Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It's supposed to be health CARE isn't it?

I've been thinking a lot about healthcare in this country the last week, I talked in a post below about Michael Moore's movie and when I wrote it I didn't think too much about how the problems with health care have affected me directly. In the last week I've realized how much they have affected me and people close to me. Because of the way my insurance plans works (you can see some of the details here) there's a "gap" that I have to cover. Well, apparently during my last doctor's visit I hit that gap. I received a bill in the mail for $642 the other day. I was expecting it to happen at some point and we are, after all, well over halfway through the year. But, when such a big bill arrives it's still a little shocking. For some people in Seattle that's more than a month's rent. I'm lucky in that I'll be able to pay the bill but what about people who can't. For a lot of people that would be over one quarter of their take home pay in a month. How are they supposed to be able to pay that? In addition, that's not the only large health care bill I'm going to receive this year. There's still more of that "gap" that I have to cover and next time I see the doc I'll be getting more bills. Again, I'm one of the lucky ones in that I can currently pay these bills, but I know it's not that easy for a lot of people.

Next on the list is my partner Jayson. He's been dealing some mood issues lately and would like to talk to someone about them. His insurance covers counseling costs so he should be able to get right in and talk to someone. The problem is, his insurance will cover counseling costs but they don't seem to cover any specific counselors. So, while the treatment is paid for, anyone who could administer that treatment is not. As the doctor is the entire treatment, if the doctor isn't covered then the treatment is in effect not covered. How can that seem the least bit logical to Blue Cross of Washington? Jayson went to a doctor who was supposedly covered under his plan but after 5 visits we began getting very expensive bills from him since the insurance decided that they weren't going to pay. Jayson followed the insurance company's rules, did his homework, and found someone who Blue Cross said they would cover. After all was said and done they changed the rules since it didn't fit their profit structure.

And finally a friend of mine needs meds that he is supposed to take daily. Even with insurance he's had to go several weeks (or maybe even longer) without them because he can't afford the out of pocket costs. His insurance company, which if it's like mine makes a big deal about how they keep people healthy, couldn't care less if he can afford the meds or not. If he can't pay the co-pay, he doesn't get the meds. So, if insurance doesn't A) keep you healthy or B) cover your expenses when you do need treatment, what's the purpose of it? If the purpose is only so that the insurance companies can rake in the monthly premiums to keep the shareholders happy, I have better plans for that money. I understand that insurance companies are in business to make money, but that in itself is a huge part of the problem. Paying money out for people's meds or doctor visits cuts into their profit so they don't want to do it. I wouldn't even have such an issue with it if the insurance companies weren't trying to get us to believe through their ads and literature that our well-being is at the forefront of their existence.

What I'm not sure about is why the Dems running for office in 2008 are not making this the number one issue of the platform. There are currently 45 million or so people in this country without health insurance. That's 12 million more people than the total population of Canada. The uninsured numbers don't even take into account people like my partner or my friend, or for that matter myself, who have to make the choice between the care they need that includes exorbitant bills that their insurance company won't pay and other things like, say, eating. If the Dems were to make universal health care an issue they could easily guarantee themselves 45 million votes nationwide, plus many more I'm sure.

But hey, on a bright note it's payday for me today. Let's all go get our prescriptions filled while we can!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Monday afternoon drive-by

Just having a bite of lunch and thought I'd drop a line here. I've got some things to type about but they don't sound very interesting now, so we'll see if they make it on here later today or this week. In the meantime, I ran across a post elsewhere that did a good job of listing several stats on our occupation in Iraq. I could go off on a rant, but the numbers kind of speak for themselves.

Iraq by the Numbers

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A few pictures to share

I uploaded some pics that I took over Jayson's birthday and last weekend with my mom here. I'll probably write more tomorrow about my mom's visit but for now you can look at pretty pictures. Be kind when you critique the pics...Ansel Adams I ain't!

Leavenworth, WA

Museum of Flight, Seattle

Roslyn, WA

Sunday, July 22, 2007

SiCKO, etc

Jayson, my mother, and I went to see SiCKO this afternoon. It was an interesting movie to say the least. I didn't really learn anything that I didn't know before, but then I think I'm better informed than the majority of people in the country. What I did enjoy was the really cogent arguments that Moore put together using real-life stories to make the points. He painted a pretty sad and bleak picture of health care in this country which is something I've known about for years. Even more interesting than the movie was the reaction of the people in the audience. At various points throughout the movie there was scattered spontaneous applause when a very strong point was made. There were also audible gasps several times from people sitting nearby at various times during the film. It's hard to really break it all down into a couple of paragraphs, but it IS really sad what level the condition of health care in this country has sunk to. It's so often only about a few people making obscene profits at the expense, and sometimes lives, of people who are relying on the insurance companies to keep them healthy. There was an excellent point made in the movie that the government also benefits from everyone except for the top 1% being in debt, worrying about losing their jobs (and therefore their insurance), and worrying about keeping themselves healthy. If we're so concerned with these things, we're not going to even consider rocking the boat or trying to affect major changes in the system. We're too concerned with our own issues and making sure we keep our heads above water. As a person being interviewed in the film says, people in debt are desperate and desperate people don't vote. It's obvious that it's not going to get any better as long as the insurance companies and drug companies keep controlling the government. The insurance companies lobby, and pay off, government officials to keep they system in place and the system keeps the government officials in power. There was also an amazing comparison between a US doctor who had been employed by the insurance companies and a doctor currently employed by NHS in the UK. The US doctor pointed out that bonuses were paid to people who denied the most claims while the UK doctor said he receives extra money by keeping people healthy with smoking cessation programs, etc. What a difference and it really showed that we don't have health care in this country. If anything it's only health repair, and then not always that.

In other news we've been having fun with Mom. Had a great dinner tonight and lots of stimulating conversation, as always. She and I are driving out to Roslyn (where the TV show Northern Exposure was filmed) and will make a stop at Snoqualmie Falls on the way out or back. Should make for a nice day trip and she's wanted to check our Roslyn for a while now. I'm going to enjoy simply having three days off work next week! Sadly I'm not getting any time spent with the violin this week, but that will be up to my instructor to work on come Wednesday.

Friday, July 20, 2007


It's been an interesting week. I've been really tired in the mornings, but the funny thing about that is that I've heard the same thing from a lot of different people and not just people in Seattle. Must be the phase of the moon or something. Work started off quiet and then get very busy in the middle, and then ended quiet again. With my mother coming (about an hour from now) we've been busy at home making sure the place looks nice. I guess it usually looks nice, but we always want it to look nicer when someone's coming over...what's up with that? I've got nothing planned with my mother; we'll eat, talk, do some running around, but mostly just talk. She's not been here since Thanksgiving 2005 so it'll be nice to have her here again. Jayson's birthday was nice. It was quiet with just the two of us but he liked what I did for him and we had a nice quiet dinner together.

In the middle of the week I had the most interesting lunch. Well, lunch itself was fine but it was a comedy of errors. I get together once a month with two friends who used to work for me. We figure that if we schedule something once a month we'll not just drift apart like it's easy to do. So, Wednesday was our day and we were meeting at a place on Capital Hill at 12:30. At 12:25 I get a phone call from one of the friends saying that his Outlook reminder just went off to tell him we have lunch, and he was in his office 35 miles away. He obviously wasn't going to make it. Since I already had a table I told the waiter there'd be two of us instead of three. At about 12:35 I called the other friend to let her know where I was sitting the restaurant so she could find me. She said she had a table and was sitting in almost the same location in the restaurant. It seems a little odd that we could be in the same restaurant in almost the same location without seeing each other. And then we realized we weren't in the same restaurant. She had misread the last e-mail and had gone to our second choice restaurant. Being the gentleman that I am, I headed down the street the three blocks in the rain. It was a nice lunch in the end, and at least it's a story to tell.

In any event, I'm glad this week is over for the most part. I'm looking forward to the next five days off work to sleep in, hang out with mom, and just not think about work for a while.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

43 Questions

Okay, this arrived from Chris so I thought I'd give my $0.02 worth. You can check his responses here.

1. Hi, my name is...

2. Never in my life have I..
Gone skydiving

3. The one person who can drive me nuts is...
Jim Carrey

4. High school...
The first half I was a loner, the second half was pretty amazing

5. When I'm nervous...
I stammer. I also sweat in places I won't divulge

6. The last song I listened to was...?
Bow Down Mister

7. If I were to get married right now my maid of honor or best man would be...
At my bachelor party without me

8. My hair is...
Filled with too much grey

9. When I was 5...
I was already an old man

10. Last Christmas...
One of my closest friends was here and it was very special

11. Right now I should be...
Sitting on a beach in Mexico

12. When I look down I see..
My keyboard

13. The last happy/sad recent event?
Happy - Jayson's birthday and getting to do special things for him
Sad - Don't know…I'm really not sad that often

14. If I were a character on 'Friends' I'd be...
What's 'Friends'?

15. By this time next year...
I hope to be finished with this list of questions

16. My current fear is…
Getting into a situation where we can't pay our bills

17. I have a hard time understanding...
Why people get on the freeway and do 25 MPH

18. There's this girl I know that...
Had a really bad bike wreck and then went on a 200 mile ride the next day

19. You know I like you when...
I'm a smart-ass towards you. If I can joke and tease you, then I'm comfortable around you

20. If I won an award, the first person I would tell would be...
Jayson. After that, I'm not sure

21. Take my advice...
Figure out who you are and be that person. Don't try to be something you're not because you think family, friends, partners, society wants you to be that.

22. I like ...
Sleeping in late

23. If you visited the place I was born...
You'd be surprised that such a nice city could exist in, of all places, Oklahoma. You still wouldn't get a sense of who I am though.

24. I want to visit...
India, Russia, and the South Pacific islands. I've pretty much been every other place I want to go

25. If you spent the night at my house...
You'd have your own bathroom

26. The world could do without...

27. I'd rather lick the belly of a cockroach than...
Have to shake GW Bush's hand

28. Most recent thing I've bought myself...
A new truck

29. Most recent thing someone else bought me...
A rose

30. My favorite natural blonde is…
Don't know one

31. My favorite brunette is

32. My favorite black haired person is...
My step-mother

33. My favorite redhead is…

34. My middle name is...

35. In the morning I...
Want to stay in bed and cuddle instead of get up

36. I am sure lots of people would like to see pigs fly....
Huh? I'll just have to agree with that statement...

37. Once, at a bar...
I tried to talk to someone. He ignored me and I haven't tried since.

38. Last night I was...
Lazy until 9:00 when I realized there was lots of stuff that had to be done before bed

39. There's this guy I know who...
Has his balls tattooed

40. Different name that would be better for me...
Scott. People tend to mistakenly call me Scott pretty often

41. Something that you would never expect from me...
Seems like everyone else should answer this one.

42. Tomorrow I am...
Picking my mother up at the train station

43. Tonight I am...
Cleaning house before my mother arrives

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Happy birthday to you...

So today is Jayson's birthday. It's the 10th one I've gotten to celebrate with him, and I'm definitely honored by that. I'm hoping it will be a nice one for him…I'll do what I can to make it so. He made a list of things on his blog that he would like for his birthday gifts. He's getting none of those as it turns out. I'm sure he'll like the gifts I did get him, since they were things I know he'll want and use. Other than that, it's going to be a low key night. I don't yet know how late he'll be working but we'll go to a nice dinner and that will be about it. Birthdays are a bigger deal to him than me. He likes the attention and gifts and excitement (which is all good) and I look at them as milestones having actually made it this far. For me I can do away with the gifts, the balloons, the excitement and just have the people around me who matter and be able to look at what my life is and is becoming. I never thought I'd live to be 30 yet here I am pushing 40 and doing very well, thank you very much. Seeing every year as year I thought I'd never have is very freeing in its own way. It's very much living in the moment; I don’t look back too much, and I find myself not looking too far forward either. It's good in its own odd way. Every year after 30 has also been better than I would have imagined…I guess I can't complain much can I?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Weekend laziness, plus a short rant

Just another Saturday here. It's 2:00 and so far we've managed to have brunch. That's it. We've been threatening to go to the boat but we've not found the motivation to do that just yet.I'm glad it's the weekend however since I'm ready to be able to do nothing for a change. I didn't get lots of good sleep this last week and I'm needing to catch up. I'm thinking a night at the boat would be good, but we're gonna have to get ourselves together to do it. I'm sensing a bit of a mood from Jayson. My guess is that he was hoping I'd have a big birthday weekend planned, which I didn't, and he's disappointed. I guess I'll find out...

Chris wrote something about health care in the US that was interesting. He asks if the capitalist system isn't doing more harm than good when it comes to health care. The answer is a resounding yes, it's doing much more harm than good. Spending money to keep people healthy and alive is completely at odds with making a huge profit. In the US system the patients are merely the portion of the equation that generates income for the various players. On the one hand you've got doctors and hospitals that make money by providing services, so as Chris wrote they want us to need them by being unhealthy. The insurance companies make money by taking our premiums and paying out as little as possible. They want us to be healthy without any care or support. In the end the insurance companies win out since they're paying the bills most of the time, so they tell us when we can and can't be treated for something. What we end up with is not a "health care" system but a "health repair" system. The structure of insurance coverage in this country keeps people from going to the doctor to maintain health and to have basic checkups. Because out-of-pocket costs are so high we tend to visit out docs only once we're sick or have a problem. Like anything, it costs more money to fix something once it's broken than to keep it in good shape in the first way. Our health is the same way.

A prime example of all of this is my own insurance coverage at work. I have a "health fund" which gives me $1500 a year to spend any way I see fit. If I use medical providers that the insurance company has contracted with they prices are lower so that $1500 lasts longer. That initial money if the "fund" part of the coverage. That part's all well and good. After the fund, the next $1500 of care comes directly out of my pocket; the insurance company refers to this as the "bridge". If I spend all of the fund and don't have money to cover the bridge, I'm in trouble. One way or another I have to pay it and if I can't then I don't get treatment. After the "bridge" the insurance will pay about 90% of what I get, and that's fine. Now, if I don't use all of the fund from this year, the remainder will roll over into next year and be added to a new $1500 next year. Luckily prescription coverage doesn't get taken out of the fund. However, going to the doc every three months and having labs done at the same time adds up fast. Each lab is about $400 and each doc visit is about $150 so you can see that by going in for my regular check-ups and labs I've gone over the fund right there.

It's obvious what the point of this coverage is. The insurance company wants to me to limit my medical care to $1500 per year. They're hoping that I won't want to pony up all that money after the fund and will stop there for the year. What kind of medical care is that? Instead of encouraging me to see a doctor before something becomes a problem the system encourages me to avoid spending any money at all. The literature even stresses that using the fund for frivoulous (as if any health care is frivolous!) expenses will cose me more out of pocket if some kind of unexpected major medical comes up for me. Talk about scare tactics. I could go for a standard PPO and pay a $500 yearly deductible and then not have the "bridge". But again the insurance company had made sure I don't get to choose coverage that will keep me healthy. The premiums for the health fund plan are about $50/month and the premiums for the PPO are about $350/month. They're really wanting to make sure I use that fund plan. The bottom line is that it's all geared for the insurance companies to keep as much of their money as possible while I give as little as possible to my health care. The doctors and labs know this so they bill as much as they possibly can each time I see them so that they can make their money. In the end, I the loser. Until companies in this country start to realize that it's better them to have healthy employees and start fighting back against the tightwad insurance companies and over-charging medical providers, nothing will change. I won't even talk about single-payer health care in the US since it's nothing but a distant dream.

Wow, that was a lot about health care. If you're still reading this far, thanks! In other news, my mother is getting here on Friday. I'm really really looking forward to her visit. She's not been here in over 18 months and she's not seen where we live currently. I don't know yet what we'll do, but I'm taking off Friday afternoon and all day Tues/Wed/Thurs. We'll figure something out to fill our time I'm sure.

Seems like I should have more to write, but it's not that exciting of a week. I've got some errands to run for Jayson's birthday on Monday, and that's about it. I'm kinda just waiting to see where our mood around here goes today, but I'm definitely looking for to hanging out on the boat. Music, a bottle of wine while watching the sunset, and then a quiet dinner.  That being said, here's a pic of me and the dog hanging out on the boat. Yeah, the pic is a few years old. Note the absence of grey in my beard. But I still like it anyway.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ah, toleranace

Just a quick drive-by posting. I watched this video and it's sickening. Are these christians so weak in their faith that they're threatened by a prayer from a leader of one of the largest organized religions in the world? Obviously yes. Maybe they could spend their time and effort solving real problems in the world, like poverty, hunger, disease. I think a prayer on the Senate floor shouldn't be their main focus.

You mean it's not Friday yet?

In spite of being a pretty busy week, it's dragged on slowly so far. I'm not sure what's made it that busy either. Work has been steady but not crazy. Haven't done much at home for the most part. Must be the heat. When I left work for my violin lesson yesterday the thermometer in the truck said it was 97, and it sure felt like it. My instructor's house was really hot and it was pretty unpleasant trying to play in that heat. I was glad when the lesson was over. I can't say that I'm actually tired of the heat since I'm not experiencing much of it directly. I'm finding myself going from air conditioned house in the AM to the truck to an office which stays at 72 degrees all day every day. Then it's back to the air conditioned truck and then to the air conditioned house. The times I am outside I'm watering the plants or headed towards an air conditioned car and it's really not that unpleasant. So, I'm can't complain. (I'm going to get hell from Jayson for saying that!)

At work on Tuesday I quickly pulled together a video conference with our lab in Tanzania. The conference went well and everything worked like it was supposed to, and everyone (all 275 people on this side, and 4 on the Africa side) got a big kick out of it. It weren't nuthin really but I've gotten lots of kudos for it, so that's been very rewarding at work.

Y'all may have seen this already, but I thought it was interesting. The Human Rights Campaign is hosting a presidential debate discussing only gay and lesbian issues. Apparently this is a first, and it should be interesting. I'll definitely be watching, or DVR'ing it. Sad though that only 4 candidates have signed on, and all of them Dems. The Repubs will be conspicuous by their absence (I read that all have specifically declined the invitation) but that doesn't surprise me in the least. I'm sure they're terrified of having to go on-record with any firm stance on gay issues. I'm very anxious to see the responses from the candidates who do show up.

For a large does of ludicrousness today, there's this. I think we all should write proclamations saying that what we believe in is the only correct way of thinking and that everything else is wrong. Then we use that proclamation to justify our authority to issue the proclamation in the first place, thereby completing the circle. It's all just a giant piece of "because I said so!" If these silly christians can't even figure out how to work together (isn't it the same god?) why should anyone else listen to what they have to say?

Stay cool out there...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

How to Run a Majority in Congress

This is what Dems having a majority in the House should be all about. Congress holds the purse strings to the Executive Branch and they need to start using that power to call Bush and Cheney on their BS.  It's about damn time the Dems started playing hardball.

Help Me Find a Name

When I set this thing up over the weekend I couldn't think of a decent name so I put the approximate latitude and longitude of our house. The longer I see that as a the name the less I like it. So, suggest some names for me (all three of you that read this thing).  Maybe one of them will click with me. It doesn't need to be the title of the new great American novel, but something that doesn't have 22 syllables might be nice.

Wasting Time at Work

A post from my partner got me thinking about some things today. In that post he talks about feeling isolated and about the desire to have more family members nearby. I realized that I'm definitely feeling the same thing. My closest relative lives 400 miles away and it's not easy to get to see her. Two of my closest friends live in San Diego and North Carolina respectively, so they're not easy to get to visit. I've got only a couple of close friends here, and I hope they know who they are. I sometimes think I value them even more than they may know. But, the rest of the people I interact with are just good acquaintances. Sure, they're good for a breakfast out together once in a while, but I can't and don't want to open up and share intimate details of life with them. Nor do I feel the kind of connection to them that would make them "family". I try to spend as much time as possible with my close friends, but we all have lives. It's sad to say, but at times it's lonely.

Straight couples can get married, have 2.1 children and grow their own families that way. So what if you can't see grandma and grandpa that much; the nuclear family is large enough that there's support in all kinds of situations. But what about gay men? How do gay men make their own family? Short of adopting kids it's just two people, assuming the couple sticks to the traditional role of what a "family" is. I don't think that gay men, and women for that matter, should be restricted by societal norms of only two spouses in a family. In my personal situation there is lots of appeal to having a larger family under one roof. With my hiv status it's possible that in the future I might need to be taken care of. But in that scenario with Jayson as my caretaker, who takes care of him? In my relationship I've always been the one who takes care of the finances, is the handyman around the house, and takes the spiders outside when they come inside. Basically I'm the "dad", and I've always enjoyed that role. With me not able to do that, I'd want to make sure that someone could still take care of Jayson. There's where a big part of the appeal to having a larger family under one roof comes in. Nice to know that he and I are on the same page with that.

So what's my point here? Not sure I have one. Just doing a brain dump.

It's hot as Hades in Seattle today. We moved up here from San Diego to get away from this shit and it followed us. I'm looking forward to fall already.

I also found out last night that it may be another 4 to 5 weeks before we get our new sail for the boat. Without that, we're not able to do any sailing. We can motor to places, but it's lound and just not enjoyable. It's a little like riding the chair lift down the mountain instead of skiing down. So, it looks like our boat is going to be a "harbor queen" this summer. At least we'll spend some time there enjoying it at the dock.  I'm mostltly 
frustrated with myself since I had all winter to order a new sail and found other things to do.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Monday Morning Rambling

So the weekend didn't end up nearly as exciting as I'd hoped, but then again I'm not sure what I hoped for. I did get caught up on a project that's been lingering since we moved into our house, 18 months ago. A small alcove that was ideal for holding some of our glass objects needed shelving and it finally has them. It's amazing how two 24" pieces of wood, some stain, screws, and $4 worth of glass can take a total of about 6 hours to make look like anything, but it did, and it does look pretty good. The reason this project moved up the list is that my mother is going to be here, for the first time since we moved in...18 months ago. It will be nice to have the place looking good for her first visit here, and sometimes a little motivation is all it takes to get these projects done.

I ran across a story today about Sprint cancelling some of their customers' mobile phone accounts. It seems that Sprint would screw up their bills and then the customers would call to straighten them out. Apparently after so many times complaining about Sprint's crappy customer service they drop you. It seems incredible to me that a company would actually drop customers for trying to correct their own mistakes, but I guess that's where we are in this country at the moment; the corporations are more important than the people. Nice that people are punished for questioning the company.

And now for something silly. I don't know why this always makes me smile. I guess because I hate the Black Eyed Peas so much.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


So this is the first post of what may or may not be a monumental undertaking. I've read political blogs and friends' blogs for so long now I thought it was only fair game that I set up something of my own. When my partner set up one for himself I really began to feel the pressure, so here it is. Now the challenge is to post more than once every 6 months...