Social Security Medicare – It’s Your Right!

The Social Security Act was originally passed in 1935 and signed by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt in fulfillment of his “New Deal” theme which essentially asserted the responsibility of the people for their own. The responsibility was not one-sided, not laying the burden of social insurance on the people: it aimed to  force the individual to save, not voluntarily, but through taxation. It also partitioned responsibility between the individual and business, holding business partially responsible for such situations as unemployment and stresses on health and longevity. The original act provided for funding of retirement, survivorship, disabilities, and unemployment. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed an amendment to the act, providing health care insurance, also known as social security Medicare. This act expressed the notion of a society caring for its members, the notion central to the Johnson administration theme of the “Great Society”.

The social security Medicare amendment made medical insurance available for the aged and the disabled. Former president Harry Truman and his wife were the first citizens to receive it. Medicare and its complement, Medicaid, accounts for 20.1 percent of the yearly federal budget. It is primarily funded by taxation on payroll checks. A varying percentage of payroll is taxed and collected under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) of 1939, an act that moved collections from Title VII of the Social Security Act to the Internal Revenue Code. The individual worker actually pays only 50 percent of the social security Medicare tax, with the employer paying the other 50 percent. This sharing of the tax burden was not wholeheartedly received by business and continues to be controversial, but after 75 years of acceptance, the practice is likely to continue.

Present day ultra-conservatives like to call social security Medicare a form of welfare, thereby associating the negative connotations of the word, “welfare”, with what all working people who pay taxes have actually paid to receive in their old age. Although social security Medicare became law 30 years after the original Social Security act, the social philosophy underlying the original act hasn’t changed. In this view, the people that constitute a society are considered to have  natural compassion for other people in pain and suffering. Whatever the causes of that pain and suffering, human compassion cannot turn a heart of stone towards  people who are in such a state. The heart of flesh requires action. Social security is an attempt to reduce the volume of people the society would have to care for out of their own pockets; people are forced to insure themselves. The more people that are insured, the fewer society will have to care for in the long run. Social Security Medicare is not only a way by which individuals insure themselves – it is a way that society protects itself.

Neither is Medicare a free ride once you turn 65 and are eligible for it. Medicare hospitalization requires that you have paid into FICA for at least 10 years, but for Medicare medical treatment, you must also pay a premium. You’ll also have deductibles and co-payments. Some studies have shown that private sector insurance is even more generous than Medicare.

Don’t let these hearts of stone make you ashamed to avail yourself of what you’ve paid for all your working life! Social Security Medicare is a right and an entitlement. It’s not the number of millionaires a society has that makes it great. It’s how a society cares for its people that distinguishes it.

Dealing With COBRA Health Insurance After The Healthcare Reform

It’s a great source of interest to anyone who has recently been laid off, or expects to be soon one day – will the new health-care reform help you, or work against you? The mandatory COBRA health insurance program – will there be any changes? How much will it cost and how long can you have it?

Well basically the good news is that the COBRA health insurance coverage you always had, you still do; you certainly aren’t deprived of anything; but there are certain areas where things get a little better. It’s kind of complicated though. Basically, you get your COBRA coverage benefits for any year and a half. The health-care reform originally included coverage beyond that; but they couldn’t pass the law with this, and they cut it down to only 18 months.

COBRA health insurance has always been a kind of bridge program. If you are out of a job, it helps you stay on your former employer’s coverage until you find a new job. The problem is, you don’t get a job as quickly these days as he used to, and 18 months don’t seem to last as much. There was this story on the news the other day – a skilled manual worker at a car parts plant in New York was laid off about one year ago. She knows she has until December before her COBRA health insurance expires. Her unemployment benefits will end too. She isn’t quite 65 yet, and Medicare isn’t an option for a couple more years. She gets by on the payments she gets from her husband’s Social Security benefits, and healthwise, her only hope is the community clinic in her area.

For anyone who can afford to buy state government-sponsored insurance, you really need to do that right away. If you have COBRA health insurance on the independent open market, you are guaranteed coverage even with a pre-existing condition. But you need to make sure that you don’t let your COBRA expire before you go shopping. Or else, they could deny you coverage because of your pre-existing condition. If you don’t have one, you’ll probably get a very good deal for being healthy and for being someone coming out of COBRA. The important thing here though is to make sure that you don’t let your COBRA expire before you go looking for an alternative.

If the cost seems a little of the high side, you could try to put your cfhild on another plan .Insure your child under your state’s CHIP program. If you make enough that you don’t qualify for Medicaid, but you’re not quite rich enough to buy  private health insurance for yor child, you’ve got your CHIP for another five years.

Remember, if you just had your COBRA health insurance expire, you have opted two months to go before you get your new insurance. If you let your grace period pass by without taking action, it can have very serious consequences for the health of your wallet.

Care For Elderly – Hope On The Horizon

care for elderlyGeriatric specialists keep worrying about how elderly people, living in a way that demands little of them physically or cognitively, can slide into physical and mental decline. There are constant reminders elderly people get to try to use their brains a little bit doing crossword puzzles and the like. Of course crossword puzzles are only going to engage the brain as long as the person doing them is interested, and for as long as he doesn’t get used to them. Once the challenge wears out, this kind of artificial stimulation is going to be very little use. But what if institutions that provide care for elderly people thought up instead of better ways to keep their residents grounded and in touch with life?

There has been a plan of just this sort proposed, where elderly people who live in homes, could volunteer in schools to help a public education system that’s critically shorthanded. And while they go about it, they could help reverse their own mental decline. The Journal of Gerontology just published a study in which they used brain scans to see how it improved the brains of eight elderly women from homes that provided care for elderly people, if they volunteered at local public schools in Baltimore. The women were all between 65 and 70 in age, and they were just the right age where you could begin to worry about their mental impairment. These weren’t well-educated women, and they have never made much money. They even did poorly at a psychiatric test that measured their mental state. They signed up with the Experience Corps that trained them and set them up with schools to accept work as librarians, office workers, and as teaching assistants.

After six months of this kind of work, when they were tested again, they did remarkably better in how their brains performed, and the very changes could be seen on an MRI. Just the fact that they were in a social setting where they were asked to answer to people’s needs, and where they were asked to work hard, brought about visible improvements. The main reason that elderly people begin to lose their grip on getting their lives together after a time is that they lose the ability to concentrate on the things they need to do, and to make decisions. This is the kind of impairment that makes them need to move in with their children or move in into a home that provides care for elderly people. The skills they learn volunteering though, forces their brains to keep up, to find a way to organize better.

Working in a school is so much better than simply doing crosswords, or playing and reading with your grandchildren. When you work in a social setting, you need to keep track of so many things – doing the work you’re asked, getting people to do as to ask them, to keep track of what everyone says and how they behave, and trying to maintain personal relationships with everyone around you. It just goes to show how we have it all wrong, having people retire and mostly vegetate. Our brains were built to think and to work. When our brains are denied the simple work they need to do to stay healthy, would it be any surprise to  see them decline?

Alternative Medicine in America Versus Western Medicine

If half of the adults in a country approve of a certain kind of treatment philosophy, would you still call it “alternative”? That’s the way it is in America, a place where 80 million grown-ups every year turn to some kind of alternative treatment – herbs, megavitamins, yoga, acupuncture  or anything else. Like George says in Seinfeld, everyone wants to go “holistic” these days. As wonderful as the claims are for alternative medicine, there isn’t any solid scientific evidence to back them up, at least not enough. Everyone loves to hate big Pharma, but next to the studies that big Pharma organizes for its drugs, studies to do with alternative medicine can seem positively primitive, and unscientific in the way they are designed and conducted. And yet there is hope.

The government, aware that half the country is madly in love with alternative medicine, is hard at work trying to bring to this kind of medicine the scientific standards that mainstream medicine takes for granted. Pretty soon, the federal government hopes that there will be standards that separate the wheat from the chaff, the science from the snake oil. To someone coming from mainstream medical research, the standards in research used to study alternative medicine methods like yoga can seem laughable. For instance, there was a Harvard study done six years ago on more than 100 existing research papers on yoga all of which claimed that yoga could treat everything from heart disease to cancer and psychiatric problems. When they looked closely at these papers they realized that less than half of them used the universal research standard of randomized controlled trials. In regular research, this standard is a mainstay – a way that makes certain (by using chance and randomness to assign a researcher to a patient)that no scientist involved in a study is able to bring his personal hopes and biases into play.

The government body, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine hopes to put an end to all this, armed with a budget of more than $100 million. They plan to take up all the alternative medicine research themselves, to try to bring some more rigor in these circles. One of the popular claims made for alternative medicine these days is the one where they say that ginkgo biloba can arrest Alzheimer’s. The National Center is now taking up a large-scale study of 3000 patients to determine if this is correct. The Center is also involved in a large-scale study to see if acupuncture can help with arthritis. That study is done now, and they have found that acupuncture does indeed help with osteoarthritis of the knee.

As for the ginkgo study, they feel that the active ingredient in the plant isn’t always found in enough concentration in direct extracts. They want to see if artificially boosting its active ingredients can help. There has never been this kind of rigor in alternative medicine, and it is wonderful to see that the mainstream is embracing and recognizing the merits there are in alternative medicine. These studies can be very expensive, and the $100 million won’t go very far. If only they could find the funding for this now, a panacea would not be far away.

Validating Alternative Treatments

Of all the different methods of alternative therapy out there, how are you supposed to know which ones really work? It’s difficult to dismiss them all out of hand as unscientific. When you hear about how quacks plying their trade in unsupervised quackery take their patients for a ride, most people feel the urge, in their outrage, to dismiss alternative medicine out of hand. If you are to temper your reaction a bit, how do you do it ? How can you really be sure? Here is a bit of information on how well-respected alternative treatments can be: most medical schools in America recognize the merit in alternative treatments, methods like yoga or acupuncture; they also feature them prominently in the curriculum – as part of an integrative medicine program. Let’s look at some of the most popular alternative treatments there are, and find out how good they are.

If pain is your problem, acupuncture is apparently the king of the hill. Especially with arthritis-related knee problems. The National Institutes of Health, in a study, has found that there is a 40% improvement that acupuncture is able to bring about, that  placebo treatment never did. Alternative treatments exist for psychiatric problems too – depression, especially. The herb St. John’s Wort has been a mainstay in alternative treatments for centuries. It used to be one of the herbs used to ward off evil spirits before medical uses were discovered. Even with no evil spirits around, St. John’s Wort is pretty effective for an average case of depression. You’ll need to read up on how to take it ; but a little time spent with St. John’s Wort, say two months, can take care of most cases of depression.

PMS can be such a pain; it makes you moody, it seems to give you strength-sapping periods, and it gets you feeling bloated. There is hope though in alternative treatments. Try B6 and other natural supplements; more often than not, scientific evidence says that they will help. To anyone over fifty, arthritis and joint pain are always real possibilities. When the knee cartilage wears down, knee bone on knee bone can be so painful you can almost feel the friction. Glucosamine is so effective with arthritis, it actually grows back worn cartilage. Can you beat that? Now here’s the problem. The alternative treatments market is quite unregulated; the FDA doesn’t really vet any of the drugs sold, even if alternative treaments are beginning to win mainstream acceptance. There are no standards for shelflife, for how effective these supplements are believed to be when manufactured under different methods, and so on. You’ll just need to shop smart, and make do with what standards we do have now.

To begin with, when you shop for products for alternative treatments, make sure that you get products that are approved by the NSF International or the United States Pharmacopoeia – these are independent organizations that maintain standards in alternative treatments. And if you could make sure that you get your medical advice in alternative treatments from really well-established practitioners, you should be reasonably safe.

Wearable Sensors – the New Affordable Health Care Option

In the run-up to President Obama’s healthcare reform plan, any time you heard about the major new
reforms planned, you just thought of how it was going to be a huge step up for big government. That
seems like a lot more paperwork, a lot many more government departments, and more bureaucracy to strangle everything. There has been another trend though, a quieter one this time, that helps counter all the concentration of authority in one place that the health-care reform brings in. Most of it comes about through new high-tech home diagnostic solutions – diagnostic sensors available to individuals, all  Internet-connected to make healthcare providers aware of all that goes on with your health. Not only does this make for more control in the hands of the individual, it makes for affordable health care because it cuts down on hospital visits, the number of doctors needed, and it removes a lot of the responsibility for monitoring, treatment and many kinds of diagnoses to primary care doctors, and sometimes to the patient.

When patients have the means to diagnose and monitor their conditions themselves, it becomes possible to catch many health problems before they turn serious. And if you already have a chronic ailment, managing it becomes much easier. They call this the medical home initiative. Getting this plan off the ground though is not going to be easy. To begin with, there will be all those new devices to buy, the process of giving them to  patients, and the setting up of a system to maintain them. Since these machines will be monitoring your health 24/7, it’s going to  know when you aren’t following the doctor’s advice, and when you won’t exercise. And this kind of  intrusiveness is going to be pretty unpopular. And yet healthcare providers were pretty enthusiastic about  what the picture looks like long-term – affordable health care for the patient, and even more affordable healthcare for them.

One of the first kinds of diseases these are in use for has to do with sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment. People with sleep apnea stop breathing in their sleep, and sometimes die of this. It happens because of the  way their throats are formed. A piece of tissue can block the air way to their lungs. And this condition when present likes to often contribute to other problems such as diabetes, obesity, chronic high blood pressure and depression. Doctors even believe that the tiredness people feel from not sleeping well enough from  apnea, leads to car accidents. Diagnosing this disease in people costs $4000 today, and most people are so reluctant to spend what it takes, they put it off until something serious happens. The new home-diagnosis device for sleep apnea by Watermark Medical is a curious-looking thing. It is a headband that you wear, and it holds a little testing device in place close to the top of your head. It has sensors and a little inbuilt computer (powered by the same Intel processor you find in your netbook). It continuously measures the oxygen in your blood, the airflow as you breathe, your pulse, your snoring, and it gives you a voice warning if you are in danger. And this is an example of how it makes for affordable health care. Testing with this device only costs $250.

Certainly, doctors would prefer the traditional sleep lab approach that would cost thousands of dollars.
The pursuit of medicine however is basically philanthropic. And no doctor would want pursue it purely for profit – if more affordable health care options existed.