…Hope you got your things together
Hope you are quite prepared to die
Looks like we’re in for nasty weather
One eye is taken for an eye…
(“Bad Moon Rising” – Credence Clearwater Revival)
Ya know, there are days, and then there are days. Sometimes they come all at once. Sometimes they start off quite unobtrusively, then morph into some kind of hellish landscape that has no sunshine, when she’s gone or whether she was ever there in the first place. Today is one of those days.
It got an early start. I foolishly checked to see if there was a response to my revised application for ACA Marketplace healthcare coverage, and there was. Even more foolishly, I opened that email at 9:35pm. It was bizarrely worded, in typical bureaucratic jargon that says nothing in many words, including words that are contradictory.
Saying that I was “eligible”, the response instructed me to select a healthcare plan (I already have one, that is active). Then, it said the program could not award advance tax credits. Based on a few other words, and my previous experience with this program, I took that to mean that the subsidy would not be forthcoming. I called to verify, and that was exactly true.
I asked the nice lady on the phone whether my health plan was cancelled (and I meant that, in the literal sense, not in the recently politicized sense), and she had no real answer as to whether or not I was instantaneously void of health care coverage. In exasperation, I asked her if the words “advance tax credits” meant the subsidy, and that stumped her.
We talked more, and she revisited the issue that I had included an income amount on the application, and that didn’t match the income I indicated on the income tax form. For the third time, I explained that people who prepared the application demanded that I enter an ESTIMATE of what I EXPECTED to earn if I was able to gain employment.
Finally, I asked if I would be expected to pay the full premium for the plan I have or a new one, if that has been cancelled, and she responded energetically in the affirmative.
Now, if I had the money to do that, I wouldn’t be on the phone late a night trying to decipher some poorly articulated statement of public policy. She confirmed that such a circumstance made no sense. (huh?) I went on to say that I didn’t know how I could do that, since I had no employment and no income, and she agreed that was a difficult situation, and then suggested I apply for food stamps.
Alrighty then. We chatted for another couple of minutes, and I said that it seemed I was just going to have to do without health insurance, and she then suggested I file for Medicaid. She also asked me, for no apparent reason, “What’s wrong with food stamps?” Um, nothing’s wrong with them, I responded, and thanked her for her help. Then, mercifully, we bid each other a merciful farewell.
After I hung up, I was deflated, defeated, and entirely disgusted. After going through all of these machinations with the plan, now I get why it didn’t make sense for me to be getting an income tax refund on income I don’t have, and how the innards of the policy work. It’s ingenious, but they don’t adequately explain that you must have an income equal to the poverty level in your state in order to make this work. If you don’t meet that requirement, you don’t qualify. Period. They need to print that in ALL CAPS on the application form, and in the welcoming correspondence, and repeat it every month. Yes, a “life change” can be entered during the year, but you have to shoot for the poverty level for annual income. Documented annual income.
There’s just no reason to make things so complicated, and no reason to hide salient facts in a jungle of seemingly irrelevant officialese. There’s no reason to make it so difficult to get to the heart of the matter, and no reason to have application forms provoke a panic attack. This one certainly did that.
After that phone call, I descended into a panic-driven depression spike, and decided that I would just give up. It was time, and I just couldn’t do this. As I tried to explain to the nice lady last night, I am living on savings and what is left from what my mother left to me. I am not asking for help with rent, or food, or gas in my truck (which fortunately is not a concern in these days of the pipeline ransomware hack). Just asking for help with this one thing – the healthcare policy. Just that one thing.
Maybe I needed to have this experience. Maybe I needed to see how difficult it is for people who have been in this situation for years, and who have no real hope of changing it. I understand that I have some choices, and it looks as though I’m going to have to make choices I don’t want to make. I’ll need to go back to making choices that ensure only survival, and compliance, but not happiness or gratification. But I have choices, and for that I remain grateful.
It really baffles me how and why bureaucracies become so impersonal and so devoid of the ability to respond to unexpected, unanticipated circumstances. I understand there is a lot of fraud in systems that serve millions of people, but maybe some of that is because it’s so difficult to navigate them. Maybe it’s because some of the rules are so inflexible and so nonsensical that people feel they have no choice. What exactly are you supposed to do when the form asks you to select a pre-defined answer to a question that doesn’t fit your circumstances? You’re going to fit a square peg into a round hole, however you can.
I cried. There was nothing else to do at that moment, it seemed. That didn”t get me any closer to resolving the problem of not having a health insurance policy for the remainder of the year. I had very dark thoughts of sinking into a health care crisis due to cessation of medications and therapies that are keeping chronic diagnoses at manageable levels. I had very dark thoughts of simply ending all of this, finding that handgun buried somewhere in all of the clutter in my apartment. I had very dark thoughts indeed.
It occurred to me that I might be a little behind on my maintenance medications for depression, so I hurriedly downed the necessary dose. And I cried. Then I got angry, which is always my default. Anger is a wonderful motivator, so I began searching online for work from home writing opportunities. It was nearly 2am, but so be it.
When I am that unsettled and that emotional, my frantic efforts are usually quite unproductive. The frenetic job search in the early morning was true to form, although it produced an unanticipated source of relief. There was a freelance job that I investigated, and it directed me to complete an online “grammar test” to determine whether or not I was qualified. I thought it would be a good idea to do it immediately, so I did. There were many questions of the better or more correct language choice for sample phrases and sentences. They were devoid of stylistic nuance, and the “correct” choice was not clearly discernable. I failed. The passing score was 80%, and I got 70% correct. That made me laugh. Out loud.
Because I am wired a bit differently from most people, and possibly because the medication was kicking in just a bit, I felt somewhat better after the laughable test results. I do have the niggling thought of maybe I’m not as decent a writer as I think I am, or maybe I am really not as well suited for a writing career as I think, but that’s down to a dull roar at this point. Not a new thing.
I know there are a lot of people who are in the same position, or something like it. I know there are a lot of people who have fewer choices, for whatever reasons, than I do. I still have to believe that I’m going to be OK, but it’s just a little harder today. Some days just be like that, or at least that is what I was told.
So, on to other signs of a bad moon rising…just to divert my thoughts from my own…Congress. WTF GOP? They’ve stripped Liz Cheney of her leadership position, because she correctly pointed out the Emperor’s nakedness. The audacity of the woman, refusing to march in step with party lines and translate truth into lies. She voted to impeach the former guy, and spoke out against his rhetoric that inspired the insurrection on January 6th. She has loudly iterated her desire to make sure the former guy “never gets close to the Oval Office” again, and for that she has been censured and now demoted.
I was never a fan of Liz Cheney’s politics, or her father the former VP Dick Cheney. But, I have to say that I respect her for these recent demonstrations of standing in integrity and standing for truth, despite the consequences. This Congressperson has vowed to not sit down and to not shut up, and pledges to continue her fight to restore the GOP to a party of policies that adheres to the rule of law and the Constitution. You don’t hear that a lot these days.
It absolutely galled me, although it was no surprise, that NC Congressperson Virginia Foxx offered the motion to call a vote on removing Cheney from her leadership position. Virginia Foxx is a most unpleasant woman, who represents no one but herself and her wealthy supporters. She was my representative for quite a while, and was so blatantly homophobic that it was difficult to even speak her name without bile rising from my gut. She once called Matthew Shepard’s death a hoax, and went downhill from there. But this hateful posturing is more acceptable to the GOP of these times, rather than common fairness and Constitutional principles. Not a good showing.
There is talk among some GOP members who are not in line with the current pro-former guy regiment that it might be time for a third party. Third parties have not been terribly successful in our history, but they sometimes prove to be spoilers for closely held elections. For example, many consider Ralph Nader to have been a spoiler in the close election between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000, when Nader garnered a slice of the vote that many contend would have been cast for Gore. Nader had been urged to drop out of the race prior to the election, but refused. Particularly in Florida, the vote was very close, and many Democrats blame Nader for giving Bush a razor-thin edge by siphoning votes from Gore.
In the 2016 election, similar issues surrounded Bernie Sanders’ refusal to stand down from the contest for the Democratic nomination. Although Hillary Clinton did receive the nomination that year, the significant contingent of Bernie-or-bust supporters either refused to vote, or voted for third-party candidates on the ballot. Many Democrats continue to believe that Sanders’ campaign split the Democratic voting bloc, and deleted a significant number of votes from Clinton on election day.
I don’t know if people will support a third party at this point. We are having enough trouble deciphering the coded language and buzz phrases of the traditional parties, one of which did not even select a platform for the last Presidential election. With or without formal declaration of a platform, however, the policy and legislative outlook of both parties is always evident. There are numerous opportunities, on a daily basis, for party leaders and members to reiterate their positions and rationale for every discussion, debate, and decision they hold. By now, we all know that GOP leaders have pledged to do everything they can to repel the President’s agenda, and the Democrats have pledge to do everything they can to propel the President’s agenda forward (well, mostly).
So, when so many people don’t feel it’s worth a trip down to a polling place to actually cast a vote, I don’t quite know where we’re headed with this experiment called democracy. I have been feeling as though we’re in a functional oligarchy for quite a while now – they who have the most money have the biggest voices. When I see the likes of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, both of whom seem to be honorable and intelligent fellows, solicited for their advice on public policy, health care, and diplomacy I have to assume that’s only because their money gives them a political voice.
Giving a political voice to millionaires and billionaires is not a new thing. There are several “advisory” groups, like the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), that organize corporate citizens for support of their common interests. It has been show for many years that ALEC authors draft legislation on significant issues and distributes it to state and local legislatures around the country. Consequently, when we see a flurry of similar proposals in multiple states, as we’re seeing now on voter suppression, abortion, and policing it’s likely those bills got their start in ALEC.
So, given all of that murky undercurrent in a representative democracy, I’m not sure the system can withstand another stress point with a third party. Aside from that, it would more than likely be very contentious to determine the platform for a third party. If a third party would be the result of a split in the GOP, which is more right-leaning than traditional Democratic party platforms, then maybe we’d need a fourth party to allow for a split of the Democrats. They don’t seem to be entirely unified about much of anything, either.
I don’t know where all of this is going, but wherever it goes, I’ll be working at some job that contributes to the national economy and, quite possibly, contributes to greater misery for me. But apparently, that is the American Way. One for all…no, no wait…one if by land, two if…no, that’s not it, either. Every man for himself. That’s it! (Gender reference intentional.)
The song goes “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden”. Another one says “Love is a rose, and you’d better not pick it – it only grows while it’s on the vine”. I say “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose”. Things do mean something if they’re not free, though. A friend of mine said the other day that perhaps the whole purpose of life was to be happy, was for enjoyment. I don’t know about that; there is suffering in the world. Suffering that is not the result of circumstance, and not choice. I don’t know if it is entirely ethical to be concerned only with our own enjoyment and pleasure. That’s certainly a part of a life well lived, but my current posture leans more toward humility, and balance.
Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, sometimes you’re just spinning. The wheel of the universe is like that. Winter, spring, summer, fall. North, South, East, West. We move, and we come back to the same place, and we keep rolling. That seems more in line with the reality in which I find myself, but I’m open to suggestion.