicare is to lie! The methodic run-up of defense spending, starting in 1971, and the extension of U.S. military influence to every corner of the globe over the past four decades — those are the primary causes of the U.S. public debt, in my opinion. — John

Debt Madness Was Always About Killing Social Security Published on Wednesday, July 27, 2011 by TruthDig.com   by  Robert Scheer This phony debt crisis has now passed through the looking glass into the realm where madness reigns. What should have been an uneventful moment in which lawmakers make good on the nation’s contractual obligations has instead been seized upon by Republican hypocrites as a moment to settle ideological scores that have nothing to do with the debt. Hypocrites, because their rad … Read More

via roger hollander

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America: What I Believe In 2011

Image via Wikimedia Commons

(Please click on “comments” at the left side of the title for an interesting back-and-forth between polar opposite points of view.)

The deadlock over raising the debt limit seems almost like a clash of religious beliefs. The two sides hold different beliefs. The deadlock has helped clarify my thinking about what I believe. Maybe this debt crisis of 2011 will help us all clarify who we are, and what we believe.

Image via Wikimedia CommonsI believe that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are the best part of America. I believe that without Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, a large part of the American population — more than half the people over 65 — would fall into hopeless poverty.

Some people believe it would be impossible to balance the American budget without deep cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I believe that America is still, right now, the most prosperous society the world has ever known. I believe that America can afford Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

I believe it would be fair for the most prosperous among us — those with incomes of $250,000 or more a year — to pay a little more in taxes for the good of America. These people have prospered in America. They live the good life. Aren’t they patriotic enough to want to keep America strong? I believe they ARE patriotic and willing to help. It is inconceivable that they could be otherwise.

Some politicians say they oppose any tax increase because a tax increase would “destroy jobs.”

I don’t believe it. How would a modest tax increase destroy jobs? The president is not talking about making rich people poor. He’s talking about a modest tax increase on incomes over $250,000. How exactly will that destroy jobs? Will people earning $250,000 or more even notice a small tax increase? Will a small tax increase change their way of life? I don’t think so. Some may believe otherwise.

I believe there are other ways to balance the American budget. I believe we are spending far too much on a worldwide military presence. I believe we do not have to be fighting foreign wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. I believe we could drastically reduce foreign military spending, pull American soldiers out of harm’s way and closer to the North American continent. We could reduce defense spending by perhaps a third, and still have a military that is by far strong enough to defend the North American continent.

I simply cannot understand why anyone would want to destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. I believe the vast majority of Americans support these programs. I believe that common-sense cuts in general government spending and defense spending, combined with a small increase in taxes on the most fortunate among us, would bring the American budget into balance.

What do you believe?

THIS CHART PUTS THE FINANCIAL CONDITION OF MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY IN PERSPECTIVE. BEGGING THE QUESTION: IF MODEST CUTS WERE MADE IN U.S. SPENDING ON GENERAL GOVERNMENT AND DEFENSE, AND SOME EFFICIENCIES ARE FOUND IN MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY, THEN HOW MUCH WOULD STILL NEED TO BE RAISED IN TAXES? Chart via Wikipedia

Keep the faith.

— John Hayden

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American Debt Crisis: Rich and Powerful Demand Total Victory over Middle Class and Poor

No. 3 in a series on the Debt Crisis of 2011.

President Barack Obama floated a trial balloon on the front page of the Washington Post on Thursday, in a long story that said the President is prepared to discuss cuts to both Medicare and Social Security. As the headline put it, Medicare and Social Security are “on the table,” otherwise known as the chopping block. No one quoted in the story was willing to have their name attached to the information.

In the whole, long newspaper story, the words “defense” and “defense cuts” were never mentioned. Not once. What? You mean Medicare and Social Security are on the table, but the elephantine defense budget is not? It’s not credible, not believable.

As Obama was supposedly preparing to sacrifice Medicare and Social Security, Republicans repeated their long-stated position: Tax increases for the rich are NOT “on the table.” Republicans allowed as how they might be willing to wheel and deal on tax breaks and loopholes, so long as the net effect is no increase in taxes on the rich.

Also yesterday, AARP, the largest organization representing senior citizens, made its position clear: The AARP opposes any cuts in Medicare and Social Security.

So, the lines are clearly drawn in the class war to divide up what’s left of the American Dream. The rich and powerful have made clear they will accept nothing less than total victory over the middle class and poor. President Obama hints he might be a willing accomplice in the cashing out of Medicare and Social Security. If so, it would be a presidential betrayal of the American people on a historic scale.

(If you cringe at the words class war, don’t forget that class warfare will probably be followed by generational warfare, pitting mother against daughter and grandfather against grandson. See “Divide And Conquer: The New Plan To End Social Security by Dividing America at 55.”)

Could President Obama possibly be serious about caving in to the rich and powerful on both Medicare and Social Security? Plus a player to be named later, Medicaid?

I hope the President is not serious. To balance the budget by cutting Medicare and Social Security for the middle class and the poor, while at the same time refusing to raise taxes on the rich by a single penny, would be a craven injustice. Remember, the rich are paying tiny taxes, compared to what they have paid historically, and their wealth continues to expand, in a continuing social transfer of assets from bottom to top.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with the American budget that could not be remedied by modest tax increases on the wealthy, accompanied by modest spending cuts in the defense budget. That’s what should be “on the table.”

I hope Obama floated this balloon simply to highlight how outrageous it would be to force the middle class and the poor to pay for the financial crisis created by the rich and powerful. In any event, the trial balloon provided an easy target for Democrats in Congress to shoot down.

Do you suppose that anyone is negotiating in good faith as the clock ticks down to financial default by the U.S. government?  If U.S. leaders fail to behave responsibly, the hard times ahead could test the fabric of American society like never before.

— John Hayden

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American Debt Crisis: Whatever Happened to Jobs, Jobs, Jobs?

No. 2 in a series of quick-takes on the Debt Crisis of 2011. 

Today’s question: Whatever happened to the first and foremost issue of the 2010 election, JOBS?

Remember when every politician was chanting in unison: “Jobs, jobs, jobs!” That’s what they said, because that’s what the voters cared about. Jobs. But “Jobs, jobs, jobs!” was more a prayer than a promise.

All politics is local, remember, but the job market is now global. It is not within the power of locally elected politicians to create jobs in a global job market.

It is, however, within the power of politicians to kill jobs. Soon as the class of 2010 took residence in the governor’s mansions and state legislatures, they set about writing austerity budgets focused on two goals: Reduce spending and cut taxes. The way to reduce spending is to eliminate as many state programs and state jobs as possible. Wisconsin got the lion’s share of publicity for austerity, but nearly every state has joined the movement.

Now the focus has turned to Washington, where they’re busy cutting jobs on a larger scale. The debate is not over whether to cut the federal budget, but how deeply to cut. And where to cut.

The Republican Party is determined to cut the budget by gutting the hated “Entitlement Programs.”  They use the words, “Entitlement Programs” because they fear to say, “Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.”  The main budget target this year is Medicare for the elderly. Republicans hope, as soon as possible, to move on to cutting Medicaid and the most popular “Entitlement,” Social Security.

Keep your eye on the goal. Forget about Jobs, jobs, jobs! The attention span is short. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs! is over. That was last year’s goal.

The goal for 2011 is reducing the national debt. So they say. Spending cuts are the means to that end.

But the real goal is to reduce taxes for wealthy individuals and for corporations. Republicans plan to hand over to the wealthy and corporations, all the money saved by spending cuts. In a few years, presumably, Congress would begin to use some of the savings to actually reduce the debt. Possibly.

When pressed, Republicans say that the way to create Jobs, jobs, jobs! is by gifting large amounts of money to the wealthy and corporations, who would invest the money. Eventually, it might trickle down to the masses in the form of jobs.

Remember that wealthy people invest their money in corporations. As in,  “International Corporation” Or “Global Corporation.” So, even if you believe in trickle down, exactly where in the world do you suppose new jobs would be created?

In my opinion, any jobs resulting from U.S. spending and tax cuts would go to some developing  country offering cheap labor, far from the U.S.

America with no jobs and no Medicare will be a sad and dreary place.

The first post in this series on the American Debt Crisis is here. The next installment will be “Starve The Beast.”

— John Hayden

(Does a 525-word post qualify as a short-take?)

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Geography of Life After Sixty: You Do Have A Choice

VANCOUVER, BEST CITY FOUR YEARS RUNNING. Wikimedia Commons photo

MELBOURNE SKYLINE. AUSTRALIA HAS FOUR OF THE WORLDS TOP CITIES. Wikimedia Commons photo

We haven’t talked about geography in a while. Have you ever thought about relocating to a better place?

Like, “If Congress is stupid enough to kill Medicare, I’m moving to Canada!”

If you’re retired and living on Social Security, you might actually have the freedom to make a considered decision about the best place for you, personally.

Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of the Commonwealth, must be doing something right. Public domain photo

Turns out, Canada’s not a bad choice. In Time’s list of the 10 Happiest Countries in the World, Canada comes in third, behind only Denmark and Sweden. Australia is fourth and New Zealand is eighth. These Commonwealth countries must have a secret. Could it be their health care systems? Ireland, my favorite place to consider living, is 10th. Come to think of it, I guess all the countries in the top  10 have universal health care. The U.S. does pretty well, at 12th place, considering we have health care that’s more expensive and less effective than many countries.

In a ranking of the Most Livable Cities in the World, Australia has four(!) in the top 10 and Canada has three. Vancouver, Canada (most livable city in the world four years in a row!), and Melbourne, Australia took first and second place. If you’re gazing north across the border, Calgary and Toronto also make the top 10. Pittsburgh(!) is the top-ranked U.S. city, at 28th.

Gazing south across the border? Dunno. People used to retire to Mexico for the low cost-of-living. But I hear they’ve got an out-of-control drug war going just now.

As always, these rankings of places are subjective. You have to consider what factors were considered in the rankings. What’s important to you? Health care? Cost of living? Climate?

— John Hayden

(Quick-take rating for this post: 342 words)

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