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Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

The Cost Of Staying Healthy — Or Alive

In behavior, business, Health, Medicine, Money, news, politics, science, US on February 2, 2011 at 5:34 pm
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There are times I read an article about the hideous, unfair mess of what Americans call their “health care system”and I thank God I do not have a weak heart as my pulse begins to race with fury.

This, from The New York Times business pages:

For example, Hillary St. Pierre, a 28-year-old former registered nurse who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma, had expected to reach her insurance plan’s $2 million limit this year. Under the new law, the cap was eliminated when the policy she gets through her husband’s employer was renewed this year.

Ms. St. Pierre, who has already come close once before to losing her coverage because she had reached the plan’s maximum, says she does not know what she will do if the cap is reinstated. “I will be forced to stop treatment or to alter my treatment,” Ms. St. Pierre, who lives in Charlestown, N.H., with her husband and son, said in an e-mail. “I will find a way to continue and survive, but who is going to pay?”

As judges and lawmakers debate the fate of the new health care law, patients like Ms. St. Pierre or Alex Ell, a 22-year-old with hemophilia who lives in Portland, Ore., fear losing one of the law’s key protections. Like Ms. St. Pierre, Mr. Ell expected to reach the limits of his coverage this year if the law had not passed. In 2010, the bill for the clotting factor medicine he needs was $800,000, and his policy has a $1.5 million cap. “It is a close call,” he said.

It is an obscenity, plain and simple in my view, that every American who pays taxes cannot rely on a seamless, safe, affordable way to stay healthy and, when they become ill, have access to excellent care. Because, you know, they’ve got that all figured out in virtually every other nation on earth.

I am acutely aware of what a sham this “system” is because I grew up in Canada and lived there until I was 30. And my friends and family remain there, using a health care system that is so profoundly different in every respect that it is hard to believe sometimes.

My mother, 76, had surgery yesterday in a major Canadian city hospital. Because her condition , while horrible and uncomfortable, was not life-threatening, she had to wait weeks for it. That was lousy for her and for me. But that is how Canada (and other nations) control their health-care costs.

But by the time she had the surgery, she had already been in the hospital since early November, attended to by a physical therapist, an occupational therapist and a variety of physicians.

There are no bills.

There will be no sudden, surprising charges we did not anticipate. We will not have to face medical bills of five or six figures, or bankruptcy because — like most people — we would not be able to pay them.

It is wearying in every possible way to deal with a relative who is ill with multiple conditions, some chronic. It is even more terrifying if that illness is potentially life-threatening.

But to have to worry about paying for it?

What else is there worth having in this life but our health?

What will it take for American politicians to find the most useful organ in the body politic, and physical — a heart?

Tulips, Tea, Cashmere — How To Survive This Long, Snowy Winter!

In behavior, domestic life, entertainment, family, Fashion, film, food, Health, life, nature, urban life, US, Weather on February 1, 2011 at 11:46 am
Cover of The Mail and Empire, Christmas 1897

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Are you utterly sick of snow and ice yet? There’s more to come.

Coping skills, stat!

Nice piece on how to survive this insanely cold snowy winter, from The Globe and Mail:

Take a young person to whom you are not related to lunch. I did – a charming way to find out about their lives, to reflect on your own children’s progress and to feel generous, hopeful and wise. If you’re young, suggest lunch to a mentor. For sure they will pay!

Volunteer. The eternal cure. Whether it’s to teach literacy to newcomers or to ladle out soup on a cold winter night, helping others never fails to lift your own spirits.

Cook passionately. Entertain generously. See people constantly. On one snowy day I made a red lentil soup that made several people happy, and you can never go wrong in winter with a nice hot curry.

Movies. Why go out, the theory goes, when DVDs and downloads are so easy. In the depths of winter you can explore a theme. I’m thinking great newspaper movies, such as Citizen Kane and All The President’s Men.

I’ll add:

Tea. I have a huge stash of tea ready at hand, from black and spicy loose leaf Earl Grey and blackcurrant tea to green tea, chai (Tazo is nice), lemon and Constant Comment, which has orange and spices in it. As the daylight fades, I brew a pot of tea in my white bone china teapot, let it steep, find a cup and saucer, add some milk and pour. Maybe a few biscuits or a bit of cheese and apple. Perfect!

Cashmere. Think thrift shop, vintage stores and consignment shops and you’ll find a cosy cashmere cardigan or pullover for the price of a cotton T-shirt. Cashmere is, although it comes from the belly of Mongolian goats, the workhorse of fabrics. I’m writing this wearing my go-to winter outfit — a calf-length black cashmere T-shirt dress that is so old I can’t remember the year I bought it….1993? A long time ago.

A lovely bit of cashmere, whether socks, a sweater, a scarf, mitts or hat, is light, warm, chic, and will last for decades. What’s not to love?

Plants, everywhere. Just when you think you will never see green again, time to head to your local nursery and pick up a few growing, live plants. Watering and spraying them will remind you that living things still do exist!

Visit a botanical garden. What better place than the fragrant humidity of a glass-enclosed garden? One of my best memories ever was in November in Stockholm, when it was dark by 3:00 pm and the sun did not rise until 8:30 a.m. We visited the Butterfly House — where live butterflies float past and often land on you.

Long walks. The best investment anyone can make when facing a long, snowy, icy winter is a great pair of winter boots, waterproof and warm — and a pair of Yaktrax. These little rubber overshoes with metal claws on the bottom make a long, vigorous walk a serious option without that terrible fear of falling. I’ve used them. They work!

Ice skating/snow-shoeing/skiing/sledding. If you’re stuck with months of ice and snow, best to find some ways to make fun use of it. There are plenty of great places to go skating even in super-urban New York City. One of my favorite things to do is cruise the temporary ice-rink at Bryant Park, open until February 27, which offers fabulous music and the most lovely surroundings — from the glittery curves of the Chrysler Building to the Empire State Building a few blocks south. Soaring around its oval as the sun sets and the towers light up all around you is a wonderful way to end even the coldest and grayest day.

And here is an extraordinary photo of how the sun will strike a Mallorca church tomorrow, February 2, in a twice-yearly phenomenon.

In case you happen to be in the area…

There is sunshine out there!

How are you surviving this endless freeze?

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