Before we get started – This post is about Ohio Senator Rob Portman, the unarmed submarine we sent to Washington. We know he’s there. It just doesn’t matter. But we learned how much worse it could be last week when our friends in Alabama lived down to every stereotype and moved one step closer to sending Roy Moore to the Senate. The election of Moore to the Senate will allow the residents of 49 states the opportunity to say, “Our Senator may be ineffective and beholden to the lobbyists, but at least we don’t live in Alabama”.
It was finally time for Rob Portman to speak. Now that the Graham-Cassidy health plan was safely shelved, now that there was no danger that he would have to take a public position, now that speaking was totally irrelevant, NOW Rob Portman was ready to publicly declare his position. And his position was? “…I did what I always do: read the bill, listened to experts and tried to secure changes to help Ohio.” The quote is from his letter to the Plain Dealer that appeared Friday, September 29, 2017. Oh Rob, were that it were true!
Let’s go back two weeks. Senators Graham and Cassidy surprised the nation with one more, last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare. Their concept was simple, pretend to have a workable plan to pay for the nation’s healthcare with underfunded block grants and hope that nobody noticed. Careful observers may have concluded that Lindsay Graham just wanted some TV time and the opportunity to prove that he was more than John McCain’s buddy. As anyone who has seen a Bill Cassidy presentation (just once, but it was more than enough) can attest, Senator Cassidy has a real need to put forth programs, regardless of feasibility or the possibility of passage, in an effort to be perceived as an expert in this area. After all, he was/is a doctor. So, realistically, this whole effort was cynical, half-baked and doomed to failure if it didn’t pass by accident.
Even though he is Graham’s best friend, John McCain quickly declared himself a NO vote. Senator Collins expressed serious doubts, but said that she would wait until the CBO score was released. The bill’s sponsors weren’t bashful about their attempt to bribe Senator Murkowski of Alaska. The Republicans needed 50 or their 52 Senators to vote YES. That would let Vice-president Pence break the tie. Senator Rand Paul claimed that he was a NO vote, but many political observers saw this as a bargaining position. Republican leadership was ready to call his bluff. Anyone following the news was familiar with these Senators, their positions, and their history on this issue. No one asked how Senator Inhofe (R-OK) planned to vote. He was a solid YES, regardless of the bill. So was Rob Portman.
Now Mr. Portman might disagree with this characterization, but Mr. Portman voted for the Skinny Repeal, that legislative abomination in July. Portman and others in his caucus sat quietly and prayed that Murkowski, Collins, and McCain would save them, and the American public, from Trumpcare(less). Any credibility he had on the issue disappeared that night. Graham-Cassidy was an opportunity to reassert himself. His torpedo tubes were empty.
I have written to Senator Portman several times this past year as important bills were up for his consideration. My efforts have earned me form letters and a weekly newsletter highlighting his accomplishments. He seems to focus on the serious issue of human trafficking and is willing to work across the aisle with Democrats as long as money isn’t involved. He has already expressed his joy about the new tax cuts (please don’t call if reform) and other legislation that is created without any input from the Dems. His newsletters tend to go directly to my Spam file.
Senator Portman may claim that he is studying healthcare legislation and meeting with experts while he is, in truth, waiting for other Republican Senators to torpedo these awful bills. It is OK. We know the truth. And we will still thank G-d that he’s not Roy Moore.
As many of you know, I conduct a Friday Evening Service at an Alzheimer facility. I have been doing this for nine years. I designed this Shabbos Services based on my perception of what would work best for the residents and their families. It normally lasts less than a half an hour, including time for everyone to enjoy challah and grape juice. I am often asked to deliver a sermon. I try to tie in the current Parsha, current events, and a touch of humor in a quick, off-the-cuff D’var Torah. Based on my singing and my sermons, no Rabbi or Cantor is in any danger of losing their job to me.
I was asked for a sermon the week before Rosh Hashanah. My back was out and I was trying to end the Service so that I could sit. Thinking quickly, I promised that I would not only have a sermon the following week on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, but that it would be the best Rosh Hashanah sermon, ever. And why would it be so great? The sermon would be less than two minutes! That seemed to please everyone. We did Adon Olam and we were done.
I’ve never actually written a sermon. The thought of delivering a great, short sermon did seem a bit daunting once I got home and realized the full extent of my commitment. This is what I delivered:
When does the day begin? When I wake up in the morning and see the light through the window, I can see that it is a new day. So is that when the day begins, 6 AM, 7 AM, or whenever I wake up? Or does the day begin and end per the calendar at midnight? But, we are Jewish, and our day begins at sundown. When does the Sabbath begin? Sundown, Friday evening.
And while we are talking about beginnings, when does the year begin? Does it start in the spring, a season of new beginnings? Do we begin our year as the snow disappears and the flowers return? Does the year begin, per the calendar on January 1st? No, again, because we are Jewish, our year begins now, the end of the summer, the beginning of autumn. Yesterday was the First of Tishrei, Rosh Hashanah, the start of the High Holidays.
Does our internal clock, our internal calendar, or respect for our heritage make us better, smarter, more worthy? Of course not. The goal of remaining true to ourselves is to be true to ourselves, to honor a higher truth.
On this day of Rosh Hashanah, in a land that welcomed us as we were and did not force us to abandon our heritage, it is important to remember that we were not the first immigrants to this great country and we will not be the last. May the New Year bring us all peace and the opportunity to live by our own clocks and to celebrate our own calendars.
Have a Happy and Healthy New Year.
I have noticed that my willingness to volunteer, coupled with my inability to shut up, has led me to leadership positions of a number of not-for-profit organizations. And though these tasks may be personally if not financially rewarding, they are often more positive in retrospect as opposed to while I am in the middle of my term or chairmanship. After volunteering over 25 hours per week as president of a chamber of commerce, I was forced by Jeff, my business partner, to pledge that I would never again serve on any chamber board. I’m still on a couple of boards, just not as president and never on a chamber of commerce.
The ladies (it is always the ladies) of our building hosted a party last Wednesday. I came home to find the gathering in our lobby, directly between me and the mailbox, so I had little choice but to participate. It is not that I am anti-social. I still have the unpleasant memory of a nosy neighbor, 20+ years ago, that transformed me into a “Hi” and “Have a nice day” kind of guy.
The party started around 5 PM. There was wine, cheese, vegetables with hummus, and some Napoleon-like torte, homemade and impossibly cut into squares 1 inch by 1 inch and close to 3 inches high.
Into this festive occasion I chose to broach a serious issue. I prefaced my comments by clearly stating that I had NO INTEREST in serving on the condo association board and that I really liked living here in Woodhawk. (By the way, we all really love Woodhawk and say it constantly. I looked for cameras in the lobby wondering if this effusiveness was real or for some unseen monitor when I first moved in. No cameras. It is real.) But the board, at the staff’s request, locked the room to the dumpsters last year. Disposing of larger items and boxes through the chutes can be a hassle. Throwing stuff directly into the dumpsters was more convenient. But the board never talked to us, the condo owners of the building before or after. Their communication skills rival those of my two year old granddaughter.
This discussion lasted about fifteen minutes. It was interrupted by shouts of “You should run for the board” and “Yes, but we really love it here.” I reminded my neighbors that I was at least ten years too young to be on a condo board. In the end it was decided that, all in all, the locked dumpsters was a mild inconvenience and that the board must have had a good reason. And that I should run for president of our condo association.
And there you have it. People want me to run for office and my platform will be garbage.
* * * * *
So, not that it has ever happened, but if Sally and I ever had a big fight and she decided that she wasn’t talking to me, all I would need to do is take her on a plane and put on my headphones…
It was the second time. Separated by almost a decade, the music chosen for my introduction, blaring through the speakers was the same song, Takin’ Care of Business from Bachman-Turner Overdrive. The best theme songs, like nicknames, are given by people who know and appreciate you. And when it works, the song or nickname gives some insight to the individual.
Both this blog and my Health Insurance Issues With Dave have assigned theme songs to various politicians. Today’s post codifies a few of my favorites. Click on the links and let me know if you agree. Feel free to offer alternatives.
Donald Trump – Theme Song
Mike Pence – Theme Song
Hillary Clinton – Theme Song
Mitch McConnell – Theme Song
Nancy Pelosi – Theme Song
Bernie Sanders – Theme Song
Elizabeth Warren – Theme Song
John Kasich – Theme Song
Newt Gingrich – Theme Song
Dick Cheney – Theme Song
John Boehner – Theme Song
Dennis Hastert – Theme Song
I’m hoping this was good for a chuckle.
Easiest move ever! Really, this could have been so much harder. In fact, last time it was. We were prepped. We were organized. And, we had a great team.
My books are already unpacked. The bookshelves look back to normal. I’ve started to hang the pictures. I’d like to acknowledge a couple of people who made this office move almost stress free.
We used Bill Tyers of Moving Solutions. They dropped off 75 stackable crates last week. His crew was supposed to be at my office yesterday morning at 8:30. SIX guys walked in at 8:20, introduced themselves, and got to work. They had two trucks. They could not have been more professional.
The phone, internet, and designated Spectrum herder was Brian Lettau of ActivPC. The new office was up on Monday, five days prior to our move. We were without real phones and internet for over a month when we moved onto Landerbrook in 2010.
Chris Jones, the ShakerGeek, served as our technology/network consultant. We knew what we were doing before we moved and it only took a couple of hours to tweak the system earlier today. We are so dependent upon our internet that even an hour or two without easy access seems traumatic. Our computers worked immediately. All we had to do was plug them in (correctly).
Our office manager, Lianesha Mays, did a great job keeping Jeff focused on packing, a huge task in of itself. Moving disrupts her area the most. I suspect that she will be totally unpacked by Monday afternoon.
My new office is:
Cunix Insurance Services
6690 Beta Drive Suite 212
Mayfield Village 44143
Time to hang more pictures. There was, by the way, one thing injured in the move. Just one. It always seems to happen when you want too much.
With a terrible cry the Balrog fell forward, and its shadow plunged down and vanished. But even as it fell it swung its whip, and the thongs lashed and curled around the wizard’s knees, dragging him to the brink. Gandalf staggered, and fell, gasping vainly at the stone, and slid into the abyss. “Fly, you fools!” he cried, and was gone.
Paulina (name changed) may have been born here in the US, but culturally her first 18 years were spent in the tiny Eastern European village her parents fled in the mid-1950’s. Her neighbors all came from the same villages, went to the same church, and sent their children to the same parochial school. Paulina was married prior to turning 19. Her husband, Alex, was a few years older and from the same neighborhood. This is what good girls did. And Paulina was a good girl.
It was not long after Paulina gave birth to her son, right around her 21st birthday, that she finally confided to her mother how desperately unhappy she was. Alex may have been doing OK financially, but he was a terrible husband. He was mean. Bossy. Abusive. Her mother looked at her as if all of this was expected and understood and told her daughter that none of that mattered. Paulina’s responsibility was to her child and to her husband. Her child needed a mother and a father. Her husband needed a wife. Paulina’s needs weren’t relevant. That was the last time she discussed anything with her mother.
It took almost five years for Paulina to get up the courage to seek the advice of her priest. She met privately with the senior priest of her church and told him of her pain. And when she finished he looked at her and asked one question. “Why is it that you have only one child?”
Five years. Courage came to Paulina in five year cycles. Paulina confronted Alex on her thirtieth birthday. She threatened to leave. He promised to be a better husband. She quickly forgave. He quickly regressed.
Alex and Paulina had a clear division of labor in their household. Alex’s job was to give the orders. Paulina’s job was to follow the orders and, when possible, anticipate his every wish and whim in advance.
The fight at thirty-five lasted a whole day. Paulina managed to not talk to Alex for a whole week sometime near Christmas 2007. Paulina was ready to move on, start over, be free. She and the kids. No Alex. It would take years to build up to the moment. She would wage her best battle. But Alex knew how to drag her back in.
We all have fought the Balrog. We have struggled to escape the spouse, job, parent, sibling, or even city and just when we think we’ve done it, we feel that whip wrap around our knees and drag us back into the abyss. But the solution isn’t to give up. The solution is to never accept that we are held captive by our personal Balrog.
Gandalf the Grey reappears later in the Lord of the Rings as Gandalf the White.
Paulina, now a little over 50, has an attorney. The court date is in mid-August.
Sunrise, sunset. Another day has come and gone laying waste to the conceit of Repeal and Replace. There has never been an alternative plan to provide access and payment for healthcare. There was no other option for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). It is now apparent that the only unifying Republican ideology was their hatred for Obama. For seven plus years the Republicans in the House, Senate, Statehouses, and most importantly, on TV, have cynically stoked the twin fires of ignorance and resentment. And now they are forced to stop fanning the flames and search for a solution. They are failing.
A large part of the problem is that their base believed them. I was amazed how many of my staunchest Republicans saved money because of the PPACA. There was the unsuccessful professional with a passel of kids who, thanks to the Medicaid expansion, was finally able to afford healthcare for the entire family. There was the self-employed businessman who has saved over $1,000 per month since January 2014 when I was able to give him a policy that didn’t ask any health questions. But these and others continue to this very day cursing our previous president and the healthcare plan that bears his name. Why? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
We are being told that Mitch McConnell and Company may still deliver a bill tomorrow even while his medical providers back home in Kentucky beg him to reconsider. I honestly had a higher opinion of the Leader of the Senate’s legislative skills. I thought that he was holding his compromise, 50 vote special, in his back pocket. But I was wrong. He, like President Trump, are more interested in making a deal than they are in guaranteeing that Americans can access and pay for the healthcare they need. And any deal, anything that removes the name Obama from our system, would be a win for them. That appears to be all that matters.
The negotiations are happening right now, not in committee meetings, certainly not in public hearings, but behind locked doors. Will a couple of billion more for opioid addiction bring along Portman (OH) and Capito (WV)? We know that Rand Paul’s (KY) constituency desperately needs the Medicaid expansion. Can it be retained a little longer in a way that he can save face and vote for the bill? And what about Heller (NV)? Will an apology from Trump be enough? Any combination of fifty Republican Senators will do. And then Vice-president Pence will cast the deciding vote on how we structure, or more accurately deconstruct, nearly 20% of our economy.
And the sun will rise and the sun will set. That doesn’t change. It appears that was has changed are our priorities.
I was not expecting the questions. Last year’s health adventure had the side benefit of really interesting conversations. Both friends and acquaintances wanted to know about my near death experience. Several of my Christian friends wanted to know if I was given a glimpse of the Hereafter. Did I see a bright light, the gates to Heaven, possibly You Know Who? Others asked if I reflected on all of my regrets and what I could have done better in my life.
I treated all of these questions seriously, because they reflected the faith and fears of the people who asked them. I didn’t see a welcoming light or reruns of high school and I didn’t hover over the room. I firmly believe that we don’t change as we get older, we just stop hiding who we really are. Me? I am an analytical, Point A to Point B kind of guy. Only one thought occurred to me as I was lying in that room listening to the doctors failing to stop my bleeding and control my vitals. “These guys have a real problem. How can I help them?’
My questioners were uniformly disappointed.
* * * * *
I was in the hospital for a week and at home for ten days before I got behind the wheel. My first drive was to the store. I was like a sixteen year old looking for any excuse to take a ride. I needed some shampoo. It didn’t matter. I was just thrilled to have the keys in my hand.
My daughter wanted to know how I would commemorate the one year anniversary of my surgeries. Jen was anticipating a blog post on April 13th. I told her that I had a more meaningful milepost in mind.
Giant Eagle carried two sizes of the shampoo. The large size, 30 ounces, was a good deal, even better when it was on sale as it was that day. Last May I stood there in the aisle and hesitated. I knew it was just another dollar, but looking at that bottle I wondered if it was a waste of money. That was a lot of shampoo, a lifetime supply. Perhaps someone like me should buy a smaller bottle. In the end I took a leap of faith.
I bought a new bottle of shampoo yesterday.
I spent most of the last two days in Columbus. As many of you know, I go to Washington DC and Columbus to meet with legislators and to get the latest news from the leaders of our industry. We heard from several elected officials, Carrie Haughawout, Deputy Director of the Ohio Department of Insurance, and Miranda Motter, President and CEO of the Ohio Association of Health Plans. As always, Ms. Haughawout’s presentation was worth the drive to Columbus. She is a knowledgeable public servant who truly understands both the mechanics and the politics of providing health insurance coverage to Ohioans.
I had the opportunity to meet with both legislative aides and elected officials. A group of us were scheduled to meet with newly elected David Greenspan of Westlake. Since he was stuck in a committee meeting, we met with his legislative aide, an engaging young man who took good notes and asked better questions. Representative Greenspan got back to his office as we were about to wrap up, and instead of quickly shaking hands and moving on, sat down for a real conversation. He was clear that his biggest concern was “not knowing what I don’t know”. I doubt that Representative Greenspan and I agree on many issues, but I left his office confident that he would work hard to do a good job for his constituents. Is there really anything more we can ask of our elected officials?
I had only been in the car for a few minutes, just on to I 71 but still in Columbus, when the news broke that Trump had fired Comey. Who amongst us doesn’t have mixed emotions about James Comey? Did he cost her the election? Did he save her from a trial and possible worse? He was a hero to some when he slowed certain excesses of the Bush White House. He always struck me as an honorable man who overthought the gig and couldn’t understand why everyone was so upset. So, I don’t mourn the loss of FBI Director James Comey.
Lynyrd Skynyrd released the song Sweet Home Alabama in June 1974, but I had heard it earlier when the band played Adelbert Gym on Case campus that March.
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth.
Sitting on the floor, my freshman year, consumed by the news and the issue, YES, Watergate did bother me. And as per my conscience? Well, I’m Jewish. That whole thing about guilt is played mostly for laughs. And here was a rock band, a really good rock band, pooh-poohing what would be Nixon’s downfall.
Lynyrd Skynyrd wasn’t alone in 1974. There were more than enough parents, teachers, and talking heads on TV suggesting that we get over it and return to other concerns. But for many of us there was something gnawing at the very core of our beings telling us that there was more to Watergate. We were convinced that this challenged our democracy. It seemed as if the U.S. was in the balance.
Driving back from Columbus, switching on the radio from CNN to MSNBC to FOX, waiting to hear the reason (and probably the revised reasons) for this unprecedented move, I no longer thought about my last two days and any progress I may have made on behalf of my clients. What does any of this matter when we may be witnessing the transition to an entirely different type of government, one that no longer worries about the outcome of an investigation but simply eliminates everyone involved? We watch as prosecutors and US attorneys get sacked, as Mitch McConnell runs interference, as the subject constantly changes while the money continues to pour in and wonder if the United States we knew a year ago will be remotely close to the one we’ll have a year from now.
And I started singing Sweet Home Alabama.
A real estate agent was talking with one of her clients:
I won’t look at any house that doesn’t have a pool.
But you don’t swim! I’ve known you since high school. You’re afraid of the water.
True, but I must have a pool.
There is no way that you are going to take care of a pool.
Of course not.
Pool services cost a lot of money.
Yeah. I would never hire one of those.
Then let’s skip the pool and find a home that fits your needs.
NOPE. I won’t look at any house that doesn’t have a pool.
I know what you are thinking: ridiculous. No one would press so hard for something that they really didn’t want and couldn’t imagine using. That’s silly. We are all willing to go to the wall to defend our core values, our families, and our homes, but no one would waste time and energy negotiating something they neither wanted nor needed.
And that brings us to the American Health Care Act (Trumpcare). The link will take you to the actual bill, but not the last minute amendments which have yet to be published three full days after the vote. If that strikes you as odd, then the rest of this is really going to throw you. The Republicans want to assure us that coverage is going to be better, prices are going to be lower, and deductibles are all going to plummet if this bill is signed in its current form. They only went to the wall for the right to eliminate all consumer protections and the illusion of coverage because they needed a new hobby.
The administration’s master of doublespeak is the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price. He was on CNN this morning trying to convince Jake Tapper that less is more. Here is the link. Let’s be clear and state plainly that less is less. We are looking at a significant change in Medicaid funding. Americans earning less than 250% of the federal poverty level will be adversely impacted by cuts in both who may charge for services (Planned Parenthood defunded) and how much money is available to pay for care. The Freedom Caucus Republicans fought hard for the opportunity to eliminate the Essential Health Benefits and the other key provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). How will they utilize that victory? What benefits would be eliminated first?
The Los Angeles Times has prepared an excellent comparison of the two laws. This is the link. The original reporting had been done in March. This link has been updated with all available information.
We can create cheaper policies. It isn’t that hard. If we could go back to not covering maternity as part of the policy, if you had to pay more for a policy that covered mental, nervous, and emotional disorders, if we could segregate the unhealthy and unlucky into separate insurance pools from the rest of us, insurers would be able to offer policies that would be a lot less expensive. And if you purchase one of these “skinny” policies and then get sick? Sucks to be you. And more likely, when it turns out that the policy you thought would protect you doesn’t, well you should have read all of the fine print.
I watched the Republicans celebrate an (im)moral victory Thursday afternoon at the White House. They proved that they could pass a bill, any bill, that might kill Obamacare. But it takes a better man than Paul Ryan to kill Obamacare.