Affordable Care Act: how not to do health care

I have a few serious issues with the Affordable Care Act.

For example I have this belief that an American should be able to, through choice of lifestyle, avoid taxes.  I have no doubt that will be taken out of context, so I will explain it in plain terms with an easy example: driving is, in effect, taxed.  We pay driver’s license fees, registration fees, and probably taxes on insurance – and since it is mandated in many places one could even make an argument car insurance is a tax.  However you could choose not to drive, and avoid all of these taxes.  I choose to drive, I happily pay those taxes – they improve the roads we travel, and it creates jobs.  But I have that choice.

The ACA is a tax you pay as long as you are alive.  I think this is wrong.  There is a way to opt-out, but most people are more opposed to suicide than taxes.

I also have a problem with the name of the law.  Mind you we were told it was about health care.  It is absolutely not, as many people are finding out.  It is simply about insurance.  Insurance is nice to have…if there are doctors and nurses in facilities that accept it.  Some places in America are finding out that their tax/insurance is worthless.  Their local hospitals do not take the insurance, and the hospitals that do are a 4 hour car ride away.

There were no provisions to encourage the development of the medical profession.  No educational assistance for low income Americans to attend medical and nursing colleges, which is such an all-around win-win for the nation it astounding this was over looked.  There was no medical equivalent to the G.I. bill, where a medical college education could be paid for through service: either military or by serving communities with medical care shortages.  There are communities in America with a serious shortage of medical professionals – pair that with all the brilliant young Americans who would make excellent medical professionals if they could afford the education and you have a piece of law I would support.

The worst part, the most irresponsible part, was the way the law was deployed.

You will have to excuse me, I am an Information Technology professional.  Every good IT pro knows how to do a deployment of a major change.  No IT pro with even a bit of experience would roll out a major change to production without testing it, or even better testing it and putting out a pilot program.

I know, you’re thinking ‘An IT guy, he must be talking about the web site’.  100% wrong!  I will agree that was absolutely pathetic – but that is just a piece of it.

If you are going to put a program in place, affecting 1/10th of the economy, the worst thing you could do is present it nation-wide with no real idea how it will work.  This is so typical of politicians – people who talk about it, argue about it, but never do it.  All 50 states, all at once.  No test in one or two states for a year with an expansion plan based on lessoned learn.  No carefully choosing a few counties across the nation that would present a good cross section: skewing older, skewing younger, dense population, sparse population – used as a test environment.  They just flew blindly with a strong faith that the ‘right’ choice would overcome everything.

This would have made the web site roll out much less of a hot news item.  The flaws would have been exposed and corrected before the entire nation put their social security number, health care information, and credit card number in the database*.  It would have impacted those in the pilot program, and that is bad of course, but it would have been a much smaller user base exposed.  The web site also would have had a pretty decent idea of the load it had to handle, and been able to extrapolate what an expansion of the plan would require.  Better security, but traffic management, all with a pilot roll-out.

One more thing could have been accomplished: if it was obvious it was not working it could have been stopped!  Now too many politicians have either hitched their proverbial cart to the law being a success, or to it being a failure.

If someone had asked me, a typical American citizen, how I would have done health care the law would have been much different.  It would have focused on increasing minority and poverty stricken, but smart and talented, youth entry into the medical field.  I would have created programs to relieve the debt of those in these programs through service in communities with medical shortages or in the armed forces.  In effect your intern years would be given to serve your fellow Americans, and as payment for that those who you served would pick up your education tab.

I would have  tried to work on replacing the current government medical programs with one that does more for those with less.  I don’t think anyone in the nation thinks we should not take care of our fellow Americans who are truly down on their luck.  That is not what America is about.  We help, we give, we protect, we do not turn away and spurn our fellow Americans.

I would not have made the collective insurance industry drool by mandating every person in the nation must buy (expensive, though it was not supposed to be) insurance or be heavily taxed.  I would not have incentivized medical professionals to retire by not making their job worth it through reducing their income.  One positive side effect is with medical school not being seen as a viable choice by many talented brilliant young Americans we should see an uptick in the engineering profession.

I would have tried to find a state to pilot the program and provided an incentive for whatever state dedicated themselves to test out the program.  I would have had a plan to expand it, or in the case the failure of the program, to eliminate it.  I would have had criteria for what entails success or failure beforehand, so that could not be left to emotion or political winds of change.

Expand the medical profession, reduce the risk of a nation-wide rollout, reduce the bureaucracy of multiple inefficient government programs, and a definition of success or failure.  Why is that so hard to do?

Also, as an IT professional, I think I would have hired David Kennedy’s security firm, not attacked him on Capitol Hill because he was able to prove the ease with which the web site could be breached.  If he was able to declare it secure after he exposed its initial flaws that would have made the public faith stronger.  Because, as it stands now, again as an IT professional, I would rather pay the tax than put my data on the ACA web site.  And my specialty in IT is information security.

I think I would ask David Kennedy to be my CISO if I ever was trusted by the people of America to be their President, not attack him publically for doing us all a service – and free of charge too!

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How to handle the VA health issue

Our men and women in the military are simply amazing.  To preserve our freedoms as a nation they selflessly and voluntarily give up their own freedom.  They place themselves in harm’s way to protect our way of life.  They travels the world, sometimes in the most harsh environments, in peace and times of war.  Many of them re-enlist when their tour of duty is over.

Somehow when they come home we do not manage to take proper care of them.  That is a failure that would not continue should I earn the trust of the nation.  The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief.  That means those men and women are his charge, while in service and after.  It is more than something on a piece of stationary, it is a trust and an honor – and a heavy burden.  It needs to be treated seriously.

As I have written of previously we have a health care problem in this nation – not to be confused with a health insurance problem, which ObamaCare tries to address.  The truth is you need nurses and doctors to treat patients.  I mentioned this in my critique on the Affordable Care Act.

I also provided an alternate solution.  Perhaps we could call it the Medical Service Act, should it ever get the proper attention it deserves.  In simple terms it would be a promise on the part of a citizen of the United States to go to school for Medicine – nursing, medical doctorate, psychology, physical therapy, etc. – in exchange for serving in a capacity for a period of time to pay society for the cost of the education.  Perhaps in a rural setting where there are no medical professionals for a hundred miles, maybe in an inner city struggling with medical shortages…or perhaps serving in a VA hospital?

I like the idea of solving two problems with one solution.  If there is a promising medical student in this nation without the means to acquire that education the nation misses a needed professional.  We need those professionals in the VA system now more than ever.  We need them in rural America where small towns have none, we need them in places where it is a challenge to attract or retain health care professionals.  We need to lift the national standard of care, and we cannot afford to let individuals with a superior intellect go uneducated.

Posted in Our Military and Civil Services | Leave a comment

Ferguson: Opportunity missed

Outside of St. Louis is a town most of America never heard of, but now is a household name: Ferguson.

This event in American history is discouraging.  There was an opportunity here, as educators would call it “a teachable moment”.  It was missed entirely and that is something I think America needed.

There are some problems in America.  When race determines anything I think we all lose something.  All of us, all Americans, lose something: we lose “us”.

America is amazing; we blend cultures, we celebrate all religions, we thrive on our diversity.  ‘My fellow Americans’ is more than a phrase uttered by politicians in a speech – it means something.

That phrase however doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t have any caveat, such as white, black, male, female, gay, straight, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, etc. it is just ‘fellow Americans’.  Most of the World doesn’t have this same sense of community.

Something happened in Ferguson – and very few people know exactly what.  I certainly do not.  Most, if not all, of the people who read this post will not know for sure either.

But I have to trust in one thing: a Grand Jury of “Our fellow Americans” found there was not enough evidence to begin a trial.  These people heard way more information than I did, and I have faith in their decision.  I have to trust in another thing: our Police are here to serve and protect us.  All of us.

I choose to trust these things because I believe if we do not society starts to fail.

Does that mean that there are not racial issues in this country?  No.

Does it mean each and every police officer in the nation has racial blinders on and treats each and every person the same?  No.

Does it mean each and every Grand Jury returns the correct decision?  No.

We must always strive to become better.  To become closer to each other.  To support each other.  We can, and we will My Fellow Americans.

I will leave you with a small story – perhaps a stretch to call it a joke:

A Priest, a Rabbi, an Imam`, a Puerto Rican woman, a Japanese man, an Irish family, a Native American teenager, an African couple, and a Russian couple are all in a restaurant.

No one noticed, and nothing happened, because it was in America.

Posted in National | Leave a comment

Iran, Israel, and the Middle East

I understand the position diplomacy has in the world. But I still find it tremendously interesting to watch people support the negotiations with Iran. Most of the same people who support Israel, but are Democrats and feel the need to support their party above even their own nation’s interests, or their own beliefs.

While we negotiate Iran still promotes the destruction of Israel publicly, and also openly calls America weak, and claims we are giving in to their every demand. It is important to remember the President and Foreign Minister are not in charge in Iran, not by a long shot.

Last I checked Israel was our ally already. You could argue against that being the best move, or against them being the best of allies, but they are an ally, and that is a fact. I think we are stuck with them, and how we proceed will be seen to be an indication of how we treat our allies.

Take special note of that.  Nations are watching.  This is a significant test of our nations will.  Are we abandoning an ally to convert an enemy?  How will our other allies feel?  Will we make overtures to Russia and abandon Europe next?  I don’t think so, but what I believe is not nearly as important as is what the leaders of Europe believe.  I mean the idea of abandoning Europe in favor of Russia is as ridiculous as us abandoning Israel in favor of Ira…oh, never mind.

Why are we negotiating with a nation that has a stated goal of the destruction of an ally? Why are we negotiating with a known terrorist nation? Why is anyone supporting this? And if you support it ask yourself this very important question: if Bush suggested this, would you have supported it? Somehow I doubt it. I know I wouldn’t, but then again America means more to me than party politics ever well.

Iran is ruled by Islamic revolutionary clergy – a Theocracy that sees Israel and America as ‘the great Satan’.  They are the true rulers.  We would be best served to remember that.

The best quote on the struggles in the Middle East I have ever heard is still:

If the enemies of Israel put down their weapons there will be peace. If the Israelis put down their weapons there will be no Israel.

Posted in Foreign Affairs | Leave a comment

On to 2016

With the ‘mid-term’ elections have come and gone, and the country seemingly headed for war and having a border to the south that can only be found on a map, 2016 looks far in the future.  As we involve ourselves in the now, and try to find leaders who represent us, we find the challenge more difficult as time goes by.

Even worse, we find the politics of today so purposely polarizing, that it is common place to have people actually hate those ‘across the aisle’ from their side.  And the rhetoric of our leaders not only flames the fires, it relies on that fire burning hot.  The best way to keep your base is to make it so unappealing to consider the ‘other side’ during an election that defecting from the party is anathema.

But 2016 is not so far off.  Each of the supposed ‘front runners’, if such a thing can be claimed more than two years in advance, have made the trip to Iowa – for those not in the American political know, that is the first step seen on the road to the White House.  The press has written stories on why these candidates can or cannot succeed, their chances, even their death knells.

This election, however, might very well be the first in history to have someone “normal” win.  Not a politician, not a millionaire (is that redundant in today’s reality?), and not nationally known in November of 2014.  This complex set of connections we all enjoy gives power back to the people, the Internet could well be an equalizer.

A decent Blog, a clever twitter handle (like DarkHorse2016?), and a clear message could make a difference.  I would like to present this argument in this space.  I think an everyday American can represent every day Americans better than we have been before.  I do not think a person needs an ‘R’ or ‘D’ to be a successful presidential candidate.

In fact I think being a Democrat or a Republican could be a big drawback: you are starting your campaign by not representing a sizable section of the population.  That is not how a campaign should be run, not for the office that represents all of America.  Further, as I mentioned above, a sizable portion of Americans will actually hate you.  If you think I exaggerate think of President Obama and President Bush.  Many Americans like one, and hate the other.  Without ever meeting them.  But how many Democrats like Bush and hate Obama?  How many Republicans hate Bush and like Obama?  Political parties polarize, they thrive on it, they foster it, and to be honest they require it.

One of my favorite quotes was from our first President:

However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Political Parties…cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men…subvert the power of the people?   George Washington was way ahead of his time.  He is one of my favorite Presidents for many reasons, but this quote is on the list.

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Humbled and Honored

Imagine you had a conversation with a friend or two.  The topic of politics comes up and you mention you want to run for President.

I have done this.  I do not say it in jest, I do wish to be President and represent the people of this country.  I did not say it forcefully or with a great sense that it could happen.  But I did say it earnestly and with some passion.

Thus far I have received only two reactions, and neither one is something I ever expected.  I expected a laugh, maybe a “good luck with that” or some other harmless platitude.  Instead I received two answers repeatedly, both humbled me greatly.  These comments are from friends and co-workers who know me well, people I respect and trust.

The first comment is “You should do that”, or some close variation, such as “You should run”.  The second comment, the more powerful statement and the more humbling one indeed, is “I would vote for you”.

Today it is January 1st 2015.  I honestly believe there is no time in history like the present, with social media taking a significant role in many people’s daily lives.  Even ‘traditional’ news references social media – trending things make the evening news.

So, I have people from different states, backgrounds, and beliefs tell me that I should run, or that if I did they would actually vote for me.  And we all have this excellent, and free, resource through which we can share thoughts, ideas, and have the power to influence change.  I have to wonder: is it possible to start a movement and share thoughts and ideas – and make a change.  Could someone actually become President of the United States through social media and a ground game ‘for the people, by the people, and of the people’?  I think it might be possible.

But I would need to change some things.

One of the most appalling things in politics today is the indecent amount of money spent on campaigns.  I would be mortified if I raised that much money to serve the people of this great nation and didn’t actually use that  money to serve the people!

Another is the seeming disregard for the life of the average person.  I have heard more than one person say “You need to be a millionaire to be President now”.  How did we get to that state of affairs?  That is upsetting that we might not ever be represented by anyone without a millionaire’s net worth; that you cannot actually hold a job and run for President.

I am not a millionaire.  I cannot finance a big campaign.  I wouldn’t want to if I could.  I do not have the means to leave my position and take a couple of years off to run for President.  It would bankrupt myself and my family.  I also would never ask others to shoulder my burden, because while I am able I will.

If you are reading this, and my other posts, and find yourself wondering about me, or my chances, and possibly even thinking how you could help – well I have thought about these questions, and come up with some answers that I think are worthy of the task:

* If you wish to “spread the word” simply send some friends a link to one or two of my posts, and let them decide if I might be worthy of their time and consideration.  More posts will be coming in the months ahead.

* If you wish to donate, please donate to a charity of your choice (I recommend the American Cancer Society, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, St Jude’s Children’s Hospitals, or a local charity) and put a comment of “Brendan 2016” on the check or on the notes/comments section of the web page or app.  Please do let me know you have done so, and if I can post your name and information about your generosity. It would be incredible to have a “list of donors” like other candidates, but donors who made a donation to charities. I will post first names only, handles, nicknames, or full name if you wish to let it be known.

* If you wish to meet me, or have me speak at an event, contact me and let me know.  I do have a full-time job, but I have many weekends free.  I will not be able to afford travel every weekend, so as a “speaking fee” I might request travel expenses.  I will not charge anything but the justified fee to travel.  I certainly will not charge my fellow citizens to hear me speak.  I love to travel this great nation, and I love to meet people everywhere.

* If you ever get polled do not indicate your support.  I fully expect if I show up in a poll, even in the low 1-10% range, myself and my family will be attacked.  I would of course be fine with a proper vetting of a Presidential candidate, but I wish my family to be strictly off-limits.  That will not happen, and I know it, but perhaps I can delay the inevitable with your assistance.

* Follow me on Twitter: @DarkHorse2016, keep this site on your short list.

I want to be your next President.  I want to go to work for you.

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Starting an Avalanche

An avalanche is a powerful force.  But it is not more than a rock, usually influenced by the natural force of gravity, at first.  That lone rock moves, and hits another rock, and now two rocks are on the move.  The process gets repeated and before you know it a tremendous force is generated, and not much can stand in the path of an avalanche.

Can a regular person win the Presidency?  Can one of us, not the likes of Hilary Clinton or yet another Bush, become a serious contender?  Never before in history would it have been possible.  But I believe now it is.  Now with social media and pervasive internet access everywhere – at home and at work, Starbuck’s and McDonald’s, and of course our phones – it might be possible for an actual everyday person to win the White House and really make the average American a priority.

I will not change many people’s opinions if they are set in stone, but survey after survey says less people identify themselves are Republican or Democrat each year.  The aging Two-Party system is on the way out, and I hope it gets replaced with open knowledge, free sources of information, and I hope the growing number of Independents stumbles across my writings.

Maybe someone will link their blog to mine.  Maybe a post with reference this site.  Perhaps a tweet will be made.  I would consider each one of these events a moving rock, perhaps starting an avalanche.

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Positive Politics

Positive Politics is an oxymoron in today’s political landscape, but allow me to attempt it anyway.

I have a distinct advantage over all other candidates: I have no one to answer to but my fellow Americans.

I do not have a political party out for the blood of the other party (figuratively, of course).  I do not have millionaire donors with concerns about my viability.  I do not have a SuperPAC launching attack adds.  I have no concerns at all about “poll numbers” – especially since I have requested everyone who stumbles across these pages to not report it in the polls.

In short: I can remain positive.  I can speak about my aspirations, my goals, and how I would like to serve the people of this great nation without a care in the world about the other candidates.  I do not need to, and do not wish to, attack anyone.  I see it as a waste of time and energy – there is too much to do to waste time on negativity.  I would rather lift the country up than knock someone down.

So, consider this fair warning: you won’t see much on these pages about other candidates.  When I write about politics it will be about current positions and events, and while I have no fear of expressing my opinion, I will try to remain civil and constructive.  I will try to offer an alternative, not just a criticism.

Honestly I, unfortunately, have no need either.  In the current sad state of political affairs a run for President is placing a bull’s eye firmly on your chest.  What used to be a political vetting process is now all out war, and usually honesty is simply not a concern – with both sides of the aisle equally guilty.  I have no doubt everyone will attack everyone else enough to make the whole country fed up with it.

Imagine that, a positive, constructive, informative campaign.  Can that work?  Let’s find out!

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