Archive for July, 2012


And now Chicago is on board!

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This past month I have been looking around for a used car, ending with me purchasing a Mitsubishi Galant a couple of weeks ago.  No, this isn’t a debate about American vs. Japanese cars – don’t get too excited. Rather, I have decided that I have another reason to add to my growing list of resentment about being the “weaker” sex.

I began by looking around online within my price range to see what I could expect to find around the metropolitan area, made tons of phone calls and emails, then took my search out into the streets. I tried to keep my search to local used car dealers, because the obvious assumption is that the car will be better taken care of.

Being a woman, the immediate thing that you notice when entering a car dealership is that the salesmen automatically assume you A. aren’t buying the car yourself, and B. that you wont have any legitimate questions to ask. I prefaced every inquiry with the basic questions about the mileage, any major problems, how many owners, car-fax, and all that jazz. The first couple questions were answered with an obligatory tone, and then I had apparently reached my allotted time for questions, because that’s when things turned awkward.

I asked the salesman, “Why did the previous owner give up this car?” (It seemed like a very nice car for that price). His response? “Uh, I don’t know ma’am. To get a new one??!’  He said this while laughing.

When test driving the car, he proceeded to crank up the music. Because girls only care about music, right? Clinking noises on the car can always be ignored if you have good tunes!  I was also laughed at when I asked when the last time was the car had an oil change. Because that’s apparently a funny question to be asked by a curly-haired girl wearing a pink shirt.

You’ll be happy to learn I left that dealership and purchased my car at another across town.  Just because I’m a woman, doesn’t mean you can easily take advantage of me.

People piss me off.

If you’ve seen a newspaper in this city today (or opened Facebook), you know that Drew Brees (the quarterback for the Saints, northern friends) finally signed a contract yesterday for 100 million dollars. In what was the largest contract deal in NFL history for the Saints, Brees is now the highest paid player in the NFL.

  “Brees skipped the Saints’ offseason practices while holding out for his new  long-term contract, which now gives him the highest average annual pay ($20  million) in NFL history,”  (cnn.com).

In case 100 million isn’t quite enough (he allegedly asked for more but eventually came down), he was awarded a $37 million signing bonus. He was awarded millions for accepting his offer of even more millions. Yet were complaining about the costs of HEALTHCARE?!

One of the things that attracted me to New Orleans is the incredible resilience of the city, the unity of its people, and their ability to contribute so much with whatever they may have.  An entire day can be spent enjoying a BBQ outside, followed by a Second Line, and finished up with a neighborhood block party. These experiences are all what makes this city so amazing.  New Orleans is filled with average people doing what they love,  enjoying life, and their happiness is not unnoticed.   Coming from the Northeast, I was used to money being seen as a major status symbol. Beach houses on Nantucket, summer cottages in Bar Harbor – the abundant wealth in bigger cities is a stark contrast to the Big Easy- a city that brings in 10 times the culture and influence of cities that far surpass it in size and number.  This is such a different type of city – which is why it should come to no surprise that I immediately felt at home here.  But New Orleans doesn’t have the money that other cities have, and the Saints don’t have the money that many other teams have.

But no matter what team, there comes to a point when demanding an outrageously high salary is just being selfish.  The fact that Brees was willing to sit out until he was offered his asking price is the opposite of my initial impression of this city- including those who play for it.  This contract has become about bragging rights; no person requires millions a year to sustain a lifestyle.  This is nice that we have the highest paid quarterback, but can we afford to place any more players on the field? We can’t go to a 2nd Superbowl with Brees himself.  Do the Saints want another chance at the Superbowl, or do they want the bragging rights of having the highest paid player?

As a society, we place a value on certain professions and what their salaries should be. Sports players and Congress, ironically, are some of the highest paid individuals in our country, yet I would argue that they do not “work harder” than many of us who live just fine on an annual salary that rivals the cost of their vacation expenses. When you take into consideration that these salaries are just the portion of their income that we hear about, (there are many other benefits included: healthcare, comped vacations, gifts from the public, etc) it should make the average wage-earner feel highly looked over. Why is athleticism more highly regarded than, say, teaching or foster parenting?

If Brees really cares about New Orleans as much as he claims, why couldn’t he have “settled” with half that to play the sport he loves for a city he adores?   This city’s schools are failing badly, the murder rate is the highest in the nation for a city its size, and much of the 9th ward (including MANY other areas) has yet to be rebuilt. There are so many more worthwhile things that $100 million could be spent on here that don’t include inflating an already wealthy player’s salary.   What about lowering the prices of tickets so more people can afford to attend?  It saddens me that this has become about greed instead of loyalty.  Brees took advantage of the Saints during the Bounty scandal; a time when free agent players are thinking twice about signing with them.  They had no choice but to give him a blank check.

Always remember: money changes people. There comes a time when it’s just too much.  No individual person needs that much money, I don’t care who they are or what profession they hold.

Recent events in the political world have paved the way for a string of debate for both sides of the ObamaCare/Affordable Care Act decision.

Without getting into the semantics of the fiscal policies themselves, I feel like there has to be a way to have common ground throughout this ongoing diatribe. For example, I find it difficult to think of why we can not agree that insurance companies are robbing us blind.

Regardless of the issue of who should pay for what (or whom), can we at least agree that whoever is paying anything is most likely paying too much?

Insurance companies charge hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in annual premiums. However, simply paying a premium does not entitle one to complete services under that insurer. Many policies have deductibles, meaning you have to pay out of pocket up until a certain amount – sometimes as “little” as $250, sometimes almost $1000. Why are we paying thousands a year for a policy, when we are forced to pay for the initial services anyway? This makes one wonder about the specific point, and financial logic, of even obtaining health insurance coverage.

Let’s say John Smith pays about $2000 annually for his health insurance through his job, and has a $250 deductible. Not a bad deal, right? I think that’s a relatively fair cost. However, if he goes to the doctor once a year for a procedure, he will not meet his deductible of $250 (provided he has such a policy). Therefore, he is still paying out-of-pocket in addition to healthcare he rarely uses. Even for the services health insurance will cover, they will still only cover up to a pre-determined-and-written-in-language-only-law-students-truly-understand amount. Therefore, if John Smith broke his arm, he could possibly owe his insurance company thousands. To drive this point home: every day, insured families receive bills for thousands of dollars just for delivering their child in a hospital. Can’t we agree that this is outrageous? ( If you’re “throwing away” extra money every year for health insurance you are unable to benefit from, isn’t this just as infuriating as being forced to pay extra to benefit the uninsured population? )  If you think it’s fair to pay an extra few thousand for a “procedure” such as giving birth, after already paying thousands a year for insurance, then I’ve lost you before I started.

Depending on the company, different (but still very high) percentages of premium costs go to unessential fees such as paperwork and other administrative “necessities”.  If you have ever looked at the breakdown of a hospital bill, you will learn that the gloves used by the examiner can be as much as $20 or more. Couple this with the $40 cost of cleaning the linen, and it becomes unsurprising where hospitals are getting the figures and why they are collecting so much from already insured individuals.

I have had this conversation with some whose counter-argument has been: “well this isn’t happening to me!  I pay $__ per month and I make it work!’  These people crack me up because they assume everyone else must be lying. Yes, all these people who claim that healthcare emergencies or procedures have been financial burdens must be creating these fictional stories simply for the argument’s sake. (Somehow that seems a little bit of a stretch).  These are the same people who you’d expect to say “I’ve never had to shell out thousands to repair a roof, there’s no reason why that should cause you any financial hardship!”  Yes, not everyone has the same experience as you. Quite shocking, really.

Despite the relentless discussions as to who should pay for the uninsured, there should be no debate as to whether the high costs of healthcare should be lowered. Premiums are almost always raised annually, yet salaries are not always inclined to follow these same trends.  Health coverage is rising much faster than inflation, and this is an economic and social problem.  If insurance companies are allowed to continue this act of picking and choosing what -and how much- they will cover, while their CEOs proceed to reap the benefits of billions from our hard-earned money, then this injustice will forever be overlooked.

These health insurance companies have us right where they want us, fighting with each other instead of focusing on the true problem: the monopolizing companies themselves.