I'm betting that a lot of the year-end wrap-ups you're going to read in the next few weeks are going to focus heavily on the Obamacare website woes. But I bet in three years, nobody will remember or care that for a couple months, a new government-run website didn't actually work. Especially now that the site is starting to work:
About 29,000 people signed up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov on Sunday and Monday — a figure that surpasses the total for the whole month of October, an official familiar with the program told POLITICO.
The quickened pace of enrollments came as the White House hit its self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline to fix the troubled Affordable Care Act website.
Remember how outraged Republicans were about that whole "You Didn't Build That" manufactured controversy from last year? And remember how ordinary Americans just didn't give a shit? The Republican response to the Obamacare rollout reminds me a lot of that.
Truth: In Kentucky, where Obamacare is up and running, people are very pleased. They're pleased enough that some of them are rethinking the whole Republican idea that any government is bad government, according to the Washington Post's Stephanie McCrummen:
He’d never had insurance before and said his hospital bills were up to $23,000 at this point.
“Good night,” Lively said, tapping in his information.
Kids: five. Salary: about $14,000 before taxes.
“You’re going to qualify for a medical card,” she told Hudson.
“Well, thank God,” Hudson said, laughing. “I believe I’m going to be a Democrat.”
Remember, this is Rand Paul country. This is a huge deal.
(Via Daily Kos.)
Lie: John Boehner did not have the hellacious time of signing up for Obamacare that he claimed to have:
It turns out that Speaker Boehner lied about his struggles to sign up for Obamacare. The Speaker wasn’t having trouble with the website. He put the ACA rep on hold for 35 minutes.
Christ, what an asshole.
Getting a strongly worded note from Consumer Reports must be kind of like getting yelled at by Mr. Rogers:
Pundits opposed to the new health care law and some media outlets have tried to suggest that our coverage of the troubled HealthCare.gov site means that Consumer Reports has turned against the Affordable Care Act.
Not true. Consistent with our mission to inform and protect consumers, particularly in this complicated health care market, our advice remains the same: The best place to buy coverage on your own is through the Health Insurance Marketplace in your state. That guarantees you will get comprehensive coverage, and it's the only way you can lower the cost of your premiums and possibly even your deductibles and copayments.
Read more about the Republican plan to convince people to not sign up for health insurance at Politicus USA.
The program outlined in this Miami Herald story by Alex Leary makes me feel so disheartened about the country:
As the battle over the healthcare law grinds on — Republicans no closer to victory than when they forced the government shutdown — a different fight was rising on a recent Saturday from inside Sharkey’s, a bar near the campus of Virginia Tech, 260 miles away.
Lured by free beer, gift cards and the chance to win an iPad, 100 students heard a pitch from the young staffers of a group named Generation Opportunity: Obamacare is a bad deal, and you should opt out.
Generation Opportunity is funded in part by the Koch brothers. The thinking is that if enough young people don't sign up for healthcare, Obamacare will fail. And what happens when one of these kids gets into a car wreck, or suffers from a catastrophic illness? Will the Koch brothers be there to pick up the hospital tab? No, of course not. That's the job of everyone who pays for health insurance, apparently. This is maybe the evilest thing the Kochs have done in their long, evil careers as kingmakers.
The most befuddling part of this video, for me, is when "Obamacare" greets lizard-faced Jones with "How's your hernia? How's your homosexuality?"
Are irresistibly cute animals about to melt the Affordable Care Act into the hearts of online Americans?
Depicting the true dangers of rock 'n' roll that your parents warned you about, this cautionary tale warns what will happen if you literally ingest Gaytheist's pummeling, raw-power rawk. That's Jacob Bean Watson as the reckless and feckless pill popper, and of course that's Gaytheist playing the Dennis Quaid role from Innerspace. Gaytheist dominated last weekend's Capitol Hill Block Party and will play Rontoms on Sunday, August 25 with Magic Mouth—that's gonna be something—and they also play Dante's on Saturday, September 7 as part of MusicfestNW.
Jenny McCarthy will be the co-host of "The View," Barbara Walters announced Monday.
So the most prominent anti-vaccine nutjob in the world gets a gig hosting the most influential daily talk show on a major television network. If you think this isn't a big deal, go visit stopjenny.com, which has a bunch of reasons why McCarthy is a dangerous kook. And then expect the numbers at jennymccarthybodycount.com to start climbing once McCarthy joins The View full time this fall.
It's over. The Mercury Juicing Scandal of 2013 came to a close yesterday—I am eating a sandwich as I type this—leaving a trail of controversy in its wake. It feels special that so many of you are concerned for our health!
As cleanses go, what we did was pretty mellow: only three days, tons of dense raw juice, plus chewable raw and steamed produce and nut butter if we wanted it. But it was enough to open up the arguments about whether or not such things are healthy/a ripoff/plain old bullshit. I'm not gonna act like I know for sure, but either way there's a really interesting article that came out in Harper's in March (you can read it online if you're a subscriber) that details how the practice and research on the possible benefits of fasting was gradually shooed out of the mainstream medical community by economic motives before official conclusions had been made. It's totally even handed and worth seeking out.
Even less officially, you can read the personal reflections of Team Mercury Juice after the cut.
So, a bunch of us here at the Merc are in the middle of a three-day juice cleanse from Portland Juice Press. In case you are unfamiliar, a juice cleanse involves abstaining from food*, alcohol, caffeine—everything except water and raw juice. The idea is that without having to deal with digesting food, your body can spend its energy shedding toxic buildup. I've experimented with lots of different cleanses, so I'm kind of supervising my co-workers as they undergo their first times. And I gotta say, if you have the cash and the willpower (a three-day cleanse runs $165, progressing up to six days at $330), this method is pretty trick. PJP is delivering us our daily rations of six different 16 oz juices to the office every morning. We don't have to do squat, so it's pretty easy... or is it?
*We were given permission to supplement with fresh fruits and veggies and the like, but to some of us that seems like cheating.
Hit the jump for profiles of the juicers and their progress...
The new Cover Oregon spots start airing on your telly-vision today, but they've already made their rounds on the internet. The spots are part of a multimillion dollar state ad campaign to raise awareness for Oregon's new health marketplace—Cover Oregon is the new state facility/agency that allows people to find plans and benefits.
Your opinions about Obamacare aside, what do you think of the ads? The Washington Post calls them "twee" and "seriously could have been pulled straight out of Portlandia." While I think they meant it derogatorily, I think "twee" is a fantastic word to describe them. They're pretty lovable. They're cute. They're catchy. You can watch them more than once without wanting to mash the screen. And they put two of Portland's best local musicians on the TV, which is a great thing.
Hopefully your Fourth of July holiday did not prominently feature vomiting—mine did. Long story short, my "friend" accidentally ate some chicken salad that had been kicking around for a month. This led to his being convinced that he needed to puke it up right away, before any potential food poisoning could set in. Fingers down the throat proved insufficient, so it was off to the pharmacy for Ipecac... FUN FACT! You can no longer purchase Ipecac at the pharmacy—they pulled it from shelves because too many people were using it for gags... pun intended.
Anyway, the solution that ended up working involved fish sauce, the business end of a toothbrush, and so much heaving that he ruptured all the capillaries in his eyelids (seriously), but while things were still in panic mode, I tried to help by googling "inducing vomiting" on my phone. Of course, there's a wikiHow on the subject, which provides some semi-helpful suggestions. One of them is Ipecac, for instance, and a mustard solution about which they say "there is little scientific evidence to suggest that this is effective and safe," and my favorite, watching someone else vomit (step two of this method: "Ask someone to vomit." Which kind of brings the whole thing back to square one, don't it?).
But it's the illustrations that really make it:
The whole thing's worth a read.
Nature once again struggles to bring "short" back into the Hobbesian equation:
But his most life-threatening encounter has been with coccidioidomycosis, or valley fever, for which he is being treated here. Coccidioidomycosis, known as “cocci,” is an insidious airborne fungal disease in which microscopic spores in the soil take flight on the wind or even a mild breeze to lodge in the moist habitat of the lungs and, in the most extreme instances, spread to the bones, the skin, the eyes or, in Mr. Klorman’s case, the brain.
The infection, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled “a silent epidemic,” is striking more people each year, with more than 20,000 reported cases annually throughout the Southwest, especially in California and Arizona.
Oh great. Brain fungus. I'm already a hypochondriachondriac (I'm excessively concerned with the possibility of developing hypochondria). The last thing I need is yet another disgusting disease to worry about worrying about contracting.
Yeah, I'm going to go ahead and file this post under "health," since A) we don't have a "vanity" tag, and B), the skin is the largest organ in your body and outwardly manifests all manner of internal turmoil, as you know. But this is straight up about facials. Salon facials. So whether you consider it an act of maintenance equivalent to your semiannual trip to the dentist, or you consider it a self-indulgent luxury, click over for the rundown on a small, hole-in-the wall salon called Illume.
We've had our say. So without further ado, let's hear the stirring counterargument—IN SONG.
Video via Portland band Star Witness, who describe it as "The funniest four minutes of fluoride fun that you may ever know." I agree with this assessment.
I was gonna close comments on this one, because Jesus Christ already, but what the hell. Have fun.
A "Savage Love" reader with phimosis recently wrote and asked for advice. Dr. King, my guest expert, suggested circumcision as one possible fix. Toby Butterfield also suffered from phimosis and wound up getting circumcised. Butterfield told the story of his circumcision—and his first post-phimosis orgasm—at a recent installment of Portland's Mystery Box Show, a performance series dedicated to stories about sex.
So maybe my excitement led me to get a little out of hand with the subject tags of this post, but that's only because Sword + Fern—the gem of a shop helmed by Emily Baker, who makes jewelry but also stocks local apothecary, art, clothing, vintage nicknacks, books, and more—just keeps becoming a better and more rounded nexus of all these things.
After closing for a few months for renovations, Sword + Fern will be back in the First Friday swing of it this week, debuting the first in their new series of curatorial collaborations/art installations, "DISCOVERe'verer," with Plane/Air, to be followed by a roster of participants that includes Claudia Meza, Anna Korte, Helmy Membreno, Valentine Freeman, and more. Plus they've just announced that S+F will be the pickup spot for produce from Thistle Top Farm, and a forthcoming clothing line collaboration with Portland Garment Factory(!!). Swing by this Friday from 6-9 for a look at the reconfigured space and a high five for Baker's expanded venture.
A former high-level employee at the Oregon Health Authority is threatening to sue the agency, saying the state's public health director discriminated against her because she's a woman.
Jean O'Connor, fired from her job as the OHA's deputy director for public health in February, filed a tort claim notice with the state in early March, according to documents obtained by the Mercury in a public records request. In the brief letter—a required precursor to lawsuits against state agencies—O'Connor claims she took "discrimination and harassment by Dr. Melvin A. Kohn on the basis of my gender, marital, parenting status, and attempted use of family leave."
And she says she was let go from the agency in February without due process, and claims a letter sent out to staff about the move damaged her reputation.
"As a consequence of Dr. Kohn’s actions, I have and will continue to incur monetary damages, emotional distress, and harm to my professional reputation," O'Connor writes in the tort claim.
She doesn't appear to have filed suit.
O'Connor's claims go far beyond those listed in the terse letter. In a formal complaint filed days after she was told she'd be let go, O'Connor laid out wide-ranging grievances: from Kohn's alleged demeaning and disrespectful interactions with female employees, to being discouraged from taking time to care for her children, to questioning the agency's male-centric leadership.
But an internal OHA investigation largely failed to turn up evidence of O'Connor's allegations, and concluded Kohn had not violated state policy against workplace discrimination.
It did find, however, many OHA employees described working conditions at the agency as "difficult and untenable, citing low morale and high work volume." That's potentially bad news for the millions of Oregonians who count on the agency for services such as timely alerts for things like a salmonella outbreak that occurred in February or toxic algae blooms on the state's waterways.
Turn any corner in this city and you'll probably be bombarded with some form of anti-fluoride campaigning. From fully covered buildings downtown to protesters on the Hawthorne Bridge on-ramp, Portlanders have spoken.
But, from the shadows, emerges the PRO-fluoride campaign.
Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland held a press conference this morning at the Center for Intercultural Organizing. The CIO represents the underrepresented—a confluence of communities of color. Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland, meanwhile, is a potent lobbying group representing, among others, moms for fluoride and doctors and dentists.
Nicole Maher of the Northwest Health Foundation is a member of the Tlinget tribe, the daughter of a salmon fisherman, a mother of two, and pregnant. That pretty much covers all the bases.
Maher grew up in rural/water-fluoridated Alaska, didn't see a dentist until she was 14, and has never had a cavity. She advocates for water fluoridation because, despite her children's access to healthcare, they are already suffering from cavities.
The CDC, American Medical Association, and American Dental Association have all supported community water fluoridation.
The polls will show where the city ultimately stands on this issue, but one thing is for sure—one side's stories aren't being exposed so often. And that might just be because they believe this is a problem which has already been solved.
The first airline in the world to charge passengers by weight declares their new pricing model a success:
Passengers do not pay for a seat but pay a fixed price per kilogram, which varies according to the length of the route. Analysts believe other airlines around the world are likely to follow suit, especially as the rising weight of populations adds to fuel costs. Some airlines in the United States have already begun forcing passengers who cannot fit in a single seat to buy two tickets....
The head of Samoa Air, Chris Langton, said the new system was fairer and that some families with small children were now paying substantially cheaper fares. "This is the fairest way of travelling," he told ABC Radio. "There are no extra fees in terms of excess baggage or anything – it is just a kilo is a kilo is a kilo."
In Tennessee, Republican Governor Bill Haslan has refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. But he must acknowledge that rising health care costs are a problem, right? What's the solution to this problem in Tennessee? ThinkProgress explains:
Twice a year, Tennessee holds a “health care lottery” that gives some hope to the uninsured residents in the state who can’t afford health coverage. Tennesseans who meet certain requirements — in addition to falling below a certain income threshold, they must be elderly, blind, disabled, or a caretaker of a child who qualifies for Medicaid — may call to request an application for the state’s public health insurance program, known as TennCare.
Go read the whole post. It sounds absolutely terrible.
This Reddit Ask Me Anything is pretty fascinating. Here's the introduction:
For work I get to break into hospitals and steal things. It's referred to as a "Physical Penetration Test." It's an integral part of a risk assessment, which is required under 164.308(a)(1) of HIPAA.
I routinely pick locks, steal access badges, impersonate medical personnel, harvest data and credentials, crack passwords, and utilize various social engineering tactics.
My official title is "Information Security Consultant." I have a degree in Information Systems Management, as well as; CCNA, Sec+, and CISA certifications.
Ask Me Anything!
It's easy to forget because we all have jobs, but few things are as interesting as a person talking about the things they do every day. And this job is an especially fascinating one. You should go read the whole interview thread.
And, as expected, the vote was unanimous—giving way to an eruption of applause and then, after the Portland City Council adjourned a few seconds later, a lot of glad-handing between advocates and city officials.
Starting next year, and provided the Oregon Legislature doesn't pass statewide standards first, most of the 40 percent of workers in Portland who don't qualify for sick time will be able to earn up to a week of it. And workers at all but the smallest businesses will also be paid for that time off.
"This was about the longest I thought it would take," Fritz told me afterward, reflecting on a proposal first fanned by community activists in meetings early last year and then first broached by Fritz in October.
She shelved it until new Mayor Charlie Hales took over this year and then waited several weeks while a task force made up of supporters—and detractors, from high-level business lobbying groups—polished the particulars of a policy that always had at least the three votes it needed to pass. The only drama was whether it would be unanimous—and even that drama receded fairly quickly after Commissioner Dan Saltzman proposed the task force and Hales blessed it.
"That was one of those moments when we made Portland a better place," Hales said, giving the last word on the proposal at the meeting.
Business groups remain unconvinced. The Portland Business Alliance, Venture Portland, the Northwest Grocery Association, and the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association were all part of the task force that worked on the bill. But each sent lobbyists last week to complain about a rushed process and warn about dire consequences if it passed, including layoffs and an exodus of businesses.
"It is an imperfect ordinance that adversely impacts small business," Megan Doern of the Portland Business Alliance told the Oregonian in a story posted earlier today. "We're concerned about companies that offer robust sick leave or leave benefits and the amount of record keeping and the lack of protection in the current ordinance."
Three other cities—Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, DC—already offer sick leave. And htose policies served as models for Portland. To qualify for earned leave, a worker will have to work at least 240 hours a year in Portland, and wait 90 days after starting a job. Companies that already have sick time policies as good as the city's, or better, also won't be required to overhaul their record-keeping and accounting procedures to comply with the minutiae of the new rules.
Commissioner Steve Novick offered critics a fairly pointed riposte—also noting that Singapore, a bastion of capitalism, also has a policy.
"This is not an extreme left wing idea," he said. "This is a matter of whether or not we're going to live in a civilized society."
The report on nearly three million people found that those whose B.M.I. ranked them as overweight had less risk of dying than people of normal weight. And while obese people had a greater mortality risk over all, those at the lowest obesity level (B.M.I. of 30 to 34.9) were not more likely to die than normal-weight people.
There does seem to be some question, at least among the experts quoted in this story, as to whether people ranked overweight by their Body Mass Index live longer because of their weight ("There’s something about extra body fat when you’re older that is providing some reserve," says one expert) or because their weight is just causing them to have increased contact with medical professionals ("You’re more likely to be in your doctor’s office and more likely to be treated," says another expert).
But, this seems clear: “Fat per se is not as bad as we thought."
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