OPINIONATRIX…because my opinions dominate

{February 2, 2009}   What Ever Happened to Healthcare?

Washington has been abuzz with talk of stimulus, bipartisanship and Wall Street accountability.   Make no mistake, these are all very important issues and the economy needs to be attended to, but I can’t help but wonder why the only health-care related story we hear about these days is the tax problems of Tom Daschle (Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary nominee).   Health-care reform NEEDS to be at the forefront of the national conversation.  With so many workers facing unemployment our already precarious health-care situation has become even more dire. 

Americans have needed to reform our system for a long time.  There is a reason that every other “first-world” country has some sort of socialized medicine policy in place: it is the only system that has a chance at success.  How can a country based on equality stand behind a health-care system in which profits are the end goal and medical insurance is tied to the workplace??  This isn’t to say that Canada, the UK and the various other countries subscribing to some form of socialized medicine are perfect – they’re not – but all the citizens of said countries have equal access to care. 

There are caveats to any system, but there is no denying that our system is broken.  The average person without health-care has to undertake great risk just to live their day to day lives.  Even those who are insured often face extensive out of pocket costs and co-pays, and I know from personal experience that ‘approval’ for access to proper care is often hard to come by.

It’s great that we are so focused on rehabilitating our economy and securing more jobs for Americans.  The billions we are investing into the country will hopefully bring forth ample returns.  At this point, if we are going to sink so much money into the resurrection of the nation, why not spend the extra so that once and for all we get the ball rolling on a health-care system that works.


{October 9, 2008}   Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

Much talk has been made lately about how little the 700 billion dollar bailout seems to be doing for the economy.  The stock market continues to fall, the Asian markets seem to be following suit, and many are wondering what will come next.  The bill that was supposed to save us seems to be a dud.

It is easy to write of the bailout package as unfair, ineffective and ladled with “pork,” but every cloud has a silver lining and this is no exception.  I’m sure you’ve heard about all the ‘”pork” that was added to this bill – and it’s true there were a lot of sweeteners thrown in to get it passed.  However, not all of that “pork” was as inconsequential as one might believe.  Tucked into the baliout package was a Mental Health Parity act – something that advocates have been trying to push through congress for over a decade.

This is so undeniably important.  Millions of Americans suffer from mental illness and addiction.  Hopefully mental health parity will make it easier for those people to get the help they need.

Under the bill, which goes into effect in 2010, group insurance plans that cover mental illness already must now equalize its value with medical and surgical coverage. The number of covered visits, the cost of copays, and the total value of treatment covered each year would have to be on par.       -webMD

Getting insurance to pay for anything is a hassle these days, but for more abstract issues such as addiction, depression, eating disorders and other mental health problems it is double the stress.  Insurance companies will try anything to get out of paying for treatment. They argue that mental health issues aren’t biologically based, that intensive treatment isn’t necessary or that one is not “sick” enough to merit coverage.  For example, if one is merely depressed they might not qualify for coverage because they aren’t suicidal.  The current mental health coverage isn’t proactive, it’s reactive – if that. It’s about time congress acted on this!

I would challenge anyone out there to find someone whose life has not been touched by mental health issues.  These day’s we are pushing ourselves harder and harder, and life’s stresses are becoming more and more elevated.  As someone who has benefited from speaking with a therapist, I firmly believe this type of treatment should be covered and available to anyone who wants it.  It isn’t a matter of being “crazy,” it’s a matter of being aware enough to stay healthy.  While I do not take medication, I know countless people who do and think that prozac is just as important as lipitor and both should be covered equally by insurance companies.

The health system in this country is in need of a serious overhaul.  There are too many people out there without any coverage whatsoever, and we need to change that.  No one should die from an illness simply because they cannot afford to go to a doctor.  It is basic human decency for a country to provide its citizens with basic needs.  The Mental Health Parity Act is a step in the right direction, but it is only a baby step.  We need to focus on the important things.  My mother has always told me: “the most valuable thing you have is your health,” and we need to make our government understand that.  For ten years activists have been lobbying for Mental Health Parity, and finally action has been taken.  We now need to move on to the next thing: health insurance for anyone who wants it.

{July 3, 2008}   OH NO!

Say it ain’t so!

According to the New York Times, Starbucks is going to close 600 stores in the coming year. This is horrendous news for a few of reasons:

1) Starbucks is my home away from home (free air conditioning and a friendly face – sign me up!)

2) Starbucks is my drug, addiction and lifeline

3) So many people are going to lose their jobs in an already difficult economic time (12,000 people to be exact)

I have always admired Starbucks – of course for their delicious coffee and yummy treats – but also because Howard Schultz (Pres. and CEO) strikes me as a truly genuine guy. I have heard him interviewed on countless occasions, and he really seems to care not only about his bottom line, but about the thousands of employees who work for him. Starbucks employees enjoy perks such as stock options and health care. I like that they are called partners, even if it’s just a moniker it is one that denotes respect (which they so deserve for dealing with difficult and demanding people all day).

I for one hope (and pray) that this is not the beginning of the end for Starbucks… I seriously have no idea what I would do without my daily coffee. And I am SERIOUSLY praying that my “home base” location is not one of the many affected stores – I am too attached to handle a change like that in my life at the moment.

et cetera