Archive for July, 2009

29
Jul
09

Five Big Concerns About Public Health Care (And Why They Shouldn’t Be)

Three things are inspiring me to write this. First of all, I was asked about it. Secondly, health care is kinda sorta in the news nowadays. And thirdly, my upcoming jaunt back to mi patria is bringing back memories…and anger. Why anger, you ask? OK, I’ll start with the last part then…

When I discovered I was pregnant in the States, I was just finishing my degree and didn’t have health insurance or money. I was, however, shocked and delighted to find out that I was eligible for LAMoms, a program of public health care that focused on low-income Louisiana mothers-to-be and their small children. Hurray! And this brings me to my first point.

1. Picking doctors
Under LAMoms, I was allowed to pick my own doctor. Huzzah! And so I did, carefully researching the best OB/Gyns in the area. Turns out, none of them would take my poor ass. Finally, after cold-calling every doctor within a 100-mile radius (no kidding), I found someone who would be willing to take my gubmint insurance. 70 miles away. In three months. Which is a bit late for a first trimester checkup.

Here in Spain, I was not allowed to pick my doctor or my midwife (midwives do the delivering here). I have to say, though, it didn’t bother me for a few reasons. Most notably, I’m not really picky when it comes to doctors, and the very distinct impression given here is that every doctor is equally qualified. Plus, if you really can’t stand a doctor (which happened to me later when visiting a pediatric specialist), you can bitch and moan and change doctors. So, yes, your doctor is determined by your zip code here in Spain, whereas, in the States, my doctor was determined by my insurance coverage. Which reminds me…

2. Public insurance

What exactly is public health insurance? This is a question that should be asked more often, since I think it’s unclear in the States. I say this because I was just researching whether or not our daughter would be covered under the much-ballyhooed CHIP (children’s health insurance) program while we’re visiting. Turns out that, in the state where we’ll be visiting, there does exist a CHIP program to cover all minors. For $147 a month, per kid (capping out at around $400 a month for three or more little buggers). In short, this makes us buying travel insurance for all three of us more cost-effective for the weeks we’ll be there.

That’s not public health insurance, silly!

Spanish public health insurance is a given. It’s a right for all citizens and legal residents, rather than a privilege. And, when I say it’s a given, I mean that: it’s given. Free. Sin pagar. Punto.

As for illegal immigrants, they can go to the doctor too in the ER, for a fee. Just like all us po’ folks in the United States. Oh, and, speaking of ERs…

3. Quality of public health care

This has been a matter of substantial debate, and rightfully so. A lot of people have heard horror stories about huge lines in Canada, and lackluster treatment availability everywhere but the Good Ol’ U S of A, right? While I won’t deny that public health care = waiting, I will describe what I mean. All appointment times for doctor’s visits are what they call “orientative,” and they are granted in blocks. The doctor comes out periodically, tells everyone the order in which they’ll be called, and then the patients police themselves (I still find the Spanish queue system fascinating, but that’s a topic for another day). Given that, I have never spent more than 25 minutes waiting to be seen. Going to the ER, I’ve never spent more than 40, and that was for a routine checkup when I first landed here, was still undocumented, and was not an emergency by any stretch of the imagination (I got a bill for that visit later for 200 euros. However, the health office contacted me, since they had been notified that I was a legal resident, and rescinded that charge, all without me saying anything).

As far as the quality goes, I’ve been pretty impressed, for the most part. My prenatal care was fine, if a bit impersonal (I’ll get to why in a moment), the delivery was expert, and the recovery was brilliant (you stay for three days minimum in a private room). My daughter’s care has been wonderful, and I couldn’t ask for more to be done for her. If I did, it would get done (really, they ask all the time if I’d like to test to verify/negate my various and sundry concerns). Which reminds me…

4. Bureaucracy

This is a bit of a pain here in Spain, in that every single doctor has his/her own specialty. Your GP, OB, pediatrician, and various specialists are all different people (of course), but a lot of times they’ll be in different places around the city. I found it to be the worst with the prenatal care, since my OB was different from my ultrasounder from my blood analyzer, etc…However, I was still undocumented when they assigned me all these people, so I didn’t have a set doctor to refer me. Still, you will never give blood or urine to your doctor in the next room; it will usually be a separate appointment on a different day. Since there’s no such thing as “sick days” here, it doesn’t so much matter to the Spaniards, but it is something that would have to be modified if the U.S. were to adopt a similar system.

Another thing that is always brought up as a terrifying phrase when impending “France-ification” is feared upon us is “strikes.” Yes, the unions in Europe LOVE to strike, and doctors are no different. However, since health care is a right, and not a privilege, the doctors inform their patients of their strikes ahead of time, they only last for one day, there are always subs available, and the ER never ever closes. For example, I know that, if I want to see my daughter’s pediatrician, I can’t go on August 11, since she’ll be on strike. No joke. Which is why…

5. Driving private sector out of business?

Could never happen here in Spain. Native Spaniards, who are accustomed to the luxury of free health care, don’t like the waits or the impersonal nature of the visits. So, they virtually all currently have, or have had, private health insurance. And they can, since it’s quite cheap and doesn’t turn away anyone who may have sneezed once in 1974. So, yes, the private sector is huge here, but it’s inexpensive and inclusive. God forbid that should happen to us.

So, there it is, in a big, fat bloated nutshell. That can go get its arteries unclogged gratis at the local hospital.

18
Jul
09

Obama’s New Tack On Passing Health Care: Organ Harvest

He’s just gonna cold threaten our organs, one by one, till we pass this shit:

Heart

17
Jul
09

On Heckler, Hecklers, and Critics

I was watching Jamie Kennedy’s movie Heckler last night, something I still think is a brilliant response to the savage critiques he received after Malibu’s Most Wanted and Son of the Mask. I think it’s a great bit of revenge to, in the face of cruel and inhuman criticism, show a comedian (and interview many others) ingesting said criticism, wincing at personal slights, and looking hurt at the extent of the savagery.

And, yes, I absolutely agree that, if you don’t like a movie or comedy show, you should just leave. Change the channel. I let Carlos Mencia be Carlos Mencia, and I just go have a cocktail at the bar. Done.

It was when the documentary got into savaging critics and bloggers that I (predictably) began to lose some of my sympathy for the characters. I concede that I also yearn for the days of serious film/dramatic criticism (where are today’s Dorothy Parkers, who are knowledgeable and empathetic enough to the performers and writers to know just how to slice them up, without actually breaking them down?). Gene Shalit, Leonard Maltin, the staff of the NY Times these days…feh. And, yes, I think they should all be replaced by people who actually make movies for a living, much as the book reviews that are always the most spot-on and interesting are essayed by fellow writers.

And yet…well, the thing is…I couldn’t help but think of that line from Godfather II: “This is the business [you've] chosen.” It’s not like you made this movie, then released it, only to find that the entire world of film criticism had changed from an erudite circle of polite former screenwriters, into a gaggle of snarling beasts. And, in order to put up with said snarling beasts, you got paid. Well. Better than said snarling beasts, and sure as shit better than most of the country.

And, as far as mean “fans” go, while I think it’s rude that people go up to celebrities and tell them their movies suck when the poor people are just trying to enjoy a meal, I also think it’s enormously arrogant to think that people will never have unfavorable opinions about your work, and will instead just sit in slack-jawed wonderment at the talking pictures proferred for their enjoyment. Unfortunately, it’s a fact that the most likely response you will get will be the most negative, with the most positive following behind. It’s just how our psyches work; many studies have confirmed that we humans like to bitch about things we hate more than admire things we love.

As for the blogosphere: Yes, the internet is home to the meannest of the mean, in both senses of the word. However, it is written by the general public, and these are all people who, unlike “real critics,” paid to see your movie. If you don’t want to listen to their opinions, fine: Don’t log on and Google yourself. But don’t bitch because they have opinions that are contrary to your own, and say so.

As far as the language of online reviews goes, it has indeed gotten more and more violent and crude, especially when writing reviews of things and/or celebrities. Why, you wonder, the animosity? The answer is: It has nothing to do with animosity, and everything to do with anonymity. The internet is huge, and the blogosphere is chock-a-block with people who like to write their opinions. In order to differentiate yourself, you have to make something in your headline or tags stand out. For whatever reason, I’ve noticed that any headline of mine that includes cursing and/or references to various sorts of perversions gets TONS of hits; those that are more thoughtful get almost none.

I don’t blame readers for this. There are myriad ways to get news and information these days, and civil discourses can get lost in the shuffle. Take the awesome postings at synthesis: They are well-thought-out, highly intellectual, and, above all, well-written. That blog, along with other similar ones, consistently gets rated among the top of the internet. And yet, I will bet all my savings that Gawker beats them in page hits and ad sales. So, there’s that: Blame human nature and its love of watching brutality, but don’t blame the people trying to be heard.

And, while I’m on the subject, there is absolutely no difference between a blogger cruelly mocking a movie, and said movie star saying that the blogger is some basement-dwelling fatass who’s never held a job or gotten laid. Except the amount of people who get to see/hear the movie star say that, versus the small number of people who read the snarky blog. That balances out the comparative anonymity (and security) bloggers feel, yes? And when they lose said anonymity (like Andrew Sullivan, or others), they get well compensated for it. Just like other public figures. So they can buy bigger pillows to cushion the blows of public criticism.

So, in conclusion, here’s my advice to Jamie Kennedy:

1. Just as you say to hecklers in comedy clubs: If you don’t like what you read on the Internet about yourself, don’t look.
2. Buck up, buttercup. Those meanies out there don’t really hate you; they just love colorful language and page views.
3. Go take a look around your nice house, cuddle up to your pretty girlfriend, and remind yourself that you’re doing alright, regardless.

Thus endeth the lesson. Dick jokes soon!

07
Jul
09

My Beef With Noted Meatsack, Sarah Palin

It takes something really, really crazy to inspire me to put aside my frantic job search and blog again. I guess, for the break, I should thank Sarah Palin. Instead, though, I just find myself getting angrier and angrier with her, almost to the point of irrationality. But then I realized: It’s rational, and it’s explicable, especially in my current situation.

Here’s the deal: I am about to be out of work. As a new mother, I am in the process of conducting a metric ton of interviews, in each of which I am forced to bargain with/promise/reassure employers. As far as we’ve come as a society in terms of equality in the workplace, the simple fact of the matter is the following: It’s much harder to get prospective (or new) employers to hire you if you are a woman with small children. Period.

And then along came Womenomics, which was such a light for me to shine in these dark interviews. Its claims that women make the workplace more efficient and profitable, and that they do so best when allowed to work as women with family as a priority…well, I can’t say how often I run those statistics over and over in my head while trying to convince employers that flex time is worthwhile.

But now Sarah Palin comes and fucks it up. Why? Because she is the absolute personification of every single bad stereotype about women, and working women, that exists. Let’s run down the list:

1. She’s vain
This one’s a big no-brainer (we’ll to that quality soon, ne’er you fear). A former beauty queen, this chick is the perfect picture of a narcissist. If you need more proof, check out her family photos, in which she always looks radiant, but her very pretty young daughters look alternately pregnant (before Bristol was) or otherwise…well, not so pretty.

2. She’s dumb
She’s so goddamned resistant to learning, this one, it veritably oozes from her pores. Her complete and utter lack of any sort of ability to assimilate information, along with her vocal insistence she shouldn’t have to (since she’s pretty…see above), is perhaps the quality most infuriating to smart women, and most reassuring to sexist fuckwits (hey, Sean Hannity!).

3. She’s emotional
Dear God, has there ever been a woman in public life who made such an emotional issue out of every perceived slight? I certainly can’t remember any public woman so vindictive and petty. To add to the stereotype, she staunchly refuses to use logical arguments against her enemies, preferring instead to snark at them in true Mean Girl fashion (i.e. “Hey, John Kerry, why the long face?” “We should keep Piper away from Letterman.” etc.). The inevitable tooth-sucking savoring-every-minute face she makes after each catty remark is one I haven’t personally witnessed since high school.

4. Private Life = Professional Life
No, I’m not just referring to her constantly trotting out her children as props (see point #1), although that doesn’t help. What I really mean is that, according to virtually all accounts, this woman doesn’t have a professional life apart from her husband and her buddies from high school. Todd attends Gubernatorial meetings and acts as her top advisor, which would be kind of romantic and cute were there anyone else involved in her decision-making. But, it seems like the buck stops with him, which leads me also to…

5. She can’t think for herself
Oh, sure, she can read a well-written speech, but, apart from a script, Palin always defers to someone else’s judgment on everything. Especially her husband’s. Which is just disgusting.

6. She’s impulsive
After the whole debacle with her accepting-then-cancelling-then-reaccepting-then-cancelling at the RNCC dinner, I hoped to God someone would pull her aside and alert her to the fact that she was acting like the worst kind of flighty schoolgirl. Instead of taking the myriad talking heads’ advice that she should just do her job reliably and well for a while, she…well, she opted to up and quit. Publicly. With no explanation. Then threatens to sue anyone who talks about it. *sigh*

In short: She is absolutely the worst version of anything with a vagina. The end.




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