Closing Thought–13Jan23

GOP has taken control of the House and they promised to do many things and so far they have done nothing that would indicate they have any concern for this country and its people.

They have removed the metal detectors in and around the House and their most recent ‘improvement’ was to allow smoking…..

There’s a lot of history repeating itself in Congress this year — the House is in GOP hands, Democrats control the White House and Senate and there’s an inescapable stench of tobacco smoke in the Capitol’s hallways.

The smoke evokes memories of the old guard of Republican House leadership. Former House Speaker John Boehner smoked so many cigarettes that new carpets, a fresh coat of paint and an ozone machine were required when Paul Ryan took over his office.

Going further back, David Dreier, a GOP chairman of the House Rules Committee in the late 1990s and early 2000s, was fond of cigars. Today it’s another Rules chairman — Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma — who can often be found smoking in the committee’s space on the third floor of the Capitol.

This makes the US Capitol one of a handful of places in Washington, DC, and among the few remaining office buildings in the country where smoking is still allowed inside. Despite efforts going back more than 150 years to prohibit tobacco from the building, smoking is still allowed in members’ offices.

The Capitol, and the surrounding congressional office buildings, are federal property but operate independently of other government buildings and many rules — including those about smoking and pandemic procedures — are at the discretion of House and Senate leadership.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-01-11/a-blast-from-the-past-tobacco-smoke-again-wafts-through-capitol

This makes the old image of the ‘fat cat’ lighting his cigar with 100 dollar bills….

I can hardly wait to see what is the next move to improve government the GOP has on tap.

I did not have to wait long…..it seems if they have their way they will get a $34,000 raise.

In one of their final acts in power, House Democrats secretly passed through a rule change that will see lawmakers in the lower chamber get a $34,000 pay raise. 

The new rule, proposed by Democrats on the House Administration Committee, allows House members to be reimbursed for the cost of lodging, food and travel while on official business in Washington DC.

It was tucked into the House’s internal rules, rather than in annual spending bills, and therefore was not debated on the House floor, according to the New York Times. 

Under the new rule, House members could be subsidized about $34,000 for their expenses in DC, where they live for weeks on end. That means that if all 440 current members and delegates requested the maximum amount, the reimbursements would total around $15.1 million. 

Members of the House already earn an annual salary of $174,000, an amount set in 2009, which has not changed since even as the cost of living increased.

Additionally, House members get annual allowances averaging $1.27 million to staff and manage their offices as they see fit, and while members of Congress are required to purchase insurance under the Affordable Care Act, they receive a subsidy amounting to 72 percent of their premiums, according to Axios.

The federal lawmakers are also eligible for lifetime health insurance under the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program.

And depending on the member’s age and length of service, he or she could also receive a lifetime pension of 80 percent of his or her salary — amounting to $139,200 a year.

Not bad salary and benefits for a group that are basically part-time help.

Have a good weekend my friends.

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

Advertisement

Who Profits From Medical Debt?

You hear about the people that are screwed by medical debt….how they have lost everything to pay those massive bills that come in the mail and phone calls.

But that is all too common….every thought about who profits by throwing people into debtors prison (not really but has the same results)…..IST would be remiss if I did not tell the rest of the story…..

Patients at North Carolina-based Atrium Health get what looks like an enticing pitch when they go to the nonprofit hospital system’s website: a payment plan from lender AccessOne. The plans offer “easy ways to make monthly payments” on medical bills, the website says. You don’t need good credit to get a loan. Everyone is approved. Nothing is reported to credit agencies.

In Minnesota, Allina Health encourages its patients to sign up for an account with MedCredit Financial Services to “consolidate your health expenses.” In Southern California, Chino Valley Medical Center, part of the Prime Healthcare chain, touts “promotional financing options with the CareCredit credit card to help you get the care you need, when you need it.”

As Americans are overwhelmed with medical bills, patient financing is now a multibillion-dollar business, with private equity and big banks lined up to cash in when patients and their families can’t pay for care. By one estimate from research firm IBISWorld, profit margins top 29% in the patient financing industry, seven times what is considered a solid hospital margin.

Hospitals and other providers, which historically put their patients in interest-free payment plans, have welcomed the financing, signing contracts with lenders and enrolling patients in financing plans with rosy promises about convenient bills and easy payments.

For patients, the payment plans often mean something more ominous: yet more debt.

Millions of people are paying interest on these plans, on top of what they owe for medical or dental care, an investigation by KHN and NPR shows. Even with lower rates than a traditional credit card, the interest can add hundreds, even thousands of dollars to medical bills and ratchet up financial strains when patients are most vulnerable.

How Banks and Private Equity Cash In When Patients Can’t Pay Their Medical Bills

You now see that your health issues money in the bank for Pharma and the health industry.

While you were rotting your brain on Twatter, Tik Tak and other mindless sites your life is being dismantled….and seemingly with your permission.

Pay Attention!

Be Smart!

Learn Stuff!

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

Drugs And You

If you are a senior that has to take medications or a regular person the new year will bring us more expensive drugs…..something else to look forward to in this new year.

Big Pharma is set to screw the public again…..

Drugmakers including Pfizer Inc (PFE.N), GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK.L), Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY.N), AstraZeneca PLC (AZN.L) and Sanofi SA (SASY.PA) plan to raise prices in the United States on more than 350 unique drugs in early January, according to data analyzed by healthcare research firm 3 Axis Advisors.

The increases are expected to come as the pharmaceutical industry prepares for the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which allows the government’s Medicare health program to negotiate prices directly for some drugs starting in 2026. The industry is also contending with inflation and supply chain constraints that have led to higher manufacturing costs.

The increases are on list prices, which do not include rebates to pharmacy benefit managers and other discounts.

In 2022, drugmakers raised prices on more than 1,400 drugs according to data published by 46brooklyn, a drug pricing non-profit that is related to 3 Axis. That is the most increases since 2015.

The median drug price increase was 4.9% last year, while the average increase was 6.4%, according to 46brooklyn. Both figures are lower than inflation rates in the United States.

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/drugmakers-raise-prices-least-350-drugs-us-january-2022-12-30/

You would think that elected representatives would care what is happening to their people….but I guess suitcases of cash carried by lobbyists has a a way of blinding the corruptible.

Be prepared for higher outlay for drugs in 2023.

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

Falling Russian Syndrome

There has been an uptick of a dreaded disease that is running rampant through Russia’s ‘High Society”…..a situation that started during the dark days of the Covid outbreak in Russia.

I wrote about it before in the early days……

Those Russians And Windows Are Back!

The disease has struck again…..

It’s been a while since the murky death of a Russian oligarch or other high-profile exec has made headlines, but this month saw that streak broken. Per the BBC, 65-year-old sausage magnate Pavel Antov, who’s topped Forbes‘ list of the richest Russian businessmen, was found dead Sunday at a hotel in Rayagada, in the Indian state of Odisha—apparently after a fall out of a window, according to local cops. The Jerusalem Post notes Antov, who’d just celebrated his birthday, was discovered lying in a pool of blood.

A local police superintendent suggests Antov died by suicide, as he’d been “depressed” over something that had happened at the hotel just two days earlier: His friend Vladimir Budanov, a 61-year-old Russian businessman who’d accompanied him on the trip, had been “discovered unconscious” in his own hotel room, surrounded by wine bottles, per the Daily Beast. He later died at a nearby hospital. Budanov was said by Indian and Russian officials to have died of either a stroke or heart attack. As is often the case in these mysterious Russian deaths, Antov’s past included alleged criticism of the Russian government: The BBC reports that in June, he’d reacted to a Russian missile attack on a Kyiv neighborhood, posting on WhatsApp, “It’s extremely difficult to call all this anything but terror.”

Antov later denied he was the one behind the post, which was deleted, claiming someone else had posted it and that he was a “patriot of my country” who supported President Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. WION reports that an investigation is ongoing, and that “they are probing all angles in this case, including an accidental fall.” The Beast notes there’ve been more than a dozen strange deaths of Russian businessmen this year, often executives in the gas and oil industry. One of those deaths happened over the same weekend that Antov and Budanov died: Alexander Buzakov, head of Russia’s Admiralty Shipyard, died “suddenly and tragically” on Saturday at age 66, his cause of death unclear.

How far will this go?

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

Biden And Changes To Social Security

The day after and I will attempt to recover from all the festivities and this damn head cold…..

I agree that Social Security needs updating….and yes it may soon go broke but not the fault of the program more so because of the idiots that have been working to kill this social program from it’s inception.

Pres. Biden is offering up a few changes that he says will go a long way to stabilizing the program.

A list of the changes Biden foresees…..

1. Lift payroll taxation on high earners

The most notable change proposed by Biden involves collecting more payroll tax revenue from high-earning workers. In 2023, all earned income between $0.01 and $160,200 is subject to the 12.4% payroll tax.  However, wages and salary above $160,200 aren’t subjected to this tax. Well over $1 trillion in earned income “escapes” the payroll tax this way every year.

Biden’s plan would reinstate the payroll tax on earned income above $400,000, while creating a doughnut hole between the maximum taxable earnings cap (the $160,200 figure in 2023) and $400,000 where earned income would remain exempt. Since the maximum taxable earnings cap increases over time, this doughnut hole would eventually close and subject all earned income to the payroll tax.

2. Change Social Security’s measure of inflation from the CPI-W to the CPI-E

The other sweeping change Biden is offering is to shift the program’s inflationary tether from the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) to the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).

The issue with the CPI-W is that it tracks the spending habits of “urban wage earners and clerical workers,” which doesn’t make much sense when senior citizens make up the bulk of Social Security beneficiaries. Since the CPI-E specifically tracks the expenditures of seniors, it should result in more accurate cost-of-living adjustments being passed along to beneficiaries.

3. Increase the special minimum benefit

A third Social Security reform proposed by Biden involves increasing the special minimum benefit paid to lifetime low-earning workers.

This year, the maximum payout for a lifetime low-earner with 30 years of coverage is just $951 per month. That’s more than $180/month below the federal poverty level for a single filer. Under Biden’s plan, the special minimum benefit would rise to 125% of the federal poverty level. For a lifetime low-earner, it would mean a monthly payout boost of nearly $500.

4. Boost the primary insurance amount for aged beneficiaries

The fourth and final change would see the primary insurance amount (PIA) steadily increased over time for older beneficiaries. Specifically, the PIA would grow by 1% annually from ages 78 through 82 until a 5% cumulative increase was realized.

The purpose of boosting the PIA is to account for higher late-in-life expenditures. As we age, things like medical transportation costs and prescription drugs can become costlier. This would help offset some of those expenses.

The bigger problem for Joe Biden, and pretty much every president for the past four decades, is that getting the needed votes in the U.S. Senate to amend Social Security has been impossible. Whereas a simple majority of the vote suffices in the House, 60 votes are needed in the Senate to make changes to the Social Security program. Neither party has held 60 seats in the Senate since the late 1970s. This means any major overhaul to Social Security will require bipartisan support.

Basically a good idea but as usual will go nowhere at all.

Be Smart!

Learn Stuff!

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

What Is Your Mental Age?

If you use your head for something other than a hat rack….you may have wondered if yours is working up to par.

If you are one of those that are concerned about your mental function or your mental age then I have a test for you.

Whether you’ve been told you’re an old soul or you feel like you’re a teenager in an adult’s body, all of us have a “mental age,” and it’s not always how old we actually are. Here’s what mental age is all about, plus a quick quiz to find out yours.

Mental age is “a person’s mental ability expressed as the age at which an average person reaches the same ability,” per the Oxford dictionary. In terms of the research1

and science behind it, mental age is most often used when assessing young children with developmental disorders, such as Down syndrome or autism, whose mental age may not align with how old they actually are.

As psychotherapist Annette Nuñez, Ph.D., LMFT, tells mbg, she equates mental age with things like executive function, emotional development, and overall maturity. These things, she says, usually come to us with time as we get older, but for some people, they may feel, act, or think in ways that indicate a younger mental age.

According to clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., what we consider maturity “is generally defined as the ability to wisely and appropriately manage developmental responsibilities in mental, emotional, behavioral, and social arenas,” as well as other forms ofmaturity like physical maturity, developmental stage maturity, and career maturity.

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/mental-age-test

Give it a try.   Give yourself an early Christmas present and learn about your brain….

The test says I am 60-69…..

Enjoy!

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

Medicare Advantage Plans

I know you have seen those Medicare Advantage plans on TV…..I have written what I think about these plans…in short a con job to separate seniors from their money….

Those MediCare Advantage Plans

It appears that Congress will attempt to investigate these scams….

The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed a ban on misleading ads for Medicare Advantage plans that have targeted older Americans and, in some cases, persuaded them to sign up for plans that don’t cover their doctors or prescriptions. The rule, proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would prohibit ads that market Medicare Advantage plans with confusing words, imagery, or logos. The rule also would ban ads that don’t specifically mention a health insurance plan by name, the AP reports.

It’s an aggressive step to tackle a growing problem in the Medicare Advantage marketplace, a booming business that offers privately run versions of the government’s Medicare program for people who are 65 and older or have disabilities. Nearly half of all Medicare enrollees—about 28 million—are now turning to Medicare Advantage plans. And some have been deceived by television commercials, online ads, and mailers put out by the marketing agencies and brokers that some insurers have hired to win over customers. The proposed rule “takes important steps to hold Medicare Advantage plans accountable for providing high quality coverage and care to enrollees,” said agency Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure in a statement.

The problem has become so pervasive that CMS agents have been secretly shopping for plans by calling the phone numbers in advertisements, finding in some cases that brokers have overstated the benefits that enrollees would get and the money they would save in the new plans. Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee released an investigative report last month showing that several states also reported an increase in complaints about deceptive marketing schemes in 2021. “These proposals are an important step towards protecting seniors in Medicare from scammers and unscrupulous insurance companies and brokers,” the committee’s chairman, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Will this put a stop to these types of scams or is it just going through the motions to look like the government actually cares?

Whatcha think?

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

2023 Medicare Cuts Pending

As a retired senior I am constantly watching for news on Medicare so that I can bring the news to my senior readers…..a public service from IST….

In 2023 we will have a new Congress and there is already cuts on the books to Medicare without the silliness from the GOP.

If you are a senior that depends on Medicare for your medical needs you need to read this and be aware of the changes we are looking at for the coming year.

New changes are set to come to Medicare next year. They will likely make expenses tighter for doctors, and put vital healthcare out of reach for some older patients. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, announced several policy changes in early November that will come into effect at the beginning of next year.

Among them are Medicare cuts to doctors through the Physician Fee Schedule, which is used to determine which services doctors are reimbursed for, and how much they get. Medicare reimbursement will decrease by about 4.5%, and ​​surgical care will face a nearly 8.5% cut.

“It’s affecting how doctors can run their businesses,” Christian Shalgain, Director of Advocacy and Health Policy at the American College of Surgeons, told Insider. “I’ve talked to doctors who are saying, ‘I have to decide whether to hire a new person or buy a new piece of equipment.’ That’s a significant problem from a patient’s perspective.”

If healthcare providers get less money through Medicare, they won’t be able to hire as many nurses, doctors, and other staff, as well as fund necessary equipment for services. It affects the quality of care patients are able to get, and can even impact how many Medicare patients a healthcare provider can take on, Shalgain said.

In years past, Congress has been able to postpone these preplanned cuts until the next year, varyingly achieving full scraps of the plan, or reduced cuts. Doctors’ groups lobby annually for Congress to intervene, because they say that it stretches their budgets thin, which is especially a problem given that hospitals are already strained from COVID and healthcare costs are skyrocketing. 

https://www.businessinsider.com/medicare-cuts-affect-seniors-healthcare-medicaid-social-security-funding-2022-11

The good news is that your insulin may be more affordable….the bad news is the rest of your health needs will be more expensive.

Before you get excited maybe you should read this……

Peace and economic justice advocates responded to the imminent unveiling Friday of the United States Air Force’s new $750 million-per-plane nuclear bomber by reiterating accusations of misplaced priorities in a nation where tens of millions of people live in poverty and lack adequate healthcare coverage.

Military-industrial complex giant Northrop Grumman is set to introduce its B-21 Raider on Friday. The B-21, whose development was 30 years in the making and whose total project cost is expected to exceed $200 billion, is tapped to replace the aging B-2 Spirit.

“One thing the world definitely does not need is another stealth bomber,” Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace group CodePink,

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/12/02/millions-americans-lack-adequate-health-coverage-pentagon-has-new-nuclear-bomber

That’s right we will get stale bread crumbs and the M-IC gets champagne…..

And you vote for these people….shame on you!

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

Up Uranus

Sunday and thought I would give you a little FYI…..today is a little medical news….

Remember the days when Pharma pushed a drug for those that cried and laughed uncontrollably?  Or maybe you will recall the “Restless Leg Syndrome”?

Now we have another ‘new’ disease that will need a drug to control….

The condition is called “Phantom Rectum Syndrome”…..

You may have heard of phantom limb syndrome, a particularly odd condition that 80-100 percent of people experience after going through an amputation.

Amputees can experience sensations, discomfort, and pain that feels like it’s coming from a limb or appendage that is no longer there. Though common after limb amputation, the condition can also affect people who have had other body parts removed, including breasts, tongues, penises, and even internal organs. In fact, if you can feel sensations in it pre-removal (we’re looking at you, stomach and bladder) then it’s possible to have phantom discomfort or pain in it after operation. 

This is true also of people who go through operations to have their rectum and colon removed (for instance following rectal cancer located low down in the rectum), leaving patients with a condition known as “phantom rectum syndrome”.

“People who have lost a limb, still feel pain or itching or they feel like their limb’s still there,” BBC presenter Sam Cleasby, who runs the website So Bad Ass documenting her experience following a colectomy in 2013, told the BBC. “So that’s the same but in your rectum. It’s like your brain doesn’t know that it’s not attached anymore.”

The syndrome affects somewhere between 32 and 68 percent of patients following rectum resection, and varies in its effects. Around half of people who experience it do so as pain, with others feeling sensations such as itching, feeling of feces in the rectum, an urge to defecate, feeling like your anus is contracting, feeling like you are passing wind, tightness, stinging, shooting pains, and pins and needles.

https://www.iflscience.com/phantom-rectum-syndrome-is-a-real-pain-in-the-ass-66429

As long as we are on Uranus…..how would you like to earn as much as $180,000 a year?

In these days of high inflation we all could use some extra cash…..

If so I have an answer for you.

Every time you poop, you might be flushing money down the toilet.

It’s true. Some medical companies will pay healthy donors for their stool. Depending on the company, the poop is then used for microbiome studies or in treatment of patients with Clostridium difficile, a bacterium that causes infections in the colon.

Looking for a side hustle? Your poop could save lives and make you some cash in the process.

Here’s what you need to know to sell your poop.

The amount you earn with each donation depends on the company.

  • HumanMicrobes pays $500 per stool donation. If you poop daily and send it, you could net up to $180,000 per year.
  • GoodNature offers $25-75 per visit and up to $1,500 per month.
  • Poop With Purpose pays $50 per donation and up to $1,500 per month.

Like any other side hustle, get details on compensation before you sign any contracts or make any commitments.

While everybody poops, not everyone is eligible to be a donor. Each company has health and geographical requirements.

How to Make Up to $180,000 a Year Selling Your Poop (If You Can Stomach It)

Now you have all the health news for this Sunday…..

Be Well….Be Safe….

“lego ergo scribo”

Dementia–A Growing Problem

It is Sunday and I would like to offer up a little FYI to help my readers navigate life and its pitfalls.

A growing problem with the elderly is the growing incidents of dementia among the retired and elderly.

It appears that 10% of our seniors are fighting dementia…..

The first nationally representative study of the prevalence of cognitive decline in the US that has been carried out in more than two decades found that 10% of Americans over the age of 65 have dementia and another 22% have mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The study, published in JAMA Neurology, specifically aimed to find out how prevalent cognitive issues were by age, education, ethnicity, gender, and race, and it found that Black people were more likely to have dementia (their rates were 15% for dementia and 22% for MCI), CNN reports. Hispanic people were found to be more likely to suffer from MCI (28%, and their rate for dementia was 10%), and both conditions were more common in people with less than a high school level of education (13% for dementia, 30% for MCI).

“Dementia research in general has largely focused on college-educated people who are racialized as white,” the lead study author says in a statement. “This study is representative of the population of older adults and includes groups that have been historically excluded from dementia research but are at higher risk of developing cognitive impairment because of structural racism and income inequality.” The randomly selected sample of study participants completed a survey and had neurological testing done between 2016 and 2017. Among white people, 9% were found to have dementia and 21% were found to have MCI. Those same rates were also true of people with college degrees.

The study found that each year of additional education was associated with a diminished risk of dementia, the Hill reports. No significant difference was found in the rates of men versus women with dementia or MCI. The rates did, however, change dramatically with age: 3% of those between 65 and 69 were found to have dementia compared to 35% for those aged 90 or above; a higher risk of both conditions was found with every five-year difference in age. While it is not uncommon for people with MCI to go on to develop dementia, not everyone does, and interventions related to diet, exercise, sleep, and stress can improve MCI. Another recent study estimated that if more isn’t done, dementia cases could almost triple by 2050.

There are many people that have the answer as to why dementia is gaining on our seniors….this is one of those possible causes…

Before they plop on the couch to engage in some “leisure-time sedentary behaviors,” adults over 60 may want to pay attention to a recent study linking increased dementia risk to watching TV. In short, per the Washington Post, “those whose time sitting was primarily spent watching television had a 24% increased risk for dementia.” But wait, that’s not the only takeaway. The peer-reviewed study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also found that computer use was associated with a 15% reduced risk of dementia. The simple explanation is that nothing beats television when it comes to cognitively passive activities; by contrast, using a computer requires at least some level of cognitive engagement, not unlike the antiquated activity known as reading.

Researchers tapped the UK’s Biobank to build the study cohort of some 146,651 individuals, whom they tracked for about 12 years, controlling for numerous lifestyle and demographic variables along the way, according to MD Edge. High use of TV—at least 4 hours per day—correlated to the highest risk of dementia, while as little as 30 minutes of computer use yielded reduced risk. “What we do while we’re sitting matters,” study lead David Raichlen noted, per Science Daily. “This knowledge is critical when it comes to designing targeted public health interventions aimed at reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disease from sedentary activities.”

In a slight twist compared to previous studies, researchers found that participants’ level of physical activity did not affect their odds of developing dementia if in fact they also watched a lot of TV. As for why computer use is beneficial, one notable neurologist—Dr. Andrew E. Budson, who was not associated with the study—explained to MD Edge that even light cognitive activity on the computer engages important parts of the cerebral cortex. While Dr. Budson emphasized that physical activity is always preferable to sedentary behavior, he added, “This is one of the first times I’ve been convinced that even when the computer activity isn’t completely new and novel, it may be beneficial.”

I know with all that nay-saying….what can we do to prevent the slide into the dark world of dementia?

Glad you asked….

https://bestlifeonline.com/daily-flossing-dementia-prevention-news/

I hope this info will help you now or in the future….since as we grow older there are many obstacles that seniors need to overcome….

I just try to help.

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”