Skip to content

it’s all about that health . . . about that health . . .

August 14, 2017

So, regarding Linda’s inquiry about Canadian health care: Jude and I pay $117 a month each for both of our Provincial health care.  Some provinces don’t charge anything.   Prime Minister Trudeau says he wants to eliminate Provincial fees nation-wide.  Our federal taxes are supposed to pay for the single payer system. Prescriptions, eye care, PT, massage, dental, and some others services are not covered.  My primary care physician (whom I was allowed to choose) is on our island.  It usually takes no more than a few days to get an appointment. My doctor is first rate.  I was lucky, as most doctors are not taking new patients.

If I need a procedure or service not available on Quadra, our ferry fee is covered if I get the proper paperwork.  Waiting times can be lengthy.  In December of 2014 I had a hip replacement.  The average wait time for that in our region is a year.  I only had to wait six, as explained here and here.  Some 31 months later, the hip is working better than many of my original parts.

Any bureaucracy can be improved, but I’m quite pleased with my interaction with the program.  I certainly would take it over the spotty, expensive coverage we had in the states.  We are free from the fear of financial ruin from a catastrophic illness or injury.  And at age 71, that is an immense relief.

So that’s the take of a satisfied consumer.  Let’s hear from a former provider, my lovely wife Jude:

As you wisely supposed, Linda, the issue of access to care is a big problem for both US and Canadian systems for different reasons.  The Canadian system is meant to pay for essential services such as routine doctor visits, specialists, and hospital care.  Some care, such as nursing homes are subsidized if you qualify.  There are multiple “gate keepers” in the Canadian system even for care that is covered.  For example, if you need help at home for bathing, you need a nurse case manager to assess and approve your need and authorize the number of hours you can use.  Then a Home Support Supervisor will come to assess your home to be sure it is safe for the worker.  It can take weeks for this process and the actual care to begin.

The equipment such as MRIs, CTs and the like are not as plentiful as they are in the US so not as accessible and therefore, the wait.  Canada does have a shortage of physicians – again slowing down access to care.  Emergency rooms are some people’s main source of medical care (like the US).  The ERs are so busy and understaffed that the norm (at least in the hospital where I worked) was to do basic tests and get people out as quickly as possible.  People would return in a few hours because they felt sicker.  Usually the third visit would get the patient a closer look and admission to the hospital.  Fortunately, walk-in clinics are becoming more available.

Waiting in line (in queue) is a value here.  Jumping the queue is a big no – no.  You really need your doctor to advocate for you if you are in need of a test or procedure due to the severity of your condition.  If they don’t, you wait.   Specialists are generally in bigger cities and travel is required.  Expenses are tax deductible, but not the total cost.

Unfortunately, Allen’s belief that our health care coverage prevents financial ruin is not accurate.  There are seemingly arbitrary limits or conditions that are not covered that can only be available if you pay out of pocket.  You can not carry your coverage from province to province and there is usually a waiting period before you can receive coverage, so you need to buy private insurance if you want coverage while you wait.  They do have help for poor people similar to Medicare in the US and coverage for people with disabilities with the same type of bureaucratic paperwork and frustrations as the US.

While neither system is ideal, what is happening now in the US with the uncertainty of healthcare is worse than either could ever be.  The affordable care act forms a good base and there are models in the US that work well.  This idea that people will be able to put aside enough money to care for their needs and wade through all the confusing options will work as well as trickle down economics has.  Trickle down health care – the rich get care and the rest get what is left (if they can pay)?




Linda Lee, you have been heard

August 4, 2017

At the end of my last post, Linda Lee (yes, of the Colorado Lees) asked about our puppy and health care system.  I will gleefully respond after a desultory paragraph on Trump.

I will miss Scarmucci.  He was looking more and more like a character from Guys and Dolls.  I was amused that Aging Orange thanked a group of 12 to 18-year-old boys for voting for him, but appalled by the rest of his Jamboree speech — and a tad unsettled by the Scouts’ reactions.  They had been reminded to be courteous (Point 5 of their Law) and they were being obedient (Point 7), but many were booing the mention of Obama and Hilary.  That ain’t right.  Does Trump think he has to blow up every American institution?

The last three days we have been sweltering in the massive heat wave baking western Oregon and Washington.  I hasten to add that that’s Canadian sweltering.  As Portland and Eugene hit triple digits F., and Olympia and Seattle broke into the mid-90’s, our farm topped out at 30 C. (86 F.) the last two days.

Today at 4 p.m., it’s 25 (76), but at the expense of others.  The extreme weather is pushing the smoke from the forest fires in the B.C. interior toward the ocean.  So, even though we are hundreds of miles from the hundreds of fires, our sky is quite hazy and the sun looks like this:

smoke, foundation 013.JPG

The ground looks like this:

smoke, foundation 005.JPG



The puppies.  In May of last year, Jude and I had to put down our beloved Slinkee.  She was Queen of the Farm, one of a kind.  We wanted to mourn her properly, so we weren’t in any hurry to consider another pet.  Then she walked into our lives:

Katoo June, 2016 011

The dog of a friend had just produced a beguiling litter.  Mom is border collie and lab, with a wolf in the woodpile.  Dad is black lab and Rottweiler.  We brought Katoo home for a brief visit, then could barely wait until she was weaned.  At first she was a pain in the neck.  Literally.  For several weeks we had to sleep with our arms over our faces due to her middle-of-the-night romps.

We all got through it, of course.  Now she’s a sweetheart, though her wolfiness gives her a wild streak we may never contain.  She recently gave me the wolf look when I tried to take a dead mouse from her.

Then he walked into our lives:

Tooka after Feb. 9th 001

Tooka is Katoo’s half-brother.  Papa was a rolling stone, but we’re guessing German shepherd.  At just over six months old, he already outweighs Katoo by ten pounds or so.  He, too, has the wolfy wild streak.  Right now, for example.  We can’t get him to come inside, and we can’t catch him.  It’s those difficult adolescent months.

But between those bursts of testosterone, he shows tremendous sweetheart potential.  Katoo has been a very patient big sister.  They play together (though roughly) well.

dogs, wheeze 004.JPG

And they rest together well.

pups july 2017 016.JPG

Jude and I hope they stay friends for a very long time.


Linda, this post got a bit out of control, but I promise you the very next one will be about health care.  I want to do it right.  I’m going to describe it as a consumer, and Jude, who recently retired as a nurse, will describe it as a provider.


finally! a rich Caucasian male in the White House

July 21, 2017

For those of you worried about the lack of former Goldman Sachs employees in The Don’s administration, breathe again.  With the appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as his communications director, Trump drains even more of the swamp into the White House.

Scaramucci had just become a honcho at the U.S. Export-Import Bank, a federal agency.  He’s a Harvard graduate.  I’m certain of this because he mentioned it several times during his roll-out today.  On January 12th, he was named: (deep breath) Presidential Advisor and Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs.  But by the end of the month, with his appointment still pending, it fell through.

Two fun facts about him: (1) he did fundraising for Obama in 2008; and (2) he wrote the book Goodbye, Gordon Gekko: How to Find Your Fortune Without Losing Your Soul.

Sean Spicer will stay on through August, doing Trump-knows-what.  Please feel free to enjoy that time referring to the Scaramucci-Spicer team as “Scary Spice”.  Sara Huckabee Sanders replaces Sean.  She’s been seen — mostly just heard — recently filling in for him.  Although she relays Trump’s whale shit as diligently as Spicey did, at least she coats it with a thick molasses-and-magnolias Southern drawl.  Look for Trump to tweet that he’s saving taxpayers money by paying her 30% less than Spicer, making America ever greater.

Scaramucci has the confidence, look and gloss of a  . . .  well, Wall Street lawyer.  His main qualification for the job, apparently, is a Jonestown-level loyalty to the Mad Yam.  When asked about Trump’s assertion of the phantom 3 million illegal voters, he said “if the President says it, it’s most likely true”.  Preserve that wiggle room, Anthony.

Even though we’ve seen the Cheeto get winded just from walking, Scaramucci assured us that Trump is a superb athlete.  He has seen Aging Orange throw a football through a tire, although he didn’t specify the distance.  He’s seen him sink foul shots while wearing a top coat.  How the basketball ever got into the top coat, we’ll never know.  (Thanks, Groucho.)  Such fawning fare reminds me of the accounts of the North Korean Kims bowling a perfect game and scoring 11 holes-in-one in a single round of golf .

So, good luck, Scary.  All you have to do is make the world sympathetic to a man whose ego is so crushing that he maniacally pursues a steaming pile of a health care bill  just to get “a win”.  Problem is, there’s not enough turd polish in the world.

the silver lining in this shit storm

May 29, 2017

All we really know about Trump so far is that he can read at a sixth-grade level and tweet at a third-grade level.  His deal-making is so bad the GOP had to play like it done a good thing  by passing a terrible health bill that will soon meet the Senate’s Death Panel.

His high water mark, apparently, is getting Gorsuch into SCOTUS.  But Gorsuch replaced Antonin Scalia, and will probably be more moderate.  Aging Orange has accomplished one impressive feat, though: when he said he fired Comey for being mean to Hilary, he made satire irrelevant.  Briefly.

No matter.  Slip into something comfortable, secure plenty of fluids, and do a Popeye’s run, because the Ringling Brothers did not, in fact, close down.  The circus has moved into the Oval Office.

It’s almost an embarrassment of riches to see Donnie try to tread water in a sea of leaks.  I hope I’m stopping short of schadenfreude here.  But –Jeez Christ!– this guy is only looking out for a handful of family.  And I’m not sure that even includes Eric and Tiffany.

Plus, he’s creepiest when he tries to act normal.  His True Self showed at the NATO summit when he pushed past Dusko Markovic, the Prime Minister of Montenegro, then straightened his coat a la James Bond tugging on his cufflinks.  Oh, The Donald, were that you were as authentic as 007.

So now that Trump is inundated with Evil leaks — as opposed to Wikileaks — pop some gluten-free corn and enjoy the show.  Soon in the Main Ring: James Comey being meaner to the Cheeto than he was to Hilary.

I laud the leakers.  Some of them are taking a substantial risk.  But they are watering an impressive new crop of reporters and commentators, helping to close the gender gap.

Anyhoo, the aforementioned silver lining: although Trump’s freshest antics have muscled it aside much like Prime Minister Markovic, health care is not going to away.  I mean really not going away.  Virtually all the opinion articles I read about it, left and right, agree that the U.S. needs a comprehensive national health policy.  Obamacare, with all its faults, laid the groundwork for that.

There’s no going back.  Not even the Mad Yam can stop it.




keep on bikin’

April 20, 2017

Joyous 4-20 Day!  Revel in it as you seek the Ecstatic!  I tried to post yesterday, but the gods of WordPress frowned uponeth me.  I was going to remind you that this particular April 19th was the 74th anniversary of Bicycle Day, the first intentional LSD trip.

Let’s review.

As the daily absurdities of tRUMP’s surreality pile up — blaming Canada for trade irregularities today, e.g. — please take a moment to remember what is transient and what is permanent.

Demon Canada?  Whitey, please!

next for Pence: a paintball tournament

April 17, 2017

I suppose it was inevitable that Vice-President Pence would have to show his package after Trump dropped two huge loads recently.  But since Mike doesn’t have the authority or irrationality of Aging Orange, he had to settle for serving notice to Kim Jong-Un inside the Korean DMZ.

Cautioning the North Korean dictator that the U.S. “era of strategic patience” is over, the Veep assured Kim that all options are on the table to defend the good Koreans, the Southern ones.  He did not specify if that table was in the White House or the less hygienic Mar-a-Lago.

This is not the first time Pence has played the brave little non-soldier.  Ten years ago, he and John McCain visited a Baghdad shopping area.  According to Mike, “thousands and thousands of Iraqis were moving about in regular everyday life like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime.”

I remember the video of that.  Summer in the Hoosier State must be brutal, aside from the heat and humidity.  Pence and McCain were in flak jackets surrounded by U.S. troops in a sealed-off area.

This is a major sore point for me: politicians who hide behind the military.  More to the point, pols who never served.  You know, chickenhawks (not the gay slang ones, per se).  Current White House/Florida resident D. John Trump is a primo example.

The Cheeto received four student deferments.  After his graduation, he got a medical deferment for bone spurs on his heels.  Fortunately they went away and no longer affect his golf game, unless he’s playing through the pain.

To his credit, Trump did attend military school in New York, which likely has more dangerous summers than Indiana.  And he did tell Howard Stern that avoiding STD’s while dating was his “personal Vietnam”.

Yet he and his veep surround themselves with active duty troops and veterans for political parsley, promising a bigger military budget and better VA care.  I question the need for more muscle, and I’m still waiting for the VA to step up.

Some other vets may agree, but I’m speaking only for myself.  Indeed, the military definitely leans right.  In 2012, Time magazine said that’s largely because “today’s military is an all-volunteer force increasingly drawn from the Sunbelt, where the Pentagon has focused its recruiting efforts since the draft ended 40 years ago.  And traits the military prizes — like aggressiveness and respect for authority — tend to be more pronounced in conservatives.”





Allen in Wonderland

March 29, 2017

The gap since my last post is easily explained.  I’ve been producing a play spoofing Grease, called Wheeze.  It just finished its weekend run.  Two years ago I approached Lois, the affable manager of the venerable Heriot Bay Inn, about doing a parody of The Sound of Music in the HBI dining room.  It was a hit, so last year we mangled West Side Story.

This time around we speculated about what the kids of Rydell High School might have dealt with over the last fifty years.  Hence, the song “Greased Lightning” morphed into “Cialis”: “You’ll be having lots of frolics ’cause it helps with your hydraulics/You’ll be flowing like Niagara as you gobble up Viagra/Go, boners!”

It was a most welcome distraction from a challenging winter and the daily outrages of Aging Orange.  I won’t even attempt to summarize all the shit he’s pulled since I last bitched about him, other than to mention today’s absurdity: him telling a room full of women that he will support their every effort, less than a week after he tried to take away maternity benefits with his abysmal health plan.

So we escaped to Midol High School to see what Sammi, Dandy, Dezzo and Kandinsky had been up to this last half century.  With a talented cast and gifted directors, we regaled 125 patrons over three performances.  It was a lovely way to keep it together until spring.  We used almost every song from the original movie and live TV special, plus this nifty little ditty lifted whole cloth from Grease 2.

I also added a rewrite of the Janis Ian song “At Seventeen” to give the merriment a quiet moment.  This haunting tune from 1975 gave us lyrics like “And those of us with ravaged faces/Lacking in the social graces/Desperately remained at home/Inventing lovers on the phone/Who called to say ‘come dance with me’/And murmured vague obscenities/It isn’t all it seems/At seventeen”.  Besides being blessed relief from the disco sound, Ian’s work has the historical importance of being the first song performed on Saturday Night Live.

Here is our version:

“At seventy I reached a place/Where harshness tacked to gentle grace/And smoother seas were my reward/As deepest feelings outward poured.

The vapid stabs to be uncouth/The folly of my misspent youth/All wasted time to be thought cool/So I sought themes that teach and soothe.

Like all the love we generate/Will someday neutralize the hate/And kindness in our common soul/Will be our foremost social goal.

So those who say ‘you’re not like me’/As they advance their bigotry/Please go away/Don’t bother me/At seventy.

We’re black and white and red and brown/We all touch feet on common ground/So pity, please, who will not see/The spectrum of humanity.

The rich who think they must be kings/And tell the rest to kiss their rings/Come join our walk in humble grace/As others gain their rightful place.

Let’s hope that those who set the game/Will lose their lust for wealth and fame/Humility will rule the day/And all around will be fair play.

The petty minds will open wide/And we will bask in common pride/This is my greatest dream/At seventy.”